Halloween Protest Over Dictator Debt
Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills, London. Mon 31 Oct 2011
Skeletons surround the head of BIS Minister Vince Cable
The Jubilee Debt Campaign held a Halloween-themed protest outside
Vince Cable's ministry in Westminster against 'Dictator Debt' which they describe
as the skeleton in the government's cupboard.
90% of debts owed to the UK by developing countries are owed to the Export
Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), part of the responsibilities of Vince
Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Most of these
loans were effectively a subsidy to the UK arms industry, lent to foreign
dictators so that they could buy British arms that they then used to repress
the people in their countries.
Those countries which have now overthrown their dictators are now expected
to continue to repay the EGCD for the very weapons that were used against
them, often many millions of pounds. Some of the protesters carried placards
with the names of countries and the amount that they are being expected to
In many cases, although the amount is known, our government is refusing to
make public exactly what the funds that were borrowed were used for. It is
hard to disagree with the JDC's position that "it is anti-democratic
to expect people in developing countries to pay off dictator debts without
knowing whether the funds were used for their benefit or for their own oppression."
The protesters, who included some of those who had been at workshops on the
subject of dictator debt and had lobbied their MPs earlier in the day, protested
for an hour outside the Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in Victoria
St during the evening rush hour, many wearing Halloween masks and skeleton
costumes. As well as placards and a banner some also had Halloween lanterns,
including a group of three young women whose lanterns were carefully cut with
the message 'Drop' 'Egypts' 'Debt'. One of the protesters was wearing a rather
over-size mask of Vince Cable's face, and the main banner read 'Drop Dictator
The protesters handed out postcards to be sent to Cable, asking him to conduct
a public audit of all outstanding ECGD depts to find out what they are owned
for, for him to cancel those debts found to be unjust, and to adopt of list
of prohibited activities that the EGCD will not support including arms deals
and fossil fuel and other environmentally damaging projects.
Zombies Halloween Pub Crawl
Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square, London. Sat 29 October 2011
Zombies with zombie baby on Shatesbury Avenue.
Halloween saw the usual group of zombies and their friends on the streets
of London, taking part in a pub crawl around the West End. By the time I found
them the zombies had left the first stage of their pub crawl and moved to
the second leg just a few yards from Piccadilly Circus at the bottom of Shaftesbury
Avenue. They spilled out from the pub on to the narrow pavement, which was
also crowded with tourists walking past, many of whom also stopped to photograph
A few of them on the pavement were drinking a deep red liquid that looked
rather like blood, but most seemed content with the more normal potions available
at the bar. But everyone - including a largish group of photographers - seemed
to be enjoying themselves. QUite a few of the zombies tried to scare me but
with little effect, although one or two young children walking past did seem
just a little worried. Buses which often stopped alongside the group attracted
a great deal of attention, with zombies throusing themselves against the glass
of their windows.
Later, after we had pushed our way through the crowds standing around in
Leicester Square to another bar, a man walking past commented to his friends
"are they in fancy dress or something?" "No" I informed
him, "they are zombies. How do you expect them to dress?" I didn't
get an answer. I left them and got the tube as they were leaving for the next
pub on their route.
United Families & Friends Annual March
Whitehall, London. Saturday 29 October 2011
Raised fists as the march slowly makes its way to Downing St
A slow silent march in memory of the over 3000 people who have died in suspicious
circumstances in custody made its way slowly down Whitehall to Downing St,
where after a rally it became a noisy protest against police violence, ending
in a sit-down on Whitehall.
The United Families and Friends Campaign, a coalition of people
whose family members and friends have died while in the care of police, prisons
and in psychiatric detention held their thirteenth annual protest march in
Whitehall today. Led by Lee Jasper, more than 300 people carrying banners
representing the campaigns of many families made their way a a funeral pace
with frequent stops from Trafalgar Square to Downing St.
Among the families involved in the campaign, most of whom were represented
at the protest, are those of Roger Sylvester, Leon Patterson, Rocky Bennett,
Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms,
Ricky Bishop, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley, Glenn Howard, Mikey Powell, Jason
McPherson, Lloyd Butler, Azelle Rodney, Sean Rigg, Habib Ullah, Olaseni Lewis,
David Emmanuel (aka Smiley Culture), Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser
and Mark Duggan. The list is however growing with 225 deaths
in custody since last year's march.
There they came to a halt opposite Downing St on the southbound roadway and
held a rally at which many representatives of the families who are campaigning
for justice spoke. Their stories were a frightening and horrific indictment
of the UK police and justice system, with case after case of mainly fit and
healthy men (and their have been some notable women) being detained by police
and after a remarkably short time in the hands of the police being dead. Most
but not all were black, but there was considerable agreement when one of the
speakers said it was not a matter of race but of class; some police felt they
could treat working-class people they detained how they liked, and that they
could literally get away with murder.
The facts speak for themselves. On the march some of the protesters carried
a list of over 3000 names of those who have died since 1969, many in situations
where foul play seems obvious, but not one single police or prison officer
has been convicted.
Instead the police issue lies to the press - as in the case of Mark Duggan
whose shooting - which appears to have been an extra-judicial exection - sparked
the recent riots, saying that the victims were carrying weapons, or false
stories about drugs or gang connections or other stories which give lurid
headlines. Often evidence later emerges which means they have to retract these
stories - as in the case of the entirely innocent Brazilian electrician Jean
Charles de Menezes, whose cousin spoke at the rally.
These and other cases often too see police officers colluding with each other
over stories - which again often unravel as more evidence emerges. We've seen
too the deliberate use of discredited forensic investigators, as after the
killing of Ian Tomlinson, as well as in that case and many others
the deliberate use of delaying tactics in the investigation. CCTV evidence
seems sometimes to mysteriously disappear, police fail to question officers
who are the key suspects, and more.
