Before the death of Brian Haw is entirely forgotten, and with it the man and his campaign, we would do well to include in our brief respectful acknowledgment of the merits of his cause and the courage of his methods a moment of regret, not just for the manner in which we sometimes handled him too roughly but also for the manner in which we generally treated him so well. It is said that a man can be killed by kindness; certainly, a man’s protest can be silenced by tolerance.
On 16 January 2007, The Guardian reported Tony Blair as saying: “When I pass protestors every day at
One moment during Haw’s decade-long campaign crystallized this oppression-by-tolerance of our political system: the moment in 2007, when Mark Wallinger won the Turner Prize for an artwork comprised of a faithful reconstruction of Haw’s
While Brian Haw must be honoured for his commitment to resisting the wrong-headed and immoral foreign policy of Britain, he must also be honoured for unintentionally showing up its very objectionable domestic policy; that moment when his protest against the state of Britain was transformed into an artwork called State Britain revealed something startling about the conditions of our time and place: the fact that protest against our liberal democratic government is not actually – at least not straightforwardly – possible, given that any protest, whatever its content, unwittingly lends support to the apparent liberality of the polity that non only permits it to happen but “thanks God” that it can. And that’s what we call freedom.