London back in December 2009 was an exciting moment for me because it has been quite some time since the last time I was there. Actually, the last time I was there, I had no memory of it at all. I was a little child. Hence, London the second time was as exciting as the first time, seeing the Big Ben, the Parliament building, the London and Tower Bridge and all. But amongst these classic medieval buildings, lush and proper, were something of peculiar. A sight to most people is ugly and out of place. Here right in front of the Parliament building, stood erected worn out tents along with worn out posters in the background, stuck on rusty metal cages. It looked like a squatter ground to me. It is definitely out of place, and is definitely a curious sight. However, I couldn’t entertain my curiosity for long since I have a lot to see. I dismissed it as a rather typical rally, and just moved on
Then I was in London again near the end of 2010, and, to my surprise, the exact same squatter ground is still there. But I was passing by the Parliament Square in a taxi, so again, I could not satisfy my curiosity. This is not just a rally, I thought. From the inside of the taxi, I read out the words from the posters. Luckily the traffic was congested, enabling me to read (but not so lucky enough because me and my friend missed our bus to Cardiff and burnt our tickets). But at least I managed to observe the posters. They were all about anti-war: ‘Stop invasion in Iraq’, ‘Stop killing our kids’, ‘Tony B-liar’ and many more interesting posters. Among these tent and poster, were a man, looking like a squatter himself, untidy, unkempt and giving an impression of a madman, sitting on a chair, loudhailer on his hand, preaching something. I couldn’t make out what he was saying from the inside of the taxi I am in, but from his ferocious expression, I could tell it is something he is so passionate to talk about.
Last week I was in London again, and I was not too surprised to see the squatter ground again. All I could wonder was ‘Why didn’t these powerful people in this Parliament building in front remove these unsightly squatter ground?’ If it were in my country, I guess all this rally would be gone within hours thanks to FRUs, tear gases and water pressures. However, there was something missing on that ground that day. No longer there was the man on the fold up chair with his loudhailer. Perhaps he went to do things people do daily, you know, meet up with friends, buy some stuff, get something to eat. However, having spent a week in these British hospitals, it suddenly crossed my mind that he might be sick, lying somewhere inside a hospital
Today, as I was flipping through the newspaper, looking for new stories about the National Health Service plans, I found a story which satisfies my curiosity I have been having for years, but somehow saddens me at the same time. The man with the loudhailer on the fold-up chair in Parliament square has just died. Judging from his unkempt, unwashed look, I never thought he was such an important figure of free speech here in Britain, but now his death is all over the news, and I finally get to know his name: Brian Haw.
I learned that Brian Haw has been living inside the tents at the Parliament Square since 2001. It has been a decade, and he never moved. Every single day he preached to the passers-by about the damage of war, about how the invasion of Iraq killed thousands of innocents, how Tony Blair (or Tony B-liar, as he called the ex-Prime Minister) is killing their own children by sending them to war. His preaching involves topic about different issues in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya and other countries but all of them has the same theme: Say no to war. Most of the issues he’s passionate about are about Muslim counties, and he is an evangelical Christian. He has a hat full of badges that he proudly wears every day. One of the big ones read: Keep my Muslim neighbours safe. He does preach to passers-by about living a more Christian lives, but his message of peace resounds to all and are hard not to be accepted by people of all beliefs. I believe that is what religions is all about: Peace, and Mr Haw really lives it by going against war. But now he died at the age of 62, and judging from the news, Britain has lost its key figure in free-speech.
It is amazing to me how he stayed and survived in that tent for a decade, but I believe when you are fighting for a cause that you are really passionate about, you will have this mysterious, super-human like strength to go on. I admire his noble cause, sacrificing a pleasant life to fight for people he didn’t even know, people who has different beliefs, and people who he has nothing to benefit from. I admire his ability to look differences, beyond nationality, race or religions, and fight injustice no matter towards whom. How many of us who has the same belief as the victims of war, but are ignorant about it? It is a shame that someone who has nothing to do are better at protecting the rights of war victims.
The more Mr Haw shouted through his loudhailer, the more the politicians in the Parliament building in front wanted to move him away. But they never did, even after a decade. That interests me. Parliament square is a historic place, a public place for tourists, and Mr. Haw being there created a lot of noise through his loudhailer. A nuisance, to many. But there he stood for years. I wonder if he has some connections, or the government here are open to free-speakers. I could imagine what would have happen if someone made a camp in front of the Parliament building in my country. It would be moved away in minutes using every methods available to the FRUs. Tear gasses, water pressures, etc. Much about corruption in the government Mr Haw has revealed, but the government let him be.
Most government in this world are corrupt, but not many governments are brave enough to let people talk about that corruption. Just a thought to take home. Peace