There can be few if any who have faith in the Independent Police Complaints
Commission. Clearly in too many cases it has failed to be independent, and
to many it seems simply to be providing long grass in which to hide the facts
rather than a way to establish the truth and provide proper recompense where
things have obviously gone wrong.
High-profile deaths such as those of Tomlinson, Duggan, rapper Smiley
Culture and immigration detainee Jimmy Mubenga, killed during
his forced deportation, have served to raise public awareness of the problem,
and perhaps explained the large police presence at this year's event, complete
with police helicopter flying overhead. In some previous years the police
had virtually appeared to go into hiding when the march took place.
Sean Rigg was killed by police in Brixton in 2008; still his family
are trying to get informatin about what happened from the IPCC, and are still
waiting for an inquest to be held. His sisters Samantha Rigg-David and Marcia
Rigg, chairs of the UFFC both spoke at the rally. In a press statement they
urged families to "unite together to remember their loved ones and
continue their quest for justice and change in the British judicial system
for positive action from it to ensure that the embarrassing list of deaths
at the hands of the state has no more victims added to it. No Justice. No
Another speaker was Merlin Emmanuel, the nephew of David Emmanuel. He went
through some of the details of the case, where police allege that despite
an officer looking after him during a raid on his house he was able to pick
up a knife in his ketchen and drive it six inches into his own heart - and
to do so without leaving any fingerprints on the knife. He contrasted the
way that the police behaved in this case to how they would have treated the
incident had it been David Cameron rather than aDavid Emmanuel (Smiley Culture)
who was the victim.
Another of the speakers was the Susan Matthews, the mother of student Alfie
Meadows, severely injured by a police baton in a student protest last December.
She talked about the difference in her treatment by the police as a middle-class
mother, as well as her relative good fortune in that her son's life was saved
by long and dangerious surgery, while also telling the rally that the police
had attempted to blame his injury on a stone thrown by a protester rather
than a police baton.
After many of the family representative had spoken, a deputation of family
members went across the road to deliver a letter to Downing St (a copy of
one they had sent earlier) which demanded that:
* Prison deaths be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that
is completely independent of the Prison Service;
* Officers involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations
* Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’
* Police forces be made accountable to the communities they serve;
* Legal Aid and full disclosure of information be made available to the
relatives of victims;
* Officers responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if
Some of the other protesters followed them and there was a short protest
directly in front of the gates, watched by the armed police within. Police
urged the protesters to return to the other side of the road, and there was
a great deal of pushing and argument as the police tried to force them to
do so. It looked as if the protest was coming to an end, and like many of
the protesters I was walking away.
Some of the family members however had decided they wanted to make more of
a protest. Half a dozen or so sat down in the middle of the roadway, and after
a few minutes were joined by perhaps a hundred more. Eventually the police
moved in and pushed most of the people back, briefly forming a circle around
them, as well as setting a couple of lines of police across the road and along
the pavement to prevent others joining them.
Several of the protesters, including two grandmothers of victims, were dragged
across the road by police during the removal, and several others were held
by police although I was unable to confirm if anyone had been arrested before
I had to leave.
More from OccupyLSX
St Paul's Cathedral, London. Tues 25 October 2011
OccupyLSX: 'Greed - You Can Bank On It'
There wasn't much going on in OccupyLSX at St Paul's either, as I was there
before the evening meeting started, but I took the opportunity to take a few
more pictures of the site, and also of the 'Banksy monopoly board' and other
artworks at the site, as well as photographing a woman giving a performance
of an excellent poem, although you can't really tell from the photographs.
What was clear is that OccupyLSX is becoming quite a tourist attraction.
Occupy Finsbury Square
Finsbury Square, London, Tues 25 October 2011
'Capitalism Isn't Working' says the main banner at Finsbury Square
Occupy London set up a second camp around half a mile from St Pauls in the
north of of the City, a short walk from Moorgate Station. When I visited there
were around 80 or 90 tents there, but not a great deal was actually happening,
although there were quite a few police sitting in a van or walking around.
Obviously there wasn't a lot else to occupy them in the City.
Rail Unions Protest McNulty Cuts
Westminster, London. Tues 25 October 2011
Rail privatisation was implemented in a way that made no sense but satisfied
Rail unions held a protest at Parliament against government plans to
cut rail jobs, raise fares and close ticket offices following the McNulty
After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, members of the Rail Maritime and
Transport Union, the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association and other unions
along with passenger groups walked with their banners past Westminster Abbey
to Old Palace Yard to pose for photographs outside the Houses of Parliament.
The unions see the proposals in Sir Roy McNulty's review as the greatest
threat to our rail system since privatisation. The cuts will increase the
break-up of our rail network and give more power to the private companies
operating them. They involve cutting safety standards losing safety-critical
jobs, taking guards from trains and stations with the closure of 600 ticket
opffices and increasing fares, already considerably higher than most of Europe.
They call for the government to follow the lead of Europe in providing cheaper
and more efficient rail systems under public ownership by taking back franchises
as they come up for renewal into an integrated publicly owned railway system
which would eliminate the inefficiency of the privatised system, providing
a better service for passengers rather than these proposals which will only
benefit the shareholders and highly paid management consultants and lawyers
of the private companies.
Vienna From a Different Angle
Trafalgar Square, London. Tues 25 October 2011
Hard to show that these dancers are about 50m up in the air
The Viennese Tourist Board brought 'Vienna from a Different Angle' to
a vertical wall in Trafalgar Square, thought to be the tallest temporary erection
there at 21 metres.
