Monday, May 24, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Boris Gets Tough on Parliament Square Protesters

Earlier today I wrote an open letter to Boris Johnson about the scandal of the state of Parliament Square. For several weeks now, this World Heritage Site has been transformed into some sort of hippy camp, masquerading as a 'protest'.

I have learned tonight that the Mayor of London has written to the Speaker of the House of Commons informing him that legal action is to be taken tomorrow against the camp inhabitants. Boris has signed a mayoral directive this evening refusing the 'protesters'' request for retrospective authority to remain on the site. This directive gives GLA officers permission to apply to the High Court tomorrow to commence legal action against the protesters for 'illegal trespass'. If the court finds in favour of the GLA application the GLA will then have the power to seek to remove the 'protesters'.

Boris Johnson is at the same time making clear that while he believes in the right of freedom of expression and the entitlement to demonstrate he also has a duty to safeguard an area which is a World Heritage Site and a top tourist attraction. He has been considering what to do for some time, but when the protesters started digging up the turf and peeing against the statues, the Mayor decided enough was enough.

If the law was clear, I have little doubt that action would have been taken before now. Clearly the Mayor's office hoped that this would be one of those three day wonder encampments and the people concerned would move on. They haven't, so action needs to be taken.

So, all eyes on the High Court over the next few days.

52 comments:

startledcod said...

Iain, whether or not your open letter was instrumental or not the fact that it came just before Mayoral action has made me come over all 'Big Society'. The little platoons can make a difference!

As 'they' say, completely ignoring the true meaning of the word, 'result'!

Hans said...

About bloody time too someone did something about that lot!

Benny said...

Excellent news! Maybe they can go and have a shower now.

I like how the word verification is 'crackden'.

myob said...

Lunacy.

Allowing aesthstics to deny people their right to protest in the seat of our democracy is a disgrace.

Not very progressive Mr Dale.

Parliament and the Square does not belong to tourists or those who are fortunate enough to be able to spend considerable amounts of time there, it belongs to us all and should be used by all of us when we feel it is appropriate.

Michael said...

Why does it matter if they are 'protesting'? If a council prosecuted me for spray painting 'Peace not war' all over their property, it would be absolutely no defence to say that what I was doing was political and I therefore had a right to break normal bylaws. I have no doubt that if I were to pitch a tent in Westminster because it was convenient I would be moved on very fast, why should the fact that these people are 'acting in protest' make any difference?

Political speech should not be penalised in any way that non-political speech is not. This definitely does not imply that acting 'politically' in any way gives me more rights to do something.

paul said...

I've always believed in the right to protest, and still do.

Old Holborn said...

So we can protest as long as we're tidy?

I love a Tory leader

heckmonwyke said...

Surely its to little to late, as the State opening of Parliament is tomorrow! hardly the time for a confrontation on Parliament Square? although it would bury bad news in the Queens speech,and the rise in the congestion? charge.

Chris Cox said...

Finally, time this got sorted out, this and other encampments have been going on for way too long.

Tachybaptus said...

I'd support Boris on this only if:

1. He leaves Brian Haw in place -- the last free man in England, who has been in the square for nine years, a lot longer than Boris in his post, and is internationally respected.

2. The protesters are not cleared out by using the shameful Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, and this act is repealed as soon as possible.

3. Similar measures are promptly taken to clear out the far worse rabble infesting the large Gothic building to the southeast of the square.

DespairingLiberal said...

Yeah right, startledcod, Iain was entirely ignorant of this BJ initiative when he published his open letter earlier!

Curmudgeon said...

A few powerful water cannon would quickly sort that lot out - and give them a wash into the bargain.

Iain Dale said...

Despairing Liberal. You will be astonished to find out I was. On Gio's life.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Good news indeed and I truely welcome it, but why the hell does it have to go to the High Court..why not the County Court or indeed as they are damaging a World Heritage site I dont see a reason why the courts need to be involved at all....What is really needed is a bit of muscle and job done.....

