Gaza - End the Siege

Israeli Embassy, Kensington, London. Thu 27 Dec 2012

Google search t-shirts - israel - Did you mean: Palestine
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Four years after the start of the Israeli 'Cast Lead' massacres in Gaza, a noisy protest close to the embassy called for an end to the onging Israeli attacks and siege of Gaza, and for freedom and justice for Palestine.

On December 27 2008, the Israeli military began their 'Operation Cast Lead' against Gaza, and in the next 23 days they killed over 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Today's protest in Kensington High Street, opposite the private street where Israel's London embassy stands, several hundred people came to remember the anniversary and to condemn the ongoing attacks by Israeli forces on the people of Gaza. The protest was organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign together with other groups including the Palestinian Forum in Britain, British Muslim Initiative, Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Boycott Israel Network, Lib-Dem Friends of Palestine, Friends of Al-Aqsa, and the national trade unions PCS, RMT and UNITE The Union.

The protest started slowly but by the time I left around 90 minutes later there was a noisy crowd of around two hundred shouting their anger towards the Israeli embassy which could just be glimpsed a short distance down the private road guarded by police opposite. Their loud shouting for an end to the attacks on Gaza and for freedom and justice for the Palestinians would certainly have reached the embassy.

Shortly after the protest started there were a number of speeches, beginning with one from a spokesman for the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. He was followed by Lindsey German of Stop the War who emphasized the links between the campaign for justice for Palestine and that against other wars the UK is currently involved in, with the UK and USA supporting Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

Among the protesters were a number of Palestinians and Jews, among them the Orthodox Neturei Karta to whom Zionism is a heresy and who call for the whole of the land now occupied by Israel to be returned to the Palestinians. Unlike at some previous protests opposite the embassy against Israeli action, on this occasion there was no counter-demonstration by supporters of Israel.
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Around Staines

Staines, Middlesex. 23-30 Dec 2012

Flooding on Staines Moor, M25 and aeroplane taking off from Heathrow. Staines upon Colne, Middlesex.
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I was determined to have a few days off at Christmas and the New Year, and spent them at home in Staines (or Staines-upon-Colne as I sometimes like to call it.) Much of the time it rained and we had flood warnings from the Dept of the Environment, though fortunately the water didnt quite come high enough to really get us worried. We are a foot or so higher than some of the areas around, enough to make a difference. In fact our local 'river', Sweeps Ditch at the end of our garden actually stopped flowing at the height of the emergency; it used to run naturally from the River Colne, but was cut off when they rebuilt the town centre and is now pumped up from the River Thames to flow back down into it a mile or two downstream.

There was a little local flooding, with parts of the riverside path being under a foot or two of water, so our annual walk by the Thames to our Christmas or Boxing Day lunch at my sister's in Old Windsor had to be re-routed up over the hill above Runnemede (we could have walked along the road which was only half flooded but very busy with fast-moving traffic, but chose not to.) Our route ran past the Runnymede eco-village and I talked briefly with one of the people living there but didn't have time to visit them in the mud.

A few days later we tried to walk across Staines Moor, and had to modify our route because the way we wanted to go was flooded. We eventually made our way across through quite a bit of flooded land and mud. The moor was pretty deserted except for a few bird watchers who had come to watch for short-eared owls reported to be there, but we didn't see any.
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Energy Bill Second Reading Protest

Parliament Square, London. Wed 19 Dec 2012
MP John McDonnell tells the protest the bill has passed its formal second reading, but will be challenged
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Climate protesters in Parliament Square drew attention to the Energy Bill which will increase the rate of global warming by locking us into the 'dash for gas', increasing carbon emissions as well as causing environmental destruction from fracking.

The protest was timed to coincide with the Energy Bill receiving its second reading in the House of Commons, and was organised by the Climate Bloc, a range of organisations that came together for a climate protest on the TUC march for a Future that Works in October. They see the coalition government as trying to take advantage of the pre-Christmas rush to try and sneak the bill through with only minimal attention from MPs.

