For and against Gay Marriage
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 4 Jun 2013
Stonewall had organised a protest in support of the gay marriage bill
Supporters of gay marriage and Christian groups opposed to it both held
protests opposite the House of Lords where peers were debating attempts to
wreck the bill.
Next to the large group of protesters with Stonewall posters were a similar
sized group organised by 'Christian Concern' who prayed and sang, murdering
'Amazing Grace' several times while I was there. At there centre were a black
couple dressed as a bride and groom standing on a base resembling a wedding
There was also another small group of Christian extremists who had been at
Westminster since I arrived at lunchtime, some of them moving around the area
with posters of very large print Bible texts, and others standing still and
preaching, though there seemed to be nobody listening to their amplified sermonising.
Along with the mass of Stonewall protesters, Peter Tatchell and a few others
held posters from his foundation, and several people, including one man in
drag waved rainbow flags. The pro-gay protesters made rather more noise, blowing
horns and shouting slogans, but the groups kept apart. One woman from 'Christian
Concern' did come and begin to tell some of the LGBT protesters that she was
praying for them, but another person from 'Christian Concern' quickly came
to pull her away.
I left as the protesters were waiting to hear the result of the division on
the wrecking amendment, which was lost by a large majority, bringing gay marriages
a step closer.
Save Legal Aid & British Justice
Ministry of Justice, Petty France, London. Tue 4 Jun 2013
Among the many, many speakers was Bianca Jagger
A large crowd of lawyers and other campaigners for justice filled the
road outside the Ministry of Justice in a lengthy protest against the proposed
changes. By the time I left there were probably around a thousand there, blocking
As speakers pointed out, the changes threaten the very heart of our legal
system, severely weakening the ability of those who are not rich to get justice.
Instead of being able to chose lawyers with relevant expertise, defendants
will be assigned them from the company that has made the cheapest bid for
the area. Large companies with little legal connection including Eddie Stobart
and Tesco are expected to bid for the work, putting the many small specialist
law firms which currently exist out of business.
The protest took place today as the government 'consultation' on the changes
came to a close. This is not a real consultation, and regulations bringing
in the changes will come into effect within 3 months, without any pilot scheme,
without an debate in the Houses of Parliament and with no proper examination
of the evidence.
As at least one speaker pointed out, the whole process shows a basic lack
of competence in the current government, pushing through changes with no real
idea or care of what the consequences will be.
Among the speakers were several QCs, including Dinah Rose, Geoffrey Robertson
and Michael Fordham, representatives of human rights organisations and charities,
MPs David Lammy and shadow justice minister, Andy Slaughter and Bianca Jagger.
Stop Deporting Lesbians to Uganda
Home Office, Marsham St, London. Tue 4 Jun 2013
Protesters with posters and banners chant slogans outside
the Home Office
A protest at the Home Office called for an end to deportations to Uganda
of known lesbians who face death if returned there. Uganda is not safe for
any LGBT person as Jackie Nanyonjo's death in March showed and protesters
urged that Linda N and Josephine must not be deported.
Around 20 protesters from Queer Strike (part of the Global Women's
Strike movement) and the Movement for Justice protested this
afternoon against the deportations of gay asylum seekers to countries such
as Uganda, where gays are persecuted and even killed. The protest came after
lesbian Jackie Nanyonjo died following injuries inflicted on her
during her forced deportation by thugs contracted to the UKBA in March, and
a day before flights are due to return Linda N on Qatar Airways and
Josephine by Royal Air Maroc.
One other detainee who was returned to Uganda, May K, is still in hiding,
fearing for her death, but the Home Office - who have now taken over from
the discredited UKBA is still intending to return Linda N and Josephine to
persecution and probable death.
An inquiry has been set up by MPs into the Asylum process, but the racist
character of the UKBA appeats to be being continued by the Home Office. Linda
N, a known lesbian activist and member of the Movement for Justice was dealt
with under a 'fast track' procedure designed to prevent proper consideration
of cases, and despite a great deal of evidence was told she had not done enough
to prove that she was gay. Josephine, a woman aged 62 with family in the UK,
came here for sanctuary after refusing to carry out female genital mutilation
(FGM). If returned she will be subjected to punishment beatings for her refusal
and possibly killed.
