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Birmingham considers PSPO to break up school demo

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Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward has proposed using a Public Spaces Protection Order to counter a long running demonstration by Muslim groups outside a primary school.

The demonstration outside Anderton Park school against the school’s teaching of equality issues turned violent on Sunday night when eggs were pelted at a group who placed placards and banners supporting the school’s stance.

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward (Lab) said: “This absolutely has to stop and I’ve asked council officers to see if we could use a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to counter these demonstrations. If a PSPO is not appropriate, then we will look at alternative options, because the children and staff at Anderton Park have a right to attend school without this daily disruption.

“It’s one thing for parents to ask questions about elements of a school curriculum. It’s quite another for others to pounce on the situation as an excuse to peddle hatred and misinformation.”

Protestors claim that up to 600 of the nearly 800 pupils at the school have been kept off school, according to Birmingham Live.

Birmingham City Council has never used a PSPO in such a way before, a spokesperson said.

Bradford DC is currently seeking a PSPO to ban barbecues, fires, Chinese lanterns, fireworks and other dangerous items from moorland in the district after recent wildfires on Ilkley Moor. 

Recent research by the Manifesto Club, which has been campaigning against PSPOs since their introduction under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act in 2014, found 147 councils introduced 276 PSPOs between August 2017 and January 2019. The organisation contacted 347 councils for data on their use of PSPO powers and received responses from 308. 

The vast majority of orders included alcohol restrictions, and three councils banned rough sleeping. Doncaster MBC banned sitting or lying in shop doorways and sleeping overnight in the town centre; Tunbridge Wells BC banned rough sleeping associated with anti social behaviour, and Brentwood BC banned sleeping on the street when accommodated. Rother DC banned depositing sleeping materials in public place, and Shropshire Council and Poole BC banned leaving belongings unattended.

There were also more unusual restrictions - Slough BC banned the possession of any catapult or slingshot and Richmond upon Thames LBC banned people from displacing any turf or stone, and from carrying out fitness training classes.

Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club, said she was opposed to the use of PSPOs “to restrict peaceful protest in public places”. “There are already powers to prosecute acts of intimidation, violence or harassment, but the peaceful expression of opinions should not be criminalised,” she said.

Ms Appleton claims that the PSPO exclusion zone being considered by Birmingham could be illegal, as the primary legislation on PSPOs requires councils to ‘have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly’, to ensure that these rights are not violated.

She claims that a PSPO would not solve the issue in this case. ”Whether the rights or wrongs of the protests, there is clearly a breakdown of relations between the school and community that needs to be resolved, and heavy-handed restrictions could only further worsen relations,” she said.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Agree - whatever the rights or wrongs of the protestors a PSPO would be a massively illiberal intervention when there are other means available to address genuine harassment.

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