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Boris Johnson begins action to remove Parliament protesters

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is seeking legal action to remove peace protesters camping in Parliament Square, it was confirmed today.

Greater London Authority (GLA) officers have been given authority by Mr Johnson to apply to the High Court to begin legal proceedings for trespass, a spokeswoman confirmed.

"Parliament Square is a world heritage site and top tourist attraction that is visited by thousands of people and broadcast around the world each day," a statement on behalf of the Mayor said.

"The Mayor respects the right to demonstrate - however, the scale and impact of the protest is now doing considerable damage to the Square and preventing its peaceful use by other Londoners including those who may wish to have an authorised protest.

"As a result he has given GLA officers the authority to apply to the High Court to begin legal proceedings for trespass."

The move was welcomed by Westminster City Council whose leader accused the protesters of "hijacking" Parliament Square.

Councillor Colin Barrow, leader of the council, said: "We welcome the Mayor's decision to take action as we felt that the hijacking of Parliament Square, one of London's historic public spaces, needed to be brought to an end.

"We all support peaceful protest, but it is completely unacceptable for parts of our city to be occupied and turned into no-go areas by vociferous minorities, however laudable each cause might be."

The action is unconnected to the arrest of anti-war protester Brian Haw as police carried out security checks today ahead of the Queen's Speech.

An eyewitness reported seeing Mr Haw being forcibly detained and handcuffed by officers at the camp opposite the Houses of Parliament where he and other peace campaigners maintain a round-the-clock demonstration.

Police with sniffer dogs moved in this morning to search the collection of tents on Parliament Square before the Queen arrived to announce the new Government's plans.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said two people were arrested in Parliament Square at 8am for allegedly obstructing police.

He could not confirm that Mr Haw was one of those detained.

An officer at the scene confirmed that Mr Haw and fellow protester Barbara Tucker had been arrested.

Mr Haw began his high-profile Parliament Square demonstration against the UK's policy in Iraq and elsewhere on June 2 2001.

He has been arrested many times in the past as well as facing repeated attempts by the authorities to shut his protest down.