At the insistence of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, the vital target for decarbonising electricity generation has been entirely left out of the bill. With the emphasis on using gas and in particular the decision to go for environmentally destructive fracking to produce it, this will remove any incentive for the power companies to reduce carbon emissions. The government's statutory advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has recommended a target of no more than 50g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour for power generation by 2030, which would require carbon capture and storage on gas-fired power stations. Currently each kwh generated produces around 490g of carbon dioxide.
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Schroders Cleaners call for 'Justice at Christmas'

Gresham St, London. Wed 19 Dec 2012

Cleaners' leader Alberto Durango blows noisily on a plastic horn outside Schroders
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Cleaners working for Peartree who clean the City of London offices of the highly profitable asset management company Schroders called to be paid the London Living Wage, for adequate staffing levels and an end to victimisation of union members.

Schroders manage the massive amount of investments worth £202.8 billion for their clients around the world and made pre-tax profits of £266 million, but the people who keep their London offices clean do so on poverty wages - below the London Living Wage set by the GLA as the amount needed to provide a minimum acceptable quality of life in the city.

The cleaners work for a cleaning contractor, Peartree Cleaning Services, who on their website proudly state that their "corporate culture attracts and develops people from around the London, the South East and the UK. Representing more than 40 Nationalities, our employees contribute their skills, diversity and talent to a work culture shaped by mutual respect and thriving in an environment designed to make each of them a success." But the success of these employees is rewarded by paying them less than they need to live on, expecting them to do more than is possible in the hours for which they are paid, and when the IWGB union starts to organise, by victimising the union members.

The national minimum wage simply isn't enough to live on in London, and the London Living Wage is currently £8.55 per hour, £2.36 or around 38% higher than the minimum wage. It still isn't a great amount to live on in London.

The protest started slowly, but was soon making a great deal of noise and attracting attention from everyone in the street. There were chants of What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! and Living Wage! Now! as well as some noisy drumming, whistling and feedback on the megaphone.

Some of the cleaners had problems getting to the protest, with rain slowing down the traffic and making buses run late, and they were still arriving in small numbers when John McDonnell MP spoke in solidarity to the roughly twenty protesters after the protest had been running for around 40 minutes of the scheduled two hours. I had to leave a few minutes later for another protest.

The IWGB which organised this protest and which represents many of London's cleaners has put forward a 'Cleaners Charter' challenging employers to treat them with respect and dignity. This sets out the following 13 points:

1. The London Living Wage (£8.55 per hr) as starting pay rising to £12.50
2. A pay increase every year
3. A proper career path and freedom to apply for other jobs in the industry you are located
4. A pension to ensure dignity in old age
5. Additional payments for unsociable hours
6. A minimum of 34 days basic annual leave, plaus paid public & bank holidays
7. A fair sick pay scheme
8. A 35-hour week without loss of pay
9. Clean and properly equipped staff rooms, changing rooms and showers
10. Regular provision of adequate safety clothing and equipment
11. Freedom from discrimination, bullying and intimidation - no 'third party' sackings
12. Recognition of our union, full consultation and agreement with our union before changes at work
13. Direct employment, an end to contracting out of cleaning.

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Anti-Capitalist Carols in the City

City of London. Tue 18 Dec 2012

'Move Your Money' were the main group behind the protest
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A small group of 'Occupy' anti-capitalist protesters visited businesses and banks around the city to sing anti-capitalist carols against tax avoiders, bailed out banks and others in a peaceful and seasonal protest.

The protesters met at Liverpool St Station where they serenade Starbucks with a dedicated carol to the tune of 'Let it Snow' with the first verse:

Oh the cost of living's frightful
Some relief would be delightful
So don't leave us in the muck
Tax Starbucks, tax Starbucks, tax Starbucks

and continuing for another 3 verses, reminding us and Starbucks and the customers sitting drinking their coffee that corporate and elite tax evasion costs the nation £33 billion a year.

From there the group of a dozen or so carollers moved on to one of the international banking organisations on Bishopsgate, where they performed another carol:

Away in the Caymnans, the Plutocrats wept
Because, we the people
are listing their debts
We're no longer fooled by
Divide and delay, we're planting the seeds,
But they're making hay...

and again across the road at the RBS, reminding them and other listeners that the National Audit office states that the peak support for the banks from the UK government was the unimaginable figure of £1.162 trillion. There were several carols there, including:

Silent debt, holy debt
All is owed, all is wrecked
Round on poor; father, mother and child
public services tendered and priced
sleep in poverty please
sleep in poverty please

The same pattern, with a stop at businesses to sing a relevant carol was repeated as the protesters made their way down through the city towards Bank. Outside the offices of Ramsay Health Care, as well as the 'Silent debt, holy debt' they also sang:

What shall we do with our public services
What shall we do with our public services
Shall we sell off our public services
That's where Thatcher left it!

