No Cuts - Solidarity With The Greek Resistance
Europe House, Westminster, London. Wed 29 Feb 2012
Paul Mackney proved more than a match for the police in argument
As a part of a European Trade Union Day of Action against ever-tougher
austerity measures, trade unionists and activists held a lunchtime demonstration
supporting the Greek resistance outside the European Commission office.
Around thirty protesters, including a number of Greeks, along with trade
unionists and supporters of the Coalition of Resistance and the SWP held a
lunchtime protest on the pavement outside the Smith Square offices of the
European Commission and European Parliament.
The ETUC action took place on the eve of the meeting of the European Council,
and is intended to bring attention to the tremendous social damage that austerity
measures will call. They want the draft treaty to be discussed to be widened
to include a strong social component. Earlier, ETUC General Secretary Bernadette
Ségol stated: "Balanced budgets are necessary but austerity
alone exacerbates imbalances. A policy of stimulation of the economy through
investments should be the solution of choice.”
The London action outside Europe House in Smith Square, Westminster, was
one of a number taking place today in 27 countries around Europe. Later in
the afternoon a further protest in Solidarity with the Greek resistance was
timed for the same place, following on from a vote taken at last Saturday's
solidarity demonstration at the Greek Embassy.
Among the protesters as well as several Greeks living in London were PCS
members from the nearby offices of DEFRA, and Paul Mackney and other supporters
from the Coalition of Resistance. There were some barriers around an area
a few yards away from the office, but the protesters decided to ignore them
and gathered with banners outside the doorway. A man came out from the European
offices and politely asked them to move away as the area outside the doorway
was private land. After some discussion, the protesters agreed to keep the
doorway clear but continued to protest immediately outside.
After the protest had been going almost half an hour, two police officers
arrived and went inside briefly before coming out and talking to the protesters.
They asked to speak to "the person in charge" and nobody was. Eventually
Paul Mackney, vice chair Coalition of Resistance, began to talk with the police,
suggesting to them that if we were on private land then it was no business
of the police. It was the beginning of a long conversation about the legal
niceties, the situation in Greece, and other related topics, with the officer
continuing to ask the protesters to move across the road and Mackney and the
protesters declining to do so, while pointing out they were taking care not
to cause any problems.
The police were perhaps slightly hampered by not knowing where the boundary
of the private land was, as there were no markings on the pavement to make
any claim to it. They did however point out that permission is needed for
protests in the area, and that none had been obtained for this event.
It was an entirely peaceful protest, allowing the protesters to make their
point clearly by inconveniencing no one. As was pointed out, the police -
more had by now arrived - were actually causing more of a problem by partly
obstructing the roadway outside with their car and bikes.
Surprisingly the debate with the police continued until around 1.50pm, when
the protesters told the police that they had always intended to leave at 2pm.
At which the police seemed rather relieved, and even more so when everybody
packed up and walked away.
Pancakes in the City - Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market, City of London. Tues 21 Feb 2012
Occasionally it became more of an obstacle race as tourists
wandered through the market
The race in Leadenhall Market is a team relay with four legs, though some
teams had only three members so one had to run twice. The pancake had to be
tossed three times on each run, and people seemed to be sticking the the rules
despite the lack of referees. Although it lacked the costumes of the Guildhall
event, people did seem to be having rather more fun, perhaps because the event
was organised by the Lamb Tavern at the centre of the market. First opened
in 1309, it was redeveloped along with the rest of the market in fine Victorian
style in 1881, and finely restored in 1991.
As well as the race, there was also a good supply of free pancakes to eat,
and although I'm not really a pancake fan, I did enjoy one, perhaps more down
to the sugar and lemon juice than the pancake.
The race takes place along a short course along the centre of the market,
and tourists and others wandering through make it difficult to keep the course
clear. The teams come from offices in the area and businesses in the market
itself, including a team from the Lamb, from the shoe shine stall outside
and the cheese shop next to the other end of the course. The Lamb Tavern provides
the prizes, the first being a £75 voucher to spend in their restuarant,
the second £50 to spend in the bar and third a bottle of champagne.
The prizes caused a slight problem in the final, between the shoe shiners
and the cheese shop teams, when at the first attempt the cheese shop team
made no attempt to compete, simply walking the course, as the wanted the bar
tab rather than the restuarant voucher. Some haggling followed and a re-run
was demanded - and after the Lamb had agreed both teams would get the bar
money there was a close-fought battle for the honour of winning, won narrowly
for the second year in the short history of the race by the team from the
Pancakes in the City - Guildhall
Guildhall Yard, City of London. Tues 21 Feb 2012
The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers get ready
for the inter-livery pancake races
Members of the various City of London Livery companies showed the City
at its most competitive in what has now became a tradition of inter-livery
pancake races on Shrove Tuesday, organised by the Worshipful Company of Poulters.
The annual pancake race as started by the Poulters in 2004. The Gunmakers
start each heat using a miniature cannon (which can make a very loud bang),
the Clockmakers hold stopwatches to time the races , the Fruiterers provide
lemons, the Cutlers plastic forks, the Glovers white gloves required to be
worn by each runner, while the Poulters provide the eggs essential to make
the pancakes. Where the flour, butter and milk and sugar to sprinkle on those
that are eaten rather than raced comes from is something of a mystery, presumably
from event catering company ‘The Cook and The Butler’ who share
in the organisation of the event which raises funds for the annual Lord Mayor's
charity. This year the primary beneficiary is the Barts and The London Charity,
on behalf of the Trauma Unit at The Royal London Hospital.
Proper decorum is of course observed, though in a departure from previous
years, ladies competing were allowed to wear long trousers - previously they
had been required to have skirts reaching below the knee. But contestants
are required to wear hats for the event, and there is a special Novelty Race,
where contestants are afterwards judged on the novelty of their hats.
