Posts Tagged ‘peace campaign’

Police & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

PPolice & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days of the Parliament Square Peace Campaign approaches – some of my pictures from Thursday 10th May 2012.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor – Westminster

Occupy supporters in plastic helmets joined the police march

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Occupy, Right To Protest and others joined in to protest for justice in policing.

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union, but the Police Federation can organise demonstrations like this when thousands of off-duty police, some with family members made a impressively large if rather dull protest past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St. Most wore one of the 16,000 black caps produced for the protest, the number of officers expected to be lost over the next four years as the police budget is cut by 20-30%.

Police officers attempt to intimidate the Space Hijackers

Like other public sector workers, police had suffered a two year wage freeze, as well as increases in pension contributions and many have also had large cuts in overtime. As well as those protesting, police were also on duty controlling the protest, though it was unlikely to get out of hand. But there were others as well as police, including the Space Hijackers who had a stall giving advice on how to protest, and also Occupy protesters who were calling for “a fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!

Others were there to protest against various aspects of police corruption and faced some aggravation from the officers on duty as well as some protesters. The Defend The Right To Protest group reminded police marchers of Alfie Meadows, Sean Rigg, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes and many others killed or seriously injured by police officers. Officers on duty made some attempts to intimidate some of the non-police protesters – and also photographers covering the event.

More at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March – St Thomas’ Hospital to Westminster

Public sector workers in Unite, PCS and UCU were on a one-day strike against cuts in pensions, jobs and services, and picketed workplaces and marched from a rally at St Thomas’ Hospital across Westminster Bridge to Methodist Central Hall for a further rally.

PCS picket at Tate Britain

Some of the pickets had begun at 5am, and a few were still in place as I walked past workplaces in Westminster – including the Houses of Parliament to meet the marchers coming over Westminster Bridge.

As they marched, many chanted “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late”, as retirement age is set to increase to 68 and beyond, while retirement contributions are increasing. They are also losing out because the government has decided to index pensions to the lower CPI inflation figures which mans they get around 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

More on My London Diary at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square – Parliament Square Peace Campaign

Brian Haw came to Parliament Square to begin his protest there on the 2nd June 2001, and the Parliament Square Peace Campaign he started had been there for almost 4,000 days, with a presence night and day, 24 hours a day since then.

Barbara Tucker

After Brian’s death from cancer the protest was continued by Barbara Tucker and other supporters who have maintained the protest on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight. Over the years the campaign has been subjected to frequent illegal harassment by police officers, Westminster Council officials and thinly disguised members of the security service, and laws have been enacted intended to bring the protest to an end.

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. Clearly a blanket is not a structure, and police and council have also removed other items of property. Later her umbrella was also taken away. Barbara’s health deteriorated and she eventually had to leave the square, and the protest finally ended early in May 2013.

4000 Days in Parliament Square


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Freedom To Protest Under Threat

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Back in 2008, people were protesting against the severe restrictions against our freedom to protest, that had been brought in by the Labour government under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. As well as greatly widening the powers to arrest people and widening the scope of harassment, the act had criminalised trespass at certain protected sites and severely limited the holding of protests in a wide designated area of up to one kilometre from any point in Parliament Square.

CSG border post “To the left you have lost your freedom to protest

This latter provision was particularly aimed at Brian Haw and his Parliament Square Peace Campaign, but also prevented many other protests, and led to a number of arrests of campaigners. Parliament Square in particular had become the main focus of protests against the government and may government ministries were also inside the prohibited area.

There was wide disquiet about the effect of SOCPA on protest, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown had begun a public consultation with the Home Office on October 2007 issuing a document ‘Managing Protest’ which many felt threatened further threats to freedom of assembly throughout the UK.

The provisions regarding protests in the area around Parliament were replaced in 2011 by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which gave police more draconian powers to restrict certain prohibited activities in and around Parliament Square – and have been used to seize tents, umbrellas, tarpaulins, sleeping bags and other equipment in the area.

Brian Haw complains that a police officer pushed his camera into his face and caused this injury

The Freedom to Protest is under even greater threat now, with the current passage through Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which a select committee has said “would curb non-violent protest in a way that is inconsistent with our human rights” and has led to many ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. Also disturbing is the reaction of many Tory politicians to the jury verdict in the Colston statue trial, which apears to be threatening state control of our legal system.

