my london diary index


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Russia Stop the Killing, Leave Syria

Russian Embassy, London. Sat 10 Feb 2018

Protesters with the Free Syrian flag and placards opposite the Russian Embassy
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Protesters opposite the Russian Embassy accuse Russia and the Assad regime of war crimes in Syria and tell the Russians to leave the country.

The protest organised by Syria Solidarity Campaign came after some of the largest massacres since the chemical attack last April, killing women and children in Idlib where there have been continued widely reported chemical attacks and bombing targeted at hospitals and medical teams.

The recent surge of attacks follows the shooting down of a Russian jet over Idlib by Syrian freedom fighters using a Russian-made man-portable missile system.
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Ladbroke Grove Pret-a-Manger land theft

Notting Hill, London. Fri 9 Feb 2018
Drummers join in the protest outside Pret-a-Manger, opened on land in trust to the community
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Community groups in North Kensington protest against the newly-opened Pret-a-Manger which has opened under Westway on Ladbroke Grove. The space above it is being fitted out for an expensive private prep school.

The say the land which was formerly the Westway Information Centre was part of that left in trust for community use and accuse the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, then under the leadership of the now disgraced Nick Paget-Brown and Rock Feilding Mellen, of pursuing an asset-sweating strategy which prioritised the commercial value of public land, casting such issues as residents’ consent, public access, and public amenities.

They say this is theft of community land with the site being developed on the ground floor as the Pret-a-Manger chain outlet, and above it a private £6,000 per term prep school.

After the fire disaster in nearby Grenfell Tower the council has claimed that there will be ‘change’ and there will be ‘listening’ under the new leadership of Elizabeth Campbell and Kim Taylor-Smith and the protesters call on them to urgently rethink the development plans and return the site to serve the needs of the community.
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Class War protest at Shard

London Bridge, London. Thu 8 Feb 2018

A police officer tells Jane Nicholl she has to move across the road
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Class War protest outside The Shard this evening after defeating the attempt by lawyers representing the Qatari Royal Family who own the building to take out an injunction to prevent their protest.

The protesters at the Shard point out that it contains ten £50 million pound apartments there which have remained empty since the building was completed, and that there are plans to build a further 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each, many replacing current social housing a time when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation.

Class War say there are already a huge number of empty properties in London, many in large development of high priced flats which either remain unsold or are bought as investments and largely unoccupied.

The High Court had received an undertaking from Ian Bone that he would not personally enter the building, but his health problems meant he was in any case unable to attend this protest. There were large numbers of police and security men, including a number in plain clothes in the area and two with search dogs, but the protest was peaceful as had been planned.

The protesters were careful to remain outside the boundary of The Shard, marked with a metal line in the pavement, but police still tried to move them away to the other side of the road, making the patently spurious claim that they were causing an obstruction to commuters attempting to enter London Bridge station. The police were obviously causing a rather larger obstruction than Class War.




Class War victory against Qatari Royals

High Court, The Strand, London. Thu 8 Feb 2018
Ian Bone raises a fist as he comes out of the Royal Courts of Justice

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Ian Bone emerged triumphant from the High Court after stopping an attempt by lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50million pound apartments in The Shard.

The Qataris' lawyers had tried to get an injunction against protests by Bone and "persons unknown" and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner, but once the had been contacted by barrister Ian Brownhill who had offered to conduct Bone's defence pro bono they immediately offered to drop the case if Class War 'would stop attacking the Shard'.

Their attempt to stifle protest was covered in national and international media including an article by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian and another in Le Monde and many more. In the High Court the Qataris' lawyers were forced to drop the attempt to ban protests and the demand for fees but Bone accepted a legal restriction on him going inside the Shard and its immediate vicinity. The planned protest went ahead as planned later in the day.

Outside the court Bone addressed a small crowd of supporters who had come to welcome him, giving them the news of Class War's court victory, and reading out one of the documents presented by the court about Class War which made it sound a rather more impressive and powerful organisation than the small but influential irritant to the rich and unscrupulous it is. The police seem to share the lawyers delusions of grandeur, an unusually strong police presence outside the court and around a corner clearly outnumbering the Class War supporters.

