Police clear Parliament Square protest camp

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Jan 18 00:05:37 GMT 2012

Police clear Parliament Square protest camp
Tuesday 17 January 2012
by Paddy McGuffin, Home Affairs Reporter
Lawyers slammed Westminster Council today for its "cynical disregard 
of the rule of law" after it ordered police to clear peace 
campaigners from Parliament Square.
Police officers and council workers swooped on the protest camp - set 
up by the late Brian Haw over 10 years ago - on Monday night.
It was the latest in a series of attempts by the council to evict 
activists from the green opposite the House of Commons.
But lawyers for campaigner Maria Gallastegui, a long-standing 
protester at the site, said today that it had not ended her protest.
Just hours before the eviction, the High Court had granted Ms 
Gallastegui an injunction allowing her to continue her "peace-strike 
protest" at the site.
The Metropolitan Police agreed not to take any action against her 
under Part III of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 
which specifically governs the use of Parliament Square.
The Act came into force on December 19 but lawyers quickly challenged 
it in the courts because Westminster Council refused to say it 
wouldn't move against Ms Gallastegui over Christmas.
The council was ordered not to take any action against her until the 
judicial review was finished.
Bindmans Solicitors, which represents Ms Gallastegui, argues that the 
Act is unlawful and therefore any evictions made under it are also unlawful.
Ms Gallastegui's solicitor Paul Ridge said: "The court was told 
nothing of the police or council's plans and true intentions.
"Hours before clearing the area Westminster Council had told the 
court they needed to have the hearing dealt with quickly and 
preferably before the end of February.
"The need for speed was assumed to derive from the number of people 
protesting as the legal arguments applied to all people protesting, 
not just Maria Gallastegui, yet all the time they were secretly 
planning to clear others from the area.
"This is a cynical disregard of the rule of law, particularly when 
the removals took place at time when those protesters could not get 
legal assistance. Others have the protection of the law and it is 
plainly wrong to treat others differently to Maria Gallastegui."
paddym at peoples-press.com
+44 (0)7786 952037
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