The peace campaign in London’s Parliament Square opposite the British Houses of Parliament reached 11 years on Saturday June 2nd 2012. Yes, 11 glorious years you might say.
The campaign was initiated by Brian Haw on June 2nd 2001 – before the events of September 11th and before the US led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He was initially demonstrating against the economic embargo against Iraq which according to UNICEF killed over 500,000 children. He continued to protest 24/7 opposite the British Houses of Parliament in opposition to the on-going occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continuing siege of Gaza.
Unfortunately in September 2010 Brian was diagnosed with cancer and had to go in to hospital. Sadly, he passed away on June 18th June 2011 having lived to see the campaign he started reach a full decade.
Nevertheless the campaign has continued with Australian born mother of two Mrs Barbara Tucker maintaining a 24 hour presence opposite the Houses of Parliament. She has been arrested a staggering 45 times in her six and a half years in the Square mainly on charges of `unauthorised demonstration` - some of the arrests have been without a warrant which of course is illegal. An attempt was made to have her sectioned under the mental health act which is reminiscent of Soviet times but the attempt was unsuccessful.
The duration of the campaign says much for the commitment of Brian and Barbara whose ascetic way of life contrasts sharply with the indulgent lifestyle of many of the honourable members across the road. Imagine sleeping in a chair in the cold and damp of the Square which at the best of times resembles a race track with its 24 hour traffic and the constant bongs of Big Ben.
Barbara has now been deprived of the small tent which gave her a little shelter and privacy, then incredibly her sleeping bag and umbrella were taken and then astonishingly her two blankets were swiped. Even homeless people are allowed to have sleeping bags so why not for Babs?
I would love to imagine any member of the Royal family enduring such harsh conditions. I try to think of Tony Blair with his 7 houses around the world and his occupation of a whole floor of the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem at a cost of a million pounds a year. How long would he last sleeping rough?
Barbara is frequently rough handled by the police while Tony Blair was actually apologised to by Lord Leveson after a protester interrupted the Leveson inquiry in to `media ethics` and called out that Blair was a mass murderer. Remember the guy who threw a shaving foam pie at Rupert Murdoch last year (Jonathan May-Bowles – a comedian) – he was sentenced to prison for 6 weeks while Murdoch simply said it’s a humbling day and then flies off in his private jet after picking up some ginormous cheque.
We will doubtless be deluged with nauseating platitudes about the `Golden Jubilee` with saturation coverage on a global scale of the picnics, flotillas on the Thames, gilded coaches, giant firework displays etc., etc.
From the BBC Website of Saturday 2nd June:
`The Queen has arrived at Epsom Derby, driving on the race course to kick off the first major event of her Diamond Jubilee weekend marking 60 years of her reign.
Racegoers cheered as the royal motorcade arrived at the winning post. Katherine Jenkins then sang the national anthem.
Gun salutes echoed across London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Street parties were held in numerous locations with more planned later.
The Queen was wearing royal blue, and was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh along with the couple's sons, Edward and Andrew, and granddaughters, Beatrice and Eugenie`
Also, we mustn’t forget the huge security operation for the flotilla on the Thames:
`The Metropolitan Police have planned a security operation for the Diamond Jubilee weekend which is larger than that for last year's royal wedding.
Up to 6,000 extra police officers will be on duty throughout the events and celebrations in London.
They will be joined by 7,000 security stewards lining the River Thames during the 1,000-boat flotilla for the Queen on Sunday.
Scotland Yard commanders have spent 18 months planning for the events.
The operation is primarily focused on the huge logistical challenges of policing the river pageant. `
Could there be saturation coverage or indeed any kind of reportage of the 11 glorious years of the 24/7 Parliament Square peace campaign? Will there be bunting and street parties and TV documentaries?
Could there be a flotilla of 1,000 boats led by the Queen with Barack Obama and Barbara Tucker in tow and assorted other dignitaries to break the siege of Gaza? The Israelis might think twice about sinking the Royal and Presidential yachts.
On Tuesday 4th June will we see Queen Barbara be driven to Buckingham Palace in a gilded carriage waited on hand and food by flashing flunkeys and hats off Rozzers such as Sergeant Smellie and PC Simon Harwood or maybe Bear Grylls? Perhaps not.
Barbara ‘Babs’ Tucker does not have a bed or even a tent or an umbrella or even blankets. She is suffering from exposure and has to sleep in a chair with constant nocturnal visits from thugs (official and unofficial). It’s incredible that a 5`4`` woman can do this vigil night after night on her own when even a 6` 4`` heavyweight boxer might have qualms about such an ordeal.
One night in May 2006 a staggering 78 police came to remove most of Brian Haw’s original display at a cost of £27,000. Talk about overkill.
The next 4 days will be doubtless wall to wall triumphalist festivities of the glories of `our` monarch. Could there not be a mention of the other Queen – the Queen of Parliament Square?
Here is a selection of photos of the peace campaign through the years:
The website for the campaign: www.brianhaw.tv
An Indymedia report on the 9th anniversary in 2010: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/06/452634.html
A report from the Independent on day 3,000 in 2009:
An Indymedia report on day 4,000 on May 15th 2012:
I have done two days in solidarity with the campaign – once on day 3,000 in August 2009 and this year on day 4,000 in May 15th. It was tough going just for that small effort – the commitment it must take for 11 years with little or no support or media coverage is truly remarkable.
Long live the Parliament Square campaign!