Druid formerly known as John Rothwell vows to continue with protest until Stonehenge is open to all
* Staff and agencies
* guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 May 2009 17.35 BST
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King Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA
The druid protester King Arthur Pendragon defied a court order to leave Stonehenge this afternoon, vowing to continue his protest until the site is open to all.
Pendragon, formerly known as John Rothwell, set up camp on the edge of the site in June 2008 and faces eviction by Wiltshire council, which says he is blocking the public highway.
The 55-year-old, who changed his name by deed poll 33 years ago, wants visitors to be able to walk around and touch the stones rather than remain in a visitor centre and confined to marked-out trails. He is also calling for promised improvements to the monument to be carried out.
On Monday last week, the council was granted an eviction order by Salisbury county court to remove Pendragon from byway 12, which is known locally as the Netheravon coach road. Pendragon's camp on the byway sits alongside Stonehenge between the A303 and A344 and includes a caravan. The protester, who hopes to run as an independent parliamentary candidate, pickets staff and tourists daily.
Shortly after the deadline expired today, he said he had no intention to leave. "We have opened a bottle of mead and we are drinking to Stonehenge. I have done a short ritual and spell of protection, calling on the kings of old.
"I am still here so I am in breach of the order as they see it but I have as much right as anyone else to be here. I am not blocking the byway; other tourists park along there. I am not going to go, I am battening down the hatches and continuing my lawful right to protest and my equal right to religious practice."
Pendragon started protesting with consent from the Council of British Druid Orders after last year's summer solstice. The government scrapped plans to remove fences around Stonehenge, build an underpass and grass over the A344 in 2007.
Stephen Helsby, Wiltshire council's highways enforcement and traveller services manager, said last week: "This ancient byway is open to all traffic. Wiltshire Council, in its capacity as local highway authority, has a duty to maintain everybody's right to use its full width without interruption or other obstruction.
"The council strives to protect all of its public rights of way from trespass and that includes byway 12, which is situated at the heart of this important world heritage site."
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