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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 15:33 GMT
Anti-war rally gets park go-ahead
Stop the War Coalition supporters
Thousands joined previous demonstrations across UK
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has said the Stop the War rally on 15 February can take place in Hyde Park after all.

Anti-war campaigners have been urging a rethink since it was ruled that the Royal Park could not be used because the ground would be too soft and wet to cope with up to 500,000 marchers.
The issue has only ever been to find a venue that is as safe as possible for those taking part

Tessa Jowell
Culture Secretary

But after a series of meetings between police, local authorities and the Royal Parks Agency, Ms Jowell announced the rally in the park could go ahead.

She said: "I have today agreed that Hyde Park should be the venue for the Stop the War rally on February 15. This follows several days of intensive work by my department to find a better venue for the rally.

"Everyone agrees that Hyde Park is far from ideal for an event of this kind at this time of year."

Alternatives ruled out

She stressed: "The right of protesters to organise and take part in peaceful marches and rallies has never been questioned. The issue has only ever been to find a venue that is as safe as possible for those taking part.

"When CND first approached the Royal Parks to ask for the use of Hyde Park as a rally point for its marchers on 15 February, the Royal Parks Constabulary, the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council gave unanimous advice that permission for the rally should not be given.
Northwood protester
500,000 may attend rally

"I accepted this advice and asked that alternative venues for the rally be considered. Those alternative venues have included Trafalgar Square, which is the normal venue for winter rallies, and The Mall.

"The Mayor has now ruled out Trafalgar Square, and the Metropolitan Police advise against holding the rally in The Mall.

"We hope that the leaders of the rally will work with the Royal Parks and the Metropolitan Police to mitigate the risks to the public."

Stop the War Coalition officer John Rees said: "Freedom of speech in this instance was only defended by the actions of the people. The minister wanted to abrogate this fundamental liberty and we have prevented her from doing so."


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29 Jan 03 | Politics
02 Dec 02 | Politics
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