Free Speech and the Privatization of Public Space

Donald Smith was protesting a sign at Glenmore Landing in Calgary's southwest Sunday that bans political demonstrations.
Donald Smith was protesting a sign at Glenmore Landing in Calgary’s southwest Sunday that bans political demonstrations. [CBC]
The privately owned parking lot near the prime minister’s constituency office asserts that protesting is prohibited. On the surface, this looks like the prime minister is impeding the constitutional rights of expression and peaceful assembly.

I’m sure he finds this all quite convenient, but a large hidden issue in this is the privatization of public space.

Can I prohibit protest in a space I own? Possibly.

Can I lament at the amount of space deemed to be public [parking lot, shopping mall] that is really privately owned? Yes.

We need to remember to assert the legitimacy of the public usefulness of space. We need to challenge the amount of space being privatized. This is a difficult task. Any suggestions?

“Political or public protesting or demonstrating, soliciting, use of loud speakers or other similar devices, pamphleteering, loitering [and] skateboarding is strictly prohibited,” states the signs, which were installed by the owners of Glenmore Landing.

via Signs banning protests by Harper’s Calgary office questioned – Calgary – CBC News.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist.
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

4 thoughts on “Free Speech and the Privatization of Public Space”

  1. Well, here’s the deal.

    It’s private property.

    The owner of private property can choose to restrict protest.

    It’s definitely the common law. It sure sucks, but it’s the law.

    Protest the law? Go for it. Just be ready to be trespassed off of the property.

  2. Our MPs are public servants and any offices that they occupy, including constituency offices, must be open to free, unfettered public access including peaceful demonstrations. MPs should not be allowed to hide behind the rules governing private use of private property.

  3. [This comment was from a reader who does not agree with Donald Smith and has considerably strong opinions about him. Unfortunately, many of them were tantamount to, if not clearly, libel, and as such, we cannot publish them verbatim. –Eds.]

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