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Coming down hard on democracy

London mayor Boris Johnson displayed his dedication to free speech on 3 June, by asking the high court to order the immediate eviction of Democracy Village, established on Parliament Square on 1 May. He also asked for the clearance of at least one tent from Brian Haw’s peace campaign, established over nine years ago, from the grassy area of the square, managed by the Greater London Authority.

The campaigners put forward arguments based on the free speech and assembly provisions of the Human Rights Act, and further argued that since ownership of the land was transferred to the crown in 1999, only the queen could evict them.

The judge refused immediate eviction on the grounds that the case “raised a number of substantial and important points of law.”

A full hearing of the application began on 16 June, and was continuing as PN went to press. The primary stated aim of the Democracy Village and its approximately 40 inhabitants is to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, but it is also an open forum for discussion of any issue. Villagers have carried out many dramatic banner drops calling for the troops to come home, including from parliament itself, Westminster abbey, a tree outside Downing Street, the treasury building, the old war office, St Margaret’s church, and even the high court itself.