Why did Democracy Village declare war on Brian Haw?
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Jun 30 12:02:06 BST 2010
Why did Democracy Village queer his pitch ... and declare war on Brian Haw?
Peace protesters ordered out of Parliament Square but Haw can stay
By Andy McSmith
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Democracy Village, as it is called, has attracted
backing from campaigners for free speech, but Mr
Justice Griffith Williams ruled that it is a
health hazard and disrupts the right of others
not involved in the protest to have access to the
green in Parliament Square, London. He delayed
the order to clear the camp until 4pm on Friday,
to give the protesters time to apply to a Court of Appeal to intervene.
The order does not affect the right of London's
best known protester, Brian Haw, to continue the
lone vigil he has conducted on the pavement in
Parliament Square for nearly 10 years.
But Mr Haw does face the risk of having an
injunction served on him if he trespasses on to
the grass without the London Mayor's permission.
However, he can stay on the pavement because
legislation introduced to remove him was not
brought in retrospectively and a judge has
previously ruled it would be illegal to force him out.
Mr Haw had been sleeping on the grass because of his health.
One of the revelations of the nine-day court
hearing was the intense ill feeling and mutual
suspicion between different groups squatting in
Parliament Square. There are two warring camps
there is Mr Haw and his immediate neighbour,
Barbara Tucker, who has been camped alongside him
since 2005, and there is Democracy Village, spread over the adjoining lawn.
Not all the occupants of Democracy Village are
peace protesters. Some are taking stands against
genocide or for the environment, though
Afghanistan appears to be the main focus of protest.
In one raucous interlude in the court hearing, a
defendant named Charity Sweet, who is allied to
Mr Haw and Ms Tucker, applied to have the
proceedings stopped on the grounds that the
founder of Democracy Village, Maria Gallastegui,
is a government agent tasked with creating a
provocation to give the authorities a pretext to
evict Mr Haw from his pitch. "The application was
patently absurd. She adduced no evidence that Ms
Gallastegui may have been an agent provocateur,"
Justice Williams said in yesterday's judgement.
Rebecca Hall, a student at London's South Bank
University, headed the list of defendants in the
case. She joined Democracy Village on 1 May. She
told the judge that it is not a protest but an
assembly of people "in which ideas are
discussed". Meetings are held twice daily, meals
are communal, tasks like cooking and picking
litter are shared out, there is a welcome desk
for visitors, and relations with police are good.
But Simon Grinter, head of facilities for the
Greater London Assembly, complained that flower
beds had been trampled, part of the lawn had been
dug up to plant an oak tree, flowers and
vegetables, there was a makeshift shower with no
drainage, and a urinal consisting of a foul
smelling bale of hay. He reckoned the damage came to around £50,000.
In his findings, the judge added that: "There is
also evidence that the Democracy Village is
acting as a magnet for attracting the homeless
who are taking advantage of the lack of control and there is heavy drinking."
Some protesters appeared ready to back up and
leave before the court imposed deadline expires.
But others vowed to stay and resist police attempts to move them.
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