POLICE officers from a territorial support group last Saturday beat up and arrested Brian Haw, the well-known peace protester who has maintained a non-stop vigil opposite the House of Commons for over six-and-a-half years now.
The incident happened when Brian Haw was peacefully filming a protest assembly that had gathered to demonstrate against and to defy a ban on protests in Parliament Square. The ban does not apply to Brian himself because it was drawn up and passed after he began his long vigil. It had been intended to illegalise his protest but it was worded to apply to new demonstrations – not to an existing one – and a court ruling upheld Brian’s right to continue his peaceful protest.
There have been many official attempts by both the Government and the London Borough of Westminster to get rid of Brian’s stand, along with his placards but he has survived them all and a copy of his small encampment with its placards and posters in the Tate Gallery has won prestigious awards.
He seemed to have been on civil terms with the local police but the territorial support group were something different. While he was filming one of them lashed out at him, forcing the camera into his face and causing a deep cut. They then arrested Brian for an unspecified public order offence and continued to assault him inside a police van. The police also attacked demonstrators who had laid down in the road with linked arms.
Without warnings the territorial support group moved in and began violently pushing and man-handling people to the pavement. One young woman was grabbed round the throat and dragged. Others were pushed from behind.
A demonstrator who tried to help Brian Haw was also arrested and beaten up.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they were forced to act because the march contravened the Serious Organised Crime and Police (Socpa) legislation.
“They did not seek authority from the Metropolitan Police Service for the demonstration,” he said.