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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Erect a statue of Brian Haw in Parliament Square - now!

A shock cycling past Parliament Square for the first time in ages, and noticing that there's not even a single peace flag or poster left.

Nothing at all to remind anyone that Brian Haw and other anti-war protesters camped there, summer and winter, for over a decade.

Like so much else in London in the past two years, the Square has been very thoroughly sterilised - bleached, you might say - to remove any trace of the peace camp and other protesters who made the square their own for most of a decade.

It makes me so sad that there is no longer anything there to remind the MPs and their cohorts of the terrible mistakes they made back in 2003.

In the same way I was thrilled to hear of the young man who attempted a citizens' arrest of Blair  in a Shoreditch bar last week, I feel sickened by this empty, useless space. Even a statue of Nelson Mandela, arms open wide in a gesture of friendship, is reduced to nothing here.

It seems like an insult to everyone who died and suffered as a result of that series of wars and skirmishes in Iraq and Afghanistan - and also to all those who opposed the war. I am thinking here of a friend, my dearest friend, Bridget Reiss, who gave every spare moment of her last seven years of life to the Stop the War coalition, working for the small Film-makers Against the War group.

Long after the big upsurge of public anti-war feeling in 2003, and right up until she died in January 2009, as a result ovarian cancer, Bridget was still as passionately angry about this war as she had been back in 2003. In fact, sometimes I wished she'd leave the subject, that it was too late. Now I realise why it mattered so much to her - why she would risk ridicule and rejection for always bringing us all back to the obscenity of what had happened.

So, I am not a neutral observer. But it's good that so many people have worked  to keep Brian Haw's m,emory alive - he was a true icon for the movement. It's so vital to have people like him, who overcame personal ambition, overcame embarrassment and vanity, to do such a thing, just to act as a lens to focus attention on unforgiven, unrepentant evil-doers.

A statue is necessary - someone to help Nelson Mandela and restore some balance in the square. Maybe a permanent tent. Then they could affix a blue plaque at the right moment. Or, better still, a red plaque.

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