Cycling around Parliament Square tonight was quite an experience. And it wasn’t the normally tricky traffic that was to blame. It was the sheer amount of police — a barrage of high-viz jackets lining the four sides of the square — and the hundreds of protesters standing on the grassed area waving their flags and banners. Democracy in action!
All this in preparation for this evening’s vote in the House of Commons regarding whether the Government should renew the UK’s nuclear weapons system, known as Trident, at a staggering cost of £20 billion. (Unfortunately, MPs supported the plan.)
I love seeing protests on this square, especially as it faces onto one of the main entrances to the Palace of Westminster (also know as the Houses of Parliament), which means it’s pretty hard for the politicians not to know what people are making a song and dance about. Unfortunately, the Government has cracked down on protests in this square since August 2005. It inserted a clause into the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which makes it illegal to protest in a 1km zone around Parliament without the permission of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Brian Haw is a bit of an exception though. The man has staged a continual one-man protest on Parliament Square since 2 June 2001 against war and foreign policy. He’s still there — and I love cycling past him every night knowing he’s a thorn in the side of a Government so willing to silence dissident voices…