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The Life of Brian

As elections approach, Britain’s most visible activist maintains his stubborn vigil.


Brian Haw maintains his vigil outside the British Parliament in London. (Photo by: Chris Young/AFP/Getty Images)

Haw has been the target of many attempts to suppress a critical voice. Council chiefs, the police and the government have all tried and failed to evict him from this prime piece of real estate.

LONDON—Britain will hold a general election on May 6, but one of the country’s most admired political figures will not be on a ballot. Instead, he’ll be sleeping under a tarpaulin on a grassy traffic island in London, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, and living solely on handouts from the public.
This has been Brian Haw’s home—and headquarters—for nearly nine years. Haw began a peace campaign in June 2001 as a protest against Britain’s support for the United Nations sanctions in Iraq. He persists because of his contempt for his country’s foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A father of seven children and an evangelical Christian, Haw believes that he must do everything in his power to “try to save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my government’s unjust, amoral, money-driven policies.
“My neighbor’s kids are as precious as mine,” says the former carpenter, merchant navy deckhand and world-traveling independent missionary. The nearby Houses of Parliament have an air of exclusivity, elitism and isolation, and the massive statues of historical figures in Parliament Square lend the scene an air of solemnity.
In contrast, photos of war victims, hand-lettered signs and colorful flags that promote peace dominate his makeshift headquarters.

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