This year the Lord Mayor was abroad and his place at the event was taken
by Alderman Sir Michael Savory, who ably demonstrated his pancake tossing
skills. Also present was the Chief Commoner, who is responsible for the Guildhall
yard where there races take place.
Although this particular race is of recent origin, pancake races on Shrove
Tuesday are thought to date back at least five or six hundred years. Pancake
Day is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, during which people
fasted from eggs and butter and stocks of these were finished off by making
More Staines Moors
Shortwood Common & Staines Moor, Middx. Sun 19 Feb 2012
The pond at Shortwood Common is an SSSI
Shortwood Common is another of the preserved areas of open land around Staines,
now part of our green belt. It is now cut into two parts by the A316 Staines
Road West. The pond, thought to have been made for gravel extraction, has
over 50 plant species growing in it and is one of only five or six ponds where
the small sedge, brown galingale (Cyperus fuscus) can still be found, though
threatened by invasive species. The common, together with Knowle Green, Birch
Green and Staines Moor is one of the largest areas of alluvial meadows in
Surrey (though it is really in Middlesex.)
Across the Crooked Billet roundabout is the 1896 waterworks building, a joint
enterprise of the Three Rivers, Grand Junction and West Middlesex water companies
who built the first Staines reservoir. It isn't easy to get a good clear view
of the building from outside the fence.
We walked under the bypass beside the Colne, only to find the path we have
used for more that 30 years blocked by a new fence, with work still continuing
beside the large pipe bridges that cross the river here. Fortunately it was
possible to swing around the end of the fence to access Staines Moor. We came
off the moor under the bridge under the bypass and took the lane leading to
the Herdsman's Cottage on Moor Lane, taking the path opposite and walking
around over the aqueduct and alongside it, recrossing it to enter the Lammas
Lands, where more worked out gravel pits have been made into a public open
Reclaim Love - Occupy Your Heart!
Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 18 Feb 2012
Venus handing out free t-shirts at the event
A large crowd gathered around Eros in Piccadilly Circus to celebrate
love and life in protest against the commercialisation of love on St Valentine's
Day and to party and meditate joyfully for world happiness and peace.
This was the ninth 'Reclaim Love' event, an annual series of demonstrations
begun by Venus CúMara in London, which has since spread. Today at the
same time there were similar events in Manchester, Camarthen, Glastonbury,
Oxford, Totnes, Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, Goa and the USA, and probably
elsewhere, with messages of support coming in from around the world.
All of them reach their peak at 3.30pm British time, when each group taking
part in all the places around the world simultaneously join hands and repeat
a mantra for peace for around 15 minutes. In the words of Reclaim Love:
"United worldwide by our Love of Love, and with a universal prayer
for the peace and happiness of All beings, we play together and say together
and visualise together what our words could become, as we say with all our
hearts, in our own languages:
May All The Beings in All The Worlds Be Happy and At Peace
These words and dreams become the Seeds of Love that we plant together
in this Earth for the good of all those born and unborn.
This moment has got to be one of the most beautiful unifying, shared
experiences on Earth at this time."
Afterwards the party continues, and it was still going strong when I left,
although shortly afterwards the rain which had been continuous and light became
torrential for a short period.
Many of those who attend come in various forms of party dress, and Venus
brings hundreds of free 'Reclaim Love' t-shirts to hand out. There is also
plenty of free food, with the Hare Krishna coming to dish out their vegetarian
grub as well as various individuals handing out biscuits. Others offer free
face=painting or free hugs, and of course there is music, both from a large
samba band, with personnel from three leading bands including Rhythms of Resistance
who played a very lengthy set, and also from a bicycle hauled sound and P/A
Eros (actually the figure with the bow is Anteros, his twin brother the god
of selfless love) was soon presiding over a number of banners carefully attached
to the fountain below.
On the Reclaim Love web site Venus tells the story of how as a young poetess
she listened to "a wise older man talking about our collective consciousness
and how it is affected by a particular number of people focusing on one thing
at one time." He talked of this idea of a "critical mass
of people" and how it was used by "politicians, military,
corporations and media to manipulate and install a sense of fear, racism,
hatred, greed and lack in people."
She decided to create the 'Reclaim Love' movement as an experiment to try
and build up a critical mass of people around the world "to end wars
and to bring lasting peace, love and harmony back to her people and her planet."
And it does perhaps seem reasonable that if enough people around the world
can be persuaded that this should happen it would make some difference in
how we all act.
The number at today's event in London was rather smaller than expected, with
the wet weather probably putting some off. A sizable group came from Occupy
London, and Venus sees the Occupy Movement as Reclaim Love in action. On her
web site she writes:
"The only foundation strong enough in this world is Love for all
of Life. We need to replace the old failed systems with a system that is
based on Love, Truth, Caring and Equality for our species to survive and
be strong, vibrant, peaceful and happy.
As a symbol of this new life, Venus announced in her invitation that
everyone at the event would receive a seed of love to plant a Tree in a
little pot to care for and to love and to create a forest of Love."
Shaker Aamer - 10 years in Guantanamo
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Tues 14 Feb 2012
Protesters with a Valentine's day message for Obama
at the US Embassy
Protesters delivered a Valentine card for President Obama at the US Embassy,
demanding the release of British resident Shaker Aamer, held and ill-treated
in Guantanamo for 10 years today and still in solitary confinement.
Shaker Aamer, a refugee from Saudi Arabia, was granted the legal right to
stay in the UK in 1996, and was applying for British citizenship when he went
as a charity worker with his family to dig wells and support a girls school
in Afghanistan in June 2001. After the US began to bomb Afghanistan following
the 9/11 attack that year, he sent his family home, and then tried to follow
While trying to leave the country he was captured by Afghans, who tortured
him and sold him to US forces for a US $5000 bounty. In US hands he was tortured
in the notorious "dark" prison in Kabul, and then in Bagram and
Kandahar, at times with British agents present, before being one of the first
detainees to be taken to Guantanamo, arriving there on St Valentines Day,
Feb 14, 2002, exactly ten years ago today. He is still there in solitary confinement
despite being cleared for release in 2007.
