Civil Rights: Parliament Square tent protest may face £500 fines under new by-law

Civil Rights: Parliament Square tent protest may face £500 fines under new by-law

Since May 2010, a number of protesters set up camp in Parliament Square, alongside the long-term protester Brian Haw, to protest against the British Government’s involvement in the Middle East.

In July 2010, the protesters lost an appeal to remain in the square and they were evicted. However, towards the end of the year, tents started reappearing on the paving instead of on the grass. Now Westminster City Council plans to introduce a by-law that will ensure the removal of the 30 or so tents.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which received Royal Assent on 15 September, contains specific laws with respect to Parliament Square Garden and surrounding areas which has enabled this new by-law to be introduced.

The campsite, known as ‘Democracy Village’ will have to be dismantled once the new legislation is agreed at a sub-committee on Wednesday. If protesters do not remove their tents, they may face fines of up to £500.

The new law, which is expected to come into force in March 2012, will affect areas in Westminster including Whitehall, Bridge Street, Westminster Abbey and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

As well as imposing fines on protesters, the new by-law will give powers to council officers to confiscate loud hailers and other noise equipment.

Councillor Colin Barrow said: “We have been calling for action for years and now finally we have the ability to do something about it.

“We are not against public protest, but what we are against is people blighting an English Heritage site and preventing the rest of London, and its visitors from enjoying the square.”

Do you think the protesters should be allowed to continue camping in Parliament Square or does their campsite ruin London for its inhabitants and visitors? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Related links:

Read more on the story (BBC)

Can I be arrested for joining a public protest? (FindLaw)

Find civil rights solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)

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