london diary

nov 2004


my london diary

the march against israeli destruction and terror was organised by the justice for palestine committee. it is supposed to be an annual event on or around al-quds day in london.

it was the late ayatollah khomeini who started this day to support the palestinian struggle, and it has often been associated with islamic fundamentalism and and anti-semitism. the name is the arabic for jerusalem. although the march was very much against 'israeli destruction and terror' and the oppression of palestinians, the march in london did not appear to be anti-semitic, although banners and chanting were clearly against the activities of the israeli state and in particular, anti-american.
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sunday saw muslims on the street for a religious event, a jaloos & matam the martyrdom anniversary of imam ali, organised by hub-e-ali. making their way from hyde park down park lane carrying a taboot or coffin. the event started with addresses and a mourning ceremony. the banners carried included texts from the 'purified five' members of the prophet's family, but particularly hasan bin ali bin abu talib, the cousin and first believer in the prophet.

there was some impressive chanting and much beating of breasts (matam or seena-zani) by the men, chanting and sticks of incense being burnt. the women followed quietly behind.
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i met dave there and walked with him to parliament square where a demonstration was to be held demanding the withdrawal of troops from the cities of irag. from the news that morning it seemed the americans were about to storm fallujah. the large anti-war organisations seemed to be keeping strangely quiet, and there were only a hundred or two demonstrators here.

among them of course was brian haw, now almost two and a half years into his permanent protest in the square, which seems likely to lead mps to pass a bill specially to make such protests illegal. i admire him for making such a stand, even if i don't entirely share his views, and feel it will be a very sorry day for civil liberties in this country if such activities are banned.

there were a few placards and banners, and some people who had come with white flowers as requested. there were few takers for the 'open mike' and nothing much was happening until a group of 'code pink' supporters intervened theatrically parading a black dressed cortege around the square. the effect was literally dramatic.

there were a few more speeches, including a moving one by iraqi exile haifa zangana. it was getting dark (or rather darker, as it had been dull and overcast, with the odd spot of rain all day) as we moved off up whitehall towards the cenotaph, where the funeral wreath was laid on the monument. police tried (although it is impossible to see why) to restrict the number of those putting flowers on the monument to an arbitrary five, but those who had brought flowers were not to be so easily diverted. they ignored police orders and walked across the empty roadway to lay their flowers, and around 50 of the protestors staged a sitdown on the road.

eventually the police warned them they would be removed forcibly if they did not get up, and then started to do so. for the most part the police used minimum force, but there were one or two unnecessarily unpleasant incidents. the protestors were then coralled for a few minutes on the pavement before being allowed to continue the demonstration in the pen opposite downing street. nothing much seemed to be happening, so i went home when police refused to let me photograph from in front of the barriers. it seemed an arbitrary and unecessary decision, but this time i couldn't be bothered to argue. i think they were just upset because i had taken pictures during the violence a few minutes earlier.
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it was two weeks before i got out to take more pictures, partly because of computer problems (thanks for those undocumented 'features' bill), partly the dire weather, but also because the only good days i had other work to do.

20 nov was not a nice day. it started to rain gently as i left home, and got duller and wetter as the day progressed. it can't have made the people from the ivory coast living in britain feel like home. i met several hundred of them in westminster where they were meeting to march to the french embassy to protest against jacques chirac currently here on a visit to celebrate 200 years of the entente cordiale. the ivorians accuse him of sponsoring the rebellion against the government in their country.

when the ivorian government moved against the rebels after they had ignored an agreement that they should lay down arms, the french government destroyed the entire ivorian air force (a handful of planes), moved tanks into the capital and seized bridges, after eight french citizens and an american had apparently been killed in an air raid.

ivorians claim france are not a peacemaker but back the rebellion in order to replace the elected ivorian president laurent gbagbo with one who would be more amenable to them. they see the un resolution the french obtained as completely misrepresenting the position in their country.

i'm in no position to know the rights and wrongs of the situation, which is complicated as so often by religious affiliations, with the christian south being increasingly inflamed against the muslim rebels in the north.
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i left the ivorians as they started on their way to the french embassy and took a 159 to kennington park. the movement for justice had called for a national march and rally to stand up for equality and integration. there were also some more specific aims directed against the loca lambeth who were accused on institutional racism, particularly over the firing of union representative alex owolade for speaking out against racism.

the rain turned from slow to steady as we listened to the speeches and some some rap, but although the event had attracted an impressive list of sponsors, publicity had been only local and with the poor weather, only a hundred or so turned up for the event.
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'enough is enough, support the iraqi people, bring the troops home' was particularly apt at the end of a week when we had begun to be able to see the horror of the destruction of fallujah. the protest in tower hamlets was organised by the muslim association of britain, the stop the war coalition and others.

gathering in altab ali park (named in honour of an man killed by racists) the rally was addressed by local leaders as well as speakers from cnd and stop the war.
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Justice for Palestine Committee

Hyde Park, London, 6 Nov, 2004

Preparing to march agains Israeli Destruction and Terror in Palestine.
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Muslims mourn in London

Hyde Park and Park Lane, London, 7 Nov, 2004

Many beat their breasts so much that they drew blood.
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Withdraw the Troops from Iraq - Save Fallujah From Destruction

Parliament Square and Whitehall, London, 7 Nov 2004

Code Pink activists carry a coffin "How many children will cease to play" in front of the Houses of Parliament. London, Nov 7, 2004
Waiting for the Police to allow them to lay their flowers on the Cenotaph

Police drag demonstrator away as peace protestor Brian Haw holds a placard "War Kills the Innocent" in front of Cenotaph and Code Pink wreath, "How Many Will Die in Iraq Today?". Whitehall, 7 Nov, 2004.

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Ivorians demonstrate against Chirac

Westminster, Nov 20, 2004

Ivory Coast citizens prepare to march against French support of northern rebels during President Chirac's London Visit, Westminster, London.

The march starts. "No to the terrorist Chirac... Glory to God, Glory to President Gbagbo."
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Movement for Justice:
Civil Rights Movement

National March, Kennington to Brixton, London, Sat 20 Nov, 2004
The marchers set out in the rain from Kennington Park, London. Attendance was disappointing.

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Enough is Enough! Support the Iraqi People

March from Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel to Bethnal Green, Sat Nov 27, 2004

Young demonstrators holding the Islamic Forum banner shout for the liberation of Fallujah

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