In Guantanamo, along with the other residents he was subjected to the regime
of orange jump suits, chains, ear muff, shackles, blindfolds and nappies,
harsh conditions and acts of cruelty, torture and deprivation.
Although there has never been any evidence found to link him with terrorist
activities, in Guantanamo Shaker has protested against the conditions and
acted as a spokes-person for the other detainees, as well as organising a
Prisoner's Council. Because of his actitivies there he was put into solitary
confinement for five years.
Shaker's US lawyer, Brent Micklum has stated "Shaker is still being
tortured down there. Shaker has been jailed as long as anyone, under-going
regular torture from beating to food and sleep deprivation. There isn't a
shred of evidence against him."
What Shaker does have is a great deal of evidence against both the US for
their use of torture against him and others, and also against the UK agents
who were present when he was tortured. It is perhaps because of this that
despite his being cleared for release by both the Bush and the Obama administrations
he is still there. There are reports that the US, despite his UK resident
status - and his wife and four children living in Battersea - have tried to
deport him to Saudi Arabia where he would be expected to disappear without
Liberal Democrat MEP for London and vice-chair of the European Parliament's
delegation to the US Sarah Ludford has said:
"The continued existence of Guantanamo is a stain on the record
and reputation of President Obama, a lawyer whose attachment to human rights
was celebrated early in his Presidency by the Nobel peace prize award. It
is an outrage that my constituent Shaker Aamer remains incarcerated in Guantanamo
and separated from his family in London a decade after he was sold by bounty-hunters
and having been charged with no crime."
"It is also an utter mystery why it is so hard to rectify this
terrible injustice and breach of habeas corpus between 2 close allies who
both pledge respect for the rule in their domestic law and international
obligations. It is desperately hypocritical that these principles are repeatedly
declared as shared in the Transatlantic Alliance while a man never charged
let alone tried has been kept in solitary confinement and allegedly tortured
with British collusion."
On St Valentine's Day, the 10th anniversary of his arrival into illegal detention
at Guantanamo, the 'Save Shaker Aamer Campaign' organised an event outside
the US Embassy in London. Around 35 protesters in orange jumpsuits walked
in a circle outside the embassy for over an hour to the beat of a drum, shouting
at intervals 'Free Shaker Aamer'.
A Valentine card for President Obama calling for his release, including photographs
of many protests over his detention was then handed in to the Embassy by Kate
Hudson, the chair of CND, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer
Joy Hurcome was then the first speaker at a rally outside the embassy, urging
all those present to write to their MPs and to the Prime Minister, Foreign
Secretary, President Obama and Hilary Clinton urging the release of Shaker
Aamer. She also pointed out that William Hague had misled the House of Commons
in a reply to a question when he had stated that he was not being held in
solitary confinement. Possibly he had failed to understand or been misled
by his advisers that although the US do not use that term, it is how anyone
else would describe the way that he is being treated.
Hurcombe described the terrible conditions under which he has been held,
and also reported that he is in very poor health, resulting from his mistreatment
and also the hunger strikes he has made in protest at this. There are strong
fears that unless he is released soon he may die in Guantanamo. The rally
was continuing when I had to leave.
Waitrose Told Break Up With Shell
Waitrose, Tottenham Court Rd, London. Tues 14 Feb 2012
Climate Rush protesters with Deeds Not Words sash hand out 'oily' biscuits
Climate Rush handed out heart-shaped 'oily' biscuits to customers outside
a central London Waitrose store today, calling on the company to end its partnership
Climate Rush handed out the biscuits, some with a message and others with
simply a pink heart to customers entering the newly opened store on Tottenham
Court Road, along with a small flyer explaining their action.
I joined the small group of protesters on the street corner before the protest,
and watched them assemble a multi-layer cake tray and load it up with the
biscuits which one of them had baked and iced. I then walked with them to
the door of the supermarket where they handed out biscuits and liquids to
customers entering and leaving.
Two police officers came to take a look and ask the Climate Rushers what
they were doing, but decided it wasn't a problem, though I did notice when
I left that as well as a van full of police outside Waitrose there was another
full of them a couple of hundred yards down the road.
The biscuits weren't really oily, but very sugary. Some had messages in their
icing including 'SHELL IS HELL', 'NO (heart) FOR OIL', 'BITE ME SHELL', 'WAITROSE
+ SHELL = HELL' and 'CLIMATE RUSH'.
With their biscuit, the customers also got an explanation of why the Climate
Rushers were protesting. The leaflet praised Waitrose for its serious emission
targets and commitment to fair trade and local produce, as well as its worker
co-ownership and shared profits, but continues:
"But one thing about Waitrose is breaking our hears. It's struck
up a new partnership with Shell - the oil company responsible for human
rights abuses and massive oil spills in the Niger Delta and skyrocketing
carbon emissions (they've pulled every single investment in sustainable
The partnership with Shell included Waitrose stores on Shell forecourts and
joint marketing campaigns.
The Rushers asked the customers to please "remind Waitrose that
nothing says 'I love you' less than than Shell. Join us in asking Waitrose
to end this bad romance!
Disabled Protest Loss of ILF
Caxton House, Westminster, London. Monday 13 Feb 2012
A protester reads the letter they are to deliver to Maria Miller
Disabled people delivered a letter for Maria Miller (Minister for Disabled
People) opposing the ending of the Independent Living Fund on which thousands
of disabled depend and protested outside her Westminster ministry. London,
The protest was organised by 'Disabled People Against Cuts' (DPAC) and was
supported by many individuals and organisations, although only around 35 were
able to attend. Many more had signed the letter which was delivered, including
at least over 50 people or parents of those receiving ILF, 55 UK disability
organisations, six representatives of European disability organisations as
well as academics, many disabled people, carers and care assistants and other
supporters, including 3 Welsh Assambly members and MPs Dave Anderson and Jim
Sheridan. More may have signed since these details were released a month ago.
