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21 Jul, 2010 07:12

UK government’s message to democracy: keep off the grass

The UK government is being criticized for its disregard for freedom of speech after protesters were forcibly removed from outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

On Tuesday, bailiffs evicted a peace camp set up by demonstrators at Westminster.

As dozens of bailiffs and police swooped to clear out the campaigners, London’s mayor said the demonstrators were making a mess, and were stopping the public from enjoying Parliament Square.

However, the protestors insist their crucial message is being muted. They are calling for an end to the War in Afghanistan, and said they are determined to return.

“I would like to see a better government; Primarily, I would like to see an end to this aggressive foreign policy that the government has been pursuing over such a long time, going back through many governments, and I would like to see an end to the invasion of sovereign states for any reason,” Simon, a protestor told RT.

The protestors have been resident in this focal spot in Westminster since just before May’s general election – mainly calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan, but adopting other peace causes along the way. It also became a magnet for all sorts of people, including Anna, a teacher who gave up her job and her apartment to join the demonstration.

“I am here mostly because I met someone called Chris Coverdale here, who ran a workshop called the Laws of War, which showed me how illegal all wars are in the law. And it exposed to me how unlawful the government is, and how that filters down into every aspect of life, and how we educate our children, and how we are conditioned,” Anna says.

Former MP and London mayoral candidate Lembit Opik believes that while parliament is sitting, people should be allowed to make their protest heard in full view of their MPs.

“Britain goes on about free speech all the time, we fight wars over free speech, and then we start a battle in parliament square against people who are expressing free speech. That to me is a total contradiction – it is anti-democratic,” Opik says.

While the “Democracy Village” is replaced by 1.5-metre-long metal fences, which took 60 bailiffs four hours to set up following the removal of the tents, the demonstrators are adamant that they are no barrier to getting heard.

“Every time citizens of a country step outside the authorized parameters of protest and take radical non-violent action, they have a tremendous power to affect people in all positions of society, and you can achieve just about anything you want. All you need is a bit of courage and a desire to see a better world,” Simon added.

For now, calm has been restored to Parliament Square, and the protestors have been dispersed. They are determined, however, and have vowed to gather again elsewhere.