The next carol stop was a branch of HSBC, where the protesters walked inside to sing a couple of carols; they went in another Starbucks on Old Broad street and treated the customers to a carol, before going on the the RBS opposite the Bank of England and performing inside there.

Our next stop was the Guildhall, the medieval centre of the City, which had its own carol, to the tune of Good King Wenceslas:

Bad George Osborne last looked out
In the Autumn budget
Nothing to be proud about
So he had to fudge it
Said though things don't look that great
We are on the right track
Bullshit George, NHS you hate
Now it's time to fight back.

A few more carollers joined the group here,bringing it up to just over 20. On the way from there to the Royal Exchange the protesters went inside another branch of Starbucks (does working in the city dull the taste for coffee I wondered) then tried to sing inside a branch of Lloyds Bank, but were refused entry so performed on the pavement outside, by now crowded with workers hurrying home. There final performance before reaching the Royal Exchange was in the grand banking hall of the NatWest at Bank, where a number of the staff came out onto the balconies around to listen to the carols they performed. These included one that had been written with the Stock Exchange in mind:

Hark the herald PM say
Austerity is here to stay
Forecast for the next ten years
Bringing hopelessness and tears
But not to landlords & company directors
Tax avoiders, rich investors
They will see their profits soar
And that is what austerity's for
Cuts & Closures for those in need
Just to fuel the wealthy's greed

There was a special carol for the Bank of England, performed with others on the steps of the Royal Exchange opposite - and by now a few more had joined the group to sing:

I'm fearing that by next Christmas
we'll only dream of the time when
benefits existed
NHS is gettin fisted
Death tolls
rising in the snow...

After waiting around for a few more to join them, some of the protesters then set off for the Stock Exchange, en route to St Paul's Cathedral where the protest was due to continue. But in the heavy rush hour traffic the group got split up and I had to leave them on Cheapside before they regrouped to continue and complete the protest.
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Santacon Comes to Town

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 15 Dec 2012

Santas celebrate on the plinth of Nelson's Column

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Hundreds of Santas converged on Trafalgar Square from several starting points for Santacon, "a non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical Christmas parade". Elves and Santas pelted each other with Brussell sprouts in friendly rivalry.

Santas met in Greenwich, Shoreditch and some at a film in a Soho cinema before making an often rather alcoholic path towards Trafalgar Square in a festive celebration. As well as those in Sanat costumes there were also a number of elves, the odd reindeer and some hardy participants dressed only in Santa hats and red briefs. Most of those taking part were young, in their teens or twenties, but there were a few older participants, although most of the beards on show were profuse, white and fake, as well as some younger children and at least one baby elf.

In Trafalgar Square many of them gathered on the plinth of Nelson's column, while others stood around and some, mainly elves, began to throw raw Brussels sprouts at the Santas on the plinth. One of them used his guitar as a bat to hit them back, while others threw them at the watching crowd, and I was hit by several while I took pictures. Others in the square joined in the battle, and many tourists posed for pictures with the Santas.

I had to leave before the groups who were coming from Shoreditch and Greenwich arrived to swell the numbers.

The first mass event with people in Santa costumes began with a street theatre group in Copenhagen in 1974, but the event took off in the USA in the 1990s and has spread to cities across the world. Some of those taking part see it as a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas, but for most it's simply a fun day out in the city drinking on the street with friends.
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Boycott Workfare Surprise Party in Brixton

Brixton, London. Wed 12 Dec 2012
'Workfare Ruins Xmas' - protesters come out of the British Heart Foundation shop after a protest there
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A small group from Boycott Workfare held a surprise party in the British Heart Foundation shop to protest against their use of free forced labour by the unemployed before going to to demonstrate against other shops using workfare.

The protest, part of a week of action called by Boycott Workfare which began last Saturday, had been billed as a surprise party, and the group met in Windrush Square, where two PCSOs who had been waiting for them came to ask what they intended to do, but were not given a clear answer. They watched as the protesters walked away, apparently sending messages on the direction in which they were going.

The protesters went inside the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shop armed with Christmas decorations, Santa hats and crackers as well as a banner and placard. Shop staff argued with them as soon as they started to party and protest and I was told I could not photograph inside the store, so continued to take pictures through the door and windows, though unfortunately was unable to hear what was said.

