George Orwell: Freedom of the Park
A few weeks ago, five people who were selling papers outside Hyde Park
were arrested by the police for obstruction. When taken before the
magistartes, they were all found guilty, four of them being bound over
for six months and the other sentenced to forty shillings fine or a
month’s imprisonments. He preferred to serve his term.
The papers these people were selling were PEACE NEWS, FORWARD and
FREEDOM, besides other kindred literature. PEACE NEWS is the organ of the
Peace Pledge Union, FREEDOM (till recently called WAR COMMENTARY) is that
of the Anarchists; as for FORWARD, its politics defy definition, but at
any rate it is violently Left. The magistrate, in passing sentence,
stated that he was not influenced by the nature of the literature that
was being sold; he was concerned merely with the fact of obstruction, and
that this offence had technically been committed.
This raises several important points. To begin with, how does the law
stand on the subject? As far as I can discover, selling newspapers in the
street is technically an obstruction, at any rate if you fail to move
when the police tell you to. So it would be legally possible for any
policeman who felt like it to arrest any newsboy for selling the EVENING
NEWS. Obviously this doesn’t happen, so that the enforcement of the law
depends on the discretion of the police.