CAMPAIGNERS who yesterday defied the council's clampdown on setting up tables without permission have claimed victory after officers did not intervene.

More than 20 socialists set up eight stalls in Walthamstow town square while the Green party also had a table.

Activists are furious that the authority's officers have threatened campaigners with prosecution for setting up stalls without permission, citing a 105-year-old by-law.

But yesterday the campaigners carried out their protest unhindered.

Sarah Sachs-Eldrige, Walthamstow Socialist party secretary, said: “We are treating this as a small victory.

“They [the officers] probably thought it was more hassle than it was worth to try and stop us.”

The socialist activists have accused the authority of attempting to stifle free speech as they were collecting signatures for a petition calling for an inquiry into the council's finances when they were first threatened with prosecution.

Ms Sachs-Eldrige said: "People were absolutely disgusted when we told them what the council has been doing."

Steve Lambert, a candidate for the Green party in the local elections, said: "The town centre is traditionally the heart of the community where people can meet and exchange ideas- it is a public space.

"By attempting to stop campaigning stalls and dissenting voices, the council is taking away our civil liberties and freedom of speech and, as this action comes in the run up to council elections, they are attacking our democracy as well.

The council has said campaigners need to enter into a signed legal agreement and pay a fee in order to set up a table in the town square.

But despite inquiries neither the Guardian nor the Socialist Party have received an answer from the authority about the size of a fee and the terms of any agreement which would need to be signed.

Political and religious groups have been setting up stalls in the town square for years but the council says it has only recently had enough officers to catch people breaking the by-law.

The Socialist Party is organising an event on March 6 to protest against the council's prosecution threats, called Campaign 2 Campaign.

It wants residents to set up stalls, and bring banners and megaphones to demand the right to protest in the town square from noon.

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