The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has reacted with outrage to attempts to prevent peaceful protest as Tony Blair gives evidence to the Iraq Inquiry this Friday. CND and Stop the War Coalition plan a day-long peaceful vigil outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre but have today been told they will be prevented from gathering on the grassed area outside the centre, where previous protests have taken place during the Inquiry.
Despite negotiating with the police over many days and assurances that the police were happy to facilitate a protest directly outside the centre, campaigners were told at a meeting today that all access would be denied. It has been claimed that as the QEII centre is ‘private land’ it is the centre which has the right to deny access – but this is far from the full picture. The facility is operated by a publicly-owned Government Executive Agency under the authority of the Department of Communities and Local Government.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “It is disgraceful that the right to peaceful protest is being denied so blatantly. The police have stated they have no security objections to our vigil being held outside the Inquiry. So we can only assume this is an attempt to protect Tony Blair from the overwhelming anti-war sentiment that exists in this country. It is only proper that he should see and hear those of us who have been proved right in our opposition to his war, particularly the many family-members of those he sent to die.
“It is a nonsense for the QEII centre to now define the space outside it as ‘private property’. It is owned by an Executive Agency of a government department whose Secretary of State resigned over Blair’s war. John Denham should intervene to allow our peaceful vigil to go ahead where Blair will have to take note. The vast majority of Britons are still angry he took us to war on a lie – he must not be allowed to ignore the public yet again.”