It was cold and raining slightly as a number of people in wheelchairs and
other disabled, along with some carers and supporters, gathered outside the
doorway of Caxton House, The Department of Work and Pensions, a few minutes
walk from Parliament.
Some held placards with 'Wanted' posters. One showed Maria Miller, 'Wanted
For Crimes Against Disabled People' and another featured 'The Slash and Burn
Gang' of Ian Duncan Smith, Maria Miller, Paul Barstow and Andrew Lansley,
and offered a reward. Another 'Missing' poster featured Miller as 'Minister
AGAINST Disabled People.
It was a very long letter that was read out, making the point that the decision
to end the ILF by 2015 (it was closed to new applicants in May 2010) had been
"taken with no evidence of an equality impact assessment having taken
place nor any consultation carried out with current and potential beneficiaries
of the fund."
ILF is a ring fenced resource for disabled people with high support needs
and without it many more disabled people will need residential care or family
carers will be forced to leave their jobs and rely on low rates of benefit.
Minister for Disabled people, Maria Miller, had promised that users would
be consulted in 2010-11, but ILF users have heard little or nothing of this
- and could only find out about the consultation by making a Freedom of Information
request. The consultation has been over the development of something called
the 'Personal Independence Payment', the development of which "is still
The letter pointed out that leaving severely disabled people in such anxiety
over their futures is a violation of their human rights set out in the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in particular
Articles 4, 17 and 19.
The letter finishes with around ten short case studies showing how the ILF
enables disabled people to live useful and independent lives - and how its
loss would hit them - as one says, "it really is a return to the dark
ages." Several of those present at the rally also spoke, giving details
of what the loss of ILF will mean to them.
As the protesters pointed out, losing ILF would not make the savings that
the government has suggested. The government say scrapping ILF will save £330m
a year, but DPAC suggest this would be outweighed by the increased need for
residential care - which could be as much as £750m - as well as a loss
in tax revenue as many disabled and carers would be forced to give up work.
There would also be increased costs for the NHS as more disabled people are
denied overnight care and there would be greatly increased health problems
with their associated costs.
Maria Miller was not in her office to receive the letter, but an official
came out onto the doorstep to take it in, with a female colleague hovering
inside the doorway, and promised it would be delivered to her. He rather quickly
went back inside when some of the protesters started asking him questions.
Defend Freedom of Expression
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat 11 Feb 2012
Pragna Patel of Southall Black sisters speaking in front
of a 'Jesus and Mo' cartoon
One Law for All held a rally with around 500 present
opposite Parliament today in defence of free expression, following increasing
censorship prompted by Islamists in the UK.
I arrived some time after the event had started, but speeches were continuing,
listened to attentively and applauded by a large audience. It was an event
to defend freedom of expression, which seems increasingly to be under attack
as various of our authorities take action following complaints by Islamists.
Among the cases mentioned was a 17 year old who was threatened with expulsion
by his Sixth Form College unless he removed a 'Jesus and Mo' cartoon and a
similar demand the the University College London Union that its Atheist Society
removed a cartoon from its Facebook page. Apparently the cartoon showed both
religious leaders drinking in a pub. Also, 'One Law for All' was forced to
cancel a meeting at Queen Mary College where there was to be a speech about
Sharia Law after threats of violence from some Muslim extremists.
As their leaflet says, complaints by Islamists against what for most of us
would be part of our normal freedom of speech are not new, but they see a
disturbing trend in "the support received from universities and other
bodies in the name of false tolerance, cultural sensitivity and respect."
As they also say "The right to criticise religion... is a fundamental
right that is crucial to many, including Muslims."
The event was also a part of a wider international Day of Action For Free
Expression, with other events in Melbourne, Brazil, Paris, Gambia, Germany,
Warsaw (and elsewhere in Poland), Portugal, South Africa and the US. In the
UK the Day of Action was endorsed by nearly 100 groups and individuals including
Jessica Ahlquist, Richard Dawkins, Equal Rights Now, Taslima Nasrin, National
Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, National Secular
Society, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, and Peter Tatchell.
The protest was sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation and although
there were a number of excellent speeches, a few of the speakers I heard did
take the opportunity to criticise religions in general and Christianity in
particular. Rather than supporting freedom of expression, some of the speakers
gave me the impression they were on an anti-religious crusade in a way I felt
was unsuitable at an event dedicated to freedom of speech; atheist bigots
are surely no more acceptable than religious ones. As the leaflet being given
out states "Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising
stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship."
The final speech of the event (of over 30) was by Maryam Namazie of One Law
for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
Stop ACTA - London Protest
British Music House, Berners St, London. Sat 11 Feb 2012
A protester wears an 'Anonymous' mask and a pirate patch
Hundreds protested outside the British Music House against ACTA,
an international agreement on property rights which they see as protecting
the rights of giant corporations against creators and ordinary citizens with
draconian enforcement powers.
ACTA , the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has been largely developed
in secret without any public debate through high-level negotiations between
major countries including United States, the European Community, Switzerland,
Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco,
Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada. Its details reflect the extensive
lobbying of major film and music companies, drug manufacturers and other multinational
companies. There has been little if any representation from either the artists
and others who actually create the intellectual property from which these
companies profit, or the general public who pay for them.
A major driving force behind ACTA has been the failure of the music and film
industries to develop effective new ways of working with the Internet rather
than simply try to buttress their old ways of working. Recently this has led
to ridiculous and vindictive attacks on some of those involved even in a very
peripheral role in the downloading of copyright material from the web - including
sending those who linked to download sites to prison.
The protesters also see ACTA as presenting a threat to free speech on the
Internet, and fear it would be used to allow governments much more control
over material put on the web. ACTA also has major implications apart from
those on web freedom. In particular it would be used to prevent the production
of cheap drugs which have a vital role in treating disease in the majority
world. It would also make it possible to prevent the making of parodies, which
would stop proper creative and critical engagement with cultural works.
