Hands off Iraqi Oil Piratical Action Tour
Bond St-Shell Centre, London. Saturday 23 Feb, 2008
The Hands off Iraqi Oil Piratical Action Tour of London
turned out to be quite a fun event, helped both by the costumes and the rousing
beat of samba band Rhythms of Resistance. It was at the same time
a highly serious protest, part of an international campaign in solidarity
with the Iraqi people against the corporate theft of Iraq's oil.
Hard though it is to find any truly rational basis for the US invasion of
Iraq it is harder still to avoid the conclusion that one of its major driving
forces was a desire to open up the Iraqi economy to economic exploitation
by the multinationals, with oil as the chief goal.
Few liked Saddam, but the oil giants had a particular reason to get rid of
him. As long as he was dictator, oil would remain a public sector industry
in Iraq. Now Shell, BP and other majors in the oil business are pressing for
the spoils of victory, production sharing agreements that will give them effective
control over Iraqi oil for the next 25 years. Oil isn't the only state asset
that the occupation is selling off, although it is by far the largest. Under
the occupation laws are being imposed, regulations changed and institutions
set up to ensure that US and multinational companies can profit from and dominate
the Iraqi economy.
The tour called in at Erinys International Limited, a private military
security company with a reputation for using excessive force which provides
security services in Iraq as well as training Iraq's Oil Protection force.
It stopped outside BP in St James's Square. Former BP CEOs worked
as advisors to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, and their advice was (what a surprise)
to let companies like BP come in a make vast profits. They helped to draft
the Iraqi hydorcarbon laws and have plans for giant oil fields.
Earlier in the day, some demonstrators had entered the National Portrait
Gallery, whose major awards are sponsored by BP, and the march stopped
Around the corner in Duncannon Street it stopped again outside the offices
of the International Tax and Investment Centre, which while claiming
to be an independent consultancy is paid by the big oil companies to lobby
for a free-market approach which would let them dominate Iraqi oil.
Two other planned venues were left out from the tour, which was running late.
One was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whose policies have
largely been to run around in support of BP and Shell, employing former oil
executives as advisors on economic policy in the Middle East and to work on
new laws for Iraq. Development Program Worldwide Ltd (previously
Windrush Communications), based in the city, promotes the establishment
of private capital enterprises in places such as conflict zones where there
are few controls over their activities and no effective government to represent
the public interest.
The pirates headed south, over the river at Hungerford (Jubilee) bridge and
on to the Shell Centre, where the day ended with a slightly longer
rally. Shell and former Shell executives have played a leading role in the
repurposing of the Iraqi oil industry from a state asset to a multinational
profit opportunity and have plans for three major oil fields there.
Stop Media Attacks on Muslims
Daily Express Offices, London Thursday 22 February, 2008
Outside the Northern and Shell Building on Lower Thames
Front page headlines on the Daily Express have included "Christmas
is Banned: It Offends Muslims" (which of course it doesn't - I've
certainly never met one who was offended and we regularly get Christmas cards
from our Muslim relatives) and many worse aiming to inflame its readers against
Muslims, asylum seekers and other minorities. In 2004 NUJ members at the Express
objected to the pressure on them to 'write anti-Gypsy articles' but
things seem if anything to be getting worse.
Of course the Express isn't the only newspaper to attack minorities - if
you read the political
blogs you will in the last few days an email apparently sent out by Diana
Appleyard of the Daily Mail, inviting "anonymous horror stories of
people who have employed Eastern European staff", promising to keep
them anonymous and offering £100 for a quick phone call.
Easy money for a couple of minutes of invention - anyone reading this could
invent the kind of thing they would lap up and it would be in the paper. Under
the tags 'Daily Mail, Racist Scumbags...' the Ministry
of Truth has mocked up its own story for the Mail's front page: 'POLISH
PLUMBER ATE MY HAMSTER'
Around 30 people turned up on Thursday for a lunchtime picket outside the
Daily Express offices in the Northern and Shell Building (a rather
odd large blue modern block next to Billingsgate in Lower Thames St) for a
protest organised by the Stop the War Coalition along with Media
Workers Against the War, the Muslim Activists Network of Stop
the War and the British Muslim Initiative.
The media were also there on the other side of a notebook or camera, although
I doubt if the story got much coverage in the Express or other newspapers
with a racist agenda. I hope it will get a good report in 'The Journalist',
the NUJ monthly magazine for members. The NUJ has a code
of conduct which starts with the "duty to maintain the highest
professional and ethical standards" and which also states that a
"journalist shall neither originate nor process material which encourages
discrimination, ridicule, prejudice or hatred" on grounds of
"a person's age, race, colour, creed, illegitimacy, marital status (or
lack of it), gender or sexual orientation".