Although there have been a number of often rather disgruntled Workfare 'employees' in this store on previous visits by some of those protesting, as well as in other BHF shops, there appeared to be none present when the protest took place, although there were some workers on community service orders, as well as genuine volunteers and paid staff. The BHF nationally has used workfare on a massive scale, but apparently now claim they are stepping back from the scheme, but the branch may have received a warning from the police about a likely protest.

Unemployed people who are told they must do workfare - for no pay - or lose their benefits often complain not only that they are being treated like criminals, working alongside those who have been sent by the courts, but they are usually required to work longer hours than them.

The BHF is not the only charity using these free forced labour schemes and Boycott Workfare list them among other charities including Barnado's YMCA, Community Service Volunteers, RSPCA, Salvation Army, Scope, PDSA and Sue Ryder as leading examples of charities making use of what they call the "scandalous employment practice of workfare."

Workfare is supposed to offer a way for the unemployed to get into work, but many employers are using it as a free labour supply, cutting down the number of actual jobs available by getting the work done for nothing by the unemployed. Few if any of those who go on workfare schemes actually get offered paid work - and twice as many as get work become subject to 'benefit sanctions', losing their benefits for many weeks, sometimes indefinitely. Some employers also seem to be using workfare to attack workers' terms and conditions and attacking trade union organisation by replacing unionised workers by the unemployed.

As the protesters came out of the shop and walked away the two PCSO's appeared again and asked if they had finished their action.

From BHF the protesters moved on to Poundland, who they say rely on these unpaid workers to do any of the shop floor jobs, where they held their banner outside the shop and handed out leaflets to customers and passers-by.

They then moved on and held up the banner outside the window of Superdrug, who they say is using unpaid workers rather than taking on the extra staff they normally employ in the busy Christmas period. Here a security man came and told them they could not protest on the pavement outside the shop, and was told that they had every right to protest on the public pavement. He then threatened to assault me if I continued to photograph him, but I told him I was entirely within my rights to do so. Several of the protesters argued with him, and told him why they were protesting and he calmed down, and after a few minutes went back inside the store.

I left as the protesters as they were discussing which store they might protest against next - or whether it was time to go home.
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Starbucks Euston Road - LRC

Euston Rd, London. Sat 8 Dec 2012
A protester reads to one of his children in UK Uncut protest as police enter the Euston Rd Starbucks
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As part of the UK Uncut Day of Action against Starbucks, the Labour Representation Committee held a protest at the Euston Road branch of Starbucks, along with supporters of UK Uncut who briefly occupied the store.

The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) took part in the UK Uncut Day of Action, organising a protest at the Euston Road branch of Starbucks. Previously they had forced the issue of tax justice onto the Labour Party agenda at the 2010 conference with a motion moved by the GMB union - which organises workers in Starbucks - calling on the party to mount a campaign to highlight tax avoidance. Although the motion was passed overwhelmingly, the Labour Party has yet to really show a strong hand on the issue.

They had called a protest starting from 2pm, but at that time there was no sign of the LRC. The group of around a dozen UK Uncut supporters at the meeting point waited for 15 minutes and then decided to take action without them, walking across the road and into Starbucks a little over minutes later, taking out a poster and announcing the start of the protest.

By the time the LRC group started to arrive the protest was taking place inside the Euston Road Starbucks and the employees there had locked the door to stop them going inside. The police, who had been waiting in a van on the other side of the road came across a few minutes later and came to talk to the protesters. It was all on a polite and friendly basis as the protesters agreed they would leave and continue the protest outside when they were requested to do so.

By the time they left Starbucks there more supporters had arrived and the protest continued in front of the Starbucks branch with around 50 people. Many held posters saying 'Closed For Tax Avoidance - Thank You' and the branch was effectively closed down at least for the next half hour or so before I left. Among those who came to join the protest was Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who told me she had earlier been at the protest outside Starbucks at Camden Town.

GMB members on the protest had brought leaflets for the shop workers at Starbucks, who are getting a raw deal from the management who want to cut down their conditions as a way to save money to make a voluntary contribution in lieu of paying proper tax. UK Uncut dismiss this as being "to little, to latte", saying that the rest of us have to pay what is due, not a token offer to the taxman. They point to the amount paid each year by Costa Coffee on a lower annual turnover, which is several times per year what Starbucks are offering to cover several years of dubiously legal tax avoidance. Starbucks have avoided paying perhaps ten times what they are now offering.
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UK Uncut Visits Starbucks

Conduit St & Vigo St, London. Sat 8 Dec 2012

Protesters inside Starbucks on Conduit St - including Polly Toynbee at right
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UK Uncut supporters went into two Starbucks just off Regent St at noon, occupying both and turning one into a crèche and the other to a women's refuge, calling them to pay their fair share of tax. They then held a lengthy rally outside in Vigo St.

