A peace campaigner who camped in London’s Parliament Square for almost ten years in protest at US and UK foreign policy has died after a battle with lung cancer.
Brian Haw, 62, had been camping in the centre of London since 2001.
Haw originally set up his camp in June 2001 to protest against sanctions against Iraq. He had to battle against authority to keep his camp in place.
Although the UK law changed in 2005, effectively banning anyone from holding unauthorised protests within a square mile of the Houses of Parliament, Haw found a loophole in the form of a drafting error in the legislation, and won his right to remain.
According to the BBC, Haw – who was born in the London borough of Redbridge and grew up in neighbouring Barking and in the county of Kent – wanted to remain in the square for the rest of his life.
Although his protest began before the 9/11 attacks in the US and before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Haw became a symbol of the anti-war movement.
A message on his website this weekend says Haw died in Germany, where he was having treatment for lung cancer.
He died painlessly in his sleep.
His family say they want to “thank all the very many kind people who supported and took such special care of Brian during his illness.” The message continues:
“Brian showed great determination and courage during the many long hard years he led his Peace Campaign in Parliament Square, during which it is well documented that he was relentlessly persecuted [their emphasis] by the authorities which eventually took its toll on his health.
“Brian showed the same courage and determination in his battle with cancer. He was keenly aware of and deeply concerned that so many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine did not have access to the same treatments that were made available to him.
“Parliament, the police, and courts etc., should forever be ashamed of their disgraceful behaviour towards Brian.”
In February 2007, Haw won an award from the UK TV network Channel 4 for being the most inspiring political figure. He had won 54 percent of votes cast by Channel 4 viewers.
“We know that it was Brian’s greatest wish that everyone should take responsibility to do what they can to stop the government murdering innocent civilians in ongoing illegal wars of aggression,” says the message
Brian Haw’s peace camp in central London
on his website. “It is clear that if everyone showed the same courage as Brian, in challenging this government, that many lives would be saved, now. We only have to look to the Arab World to see what is possible in what are historical times.”
In 2006, Haw featured in TerrorStorm, documentary whose director and narrator, Alex Jones, interviewed the protestor by megaphone. An actor playing Brian Haw also appeared in a 2007 satirical drama, The Trial of Tony Blair, a hypothetical account of Blair – the UK Prime Minister at the time of 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – appearing before a war-crimes tribunal.
The Independent’s story of Haw’s death talks of how the protestor was “a thorn in the British government’s side.”
It talks of his “continuous round-the-clock demonstration opposite the Houses of Parliament against the UK’s policy in Iraq and elsewhere.”
The paper continues: “His tent and ragtag collection of horrific pictures of war victims and hand-written posters with slogans like ‘BABY KILLERS’ became as much a fixture in Parliament Square as the statues of Winston Churchill and Sir Robert Peel.”
Haw often spoke, says the paper, of the British government’s “murderous” involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It quotes Haw as saying: “I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again, knowing that I’ve done all I can to try and save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my Government’s unjust, amoral, fear – and money-driven policies.
“These children and people of other countries are every bit as valuable and worthy of love as my precious wife and children.”