Olympic Site Revisited
Stratford Marsh, London. Saturday 16 Feb, 2008
A welcome opposite Pudding Mill Lane station
I took advantage of a bright, clear winter day to take another trip to Stratford
Marsh to see how things are getting on in the vast terraforming exercise that
is transforming the area into a vast wasteland for the Olympics. About the
only thing left in the central site are the rivers and some of the roads,
with one small stretch of brick wall.
Earth (a euphemism for the discarded toxic waste of centuries of largely
uncontrolled dirty industries, previously more or less safely buried) has
been dug and shifted around the site. The former allotment holders from Manor
Gardens have been treated to a metre or so of this previously contaminated
material on their temporary site on the Leyton Lammas Lands, 'treated' by
a cleaning method that has removed all worms (I hope they are having it analysed
for heavy metals and other toxins) and, surprise, surprise, are finding it
impossible to grow anything. At least part of the problem is that there is
no proper drainage on the new site, and recent rain has left it waterlogged.
There has also been some demolition work just outside the Olympic Park area,
with much of the factory buildings between the Waterworks River and Warton
Road having gone.
One in Love - Reclaim St Valentine's Day
Piccadilly Circus, London, Saturday 16 Feb, 2008
Venus and Eros, Picadilly Circus
We are O-I-L
We are Operation Infinite Love because we are...
One In Love
says the web site, and OIL sets out to reclaim St Valentines Day from its
commercial appropriation in the very temple of consumerism that is Piccadilly
Circus, dominated by a giant wall of advertising neon. Appropriate too because
at the centre is a statue of Eros.
Venus says "Love is the most important resource on this planet and
that without love we are nothing." The event culminated in the formation
of a large circle when everyone present joins hands around the area, and there
was lots of music, including that finest of street bands, the samba of Rhythms
of Resistance, along with other musicians and sound system, as well as free
food from , free T-shirts and a great atmosphere.
Its an event that is great fun, but also one that has an important message
for a culture that has lost its way, and its an event that is going global
with similar happenings being set up around the world.
Kurds mark 9th anniversary of Ocalan's Kidnapping
Dalston, London. Friday 15 Feb, 2008
A small part of the march by Kurds through North London
Around a thousand Kurds marched through north London on Friday with a large
police escort to mark the 9th anniversary of the illegal rendition of their
political leader, Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya on February 15, 1999. 0n his
way from the Greek Embassy to Nairobi Airport he was captured in an operation
invovling the CIA, the Turkish intelligence agency and possibly the Israeli
intelligence agency Mossad, and flown back to Turkey.
Ocalan was tried in a Turkish military court and sentenced to death. The
sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, which he is serving as the sole
prisoner on Imrali, an island in the Sea of Marmara, guarded by over a thousand
Ocalan was one of the founders of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan
- the Kurdish Workers Party), which has been listed as a terrorist group by
the USA, EU and some other states, and was its leader from 1978 until his
arrest. Originally a left wing revolutionary marxist group pressing for a
Kurdish state, since the end of the Soviet empire it has moved away from marxism
towards a simple nationalist movement.
The terrorist activities of the PKK and countermeasures by Turkey are thought
to have resulted in over 37,000 deaths, mostly of Kurds, including many killed
by the PKK. It is hardly surprising that most Turks are opposed the the PKK
- and marched in London a few months ago to call for an end to any British
support for the organisation.
Since his arrest, Ocalan has called for an end to terrorist operations by
the PKK and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem. Although there has
been a period of ceasefire declared by the PKK this did not lead to any political
The Kurds came close to an independent Kurdistan - although one without the
Kurdish areas of Iraq, Syria and Iran - at the end of the First World War,
when the Ottoman Empire was defeated, but it didn't suit the political purposes
of the victorious powers, and the proposal made at Sevres was later withdrawn.
But it is hard to see how the conflict can eventually be resolved without
some re-drawing of boundaries in the area and at least a degree of autonomy
to a Kurdish state, incorporating parts of north Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
Chinese New Year Celebrations, Soho
Soho, Westminster, London. Sunday, 10 Feb, 2008
The Chinese New Year celebrations in London have rather got out of hand,
with more and more people flooding in to Chinatown, and an incredible amount
of sponshorship for the event. There is strong evidence in the programme,
now 120 thick pages mainly of advertising, along with some of the most tedious
photographs you will ever see. The genuinely useful content in it could have
been handed out on a much more user-friendly 2 sides of A4.
