Wednesday, July 21, 2010

British parliament protest camp removed

Tue Jul 20, 7:47

LONDON (AFP) – Bailiffs cleared away a sprawling protest camp in front of
the British parliament in a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday, although evicted
demonstrators vowed to re-appear elsewhere in London.

Officials descended at 1:00 am (0000 GMT) on Parliament Square, in the
heart of the city, to drag away a few dozen protesters and remove the
ramshackle collection of tents, banners and straw bales used as toilets.

The protesters had been camped on the grassy square since May 1 to protest
against the war in Afghanistan and a range of other issues, but a court
ruled last week that their "Democracy Village" could not remain.

It took about 60 bailiffs four hours to remove the protesters after a few
tied themselves to scaffolding.

Some of the protesters complained they had been roughly treated.

Activist Howard Rees, 30, said the eviction was "pretty unpleasant" and
claimed the bailiffs were "pretty brutal".

"They were putting the boot into people while they were on the floor," he
told AFP.

But London's Metropolitan Police said no arrests were made.

A fence was thrown up around the square, while cleaners got to work on the
mess left behind by the demonstrators.

Parliament Square contains the statues of Winston Churchill, Nelson
Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.

It sits amid UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the iconic Palace of
Westminster parliament building, and the historic Westminster Abbey.

But London authorities said it had been turned into a squalid, nauseating
eyesore by the protesters, who were stopping the general public from
enjoying the square.

The activists on Friday lost an appeal against eviction in a battle with
London Mayor Boris Johnson.

By the morning rush hour, at least a dozen demonstrators remained at the

"People from 'Democracy Village' are going to carry on with this protest.
We're not going away," said Pete Phoenix, a 36-year-old protester with
blond dreadlocks and sunglasses.

"Lots of areas around the city are going to be taken over in the next few
days and weeks.

"Our spirit is stronger after this eviction," he told AFP, saying the camp
had "raised awareness around the world" about Britain's involvement in the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Workers at the square said it would be re-turfed due to the damage caused
to the grass by protesters.

The High Court in London granted eviction orders last month sought by
Johnson, but their enforcement was delayed pending the outcome of the

In the appeal ruling Friday, judge David Neuberger said that although the
land was owned by the Crown, the mayor of London had power to act over the

"We are relieved this dreadful blight of Parliament Square has finally
come to an end, and look forward to it being restored to its previous
condition so all Londoners can visit and enjoy it," Westminster City
Council leader Colin Barrow said on Tuesday.

He said authorities "must find a way to help prevent it being hijacked by
vociferous minorities whose primary intent seems to turn this World
Heritage Site into a squalid campsite."

A hand-written list of items removed from the square and seen by AFP
included 20 tents, 20 to 30 sleeping bags, quilts and pillows, flags, a
music system, a beer barrel and, curiously, a sail boat.

The eviction does not affect veteran protester Brian Haw, who has been
camped on the roadside opposite parliament since 2001.

Haw has not been glad of the company, calling the "Democracy Village"
protesters "deliberately unreasonable, even depraved and outrageous".

No comments: