Posts Tagged ‘heritage wardens’

Freedom Protests in London – 2010

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

Freedom Protests in London: Two protests on Saturday 23rd January, 2010 were against the increasing powers which have been given to police and misused by them to control and harass lawful actions on the street.


I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist – Tragalgar Square

Freedom Protests in London

Around 1,500 photographers and supporters turned up to the I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist rally in Trafalgar Square to protest at the increasing harassment of people taking photographs by police, and in particular their abuse of powers under the Terrorism Act.

Freedom Protests in London

I think those there included virtually every photographer who works in London as well as many amateurs. Almost all of us who work on the streets have been approached by police, questioned and then subjected to a search, usually under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (S44.)

Freedom Protests in London

As I commented in 2010:

These stop and searches appear to have continued unabated despite a Home Office Circular in September that made it clear they should not be used to target photographers. Searches can also be carried out under Section 43 of the act, but for this officers must have reasonable grounds to suspect someone of being a terrorist. S44 stops can only be carried out in “authorised areas”, which although intended by Parliament to apply in very restricted areas for short lengths of time have been used by police – for example – to permanently to cover central London and some other areas.

I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist

Freedom Protests in London

The Press Card that we carry has the text “The Association of Chief Police Officers of England Wales and Northern Ireland and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland recognise the holder of this card as a bona-fide newsgatherer.” But despite this, one of my colleagues was the subject of roughly 30 searches in 2009.

Personally although I’ve been approached and asked why why I’m taking pictures on a number of occasions I’ve only been been subjected to a S44 stop once. Being a still photographer I tend to work fast and keep on the move and I think videographers who stay around longer have suffered more. But certainly there was a lack of cooperation from the police and I was often finding my Press Card being unrecognised by offiers. Others told me that they didn’t regard those issued through the NUJ, one of the recognised gatekeepers to the system, as being valid. And most months if not most weeks I would be threatened with arrest when taking pictures.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this protest was listening to a BBC News reporter, standing in the middle of a crowd of experienced journalists and giving a report in which he gave the number attending the protest as “three hundred“. It drew immediate shouts of protest from those of us standing around him and was certainly “not a good advertisement for the competence or impartiality of the BBC who appear to have a policy of playing down dissent.” It’s a policy which still seems to govern the BBC reporting of protests in the UK which are either simply ignored or very much played down.

Among the protesters was a small “Vigilance Committee with a man on stilts wearing a number of CCTV cameras accompanied by a male and female vigilance officer, who picked on individuals and questioned them, taking their fingerprints before finding them guilty and sentencing them to a choice of six years hard labour or contributing to the Vigilance Committee.”

Also present were three Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, but police and ‘heritage wardens’ largely kept away. Although this had been planned as an illegal protest taking place without the permission from the Mayor required by the bylaws, the authority had put in an application for it without any reference to the protesters.

More pictures at I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist.


Life Is Too Short to be Controlled – St Pancras to Piccadilly Circus,

Later in the day protesters met at St Pancras for the ‘Life Is Too Short to be Controlled’ protest against the increasing control over our lives through increased police powers to stop and search, increased surveillance and controls on freedom of movement.

The protest, organised by ‘London NoBorders’ began outside St Pancras Station where the Border Authority detains migrants arriving by Eurostar and marched to Piccadilly Circus, beneath which Westminster’s CCTV HQ keeps a constant watch on the streets of London, the “City of CCTV”. Across the city there were then over 500,000 CCTV cameras watching us, installed by councils, public bodies, companies and individuals and on a typical day the average person in London will be recorded by 300 of them.

Police kept a relatively discrete watch on the event, with police vans parked out of site and even when the group marched along the busy Euston Road, holding up traffic for a few minutes not a single officer appeared. The march was well-ordered “and when an ambulance answering an emergency came along, the whole march cleared the road for it with remarkable speed. At Russell Square, one taxi driver decided to try to force his way through the marchers, but was soon stopped, with several people sitting on the bonnet of his vehicle.”

At Piccadilly Circus there was a short token road block before the protesters moved to the pavement around Eros for more speeches and some dancing. A Police Community Support Officer appeared briefly after someone climbed up and taped a Palestinian flag to Eros’s bow and tried to identify who had done this. The statue is rather fragile and could have been damaged. He soon gave up and went away and was replaced a few minutes later by a single police officer who was embarrassed by being greeted with hugs, and moved back a few yards to watch.

