Parliament Square's iconic blue "Peace Box" removed by police - London, UK 03.05.2012
Following a recent High Court ruling that the injunction preventing the removal of the final protester's tent on Parliament Square could be lifted immediately, police and officials from Westminster council arrived with a lorry to clear away the large blue wooden "Peace Box" built by peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui - founder of peacestrike.org - who has been living in a tent on the pavement next to the box which was also used for storing protest materials and making cups of tea, and has held a continual protest on Parliament Square since 2006, much to the dismay and fury of a huge number of supposedly peace-loving MPs and Westminster Council.
Resignedly co-operating fully with the police, a philosophical Ms Gallastegui said that "The box is not the issue. My tent is not the issue. The issue is the ability for people to maintain sustained political protest in Parliament Square, and the critical need to protest against illegal wars waged against foreign countries to serve the predatory needs of the oil companies. Obviously I am very sad that the box has to go, but my protest does not stop because of it. It will continue in a different form." She also explained that she is going directly to the Court of Appeal to apply for another injunction against Westminster Council, and if that is not successful she will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
High Court judge Sir John Thomas, whilst ruling that Westminster Council's by-laws prohibiting protesters from setting up tents or other "sleeping equipment" were legal, added that if Ms. Gallastegui's appeal is successful she would be allowed to place her tent back on the square, however; Justice Thomas refused her grounds for appeal in his court, paving the way for the eviction. Ms. Gallastegui has to take her appeal to the Appeals Court, and if she is unsuccessful she intends to take the matter to the European Courts.
In addition, the court order required that the Peace Box be removed "fully intact", so great care had to be taken by the police in removing it, which caused some wry smiles from the police officer who arrived with a sledge-hammer and a large fire-fighter's crowbar!
An earlier version of the iconic box - christened 'The Peace Plinth' and decorated with collaboration from 'Art Below' with three large white relief panels of an American soldier in battle uniform overlaid with blood-spattered lines from a latin poem by the Roman poet Horace "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" which translates as "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country" (also quoted in Wilfred Owen's most famous World War I anti-war poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est') is currently on display in Los Angeles as part of 'The Brit Week T4C (Thanks for Caring)', and the current Parliament Square box is to be auctioned to raise money for an orphanage in Iraq for children orphaned by Western military aggression in the country.
Confusion ensued soon after the arrival of a panel truck when the attending Westminster Council officials and police realised that the vehicle was far too small to contain the box itself, so everyone had to wait until a vehicle-clampers' flatbed lorry with a car hoist was commissioned.
Half way through the eviction there was an astonishing verbal attack on Ms. Gallastegui by activists from the late Brian Haw's protest - sited further along the pavement and still fighting eviction - who accused her of some kind of treachery and insincerity because she wasn't verbally or physically fighting the police. Claiming some kind of ethical and moral superiority as the longest-established protest group on Parliament Square (having been there since 2001) and clutching several pro-Palestinian placards, the Haw camp activists, instead of showing as much as a single shred of support or solidarity with their fellow-protester, continued their criticism of Ms. Gallastegui and also accused her of somehow being a police stooge and collaborator before being moved on by a chief inspector.
Ten minutes later, as the blue box was being moved out onto the pavement prior to being lifted onto the back of a flat-bed lorry, one of the Haw camp activists - notorious for his aggression and relentless paranoia towards all journalists, photojournalists and, in fact, any other protesters and activists who have had any presence on Parliament square which they aggressively consider to be their turf - reappeared with a small sign saying "Police camp" and, suddenly cured of his pathological dislike of being photographed by anyone other than passing tourists or personal friends, overtly tried to insert himself into photos of the eviction process being taken by the assembled photojournalists to reinforce his accusation of Ms. Gallastegui and her supporters of being police agents.
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