(image via scepticisle)
I'm actually in tears. Boris Johnson, the Tories in Westminster Council and the centre-right coalition have managed to do what nine years of new Labour anti-civil-liberties wrangling didn't have the guts to do. They've sent in the police and they've taken away Brian Haw.
Brian Haw's anti-war protest - a tent, some placards and a whole lot of brazen peacenik courage - has been pitched directly outside the houses of parliament for almost nine years. Embarrassing the executive. Reminding them of their complicity in an illegal war. Reminding the people of the possibility of resistance. Labour tried everything they could think of to get rid of him, dragging him through the courts, even setting up a whole new law to ban protest in parliament square without prior approval specifically designed to oust him. They never could. Under the new centre-right regime, however, there's no such faffing about with legal precedent and squabbling over human rights. Today, the Mayor ordered the stormtroopers in to handcuff Brian Haw and drag him away, and now, after nine years, he's gone.
That's what the right does, in government. No lengthy, drawn-out hypocrytical bollocks about decorum and protest, no legislating you out of existence bit by heartbreaking bit. Just this. You are a nasty protestor. We do not like you, or your messy ideas about justice and freedom. You are spoiling our nice clean lawn. We are sending large men to remove you.
I am twenty-three, and have been politically active for about as long as Brian Haw's protest has been standing. Nearly all of my significant political memories involve Haw, from rainy pickets over the HFE bill in 2008 to cheering as the crowd of nearly two million marched past his tents on the big anti-war demo in 2003, back when I was sixteen and had only just begun to realise how terribly wrong the world was, and the power of personal resistance.
Years later, as a parliamentary intern, I passed Haw's protest every morning and evening as I crossed the street into the Houses of Parliament. And every time, I felt glad to see it, sometimes a lonely one-tent display facing down the glowering edifice of Big Ben and the commons, sometimes a larger gathering, as thousands of well-wishers and supporters travelled from all over the world to meet Brian and join his demonstration. It made me feel proud, every day, to know that whatever faff was going down in parliament, I still lived in a country where citizens had some right to protest, some right to face down the entitlement and warmongering of the state without fear of their lives and livelihoods, even if it was just one little tent and some placards against centuries of privilege and pride. It made me feel proud, every day. Johnson is using the excuse that Haw's protest detracted from the majesty of Parliament Square, but I considered Brian Haw as much a symbol of the political inheritance of my generation as the Commons. And now he's gone.
Some of us on the left were always convinced that the Tories would be worse than Labour on civil liberties. We did say. But today 'I told you so' tastes of nothing but bile. This is a tragedy, a travesty, and nothing more. Mr Haw, we salute you. The state may want to forget your protest and the grassroots resistance it symbolised. We never will.
I'm not sure about worse, just different. They're all right-wing parties; Labour's approach to civil liberties was just more about collective, broad oppression while the Tory/Lib Dem pattern is, true to its class character, more about a few individuals. Yellow and Blue target leaders, Red targeted passers-by.ReplyDelete
Was that as part of them clearing out 'democracy village'? Because that mess was never gonna be allowed to stay there long, and they only negatively affected Brian's chances of remaining there. I think he will (and should) be back soon.ReplyDelete
The timing of this interests me. Considering the content of the Queen's Speech, and of the "Great" repeal bill, it's a little odd that Boris chose today to go so spectacularly off-message.ReplyDelete
Am I crazy to think this might be the start of a rebellion?
Labour did pass a law, though, *specifically* intended to target Brian Haw. And then did an epic parliamentary facepalm after discovering that the wording of the law meant that existing protests weren't covered and so they had to let him stay. Which brought me a fair bit of glee at the time.
I know that despite thirteen years of the most viciously Atlanticist-imperialist government in history, who've managed to take privatisation and attacks on benefits further than Thatcher could ever have dreamed of, that somehow, somehow the Tories can still manage to be worse. But I'm not convinced that there's even the slightest difference between them beyond a few Labour backbenchers on this area of civil liberties (as opposed to the "social issues" area, i.e. the desperation to roll back women's rights etc.).
i hate it so much.. the daily mail said something like "the scale and impact of the protest is now doing considerable damage to the Square".. surely thats the point of protest, to cause an obstruction of some kind !ReplyDelete
@angelica: "Labour did pass a law, though, *specifically* intended to target Brian Haw. And then did an epic parliamentary facepalm after discovering that the wording of the law meant that existing protests weren't covered and so they had to let him stay. Which brought me a fair bit of glee at the time."ReplyDelete
Then the Court of Appeal overturned that verdict, and Brian applied for permission to protest.
"Years later, as a parliamentary intern, I passed Haw's protest every morning and evening as I crossed the street into the Houses of Parliament."ReplyDelete
You didn't just use the underground exit to take the tube home?