Nelson had company in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday when the Vienniese tourist
authority took over the square for a series of performances on a roughly 60
foot tall vertical stage erected there. At 51.59 metres to the tip of his
admiral's hat, Nelson was still the highest thing around despite the MC's
claim that this wall was the tallest erection ever in the square, but it certainly
was impressively high.
Certainly I was glad to keep my feet on terra firma as the performers, firmly
fixed to ropes, came over the top and began their performance as they abseiled
down, aided by some very careful letting out of the ropes by their controllers
Some of the various tableaux as the various groups descended were more obviously
linked to Vienna than others and included waltses, cafes and Klimt (and what
appears to be a totally depressing 'modern music scene') and I didn't feel
particulary attracted to the city by the thought that I might find myself
descending from on high in this kind of way - even or perhaps especially under
the supervision of world bungee jump record holder Jochen Schweizer.
So far as I'm concerned it would have been far more effective (and cost less)
for them to have handed me a coffee or better still a glass of Grüner
Veltliner along with a slice of Sachertorte. But certainly the audience seemed
to appreciate the performances even if they left me with a feeling of vertigo.
Staines Moor, Staines, Middx!
Staines, Middlesex. Sunday 23 October 2011
The 'big pipe' across the Colne at Staines Moor
Staines Moor is ancient common land a short walk from where I live, although
I don't have grazing rights there. It's a pleasant place for a walk, despite
the noise from the Staines bypass, the M25 and the planes taking off from
Heathrow, just a short hop away. The Colne runs through it, and there are
several smaller streams.
Staines is in the borough of Spelthone, and some of the town's businesses
think they would do better if Staines changed its name to Staines-upon-Thames,
and have just carried out a rather small and rather rigged consultation. But
whatever the council finally decides, I can't imagine anyone who actually
lives here adopting the new name.
Staines has always had a bad deal from Spelthorne Council, which has always
favoured the wealthier parts of the borough. Of course it never made any sense
for Staines not to have been included in a London borough, which as a part
of Middlesex it should have been when these were set up. For those of us who
have known the area some time - and I first came here in short trousers -
it will always remain as Staines, Middx.
OccupyLSX Continues At St Paul's
St Paul's Cathedral, London. Saturday 22 October 2011
A mother and daughter concerned about privatisation of the NHS came to OccupyLSX
I paid a brief visit to the Occupy London (OccupyLSX) camp outside St Paul's
Cathedral, where a general meeting was taking place to listen to various speakers
including Selma James who was speaking as I arrived.
The site was looking pretty clean and tidy, and the organisation of the camp
is impressive, although clearly there are some people around who don't respect
the camp's 'no alcohol' rule. But like the previous camps in central London,
the camp attracts a number of the rough sleepers and odd characters who normally
wander the streets of our city. It's a useful service for people who are normally
neglected, but does bring some problems.
Several people from both the disabled and biofuels protests had also come
along to OccupyLSX, including the mother and daughter in the picture. They
are both very worried about the government's changes to the health service
and other cuts in public services for the disabled which are likely to make
things very difficult for them.
Tibetans March Against Chinese Repression
Whitehall, London. Saturday 22 October 2011
Tibetans shout their message to Downing St, across Whitehall
Several hundred Tibetans marched through London to demand an end to China's
increasing repression in Tibet, where desperate monks and nuns are setting
themselves alight in protest. London, UK. 22/10/2011
Since March 2011, eight young monks and a nun have set themselves on fire
in Tibet in desperate protests against China's increasing repression there.
Five have died from their protests.
Tibetans and friends of Tibet around the world are organising a series of
protests aimed at getting the international community to end their silence
over the Chinese abuses of human and civil rights in Tibet.
On Saturday, several hundred Tibetans protested in London, starting outside
the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place before marching to Whitehall for a rally
opposite Downing St, where they delivered a letter to the Prime Minister calling
for the UK Government to take action.
The action was supported by the Tibet Society, Free Tibet, Students for a
Free Tibet, Tibetan YOuth UK nad the Tibetan Community in Britain.
There will be a world-wide day of action on Wednesday 2 Novemeber, the to
call for action from international governments the day before world leaders
meet in Nice, France for the G20 Summit.
Environmentalists Protest Against Biofuels
DECC, Whitehall, London. Saturday 22 October 2011
Protesters against Barton Renewable Energy in Davyhulme, Manchester came to
Protesters came from around the country to protest at the UK government support
for biofuel energy production which causes deforestation and causes climate
change, cuts food production and threatens human rights. London, UK. 22/10/2011
Biofuels, once seen as part of the answer to climate change are now widely
recognised as actually contributing to global warming as well as other environmental
problems. Large areas of land are being taken out of food production and huge
areas of forest destroyed to grow fuel for biomass power stations. In many
countries this has led to people being evicted from the land that has provided
their living and sustained their traditional ways of life in a huge land grab
by multinational corporations and others that has led to the denial of human
rights for many. Biofuel production also causes problems of pollution and
its associated health effects in the countries which produce the fuel, as
well as increased pollution in areas close to the power stations that burn
Many energy companies have seized on biofuels as an easy way to produce so-called
'renewable' energy, and an increasing share of the UK's public subsidy for
this - the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) - is going in to biomass
(wood) and biofuel power stations. ROCs come from our fuel bills, and rather
than going to subsidise true renewable energy such as sustainable wind and
solar power, the government plans to give the power companies £3 billion
a year of our money for these environmentally disastrous biofuel schemes.
Nearly all of the biomass and biofuels burned in UK power stations will be
imported, coming from countries including Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana or Kenya.
Producing energy from biomass that is a waste product makes environmental
sense, but devasting large areas of the planet for biofuel production does
This is a simple message, but one which our UK government is being very slow
to appreciate, perhaps because of the powerful lobbying of the energy companies.
