london diary

may 2004


my london diary

may day!

london's TUC sponsored may day march and rally is a peaceful celebration of International Workers' Day. this was apparently first celebrated in 1886 in chicago by striking textile workers.

in london, the celebrations are dominated by several turkish and kurd groups, with the MLKP and their youth wing being some of the most vocal.

i was pleased to meet up again with members of bristol radical cheerleaders, adding their enthusiasm and a little spectacle to the event. fortunately they were not responsible for the route, as 'to the left, to the left, not to the right, to the left' might never have got us to trafalgar square.

maybe that wouldn't have been a bad thing. the rally at the end was something of an anti-climax. not that ken didn't project his usual charm - and frances o'grady and the others spoke well, it was just, well, a bit dull. it needs something that is rather more of a celebration and a party.

i wandered off, jumping on a bus down the strand to st brides where there was a wedding going on. perhaps i should have taken more than the couple of pictures here, but i didn't have an invite.

back in st james park there was supposed to be a party, and a game of 'anarchist mayday cricket'. it wasn't quite the weather for either, and i took a few snaps and came home.
more may day pictures

as usual i spent some time getting in a bit of exercise cycling around staines. one of my normal routes is currently rather disrupted by the work on widening the M25, which have spilled over across the bridleway beside it. this area already has too much traffic, the highest pollution levels in the county (thanks also to an unsuitably sited airport) and despite this the government thinks we need more lanes for the M6 to attract even more cars.

one of the first signs of sanity came from a report for London recently that dared to suggest we might stop the obscene subsidies which encourage air travel.
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may 9 found me taking a group of photographers for a walk around some parts of London's docklands. we started at the centre of this 'crime of the century'. i still don't quite understand why a conservative government felt so at odds with the city of london that it decided to set up offshore competion in the enterprise zone.

the feeding frenzy that ensued, trousering public property and tax breaks into the private pocket at an unprecendented rate.

the long-term consequence has been a distorted development with few real buildings of distinction but some expensively finished tat, and a lack of overall planning. i'm not sure that london would benefit from gaining the olympics for which it is currently bidding, but if it fails, probably part of the reason will be the docklands debacle.

we started below the obscene gesture towards the old city, at least clear about its symbolism, then took the dlr down to crossharbour with its silly bridge, walking back to the wharf and taking the jubilee to canning town. then back alongside the lee (still waiting for that riverside walkway) to east india dock basin and along by the thames, where a galleon appeared in front of the dome.
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more meanderings around staines, gravel pits, fishing, the river colne and more.
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every time you think things have got as bad as they can for the palestinians, israel turns the screw harder. bulldozers moved in to demolish homes, helicopter gunships attacked by night (though the israeli ambassador denied the reports by the journalists who were there.)

israel has a right to exist and defend itself, but not to put itself outside international law. we all need peace in the middle east. support for palestine is also support for an israel that can coexist with the rest of the world, and for the rest of the world.

the wall must fall rally in trafalgar square on 15 May started with an an ugly scene, when stewards stopped peter tatchell and a group from outrage from being photographed in front of the banners around nelson's column. the rally organisers argued that raising the question of the persecution of gays in palestine distracted attention from the palestinian cause. their childish attempts to distract the attention of photographers by jumping in front of the outrage protesters, holding placards in front of theirs and shouting over them simply increased the force of tatchell's arguments.

fortunately the rally soon got under way, the main speaker was jamal jumaa - director of the stop the wall campaign in palestine, although there were many other speakers, including sophie hurndall, the brother of tom, the murdered peace activist, green mep caroline lucas, afif safieh, palestinian general delegate to the uk, george galloway and more. too many more for most of us.

war on want activists came with a wall to dramatize the effect of the wall in palestine. when the march moved off down whitehall, the wall walked with them, and it was erected opposite downing st. there was a short sit-down on the road before the event dissolved.
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i caught up with the kyoto march, organised by the campaign for climate change, as it reached berkely square on the last quarter-mile of its long trek from the esso british hq in leatherhead. esso are seen as being one of the main influences behing the refusal by george bush and the us administration to ratify the kyoto accord.

the campaign has organised a number of marches in london, and this is an annual event.

among the marchers it was good to find a number dressed ready for the promised 'dinosaur party' at the us embassy, as well as the fantastic rinky dink cycle-powered sound system. it was also good to meet a couple of the bristol radical cheerleaders again, bouncing with energy as ever. a little colour was also added by a small group of of codepink activists forming a funeral cortege, carrying the globe on their coffin.

the police in grosvenor square were not helpful, but eventually the speeches got under way in the corner of the square.
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i was back in docklands on 16 may. the jubilee line was closed beyone north greenwich, so i got off at canary wharf and bromptoned east. i took a few pictures around the wharf, then down to the east india docks and on over the lower lea crossing towards silvertown. progress on the dlr city airport extension seems to be rapid. i couldn't resist the high level bridge over victoria dock again, though i had to carry the brompton up the steps as the lift wasn't working.

then it was on to the new thames barrier park, a fine new open space, and i couldn't resist a few pictures of the barrier.

carrying on through silvertown and north woolwich, then on to take a look at the beckton retail park before returning to north woolwich for a trip across the woolwich ferry, london's best-value river trip. i wonder how much longer this free ferry will operate?
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shocked as most of the world was by the photographs showing torture by american soldiers in iraq, the stop the war coalition, cnd and the muslim association of britain organised an emergency demonstration at short notice, with an impressive array of speakers including tonny benn, ken livingstone, george galloway, lindsay german, bruce kent, jeremy corbin, jean lambert and others from peace and muslim movements.

the 'theatre of war' group provided a dramatic focus for our thoughts with three military personnel with roped and hooded victims; the demonstration paused at various places for brief sessions of prisoner abuse.

