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Paul O'Hanlon | 01.08.2005 22:44 | SOCPA | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | London | World

This is a 1,100 word article about Parliament Square peace protestor Brian Haw whose demonstartion has survived yet another attempt to evict him from the square. 13 labelled photos are attached.


Yes, Brian Haw is 1,521 not out - a good innings if ever there was one. He started his anti-war protest on June 2nd 2001 in London’s Parliament Square, which has displeased the powers that be to such an extent that they enacted a law specifically to get rid of him. He has been called a security risk and MPs have accused him of interrupting their work with minister Peter Hain describing his large display as an eyesore and the Speaker asking the police to get the protest removed.
Brian laughs and says: “Organised crime? Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? Do they really think I’m the Godfather?”

The new rules covering protest in Parliament Square say that anyone wanting to demonstrate within 1 kilometre (about half a mile) of Parliament must have authorisation from the police `when the demonstration starts`. Brian’s lawyers successfully argued that as his demonstration had started four years ago he did not have to apply for authorisation, even though the law was aimed specifically at him. Three judges decided by a 2-1 majority in the high court that legislation brought in to control demonstrations around the Houses of Parliament did not apply to Brian Haw.
Brian’s solicitor David Thomas said, “It is clearly embarrassing for the government.”
Outside the court Brian said he would continue his protest for “as long as it takes”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We’re examining the judgement carefully”. He refused to comment on the likelihood of an appeal.

I spoke to Brian on Saturday 30th July and found him in good spirits though a little tired. He referred to the Home Secretary as `crazy Clarke the descendant of barking mad Blunkett`. He said Charley boy (Charles Clarke) was in court also someone representing Blair (meaning Sir Ian Blair the London Police commissioner). I asked Brian for a short comment and he said I had put him on the spot. He gave everyone his best regards and said keep up the struggle. I reminded him of the big demonstration due to take place in London on September 24th and he jokingly said, “Make sure you apply for your permit won’t you?”

Here is a biography of Brian from `Wikipedia`, which is a free Internet encyclopaedia.


BRIAN WILLIAM HAW (born 1949) is a former carpenter who is famous for living in Parliament Square since June 2001 in an anti-war protest. Although he had begun before the terror attacks on the United States, Haw has become a symbol of the anti-war protest movement over the policies of both Britain and the United States in Afghanistan and later Iraq.

Haw was the elder of twins by 25 minutes and grew up in Barking and Whitstable. His father, who worked in a betting office, had been one of the first British soldiers to enter Belsen concentartion camp, and committed suicide 20 years later. Haw was apprenticed to a boat-builder from the age of 16 and then entered the Merchant Navy as a deckhand. In this job he visited many of the world's trouble-spots. In 1970 he studied for six months at an Evangelical college in Nottingham and then went to Belfast to try to mediate between the two sides in `The Troubles`.

In the early 1970s Haw moved to Essex and started a removals business, also working part-time as a carpenter. He met his wife Kay in the early 1970s; she gave birth to his seven children. The family eventually settled in Redditch, Worcestshire (near Birmingham). In 1989 he travelled to Cambodia to try to help that country, and he tried to help disadvantaged children in the local area. However the family found themselves the victim of anti-social behaviour, and Haw's attempt to stop it by presenting a dossier to the Crown Prosecution Service led to it getting worse.

On June 2nd 2001, he began camping in Parliament Square in central London in a one-man to protest against war and foreign policy (initially, the sanctions against Iraq). Haw justifies his campaign on a need to improve his children's future. He only leaves his makeshift campsite in order to attend court hearings, surviving on food brought by supporters. Support for Haw's protest has come from former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn and activist and comedian Mark Thomas. Supporters of the UK and US policy in Iraq have however accused Haw of anti-semitism.

City of Westminster attempted to prosecute Haw for causing an obstruction to the pavement in October 2002 but the case failed as Haw's banners did not impede movement. The continuous use of a megaphone by Haw led to protests by Members of Parliament who have offices close to his protest. The House of Commons Procedure Committee held a brief inquiry in summer 2003 which heard evidence that permanent protests in Parliament Square could provide an opportunity for terrorists to disguise explosive devices, and resulted in a recommendation that the law be changed to prohibit them. Although initially reluctant, the Government passed such a provision in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. (sections 132 to 138).

In the UK general election of 2005 Haw stood as a candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster UK Parliament constituency in order to further his campaign and oppose the Act which was yet to come in to force. He won 298 votes (0.8 percent); making a speech against the ongoing occupation at the declaration of the result.

As preparation for implementing the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act began, Haw won an application for judicial review on July 28th, successfully arguing that a technical defect in the Act meant it did not apply in his case. The Act states that demonstrations must have authorisation from the police "when the demonstration starts", and Haw pointed out that his had begun before the passage of the Act, which was not made retrospective. It had been passed in June 2005 to rectify this oversight, but it was ruled that this type of legislation (A commencement order) could not be used to criminalise conduct that was previously legal. Although parliamentary discussion made it clear the law was targeted at Haw, legislative intent is only relevant for interpreting ambiguities in law, and cannot be used to override unambiguous legal wording, even if that wording does not have the effect parliament intended.

Oh, dear! MPs thought when they came back in October Brian would be gone but he will still be there to remind them of all the lies that were told in the run up to war.

13 labelled photos are attached.

Word count 1,116 words

Paul O'Hanlon
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