A visit to London on May 8 brings us to Parliament Square where we see Brian Haw anti-war protest movement leader and supporters while at the same time the British government secures a ruling to close it down. But the protest continues and so too the story
Arrived London, Heathrow airport at 6 AM after a flight from Chicago. It seemed like an eternity winding around the basement of the airport to get our bags and get though customs. Then we took the tube, the Piccadilly blue line to the District green line to Victoria Station. Since we were taking the bus to Birmingham at three PM that left us about six or seven hours for sightseeing. After checking our bags at the bus station about three blocks away we changed some dollars to pounds, bought an umbrella and stated our treck.
Since we were on Buckingham Palace Road we proceeded up to the Palace for a quick look. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating and the rain which was present when we landed seemed to intensify. That made the look at the Palace kind of quick. First impressions were certainly affected by the rain - The Palace was very disappointing, dark and old and strangely not imposing. And so around the corner and heading back we ducked into something called The Queens gift shop where we just walked around and dried up a small bit. It was disturbing to see the cheap trinkets of royalty offered for sale to the tourist, but we were having none.
Not to be deterred we proceeded on to Parliament and that was the most interesting part of the tour. Across from Parliament in a circular park in Parliament square were a load of protestors. It was difficult to cross due to the heavy traffic and what appeared to cars coming form different directions but we made it.
What we weren’t aware of at the time was the legal dispute going on about the right to even be there.
BBC: Brian Haw has been staging a continuous demonstration, living and sleeping opposite Parliament for nearly five years. He has been to court many times to defend his right to protest against the government's foreign policy in Iraq. But Monday 8 May, the British Government won its appeal against the previous legal ruling which allowed Brian to continue his protest.
Of course, we had no way of knowing any of that and probably this had not even happened yet since it was early in the day.
But this place was definitely where it was happening!
There were numerous protest signs generally having to do with the war in Iraq, depleted uranium and the killing of innocent civilians and about twenty five people huddling around.
One young man was standing just at the curb dressed like Charlie Chaplin as the tramp with bowler hat and white face and a small sign saying – Make Laughs Not War. (Charlie would have been proud!)
Another man, Brian Haw we learned later, was sitting down and talking on a public address system about someone who was a candidate for office and who was clearly anti-war. The candidate might have been there but it was difficult to say. Nothing was very organized and it was a very soggy scene but we felt at home there.
A woman came up and talked about a movement of women working for peace around the world and got an email address for us. We stayed a short time longer but frankly the rain was a real deterrent to further conversation. It really was pouring! So on our way we went but not without some difficulty even getting off this island in the middle of the square without being run down.
This a good image from that day. Notice the wetness on everything!
Soon after we had lunch at a local pub called Shakespears and met a lovely girl from Poland who was our waitress. She wanted to practice her English and seemed very interested in the US and had a very positive view of our country. But we didn’t feel so very well disposed after being reminded by the protest near by of the problems caused by the US and England. You could call it a reality check!
But the story does not end here. Yes, we went on with our journey and are back home but the story about Brian Haw continues to cause controversy.
BBC: Anti-war signs seized by police
May 23, 2006
Police have removed placards from peace activist Brian Haw at the scene of his five-year vigil outside Parliament. Officers went to Parliament Square in the early hours of Tuesday to deal with alleged breaches of Mr Haw's demonstration conditions. Mr Haw, 56, from Worcestershire, said he will fast in protest at the action.
For more photos of Brian's display May 2006 just before it was dismantled by police on 23 May go here.
For current information go here
Wednesay 25 May: Brian & co are still in the Square but the situation with the police is more active and hostile than it was now that the police have decided to enforce the conditions they placed on Brian's protest. The 3 metres space limit it meant to apply to everything and everyone with Brian - clearly impossible. Needed articles are slowing being accummulated.
Finally - we thank Brian Haw for his protest and for help making this journey to London that day a memorable one. Of course, we wish him well and urge others to support him, too. But for us in the US we have our own battles to fight and win and yes it involves Peace and Love and really living that alternative.
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