Socialist Worker

Defend our right to protest outside parliament

Issue No. 2636

Outside parliament during the student rebellion of 2010

Outside parliament during the student rebellion of 2010 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Nazis harassing people around parliament has led to calls for more curbs on protests in the area.

The rules for protest around parliament are already very restrictive. Megaphones are banned, as are sleeping bags. Yet the tents and the vans of the corporate media are allowed.

The mayor of London has to give written permission if you want to rally at parliament. The same permission is needed to make a speech or feed the birds in the area.It is also an offence not to leave Parliament Square if you are told to by an “authorised person”.

Politicians often say they back peaceful protest—really authorised protest. In fact protests become violent usually when the state attacks them.

In the aftermath of the Iraq War the then Labour government put lots of effort in to restricting protests near parliament.

During the student rebellion of 2010 who could protest at parliament was decided by numbers of young people versus police horses. In 1989 gates were put up in Downing Street to “stop terrorists”. They didn’t—the IRA fired a mortar into the garden of Number 10 two years later.

And within months the Poll Tax Riot that brought down Margaret Thatcher went past the gates.

The left needs to reclaim the space outside parliament with mass disruptive protest.

The way to defeat the far right is to outnumber them and beat them back.


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