Early on Saturday morning 18 June 2011, veteran peace protester Brian Haw, 62, passed away just after the camp he established right opposite the Houses of Parliament had celebrated its tenth anniversary of highly visible opposition to the wars being waged on ordinary people. Brian had been suffering from lung cancer, diagnosed less than a year ago.
Brian Haw on Friday 7th May – shortly before his arrest. Vigil Day 1,072.
Tony Blair apologises to Brian for the attack on Iraq!
cindy sheehan and brian haw
Mart Thomas drops by to show his support.
Brian Haw lectures the Mass
brian arriving at the court
A long-term chain smoker who spent the last ten years of his life inhaling Parliament Square's toxic traffic fumes during his continuous protest, Brian Haw was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2010. Although he started treatment almost immediately at St Thomas's hospital and subsequently spent six months in Germany undergoing private treatment, he has lost his fight for life and the peace movement has lost one of its most committed campaigners.
Brian Haw held up a big, shiny, in-yer-face mirror to government foreign policy, which ministers failed to smash or obscure in spite of their best efforts. He first came to Parliament Square in June 2001 to protest the economic sanctions placed on Iraq by the West. These had led to the unnecessary deaths of many thousands of civilians, including at least half a million children under the age of 5. Having witnessed the suffering and premature death of one of his own children, Brian felt obliged to act. His objections to conflict were certainly heartfelt having visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia, even travelling to Iraq in the early nineties and seeing for himself the impact of UK + US foreign policy. Always focusing on child victims, Brian's display contained graphic images of suffering mainly from Iraq and later Afghanistan, and included pictures of children with tumours and congenital abnormalities in areas such as Fallujah where uranium and other highly toxic munitions had been used against the civilian population.
Various legal (and illegal) attempts were made by the authorities over the years to remove Haw, but each one was successfully challenged and resisted. Consequently, his campaign became synonymous with not just his opposition to war but also the right of freedom of assembly. An early attempt to remove Brian for obstructing the highway failed miserably when a judge ruled that there was plenty of room for people to get past his display. Ministers then had the bright idea of writing a new law to get rid of him and the parts of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) limiting the freedom to protest in vicinity of Parliament were specifically drafted with this aim. However, the courts eventually decided that Brian Haw's protest, having already been in situ when the law was introduced, could not be retrospectively deemed illegal and he became the only person not required by law to seek permission for his protest, although the cops still imposed restrictions under the Act's provisions. Other efforts to remove Brian have included fencing off the whole grassed area of the square, which is controlled by the Greater London authority, and eventually obtaining a ruling against the camp encroaching on the grass, although this did not stop tents being pitched on the adjoining pavement.
Apart from the occasional absence to attend court hearings, Brian Haw maintained a continuous presence on the pavement opposite the British Parliament for over nine years and was often to be heard loudly declaiming politicians through his megaphone, which the authorities also tried to ban. His makeshift camp, originally very modest in size, grew as supporters donated signs and artwork until it was trashed and largely removed in 2006 by the cops alleging infringement of a SOCPA restriction. In 2007, artist Mark Wallinger won the Turner Prize for his installation 'State Britain', a re-creation of Haw's display before this attack.
IMC UK Features