Why did Democracy Village declare war on Brian Haw?

Tony Gosling 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?
Good riddance.

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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