Police clear protesters from Parliament Square
Rob Hastings is Deputy News Editor at The Independent. He has served on the news desk since 2010, and also writes travel articles, music reviews and features. In 2015 he shortlisted for the Washington Post’s Laurence Stern Fellowship for a series on reportage features from Iran.
Tuesday 17 January 2012
Police moved in on the protest camp of anti-war campaigners and their tents in Parliament Square to clear the pavement last night.
Despite unhappiness among the group at being removed from an area colonised by the late Brian Haw and his Peace Camp in 2001, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said there had not been any disruption and or arrests.
It was reported at first that the clearance would only be partial, but a police spokesperson confirmed that it would remove “all tents and sleeping equipment from Parliament Square”.
Officers arrived on the scene at 7.30pm, assisted by City of Westminster Council Clean Streets teams, and began loading equipment into marked lorries.
Campaigners set up “Democracy Village” on the green opposite the Houses of Parliament in May 2010, enlarging Mr Haw's original camp. The remaining protesters were evicted in July 2011 by the Greater London Authority following a High Court order.
Some protesters then pitched tents on the pavement next to the lawn. But the council proposed a new by-law in December that would impose £500 fines for failure to remove the tents.
“Westminster Council welcomes and supports the Metropolitan Police action to return Parliament Square to open public use,” the local authority's leader, Councillor Colin Barrow, said. “For too long local people and tourists have been unable to fully enjoy the square. This is a tragedy and the sooner this historic site can be enjoyed by the public the better. Westminster Council is currently pursuing a by-law to ensure we can manage the area for everyone.”
The camp, begun by Mr Haw, became a rallying point for protests against the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to artist Mark Wallinger winning the Turner Prize for his recreation of its placards.
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