In memory of Brian Haw

20 June 2011

Author: 
Campaigns Officer

Liberty was very saddened to hear of the death of Peace Protester and Anti War Campaigner Brian Haw at the weekend. As recent events have shown, it is an essential tool of democracy to be free to express peaceful opposition to the actions of your Government – a vital right we should be proud of and never afraid to exercise.

In stark contrast, the many attempts by Westminster Council and the last Government to rid themselves of Brian’s presence,  is a worrying illustration of how easily rights and freedoms can be curtailed.

His dedication to the power and purpose of peaceful protest has been an inspiration to many over the last decade. In 2007, the artist Mark Wallinger recreated Brian Haw’s Parliament Square protest in an installation at Tate Britain. ‘State Britain’ consisted of a meticulous reconstruction of over 600 weather-beaten banners, photographs, peace flags and messages from well-wishers.

The UK has a long and proud history of peaceful protest. From the lobbying and petitioning of the early anti-slavery movement, to the Chartist’s first public meetings in the 1800s, through to the anti-war march of 2003, Britain has acquired and developed a vital political culture of peaceful protest and dissent. Central to this culture of protest has been the ability of ordinary people to organise, gather, collectively express their grievances, and agitate for reform. Also central to this culture has been the ability of protesters to do this outside the Houses of Parliament. Over 400 years later, at great personal sacrifice, one man exercised this right for 3667 days.

As an organisation that regularly demonstrates on various issues - including protecting the right to protest itself, enshrined in the Human Rights Act - we can only salute this dedication. Long may it be remembered.