EXCLUSIVE: Workers at Stoke-on-Trent City Council say they are so scared of being caught taking part in March on Stoke they plan to wear masks.
Many say they fear “severe repercussions” if they are identified during the protest.
Staff across a range of council departments told StaffsLive about their worries of what may happen if their employer saw they had joined the campaign.
March on Stoke has been organised for residents to voice concerns about the £40million plan to move the civic centre from Stoke to Hanley.
Organisers are now providing masks for protesters and their families so people can hide their faces on the protest walk tomorrow (February 23).
Some masks have been mocked up to look like Council Leader Mohammed Pervez.
At a planning meeting and a banner making session this week, StaffsLive spoke to a number of people who say they don’t want the council to see they had joined the campaign.
One woman said she did not want to be photographed or filmed because being seen there might “compromise her partner’s redundancy negotiations”.
She said: “I’ve been made redundant and my partner is in the process of being made redundant and is currently in negotiations about pay, so if we get seen here who knows what might happen.
“I’m trying to avoid being filmed or photographed. When you get made redundant, you get asked to sign a compromise agreement, so you can’t say anything bad about the council or be see at an event like this in case they try to sue you or something.”
Another woman, a teacher who did not wish to be named, took her three children along to the banner and mask-making event at Temple Street Church in Fenton.
She said: “I don’t want to be named because I am a teacher and the school and council doesn’t know I support the march.
“It’s good for the kids to come and take part in this sort of event.
“It’s hard telling them that their library in Fenton has closed but the council have got £40million to spend on their own building when they have already got a perfectly good one.”
The City Council said there is no reason for people to fear “exercising their right to freedom of expression” by attending the march.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Cllr Mohammed Pervez said: “The group is welcome to air its views and has co-operated with the council and the police in agreeing its route.
“We are monitoring events on the day, along with colleagues from the police, from a community safety perspective.
“The council’s plans for the Central Business District have gone through the democratic process and public consultation has been carried out along the way.
“The programme was agreed by the council’s cabinet in May last year and was given outline planning permission as far back as March 2011. The most recent public consultation, on detailed plans for the first phase of the programme, took place in November last year.
“The council is fully committed to the regeneration of the whole city with the aim of benefiting all its residents and communities.”