“Not me officer, someone borrowed my scarf”

The police had monitored the progress of the protest as it marched through London, both from some distance on the streets and also on CCTV. It had been peaceful and had caused only very minor disturbance. Few protests do, and the kind of heavy policing sometimes employed often means police cause more disruption that the protest, as well as sometimes provoking a response from protesters who would otherwise have protested peacefully.

More at Life Is Too Short to be Controlled.


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Ford/Visteon, Ethiopian Tyrant, Rioters United!

Friday, March 31st, 2023

On Wednesday 31st March 2010 I reported on three unrelated protests in London.


Ford/Visteon Workers March For Pension Justice

Ford/Visteon, Ethiopian Tyrant, Rioters United!

In 2000 Ford when split of some of its parts factories to Visteon, a company described as ‘An Enterprise of Ford Motor Company’ and initially with the same shareholders, promising the workers their conditions and pensions would remain exactly the same as they had been with Ford. Ford’s assurances were repeated by Visteon.

Ford/Visteon, Ethiopian Tyrant, Rioters United!

But in 2009 Visteon closed down and workers in their factories in Belfast, Enfield, Swansea and Basildon were given just six minutes to leave the sites. In Belfast and Enfield workers refused and occupied the sites for a month, but were let down by their union, Unite who failed to give them support. The occupations eventually forced Visteon/Ford to pay the redundancy pay they were entitled to under their agreements, but pensions were not covered and they only received the lesser amounts covered by Pension Protection Fund compensation.

Ford/Visteon, Ethiopian Tyrant, Rioters United!

Since then their fight for the pensions they were promised has continued. I met around 500 former Visteon workers outside the Unite Offices in Theobalds Road, Holborn, where many wore hats and t-shirts with the Ford logo, but with the name replaced by the word ‘Fraud’, which succinctly expressed their view of the company’s action.

Ford/Visteon, Ethiopian Tyrant, Rioters United!

I marched with them to Downing Street where they had problems in delivering a letter and petition. As I commented then: “it does now seem unnecessarily complicated and difficult to get access to our elected government, hiding away behind their tall gates and high security. Its both an expression of and doubtless fuels their paranoia over terrorism far in excess of the real threat.

The marchers then went on to a rally in Parliament Square.

Their fight for a fair deal over their pensions went on for another four years, when eventually as the case was about to go to the High Court, Ford agreed to top up the Pension Protection Fund compensation so that they would receive the full value of benefits accrued when working for Ford. It didn’t cover the nine years they had worked for Visteon, but Unite recommended acceptance as it would settle the claim without the expense (and possible failure) of a court hearing.

Ford/Visteon March For Pension Justice


Ethiopians Protest Bloodthirsty Tyrant – Downing St

Ethiopians came from across the UK to for a day of demonstration opposite Downing St where Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was co-chairing the UN climate finance group. They demanded the UK stop appeasing the Ethiopian dictator, and calling for the release of opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and other political prisoners in Ethiopia.

Zenawi who became chair of one of the leading military groups fighting in the Ethiopian Civil War was the leader of a coalition that took power in 1991, becoming President then and was Prime Minister from 1995 until is death in 2012. His control of the military made Ethiopia an effective one-party state.

Although the country formally has democratic organisation and elections, elections have been rigged and oppostion politicians jailed, notably the leader of the main opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, Mideksa (or Midekssa), a former judge. Many other politicians and journalists have also been jailed and in 2007 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named the country as “the world’s worst backslider on press freedom over the previous five years.”

Human rights violations and corruption are rife in Ethiopia, and food aid, education and jobs all depend on membership of the ruling party. His opponents regard Zenawi as a bloodthirsty tyrant and call for him to be brought to trial at the ICC at The Hague on charges of genocide. Human Rights Watch (HRW) have accused it of war crimes in the Somali regions of Ethiopia and against the Anauk communities in Gambella in 2003-4. Human rights abuses have continued in Ethiopia since Zenawi’s death.

Ethiopia is one of the larger countries in Africa and has received large amounts of development aid and humanitarian support from the USA and the UK.