Among other documents presented by the Qataris' lawyers was one with some clearly defamatory false statements about another person associated with Class War who was not named in the injunction and which appeared, along with some of the photographs in their submission to have been obtained from police sources rather than publicly available information. Perhaps this was not surprising, as the Head of Security at The Shard went to the job after retiring as a police commander. Police have previously carried out a number of clearly malicious arrests of people from Class War during protests, where their cases have either been dropped before coming to court or thrown out by the courts.
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Plasticus the Whale at Parliament

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 6th Feb 2018
One second of plastic dumped in the ocean make up Plasticus the whale
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Plasticus the Whale from Sky Ocean Rescue, made of a quarter of a ton of plastic waste, the amount dumped in the ocean every second - a total of 8 million tons a year, was outside Parliament today in its campaign to stop the damage to the world's oceans caused by single use plastic.

Last August it toured a dozen locations in England, Wales and Scotland to highlight the problem. Sky Ocean Rescue is an initiative of Sky UK, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch. Many feel this surprising as his companies seldom seem to have very positive record in promoting environmental matters and opposing man-made climate change.
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Sling the Mesh say campaigners

Parliament Square, London. Tue 6th Feb 2018

A campaigner holds a poster showing a surgeon labelling a patient as hysterical for reporting her pain
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Campaigners protest in Parliament Square on the 100th anniversary of the first votes for women in the UK calling for a suspension on the use of mesh implants to treat incontinence and prolapse often caused by childbirth.

Many of those in the mesh campaign are suffering from the effects of these implants which can cause severe pain, disability and loss of sex life, and their use was suspended in Scotland in 2014.

Women say surgeons ignore women and claim their symptoms are not caused by the mesh and many women are made to feel they are making up their symptoms. The NHS say the risk is 1 to 3% but campaigners say that at least one in seven women suffer and that the mesh has only been clinically tested on animals and no long-term trial has taken place on women.
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Fair Votes Hunger Strike for Democracy

Parliament Square, London. Tue 6 Feb 2018
Campaigners pose for a group photograph in Parliament Square
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Campaigners pose in Parliament Square as four hundred fair vote campaigners take part in a 24 hour hunger strike, #Hungry4Democracy, organised by Make Votes Matter (MVM) in protest against our dysfunctional electoral system and to urge Proportional Representation.

The event took place on the centenary of the 1918 the Representation of the People Act when for the first time some women and all men over 21 in the UK gained the right to vote. MVM point out that although now everyone can vote, for over two thirds of us our vote has no effect on the result, "either going to losing candidates or piling up in safe seats without influencing the makeup of Parliament."

They call for a proportional representation system where the proportion of seats won by a party matches the proportion of votes, as is already the case in elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

The campaign has wide support from both the Green Party and the Lib-Dems who would gain greatly from it and a number of MPs and Peers have given their support. Among those who came were Peter Tatchell from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Vince Cable, Green Party co-Chair Jon Bartley and President of the UK Liberal Democrats Baroness Sal Brinton.
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Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action

Brixton, London. Sun 4 Feb 2018

Green Party candidate Rashid Nix was one of the speakers

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Campaigners marked the third anniversary of the announcement by Network Rail of their plans to redevelop the Brixton Arches with a rally and a three minute silence.

Railway arches such as these have traditionally been home to small, local businesses, and some of those at Brixton had been there for many years, becoming well-known and respected in the area. The area and its small traders who have been displaced (a few are still fighting to remain) has been described as the 'heart of Brixton'. Network Rail want to get a greater financial return from these and other rail arches and the refurbishment will enable them to "triple the rents, insert shiny new businesses and provide Brixton with even more over-priced bars and restaurants than the town’s citizens can shake a stick at."

Network Rail have colluded with Lambeth Council to get rid of something that gave Brixton its unique character and replace it by trendier shops catering for the new wealthy young population - part of Lambeth Labour's programme of social cleansing which includes demolishing council estates and replacing them with high cost private accommodation (with a token amount of so-called affordable properties.) The Council ignored the public outcry and large demonstrations to keep the arches.

The plans were accompanied by a great deal of lies and mismanagement by Network Rail and work was supposed to be completed by 2016 but is only scheduled to start tomorrow, and the Save Brixton Arches campaign are calling for it to be abandoned as the plans for the work fail to include proper fire safety precautions and will severely restrict access by emergency services to local businesses and the railway and station.

They also call on Lambeth Council to insist that the conditions of the planning permission that included no adverse effect on the market traders in Brixton Station Road be applied, as the work as planned will produce dust and pollution which will almost certainly force those who prepare food in the area out of business. They point out that there are no safety measures to protect local businesses, young children in the nearby crèche or the general public from potentially dangerous airborne particles during the removal of asbestos.

