Brian Haw, who has died aged 62, had the distinction of being one of the few people with a law dedicated to stopping his activities. His protest in Parliament Square against the illegal war in Iraq was such an affront to Tony Blair that the then Prime Minister ensured that protests in Parliament Square were specifically banned in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act in 2005.
The protest was as truly prophetic as befitted a man who was one of the few genuine prophets of our time. By speaking truth to power, by bearing witness to the slaughter in Afghanistan and Iraq Brian Haw was able to remind our leaders of their folly on a daily basis. He was joined by many others who shared Brian’s desire to end the war in Iraq and prevent more illegal wars.
But this prophetic stance came at a personal cost. The authorities harassed Haw, forcing him to move the peace camp onto the pavement. There are moves afoot to prevent the camp being on the pavement. This bureaucratic determination to suppress the voice of justice reflects just how successful Haw and his fellow peace-campers have been. It did, however, take a toll on Brian’s health and he had been fighting lung cancer. This was a fight Brian lost last night.
When I was on a rare visit to London last week I was challenged by the personal sacrifice and political persistence of those at the peace camp. I stopped to offer support, and went away thinking about what more I could do for peace.
The protest is just over 10 years old now. A fitting tribute to Brian Haw would be that there is no further need for the camp, with withdrawal from Afghanistan and an end to Britain’s involvement in imperial interventions.