Protestors On Parliament Square Ordered To Dismantle Campsite
18th January 2011
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Protestors who set up camp on the pavement bordering Parliament Square have been ordered by Westminster Council to dismantle their campsite or face legal action.

Around 30 protesters were served legal letters by the council which contained instruction to clear away tents, boxes and placards from the public footway, which they were blocking. The protesters must clear the campsite by 5pm on 21st January or the council will seek a High Court injunction forcing them to stop blocking the pavement and preventing ordinary people from going about their daily business.

The council have stressed their support for peaceful protest but said it could no longer tolerate the increasing number of demonstrators on the pavement - they were evicted from Parliament Square itself back in July. The law states (under the 1980 Highways Act) that "it is an offence to wilfully obstruct the public highway and anyone found guilty can be fined up to £1,000".  Courts also have the power to order removal of any obstruction after conviction and issue an additional fine of up to £5000.

Commenting on the action, Westminster Council leader Cllr Colin Barrow said: ““We’ve been pressing the government for some years to end the blight of Parliament Square by enacting legislation which we, along with all the relevant authorities, can use to end the current mess. We want to make sure that we can address this problem once for all and some concerns still remain, especially given that the Bill only covers the centre of the square and protestors could simply decamp to areas elsewhere in the square.

“Today’s action is the first step in a process that we hope will end the ludicrous and unacceptable situation around the square. As the local highway authority we have a duty to ensure that our pavements and walkways are free for all people to use – particular those opposite the Palace of Westminster.

“I would like to stress that we have nothing against peaceful protest – Westminster has a long and proud tradition of hosting dozens of major protests and demonstrations every year. But it is simply wrong for our pavements to be turned into no-go areas and permanent protest campsites by vociferous minorities – regardless of how laudable their particular cause may be."

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