Ethiopians Protest Bloodthirsty Tyrant


Rioters United! 20 Years Since the Poll Tax Riots – Trafalgar Square,

The largest protest against Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax was in central London on Saturday 31 March 1990, shortly before the tax was due to come into force. Unfortunately I had missed that event, probably deciding it was best to keep out of trouble. Back in 1990 I was photographing relatively few protests, mainly concentrating on urban landscapes and culture.

Around 30 people turned up for a rally to commemorate the occasion when “the London mob who brought Thatcher down … as well as to promise that the mob were still in business and to pronounce sentence on politicians.”

The ‘Carnival of Death‘ they were promising was not of course a literal death threat, but street theatre in which the effigies of George Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nick Griffin were to be executed at a May Day Party. As Chris Knight reminded the gathering, “the only good politician, the only honest politician is a dead politician.”

Our police often fail to understand the difference between rhetoric and reality, and protests involving anarchist groups such as Class War are often ridiculously over-policed, sometimes with disastrous consequences, but almost always provoking more violence than they prevent. On April 1st 2009 for the G20 – Financial Fools Day they had turned up with squads of riot police psyched up to batter largely innocent and joyful protesters – and one of the police killed a newspaper seller simply walking home through the area.

So in my account of this event in Trafalgar Square I was at pains to tell them that the ‘Carnival Of Death’ was “called a carnival; if you want to take part, come ready to dance.”

Shortly after people began the commemoration, a PCSO came to tell those taking part they were not allowed to hold protests or other events in Trafalgar Square without permission. When he was laughed at, he brought over a Heritage Warden who told us the Square was the property of the GLA (Greater London Authority), and that permission was needed for events.

Fine” said those present. “The GLA is a public body; we own it, this is a public place and we give ourselves permission and intend to continue.” As I pointed out in my account, Trafalgar Square is not just a public place, but one that since its building in the 1830s has been a traditional place for demonstrating radical dissent. It was a tradition that those present were determined to continue.

Fortunately the dozen or so police who arrived shortly after the PCSO had phoned to call for reinforcement simply stood and watched and had enough sense not to try and stop the commemoration, which ended after around 30 minutes when the organisers decided it was time to go down the pub.

At the end of the event, copies of an anti-Election manifesto and a suitably defaced poster showing the leaders of the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and BNP leaders were distributed by the Whitechapel Anarchist Group. They advised us to “Use your cross wisely”, under a picture of the four leaders in the cross-hairs of a gun sight, and attached to the bottom was a ‘Free Gift’ – a safety match, with the message ” Burn Your Ballot”.

As they wrote: “It’s time to end the unjust, corrupt system of terror and build a fair, equal society that will benefit the majority. We all know voting doesn’t change anything and our collective apathy allows this folly to continue. It’s time for REAL change. It’s time for revolution.”

Rioters United! celebrate Poll Tax Riots


Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

On Saturday 24th January 2015, eight years ago, I photographed three protests against the replacement of our so-called independent nuclear deterrent, Trident with new nuclear submarines and missiles and Occupy Democracy asserting the right to protest and challenging the attempt by then London Mayor Boris Johnson to prevent protests in Parliament Square.


Christian CND against Trident Replacement – St Martins-in-the-Fields to Whitehall

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

I began work at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square with a Christian CND service. Thet held a long piece of the seven mile knitted pink peace scarf which had been joined together the previous August between the UK atomic bomb factories at Burghfield and Aldermaston on Nagasaki Day in a protest against the senseless waste of £100bn in replacing Trident missiles, which would clearly breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

CND has since revised the figure of the costs of this senseless programme, which was stated by the defence minister in the parliamentary debates and in the November 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review to be £31 billion. This turned out to be simply the estimate for the four new submarines. Using government figures CND later calculated the total cost to be £205 billion, well over a year’s total spending on the NHS. And of course like all defence programmes it will end up costing considerably more. Of course cost is not the main reason why people oppose nuclear weapons but this is an entirely senseless waste of resources that should be put to better use.

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

After their brief service they walked with the part so the scarf to the main CND protest against Trident replacement outside the Defence Ministry.

Christian CND against Trident Replacement


Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry – Whitehall

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

Several thousand CND supporters met at the Defence Ministry before surrounding the block with a knitted peace scarf and then moving off for a rally opposite the Houses of Parliament calling for the scrapping of the UK’s Trident missiles.