On Saturday 12th January 2008, I covered protests in Trafalgar Square and in front of Downing St upholding the freedom to protest. Earlier I had covered Hizb ut Tahrir marching to the Saudi Embassy against Bush’s Middle East tour and a small group of rich young people outside the National Gallery on the last day of the Siena exhibition protesting against the expansion of Siena airport which would bring more less well-heeled tourists into the area.

Although I’m very much against any expansion of air travel – the planet simply can’t afford it, I found it hard to take this particular protest too seriously – it seemed to be rather more about protecting privilege than opposing environmental crime.

And while I had gone to Downing St mainly for the Freedom to Protest demonstration, while there I photographed another protest calling on an end to the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza. This included a number of British Jews, including those calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Also present opposite Downing St were another large group of Kenyans, protesting against the re-election of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. A US commissioned exit poll suggested opposition leader Raila Odinga had won by a 6% margin and there was widespread international agreement that the election was rigged.

More on My London Diary:
Hizb ut Tahrir against Bush tour
Siena Airport Protest
CSG Border Post
Freedom to Protest – Downing St
End Gaza Seige
Kenyans Protest Election Fraud


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11 October 2008

Monday, October 11th, 2021

It was the start of the final 100 days of the Bush adminstration and the ‘Hands off Iraqi Oil’ coalition whose members included Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want and was supported by the Stop the War Coalition and others had come to Shell’s UK headquarters at Waterloo to protest against plans by Britain and the USA for Iraq to hand over most of the country’s oil reserves to foreign companies, particularly Shell and BP.

Iraq had nationalised its oil by 1972, and it provided 95% of its government income. Many had seen the invasion of Iraq by the US and UK (along with Australia and Poland) as largely driven by the desire to gain control of Iraq’s huge oil reserves and the US had engaged consultants to help it write a new oil law which it got the Iraqi cabinet to approive in 2007 which would give foreign oil companies – including Shell and BP, long-term contracts within a safe legal framework. But large-scale popular opposition meant the Iraqi parliament failed to approve the new law. But in June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry went ahead with short-term no-bid contracts to the major foreign oil companies – including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron and later these and other contracts were made more favourable to the oil companies.

After the protest at Shell’s offices the protesters marched to protest outside the BP HQ in St James’s Square and then to the US Embassy, and I left to cover the London Freedom not fear 2008 event outside New Scotland Yard. Similar protests were taking place in over 20 countries to demonstrate against excessive surveillance by governments and businesses, organised by a broad movement of campaigners and organizations.

The London event highlighted the restrictions of the right to demonstrate under the Labour government’s The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005, (SOCPA),, the intimidatory use of photography by police Forward Intelligence squads (FIT), the proposed introduction of ID cards, the increasing centralisation of personal data held by government, including the DNA database held by police, the incredible growth in surveillance cameras, ‘terrorist’ legislation and other measures which have affected our individual freedom and human rights.

For something completely different I walked a quarter of a mile down Victoria Street to Westminster Cathedral where people were assembling for the Rosary Crusade of Reparation, one of the larger walks of public witness by Catholics in London.

This tradition began in Austria in 1947 with the roasary campaign begun by a priest praying for his country to be freed from the communist occupiers. The first annual parade with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1948 in Vienna on the feast of the Name of Mary, Sept 12, which had been established by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 when Turkish invaders surrounding Vienna were defeated by Christian armies who had prayed to the Blessed Virgin.

As the procession to a service at Brompton Oratory began I walked back up Victoria St to Parliament Square, where a number of other small protests were in evidence. All over the centre of London there were people giving out leaflets about the growing problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, where they allege a program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by the government. International media are banned from the Tamil areas of the country and NGOs have been ordered out of some areas, so there are few reports of the war. Worse was to come and in 2009 in the final stages of the war conservative estimates are that 70,000 civilians were killed in the the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Others in the square were protesting against the UK’s scandalous treatment of asylum seekers and calling for the asylum detention centres to be closed down.

