Campaigner keeps up anti-war protest even after police take away her tent

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An anti-war campaigner vowed to brave the cold to continue her protest outside the Houses of Parliament despite police removing her tent and sleeping bag.

Maria Gallastegui, 53, pledged to remain in Parliament Square after the High Court lifted an injunction, leaving Westminster Council free to clear her camp.

Her tent was the last remaining of the anti-war demonstration in the heart of the capital.

On Thursday night she slept on a board under tarpaulin and a borrowed sleeping bag before police came to remove it at 3am.

“The police came and told me to stop using the sleeping bag, saying they would summons me,” Ms Gallastegui said.

“I had to surrender it but I had binbags to wrap round my body. I couldn’t sleep though because it was freezing, so at 6am I had to get up and have a hot drink.

“I am determined to do it again tonight and carry on as normal, but I will get a cheap sleeping bag because I know they will take it when they come back. I would like them to arrest me so I can go to a cell and be warm.”

The protester said she was determined to go to the Court of Appeal and then on to Strasbourg – the European Court of Human Rights – in her attempt to continue her demonstration.

Ms Gallastegui has been conducting a 24-hour vigil on the east pavement of Parliament Square since 2006. She had obtained an injunction against the council preventing it from enforcing new bylaws that would allow the removal of tents and sleeping equipment from the road and pavement around the square.

The injunction was lifted by the High Court on Thursday.

Many people have regarded protest tents in the square as an eyesore before the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics.

After the court ruling, Ms Gallastegui co-operated with police officers as they moved her tent into a removal vehicle, even helping them to lift it.

Lifting the injunction preventing the removal of Ms Gallastegui’s tent on Thursday, High Court judge Sir John Thomas said the new bylaws were not interfering with Ms Gallastegui’s democratic right of protest – a right the courts “jealously guard”.

He said: “The right to protest is not affected save to a very, very limited extent that the claimant cannot have a tent or other similar facility in Parliament Square.”

Ms Gallastegui said the large box which was the focal point of her site would be auctioned to raise money for an orphanage in Iraq.