The protest outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall
took place as the DECC holding a public consultation on ROCs with the hope
that their policy may change and that public subsidies should be re-directed
towards truly renewable enegy sources. It was organised by Biofuel Watch and
supported by the Campaign against Climate Change, and there were representatives
present from various groups around the country including several protest groups
set up against local biofuel power schemes among the roughly 70 protesters.
These included Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations who are opposing
the world’s largest woodchip burning power station which has been granted
planning permission there, and the Breathe Clean Air Group who are opposing
the opening of a proposed Renewable Energy Plant in Davyhulme, Salford.
Our fuel bills are subsidising deforestation, climate change and human rights
abuse and the government call it renewable energy.
Hardest Hit Protest At City Hall
City Hall, More London. Saturday 22 October 2011
A protester with a lengthy petition
Disabled people suffering from cuts in benefits and services and changes
in the assesment of disablities held protests across the country today calling
on the government to stop the cuts which are affecting them disproportionally.
Several hundred came to a 'Hardest Hit' rally at City Hall in London.
Many of those taking part in the protest were disabled people including many
in wheelchairs and a number of blind or partially sighted along with those
with less obvious disiabilities, as well as carers and groups concerned with
disablities. The London protest rally was at City Hall next to Tower Bridge
on Saturday lunchtime.
Although the government claims to be concerned with the plight of the disabled
and to be trying to help them, many with long-term conditions are finding
their benefits cut. Many of the services provided by local authorities on
which they rely are also disappearing as a result of the government cutting
funding to them. Despite the claims of the government, disabled people are
suffereing disproportionately from the cuts and are calling for them to be
The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium
and the UK Disabled People’s Council, brings together individuals and
organisations, and aims to make clear to government the need for action. In
May they organised a march of around 8000, including many disabled people
to the Houses of Parliament, and today there were protests in towns and cities
across the country, as well as a campaign of letter writing and online activity
to send a clear message to the Government
One major worry for all disabled people is the government's stated intention
to cut the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) budget by only granting it to
“those with the greatest need”. The DLA is essential to many other
disabled people, enabling them to meet the costs, of care and support needs,
specially adapted transport, and home adaptations and thus to retain their
independence and quality of life.
The government is using a test to determine fitness to return to work using
a computer-based testing procedure which reports they have commissioned have
shown not to be fit for purpose. It has assessed many disabled people fit
to work who are unable to do so, and a large proportion - around 70% - of
those those appealing against the assessment have been found to have been
wrongly assessed. Unfortunately appealing is a slow process, and is often
completed only just in time for people to be called for assessment again -
and they are often again wrongly assessed.
The effect on some has been devastating, with at least one man commiting
suicide as a result of repeatedly been passed unfit by the test shortly after
successful appeals. There are reports also of those who do appeal the decisions
losing other benefits.
The protesters also call for a re-think over the government's proposal to
limit the Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (CESA) to only one
year, since many disabled people take more than a year to find wuitable work.
Under current proposals these disabled people would lose all benefits after
a year of looking for work.
They are also worried that the new and simpler Universal Credit which the
government is introdocuing will fail to recognise the extra costs suffered
by the disabled.
Occupy London Kept Out Of Stock Exchange
St Paul's Cathedral, London, UK. Saturday 15 Oct 2011
'Anonymous' protester in 'V for Vendetta' mask gives V sign and holds up notice
in front of St Paul's Cathedral
Around 2000 protesters in London took part in today's world-wide 'Occupy' protest
against the financial crisis around St Paul's Cathedral. Police blocked attempts
to protest in the 'private' square at the Stock Exchange.
Several thousand people of all ages gathered around the steps of St Paul's
Cathedral at noon today, most of them intent on an entirely peaceful protest.
There were relatively few that I recognised from other London protests, and
there seemed to be little or no organisation, although at least one person
had brought a small public address system.
There had been a large 'people's assembly' on Westminster Bridge at last
Sunday's protest against the NHS privatisation bill which had agreed on this
protest taking place, and around an hour after the protest started they began
another one at St Paul's to decide what they should do next. Quite a few of
those present had come prepared to occupy at least overnight if not longer.
Earlier there had been a couple of short speeches, with one of the former
Greenham women calling for support in her current protest against the air
force's use of 'Reaper' drones. She was followed by Peter Tatchell, but as
he talked several hundred people peeled away from the square and made for
Temple Bar, the entrance to Paternoster Square on which the new Stock Exchange
is sited. Police on foot and horses were waiting for them, and the relatively
narrow entrance of the Bar, moved here a few years ago, was designed to be
Led by the banner of the Education Activist Network, these protesters then
made a tour around the outside of the block containing the Stock Exchange.
Most of the passages into the square were heavily defended by police, and
when finally they found one that only had a thin line of police, the protesters
hesitated for long enough for the police to bring up reinforcements.
Had they entered the square it would have been a perfect area for the police
to kettle them, so the protesters were wise to pause, and I think their attempts
to do so were more symbolic than real. Paternoster Square is another of the
increasingly large areas which appear to be public space in the city but are
actually now privately owned, although previously Paternoster Row was a public
street. Eventually they arrived back at the cathedral steps and the general
meeting slowly began. Some of the protesters were growing impatient and suggested
that they set up tents on the spot, but nothing came of this.
There were several minor incidents as police pushed protesters around, accompanied
by shouts that they were attempting to kettle the protesters, and one man
was led away by police, though it wasn't clear if he was arrested. Had the
police made clear at this point to protesters that they were only trying to
clear a path into and out of the cathedral at one end of the steps, it would
probably have avoided the trouble that occured when they simply started pushing
people back without any warning or explanation. Later the police reported
I had decided to leave, as although there were a few protesters still wandering
around it really seemed unlikely that anything much more would happen for
some time. As I was leaving, police decided to block Ludgate Hill, but along
with a group of several hundred protesters I managed to get through their
line as it was forming.
