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Articles from the Peace News log: Repression

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

An overnight peace vigil tests how the new law restricting protest around Parliament is being enforced - or not.

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Following long-term Parliament Square peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui's unsuccessful High Court challenge of the blanket ban (literally) on 'sleeping equipment', tents and other structures in Parliament Square under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (PRASRA) 2011 (Part 3), which came into force last December, resulting in the removal on 3rd May of her last peace box and tent (Maria has since lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal), Maria has continued to sleep from time to time in the square in the open, on the pavement, with just a sleeping bag and tarp / survival bag, and cardboard or other matting. Sometimes these items have been seized in the middle of the night and Maria has been issued with a court summons, whilst on other occasions she has been left alone.

Last Sunday, several supporters of Maria's Peace Strike campaign spent the night in the square during a 24-hour peace vigil to coincide with the NATO summit taking place in Chicago. A number of people made use of sleeping bags and/or survival bags, etc during the night and were not confronted by any police officers or other 'authorised officers' for doing so.

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It remains to be seen whether lack of enforcement against overnight protesters (or others) with sleeping equipment, etc will continue in future, or whether the authorities will enforce the new law as and when they feel like it. It would be helpful if people could share information about how and when the new PRASRA provisions are being applied in practice.

 

See photos of Peace Strike box seizure on 3rd May
See more photos of Parliament Square 24-hour peace vigil last weekend

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On 3 May the police removed the remaining peace box, tent and other items of Maria Gallastegui's Peacestrike protest in Parliament Square after an injunction against the enforcement of the new restrictions on protest was lifted. Below are images of the peace boxes, inside and out, from the last year, and an update on the current situation.

see A SOCPA victory and the blanket ban and Parliament Square Peace Camp resists eviction

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The remaining peace box on the morning before it was removed by police.

Maria has been protesting 24/7 since 2006 in Parliament Square. It has been the base for so many Peacestrike activities including daily petitions to 10 Downing Street, speaking out about the causes and consequences and the horror of war, and supporting the protest of others.

The peace boxes more lately became a focal point in Parliament Square with their powerful statements, art work and all-round creative approach to use of the space. The protests in Parliament Square have for 10 years been a visible expression that war is wrong and have become a place where those who wish to express their concern and sorrow in relation to war can gravitate towards, a space of common concern within the anonymous city.

The legal case

Maria and the lawyers who have challenged the new restrictions on protest will go to the Court of Appeal and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights, to contest the case against the law.

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Maria beds down for the night with just a sleeping bag and some plastic sheeting

No sleeping in Parliament Square

With nothing but a single placard, sleeping bag and plastic sheeting, Maria spent last night on the pavement, determined to maintain her protest. At 3am the police arrived to enforce the law and gave her a warning to hand over the sleeping bag which she did. They informed her that she would be issued with a summons to appear at court.

Maria argues that it is vital to be able to sleep in order to sustain a long-term protest. Without sleeping equipment, that becomes very difficult and the protest is undermined.

What next for the peace boxes

Maria is keen to see the peace boxes auctioned to raise money for children in Iraq. One of the boxes in currently an exhibit in an art show in Los Angeles. See here

Photos by Emma Sangster and Maria Gallastegui. See Peacestrike for more

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Simon Moore, the first person to be served with an ASBO relating to the Oympics, was in court again today. 

ImageSimon was served the Anti Social Behaviour Order after he was convicted for public order offences defending common land at Leyton Marsh against development for Olympic baseball courts.

The ASBO prohibits him from going within 100 yards of an Olympic venue or route, obstructing any Olympic participant - including officials and spectators, going onto any private land without permission of the owner, and from disrupting the Jubilee or Olympics events. (See more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/17/protester-receives-olympic...)

Todays hearing was for an interim ASBO for which a full legal case does not have to be heard but is based on whether the court considers it ‘just’ to prohibit activities. A date for a hearing to impose a full ASBO, which would be in place for a minimum of 2 years, will be heard on 14th June.

The prosecution asked the magistrates to consider if Simon was acting in an anti-social manner, likely to cause harassment and if so, whether an ASBO is necessary to protect others from such behaviour. While mentioning the rights of ‘others’ to enjoy an important international sporting event, he failed to mention the rights of the local community to enjoy their common land.

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PN contributor and peace activist Maya Evans gets visited by the bailiffs…

The second historic Peace News podcast.

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