Protestors have been given permission for a judicial review into Boris Johnson’s decision to fence off Parliament Square and block access to demonstrators.
Last October the square was taken over by campaigners from Occupy Democracy for what was expected to be a 10-day protest.
Half-way through the protest Greater London Authority contractors erected metal fences which City Hall said were needed to facilitate repairs to the square’s grass. The fencing restricted the space available to protestors and was “quickly” extended to cover the whole square.
Liberty, which is representing Occupy Democracy in its court action, says there was “distinct lack of evidence of maintenance or repair work taking place on the Gardens – instead there was a constant presence of police officers and dogs, with little regard for the Square’s flora.”
Fences were also erected in November and December when Occupy Democracy attempted to hold further demonstrations and the groups claim the Mayor “has refused to agree that the fencing will not be reconstructed to prevent future protests.”
Speaking in December, Mr Johnson said: “The central grass area of the Square was originally closed off to the public for ground maintenance works in October along with a further area to facilitate preparatory ground works for the new statue of Gandhi.
“This closure was initially indicated by low level rope and posts supported by signage. Unfortunately, a number of people chose to ignore the closure and attempted to occupy the grass, which is contrary to the legislation that applies to the Square.
“Due to repeated attempts by some people to occupy the Square and a monument, the low level rope and post was replaced on 21st October by higher level fencing.”
In 2010 the High Court backed the Mayor and ordered protestors occupying a so-called ‘Democracy Village’ on the square to vacate it or be evicted.
The court has now now said a judicial review into the latest closures can go-ahead.
Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said: “The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”
George Barda, Occupy Democracy campaigner and Liberty’s client, said: “We’re very pleased to see the first step has been taken towards a potentially just outcome.
“The Court’s decision reflects the importance of the threat to democracy and human rights constituted by Boris Johnson’s chilling and repressive actions towards peaceful pro-democracy campaigners.”