Left-wing comedian Mark Thomas invites Cestrians to join him for a city centre ‘loiterers’ event’ on Thursday lunchtime in a humorous protest against a proposed measure criticised for criminalising rough sleepers.
Mark has issued a ‘request to Chester folk’ via his website to take part in a satirical demonstration highlighting a plan to fine homeless people £100 if they lie down or sleep in any public space within a designated zone.
The Chronicle understands Mark, known for his political stunts, will lie down in a public space from 11.45am outside the Town Hall alongside fellow protestors to draw attention to aspects of Labour-led Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposal to bring in a Public Space Protection Order which is currently under consultation and has sparked petitions backed by more than 10,000 objectors.
The lie-down will be followed by the ‘Sleepwalk Express’ – a mobile bed with people lying on it will be pushed around the proposed PSPO area.
Mark, who performed a one-man show in Chester Town Hall last November, wrote: “Any folk want to get involved in a Loiterers event on the 17th Sept at lunchtime please get in touch via website e-mail. Will be organising something to protest the proposed Public Space Protection Order that will make lying down in the street and sleeping in the street illegal.”
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Meanwhile, Labour councillor Bob Bissett, chief executive of charity Chester Aid to the Homeless, has also hit out against this element of the PSPO with other aspects aimed at tackling inconsiderate busking and feeding birds. His comments were made in one of two videos made by film-maker Will Kirkman available on You Tube.
Mr Bissett said: “There’s external forces beyond the city, across the country, that will gather momentum against a local authority that is seen to demonise, although that won’t be the mission of the local authority. I’m sure they would distance themselves from any of that.
“But I think criminalising or fining people – what we’ve got to remember here is we are fining people who have got no resources any way. They are an easy target and to my mind, having worked in this city for 15 years, in fact with other organisations probably 20 years, the police have got adequate powers to work with the homeless situation. And I want to give the police a pat on the back, they are very good. The police are probably one of the best agencies working with homeless people, that’s been my experience.”
Mr Bissett said the aspect of the PSPO tackling rough sleeping was “one of the weaker elements” and he hopes “commonsense prevails”.
He said: “I really do think in the longer term it would be to the long term detriment of the city and probably to the detriment of community relations with these groups if we enforce such an element.”
“The alternative for me is, firstly, to have a comprehensive review of the existing services,” added Mr Bissett, who said a full range of services was required, controlled from the city centre not the outskirts as now, but cautioned it would “probably cost money”.
What do you think of the protest? What's your view on the order? Let us know in the comments below