Peace protesters camping outside the Houses of Parliament today claimed they had a legal right to be there and MPs were “confusing” themselves with promises to remove the camp.
The demonstration, which moved to the pavement after protesters were evicted from Parliament Square in July, has seen about 20 tents erected next to veteran activist Brian Haw.
Commons Leader Sir George Young yesterday described the camp as “wholly unacceptable”, in response to comments by Tory MP David Tredinnick, who said the situation was worse than it had been in the summer.
Sir George said: “It's not what one should see in the centre of a historic capital city, and we are going to consider legislation in the forthcoming Home Office Bill to put the situation right.”
But protester Maria Gallastegui, 51, today warned that any attempt to pass new laws to make the peace camp illegal would be “unworkable”.
Ms Gallastegui said she had successfully applied for the right to protest under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.
“They [MPs] brought in SOCPA themselves to try to put legitimate people off protesting by intimidating them by making them give all their details, but I've been prepared to do that and this protest is bona fide — it's authorised,” she said.
“It's extraordinary. These MPs have no idea what is going on. There is no loophole — there are procedures to go through which we have done and it's all authorised.”
Mark Barrett, 37, who was one of the founders of the “Democracy Village” which occupied Parliament Square for two months, said any moves to make protesting in the area illegal would meet fierce opposition.
“The right to freedom and assembly is too important to worry about the aesthetics of what it looks like. They have this idea of it being unsightly, but we can't make everything look like a shopping mall.”
He said people would be prepared to go to prison to defend the right to free expression.