Exeter students gathered outside Exeter City Council offices last Monday in protest against the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).
With Devon Council having proposed a ban on beggars and rough sleeping, the PSPO would enable police to fine people for sleeping on the street.
An online survey ran by the council aiming to gauge the public’s level of approval of this legislation was made available to Exeter residents online. It includes a question about public approval of the confiscation of homeless people’s bedding, and the forced removal of people deemed threatening to the public.
The PSPO also proposes to prohibit “unauthorised” requests for money in public spaces, as well as public urination, substance abuse and behaviour perceived as potentially “intimidating” in groups of 2 and above.
In the PSPO’s equality impact assessment, the majority of the categories fall under ‘negative’ impact if the proposal was to become an actuality. This includes: “race and ethnicity”, “disability”, “gender”, “areas of deprivation”, and “human rights”.
Exeter council’s equality impact assessment claims that the ‘positive’ effects would only be specific to “health and wellbeing”; the PSPO’s reasoning for it being beneficial to this category is that “the volume of incidents that are occurring, which are having a significant impact on peoples quality of lives.”
The only category which remains ‘neutral’ in terms of impact is “age”. The human rights category falls into both ‘neutral’ and ‘negative’, as the PSPO report that the homeless distress ‘visitors, residents, businesses and their employees.’
Marcel Golten, a member of Socialist Students who attended the protest, told Exeposé: “It was great to see people attending the demonstration to protest against the injustice of this new policy. It is an unashamed attack on the most vulnerable in society, fining them for sleeping on the streets when they have nowhere to go. They have been let down by the council and their inaction over Exeter’s rent crisis. The language used to describe these people is utterly dehumanising, assuming that they are nothing more than an eyesore, when in fact they are human being just like all of us.”
The student protest follows the publication of a report by the organisation The Manifesto Club. The Manifesto club campaigns “against the hyper-regulation of everyday life” and “support free movement…free expression and free association”. Their report revealed that only a minority of councils using PSPOs put the decision to a full vote, which sparked student criticism.