The protest, part of an International Day of Action against ACTA follows
a number of protests elsewhere, particularly in Poland, where huge protests
caused a change in the mind of the Prime Minister, and along with the Czech
government they have decided to put plans to ratify it on hold. Following
protests in Germany the government there have delayed signing. There were
further protests in Berlin today, along with other cities across Europe including
Helsinki, Vilnius, Glasgow and Nottingham.
Many of the roughly 500 at the London protest in Berners St opposite the
British Music House which houses groups including the Music Publishers Association
and the Performing Rights Society for Music had come with 'Anonymous' V for
Vendetta masks. The protest was initiated by an Anonymous group calling themselves
'Stop Acta For Freedom' who worked on the details with the 'Open Rights Group',
and was joined by the 'Pirate Party UK'.
I left shortly after the speeches started, with Loz Kaye, Leader of the Pirate
Party UK, and himself a musician, speaking.
After the peaceful static protest in Berners St, the protesters went on an
unplanned march around London, visiting the US Embassy, Buckingham Palace,
Westminster and ending at the St Paul's Occupy London camp, all with a strong
Victory to the Intifada Picket
Marks & Spencers, Oxford St, London. Sat 11 Feb 2012
A shopper stops to sign the petition on the stall
Victory to the Intifada continued their regular presence
outside M&S's Oxford St flagship store started in 2000. This week's protest
also stressed solidarity with Syrian, Iran and Somalia.
The protests showing solidarity with Palestine began at the start of the
Al Aqsa Intifad in 2000, and have continued once or twice a week since then
on the wide pavement outside Marks and Spencers in Oxford St. The location
was chosen as this British High Street institution is Britain's largest corporate
backer of Zionist initiatives in Israel.
They urge shoppers to oppose British support for Israel and to boycott Israeli
goods and support the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.
In today's protest they also wanted to raise their voices against the attacks
currently threatened by some in Britain and the US on Syria, Iran and Somalia.
Amnesty Protest For Human Rights
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 11 Feb 2012
Muslim women carrying posters for Free Syria
Amnesty International held a large rally Trafalgar Square
in solidarity with protesters in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere, including a large
group of Syrians calling for an end to the attacks on Homs, Egyptians and
others, one of 21 similar events around the world.
There were stalls in the square and speakers from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Palestine
and Bahrain as well as the UK. Numbers in the square increased considerably
when a group of several hundred waving Syrian freedom flags arrived at the
rally, for a time taking over the central area of the square completely with
chanting and jumping up and down calling for Asad to go, before settling down
to take part in the Amnesty rally.
Later the Syrians formed a large circle in the square around clock tower
representing that in Homs, where Clock Square has been at the centre of the
protests, and danced around it. On the stage in front of Nelson's Column there
were speakers and groups of protesters from various countries came to address
the enthusiastic crowd, and there were live link ups to protesters in two
There were similar rallies in major cities across Europe, as well as in Iceland,
Morocco, Nepal, Peru and Paraguay. Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary
General addressed the rally saying:
"Our message to the people of the Middle East and North Africa is
that you are not alone in your struggle. We are with you."
"Our message to the governments of the Middle East and North Africa
is that you will be held to account. The world is watching."
IWW Cleaners Demand 'Reinstate Alberto'
Heron Tower, Bishopsgate, London. Friday 10 Feb 2012
Protesters included cleaners "thrown out with the
rubbish" by NTT Communications
Cleaners and supporters protested during the evening rush hour outside
the City's tallest building, the Heron Tower, where IWW Branch Secretary Alberto
Durango has been sacked, victimised for his trade union activities.
Alberto Durango has become well known for his campaigning activities
in and around the City of London, which have helped to secure better working
conditions and the London Living Wage for many of the cleaners who work in
London's prestigious offices. He became the Industrial Workers of the World
Cleaners and Allied Trades Branch Secretary and was working at the Heron Tower.
Last August the IWW won its fight for the London Living wage for the cleaners
there, and in November the IWW egotiated an agreement with the cleaning contractor
LCC that there would be no compulsory redundancies and any staff reductions
would be by transfers to alternative posts.
A new contractor, Incentive FM Group Ltd has now taken over the cleaning
at Heron Tower, and although under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection
of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) the agreement should have continued to be
recognised, they have failed to do so and have picked on Alberto for redundancy.
Their action is thought by the trade union be connected with the current
campaign the IWW is pursuing at Exchange Tower for the London Living Wage,
as this shares the same management as Heron Tower, and has taken a very aggressive
stance against the IWW there, threatening some IWW members with investigations.
More than 50 people attended the protest, including members of Rhythms of
Resistance, whose street band sounds added to the noise of the protest and
attracted the attention of many city workers on their way home both on the
street and in the many buses that were queing for long periods because of
the extensive road works in the city.
There was also a group of cleaners supporting Alberto Durango who have recently
been sacked from the City offices of NTT Communications. Their posters read
that they "had been thrown out like rubbish."
As well as Alberto Durango himself addressing the meeting, there was also
support from branches of other trade unions, including the RMT and Unite.
The protest was a peaceful one, and the two City of London police in attendance
had nothing to do. Security staff at Heron Tower were also generally fairly
relaxed, although at one point one did rush out to tear down one of the posters
that he saw I was photographing, and I and other photographers as well as
the protesters weres several times told politely but firmly to get off of
the half of the pavement that was their property.
Further protests and possibly other actions are expected to take place to
get Alberto Durango reinstated and persuade Incentive FM Group to meet their
legal obligations under TUPE.
Occupy London & Other Pictures
St Paul's Cathedral, London. Friday 10 Feb 2012
The side of the information tent At St Paul's: Caution Art
Everything was quiet when I walked through the site late on Friday afternoon,
and there seemed fewer people around than I expected, and a few less tents
than on previous visits. There was also far less art on display than in the
camp's heyday, with the pillars alongside now all entirely cleared. It seems
almost certain that the legal proceedings will soon allow for their eviction.