Great unwashed indeed...

norman said...

I agree with water cannon treatment!

Moriarty said...

Myob thinks it's progressive to defend someone's "right" to urinate against a public statue.

Why stop at that Myob? Why not defend someone's "right" to urinate against another person? And if so, then do volunteer yourself...there'll be no shortage of takers.

OxfordSpring said...

How can you call it a mess? It won a Turner Prize (Mark Wallinger in 2007)

on a more reasonable note, I used to walk past this every day and it never bothered me. In fact, I liked knowing that Brian Haw was there on one side of the road, a nice counterpoint to the police on the other.

Grand_Inquisitor said...

Off topic

Iain any thoughts on British Justice after this travesty of a court decision to convict two 10 year olds of an adult crime?

Is the CPS meeting its Government imposed rape conviction targets by hook or by crook?

Fausty said...

@MYOB

Progressiveness is a left-wing affliction of no obvious value. Which right-thinking person would want to be "progressive"?

Well done, Iain.

DespairingLiberal said...

Here's an interesting conspiracy theory. Let's see if it turns out right.

(1) Brian Haw has tormented the Authorities for years. They tried everything to get rid of, even new laws, but got nowhere.

(2) Dave and Nick sweep in and with their new coalite powers have a think. "We could succeed where all others have failed" they muse.

(3) MI5 through the usual channels pay some scruffy people to make a camp. The police are told to lay off.

(4) BJ gets the court order nobody else has dared to get. It doesn't specifically mention the troublesome Mr Haw.

(5) In go the bailiffs, the police, the army, etc, etc. Out goes Mr Haw.

(6) Job done. Another victory for our new anti-authoritarian Big Society caring-sharing New Liberal Conservative Super Cool Systeme!

(7) Trebles all round.

jailhouselawyer said...

It woz Jack Boot Dale wot dunnit!

Local Member said...

It would be interesting to know how many of these "protesters" are doing so using their own time and money. Possibly the Social Security inspectors could visit to check if anyone claiming unemployment benefit is "actively seeking work".

Lauchlan McLean said...

Was it my threat to set up my tent in Boris's front garden, or the letter from the all powerful Mr Dale that swung the Mayor into action. The Baiiffs will have to wear extra thick rubber gloves and flak jackets.

j said...

Another substantial achievement by our tory mayor (to add to the list that includes putting up a picture of the Queen in City Hall).

Well done! Kids in London with rubbish prospects because of the street they happened to be born in will rejoice- CONSERVATISM REALLY WORKS! What next- a pointless "America Day"... oh wait.

Lauchlan McLean said...

I hope that they are not Irish travellers. If they are they will never be moved as the Human Rights lawyers will rush to their assistance.

startledcod said...

@myob - 'aesthstics'? At least you managed 'lunacy'.

Its kindness, release them to a bathing moment.

Denny said...

OxfordSpring: The camp under discussion is considerably larger than the line of tents along the front of the square with which you are probably familiar. The current 'democracy village' camp covers the entire grassy area of the square.

That said, it definitely fits the description of 'political protest', rather than being 'just a camp'. In fact, they've had twice-daily "People's Parliament" sessions since the day they set up... which means some of the people there have probably participated in more Parliamentary votes in the last fortnight than some of our MPs will in their entire time in government.

Lady Finchley said...

It's about bloody time too. And I know for a fact that Brian Haw is on benefits. How come he doesn't have to prove that he's ready for work but when I was out of work and on on benefits I had to prove it every week? Cut out all the romantic claptrap about him will you? He should get a job like the rest of us.

Why can't they protest and move on like all the other protestors? Bojo has my vote now and forever.

Hammer said...

Will action be taken to prevent the media cluttering up the same areas with their tents, temporary studios and so on in the future?

Jim_Watford said...

Myob is correct, it does belong to all of us. The vast majority of us don't want filthy bums emptying their bladders on our stuff so they should be removed.

