Liberty launches judicial review of fencing around Parliament Square Gardens

21 January 2015

Liberty has launched a judicial review of the Mayor of London’s decision to fence off Parliament Square Gardens – preventing a number of planned peaceful demonstrations by Occupy Democracy from going ahead.

Large metal fences were originally erected in October, half-way through a planned ten-day protest. Demonstrators were told that the purpose of the enclosure was for repair work and maintenance of the grass – however, the fencing quickly expanded beyond that to the entire Square, including paved areas.  There was also a distinct lack of evidence of maintenance or repair work happening on the Gardens.  Instead there was a constant presence of police officers and dogs, with little regard for the Square’s flora.

Occupy Democracy successfully discouraged littering at the demonstration and went to great lengths to keep the area clean and tidy.  They also declared the protest an alcohol-free zone.  The attendance of protesters was never large enough to dominate the Square.

Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The irony of preventing peaceful protest in the heart of the world’s oldest democracy can’t have escaped the Mayor.  Surely exercising democratic rights is to be celebrated not censured, especially in an election year - Parliament Square is not his private back garden.”

George Barda, social justice campaigner and Liberty’s client, said:

“The repressive approach of Boris Johnson and his henchmen has been disappointing if not surprising. It’s crucial that we fight back against this contempt of the basic rights that are our last defence against corrupt and unaccountable power. The most important thing, though, is that we resolve this situation so we can get on with what we wanted to do in the first place, which is to shine a light on the systematic corruption of the entire edifice of democracy by powerful economic interests.”

They also attempted to hold further demonstrations of even shorter length in November and December but on both occasions the Mayor constructed the fencing again, causing them significant difficulties. They will continue to attempt to hold peaceful protests in this historically and politically significant public space.  The Mayor has refused to agree that the fencing will not be reconstructed to prevent future protests.

CONTACT: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

­NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 gave the Mayor and the police significant powers to prevent the use of sleeping equipment, amplification and other protest equipment in the area surrounding Parliament. Liberty raised concerns regarding these laws when they were passed. The Mayor is now going even further by fencing off the area entirely.
  2. Occupy Democracy will attempt to hold a peaceful protest in Parliament Square on 24 January – and then once a month until the general election in May.
  3. A number of the protestors are currently facing criminal charges relating to the policing of the demonstrations.