I didn't stay as I was on my way to a protest in Bishopsgate, and expected
to see some of the Occupy people were there, but if so I didn't notice them.
So these are just a few images as I passed through, along with a few more
as I walked around London.
Release The Bologna 12
Italian Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Wed 8 Feb 2012
The protesters gathered at the back door of the embassy
in Grosvenor Square
A protest at the Italian Embassy called for the release of the Bologna
12, accused of "subversive association for purposes of terrorism"
for their membership of communist organisations under a law dating from the
The twelve whose trial opened at the Assize Court of Bologna today are accused
of belonging to the (new) Italian Communist Party, (n)PCI or related organisations
CARC and ASP. The charges are an attempt to outlaw the communist organisations
and make membership of them a criminal act.
The charges against the accused were thrown out in preliminary hearings in
July 2008, as there were no specific acts that they were charged with, but
were re-instated by the Supreme Court in January 2011. The charges are made
under section 270bis of the Penal code introduced by the Fascist regime under
Mussolini. They were brought as a part of a long campaign by Public Prosecutor
Paolo Giovagnoli for the Authorities of the Papal Republic, aimed against
freedom of expression and organisation of the left in Italy.
If the 12 are found guilty, indictments will be issued against other members
of the (n)PCI and related organisations. Other groups outside the "official"
left - autonomous groups including the Anarchists and Maoists and new formations
such as the Occupy movement will also be targeted by this attempt to criminalise
any radical thought or action.
A dozen people came with banners and placards to hold a token protest outside
the Italian Embassy in the early evening, representing several groups including
'Democracy and Class War', 'Socialist Fight' and 'Irish Republican Prisoners
Support Group'. The began the protest outside the impressive 'back door' of
the embassy in Grosvenor Square, but after 20 minutes were found by police
who told them that they were supposed to be protesting outside the main entrance
to the embassy complex in Three Kings Yard, which was the location they had
given in their notice.
The protesters had come to hand in a letter of protest to the Ambassador
and a man came out of the back door and told them that this would have to
be handed in at Three Kings Yard, so the protest moved around the block to
there. Two of those present then went inside the gates and handed over the
letter to the embassy reception.
The letter protested against the persecution against dissent, the freedom
of expression and association, and continued by stating that scaremongering
about terrorism and using this as a justification for attacks on communists
and those who protest "makes us remember the times when Mussolini
and who supported him firstly outlawed Communists and then eliminated every
party and the Parliament itself, when the fascists were calling "bandits"
the Partisans (most of whom were Communists) who fought to free Italy from
They stated that this prosecution is a clear violation of any democratic
principle and attacks the fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution
concerning freedom of political association and organization.
The protest was continuing outside the embassy when I left.
Parliament Square Peace Protests - No War in Iran
Parliament Square, London. Wed 8 Feb 2012
A protester at the Brian Haw's Peace Camp holds down the notice about police
stealing their tents
Peace protesters in the two peace camps in Parliament Square are continuing
their 24/7 protests despite police removal of all tents from the Parliament
Square Peace Campaign. The Peace Strike supports a weekly protest at the Foreign
Office against war on Iran.
Brian Haw's Parliament Square Peace Campaign is still keeping up its 24hr
vigil and was on Day 3903 of its historic protest when I talked briefly with
Babs Tucker and two other supporters, still there despite the police removal
of their tents, chairs and anything else that could give them comfort on Jan
16th. They are angered by what they see as the 'kid-glove' preferential treatment
accorded by the police to the neighbouring 'Peace Strike' campaign, which
they describe on a notice on the pavement as the 'Police Camp'.
Maria Gallastegui who was for some years a regular supporter of Brian Haw
at the Peace Campaign, began her separate Peace Strike several years ago and
a rift developed between her and Brian Haw. She has cooperated with the police
in various ways - including covering her displays for last year's royal wedding,
and her case against the police resulted in an injuction which restrains the
actions against her untill the case is heard in mid-March, so police have
left one tent and her large 'peace' box - modelled on the old police boxes
- on the square.
The Peace Campaign claim that their own legal claim was intentionally delayed
by the police so that they could take action against them before it could
be considered by the court. They accuse the police of lying and of devious
and underhand actions throughout the ten and a half years of their present
in the square, some of which have been well-recorded by independent sources.
The three people at the Peace Strike were enjoying a mug of tea in their
peace box before making their way to their weekly protest with others opposite
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in King Charles Street to remind Foreign
Secretary William Hague of their opposition to war in Iran.
There they joined a small group of other protesters and put up their banners
on the protest pen before starting to chant noisily, one of them rolling up
a poster to make a large megaphone to project his shouting in the right direction
while two others waved large peace flags and others held placards. The protest
was continuing as I left.
Stop NHS Privatisation - Kill Lansley's Bill
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Wed 8 Feb 2012
Pensioners in the protest outside Parliament
A protest took place outside parliament as debates continued on the Health
and Social Care Bill today, with protesters holding a mock trial of Andrew
Lansley and making brief protests on the road crossings in Parliament Square.
Hackney Keep Our NHS Public had organised a protest outside Parliament on
for the day that the Bill was due to reach report stage, and over fifty people
from groups around London and the rest of the country - including Leeds and
Sheffield brought banners to join them. Shadow public health minister Diane
Abbott MP came out briefly to hold the Hackney banner.
After some chanting of slogans and a line-up of banners in front of Parliament
there was a mock trial of Andrew Lansley for his sins against the Health Service
and for his plans to sell it off. The judge had an impressive white wig and
there were several witnesses for the prosecution, who spoke about their own
experiences as patients and workers in the NHS. Lansley was accused of wanting
to dismantle the welfare state, perhaps one of the greatest British acheivements
of the last century and still the envy of much of the world, providing quality
healthcare at a fraction of the cost of the US system which he appears to
see as a model, and providing it to the whole population regardless of their
ability to pay expensive medical insurance.
