LONDON — To some, he was a crackpot, an eyesore camped out on prime London real estate. To others he was an inspiration, tirelessly fighting for civil rights.
Brian Haw, a veteran British peace activist best known for staging around-the-clock protests outside London’s Parliament continuously for 10 years, has died at age 62.
Haw died Saturday in Germany where he was receiving treatment for lung cancer, his family said Sunday.
Haw set up camp opposite the Houses of Parliament in June 2001 to protest U.S. and British bombing raids on Iraq. His protest soon widened in scope in the following years, with the invasion of Afghanistan.
Over the years, British officials tried — but failed — to shut down his protests and remove him from Parliament Square.
In 2002, the local council took legal action to remove him, saying he was a nuisance, but the case never went to court. Subsequent legal challenges resulted in limiting Haw’s protest site, and this year he moved to the sidewalk after the Greater London Authority received permission to evict Haw and his supporters from the grass area of the square.
Last year, Haw told reporters: “We’re there because our country is committing infanticide, genocide, the looting of nations. I’m determined to be there until they kill me.”
For a decade, Haw’s tent, with his collection of pictures showing war victims and handwritten slogans like “Baby Killers,” was a fixture in Parliament Square. Many did not take kindly to him — passers-by often shouted abuse at him, and Haw scuffled with critics several times. Nonetheless, Haw always returned to his chosen spot.
A father of seven, he had told reporters that he left his family to campaign for other families in war zones around the world.
Haw was born in 1949. An evangelical Christian, he traveled to places torn by conflict — he went to Northern Ireland during The Troubles, and to Cambodia to visit the killing fields as the country tried to heal after years of warfare. He also worked with troubled youth before starting his protest in 2001.
Jeremy Corbyn, an opposition Labour Party lawmaker, said on Twitter that he was always pleased to see Haw outside Parliament.
“(Haw) reminded us that one person with determination can show principles whilst lies and distortions abound,” he tweeted.
The protester’s work became the subject of a work of art in 2007, when former Turner Prize nominee Mark Wallinger recreated his camp in the Tate Britain gallery.
Supporters left his camping chair and his footstool in place. It has not yet been decided what will happen to his belongings.
Sylvia Hui can be reached at http://twitter.com/sylviahui