As yet another who grew up under Labour, this is sad news. I don't think I've ever *been* to Westminster when Haw's protest wasn't there, and I don't see what the issue even was. To me, it's always just made sense; it's our government, we have the right to peaceful protest outside it. And that was all Haw's protest was; peaceful. If this government cares more about the state of the Parliament Square lawn than the rights of its citizens to voice their views and concerns about the choices of the people who supposedly represent them, it doesn't bode well. =/ReplyDelete
So far as I understand it, Brian Haw applied for permission to protest there and was granted it subject to certain conditions (which seemed *fairly* reasonable to me) which he refused to abide by. To say he's being denied the right to express his views isn't an accurate statement of the legal position as I understand it.ReplyDelete
Secondly, I'm undecided as to whether free speech necessarily means the right to make a permanent camp somewhere.
Brian's protest has been interupted before but he has always returned. Is there any reason to think on this ocassion he will not be able to come back?ReplyDelete
I think you are spot on about the Tories. The next few years are going to be very hard, particularly for the weakest and least powerful.
It is telling that Johnson identifies Parliament Square as "a top tourist attraction visited by thousands of people and broadcast around the world each day". Clearly this is the primary function of the square and its historical role as the home of British democratic debate is a secondary concern.ReplyDelete
As for BJ's suggestion that Brian is "preventing its peaceful use" by essentially Bogarting prime protest turf and not letting others in with a fair shout, I'm not aware of any legal action taken by other would-be protestors, or that this reasoning was given any shrift by the courts in Mr Haw's previous cases. But I'd as a law student be glad to hear further details of the grounds for removing dear Brian.
Something doesn't become legal just because you're doing it as a protest. If you can't camp in Parliament Square, then you can't do it as part of a protest. I support people's right to protest in Parliament Square, and then go home at the end of the day.ReplyDelete
Good riddance to bad rubbish! Haw was a disturbed and embarrassing eyesore who spoke for no one and achieved nothing. He reminds me of those ugly, stroppy, crewcut lesbians squatting outside the military base at Greenham Common with their tents, placards and campfires. Human dross. Riffraff.ReplyDelete
Best thing hobo Haw could do now is to get a job!
Chalk up a victory for Boris.
Although I am not British I find this not only disgusting but dangerous. The first speaks for itself, if only by the pettiness of this action. But we are now experiencing an erosion of the availability of information and of those sorts of free speech that I and many other consider proper and necessary in a democracy: those voicing protest at official policies. By virtue of its high-profile, this expulsion smacks of intimidation.ReplyDelete
You can also go over to Boris's blog and tell him he's a twat.ReplyDelete
Thank you. That was wonderful. (My posting on this issue won't appear until tomorrow, because I have been focusing on Gideon, but it won't be as reasoned and eloquent as yours).ReplyDelete
I find it strangely exhilarating that the Tories manage to be worse than Labour already.
the really saddest day was 6th May 2010...time to leave the country-not sure I can live in the increasingly racist homophobic intolerant society that this country is going to be in the next few years..ReplyDelete
Brian Haw is mad as a box of frogs but he (and people l ike him) are ESSENTIAL to democracy. He does what the rest of us merely think. It is an appalling thing that a way has been found to remove him. Here's a man doing the ultimate (including losing his marriage)to state his case. And yes - I DO support his stand. Just remember though - he loses his rights here. YOU will lose YOURS down the line.ReplyDelete
What was that about Free Speech?!ReplyDelete
I came of age politically during the "Thatch the Snatch" Regime, so it was pretty similar. Also one of the reasons I became a rat and jumped the sinking ship.ReplyDelete
They haven't done anything of the sort. Brain was arrested for obstructing the sniffer dogs. Whilst being heartily on his side regarding the protest, this is not the first time he's been arrested, and doesn't in any way stop him continuing his protest. It's a one off arrest for obstruction, which has zero to do with who'd in central government, so how on earth can you blame "the centre-right coalition"? Clutching at straws much?ReplyDelete
Nor can you blame the council. The police operation was standard across all parts of the Queen's route, they had the sniffer dogs out across St James Park too, then the police on the ground made a judgement call - which I completely disagree with - to search Brian's tent. Nothing whatsoever to do with the council. The fact is, the other protesters didn't obstruct the operation (which is standard security and has been for years) and weren't arrested. Brian will get a slap on the wrist and be back.
How can you be a political blogger with so little grasp of the issues you're trying to write about?
Oh, and since we're talking about the right to protest, it should be noted that Brian was against the camp that had grown up around him, knowing that - unlike his protest - it was illegal and would only bring trouble.