There was also a call for an investigation into local Labour MP Helen Hayes, elected in 2015, who until she resigned shortly before the election was a senior partner in the firm Allies & Morrison which made the recommendation for the 'improvement' of the arches in 2013, though she has denied any personal involvement. A&M have been involved in many contentious 'regeneration' schemes with developers and councils across London which opponents describe as social cleansing.



Fix the NHS Crisis Now

Gower St to Downing St, London. Sat 3 Feb 2018

'I'm a bleating activist' was the message on the sheep
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Tens of thousands marched in support of the NHS through London to a rally at Downing St calling on the Government to stop blaming patients, nurses, doctors, immigrants, flu and the elderly for the crisis in the health service and to fund it properly and bring it back into public hands from the waste and demands of private profit.

Outsourcing of services has damaged the efficiency of the NHS and created dangerously low standards of hygiene, while expensive PFI building contracts have left many hospital trusts with impossible long-term debt repayments.

Many in the Conservative Party have financial interests in healthcare companies and their policies are clearly designed to carry out a creeping privatisation of the NHS, setting up various devices including STPs and ACSs (Sustainability and transformation partnerships and accountable care systems) which obligate the tendering of NHS services to private healthcare providers, and large areas of NHS services now provided by companies such as Virgin Healthcare.

The march gathered along Gower St, filling it from the Euston Road down to Chenies St by the start, with more people still arriving. I never managed to see the rear of the march, but it was estimated to be over 50,000 people. I walked down with it taking pictures until I was on Shaftesbury Ave, and stood there as the march went past, but there was no sign of the end when I had to leave to rush down to Downing St for the rally.

The event was organised by Health Campaigns Together & The People's Assembly and speakers at the rally included Royal College of Nursing President Cecilia Anim, activist David M Bailey and others from the medical profession, Shadow Health minister John Ashworth, Gail Cartmell of Unite and the TUC, actor Ralf Little, and Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts. But the speaker who moved us all to tears as she spoke through hers was Nicky Romero, whose daughter Becky died because of lack of NHS resources.
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TINAG Living Archive & Sylvia McAdam

Bishopsgate Institute, London. Thu 1 Feb 2018

Canadian Cree Sylvia McAdam (Saysewahum), advocate for First Nation and Environmental rights
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TINAG, This Is Not A Gateway, organised by Trenton Oldfield and Deepa Naik, is a not-for-profit organisation that since 2007 has created platforms for critical investigations into cities through work with their Myrdle Court Press, urban studies, salons and a number of festivals.

Back in 2009, I took part in the festival with Paul Baldesare, where we did short presentations based on the group show 'Taken in London' which was then showing a mile or so away, and I've also been to some other TINAG events.

TINAG now has funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council to produce a Living Archive of their decade of work in partnership with the Bishopsgate Institute. The aim of the archive is to continue to platform the important contributions made to This Is Not A Gateway since 2007. It will be available online and physically at the Bishopsgate Institute.

The launch event for this Living Archive included a short presentations by Steff Dickers from the Bishopsgate Institute and Trenton about the Living Archive project and then a presentation by special guest Sylvia McAdam (Cree name Saysewahum) a Canadian Cree, a a citizen of the nêhiyaw Nation and a lawyer and advocate for First Nation and Environmental rights in Canada who co-founded the 'Idle No More' movement of indigenous people.

She described the thoughts and world view of nêhiyawak, Cree laws which are shared and passed down through oral tradition and land­based use, utilizing stories, songs, ceremonies, and other sacred rites, and how these operate, as well as how they have been sidelined through the process of colonisation, and the apparatus of systematic repression and genocide, with various treaties which failed to respect the traditional world view, as well as Acts of Parliament which listed over 200 crimes which could only be committed by an "Indian" including holding a potlatch, hiring a lawyer to pursue land rights, keeping a child home from Indian Residential School and travelling without permission given by an Indian Agent.

There has been a huge programme of resistance across Canada led in recent years by the Idle No More movement particularly against threats to the environment, such as the Alberta Tar Sands.

McAdam came to London in 2013 and recorded an interview in the same library, though there are many other videos by her available on YouTube and Video, including a talk she gave in Toronto in 2014.
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