After the trial, some of those present sang some songs, and then a small
group took the protest around Parliament Square, walking onto the various
pedestrian crossings and facing the traffic holding up placards and the letters
'S', 'T', 'O' and 'P', usually but not quite always in that order. One police
officer got just a little uptight as they stood across the crossing in Parliament
St, but they took care only to stand in the road when the pedestrian crossing
lights were at green, and moved off the roadway when the lights changed, and
the couple of officers who followed them around were more relaxed.
It was a cold afternoon, close to zero, and after a couple of hours the number
of protesters, many of whom were elderly, was rapidly dropping by the time
I left a couple of hours after it started.
Ukrainians Told 'Release Hunger Strikers'
Ukrainian Embassy, Holland Park, London. Monday 6 Feb 2012
Protesters outside the Ukrainian Embassy with placards
Protesters at the Ukrainian Embassy called for the immediate release
of Somali refugees on hunger strike in the Lutsk Dentention Centre who have
been beaten and intimidated by police.
58 Somalian refugees started a hunger strike in the Lutsk detention centre
on Jan 6, along with another 15 at a second centre. They included 13 women
and 24 under 18s; two of the remaining 11 women taking part are now reported
to be seriously ill.
Their strike is against a system which is profoundly unjust and in breach
of Ukraine's international obligations. They claim that Somalians are always
refused asylum in Ukraine and if they try to cross from there to the EU they
are sent back to Ukraine, where they are detained for 12 months for not having
a temporary permit to stay. After release they can be again arrested and face
a further 12 months detention.
They demand that the Somalian asylum seekers be demanded asylum status in
Ukraine, in line with the European Court of Human Rights determination that
any Somali national is in need of international protection, and his/her return
to Mogadishu would constitute a violation of Article 3 of Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which is binding upon
all the Member States of the Council of Europe, including Ukraine. The also
demand that they be released from detention and provided with documents so
that they will not be rearrested following release, and for an end to police
On Jan 30, around 20 police wearing masks and carrying teargas and guns came
into the detention centre and forced the hunger strikers out of their rooms,
taking some personal items. The refugees reported
"Some of us were punched by hand, others kicked by boots, and
others hit by sticks. They threatened us saying that we have to go to the
dining room and eat. They forced some of the boys to eat. The boys went
to the dining room, saying 'these people will kill us'. Ten of the boys
went to the dining room and the police took some pictures of the boys eating.
We think the Government want to use the pictures for propaganda. The Government
also want to provoke us so we fight and they can see we are hooligans. The
policemen are still here in Lutsk, and we don’t know if they are temporary
The protest outside the London embassy is one of a number showing international
solidarity with the refugees; another is planned for Berlin on Wednesday and
others in Munich and Frankfurt are expected shortly. In the hour I was at
the protest around 15 people turned up to show their solidarity and urge the
Ukraine government to act. They included a Somali woman, but I had to leave
before a former Somali government minister who was on his way to join the
protest arrived. The protesters wanted to hand a letter to the Ukrainian ambassador,
but while I was there the two police in attendance reported that the embassy
was not prepared to accept a letter from the protesters. The protesters were
still trying to negotiate for the embassy to take the letter when I had to
leave, but the point had been made that people and organisations in this country
are aware of the situation over refugees in the Ukraine and expect that country
to meet its international obligations towards them. If the embassy could not
be persuaded to take the letter from the protesters it would be posted to
The Somalian refugees' case is supported by Human Rights Watch, the UNHCR,
Amnesty International, the Ukrainian Refugee Council and the Border Monitoring
Project Ukraine as well as many individuals. On 23 Jan German MEP Rebecca
Harms, co-president of the The Greens–European Free Alliance group in
the European parliament, wrote an open letter to the Minister of Internal
Affairs of Ukraine expression her concerns and pointing out that the denial
of asylum is a direct violation of the Convention on Human Rights and that
the detention of immigrants from Somalia who are seeking asylum in Ukraine
is illegal and in violation of Ukraine's internation obligations.
Staines Walk In The Snow
Staines, Middlesex.Sunday 5 Feb 2012
Staines Moor on a snowy Sunday morning
Staines is on the western fringe of London, inside the M25 but, thanks to
Tory gerrymandering kept out of Greater London when the rest of Middlesex
became greater London in the 1960s. It got lumped into Surrey, which has never
quite accepted it, and where for various reasons it doesn't fit.
The recent decision by the local council to change its name from Staines
to Staines-upon-Thames is perhaps another step in its attempted Surreyfication,
though one that has no real local support. It will keep on being plain old
Staines to those of us who live there - and I expect to the rest of the world.
And it is old, pre-dating the Romans, who called it Ad Pontes, 'at the bridges',
though rather plain with little to show for its age. A few of its truly historical
sites have been excavated, but most simply built over, some several times.
The land around Staines is mainly water. Reservoirs, worked out gravel pits,
rivers. To the north, between two reservoirs we still have an ancient moor,
with three streams of the Colne running through it, the largest the River
Colne itself, truly the river that Staines is upon. Another stream, the River
Ash, branches off from the Colne at the southeast corner of the moor.
We'd had a small fall of snow late on Saturday, and I'd walked home through
the end of it. I'd been planning to go for a walk with some others in London
on the Sunday, but as rather often our train service was in a mess with engineering
works and I suspected the snow would make the bus journeys miss their planned
connections, making travel not worth the hassle. So instead I decided to walk
around Staines. It wasn't a very planned walk and I didn't mean it to be a
tour of Staines's rivers, but you can't help coming across them and having
to go over the bridges, as the Romans found.
My route did take me past a little of Staines history that remains. The old
town hall, abandoned by the council, given away to become a pub. The London
Stone (or at least an excellent replica) by the County Ditch, the conservation
area - not too well preserved, and of course the moor itself, where I took
most of the pictures here.