The protests chanted slogans calling for the release of these women and for
all the detainees in Yarl's Wood, and an end to racist immigration practices.
They also called for an end to deportation to other unsafe countries including
Bring Shaker Aamer Home Vigil
Parliament Square, London. Tue 4 Jun 2013
The protest is continuing every day Parliament is
The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign is carrying out a continuing daily symbolic
presence opposite Parliament from 12-3pm on every day Parliament is in session
until July 18. There were three protesters today, all in black hood and orange
jumpsuit, and one wearing 'chains' around hands and feet. There were some
handy barriers (there for some royal occasion) on which they hung their banners.
The daily vigil intends to remind Obama to close Guantanamo and release
Shaker, to prompt the UK Government to demand Shaker's immediate return to
the UK, and show solidarity with the Guantanamo Hunger strikers.
Their lives are now in extreme danger as the hunger strike continues with
over 40 of more than a hundred taking part now being forcibly fed, including
'prisoner 239', Shaker Aamer from Battersea.
I didn't take many pictures and was on my way to another protest. I hope
to visit the daily vigil on further occasions. A debate in the UK Parliament
is expected to take place soon.
Anti-Fascists Stop BNP Wreath Laying
Parliament Square, Westminster, London. Sat 1 Jun 2013
Anonymous were there along with Antifa, trade unionist and the UAF to oppose
the BNP hate
Anti-fascists including members of Unite Against Facism and many other groups
and individuals massed in Parliament Square stopping far-right BNP members
led by Nick Griffin from marching to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph for Woolwich
victim Lee Rigby whose father had earlier called for calm and for people not
to use his name to attack others.
When I arrived outside Parliament I saw a large crowd of anti-fascist protesters
blocking the street towards Old Palace Yard where the BNP were holding a protest.
I walked past them and through the several lines of police and parked vans
to photograph the few BNP supporters, standing around, mainly looking rather
fed up while their leader Nick Griffin, who had also arrived late, having
joined his few supporters when he was sure it was safe, answered questions
from the media who outnumbered them, before going back to photograph the anti-fascist
As I returned, police were bringing a steady stream of protesters back under
arrest to fill a couple of double-decker buses they had standing ready. Later
after I walked through the police lines I saw a few incidents which led to
arrests; one man was grabbed in a rush into the crowd after shouting comments
the police found offensive, and later another man wearing an 'Anonymous' mask
who went up to talk to the police got rather cheeky and was dragged away.
The protesters at the front had linked arms to resist police charges, and
there was a great deal of chanting of slogans against the BNP and their racist
policies, but most of the protesters were simply standing on the road holding
their banners and placards, making no attempt to break through the police
lines. The protesters were bouyed up by seeing the small size of the BNP protest,
chanting "There are many many more of us than you" along
with "We are black, white and Asian and we’re Jews."
Police announcements told the protesters that their protest was illegal and
that they could be arrested, but they stood their ground. As usual, some of
the police announcements were in any case inaudible to many standing there
- or sitting in their wheelchairs - but the protesters were determined to
stop the BNP whether or not they might be arrested.
I'd missed the start of the protest through attending a memorial service
for an old friend, and it had started several hours earlier with around a
thousand protesters determined to block the BNP route. They were joined by
some of those who had earlier marched against the badger cull, many of whom
were still protesting in Parliament Square, where some were playing music
and dancing - and they brought a new slogan "Cull the BNP, Not the
After the batch of arrests at around half past three to fill their buses,
police tactics seemed to change, perhaps because they realised that arresting
everyone present (and the paperwork involved) was impracticable, and things
settled down to a stand-off with a few yards of empty space between the several-deep
line of police and the crowd of protesters. Relations between police and protesters
became more friendly as they cooperated in letting the many tourists walk
along the pavement in front of Parliament past the protests.
