Protesters slam Parliament blockade


Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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Pro-democracy protesters descended on central London tonight as they criticised a police blockade preventing them setting up camp in Parliament Square.

Organisers from the Occupy movement called for supporters to gather outside the Palace of Westminster for the start of a three-day demonstration. But they were met by dozens of police officers and fencing guarding Parliament Square after Scotland Yard warned activists they were banned from camping at the landmark.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said organisers from the movement had “failed to engage” with the force and it had “an appropriate and proportionate police plan in place” for the event.

A Section 60 AA order was enforced in the area around Parliament Square which gave police powers to force people to remove masks where they anticipated criminal activity. The order will remain in place until 2pm tomorrow.

John Sinha, one of the organisers of the Occupy movement, said he believed the police blockade of Parliament Square was illegal. “I suspect they probably have no legality in enforcing it,” he said.

Protester Tom Kay, 21, from Sheffield, branded the police guard around Parliament Square “a disgrace”. He said: “Protest is legal in this country and I think we should be able to protest where we want.

“The police are unwilling to let people protest seriously.”

Author Donnachadh McCarthy, 55, said: “It’s outrageous that in Parliament Square free speech is being suppressed by Boris Johnson’s officers. “If you don’t have free speech in front of Parliament, you don’t have free speech.”

Around 100 protesters gathered shortly after 6pm and blocked a road outside Parliament during rush-hour traffic. They unveiled a banner reading “real democracy now” and chanted: “The police should be helping us.”

Long tailbacks quickly formed along Whitehall as frustrated motorists sounded their horns. There were scuffles with police as the protesters then marched around Parliament before they walked to Downing Street in Whitehall.

The protesters congregated peacefully on grassland opposite Downing Street before they returned to Parliament Square at around 9pm. They gathered near the Nelson Mandela statue and played Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials.

About 80 activists then moved outside the Supreme Court near Parliament, where about 30 people said they would stay overnight. A Scotland Yard spokesman said there had been no arrests shortly before 11pm.

Last month there were a series of clashes with police on Parliament Square as supporters of the Occupy movement stood their ground for nine days. Green Party politician Jenny Jones was among a group of arrested protesters.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, officers can forcibly remove any protesters who decide to set up camp in Parliament Square. The legislation was introduced after anti-war campaigners spent years occupying the London landmark outside Parliament.

The activists said they were coming together tonight for “genuine democracy – free from corporate influence – where our voices count”.

“Our votes, so hard won by the struggles of previous generations, have little value if politicians ignore the population they’re supposed to serve,” Occupy said on its website.

Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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