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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2010

Campaigning rights victory: But questions remain on new Waltham Forest policy

The Waltham Forest campaign2campaign, initiated by the Socialist Party, has recorded a victory as the north east London borough's council has announced that no campaigning groups will have to pay a fee or face a fine for setting up a stall in the town square.

Bob Severn, Walthamstow Socialist Party

Waltham Forest council's cabinet member for community safety, enforcement and protection, Afzal Akram, has announced that the council will not enforce a 1906 bylaw which had been used by local enforcement officers in attempts to stop campaigning stalls.

Councillor Akram has said that restrictions on Walthamstow town square stalls are suspended until a new policy comes into practice on 1 April and that previous council statements defending the use of the 1906 law were incorrect.

However, local Socialist Party members have questions over the new policy, and will continue to defend the rights of socialists and trade unionists to campaign and to respond to events such as when public service cuts or privatisation schemes are announced. These campaigning rights should not be inhibited by the council's proposal that groups must give seven days notices for setting up stalls.

Councillor Akram has said that notice is needed to prevent illegal activity and to stop race hatred being preached in the square. However, there is already legislation in place to stop such activity and in fact it is socialists and trade unionists that have the best record of challenging racism on the streets.

This announcement followed two weekends where dozens of Socialist Party members successfully defended their campaigning rights by having several stalls in the square.

Campaign2campaign still plans a lobby of the council meeting on 25 February and a mass town square stall action, involving a range of campaigning groups, from 12 noon on 6 March. These events will go ahead to celebrate the campaigning victory, but also to raise other demands on campaigning rights, including the need for public notice boards and meeting rooms, and the right for election candidates to display lamppost posters.

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