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Press Conference: Free Speech in Parliament Square

Community Picket | 14.06.2003 11:28

Press Conference Invitation
TUESDAY 17 JUNE, 11am, Room W1, House of Commons
Called by John McDonnell MP with the Parliament Square Peace Camp & Community Picket

Two press releases
1) from John McDonnell MP
2) from Parliament Square Community Picket

Member of Parliament for Hayes & Harlington, Constituency Office, Pump Lane, Hayes, Middlesex UB3 3NB
020 8569 0010 Fax 020 8569 0109

FREE SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT SQUARE – Press Conference Invitation
Tuesday 17TH June – 11:00 am – Room W1, House of Commons

In recent years a tradition has built up, in which demonstrators on issues such as opposition to the war in Iraq, have been able to demonstrate with placards and to address the general public and Members of Parliament from the pavement in front of Parliament Square in the style of ‘Speakers Corner’ in Hyde Park.

This tradition of free speech outside of Parliament is now coming under attack from Backbench MPs’ amendments to the [Anti Social Behaviour Bill] and from complaints by Members of Parliament to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Some MPs are seeking to use the force of law to halt the freedom of speech outside Parliament.

This press conference will bring together the individuals and groups who regularly demonstrate outside of Parliament along with sympathetic MPs to highlight this threat and to mobilize a campaign to enable the demonstrators to be able to continue speaking out in this way.

- ENDS –

Editors notes:
For further information please contact:
John Mc Donnell MP – pager 07644 002646
Nina Lopez-Jones – 020 7482 2496 / 07956 316899

Press Conference Invitation


TUESDAY 17 JUNE, 11am, Room W1, House of Commons
Called by John McDonnell MP
with the Parliament Square Peace Camp & Community Picket

The 24-hour Peace Camp against sanctions and war in Iraq celebrated its second anniversary in Parliament Square on 1 June. The Community Anti-war Picket and open mic was initiated by the Global Women’s Strike well before the invasion of Iraq.

Attempts to get the Peace Camp and the Picket to close down have escalated since the war was declared over. The latest are:

· MP Graham Allen’s clause to the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill which would enable the Secretary of State to ‘disperse’ ‘individuals forming part of any permanent or semi-permanent group in Parliament Square’.

· Complaints to the Speaker by Ian Duncan-Smith and other MPs that the noise from the protesters between 5.30 and 7pm is preventing them from working. The noise from the traffic, which often drowns out the protesters, does not seem to disturb them.

The protests are dedicated to making visible the hidden violence perpetrated daily against Iraqis. Our continued presence is clearly an embarrassment to the government and those who want to silence any manifestation of the massive anti-war movement in this country and around the world which they ignored when they voted for war.

Brian Haw, who founded the Peace Camp and is its backbone, in defending his right to free speech, has won a precedent ruling based on the Human Rights Act. But the police, after complaints from the Commons, still regularly confiscate anti-war displays and sound equipment. When challenged, the police have had to apologise, acknowledging that their behaviour was illegal. We have discovered, and sympathetic police have confirmed, that there are now groups of police no longer accountable to their local stations but to Scotland Yard, whose job is to roam London and intimidate or shut down any political protest they come upon.

Mr Haw was recently beaten up in the middle of the night by an off-duty US Marine. Police guarding Parliament who saw the beating did not intervene, saying they were not allowed to leave their posts, and called the local police instead. By the time they arrived, Mr Haw was badly hurt, with a broken nose. Graham Allen’s clause labels peace protesters rather than their violent attackers as “anti-social”. We are extremely concerned that the attacker was released.

At the same time, a raft of anti-democratic legislation makes it less than respectable and even criminal for the public to protest against Parliament’s increasing lack of accountability to people in this country. People accused of ‘terrorism’ are now deprived of the most basic legal and human rights especially if they don’t hold a UK passport; demonstrators are routinely corralled and photographed – even the Picket has been filmed by the police; a busload of peace demonstrators were prevented from reaching the US base at Fairford in Gloucestershire.

None of us can allow this US-style government to invade us here.

Community Picket, Crossroads Women’s Centre: 020 7482 2496;
fax 020 7209 4761

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  1. Good Idea! — Light Bulb