London Guantánamo Campaign Candlelit Vigil
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Friday 3 Feb 2012
Protesters light candles outside the US Embassy
The London Guantánamo Campaign marked 5 years of regular protest
at the US Embassy and over 10 years of illegal detention with a candlelit
vigil, calling for the shutting down of the camp and the return of UK residents
Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.
Aisha Maniar from the London Guantánamo campaign stated
"We started this action five years ago to serve the United States
government with a regular reminder on the doorstep of its embassy here in
London that the whole world will not turn a blind eye to the regime of torture,
arbitrary detention and lawlessness it has set up at Guantánamo Bay
Around 20 campaigners came to the embassy and lit candles on a bitter night
in front of the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. It seemed very dark with just
a few high-powered spotlights from the embassy grounds lighting patches of
the area, and much of the central part of the embassy had the lights off,
almost as if it was in hiding, under the unevenly lit US eagle and Stars and
Stripes fluttering in an icy wind.
After the candles were lit around half of the protesters, several wearing
Guantánamo-style orange jumpsuits and a couple in chains posed for
pictures behind the main half-circle of candles. Fortunately there was little
wind at ground level and these stayed alight.
Actor and poet Sergio Amigo then read a moving poem written in Guantánamo
by Shaker Aamer, after which Daniel Viesnik from the campaign then spoke about
the five years of the campaign and the ten years of Guantánamo, and
in particular about the two British residents still held there. Both have
been cleared for release, but the US has failed to release them, despite in
Shaker Aamer's case requests by the UK government for his return.
Shaker Aamer, whose wife and children live in Battersea, was taken to Guantánamo
almost ten years ago, on the day that his youngest son was born. Like many
others he was working in Afghanistan at a time when bounties were being offered
to anyone handing over alleged terrorists to the authorities and few if any
questions were asked, with the result that many innocent foreigners were exchanged
Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian sought asylum in the UK and lived in Bournemouth
from 1999 to 2001m when his asylum application was refused. He put in an appeal
and in the meantime decided to go and study the Koran in Pakistan. Shortly
before 9/11 he visited Afghanistan, and when the US invaded tried to return
to Pakistan but was arrested and handed over to the CIA. After a period of
interrogations and beatings he was transferred to Guantánamo in March
2002. Cleared for release by the US military in 2007, a US court injunction
has so far stopped him being forcibly returned to Algeria, where he would
face imprisonment and possibly torture and death. Although he has offers of
refuge from private citizens in both the UK and US, no government has so far
offered to accept him, and the UK government has failed to release information
they have which is vital to his case.
Several performances were planned for the vigil, including readings of more
poems by Guantánamo prisoners, but at this point I had to leave.
Disabled Protest Supports the Atos Two
Triton Square, London. Friday Feb 3 2012
Protesters outside the Atos offices
Disabled people and their supporters braved freezing weather to stage
an hour-long protest outside the UK offices of Atos, protesting against the
unfair testing of fitness to work and benefit cuts and supporting the 'Atos
The protest at Triton Square in London was in solidarity with the 'Atos 2',
a wheelchair user and a pensioner, Notts Uncut activists who were charged
with ‘aggravated trespass’ safter peacefully entering an Atos
assessment centre in Nottingham on a National Day of Action Against Atos and
the Benefit Cuts last December. Charges against the two have now been dropped
but the arrest and illegal confiscation of video material by the Nottingham
police marked a new and disturbing attitude by them towards peaceful protest.
The London protest took place at the same time as a protest in Nottingham.
Around twenty protesters and one crow - given to the group and adopted as
a mascot - came to the protest outside Atos's corporate HQ, although the around
zero temperature meant that some of the disabled supporters were unable to
attend, and others were not present for the full protest. Among the disabled
protesters were three wheelchair users, two of whom spoke while I was there.
Another of the disabled protesters talked about his own experiences in attending
an Atos 'Work Capability Assessment', warning that even simple statements
like stating that you watched television or read a book could be abused by
those adminstering the tests as evidence of fitness for work.
The tests were found to be inadequate and poorly administered by the government's
own investigation and have led to many with terminal cancer, MS, severe mental
health problems and other chronic conditions being found fit to work, stripped
of their benefits and left destitute. Several have been driven to suicide
by the decisions. As the large banner and some of the placards state, 'Atos
Kills'. The appeals process against the decisions is slow, and although a
very high percentage of appeals are successful, often they are followed within
a few weeks by another faulty test which again finds the disabled person fit
The tests completely ignore the evidence of GPs and consultants in favour
of a brief computer-based interview, and these same tests which have been
discredited are shortly to be applied to all those who claim Disablity Living
Government cuts under the Welfare Reform Bill will also lead to hundreds
of thousands of people - the disabled, families, pensioners, unemployed and
low paid workers - being unable to afford their homes. The government expect
them to move to cheaper accomodation, which in cities such as London does
The protesters feel that the government, many of whom are Eton-educated millionaires
- is completely out of touch with the realities of life for ordinary people.
'Stop the Eton looters
Save the Welfare State
Stop the profiteers
Save the Welfare State'
The French company Atos they see as one of the profiteers, making large profits
from the government for depriving the poor and disabled of the benefits they
need to live.
One of the leaflets they handed out stated:
"When not boosting their public image by acting as the official
IT partner for the Paralympic Games, French firm Atos are paid hundreds
of millions of pounds of our money to harass and bully sick and disabled
people, sometimes to death."
Among those who came to support the protest were two members of the PCS from
the nearby Euston Tower, who reported the unease felt by many government workers
in the civil service at the continued use of the Atos tests. They hope to
persuade their union to take action.
L B Camden, London. Friday Feb 3 2012
I was a little early for the protest I had come to photograph so I took a
little walk around the area just north of the Euston Rd. Later I walked around
Kings Cross looking for a protest outside a place that wasn't there, and then
went to get a bus and photographed the St Pancras hotel from near the bus
stop. Eventually my bus came!
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