Boris Johnson fails in his attempt to prevent Occupy Democracy from holding monthly protests in Parliament Square

Boris Johnson fails in his attempt to prevent Occupy Democracy from holding monthly protests in Parliament Square

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has backed down and removed the fencing which had previously blocked Occupy Democracy’s access to Parliament Square [1]. A Judicial Review filed by Liberty and Occupy Democracy against Johnson and the Greater London Authority argues that the decision to deny Occupy campaigners access to the Square on three occasions since October last year is an illegal interference with their right to protest [2]. Since the launch of the judicial review into the London Mayor’s decision, Johnson appears to be on the back foot.

Several hundred people were therefore able to gather on Parliament Square on Saturday to continue the campaign for Real Democracy Now, highlighting the corporate takeover of our democratic system and the need for urgent radical reform.

Occupy London legal advisor Matthew Varnham said:

“The Greater London Authority are suggesting that the Occupy Democracy protests are illegal since they have not sought permission. However in 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said that in his opinion ‘the exercise of fundamental freedoms should never be subject to previous authorization, but at most to a regime of notification.'” [3]

“Requiring permission to be sought for protest is only part of the regime which restricts activity on Parliament Square – BBC journalists were threatened on Saturday with arrest for filming on the square without first gaining permission. [4] [5] The absurdity of such a threat highlights the dangers of empowering the GLA with the authority to determine what conduct is appropriate, particularly at Parliament Square and when in response to time-limited peaceful protest.”

During Saturday’s protest Occupy Democracy held workshops on the undemocratic influence of arms companies on government policy regarding the arms trade, with speakers from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop the Arms Fair and SmashEDO. 

Occupy Democracy supporter Phil England said:

“Like other powerful interests, arms companies have an undemocratic and corrupting hold over government policy. It’s not in our interests to be selling £12 billion worth of arms to countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s own list of countries with serious human rights concerns [6]. It’s an outrage that we are spending £700 million of taxpayers money every year subsidising this trade [7] and licencing the sale of tear gas used to repress pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong [8] and weapons likely to have been used by the Israeli Defense Forces during their raids on Gaza last summer [9].”

Occupy Democracy’s six-hour protest in near-freezing conditions also included spoken word and musical entertainment and a general assembly in which attendees agreed new provisional “demands” and considered the movement’s general election strategy.

Occupy Democracy will be building the movement for democracy free from corporate influence by returning monthly to Parliament Square between now and the general election on 7th May. The next occupation will take place on February 14th-15th and is titled “Occupy Love: Conquering Divide and Rule” looking at issues of equality and representation in our democracy [10].

Provisionally, March 7-8th has also been agreed, with the theme of climate change and the environment to tie in with the Campaign Against Climate Change’s “Time To Act” march which ends in Parliament Square.

Occupy Democracy activist Maria Saunders said: 

“As the election approaches, we urge people who can see that our democracy is no longer working for the 99% to join us to build a social movement big enough to take it back.”

Earlier on Saturday, Occupy Democracy supporters took part in CND’s Wrap Up Trident action, in which a seven-mile long peace scarf knitted by thousands of people was wrapped around the Ministry of Defence and MP’s offices. 

At the rally afterwards CND General Secretary Kate Hudson announced the Occupy Democracy action from the stage and afterwards several hundred peace campaigners including veteran CND activist Bruce Kent [11] joined the peaceful pro-democracy protest on Parliament Square.

Occupy Democracy activist John Sinha said:

“Renewal of Trident would be fundamentally undemocratic, against the spirit of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The £100 billion should be spent employing 150,000 extra nurses in the National Health Service not on servicing an outdated notion of what constitutes national security in the 21st century.”

Notes:

[1] #OccupyDemocracy (https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/) was formed in March as a working group of Occupy London (http://occupylondon.org.uk/) to build a social movement for genuine democracy that is free from corporate influence. #OccupyDemocracy’s three occupations of Parliament Square to date have attracted hundreds of people including prominent figures such as Russell Brand, Ken Loach, Vivienne Westwood and Jolyon Rubinstein; politicians such as Caroline Lucas MP, John McDonnell MP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Baroness Jenny Jones and Michael Meacher MP; and representatives of dozens of civil society organisations who, in turn represent millions of people who have little voice in our democracy, including: Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut, World Development Movement, War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action and numerous others. Working by consensus decision-making, #occupydemocracy has a safer spaces policy and is dedicated to non-violence. Our draft “demands” list can be read here: https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/10/28/occupy-democracy-current-demands-list/

[2] See Liberty’s press release of 21st January: Mayor of London told: Parliament Square is not your private backyard: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/press-releases/liberty-launches-judicial-review-fencing-around-parliament-square-gardens

[3] http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/3774/en/unhrc:-un-special-rapporteur-on-right-to-freedom-of-peaceful-assembly-delivers-united-kingdom-country-report

[4] Section 5(1)(k) https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Parliament%20Square%20Garden%20Byelaws%2025Jan2012.pdf

[5] BBC News London coverage of the Occupy Democracy protest; https://vimeo.com/117681159

[6] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmquad/186/18605.htm#a92

[7] [https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/jobs-economy/subsidies

[8] http://deceptioninhighplaces.com/hong-kong-tear-gas/

[9] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-findings-of-review-of-licensed-exports-to-israel

[10] http://tinyurl.com/FebruaryOccupation

[11] Photo available of Bruce Kent holding our “Real Democracy Now!” banner  http://www.demotix.com/news/6739777/occupy-democracy-outwit-heritage-wardens-reoccupy-parliament-square#media-6739638)

5 thoughts on “Boris Johnson fails in his attempt to prevent Occupy Democracy from holding monthly protests in Parliament Square

  1. Pingback: Occupy Wins Parliament Square Fence Stand-Off - London Easy

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  3. Pingback: Occupy Wins Parliament Square Fence Stand-Off | PopularResistance.Org

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