Public space is being increasingly managed by defensive architecture, surveillance and other subtle filtering mechanisms to make it more palatable and attendant to the needs of capital. This reinforces social boundaries, making space inhospitable to those people whose presence is not welcome, and serves to ‘discipline’ city inhabitants into primarily consumption based modes of interacting with and in the city. However, disenfranchised urban populations still find ways to exist in and navigate these spaces. The purpose of this article is to highlight these ways by introducing the concept of ‘desire lines’ as a means of overcoming or re-imagining defensive space. We use Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of desire as productive force, combined with De Certeau’s notion of ‘walking the city’, to explore how individuals and social movements might practically, and in a metaphorical sense, create new collective paths, creating ‘desire lines’ of resistance and change within what is often an increasingly unforgiving and dominated urban environment, created by and for capital at the expense of a vibrant public realm.