Boris Johnson's battle to clear “peace camp” protesters from Parliament Square has won overwhelming backing from Londoners, an exclusive poll reveals today.
By a margin of more than three to one, the public agrees with the Mayor that the freedom to protest should be curbed to prevent the historic square being turned into an eyesore, pollsters YouGov found.
The findings came as Mr Johnson and the Greater London Authority are embroiled in a costly legal battle to remove the Democracy Village, a motley collection of tents, teepees, placards, a windmill and even a boat.
The protesters today issued a plea to be treated seriously despite media reports of unruly behaviour. Admitting to mistakes, they said in a statement: “Democracy Village has been an experiment in peaceful protest. We've achieved a huge amount. We've also made mistakes. The media has portrayed us as drunks, drug addicts, fighters and layabouts.”
The statement argued that by highlighting victims of the war in Afghanistan, the camp was doing “our duty to resist injustice”.
However, YouGov researchers found the public think Parliament Square should be protected from being taken over. Only 22 per cent felt that there should be no restrictions on the freedom of protest outside Parliament and that “people should be free to set up camp there and protest as they wish”.
Seventy-two per cent agreed with the statement that while free protest was important “there also needs to be limits preventing long-term encampments taking over the square and becoming a nuisance”.A recent Poll in The Guardian returned the exact opposite result: 26% said go and 74% said stay.
YouGov found that young Londoners are four times more likely to back the peace camp than the old. Opposition to curbs peaked at 32 per cent among 18-to-24-year-olds and declined steadily as people got older, hitting eight per cent for the over-55s. They also found women were more likely to back the camp than men.
The most famous resident of Parliament Square is Brian Haw, whose anti-war protest began nine years ago. His right to camp has been backed by the courts but since May the square has been filled by an ever-growing collection of campaigners and dropouts. An eviction order has been delayed to allow for some protesters to make their case to the Court of Appeal.
With the prospect of a new ruling within days, more have squeezed onto the site and made clear they will put up resistance. YouGov interviewed 1,012 people online from July 7-9 as part of their London Omnibus.
@James Miller, Greenwich
Wow! I don't know what your politics are for sure, but that gambit was straight out of the socialist activist playbook. I'm going to take a wild guess here and assume that you are either one of the squatters, or you are at the very least an active supporter of these career protesters. Sorry if it offends, but I am not fired up with passion for or against the flavour of the month sit-in. Right or wrong, whatever the case with the war in Afghanistan - I merely feel contempt for those gesture warriors and the gathering foaming in the mouth mob that will confront the authorities when they clear the site.
These people obviously see no conflict in attempting to use the law to defy eviction, but stand ready to resist the law if and when it rules against them.
Yep - I have the same contempt for them as they all too clearly have of the rest of society in general.
Rogan, Irving 15/07/2010 00:16
The GLA which has an impending fine of £300 million from the EU for its failure to observe the law upon the pollution of London air; has today complained, to the Evening Standard, the Democracy Village is responsible for unsanitary conditions in Parliament Square which is a potential health hazard. Quite frankly, I'd prefer the compost toilets of the Democracy Village to the 5000 deaths per year as a consequence of pollution in London which breaches the WHO and EU's health and safety limits and which contributes to expenses of £2 billion per year for premature deaths in London. Now that's a health hazard.
Eve, London 14/07/2010 20:31
Good to know peace campers are doing this for soldiers so send army in with open trucks to pick them up and then dump them in Connaught Square W1 in the road just outside the Blairs house .
No need for porta loos as sure Cheerie will invite them in to use their toilets .
john, london 14/07/2010 17:15
'YouGov found that young Londoners are four times more likely to back the peace camp than the old'. That's what I like about the 'youngsters' quite happy to wallow in the crap and excrement' generated by the uneducated masses who protest about anything rather than work. Some poor unfortunate individuals will eventually have to clean this lot up and guess what they will probabably not be young!!!
nick holland, glasgow 14/07/2010 16:24
@ST - agree about water cannon, except that I'd mix some detergergent in with it to give the dirty soap-dodgers a decent wash.
Harry, London N12 14/07/2010 16:10
Now that anyone can call themselves a "protester" in order to squat, crap and destroy anyone else's land and property, I think we should be told where the judges responsible for this fiasco live. I would like to squat in their gardens and pee in their flower beds in the course of protesting against their boneheaded judgements.
Maggie, London, UK 14/07/2010 14:49
I'd be happy to man a water cannon if needed.
ST, London 14/07/2010 14:41
@mickinlondon, For someone that thinks the only reason Ken wasnt re-elected was because he joined the labour party it doesnt suprise me you dont agree with the poll. Only see what you want to see comes to mind.
Do you not think the majority of londoners want these gypsys moved?
Dal, Bromley 14/07/2010 14:34
@mickinlondon, london, I must be lucky I have been polled numerous times. During the election, since the election. Over the years I have been polled at least forty times.
I have no idea if Im on as list but I do get polled.
Patrick Mc Crossan, OPINION LAMBETH LONDON 14/07/2010 14:23
There was no poll. The figures are taken from the posts on this website to every article about the scummy low life defacing Parliament Square.
Never muind waiting for some lefty convened Court of Appeal tribunal, find a bye law and get rid of them tonight.
That's my politically neutral opinion
BJ, East London 14/07/2010 13:53
'..by highlighting victims of the war in Afghanistan, the camp was doing “our duty to resist injustice”..'
Er, 'scuse me?? The citizens of Wootton Bassett do an infinitely better job of bringing the nastiness of this revolting little war into the public consciousness (with a great deal of dignity and respect) than these 'campaigners' in Parliament Square could ever do in a month of Sundays...
Charles Baxter, Sutton, Surrey, UK 14/07/2010 13:36
Don't these people have jobs to go to?
Volpone, Stoke Newington, London 14/07/2010 13:29
Nobody asked me for my opinion, like all polls, who has ever met anyone that was ever on those polls?
mickinlondon, london 14/07/2010 13:26
It is not just the protestors that Westminter CC/government don't want on the square, it is everybody. That is why you will not find one safe pedestrian crossing onto it. If you wish to cross onto the square/island you must do so at your own peril. Don't be falled by Westminster council vowing to hand it back to the people, it has never been in the hands of the people!
James Miller, Greenwich 14/07/2010 13:26