Having formed a kettle and kept protesters there for several hours, police
"St Paul's Cathedral need to prepare for its Sunday services. We
advise anyone outside St Paul's to start leaving."
As I write, the occupation is still continuing, with tweets coming in of police
using violence to remove protesters from the cathedral steps.
Barging on Bow Creek
Bow Creek, Poplar, London. Wednesday 12 October 2011
Workers at the former gas works in Poplar watch a barge carrying contaminated
Back in the early 1980s I heard a story on the radio that commercial barge
traffic was about to come to an end on the Lea Navigation, and decided to
travel across London to record its last days. It was very hard to find any
working barges but I did come across a couple and photograph them, along with
a number lying empty.
It was the start of around 30 years photographing around the Lea, and I've
been interested in the plans to use the waterways again for the Olympics,
with a new lock having been built at great expense on the Prescott Channel
- and last year I even managed to find a boat using it. But I have to admit
I'm rather cynical about the whole thing, regarding it more as a way to stop
sewage flowing up the River Lea with the tide when heavy rain leads to its
discharge, something that could offend both those delicate Olympic noses and
those of the expensive riverside flats which developers are going to make
their fortunes with on the back of the huge public loss over the 2012 games.
So I was pleased to hear that the people cleaning up the gas works site at
Poplar, lower down the Lea, where it's called Bow Creek, were using barges
to carry out the highly toxic soil from the site. It used to be a great treat
when I was a kid in the 50s to take a bus through the centre of our local
gas works, when if you were lucky you would see the collapse of a huge glowing
wall of coke, but what few of us realised at the time was the huge toxicity
of the processes going on there, with nickel, cobalt, phenols and many other
health-threatening materials building up - and perhaps even dangerous levels
of dioxins. I don't know what the main dangers were at Poplar, but even so
I was delighted to be given a commision to go and photograph the barging.
To get on site I had to dress up in a protective suit, hard hat, gloves and
Wellingtons. On leaving the site I had to scrub the boots down and put suit
and gloves into a special bin. Fortunately they decided that my presciption
glasses were suitably large and protective for me not to need to wear safety
glasses over them.
They had expected there to be two barges, but in the event there was only
one, and so by they time I'd been kitted out and we had walked the the riverside
the operation was almost complete. I'd expected to have half an hour to work
but it turned out only to be 11 minutes, so I had to work pretty quickly.
After I'd changed out of the special clothing and walked out of the site
I took the opportunity to take a walk along Bow Creek. I'd asked to be told
when further barge operations were planned so I might take some more photographs
as the barges made their way out to the Thames, before going downstream to
Mucking where the waste was being dumped, and spent some time thinking about
various good positions to take photographs, and how I could use the Brompton
to beat the barge to various viewpoints.
They can only work when high tides come within the normal working day, and
times vary, so it wasn't entirely easy to arrange, and unfortunately there
have been a couple of problems that have stopped the barging for some time.
Although using barges is a fine and green way of moving the waste compared
to road, it really needs to be combined with some kind of treatment to make
the waste safe.
I ended up on the Greenwich meridian, with a new marker installed in the
Virginia Quay estate next to West India Docks station, built since I carried
out my 'Meridian
Project' in the 1990s and made an unsuccesful bid to create a' Meridian
Walk' to mark the new millennium.
Block the Bridge NHS Protest
Westminster Bridge, London. Sunday 9 October 2011
Westminster Bridge was crowded with protesters
As a protest against Government plans to destroy the National Health
Service more than a thousand UK Uncut protesters blocked Westminster Bridge,
calling on the House of Lords to vote against the bill.
On the stroke of one o'clock from Big Ben, more than a thousand protesters
followed this signal to lie down on the road and pavements of Westminster
Bridge, filling a large area of it. Police had previously stopped traffic
on the road and had formed a line across Bridge Street to the north.
Many of those present were dressed as nurses or in blue doctor's scrubs,
and had posters or placards against the proposals which will bring in private
contractors to replace large parts of the National Health service. Already
in some areas patients are being required to pay for some minor surgical treatments
that were previously provided free by the NHS.
After a few minutes, everyone got up and people linked arms in several rows
to block pedestrians from walking across the bridge, and the chanting of slogans
that had been taking place before the lie-down resumed. One of the favourites
involved pointing at the Houses of Parliament and shouting that there was
hypocrisy there, as opposed to the democracy in action on the bridge. The
only MP that I noticed taking part in the protest was John McDonnell, Labour
MP for Hayes and Harlington, and Chair of the Socialist Campaign group of
Labour MPs and the Labour Representation Committee.
Two large bamboo tripods were erected in the middle of the bridge, one at
each side and eventually a large banner was stretched between them, reading:
SAVE OUR NHS
As it was being readied for erection, a letter published in the Daily Telegraph
on the day before the Tory party confence was read out by one of the more
than 400 senior doctors and public health experts who signed it. This called
on the Lords to to throw out the government's health and social care bill,
which they say will cause "irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual
patients and to society as a whole". They make clear that "the
proposed reforms as a whole will disrupt, fragment and weaken the country's
public health capabilities" and they deny the government's claims
that the changes have the backing of the profession or the support of the
They claim that the commericalisation will lead to fragmentation of patient
care, will aggravate risks to patients, erode medical ethics and trust and
waste public money in trying to regulate and manage the new system. It will
also make it less efficient in combating outbreaks of diseases and other public
The letter is a damning indictment of ill-thought out proposals whose major
driving force appears to be the enrichment of private companies - including
some of which have close connections with members of the government and Conservative
There was some lively street theatre, with considerable butchery being practised
by two men wearing Cameron and Clegg masks, and another group held a mock
trial in which health minister Andrew Lansley was found guilty and the judge
but on her black cap, when there was some argument over the death penalty,
with at least one person thought hanging was too good for him. A socialist
choir sang, Rhythms of Revolution played their drums and people sat around
and had picnics on the bridge; despite a poor forecast the sun had come out
and it felt quite summery.
