Bojo’s Taking the Peace

June 29, 2010

The BBC reports: Boris Johnson defeats Parliament Square peace camp, conjouring visions of a mechanised BoJo eviscerating crowds of hippies with laser pulses emanating from his blonde hair.

In reality, the Mayor of London has brought a High Court action against a harmless group of peace protesters, who have been camping in Parliament Square since the election.

The excuses given by the Mayor’s office are farcical, for anyone acquainted with the geography of Parliament Square. A spokeswoman says that “the scale and impact of the protest has caused damage to the square and has prevented its peaceful use by other Londoners.” The first part of that charge is debatable, the second simply absurd. Even getting to the grass in the centre of the square is a challenge, given the addition  of a busy roundabout, full of cabs and buses none of whom seem to prevent our “peaceful use” of the square.

And what use could be more peaceful than holding a vigil for…peace?

The argument that “Parliament Square is a top tourist attraction visited by thousands of people and is broadcast around the world each day” is vile. While the spectacle of people exercising their rights as citizens of the world, and trying to change it, might turn off some of the more haughty tourists, for most it is just ornament to the extravagant architecture of the House. It’s not going to scare anyone off, apart from arms company execs, perhaps.

For their part, the campers are calling for activists to join them in resistance to the court judgement, which will soon lead to an eviction. As one communique puts it, “if the camp can be radically expanded, it can be a real challenge to any government wanting to sweep it away at a time of huge cuts and with around 75% of the British public supporting the main demand of the camp to stop the Afghanistan war.”

This is all the more crucial, given the elevation of David Petraeus to command of American forces in Afghanistan. Appearing before Congress today, Petraeus called for Obama to relent on his 2011 deadline for the commencement of withdrawal of American ground troops from the country, suggesting a “number of years” before Afghan forces could be allowed to operate alone.

As for David Cameron, he says that he wants British troops by 2015 – a meaningless statement. As for the Germans, their aristocratic Defence Minister, despite massive public opposition to the war, can see no possible end date.

Ironically, as the Guardian reports, “Johnson outlined his decision to apply to the high court to begin legal proceedings for trespass on the same day that David Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government announced plans to “restore rights to non-violent protest” as part of its 18-month legislative programme.”

What a farce.

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