Interim report on High court Boris vs Democracy Village

Mark Barrett marknbarrett at
Fri Jun 18 13:28:07 BST 2010

*Boris Johnson vs Democracy*

On Mon Jun 14 in the High Court began the trial of the Mayor of London
claiming repossession of Parliament Square from Democracy Village. This
prime piece of real estate had been seized from the enemy class on Mayday,
and a Village of over thirty tents, kitchen facilities, compost toilet and
peace garden established over the course of the next six weeks.

>From the outset, the villagers declared they would stay until all soldiers
had come back home from Afghanistan. Villagers have regularly sallied forth
to perform direct actions including spectacular banner drops from Big Ben,
the roof of Westminster Abbey and, on our first date in court, even from the
roof of the Royal Courts of Justice!

Boris faced 19 named defendants, among them Brian Haw, plus Persons unknown
who had entered or remained without the consent of the GLA. From the very
first Bank Holiday weekend, our tents were served with notices of the
Mayor’s bye-laws. Unless you’ve filled in a form, attached a risk
assessment, obtained public liability insurance and gained the Mayor’s
explicit written authorization, you’re not allowed
to assemble or make a speech in any part of Parliament Square. It goes
without saying that Election Meltdown, organisers of the original Mayday
Carnival which occupied the Square, never asked anyone’s permission for any
of their lawful and popular activities. These included erecting a 30-foot
maypole and hanging New Labour class traitors from a large gibbet.

One of the first defiant acts of the Grassroots Government was to celebrate
its inauguration by planting a young oak sapling in the very centre of the
Square. This has since become the centrepiece of a beautiful garden of
shrubs, herbs, flowers and vegetables. According to Boris’ minions, this
amounts to £50,000 worth of criminal damage, the costs of digging up the oak
tree and replanting the grass. The consensus view of the villagers is that
the true criminal damage is the death and destruction wrought by illegal and
inhuman wars.

Bindmans, the solicitors, represented the first named named defendant,
Rebecca Hall, a long-standing villager, but several others stood up to
represent themselves. Our first line of defence was that the Mayor could not
claim repossession because he does not own the land – the Queen does! Boris’
men had a real headache, having to argue that effectively any tenant farmer,
steward or estate manager had the right to take possession of land they were
occupying even if that meant evicting the titleholder. Boris explicitly
claimed he has the power to evict the queen from Parliament Square if he so
chose. His minions argued that, whatever the law said, the fact that the
Mayor had erected a fence for reseeding the grass back in October 2007
implied he had control of the Square, and therefore possession.  So the
queen can be ousted by her gardener! It also implies, what’s to stop us from
putting up fences and saying it’s ours!

The main line of argument of the claimants is that Boris is a stalwart
upholder of democracy and he fears that while a minority is camped on
Parliament Square this will deter and prevent other demonstrations by the
majority. The Square has a long and illustrious history as a site of
protest, and as a tourist attraction. Supposedly, the presence of the
village undermines this. Boris’ minions claim the Heritage wardens have been
counting far fewer visitors than usual – though they can’t tell us how these
estimates are arrived at. It doesn’t ring true with the experience of most
villagers, who generally interact and chat with dozens of people everyday,
tourists and visitors who are very curious to find out what is going on, and
then almost always supportive. As far as demos go, the Village arranged
plenty of space for the large-scale demonstration by the British Tamil forum
on May 18, when well over a thousand men, women and children were spread
around the square to commemorate the anniversary of genocide. Also on the
Square on May 22, villagers held a tense but eventually fairly amicable
exchange with members of March for England who had been intending to parade
with the English Defence league. All of this is democracy in action.

Boris’ main witness, Simon Grinter, official manager of Parliament Square
gardens, declared in his statement that the Welcome desk, a table laden with
leaflets and info for visitors, acts as a ‘control’ point of entry to the
Square. This despite the fact that it is possible to walk onto the Square
from all four corners. Under cross examination by all the unrepresented
defendants on Jun 17, Grinter was forced to admit that there was no disabled
access to the Square at all; that there isn’t even a green man crossing, let
alone a zebra crossing to get over to the Square; parents with children, or
the elderly have to brave at least three lanes of busy traffic to get across
at red lights. On the south side of the Square, some paving stones are so
cracked and neglected they constitute a hazard.

Grinter has also let slip that that the first step Boris will take should
his bailiffs manage to evict us is once again to fence off the entire Square
‘to  reseed the grass’. No demonstrations will be allowed there for weeks on
end. The villagers’ response to this has been to start reseeding the grass
ourselves already, operating patch by patch. This is proving immeasurably
cheaper, since it’s being done for love not money. In contrast to Boris,
we’re insisting on unfettered public access. In most places, the grass is in
perfectly good order. We’ll be exercising our rights there until the troops
come home.

Clearly from the outset, Mr Justice Williams was prepared to set aside all
precedent on feudal property law to help Boris reestablish his grip on the
Square, and indeed ruled to that effect on Weds June 16, granting him
jurisdiction to claim repossession. The Villagers rallied behind the moving
declaration made by guerrilla gardener Simon Moore, invoking the Diggers,
English Revolutionaries of 1649. Approaching the bench, he respectfully
suggested that property was possessed by theft and murder. The Earth, he
said, is a common treasury for all. No man has any right to buy and sell the
Earth for private gain. Sir, he challenged Mr Justice Willams, ‘you would do
a service for humankind to admit that.’

The case for the defence will begin on Mon Jun 21 at 2pm in the High Court,
the Strand.

For more information see

And join facebook group for regular notice of activities

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