Mike said...

My name's Mike and I'm sending this from in my tent in Democracy Village, Parliament Square.

I have a job, infact have only been out of work for two weeks in my life. I'm not a hippy. I just know things are screwed up and have had enough. We all need to step back and realise what's important.

Last year I donated a kidney to my sister and this made me value my life a bit more. Part of this means thinking about the world as a whole. But action has to start small and local and this is why I'm here.

My main contribution thus far has been setting up the websites http://meltdown.uk.net and http://democracyvillage.org

These have now taken on a life of their own and I'm very proud of the work put into them. They were only my first and third websites I've setup. For those interested, I work for the public sector and my second website was for work.

Village life is great - we meet twice daily to discuss anything. Any decision is by consensus. This does take longer so for some areas, we break up into smaller groups. We've been successfully policing ourselves and have become self-sufficient. We are running workshops on various topics including how to setup renewable energy sources, how to deal with the police, citizen's journalism, early morning yoga as well as lots of language classes. Diversity with unity, deeds not words and this is what democracy looks like have become village mantras. My new friend Anna said yesterday that this was the best university in the world. There are no fees and all are welcome.

The 3 core reasons we all agree that we're here are war, economy and climate. My area of expertise has been of things economic.

I know for instance that 97% of the UK money supply is in the form of debt. Debt that under the current system has to be repaid. But this debt is created by private banks when you and I take out a loan / credit card / mortgage. The banks then have the audacity to charge interest on this newly created money. "The process by which banks create money is so simple, the mind is repelled." (J.K.Galbraith) Do you think there's a moral need to repay this fraudulently created money? There is no legal reason since the contract is void as there is no consideration on behalf of the lender. This is the defense Jerome Daly successfully used to avoid the bank foreclosing on his home in the 60s and nothing has changed apart from the bankers now have way more political power. It's time to wake up and realise the enemy is here across the road from our beautiful Democracy Village. Please come and chat anytime. With love and peace, Mike

Mike said...

Why don't you publish my comment? Is it because I is living in a tent in Democracy Village, Parliament Square?

JuliaM said...

"Not very progressive Mr Dale."

Well, given what effects that approach has wrought in this country, good!

Lady Finchley said...

Don't be obtuse Hammer. The media are there to do a job and then they leave. So the same should apply to Brian Haw and his merry band of scroungers - protest and leave. Parliament Square is not a squat and that is just what it looks like. You think THAT is acceptable?

JuliaM said...

Tachybaptus:"I'd support Boris on this only if:

1. He leaves Brian Haw in place -- the last free man in England, who has been in the square for nine years, a lot longer than Boris in his post, and is internationally respected."


'Internationally respected' = some luvvies and journos made favourable comments a couple of times

Goodwin said...

A tough call in what little remains of our democracy. I recall the opprobrium Bliar rightly received when he banned protests (by Fulon Gong?) during a high-level Chinese visit. Unfortunately most protesters in the UK are the great unwashed rent-a-mob so probably deserve a kicking by our BIB.

Unsworth said...

It's the blind arrogance of these pillocks that really pisses me off. Why do they believe that their 'cause' entitles them to bugger up Parliament Square for everybody else?

Who are these intellectual pygmies, anyway? It's their complete lack of consideration for everyone else which is so annoying, let alone their childish self-justifications.

We have a political system, so let them use it. 'Alternative' my arse. And WTF does 'progressive' actually mean? Is it some sort of New Lefty insult? These people are just shameless selfish cretins.

Steve Tierney said...

The right to free speech and protest is important and should be defended. But these people have had their protest and are abusing their civil freedoms to damage an important site and turn a tourist attraction into s slum.

It's entirely correct - having given them plenty of time to have their legal protest - to move them on. And if they wont go - to arrest them.

It's called a fair balance between rights and responsibilities. Something we need more of.

Steve Tierney said...

