Early morning June 18, lung cancer claimed 62 year old UK anti-war activist Haw after a long battle, a man London Independent contributor Mark Wallinger called “the conscience of the nation grown quiescent.”
His family left a message, saying: “He left us in his sleep and in no pain, after a long, hard fight,” ending three months of treatment in Germany. His long vigil, in fact, contributed to his poor heath. It also led to a divorce and largely separated him from his seven children.
After others stopped protesting America’s Afghan and Iraq wars, Brian was steadfast against his own government’s complicity. In fact, from June 2001, months before 9/11, he camped out in London’s Parliament Square against the UN’s appalling economic sanctions. They got former UN representative for Iraq’s Oil and Food program Denis Halliday to resign for being asked to commit the equivalent of genocide, killing 5,000 children monthly.
Haw, in fact, documented horrific Gulf War depleted uranium birth defects, repeated lies and evasions of US and UK leaders, and imperial lawlessness waging unconscionable wars. Resolutely he remained tenacious against injustice, championing peace and love.
See here an Interview where Brian Haw talks about peace:
On his own, his decade-long presence pressured his government relentlessly. In return, authorities hounded, arrested, and assaulted him. In 2002, the Westminster City Council petitioned Britain’s High Court for an injunction to remove him, claiming he blocked the pavement. The Court, however, declined, ruling his presence wasn’t unreasonable.
In 2003, the House of Commons Procedure Committee recommended a law change, prohibiting unlicensed protests on security grounds. He never left.
In 2005, after Tony Blair called him a nuisance to get rid of, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) passed, legislation enacted against him, making it illegal to protest within a one km radius of Parliament without police permission.
Nonetheless, he successfully argued that his vigil predated parliamentary terrorism, winning the right to continue protesting against Britain’s lawless participation in Washington’s imperial wars.
Preaching “Love….peace….justice….for all,” he camped out night and day every day, in good and bad weather, in spite of everything authorities tried to harass, deter, and banish him.
Using a megaphone, banners, placards, homemade signs, peace flags, photos, and slogans, his message resonated in Westminster and worldwide, a testimony to his heroic spirit, dogged presence against war, and refusal to quit until illness forced him.
Wallinger called him “a unique and remarkable man,” citing his “tenacity, integrity and dignity,” then asking: “What are we going to do now there is no (Brian) there?”
A lead Independent article called him a “Rebel with a cause….(a) one-man peace camp….a mighty irritant slap in front of the seat of national government,” challenging the illegal war-making of three prime ministers.
He survived numerous arrests, dozens of eviction attempts, and the mayor of London’s failed effort to clear his pavement space for Britain’s royal wedding. His resilience made him a hero for many.
In 2007, Channel 4’s Political Awards voted him the Most Politically Inspiring Figure of the Year. By then, in fact, he was internationally recognized. In Britain, tour guides included him on their itineraries, and documentaries and docudramas on Britain’s involvement in America’s wars featured him.
On June 19, a message from supporters on his web site said:
“Brian showed great determination and courage during the many long hard years he led his peace campaign. (He) showed the same courage and determination is his battle with cancer. He was keenly aware of and deeply concerned that so many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine did not have access to the same treatments that were made available to him.”
On June 2, 2001, police asked him how long he’d be there. He replied, “As long as it takes.” He kept his word until his deteriorating health demanded treatment in Germany.
He’s survived by his wife former Kay, seven children, and legions of global admirers, perhaps inspired enough by his courage to pursue peace in his absence.
A Final Comment
On June 20, anti-war activist former UK MP Tony Benn headlined a London Guardian op-ed, “Brian Haw gave his life for peace,” saying:
He stood for principle against lawless wars. “Every MP on the way to work would pass Brian and know he was always there and underst(ood) what he was saying.”
His activism “frightened the establishment” enough to try stopping him legislatively, mindless of his dogged determination to resist.
“The remarkable thing about Brian was not only his principle, but his determination, alone, to be effective as indeed he was; for millions of people must have seen him there or on television, and came to know of his campaign.”
Some called him “the man of peace in Westminster,” a different message from warmongering MPs, Benn never one of them.
“Brian did not stop the Iraq war” or others, “but he will be remembered as a man who stood” for peace and gave his life championing it.
“He will be sadly missed and his death marks the end of a historic enterprise by a man who gave everything to support his beliefs” – honorable ones against Washington and UK war criminals, reigning terror and destruction he valiantly tried to stop.