London mayor under fire for gag on peaceful Occupy demos
BORIS JOHNSON was accused yesterday of wasting nearly £250,000 attempting to silence peaceful protests at Parliament Square last year.
Information provided by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Metropolitan Police shows that the London mayor spent almost a quarter of a million pounds during last October’s Occupy Democracy demonstrations.
An additional £3,000 was spent erecting the now infamous fence surrounding the square.
“Boris Johnson spared no expense on shamefully imprisoning the statue of Nelson Mandela inside fences on Parliament Square and denying London’s peaceful pro-democracy protesters basic civil liberties,” said Occupy Democracy supporter and former Lib Dem deputy chair Donnachadh McCarthy.
“Farcical arrests included those for having a placard, playing a guitar, lying on a pizza box and possession of a folded ground-sheet.”
The figures released through freedom of information requests show that police were deployed for over 17,000 labour hours.
Occupy Democracy staged weekend occupations of the square, hosting day schools and debates.
Forty-four people were arrested throughout the events.
Mr McCarthy, who was arrested three times, said that the use of taxpayers’ money to police a demonstration was “a chilling example of how a Johnson/Murdoch premiership would destroy our remaining basic democratic human rights.”
He added: “If we do not have free speech in front of our Parliament, we do not have free speech.”
According to the records provided, the GLA also employed its own security group Heritage Wardens to patrol the area at a cost of £16,000.
At a House of Lords debate last year Criminal Information Minister Lord Bates failed to answer questions around costs of police operations at Parliament Square.
At the same debate, Green Party London Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones — herself arrested during an Occupy Democracy protest — called the heavy-handed police response “a terrible waste of time, energy and resources.”
Occupy Democracy will return to Parliament Square later this month and has vowed to keep its weekend occupations going until the general election in May.
The group stated that it hoped to “highlight the corruption of our democracy by the interests of the banks, corporations and super-rich — and to build a mass movement to reclaim democracy so that it works for the 99 per cent.”
The next occupation will be staged on the weekend of January 24, when Occupy Democracy supporters will join anti-nuclear protesters wrapping Parliament and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a seven-mile-long knitted scarf.
The GLA had failed to respond to requests for comment as the Star went to press.