Mike Says:
>>Any decision is by consensus. This does take longer so for some areas, we break up into smaller groups.<<

>>. We are running workshops on various topics including how to setup renewable energy sources how to deal with the police, citizen's journalism, early morning yoga.<<

>>Please come and chat anytime. With love and peace<<

>>I am not a hippy<<

If you say so, Mike. But you sure do SOUND like a hippy.

And while you and your tented friends may be very nice people, with some valid points, you still don't get to squat forever on public land - because the rest of us have rights too.

I find it interesting that your work is in the "public sector".

Old Holborn said...

Love it

Brian Haw arrested so that our unelected Head of State can let Nick Clegg tell us about our new right to protest freely without any litter

Parkylondon said...

I rather suspect you're all rather proud of our boys in blue for their brave, noble and fearless action against the only free man in London. The only man allowed to protest in Parliament Square.

Brian Haw was the only man to stand up for his beliefs and shout out about the war in Iraq. The Powers That Be tried to shut him up but they failed and quite right too.

And before someone calls me silly names about *my* beliefs and lifestyle, I would like to say that I work in the City, earn "proper money" and pay offensive taxes.

I support Brian Haw.

The Grim Reaper said...

Way to make a complete arse of yourself here, Iain. You objected to the protest not because of what they were protesting about, but because it looked a bit messy. Good grief.

Now, about your naked run through Whitehall. I reckon today might be a good day to do it. Everyone's off at Westminster and it's a lovely, sunny day.

Lady Finchley said...

Ha ha - Brian Haw has been arrested after a search of the tents - result!

Danvers said...

So there is a really simple solution to all of this. If a few hundred non-hippy citizens turned up in time for one of the daily meetings, we could pass a vote to close down the village and everyone could go home.

Democracy in action etc.

Ruth said...

Humph - hardly a big triumph for democracy is it? Immigrants are allowed to squat in people's houses http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/164583/Romanians-steal-man-s-home & back gardens http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cambridgeshire/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8582000/8582784.stm.
Travellers are allowed to despoil our parks & countryside because it's their Yuman Rite http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23481502-travellers-build-a-12000-hall-at-illegal-camp---with-taxpayers-cash-and-without-planning-permission.do but a well known political protester is arrested - whoopy do - so much for restoring our Civil Rights - obviously only if you're the 'right sort of person'. I don't think I'd admit to my letter to BJ if i were you Ian - not something to be proud of IMHO

Moriarty said...

Old Holborn seems to have the inside track on the grounds for Haw's arrest.

Was he there?

Hammer said...

Lady Finchley, I think they are engaging in a protest and it is entirely reasonable as long as they within the bounds of the law.

As for the media, the argument that they are squatting on a world heritage site is equally true. There is no reason they have to be there as opposed to being in a TV studio somewhere, as was common until quite recently.

Martin Wellbourne said...

So, Mike the non-hippy (peace and love, yoga, etc.) works in the public sector. Are we surprised? I think not.

Perhaps he is one of the public sector employees who SHOULD be monitoring the employment status of our lovable scruffs. Or monitoring the behavoiur of other public sector employees.

The sanctimonious, politicised sector of the public services are, essentially, at one with the rent-a-rant climate campers and, having extracted, on pain of imprisonment, a hefty toll from the useful sector they then pass this enormous wad around between them for evermore, happily flouting the democratic will should it not concur with their personal interest.

Lady Finchley said...

Hammer - get a life. They are squatting there not protesting. I'd like to see how long the Countryside Alliance would last if they tried the same trick.

Mick James said...

The correct, British response to protesters like this is to resent them deeply until you see them being dragged off in chains, at which point you you rush to their defence.

Unsworth said...

@ Parkylondon

"Brian Haw was the only man to stand up for his beliefs and shout out about the war in Iraq"

Total garbage. You have a very selective memory. Is that some thing to do with working in The City?

Parkylondon said...

@Unsworth If he wasn't why is he the only man left standing in Parliament Square?