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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006
    The death of freedom
     
    Few tell the truth like John Pilger. Like he has again in this week's New Statesman. It's given me the meat for Sunday's sermon, I think, based on Revelation 5, the bitter tears of those who find no one to open the book of truth, the book of life......

    On Christmas Eve, I dropped in on Brian Haw, whose hunched, pacing figure was just visible through the freezing fog. For four and a half years, Brian has camped in Parliament Square with a graphic display of photographs that show the terror and suffering imposed on Iraqi children by British policies. The effectiveness of his action was demonstrated last April when the Blair government banned any expression of opposition within a kilometre of parliament. The high court subsequently ruled that, because his presence preceded the ban, Brian was an exception.

    Day after day, night after night, season upon season, he remains a beacon, illuminating the great crime of Iraq and the cowardice of the House of Commons. As we talked, two women brought him a Christmas meal and mulled wine. They thanked him, shook his hand and hurried on. He had never seen them before. 'That's typical of the public,' he said. A man in a pinstriped suit and tie emerged from the fog, carrying a small wreath. 'I intend to place this at the Cenotaph and read out the names of the dead in Iraq,' he said to Brian, who cautioned him: 'You'll spend the night in the cells, mate.' We watched him stride off and lay his wreath. His head bowed, he appeared to be whispering. Thirty years ago, I watched dissidents do something similar outside the walls of the Kremlin.

    As the night had covered him, he was lucky. On 7 December, Maya Evans, a vegan chef aged 25, was convicted of breaching the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act by reading aloud at the Cenotaph the names of 97 British soldiers killed in Iraq. So serious was her crime that it required 14 policemen in two vans to arrest her. She was fined and given a criminal record for the rest of her life.

    Freedom is dying.