despite the short notice, several thousand marchers made their way past the houses of parliament and up whitehall to trafalgar square, sending a clear message to downing street.

bruce kent of cnd stressed that the actions of the us soldiers were tarring the name of christianity and the reputation of the west in the eyes of the rest of the world.
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an speaker from new york made it clear that many in the usa were also sickened by the routine use of torture as a part of interrogration of prisoners; he believed the people would realise that this was not the action of a few out-of-hand reservists, but an official policy, and would lead to bush being voted out of office. ken livingstone ended the session with a plea for people to vote in next months uk elections to keep out the racist bnp.
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i rushed from the rally up to camden lock to join with the friends of kebba 'dobo' jobe who was killed last saturday - 15 may 2004 - while being arrested by police.

friends and relatives of kebba jobe and the local community are incensed both by his death when he was attacked by a plain-clothes police anti-drugs squad, and the lack of action taken by the police to find the truth about what actually happened.

kebba was pinned face down on the concrete path, and police ignored protests from those around as he became unconscious. even then they were apparently slow to call for medical assistance.

after the even, police actions seem to have been aimed at discrediting kebba rather than investigating what occured. they apparently took no statements from witnesses, and it took several days of pressure from his friends for witness boards to be put up and an incident room phone number to be released. it remains to be seen if any effective action will be taken to establish the truth.

part of the police attempt to discredit kebba was to tell the newspapers he was a drug dealer. he did have a small amount of cannabis, a very common drug in this area. it is alleged that this was in a plastic bag in his mouth and the bag choked him to death. those who knew him deny police claims he was a dealer, not that this would in any way have justified his death.

kebba jobe's case is not an isolated one. one of those who spoke at the brief commemoration of this 42 year old father of 7 was the founder of the 'united families and friends' of those who have died in custody; they have a list of over 1500 cases in the last 35 years, most but not all black.

from the site of his death, a group of around five hundred people marched to kentish town police station
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one of the london events that seldom catches much of my interest is the annual chelsea flower show. on the last day a bell rings at 4.30pm and a mad rush begins to buy the plants to take home. many of them take the buses to nearby victoria station, and i joined them there with a photographer friend to photograph them as they poured of the buses carrying their prizes. after a minor navigation error involving a witherspoons pub we made it, and managed to take a few pictures.
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beltane came to london exactly a month late this year. the pre-christian traditional spring fertility festival welcoming the sun normally the prelude to may day, was celebrated by a pagan pride procession from red lion square to russell square gardens for a dance around the fountain then back around the british museum, part of a two-day 'beltane bash' festival.

there were giants - the morrigan and others, jack in the green - a dancing bush - and the green lady, drummers and other instruments, a wren and more.
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after the parade i went and had a little look at tourist london again, and was appalled as always by the mess that is parliament square, deadened by traffic. surely it is time that westminster bridge was made 'buses only' and the square otherwise pedestrianised. there are other bridges the traffic could use.
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bank holiday monday i went to kingston green fair and the sun shone, though there was plenty of cloud to stop it getting too hot. if you think being green means buying clothes, jewellery and food that has an often rather vaguely ethnic feel to it, then the green fair is a good place to be. there are also other sides to it - plenty of live music for different tastes, from folk to world music and a little jazz. there are still the political and environmental stalls, still the 57 varieties of spirituality, and more.

but, like most things it ain't what it used to be. i miss the more radical atmosphere and the impromptu delights when someone wandered in with her guitar or sax and started playing. it needs more thought and variation about what happens on the stages; most times on most of them this year there was zilch or possibly a cd filling in gaps, when it could have had poets, politicians and stand-ups strutting their stuff between groups - and filling in for those who didn't quite manage to turn up. more things to watch around the place, more mad performance artists, more activities and less vaguely ethnic tat. by the end of the afternoon i'd even have welcomed a juggling unicyclist.

some of the musicians as usual were superb, notably the tony heiburg quartet and martha tilston at the mandala stage. and perhaps someone did eventually turn up at the main stage after i'd given up and gone home.
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Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

May Day in London - the Turkish MLKP were well represented at the march

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Bristol Radical Cheerleaders in the May Day march

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Ken Livingstone speaks to the May Day marchers in Trafalgar Square

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Bridesmaid at a May Day wedding at St Brides Church, London      more may day pictures


Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

Road sign used for target practice close the the M25 in Staines.     more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
A quiet morning scene at Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, London     more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Gravel and greenbelt collide around Staines. Gravel usually wins.

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
M25 widening near Staines more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

Peter Tatchell and Outrage added another message to the 'Bring down the Walls' rally in Trafalgar Square, London with placards reading 'Israel stop persecuting Palestine, Palestine: Stop persecuting Queers.

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Jamal Jumaa - Director of Stop the Wall Campaign in Palestine speaking in Trafalgar Square, Londo

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Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Bristol Radical Cheerleaders in the Kyoto march to the US embassy     more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Millenium Dome and Canary Wharf from Silvertown Way
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

High Level Bridge, Royal Victoria Dock, Canning Town, London

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Tate and Lyle Silvertown jetty and Canary Wharf from the North Woolwich ferry pier.

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Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Tony Benn at the start of the march against torture in Iraq     

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
The front of the march by Big Ben in Westminster.      more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Friends and family of Kebba 'Dobo' Jobe protest against his killing by police in Kentish Town, London
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Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Taking Chelsea home on the bus     more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Pagan Pride procession at Beltane Bash in Central London       more pictures

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Parliament Square - where police came and trashed the peace protests.

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Dancing at the world music stage at Kingston Green Fair

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Tourist London - Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Regent Street

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Under the new Jubilee Bridge at Hungerford Bridge, London
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
A new and dangerous sport of urban climbing demonstrated at the Shell Centre

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