Everyone was then invited to a large meeting at the north end of the bridge
to discuss the forthcoming occupation of London, following on from the examples
earlier in the year in the Arab spring and in Spain and currently on Wall
Street. Perhaps half of those present sat down in a large group to take part
in this. A young man from the New York Wall Street Occupation told us about
their experiences and a message from another person there was read out. Many
of those present indicated an interest in the planned occupation of the London
Stock Exchange area. The meeting was still continuing as I left.
Ten Years On - Stop The War Coalition
Trafalgar Square & Downing St, London. Saturday 8 Oct 2011
After the rally in Trafalgar Square a protest took place
outside Downing St
Ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Stop The War Coalition,
CND and MAB held a lengthy mass rally in Trafalgar Square before marching
to Downing Street to demand an end to the war.
Several thousand people came to Trafalgar Square at noon to show their support
for the campaign to end the war in Afghanistan and other imperialist adventures
by our government. Since the war started 10 years ago, more than 550 British
soldiers have been killed (382 in Afghanistan), and many maimed there in Iraq,
where more than a million civilians have been killed. The NATO attacks on
Libya, still continuing, are the third western war on a Muslim country.
It was a varied gathering of 'Armed forces veterans, school students,
musicians, trade unionists, writers, artists, academics, politicians, campaigners,
and military families' that occupied Trafalgar Square, and through the
afternoon representatives of all these spoke, though I missed half of the
proceedings covering events elsewhere.
As well as speeches there were films shown on the giant screen, performance
events, art installations, and debates and stalls by campaigning groups around
the square, in particular calling for the release of Shaker Aamer,
a London resident whose wife and family live in Battersea, who is still held
prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and for the release of Babar Ahmad, a
37 year old British Muslim who has been detained without charge in this country
since August 2004. The US wants to extradite him over allegations that he
was involved in running websites supporting Afghan and Chechen insurgents.
In 2009 he was awarded £60,000 compensation at the High Court after
UK anti-terrorist police admitted subjecting him to 'grave abuse, tantamount
to torture' during his first arrest in December 2003.
Among the speakers I did hear were Billy Hayes, rapper Lowkey, Lindsey German,
Bruce Kent, John Pilger, Jemima Khan, Tony Benn, George Galloway and Julian
Assange, who was at the centre of a huge media scrum both before and after
his address. Joan Humphries whose grandson Kevin Elliot was killed in Afghanistan
spoke for herself and other families of soldiers who have died there. We heard
from David Gentleman who designed the many fine Stop the War posters, Elvis
McGonagall performed one of his poems and the newly elected National Chair
of Stop the War Coalition, Jeremy Corbyn MP gave the final speech.
By this time quite a few of the estimated 5000 people had left and gone home,
and there were perhaps 1500 who then marched down Whitehall, led by veteran
peace protester Hetty Bower. There a delegation was to deliver a letter from
military families calling on the prime minister to bring the troops home.
The marchers refused to go into the pens on the far side of the road and crowded
across Whitehall, closing the road to traffic. They massed in front of the
gates to Downing Street, but after around ten minutes were pushed back by
police towards the centre of the road. There were a few minor scuffles as
police, sometimes perhaps with a little unnecessary excessive force which
angered the protesters cleared some areas.
Police seemed to be stopping some of the protesters from leaving, particularly
towards Parliament Square, and I think their presence probably prolonged the
protest, but soon people were slipping away, and I joined the stream and left.
EDL & UAF Women At Downing St
Downing St, London. Saturday 8 Oct 2011
'Angels' shout insults at UAF counter-protest
More than fifty women and two or three times as many men from the EDL
came to Downing Street today to protest against David Cameron's attack on
the EDL last month where he called the EDL sick. There they confronted a UAF
counter-demonstration before marching to Parliament.
David Cameron in the House of Commons said "Deprecating the EDL
and all they stand for and their attempt to somehow say they are going to
restore order is, I’ve described some parts of our society as sick and
there is none sicker than the EDL."
It was a statement that greatly upset the EDL, and the women's section, known
as the 'Angels' launched an online petition with the title 'EDL Angels
are not sick'. In it they describe themselves as "wives, mothers,
aunts, grandmothers etc" and ask:
"Is it sick to care for your country and the downward spiral that
it is on? Is it sick to protest at the two tier system that runs in our
Country? Is it sick to protest over Child Grooming of which the majority
is carried out by Muslim gangs? Is it sick to protest over the murder of
Charlene Downes? Is it sick to protest about religious courts in our Country
and the futile attempts by some to bring 'Sharia Controlled Zones' into
So far the petition has attracted 780 signatures on the web site (though
at least one person has signed it five times and a quite a few including Adolf
Hitler and Eva Braun are clearly spoofs), and the EDL Angels organised a protest
today to hand with the intention of handing it in at Downing St. One of the
most recent comments on the petition today claims to be from a David Cameron
who writes "Girls! You FORGOT the petition.;-)"
They came along from outside the Red Lion in Parliament Street where they
had gathered and into the pen the police had provided for them opposite Downing
St. Some 50 yards up the road was another pen in which around a hundred people,
mainly women, had answered the call of the UAF to oppose their protest. The
two groups shouted at each other for around half an hour, with the EDL (and
the men were rather more vocal) telling the UAF that they were not English
and the UAF calling the EDL racists and suggesting they follow the example
of Adolf Hitler.
