The death of Parliament Square’s longstanding Iraq war protester marks the end of a historic enterprise

Tony Benn Guardian U.K.

Brian Haw was a man of principle and a man of action who took his campaign against the Iraq war to Parliament Square opposite the House of Commons and stayed there for years, talking on his loudspeaker, and to many people throughout the world who came to see him.

His little encampment, which included his tent and many placards, became for a while the real alternative to the view expressed in parliament. Every MP on the way to work would pass Brian and know he was always there and understand what he was saying.

He felt passionately about the war and the children who would die if it took place and he was so effective that it frightened the establishment into trying to stop his campaign. The government even introduced legislation to make demonstrations in Parliament Square illegal but he disregarded it and was taken to court. The court upheld the argument that his protest had begun before the law was passed.

The police harassed him and the local authorities also tried to remove him, and he disregarded them too.

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.

He had a few friends who shared his long hours on the square and he must have done endless little broadcasts with TV crews. Film units from all over the world who were in London reporting on the likelihood of an Iraq war would also come to Parliament Square to see Brian, who they described as “the man of peace in Westminster”, and thus he presented to the world a message of reconciliation that was certainly not coming from the two backbenches at the time.

I got to know Brian by meeting him and talking to him, and hooting in my car as I drove past his camp, and was deeply touched by his sincerity and passion, which are not always so obvious in the House of Commons when questions of peace and war are discussed.

Brian sacrificed his life in his work for peace and against the Iraq war, and although he did not succeed in stopping it, what he did and said and the many hours of the day and night he devoted to it kept alive a flicker of hope in the hearts and minds of people who shared his view.

Brian did not stop the Iraq war, but he will be remembered as a man who stood against it and put his life at the disposal of those who were against that hideous operation.

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.

Guardian U.K.