Protest camp at British parliament loses eviction battle

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Peace protestors camping in front of the British Parliament lost their appeal against eviction on Friday after the city's mayor took legal action to have them removed.

The Court of Appeal upheld an eviction order against the group who had set up the makeshift camp known as Democracy Village on public land in Parliament Square on May 1.

The activists, who are protesting against the war in Afghanistan and a range of other issues, argued that London mayor Boris Johnson did not have the authority to force them off the site.

But in his ruling, David Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls and the second most senior judge in England and Wales, said that while the Crown owned the title to the land, the Mayor of London had been given power to act over the square.

"They have been allowed to express their views and assemble together at the location of their choice, Parliament Square Gardens, for over two months on an effectively exclusive basis," Neuberger said.

He added the decision would not prevent the protestors from "mounting an orthodox demonstration" at the same site in the future.

The protest group can now appeal the ruling in Britain's Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Johnson said the mayor respected the right to demonstrate but the protest had caused "considerable damage" to the square.

He also said the presence of the protest camp had "prevented (the square's) peaceful use by other Londoners, including those who may have wished to conduct an authorised protest".

"We would urge the protesters to respect the rulings of both courts and now leave the site peacefully," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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