Some of the EDL women wore t-shirts with the message 'EDL Angels not racist
not sick and not silent' and the message was repeated on a large placard.
Others carried placards with the heading 'English Defence League Angels' and
a reproduction of a 'One Law for All' placard stating 'Sharia Law Discriminates
Against Women'. There were also a few of the usual EDL flags and banners based
on the St George's Cross and another placard with John Bull stating 'If You
Won't Defend Your Rights, Don't Complain When you Lose Them.' One woman came
in a burkha.
As some of the men came along towards the pen there was a little of the anti-Muslim
chanting that I've heard at other EDL events, including one group who walked
along singing "Allah is a *****", but I heard little of this later
in the protest, which was generally well-behaved. I didn't see exactly what
happened when one woman wearing Union Jack ear-rings approached the UAF protesters,
but she was led away struggling by police.
What unites the UAF, as its name states, is the opposition to fascists and
fascism and racism in any shape or form. Among those groups demonstrating
with the UAF were Feminist Fightback, Mothers March, Women of Colour, PCS
union, Socialist Workers and London Met Uni Feminists.
Probably all of those who came to protest against the EDL are also against
female genital mutilation, and against the repression of women in some Muslim
countries. Most too - and most Muslims - are against any imposition of Sharia
Law and certainly against 'Sharia Zones' and the other ludicrous activities
of fringe extremist groups such as Muslims Against Crusades. The EDL don't
attract opprobrium because they oppose these things, but for the way that
they behave on the streets and the kind of comments that are rife on their
blogs. Not to mention the threats that they have made against people, particularly
journalists, including myself.
Earlier in the day I had spent some time reading comments on several online
EDL forums and screenshots from them published on anti-racist web sites. Although
the official EDL line is that they are only against extremists and not racist
or anti-Muslim (and this may be true of some of those involved) there are
many of those who support the EDL who express very different views. A week
or so ago a damning academic study of the EDL and their activities was released
by Dr Matthew Feldman and Dr Paul Jackson at Northampton University’s
Radicalism and New Media Research Group.
The Casuals United Blog had issued a warning to EDL members that the Muslim
Defence League (MDL) had issued a threat that they were intending to "to
hunt OUR ANGELS AND SMALL GROUPS OF EDL." As they said (rather more graphically)
there is not really an MDL, but they also suggested that there was "a
demo George Galloway has arranged it is a Palestine Demo" taking place
in Trafalgar Square. Of course it wasn't a "Palestine Demo" but
a Stop The War/CND/MAB protest, and although Galloway did speak he was not
the organiser. I talked to someone later in the day from the MDL at that other
event who denied any knowledge of a threat being issued, and had not even
heard of the rumour.
After around half an hour of shouting and pointing at the UAF, the EDL formed
up into a march, led by the 'Angels' with the men following a short distance
behind, with EDL stewards and police keeping good order, and set off for Parliament.
As I was taking pictures of them outside the Houses of Parliament one of the
stewards tried to move me away from the protest, and called on the police
They told him that I had a right to be there, and I told the steward that
we lived in a free country and that it was important to uphold the freedom
of the press. I had earlier had no problems photographing the 'Angels' (I
had complied with some more reasonable requests by their cheif steward) and
have no idea why that particular steward took against me, but I have previously
been named and threatened by people in the EDL for my (accurate) reporting
of their events. I left to go elsewhere as the EDL Angels rally was starting
One group of women taking part in the counter-demonstration told me that
they had been attacked by a group of male EDL supporters on their way to the
protest for carrying an anti-EDL placard. Police stepped in and prevented
anything further developing.
Later some of those who were protesting with the UAF told me that they thought
that my published account of the event (more or less as above) was too sympathetic
to the EDL. To me it seems an accurate account, which I think has to be a
starting point for any journalist, but also one that while being fair to all,
raises the issues involved.
East Of The City Opening
Shoreditch Gallery, The Juggler, Hoxton, London. Thur 6 Oct
Towards the end of the evening
pictures from the show
We'd hung the show almost a week earlier and it had been open to the public
since then, but it was good to get together with some friends - including
so many good photographers. I wrote a little about the opening on >Re:PHOTO,
and you can see more about the actual show, one of many events in the 2011
East London Photomonth, on the East
of the City web site.
Fish Island, Olympic Views & Hackney Wick
Bethnal Green to Hackney Wick, London. Sunday 2 Oct 2011
Forman's roof terrace and Olympic Stadium
From Cable St I took a bus to Bethnal Green and walked along the Roman Road
(I'd meant to take a bus, but it was around closing time at Columbia Rd market
and they were full of people clutching flowers) and on across the motorway
to Fish Island, going to visit the gallery space on the top floor of Forman's,
one of the few local businesses that seems to have done well out of the Olympics.
Their factory was on Marshgate Lane, more or less where the Olympic stadium
now is, and they now have new modern premises on the opposite bank of the
Lea navigation, designed and painted salmon pink to look like a lump of salmon.
As well as the smoking plant it also houses a restuarant and a large art space,
with views over the Olympic site both from the front of the gallery and the
adjoining roof terrace. I'd gone there both for the views and because someone
I knew had work in the exhibition on show there.
As usual I found a few things to photograph on my route, and afterwards made
my way over the newish footbridge to Hackney Wick, where a lively street market
with a party atmosphere was taking place on what used to be the busy route
to Stratford, but has been cut off by the Olympics.