Good riddance. The right to protest does not confer the right to squat. Mr Haw should be free to come back every morning with a placard if he wants to, but setting up a tent and actually living in Parliament square is ridiculous.ReplyDelete
Don't you ever get bored of being a radical? I mean... moderation is so logical. You play up to the emotions of Afghans killed in the war, and yet you conveniently forget the emotions of Americans killed on 9/11. Which btw is why we're in Afghanistan.ReplyDelete
I have no particular problem with Brian Haw. I'd have been happy to allow him to continue 'ruining the majesty of Parliament'. I'm really not a fan of perfectionism or whitewashing. But I have a BIG problem with unbalanced, radical writing.
And you sum it up to a tee. Doing what you do may stir up comments, but it does nothing for your own skills of reasoning. I suggest a rethink if you want a lengthy and respected career in journalism.
(Which btw you're uniquely placed to enjoy, given your obviously eloquent prose)ReplyDelete
Sometimes I think that its time to move on. Nine years of chanting and ringing a bell in the same place is just about enough, don't you? I think Mr. Haw really needed to get out a bit more. And sometimes well a little push can go a long way.ReplyDelete
Yes well done Brian. Now what ya going to do?
It's ridiculous, if he posed a physical threat to MPs, he'd have done something long ago. And they have the cheek to go on about civil liberties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ReplyDelete
I agree with pretty much everything you say right up until the bit about the Tories being worse than Labour. The fact is that thus far the Tories (with their Lib Dem friends) have been much better on civil liberties, over-turning terrible things like the ID card scheme. While the treatment of Haws is pretty despicable, Labour also targeted him too.ReplyDelete
It may well be that the Tories do get around to restricting civil liberties (certainly, with their predilection for social conservatism, I'd be surprised if they didn't.) But as it stands, they are better than Labour when it comes to civil liberties.
I have no objection with people making a peaceful protest, I've been up to parliament myself to protest, but Haw made his point long, long ago and is now little more than a nuisance with fading curiosity value. Instead of lauding him as some sort of hero it's about time people realised that he's a shabby, anti-social and somewhat disturbed individual who needs help.ReplyDelete
Some news about Maria Gallastegui the leader of Peace Strike. She appears to be some kind of undercover operative. Found this ;ReplyDelete
• THE SAM MATRIX FOR THE GALIZIAN FISHING SECTOR: WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM IT? - Javier Fernández-Macho, Maria Carmen Gallastegui and Pilar González
"surely thats the point of protest, to cause an obstruction of some kind !"ReplyDelete
No, I don't think so. The point of protest is to, well, protest. To make your opinion known. Free speech and all that.
Now, there may well also be a moral case for obstruction, but acts of civil disobedience don't become any less illegal because they're done in a good cause.
So you're free to shout and wave placards opposing the war, or supporting the war, or opposing the colour yellow, but if you start blocking the road I'm trying to walk down (or in the case of Mr. Haw, obstructing a police officer going about his duty), I have a problem with you.
Vanilla Rose: Yes he posed no threat to MPs but really he needed to move on. The bell that he was ringing had severely damaged his hearing and his left leg kept on getting caught in his guide ropes.ReplyDelete
No, I don't think so. The point of protest is to, well, protest. To make your opinion known. Free speech and all that."
yeah but they obviously feel strongly enough to say that they have seen the shouting holding placards and then going home doesnt acheive anything saying look im going to protest and be a nuisance, give up whatever i did before this, let people know that the war is wrong and peacefully do anythign they can to stop it, i think thats definately the point and its brilliant
call me naive but i think they should be allowed to bother people as much as possible
"Americans killed on 9/11. Which btw is why we're in Afghanistan."ReplyDelete
No, it really isn't. The British army is occupying Afghanistan because British foreign policy is essentially decided in Washington. This is known as "the special relationship." The US-et-al army is occupying Afghanistan for strategic & commercial interests, ie: military bases & pipelines for oil & gas. Not to mention just to make the point that the US government/military can bomb or invade any country it chooses.
Incidentally, if the occupation was about "Americans killed in 9/11" that would still make it clearly illegal under international law. In addition to being stupid & wrong, obviously. The appropriate response to an act of mass-murder is not to murder countless (or just uncounted) thousands of other people who were not responsible or involved in any way.
Also, the purpose of protesting against the war is not to "make a point," but to END THE FUCKING WAR. Until that happens we should keep protesting & escalate it to the point where the government can't just ignore us. Of course, that wouldn't be necessary if they actually cared about democracy & bothered to ask the people of Britian or (even better) Afghanistan itself whether the occupation & slaughter should be continued indefinitely for no clear purpose that they can honestly explain (ie: not the usual absurd & demonstrably untrue pretexts).
Claire: Yea i think people should be allowed to bother other people as much as possible especially on the blogsphere.ReplyDelete
women across the world still pant over in private, unable to pronounce for fear of being slut-shamed. As Rousseau might put it Whether the woman shares the man's desires or not, whether or not she is willing to satisfy them...the appearance of correct behavior must be among women's duties. get facebook fansReplyDelete
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