Protest in Parliament Square.

There’s a bit of talk around the place about whether protesters should be cleared from Parliament square. Iain Dale thinks they should be. And predictably Old Holborn thinks they shouldn’t be.

The Libertarian in me hates any state (by this, I mean specifically the police) activity which arrests anybody who isn’t causing anyone harm. However, the right to protest does not include the right to set up a squatters’ camp opposite parliament. The right to protest does not include a right to erect shelter on land which does not belong to you, for which you’re not paying for the right to use. So Brian Haw has been arrested again. And I am heartily sick of the sight of him, and have been for a while.

Whilst I would never deny him, or anyone else the right to protest, I feel is is within the rights of the state to deny him the right to erect a tent or more permanent structure on land he doesn’t own. Limit idiots who want to call the Iraq war “illegal” (it wasn’t) to a sandwich board and placard each, and see how long their protest lasts if they’re exposed to the weather.

Because there are other people who might want to protest in Parliament square occasionally, which is a bit difficult if the Socialist Worker (I recognise that font anywhere) has monopolised the entire frontage of the south side of the lawn in perpetuity. Perhaps the police have been heavy handed, but British fair play and all that. Brian, you’ve had your say, now fuck off.

7 replies
  1. Umbongo
    Umbongo says:

    "Brian, you've had your say, now fuck off."

    Succinct, reasonable and uncontentious: I don't always agree with you Jackart but you're spot on with this one.

  2. North Briton 45
    North Briton 45 says:

    There are at least two separate demonstrations in the square.

    Brian Haw has his supporters; Barbara Tucker, an Australian woman who likes dressing in Barbie doll pink, Maria Gallestegui, a former coach driver who packed in her job to join Brian, and various other hangers-on including a rested actor who was once quite respected for his Shakespeare.

    Then there is a peace camp which, encouraged by Brian's longevity, has recently set itself up and started digging up Parliament Square for a veg patch (not really going to work as the soil isn't deep enough) and have generally been making a mess of the place.

    It is clear Brian has outstayed his welcome, but his presence might be something we might have to bear for living in a democracy. Brian has legal right on his side as has been shown in countless court cases; even introducing new laws have been unable to shift him. The law which meant protests around Whitehall had to get permission first was introduced entirely to get rid of Brian Haw. It failed but did criminalise Maya Evans, a vegan chef from Brighton, who read the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq opposite Downing Street.

    So while Haw should move on, he will be very hard to shift. The other rabble should be more easy to move.

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    I would say don't move HIM on, move his semi-permanent structures. Police should just say "Brian, you're welcome to stay, pick your favourite placard, the rest of the crap has to go".

    Then you're not trampelling on his right to protest, but you are Tidying the square.

    Ditto the rest of the hippies.

    What the Law *is* right now, I couldn't give a monkey's. The law has demonstrated itself to be an ass SO many times…

  4. Ed
    Ed says:

    Does that mean that you would be against the tents that were put on public land during the Orange Revolution in Kiev ?

    Are you also proposing to clear Central London of vagrants ?

    Some clarification of the 'libertarian' position would be helpful. I did not notice any 'libertarians' in the square. They were all busy applauding the possibility of state action/police action etc to clear it.

  5. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    To which the simple answer is "are the tents still there now"? and the answer is "No".

    The problem is that this is public land, owned by 64 million people. Lots of people would like to protest, but can't because of a semi-permanent occupation by a bunch of hippies. THEY should be allowed to stay. They should not be allowed to erect tents and permanent signs.

    Simple. I don't see how your Orange revolution analogy follows.


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