Anti-war protester battles to keep 'peace camp' open

The case of Boris Johnson versus Brian Haw and other protesters camped in Parliament Square opened in the High Court yesterday.

London's Mayor is seeking an order that the occupants of "democracy village" are trespassers who are preventing others from using the space. The campers maintain that the evicting them would be an attack on their right to peaceful protest.

Brian Haw, a 61-year-old father of seven, set up camp opposite the Commons in 2001, and has been there ever since, sleeping in a tent and spending much of the day in a folding chair.

Originally, he was protesting about the impact of sanctions against Iraq. This turned into a protest against the Iraq war. Now the focus of the "democracy village" is the Afghan war.

Parliament Square is in effect a large traffic island but a spokeswoman for the Greater London Authority defended the decision to try to clear it by describing it as "a world heritage site and top tourist attraction that is visited by thousands of people and broadcast around the world each day".

The Labour MP Tom Harris wrote on his blog yesterday: "What arrogance... to believe that you have the right to monopolise an area to which other citizens should have free access; to protest, yes, but to enjoy also."

The case resumes on Monday. If Mr Johnson wins his order, the police will be able to remove the protesters.

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