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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 December 2005, 15:44 GMT
Artist T-shirt demo 'a success'
Mark McGowan at 10 Downing Street
Mark McGowan has staged many high-profile protests
An artist claims his challenge to new laws which ban protests near Parliament was a success.

Mark McGowan walked backwards around Westminster, central London, saying aloud the "this is not a protest" slogan written on his T-shirt.

He said the fact that he did not get arrested showed that it was a "really stupid law", because he was protesting.

Demonstrators must get police consent before protesting within a half-mile radius of the House of Commons.

He said the law "should not be allowed, it is everyone's democratic and constitutional right".

"It's the only area worthy of protesting in because that is where laws are passed.

"If you lose the right to protest, something's really wrong," he said.

The new rules were intended to remove Brian Haw, an anti-war protester who has camped in Parliament Square for four years.

I've seen Brian Haw's protest and it's true what they say, it is quite unsightly... but he has a right to be there.
Mark McGowan

But he fought off an attempt to evict him in the High Court, by arguing his protest pre-dated the legislation.

Last week Maya Evans was convicted under Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for reading out the names of soldiers who died in Iraq at the Cenotaph.

Mr McGowan, an artist from Peckham, south-east London, said: "It wasn't very democratic and it wasn't right.

"I've seen Brian Haw's protest and it's true what they say, it is quite unsightly.

"But he has a right to be there and we have a right to have our voices heard."

Mr McGowan has staged several high profile performances, including rolling a nut across London to highlight the problem of student debt, and pulling a bus with his big toe.

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