Parliament Square

Parliament Square (83)

Designed in 1868 to enlarge and arrange the area surrounding the Parliament, Parliament Square is today a big open space, an island of grass in the middle of the heavy traffic that comes and goes across Westminster Bridge.

If you stand in the gardened part of the centre of the square and turn a full 360 degrees, you will notice the sheer size of the buildings around you. On your panoramic tour you will see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and finally Saint Margaret’s Church. In this church, built in the 12th century and reformed two hundred years later, one of the symbols of Great Britain in the 20th century was married: Winston Churchill himself.

Churchill is also one of the statesmen immortalised in the form of a statue placed in Parliament Square. This statue, sculpted by Ivor Roberts in 1973, is arranged so that it is overlooking the parliament impassively. On the west part of the square the figure of Abraham Lincoln stands out, situated opposite the Middlesex Guildhall, a neo-Gothic building constructed between 1906 and 1913. A bronze statue was recently unveiled, work of the artist Ian Walters, that represents the historic South African leader Nelson Mandela.

In recent years, and although in spite of the British government’s wishes, another figure has come to form an intrinsic part of the square’s landscape. We are not talking about another sculpture, but the activist Brian Haw, who on the 2nd of June 2001 camped out there to protest against the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and, except when he has been arrested, has not moved from there. Since then, he has widened his criticism and firmly opposes the presence of British troops in the “war against terror” that the United States started up after the 11-S attacks.

If he has not yet packed up his camp, when you approach the square you will be able to see his display of flags and posters with pacifist slogans. And Brian Haw, wearing a hat full of badges, uses a megaphone to chant slogans against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Despite the government passing a law in 2005 that prohibits political protests within one kilometre of Parliament, the legal system has ruled in favour of Brian, who had begun his activities before this law came into force. More than 2,000 days after having set up camp, Brian Haw continues on the front line. 

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