As little seemed to be happening I walked up to the Cenotaph along a virtually
empty Whitehall - most of the traffic had been diverted. Apart from the ongoing
Sikh vigil against the hanging of Professor Bhullar - now there for around
six weeks - there were no protests. The Cenotaph is being renovated ready
for the Second World War anniversary celebrations, with wreaths instead being
laid on a triangle of makeshift frames - and a couple of people without ceremony
added flowers and a Union flag as I watched.
I walked back to Parliament Square, and shortly afterwards the police officers
told us that the BNP had left, and a few minutes later the police dropped
back and the protesters surged forwards following them towards the now empty
Old Palace Yard. I was about to leave when I was told that there would be
a march to a brief rally at the Cenotaph by the anti-fascists to celebrate
their success, and I walked back to photograph them as they arrived and the
brief speech there thanking everyone for their support.
BNP Stopped From Exploiting Woolwich Killing
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat 1 Jun 2013
Nick Griffin answers questions under a placard 'Hate
Preachers Out' and fails to appreciate the irony
Nick Griffin and a small group of BNP protesters were prevented from
laying flowers at the Cenotaph to gain publicity by exploiting the killing
of Lee Rigby by a large anti-fascist protest. Protected by hundreds of police
for well over 3 hours they then left.
One could almost feel sorry for Nick Griffin, surrounded by a mob of press
with largely hostile questions, more or less deserted by party members in
a rather lonely protest opposite Parliament, though any sympathy I might have
felt was immediately dispelled by the lies, half-truths and distortion in
his answers. The BNP leader had hoped for a mass protest in Woolwich, capitalising
on the killing there of soldier Lee Rigby, making use of his senseless slaughter
there to gain support for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, but instead the Westminster
protest was a humiliating failure.
The police sensibly banned his Woolwich to Lewisham march as it would have
been impossible for them to guarantee public (and his) safety in a protest
that would have enraged many in the local area, and Lee Rigby's father also
made clear that he and his family did not want his son's death to be used
to stir up hatred.
Perhaps it was something that even the ultra-right membership of the BNP
could not stomach; certainly there were very few of them with Griffin in Old
Palace Yard, outnumbered by the press and needing several hundred police to
protect them from a large and noisy counter-protest by Unite Against Fascism
and other anti-fascists a hundred yards down the road. Griffin's explanation
when questioned was that many more had wanted to attend, but had been turned
back by police, and he told reporters that the whole area around Westminster
was "a virtual exclusion zone". I'd just travelled in without any
problems and there seemed to be no unusual police activity outside the immediate
area of the protest, and it didn't ring true. He claimed his late arrival
- long after his supporters whohad come on time and had some minor skirmishes
with the anti-fascists before large forces of police had separated the two
sides - was because he had been held up by police.
Having read Griffin's defiant statement after the Woolwich ban was announced
that he personally would still go there in spite of this, I was only a little
suprised to find him in Westminster at the BNP protest which had been planned
as a march to the Cenotaph to lay wreaths for Lee Rigby there. It would have
been possible for individual BNP members who felt strongly about the soldier's
death to lay wreaths there (though not a well-known face like Griffin himself)
but this wasn't what they had in mind - they intended a triumphal march up
there with flags flying, and given the opposition this never seemed likely.
Griffin answering questions said that he and the BNP were not opposed to
Muslims or Islam in general, but only to Muslim extremists, but many of the
BNP members at the protest held up a placard 'No Mosques Here' clearly showing
them as an Islamophobic organisation.
The BNP in their banned protest had intended to march to the Lewisham Islamic
Centre. Griffin said that they wanted to protest against the centre because
of the martial arts classes that were held there. Of course London - and the
rest of the country - is full of martial arts classes - judo, kung fu, krav
maga, kick-boxing, karate and all the rest - and to pick out this particular
one seems odd. The placard he held read 'Hate Preachers Out' and it seemed
to me one that would apply well to him and the BNP.
The police attempted to persuade the anti-fascists to move and allow the
BNP to march to the Cenotaph, but they held their ground despite being told
they were all liable to be arrested. A couple of doubledecker buses were filled
with protesters and police and driven away - most of the arrests I saw were
of protesters who refused to move back when pushed or who were cheeky to police
(though I'm sure that this is not what will appear on the charge sheets.)
