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CND Parliament Square vigil: police back down

Attempts by the police to halt a London CND anti-Trident vigil in Parliament Square on the first Tuesday of each month have been overturned.

The vigil, authorised by the police under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA), started in May, when the anti-war Democracy Village was already camped in the square. The village was evicted by the greater London authority (GLA) on 20 July, and a high fence erected around the square apart from an enclave for Brian Haw’s round-the-clock anti-war vigil.

Though we had applied for authorisation for the Tuesday vigils up to December 2010, the police phoned Jim Brann, the initiator of the vigil in August to say that we could no longer hold the vigil because of “the situation following the eviction.”

However, under SOCPA the police do not have the right to refuse authorisation for demonstrations. Section 134 baldly states that “The Commissioner [of the police] must give authorisation for the demonstration to which the notice [validly requesting authorisation] relates” before going on to list “conditions” the police can impose.

Furthermore, the GLA gave in court as a reason for allowing the eviction of the Democracy Village that its presence prevented others from demonstrating.

Mr justice Griffith Williams ruled that the eviction was necessary “for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others to… demonstrate with authorisation.”

So, as Jim wrote to the mayor of London, “your action to ‘protect the rights of other protestors’ has had the exact opposite result.” He wrote to Westminster Council legal department in the same vein.

The September vigil passed off without police intervention and on 16 September the police phoned Jim to say they would authorise future monthly Tuesday vigils.

David Polden is the London CND worker as well as the Peace News news editor.