Death of Brian Haw prompts rallying to the peace cause

Rob Hastings
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:36

Grief mixed with anger yesterday as protesters marked the death of Brian Haw, the campaigner who for a decade resisted police and politicians to maintain his peace camp on the doorstep of the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Haw, 62, whose anti-war placards on the pavement at Parliament Square have become a London landmark, died of lung cancer on Saturday morning. He died in his hospital bed in Germany, where he had been receiving treatment for several months. His family said in a message on his website: "He left us in his sleep and in no pain, after a long, hard fight."

Yesterday in Westminster Mr Haw's supporters rallied to his cause while expressing bitterness towards the authorities. Relations remained strained, meanwhile, in the often fraught tented community that has grown up around a one-man mission.

Chris Lemin, a teacher who had cycled down to the square to pin an affectionate cartoon of Mr Haw on its perimeter fence, was immediately asked to take his tribute down in an irritable exchange with a protester.

Michael Culver, a 73-year-old actor who has long been a prominent co-campaigner with Mr Haw, acknowledged that personal rivalries had troubled the camp. "Brian got bogged down in internal politics, which was a shame because his anger should have been directed at the politicians as they're the real criminals.

"Brian said 'I'm staying here forever', but none of us could believe it would last that long, or what that lying psychopath Blair would lead us into. They must be clapping their hands and opening the champagne over there," he said of MPs.

It is not clear what will become of Mr Haw's camp. Much will depend on Barbara Tucker, who has deputised for the campaigner during his illness. She said in a message from Germany: "In every way Brian had the strongest heart of anyone we will ever know."

Though Mr Haw's campaign took on added significance with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he first took up residence in Parliament Square three months before 9/11 to call for the lifting of sanctions preventing delivery of medical supplies to Iraq.

Viewed by the authorities as an affront and an eyesore, his camp quickly became the target of ministers, Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority, and has survive repeated eviction attempts.

His resilience made him a hero in the eyes of many. In 2007, he was was voted the Most Politically Inspiring Figure of the Year in the Channel 4 Political Awards. But his vigil contributed to his poor health and took him away from his seven children.

Yesterday a message from supporters on his campaign's website said: "Brian showed great determination and courage during the many long hard years he led his peace campaign... [He] showed the same courage and determination in his battle with cancer. He was keenly aware of and deeply concerned that so many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine did not have access to the same treatments that were made available to him."

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