From there I made my way up to Westway along the towpath on the edge of the
Olympic site, and then walked back into Hackney Wick for the bus back through
the City, which gave a few more views.
Battle of Cable St - 75 Years
Cable St, London. Sunday 2 October 2011
The march on Cable St with Max Levitas leading it
A march by well over a thousand trade unionists and anti-fascists celebrated
the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street when Mosley's fascists
were prevented from marching into London's largely Jewish East End.
In 1936, Oswald Mosley 's 'British Union of Fascists' - known as the 'blackshirts',
modelled on the Italian fascist paramilitary groups of Mussolini and wearing
uniforms inspired by the Nazis, decided to march into London's East End in
a attempt to intimidate the large Jewish community in the area. Attempts were
made to get the Home Secretary to ban the march because of the threat to public
safety, but the Home Secretary instead sided with the fascists, insisting
that their democractic right to march had to be upheld by the police. Mosley
was supported by the right wing press, particularly the Daily Mail.
The march had been condemned as anti-Semitic by the Board of Deputies of
British Jews, but they had advised Jews to stay away from the march. Apparently
very few in the area took their advice. Local opposition to the march was
organised largely by the Communist Party of Great Britain, led by Phil Piratin,
who nine ears later became Communist MP for Mile End. As well as large number
of local people, both Jews and others, thousands of others opposed to fascism
flocked in to defend the area.
People - an estimated 1-300,000 in all - gathered at all the roads leading
into the East End, determined to stop the march on October 4th by 3,000 uniformed
fascists. They stood back outside the Royal Mint while 7,000 Metropolitan
Police, including their entire mounted section and an autogiro (a primitive
form of helicopter with an unpowered rotor) flying overhead, attempted to
clear a route for them. When the anti-fascists heard that police intended
to force a way through Cable Street, Irish dockers and Jewish tailors built
three barricades across the street and thousands flocked in to stop the police
clearing the street. Eventually Mosley abandoned the march and took his supporters
back towards Hyde Park.
There were around 175 people injured, including men, women and police, and
around 150 arrests were made. Most were found guilty of obstructing the police
and fined £5, but a few who were thought to be ringleaders were given
sentences of three months hard labour.
Sadly, although it showed the mood of the people, stopping Mosley's march
did not put an end to anti-semitism and fascist activities in the East End.
Even on that same day there were several fascist meetings held in there, and
in the following months there were a number of marches and rallies in the
East End and Mosley himseld spoke at some of them. There were also gangs of
fascist youths around Mile End assaulting Jews on the streets and smashing
the windows of Jewish homes and shops.
The battle did serve to raise public awareness about the BUF and the violence
it inspired and led to the passage of the 1936 Public Order Act. This prohibited
the wearing of political uniforms in public, except for ceremonial occasions,
outlawed paramilitary organisations, banned offensive weapons at public meetings
and gave power to the police to impose conditions on marches and arrest unruly
counterdemonstrators. It also gave the Home Secretary the power to impose
blanket bans for a period on protests in an area when the chief police officer
felt there was likely to be serious disorder. Under the act it also became
on offence to use "insulting words likely to cause a breach of the peace"
in public speeches.
The victory of the people of East London against the fascists occurred at
the same time as several thousand young Britains were fighting against fascism
as volunteers in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. The East
End took up the Spanish cry of 'No Pasaran' - they shall not pass - and held
Among the well over a thousand who met at Aldgate today were several veterans
of the 1936 battle, including 96 year old veteran of the fight against fascism,
Max Levitas, who led the march and spoke at the rally. Among the banners were
some original ones from the Spanish Civil War, as well as many more modern
trade union and political banners.
Speakers at the rally, who included a number of trade unionists (including
TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady) and local activists all reminded
us of the need to keep up the fight against fascism and racism, and in particular
the need to opppose the English Defence League, who just a few weeks ago attempted
to march into Tower Hamlets and again were stopped by the mass mobilisation
of local people. But 75 years on, the Home Secretary had banned the EDL march,
and the police stopped them before they reached Tower Hamlets.
The oldest of the veteran campaigners at the event was 106 year old Hetty
Bower, still looking extremely well, and walking with the aid of a stick.
Rather younger at 94, Beattie Orwell was still looking very sprightly.
As well as those from London there were groups from around the country represented,
including the Clarion Cycling Club, several of whose members fought in Spain
and had made an anniversary bike ride from Scotland.
While the rally was continuing in the park next to the recently restored
Cable Street mural, I went down to Wilton's Music Hall in Grace Alley, the
oldest surviving Grand Music Hall in the world, which opened in 1858 (and
closed in 1880, but much still remains, although in urgent need of restorarion.)
The battle took place very close to this site (by then it was a Methodist
Mission, and later near derelict) and it was hosting a four day programme
of events commemorating Cable St. Apart from various performances, book launches,
exhibitions and more, there were stalls, street threater and music along the
Lea Navigation & Olympic Site
Bow & Stratford Marsh. Saturday 1 October 2011
Lea Navigation by Bow Flyover
I was one of five photographers invited to talk about my work at a 'Salon
de Refuses' (I think that should really have been either Réfusés
or Refuse) being held as a part of the preparation for a forthcoming book
on artistic responses to the forthcoming London Olympics at the View Tube,
and came an hour or two early so I could have another walk around the area
and take some more pictures and eat my sandwiches as it was a ridiculously
nice day for October.
Mostly I was taking series of images for panoramas, but I also made some
single images. The whole area now has a very different feel to only a few
years ago when it was usually deserted, with perhaps the odd cyclist using
it as a short cut, and in a few places ther occasional dog-walker. Now its
a fairly busy tourist area, with groups out for an afternoon walk and boat
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