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Speaker’s Corner

Speaker’s Corner (24)

If you are a firm believer in free speech, there is a place in London you really must visit. It is next to Marble Arch, in the northeast part of Hyde Park, and people know it by the name of Speaker’s Corner.

Its origins date back to the 24th of June 1855, when there was a massive demonstration in Hyde Park to protest against the Sunday Trading Bill, a law that prohibited trading on a Sunday, which in this period was the only day of the week that the working class had free. Karl Marx himself, at that time correspondent in London for the German newspaper Oder-Zeitung, wrote that at this moment the English revolution had started.

The protests, despite being illegal, continued and finally, in 1872, the right to assembly was granted and it was agreed that on this corner of the park any citizen could speak and debate ideas of any type. From then on, thousands of people have been able to defend their rights and give their speeches, on the condition that they do not swear or are openly obscene. 

The people that currently spout forth at Speaker’s Corner are a varied group that includes representatives of non-parliamentary parties, religious preachers, people talking about current affairs such as the presence of British troops in the Iraq war and even the odd eccentric who claims to have seen flying saucers.

If you go to Speaker’s Corner, especially on Sunday, you will recognise that it is difficult to find a free activity as entertaining as this one.

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