Public Space as Protest Space: Between Visibility and Insecurity

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Public space in the European City is, by definition, a place of political publicity, debate and open exchange of opinions. Social movements use public space to create visibility and to express their political, social, or ideological perspectives and demands. Looking at the situation nowadays one can observe cleavages between right-wing and left-wing groups on the one hand, and an increasing eventisation of protests - a "pleasure for the state of exception" or "event-driven protest" - on the other hand. What do these developments mean for public space and its inherent qualities? How do protesters assess the situation? Based on the results of quantitative surveys of participants two types of protest are contrasted: 1) a conflicting political demonstration march 2) a less conflicting and more festivalized Christopher Street Day parade. The results show significant differences in the visitors’ structure, motivations, the individual perception of the events and the perception of security and presence of police. The framework conditions of protest have an effect on public space: If they implicate security risks and instrumentalize or abuse the purposes of specific groups, there is a considerable impact on its accessibility, usability, and political quality.
public space, protest, visibility, insecurity