Brian Haw was still there, and I wrote:

Facing Parliament, Brian Haw‘s peace protest continues – he has been there for almost 2700 days – over 7 years – and it will soon be his 60th birthday. Brian says that now the police seem to have largely abandoned attempts to get rid of him legally there have been a number of odd attacks against him and others in the square – which the police have ignored. I took some time talking to a man who smelt of alcohol, was talking nonsense and acting unpredictably – and who then went and started to insult Brian. One of the other demonstrators stood between him and Brian who was filming him. I put down my bag as I took photographs in case I needed to step in and help, but fortunately he eventually moved away.

There were others protesting in Parliament Square, including one man who asked me to take his picture. He told me his name was Danny and that he had been there on hunger strike for two weeks, protesting over his failure to get his case investigated. He claimed to have been abused by police and social services following an incident in which as a seven year old child in Llanelli he was implicated in the death of a baby brother. I was unable to find any more information about his case.

Finally I saw a group of people walking past holding leafelts with the the word CHANGE on them and rushed after them to find they were Obama supporters hoping to persuade Americans they met to register and vote in the election. It was time for me to go home.

Parliament Square
Rosary Crusade of Reparation
Freedom not Fear 2008
Bush & Cheney’s Iraq Oil Grab


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Election Day 2010

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Thursday 6th May was also an election day in 2010 with a UK general election that saw Labour losing over 90 seats to end with 48 fewer MPs than the Conservatives. But back then we still had a Lib-Dem party with 57 MPs who, after five days of horse-trading agreed to form a coalition government with the Tories – a decision that condemned them to oblivion, losing all but 8 seats in the 2015 election.

I spent most of election day – after voting in the early morning – in and around Parliament Square, where there was also considerably politics taking place. Three distinct group were camping in the square.

Brian Haw

Brian Haw and the Parliament Square peace campaign had been there for 3260 days since 2nd June 2001 and was still there despite an Act of Parliament designed to remove him, attacks by individuals with connections to the police and security services, illegal police raids, provocations, assaults and arrests by police officers and more.

Barbara Tucker

A year earlier Haw had dissociated his Parliament Square Peace Campaign (PSPC) from the ‘Peace Strike’ protest in the adjoining area of the square led by Maria Gallestegui “by mutual consent”, wanting to end any confusion between the two campaigns. The Peace Strike had not been harassed by police to the same extent and was allowed a greater physical presence in the square, and were regarded by some, probably incorrectly, as being partners with the establishment to discredit the PSPC.

Since May Day the square had also been home to ‘Occupy Democracy’ who saw themselves as supporting the PSPC by their presence. But the PSPC suspected some of them too of being agent provocateurs in police pay to provide a pretext for more draconian police action against them. Certainly some of these more temporary occupiers were breaking the rules against drinking alcohol in Parliament Square, despite the Democracy Camp notices banning this.

In my account I wrote:

“At one point the dispute between the camp and the PSPC deteriorated with a man on the camp’s sound system making what were possibly intended as humorous put-downs of Barbara Tucker who was then attacking the Tory Party for the backing it receives from the oil giants. Clearly some of the campers were distressed by this and he was asked to desist, and some of those present tried to calm the situation.
But generally the camp’s activities were more positive, and while I was there considerable work was taking place making banners and placards, as well as people discussing and dancing.”

Election Day in Parliament Square

Shortly before I left around 6pm, people from Democracy Village walked with placards to College Green where the TV media have their tents and cameras to cover political events and had been conducting interviews about the election. There had been little if any media coverage of Democracy Village or the peace campaigns and they wanted to make a point of this. But most of the media simply ignored the protesters, and eventually police came to talk with them and they returned to Parliament Square.

Protests in the UK are almost never seen by the mass media as news – unless police are injured or property destroyed and they can run negative stories. Occasionally if a celebrity takes part they may get a mention, or some particularly quirky and preferably non-political event captures their whimsy. But political protests are largely only news if they take place overseas against regimes which our government disapproves of.

The government that resulted from the election was led by a party that got just under a third of the votes and once again demonstrated the iniquities of our first past the post electoral system. A year later we had a referendum on an alternative voting system, but this was largely scuppered by Conservative opposition and a lack of real support from Labour.

The 2010 election had left the Tories holding the whip hand in the coalition, and they certainly made use of it, both through imposing drastic and ill-considered cuts on public and in particular local authority expenditure and in attacks on protests such as those in Parliament Square. The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill takes these attacks on human and civil rights, the right to protest, migrants and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to new levels, incompatible with any free society.

Election Day in Parliament Square


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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