But if you can avoid the worst of the crowds, it's still a fun event and
at times spectacular. But there are 51 other weekends of the year when its
probably more interesting to come and see Chinatown how it really is.
Lion in Chinatown
'Anonymous' Protest - Church of Scientology
Blackfriars & Tottenham Court Road, London, Sun 10 Feb, 2008
Protesters from the Internet 'Anonymous' group use a walkway balcony across
from the Church of Scientology
On Sunday I went to the Church of Scientology building in Queen Victoria
Street, Blackfriars expecting to find just a handful of protesters, but was
amazed to see several hundred taking part. I'm just amazed that Scientology
is still around, despite having been comprehensively exposed so many times
over the years. You can find out more about it on Wikipedia.
The renewed interest has partly been sparked by the continuing publicity
given to Scientology by Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, who Andrew Morton in his
recent 'Tom Cruise: An Unauthorised Biography' alleges to be the
second in command of the organisation. In January 2008, the Church of Scientology
attempted to remove video material from an interview made by them with Tom
Cruise from the Internet, and Project Chanology was set up on 16
January to oppose this by various methods, legal and otherwise.
Those who publish material which questions or attacks the Church of Scientology
have at times found themselves subject to personal attacks which you can read
about on the web. Because of this, those behind Project Chanology call themselves
'Anonymous' and the London demonstration was one of over 50 protests
in cities around the world in which those taking part hide their identity
At it's height there were perhaps 4-500 people in the peaceful demonstration
at Blackfriars, and most of them went on to a second demonstration held later
in the day opposite the Dianetics & Scientology Life Improvement Centre
in Tottenham Court Road
Demonstrators at Tottenham Court Road were penned into half the carriageway
more pictures from both venues.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign: End the Seige of
Whitehall (Downing St), London. Sat 9 Feb, 2008
On to more serious things just up Whitehall, where the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign was holding another demonstration to call for an end to the Israeli
seige of Gaza, an illegal collective punishment of the civilian population
in defiance of international law and the Geneva Convention. Our government
should be taking action and urging the US govenment to use its influence on
Israel to end the illegal action. Posters held by the demonstrators told the
brief details of of some of the civilians who have died because of the Israeli
action, including those denied exit permits for urgent surgery. Prominent
among the protesters were ultra-orthodox anti-zionist Jews and the members
of Jews for Justice for Palestinian
Jews for Justice had a large banner at the event
Waitangi Day: Circle Line Pub Crawl
Gloucester Road to Parliament Square, London. Sat 9 Feb, 2008
Celebrating at Victoria
"Frivolity" was how one of the peace campaigners in Parliament
Square referred to it, reminding me that if he was to be seen drinking alcohol
there - as some 5000 or so Kiwis were openly doing - he would face immediate
arrest. Frivilous I couldn't argue with, but they, we, were certainly having
fun, and I don't have a problem with that, especially when it has the vaguely
anarchic tinge of the Circle Line pub crawl, now established as an annual
event to commemorate the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty itself was and remains
a doubtful and much-disputed document, and the day, Feb 6, which was made
a public holiday in NZ only in 1974 has often been used as an occasion for
protests by the Maori, although the haka performed in Parliament Square seemed
more a celebration than a protest.
It was a fine day for a little fun on the streets of London, and we were
all out to have fun. Probably among the crowd were some of my own unknown
relatives, descended from the aunts, uncles and distant cousins of former
generations who made the long sea journey from England and Wales to start
a better future on the opposite side of the globe. But I certainly felt I
was at home and among friends and we were all having a good time. So thanks
to all who welcomed having their pictures taken.
The pub crawl starts at Paddington around 10am and stops at every Circle
Line station on the way to Temple. I joined those taking part at Gloucester
Road and travelled with them to Parliament Square where the event climmaxes
with a haka. Travel has to be on Circle Line trains, though as the station
at Gloucester Road was closed by police we had to walk to South Ken. To add
a little interest, you are not allowed to hold on to anything on the trains.
Just a shame there isn't also a rule banning Australian drinks!