The protest in London's West End was one of over 45 protests at Starbucks shops across the UK today, in UK Uncut’s biggest day of action, with women, men and children transforming Starbucks stores into in refuges, crèches and homeless shelters in protest against the impact of the government’s cuts on women and their refusal to clamp down on tax avoidance.

When I arrived to look at both the Conduit St and Vigo St branches around a quarter of an hour before the protest over Starbucks non-payment of Corporation tax was due to start there were police, press and a few demonstrators outside them, as well as some I thought to be protesters and a few press inside. I chose to stay at Conduit St as there seemed to be more people there, and went inside to stand in the fairly long queue to be served. There was a Starbucks employee standing by the door and refusing entry to those he thought were protesters but I was not stopped.

As noon approached, there were more protesters and photographers standing around inside the store, as well as some seated drinking coffee. Around a minute after noon, one of the protesters got up and started the protest, reading out a lengthy document about Starbucks' failure to pay tax, and how the amounts that companies including them were avoiding paying were around five times the total of the cuts in services so far made by the coalition government. She announced that they were setting up a crèche inside this branch to compensate for all those and other family services that the government had closed.

This was indeed a family-friendly protest, although there were relatively few children and babies present. The only argument came when staff stopped a couple of the protesters from putting their banner up in the window. The had also locked the door to prevent others from entering, and the police who had been standing on the other side of the road soon moved across in front of it.

The protest continued with more speeches and some chanting of slogans calling on Starbucks to pay up. After around 10 minutes a police officer came into the branch and wrongly accused the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers, which they clearly had not. Nor had they been asked to leave by the store manager. But they were told this was a disorderly protest despite this, and threatened with arrest if they stayed, although at no point did he make clear under what law they might be arrested.

At this point, the customers who were not protesting - though some had been interested by the protest and asking to know more about Starbucks failure to pay taxes, along with some of the protesters and some of the press, myself included, left the store, walking through a large and noisy protest by those who had not managed to gain entry earlier. The protest inside continued, and in the next five minutes or so that I was outside there appeared to be no arrests.

I walked the short distance the Vigo St Starbucks, where the protest had started at the same time but here I was not able to get inside and had to photograph the 'Women's refuge' that the protesters had set up in there through the window. The occupation continued there for over half an hour before the protesters quietly walked out to join the large crowd who soon spread across the street to hold a rally which was still continuing when I left over an hour after the protest had started.

The protesters allege that Starbucks uses a whole number of tricks to avoid paying tax. One is to use a Starbucks company in a tax haven to lend them the money to fund their UK operations at a rate 4% above the LIBOR rate - the excessive interest costs the UK business but makes fat profits for them in the tax haven. Another is to buy their coffee beans at high prices from a subsidiary in Switzerland, which pays only 5% tax on them rather than the 24% they would pay in corporation tax in the UK. They also pay 6% of their total sales as a 'royalty' to their Dutch company - and they have a secret low rate tax deal with the government in the Netherlands.

Several of the speakers talked about the real hardships being faced particularly by women and the disabled in the UK because of the cuts in services. The losses in tax through tricks like those they say are used by Starbucks - Corporate Tax Avoidance - costs the UK £70 billion, which they compare to the benefit cuts of £15 billion.

Sarah Greene, a UK Uncut activist said:
"It is an outrage that the government continues to choose to let multinationals like Starbucks dodge millions in tax while cutting vital services like refuges, crèches and rape crisis centres. It does not have to be this way. The government could easily bring in billions by clamping down on tax avoidance that could fund vital services by clamping down on tax dodging."
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Activists Dump Manure for Niyamgiri

Indian High Commission, Aldwych, London. Thu 6 Dec 2012

Activists dressed as building workers dump manure in the doorway of the Indian High Commission
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As a protest took place outside the Indian High Commission against the proposed destruction of the sacred Niyamgiri mountain for bauxite mining, three activists dressed as builders dumped manure in the doorway of the building and then disappeared.

