crackdown on 'aimless loitering'

John Levin pointed this article out on twitter today - http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/8299
"Cops pledge crackdown on ‘aimless loitering’ at Elephant & Castle". 

So you can be served with an asbo (even though they've been replaced by something else now?) if you engage in 'aimless loitering' within the shopping centre. Although I can see the point about the measure being directed at gangs, the assumption prevails that loitering is inherently bad, associated with the phrase 'loitering with intent', even though 'aimless' in this interdict suggests that 'loitering without intent' is also potentially criminal.

I've blogged about the parallels with the early 19th century improvement acts and privatisation of public space before - http://historytoday-navickas.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/non-places-rowan-moore-and-anna-minton.html 


'Manchester's an Altered Town', mid-1840s broadside ballad


And here the parallels are evident again, and I'll discuss them further in my new book, Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848, out later this year with MUP.

In the early nineteenth century, many northern towns were transformed by 'improvement acts' which created new civic spaces and buildings. However many of those new spaces were not 'public' but had bye-laws and regulations which attempted to restrict 'loitering'. The trade unions in particular fought back against the restrictions on customary forms of street-life, by deliberately loitering in public spaces during strikes. When the new police were introduced from 1839, they developed a system called 'move on', which was designed to clear the streets of all obstructions, people especially. There are many ballads of Victorian street life commenting on the shout of 'move on' by the new police, another feature of them which increased public hostility to their introduction and intrusion into working-class streetlife. 

For ballads singing about the 'move on' system see  - http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/search/?query=move+on
'Manchester's an Altered Town': 'at every step the ladies go, policemen will cry, move on there'.

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