Anti-war protesters by Big Ben vow to oppose eviction

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Anti-war protesters camped outside London's Houses of Parliament vowed Friday they would have to be dragged away from their months-long demonstration as a deadline neared for their eviction.

"They'll have to carry us off," said Chris Knight, 67, a former professor of anthropology who has been camped out under the shadow of the Big Ben clock as part of a protest against Britain's deployment to Afghanistan since May 1.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson won a High Court battle this week to evict the demonstrators, who are living in a make-shift camp comprising about 30 tents on a small patch of grass across from parliament and Westminster Abbey.

The judge said his ruling would not be enforced before Friday, although the protesters lodged several last-minute applications at the Court of Appeal.

Regardless of whether their challenge succeeded, the members of the so-called "Democracy Village", who have been living off charitable food donations, insisted they would not go quietly.

"We will offer no violent resistance, but if we have to be dragged off then we will," said James Welsh, a 50-year-old former army reservist from Glasgow who has been at the camp for the past month.

He took time out from his job as a painter and decorator to protest against an "illegal and unjust war" in Afghanistan, where about 9,500 British troops are deployed. So far 310 soldiers have died -- the latest killed on Thursday.

"I'm opposed to the government trying to impose its will on the Afghan people," the father-of-four told AFP.

Although the anti-war protest is the main focus of the peace camp, there were also banners condemning capitalism and bankers, as well as a section dedicated to climate change.

"If I had my way, we would be a bit more organised," said Knight, who helped organise the camp and was also involved in last year's G20 protests here.

But the academic, wearing blue denim jeans, a denim shirt and a brown leather waistcoat, said the key to the protest was that it was a message board for all those issues he said the government was ignoring.

"I'm not interested in making it all look harmonised like an advertising campaign. It's democracy, it's messy," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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