A group held the front of the scarf outside the Ministry of Defence building in Horseguards Avenue and then led off down Whitehall, left into Bridge St and left again up the Embankment and back to the MOD. While the leaders set off with the scarf at a cracking pace, gaps soon developed further back as those adding lengths from the many rolls of scarf were unable to keep up. So while there was far more scarf than needed to wrap the whole block – and it went back and forth on the river side of the ministry – it may never have entirely joined up completely.

When the leading group arrived back at the MOD there where certainly people spread out along the whole of the course holding parts of the knitting, and most seemed at a loss of what they were supposed to do next. Eventually the message came for them to walk on and take their pieces of knitting back to the MOD.

Here the knitted and crocheted lengths of scarf were rolled up. Rather than being wasted most of it was later turned into blankets for refugees, with just a few of the more interesting lengths being retained for further protests and displays.

The CND supporters then marched the short distance down Whitehall and Parliament Street and on to Old Palace Yard where they were to hold a rally.

Many more pictures at ‘Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry.


CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament – Old Palace Yard,

Lindsey German of Stop the War

Among the speakers were at the rally were Lindsay German,

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Shahrar Ali, the Deputy Leader of the Green Party,

Kate Hudson and

Bruce Kent of CND,

Rebecca Johnson, an internationally-recognized expert on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,

Heather Wakefield of UNISON, the Rt Revd Alan Williams, Bishop of Brentwood, Khalil Charles from the Muslim Association of Britain, Ben Griffin, of Veterans for Peace,

and Angie Zetter, who thought up the idea of the peace scarf.

The rally ended with a new song composed for the occasion by Leon Rosselson. There are more pictures including all the speakers and those in the crowds at the rally at CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament.


Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy – Parliament Square

As people streamed away from the CND Trident protest, several hundred supporters of Occupy Democracy most of whom had been at the CND protest walked on to the grass of Parliament Square to hold discussions on foreign relations and war as the GLA private security guards (Heritage wardens) and police watched.

This was one of a series of monthly events in which Occupy are asserting the right to protest and challenging the attempt by London Mayor Boris Johnson to prevent protests in Parliament Square.

Police and the Mayor’s ‘Heritage Wardens’ watched the protest. I followed the wardens as they went across to the police and asked them to take action to stop the protest. Police lacked the officers needed to take effective action and if they had tried to do so many more of those leaving the CND protest would have joined those on the square. They told the wardens that the protesters would eventually leave of their own accord, which apparently they did a few hours later.

More pictures at Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy.


Heat, Democracy & Gaza – 2014

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Some issues stay with us – and it seems they will never go away. But things can change and do change, and I remember the long years of protest against apartheid in South Africa. But apartheid is now going strong in Israel, and things are even worse so far as democracy and fuel poverty are concerned in this country. There seems little hope now that even if Labour were to get into power things would become any better.

More and more people are getting expelled from the Labour party including many for expressing support for Palestine, including some leading Jewish members and prominent anti-racists as the party lurches towards a right-wing dictatorial stance. I’m not a party member – and would soon be expelled for what I’ve written over the years here and elsewhere were I to join, including this post. But I did vote for Labour for over 50 years though at the moment I can’t see myself ever doing so again.


Dying For Heat – Downing St, Saturday 20th Dececember

Heat, Democracy & Gaza - 2014

It makes me feel frozen just to look at this picture. It wasn’t quite as cold as it has been here over the past week but was still pretty chilly back in 2014. I would have been wearing an extra layer of thermals under a heavy jacket, scarf hat and long johns. Photography usually involves a lot of standing around and keeping warm in winter is often hard.

Heat, Democracy & Gaza - 2014

This small group of protesters had been there since 8am, around three hours by the time I arrived determined and they were determined to complete a 24hr vigil to draw attention to the impact of fuel poverty which killed more than 10,000 in the UK in 2012/3.

Heat, Democracy & Gaza - 2014

Others came for shorter periods over the day to support them and Fuel Poverty Action’s ‘Energy Bill of Rights‘ to protect the poor and end these deaths. None of the eight points in this have been taken up by the government and energy costs have risen sky high in the past year. The government blames this on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but this fails to explain why people in the UK are paying far more than those in other countries across Europe – and their blatant lies over this don’t fool many.
More at Dying For Heat.


