Legal Challenges

The Unending Saga of Haw vs. The Political Establishment

There’s something about setting up not only a series of signs, but also essentially a residence, in Parliament Square, that doesn’t sit well with British officials. Haw was frequently the target of legal action, beginning in 2002 and occurring for the last time with his arrest in 2010. Between these bookends, though Haw endured what might be his lasting legal legacy: A case designed to remove him, tear down his placards, and erase the protest entirely.

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It was in 2006 that policy and political officials began working to develop a series of required permits and regulations governing protests in Parliament Square and elsewhere. Haw argued that these laws, approved after his arrival in the public space, were not applicable to his situation. Most legal authorities agreed. Even so, his signs were eventually removed by police at a cost of several thousand pounds. It was one of the most controversial and most despised moves taken against Haw at any point during his protest.

The Exhibit: “State Britain” Celebrates and Showcases Haw’s Protest

Many museums wait until after a major event has concluded to document its impact and showcase the artefacts left over, but that wasn’t the case with Tate Britain. The Tate turned its art focus to political activism, recreating the display of Haw’s original signs as confiscated during the 2006 confrontation with local officials and police. The recreated protest spanned the entire length of the Duveen Gallery and was one of the most talked-about exhibits put on by the museum that year.

Further Pop Culture Appreciation: Haw Goes Mainstream

The British pop group XX Teens released a song, “For Brian Haw,” during the later years of his protest. In 2009, a theatre production based on Haw’s persistent protest in favour of peace was created and was performed for the first time. A second adaptation of Haw’s protest was created for the stage later in 2009, and both plays remain remarkable accounts of Haw’s beliefs and impacts.

Overall, the most remarkable moments during Haw’s protest involved the intersection of popular culture, legal footwork, and a terse fight against legal actions designed to limit speech. It was, and will remain, a remarkable and resilient effort.