(As usual I don't have room to put everything I took on the site, but if
you know I took your picture and it isn't here, if you e-mail with enough
info for me to identify you - location, description etc - I'll email you a
Ash Wednesday Liturgy of Repentance and Resistance
Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, London Wed 6 Feb, 2008
ashes and theses nailed to a cross outside the Defence Ministry
Pax Christi, Catholic Peace Action and Christian CND have held an annual
liturgy of Repentance and Resistance around the Ministry of Defence in protest
against the continued reliance on nuclear weapons every Ash Wednesday since
1982, making this event the 26th.
Although the ministry and nearby buildings such as the Old War Office were
surrounded by police - rather as if they were expecting a massive attack,
the police made no attempt to disperse what was undoubtedly an illegal unauthorised
protest under the terms of SOCPA. They did hold a couple of people they caught
writing on the walls of the Old War Office, and were at least threatening
to charge one of them with causing damage to the building, but otherwise watched
benignly, at least until I left to catch my train shortly before the liturgy
The most moving part of the liturgy was outside the Defence Ministry, where
a wooden cross was laid on sackcloth. Ashes were sprinkled on it, and then
while those present chanted a 'litany of the martyrs', including
the names of Franz Jaegerstaetter, Dorothy Day, Martin
Luther King, Oscar Romero and Mary Lampard, 21 'Theses
for today's church' by Philip Berrigan were read and then nailed to the
Protest at Condi Rice London Visit
Downing St, Whitehall, London. Wed 6 Feb, 2008
A simple message for Condi. Get Out!
Condi Rice went into 10 Downing Street by some back entrance, perhaps because
there were a couple of hundred 'Stop the War' demonstrators out front. They
had come with a clear message to give her, that it was time for the US to
get out of other people's affairs in other countries.
There were lots of press photographers lined up opposite the doorway to No
10, but they were standing around with nothing to photograph. An aide did
come and take a look and listen to the demonstrators at one point - perhaps
they were making too much noise for Gordon and Condoleezza to make their press
call until after they dispersed.
The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race
Spitalfields, Tower Hamlets, London. Tuesday 5 Feb, 2008
Cow it's a flipping pancake!
The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race is even more of a fun event, and raises
money for the London Air Ambulance. Anyone can enter a team of four, and they
mainly come from around the Spitalfields area. Despite some fairly silly costumes,
many of those taking part take their racing seriously, and the winners, from
a company called Execution who were a major sponsor of the event even admitted
having done ten minutes training.
Poulters' Company Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race
Guildhall Yard, City, London. Tuesday 5 Feb, 2008
parade in Guildhall Yard
The Poulters' Company Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race in Guildhall Yard in the
City involves rather more dressing up, both in traditional guild robes and
also some interesting fancy dress and hats.
The Poulters started these inter-livery races in 2004, and this year's event
was attended by the Chief Commoner (whose permission is needed to use the
Guildhall Yard) and the Lord Mayor (the event raised money for his charities,
Wellbeing of Women and ORBIS.) Among the guilds taking part are the Gunmakers
who provide a small but very loud gun to start each heat, Clockmakers who
attend to the timing, Fruiterers who provide lemons, Cutlers plastic forks,
Glovers white gloves to be worn by each runner, and the Poulters whose eggs
are used to make the pancakes.
Parliamentary Pancake Race
Victoria Gardens, Westminster. Tuesday 5 Feb, 2008
The winning team - representing broadcast media
The Annual Parliamentary Pancake Race held in aid of Rehab UK is a serious
challenge between teams representing the Labour, Conservative and Liberal
Democrat Parties and a team of Parliamentary Reporters. I'm pleased to say
that this year the reporters won.
Due to works taking place on the normal course in College Green, the event
was held in Victoria Gardens, with each of the 4 members of the team running
a roughly 150 yard circuit from the starting point next to the Burghers of
World Rally Against FARC
Westminster, London 4 Feb, 2008
Colombians march through London against FARC
Colombians in cities around the world held rallies to protest against FARC,
which they claim has killed 30,000 civilians, and still holds 750 hostages,
as well as being the major world producer of cocaine.
FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has been active in Colombia
for 44 years, and has carried out operations in 7 Latin American Countries.
Originally the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, it split from
them after becoming involved in drugs in the 1980s. Over 30 countries, including
Columbia, the EU, USA and Canada have officially classed it as a terrorist
More than a thousand Colombians marched through London in protest against
FARC, but there were much large demonstrations in Colombia itself, where estimates
of the number of marchers in Bogata range from half a million up.
One man feels he may havebeen photographed demonstrating too enthusiastically
and shoots himself to save FARC the trouble?
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