Brian Haw 1949-2011

BRIAN HAW, whose lone vigil in Parliament Square made him an icon amongst the peace movement in Britain and across the world, died last weekend.

Brian Haw was an little-known evangelical Christian, motivated by the pacifist teachings of Jesus of Nazareth that are often ignored by many of those who profess to believe in him, who travelled to northern Ireland and Cambodia to preach “love, peace and justice for all” in the 70s and 80s. But he hit the headlines with his one-man protest against the imperialist aggression against Iraq.

He set up his tent opposite the so-called “Mother of Parliaments” in June 2001 to protest against the cruel imperialist blockade against Iraq that preceded the invasion and occupation by Anglo-American imperialism in 2003.

Brian was never short of company. Peace campaigners made a point of visiting his tent in the heart of London to help or spend some time in solidarity with the protest, which grew as Haw decorated the square with his home-made posters and peace banners condemning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This rapidly became an alternative London tourist attraction. But it was also an embarrassment to the Establishment and it soon attracted the unwelcome attention of the police.

For over 10 years Haw maintained his round-the-clock vigil, braving all weathers and violent attacks from thugs and the police. He defied all threats to evict him, including an abortive new law to restrict demonstrations within half-a-mile of Parliament.

Leading left Labour MPs Tony Benn and John McDonnell acted as character witnesses for Brian during his many appearances in court, including some brought by the Metropolitan Police on charges of aggression and assault.

In 2006 the police succeeded in obtaining authority to remove and confiscated Brian’s entire display. Fortunately the 40 metre long display was entirely recreated by the artist Mark Wallinger who won the 2007 Turner Prize for his exact replica of the encampment, entitled State Britain, that was exhibited in the Tate Modern art gallery.

Supporters maintained the protest tent when ill-health forced Haw to seek treatment in Germany, paid out of a fund raised by British supporters.

Now there are calls for his memory to be preserved with a permanent monument in Parliament Square.

Brian Haw was flown to Germany for cancer treatment in January and died in Berlin on 18th June.