Occupy Democracy Return To Parliament Square – Sat 20 Dec 2014

Heat, Democracy & Gaza - 2014

Police and private security ‘heritage wardens’ watched from the fenced off grass as protesters held a rally on the paved area at the edge of the square facing the Houses of Parliament. This is not covered by the bylaws that prohibit protests on the square without official permission.

The grass had been ‘temporarily closed’ and fenced by the Greater London Authority, officially for ‘important works‘ but actually simply to deny access to people who wanted to engage in this peaceful discussion about democracy – and of course to everyone else who might want to be on what is normally a public square. There was no sign of activities of any kind being carried out on the grass or pavements under GLA control in the square.

A series of speeches and other activities was planned calling for real democracy in a Britain where 3.5 million are living in poverty. The first speaker was the then Green Party Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali, and after speaking he responded to a lengthy and wide-ranging question and answer session about Green Party policies.

Following this was to be another performance of the Fossil-Free Nativity which I had photographed two weeks earlier, so I left to go elsewhere, returning briefly later in the day when activities were still proceeding.

More at Occupy Democracy Return To Parliament Square.


Don’t Buy Israeli ‘Blood Diamonds’ – Bond St , Sat 20 Dec 2014

Campaigners came to Bond Street to protest outside shops there which sell diamonds cut and polished in Israel, which are the main source of funding for Israeli military attacks on Gaza. Many diamonds cut there come illegally from conflict zones. Palestinians have called for a boycott of all Israeli diamonds.

Israeli attacks on Gaza had led a decline in tourism and other exports of goods and services but increased diamond sales have helped Israel fill the gap, and are said to provide $1 billion a year to the Israeli military.

My post on My London Diary includes details of some of the Israeli diamond companies and their activities which include the sponsorship of the notorious Givati Brigade of the Israeli army, accused of war crimes in Gaza by the UN Human Rights Council and responsible for the Samouni family massacre.

I photographed the protest outside De Beers, the worlds largest company involved in rough diamond sales and Leviev, whose company is reported by the New York Times to be “the world’s largest cutter and polisher of diamonds” and which is also involved in the construction of illegal Jews-only settlements on the West Bank.

There were speeches about the involvement of the diamond companies in Israeli military attacks on Gaza and many people passing the protest took fliers calling for a boycott of Israeli diamonds and expressed their support. There were also a few who clearly disapproved of the protest, including just one man who stopped briefly to hurl a few insults while I was there.

More at Don’t Buy Israeli ‘Blood Diamonds’


Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals – on Monday 4th May 2015 Occupy Democracy were on the fourth day of their ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!”

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy had come to Parliament Square in defiance of the law criminalising the use of tarpaulins, tents and other protection in the square, and were making six key demands:

• reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
• major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
• a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
• the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
• that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
• a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy.

Occupy Festival of Democracy
Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

On Monday 4th they began a rally and meditation at the foot of the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedience, calling for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime. Donnachadh McCarthy laid out a large blue banner with the message ‘Criminalise Fossil Fuel Exploration‘ and a mock tombstone with the inscription ‘RIP – 300,000 Dying from Climate Crisis Every Year Said Kofi Annan UN Gen Soc‘.

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

People then brought tarpaulins to sit on around these on the paved area in front of Ghandi’s statue and began a series of short speeches, meditation and songs about climate change and fossil fuel use.

They took a small blue tarp to the statue of Gandhi and wrapped it carefully around him. After a short pause two of the GLC’s private security heritage wardens who had been watching the event with a few police officers came up and removed the blue tarpaulin. A replacement was brought up and carefully held by two of the protesters without touching the statue (much) and the meditation continued.

There was another minor intervention by the heritage wardens who objected to burning incense sticks being placed in the flower beds. The protesters removed them and instead held them.

Donnachadh McCarthy then produced a blue folding tent and erected it, announcing that he was going to defy the ban on tents and inviting others who wished to join him.

People climbed in and after posing for a photograph with the tent the protest continues, with Donnachadh joining them inside as police approached. The police warned those inside the tent they were committing an offence and warned them they could be arrested – and then walked away.

Some minutes later, at exactly 2pm a larger group of police returned and surrounded the tent.

They gave those inside a final chance to leave without being arrested. Three people remained inside the tent, holding each other tight.

