Westfield's "security guards" yesterday morning while they were standing outside of the Shepherds Bush Library handing out leaflets and asking people to sign a petition. Four of the five people alleged to have been hassled were women. Chris Underwood of the Shepherds Bush Blog filmed some of the incident and gives a full report here.
The librarians are asking people to support their objection to H&F Council's proposals to cut their wages between a staggering £2000 to £7000 a year and they object to the closure of several local libraries and the mobile library. The librarians also want the Council to reverse its plan to stop employing specialist reference librarians - many of whom have advised students and school children using local libraries as a quite place to complete their home study and a place where they can benefit from expert research support. H&F Council wants to replace these professionals with unqualified staff instead in what is little more than an attack on knowledge.
The new Shepherds Bush Library was negotiated as part of a Section 106 agreement when Westfield was given planning permission over ten years ago. So I don't believe Westfield's bouncers had a legal right to move the librarians on the basis that they were on Westfield land. The library isn't their land. It's Council property. But putting that aside, it is a hard fought for and intrinsic British right for people to be able to protest and have free speech. Westfield's aggressive actions were contrary to that and this reflects badly on their reputation. I believe that many of the retailers that have taken space in the shopping centre will be embarrassed by Westfield dragging them into this issue. I will be writing to Westfield to ask for a full explanation; for an apology to the librarians and for an assurance that this won't happen again. I will also write to H&F Council's Chief Executive to seek assurances that he will take this matter up with Westfield and that the Council does not support the suppression of these legitimate, peaceful protests.