But there were just too many for police to arrest them all and it would have
needed a larger force to hold them back and allow the BNP protest to continue.
While I was there a police officer told the BNP they hoped to be able to clear
the route by half past four, expecting most of the counter-protesters to have
gone, but this didn't happen. Instead the BNP walked in the other direction
back to their coaches and left.
Cull Politicians, Not Badgers
Westminster, London. Sat 1 Jun 2013
dance in Parliament Square at the end of their protest
More than a thousand people, many dressed in black and white and with
badger masks or face paint, met outside Tate Britain for a protest march to
Parliament to call a stop to the cull of badgers which became legal today.
Among the speakers at the rally outside Tate Britain before the march to
Parliament was Queen guitarist Brian May who was applauded wildly for his
work opposing the badger cull, which is now legal in the two pilot areas of
Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Many of those present were clearly determined to do all they can to prevent
the expected slaughter of around 5,000 animals in the six week culls, with
some taking direct action to protect the badgers. Among the protesters were
many who had travelled up from the pilot areas to London for this national
Speakers argued that the cull flies in the face of most scientific opinion,
and say that the government ministry responsible, DEFRA and Environment Secretary
Owen Paterson only listen to those who support the cull. They also complain
about the animal cruelty involved, with badgers being shot by largely untrained
marksmen and they expect many to be only wounded and to suffer a lingering
death. DEFRA's intention to record the sounds of the dying animals to establish
the extent of the pain involved seems a callous approach. The protesters shouted
'Shame on DEFRA' and 'your cull, your lies, your greed.'
DEFRA say that studies show a cull of 70% of the badgers in an extended area
could reduce the incidence of bovine TB by 16%, but it is unclear if they
will be able to acheive this level of cull, and the return of a reduction
of less than one sixth seems low. Those against the cull argue that it fails
to get the the root of the problem, which is the over-stressing of cows in
intensive farming to get higher milk yields that renders them more susceptible
to bovine TB and other infections. Among the protesters were vegans calling
for an end to our consumption of dairy products, with a dairy boycott to help
save the badgers.
The cull is only one aspect of DEFRA's attempts to fight the increase in
bovine TB, with other actions including tougher controls on cattle movements,
more testing of herds and work on producing more effective vaccines. The cull
is opposed by the Labour Party who have tabled a debate for Wednesday.
I had to leave before the march to Parliament to attend a memorial service,
but met many of the protesters later in the day continuing the protest in
Parliament Square, where many also joined with Unite Against Fascism in opposing
the British National Party. Some of them were shouting 'Cull the BNP, Not
the Badgers' and others in badger costumes danced on the road in front of
Parliament until they were cleared by police.
London Supports Turkish Spring
Marble Arch, London. Sat 1 Jun 2013
Garsi supporters chant and raise fists in support of the Gezi protesters
Turks gathered in Hyde Park next to Marble Arch at the start of a march
to the Turkish Embassy to show solidarity with the growing protests in Istanbul's
Gezi Park and across Turkey against the Erdogan regime which has been called
the 'Turkish Spring'
Already when I arrived a little after 11 am the corner of Hyde Park at Marble
Arch was full of perhaps a thousand Turks, mainly from North London, waving
placards and flags and chanting their support of the popular protests that
have erupted over the past few days over Gezi Park. Although the first protests
there were small and specifically over the loss of one of Istanbul's remaining
green spaces for the building of a shopping mall, the brutal police repression
with indiscriminate tear gassing, batoning and water cannons angered many,
and the protest changed to a more general one against the authoritarian Erdogan
regime, which many call fascist. As some of the placards and banners in London
showed, many Turks see the government deliberately moving away from the secular
state established as the basis for modern Turkey in the 1920s by Kemal Atatürk
towards a conservative authoritarian Islamic dictatorship under Recep Tayyip
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP).
As I got ready to leave for another event the protest was beginning to get
organised, with many sitting on the tarmac to listen to a speaker with a megaphone.
By late afternoon I heard they had marched to the Turkish Embassy in Belgrave
Square where there were now around 4,000 protesting in support of the 'Turkish
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