Finally they were arrested, handcuffed and taken away to waiting police vans. The whole police operation seemed a massive waste of public money enforcing a ridiculous law. The real criminals are not a few protesters with tents and tarpaulins in public squares, but those who sit in boardrooms and continue promote and produce fossil fuels which are driving us towards extinction, plotting actions to derail attempts to make the changes the planet needs in order to increase their profits.

More pictures at Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals.


Occupy Gandhi – 4 May 2015

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

All pictures from Occupy Ghandi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals, 4 May 2015

Successive UK governments have legislated in various ways to restrict the right to protest, particularly concentrating on the area of Westminster close to the Houses of Parliament, and the current Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill amends the “Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to expand the “controlled area” around Parliament where certain protest activities are prohibited” as well as creating a new prohibited activity of “obstructing access to the Parliamentary Estate”.

The 2011 Act (which was also amended by the Anti-Social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) replaced previous restrictions which had been brought in under SOCPA, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which the New Labour government had brought in as an attempt to stop the long-term protest in Parliament Square by Brian Haw who had set up his camp there on 2 June 2001 in protest against the effect of economic sanctions which were resulting in child deaths in Iraq.

Haw’s campaign widened into a more general protest against war and became the Parliament Square Peace Campaign, and he was joined by other long term protesters as well as receiving support from many others which enabled him to remain in the square. Various attempts to remove him legally failed and SOCPA was passed in an attempt to stop his protest. But poor drafting led to the eventual failure to achieve this, though Haw had to apply for permission which was granted subject to strict conditions – which he and his supporters failed to adhere to.

Police carried out a major raid in May 2006, removing most of the placards and other material and Haw was taken to court for breach of SOCPA. But after several hearings he was acquitted as the judge found the conditions lacked clarity and were not workable. He was assaulted on numerous occasions by police and by others believed to be working for the security services and arrested again on the day of the State Opening of Parliament for the Tory-LibDem coalition in 2010. But his protest was continued even after he left for cancer treatment in Berlin on New Years Day 2011, by his colleague Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005, and stayed in Parliament Square until 2013, despite being denied the use of tent, blankets and eventually even a chair and umbrella in 2012.

The whole grass area of Parliament Square was fenced off and the protest moved onto the pavement in 2011 after Boris Johnson gained a High Court injunction. Early in 2013 more protesters had arrived to support Tucker who had begun a hunger strike in December 2012. She left the square for urgent medical treatment and the Westminster Council removed the tents which supporters had brought there in March 2013, reopening the square for public use in May.

In October 2014, Occupy Democracy arrived to occupy Parliament Square “for 9 days in October, to broadcast and demand the solutions we already know exist, to inspire people to be the active citizens required to take back democracy from powerful economic interests.” They were met by police and private security ‘Heritage Wardens’ (outsourced by the GLA) and signs put up the previous day stating the grass was ‘closed for repair’, and there was considerable harassment with the police seizing anything they thought might be ‘camping equipment’ the occupied the square. The following day, much larger numbers of protesters turned up, including a number of MPs and some celebrities, and after trying hard to stop them, the police melted away and the camp was set up.

Over the following three days there were a number of arrests and police moved protesters off the main grass areas, but the various workshops and activities continued until the whole square was cleared. There had been a number of battles between police and protesters over large squares of blue plastic tarpaulin they had used to sit on the wet grass and mud, and the Democracy Camp had gained the name ‘Tarpaulin Revolution’ (#tarpaulinrevolution).

On May Day 2015, Occupy Democracy returned for a 10 day ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!” just a few days before the general election. On Monday 4 May there was a rally and meditation by Occupy Democracy at the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedince, called for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime, and defied the ban on tarpaulin and tents in Parliament Square.

After short speeches there was a period of meditation, and the protesters wrapped a blue tarpaulin around the statue. Heritage wardens demanded its removal, and seized it when their request was ignored. Other protesters then stood with another blue tarpaulin, holding it around the statue but taking care not to touch it.

At the end of the mediation, Donnachadh McCarthy who had been leading it announced an act of civil disobedience and pulled a folding tent onto the tarpaulin on the pavement in front of him and erected it. Several people then came and sat inside it, and the protest continued. Police came and told them they were committing an offence and might be arrested if they failed to leave. Shortly after 20 police came and surrounded the tent and arrested those who refused to leave.

Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals
Occupy Festival of Democracy