HAW-GING THE SIDEWALK: Parliament Squares’ Heart Gallery

4 Jan

Brian Haw, Parliament Square’s infamous sidewalk squatter, must be a fan of the movie, ‘Field of Dreams’ remembered for its line ‘Build it and they will come.’ No ball park but an isolated protest opposite Houses of Parliament, they are coming. In the past few days, despite horrific heat, Haw’s home opposite House of Parliament has grown by three, maybe more.

Hunger striking seem de-rigeur of people joining Haw’s community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Haw introduces Chris. Surname ‘Anonymous,’ Fred aka Chris, hit by a nurse driving under the influence, 25 miles an hour, near Warwick. Thrown 20 feet into air, landing headfirst on the hood of a car driving in the opposite direction, he was left paraplegic from the hit and run. The nurse left him lying there. She was not charged, fined a nominal amount. Chris, sentenced for life in his wheelchair prison, received a 6000 pound settlement. Only. ‘I want justice.’ He wont say what justice he wants. He wont talk about his wife, about his kids. He doesn’t say much. Chris looks wistfully at my digital camera. He looks at his left hand barely moving. He used to take pictures. He used to go to the gym every day. He has no life now. But he has Haw. Haw watches out for him, adjusting straps holding him upright in the wheelchair. Chris began his hunger strike days earlier. “Just water’ he says. Chris struggles with words. Born across the river at St Thomas hospital, his message is clear ‘I was born there. I will die here.’ Days end, temperatures rise higher.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Tsirulin Alexander, South corner of Haw’s Estate, is hunger striking too. Protesting beneath an open British Airways umbrella, blocking the sun, Alexander says little. Haw sets next to him. ‘He doesn’t speak English.’ ‘Speak slowly.’ Alexander’s stark signs contrast Haw’s colored UN Heart Gallery. Black scrawl fading off white poster board, Haw talking about defending children of the world, the  Iraq war and Alexander’s war. Alexander lived two years in Manchester before moving to Parliament Square. Before that, 9 years in Hadera Israel; before that, Cheruigov, Russia. His children are in Russia. He doesn’t want to go back to ‘Fashist’ Israel. His ex wife is there. No food. No water. He sits waiting to appear at Heathrow’s Home Office. Chin resting on hand, it is hot.

And getting hotter. Politically.

Father of  7 children, 54 year old Haw left Worcestershire in 2001, beginning his night and day Peace Vigil, after the death, he says, of his 8th child. Haw’s living canvas decorated with placed children’s toys and clothes, changes with each new donation. Explaining the significance of each toy, clothing, picture placed into his art performance. Visitors tour slowly. “Men from Turkey, bring me words to add to my protest.” Just like Templeton the Rat brought Charlotte the Spider words to save the life of the piglet in the storybook Charlotte’s Web. His ‘eyesore scruffy banners’ are ‘art others receive grants and subsidy from the Lottery and other controversial Memorial Funds.’ Contributions mean more to him, than food and water.

Politicians feel it is time for savvy Haw, careful not to break laws which could be used against him, to move along. Some are designing landmark legislation outlawing permanent protest outside Parliament. The unemployed carpenter, supported by civil rights campaigner Liberty’s Barry Hurgill, enjoying his three year long 15 minutes of fame, is ready to go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights” defending Britons right to freedom of speech. Conservative MP, Sir Michael Cummins, feels Haw-ging the sidewalk denies others their right to protest there.

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