Court bans Parliament Square protesters

Brian Haw has been protesting in Parliament Square since 2001
Brian Haw has been protesting in Parliament Square since 2001

By Ian Dunt

The high court has banned protestors from remaining in the tent village on parliament square.

Protestors started arriving in serious numbers in May, campaigning over a range of different issues, including the environment, the war in Iraq and capitalism.

They joined Brian Haw, who has been holding a vigil in the Square in protest at Britain's foreign policy for nine years.

The case, brought by the mayor, is intended to "safeguard the rights of the majority" to enjoy the space, but protestors claim only the Queen has the power to bring proceedings.

Boris Johnson insists the Greater London Authority owns the square and that gives him a right to demand they vacate the area.

The mayor's counsel, Ashley Underwood QC, was at pains to prove to Mr Justice Griffith Williams that the mayor had taken the right to freedom of speech into account.

"In bringing this claim, the mayor does not seek to minimise the vital importance of the right to free speech and assembly and protest, especially in such a significant location and in such a vibrant city as this," he said.

"Rather, what he seeks to achieve is to safeguard the rights of the majority to use and enjoy Parliament Square Gardens and bid to prevent the abrogation to themselves of such a place by a small minority, however well-intentioned."

Over the years various attempts to remove Mr Haw from his spot outside parliament's front gate have been made. In one case, then-home secretary David Blunkett admitted passing a law specifically to remove him.

In the David against Goliath battle which followed, Mr Haw emerged triumphant when a judge ruled the law against protest around parliament could not be used retrospectively.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.