The protest took place as the Indian Supreme Court in Delhi was considering a challenge to the Environment Ministry decision in August 2010 to stop to the Niyamgiri mine due to violations of environment and forestry acts. The challenge came from the Orissa Mining Corporation, a state-owned company which owns 24% of the shares in the venture by Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite.

A decision was expected last Saturday, but has been put off as the Supreme Court has ruled that the claim of the Dongrias over the mountain should be considered as 'inalienable' rather than 'compensatory' and has asked the state government to provide further details about the case.

The London action coincided with a protest in Orissa by grassroots movements which was expected to involve ten thousand people on the Niyamgiri mountain in a show of defiance. As in London they were calling for the closure of the Lanjigarh refinery, built without proper prior informed consent of the local population and for an absolute ban on the mining of the mountain.

The noise protest in London was attended by around 20 people, and had been going for around an hour outside the Indian High Commision in Aldwych when three people dressed as building workers came up carrying sacks. I was photographing the protesters on the edge of the pavement when I saw that they were emptying out the sacks - which contained horse manure - in front of the entrance door of the High Commission and rushed across to photograph them. They were wearing hig-viz jerkins, hard hats and protective masks, and once they had dumped the manure in the doorway they quickly left the area.

Many of those at the protest were clearly as surprised as I was by their action, but several came forward and put placards into the pile of dung for1photographs. A few minutes later several police arrived (it was impossible not to think about closing stable doors) and talked to a man from the High Commisison who had come out of another entrance. Then they started to ask who was in charge of the protest, but nobody claimed to be. The man from the High Commission came and took pictures of the manure, and then of the protesters (as one of his colleagues had a few minutes earlier) and of me.

After a few minutes of trying to talk to the protesters who continued with their protest largely ignoring them, one of the police told them that under Section 12 of the Public Order Act he was insisting that they move to the nearby pen if they wished to continue their protest. Section 12 in fact relates to public processions and not to static protests such as this. Section 14 would apply to public assemblies but a public assembly requires 20 or more people and with the 'builders' having left the scene there were not enough for the protest to be a public assembly.

However as they were only being requested to move around ten yards along the road to the pen, the protesters decided to agree to the police request. Some decided they had been standing around in the bitter cold for long enough and the others continued the protest inside the pen, and I decided it was time to leave.
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Osborne's Budget Cuts

Strand to Westminster, London. Wed 5 Dec 2012

Goldsmiths students marching down the Strand
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Unite the Resistance and UCU marched to Downing St in protest over Tory cuts in jobs, services and education to join with other protesters from Stop the War and CND against Osborne's attacks on the vulnerable, continued in his autumn statement.

Just over 200 people marched from Kings College to join the protest which had already started opposite Downing St against coalition government's austerity programme and the further cuts which disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable announced today by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in his autumn budget statement.

Those protesting, already sickened by the attacks on the unemployed and disabled through cuts in benefits and enforced unpaid work under the workfare scheme were shocked by the further cuts now announced, which will further disadvantage the unemployed and those on low wages.

The march had been called by the UCU London Region, and was joined by students, trade unionists, socialists and others, and marched in an orderly fashion down the Strand and into Whitehall shouting slogans against public service cuts, the rich, David Cameron and George Osborne in particular.

Most of those already protesting at Downing St were from CND and Stop the War. Their protest called for the government to cut the budget for expensive wars such as that in Afghanistan by bringing the troops home now, and for making a huge saving which would avoid many of the cuts by scrapping Trident and cancelling the planned replacement for it.

They point out the huge cost of all this entirely unnecessary expenditure:
"The Afghanistan war -- which everyone knows is futile and lost -- is costing around £6 billion a year. The yearly maintenance costs for Trident are £2.2 billion a year. The cost of renewing the Trident system -- which this government is committed to do -- would cost up to £130 billion. Two aircraft carriers are being built at a cost of £7 billion. Then there's the £15 billion to be spent buying 150 F-35 jets from the US, each of which will cost £85 million plus an extra £16 million for the engine."

After the marchers arrived, more than doubling the size of the protest, a rally began, with speakers being asked to cut their contributions short because of the extreme cold. Among the speakers were John McDonnell MP, Kate Hudson of CND, author Owen Jones, Andy Greene of DPAC and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.

We also heard from a nurse from Lewisham Hospital about the need to support their campaign to keep the hospital open, which 15,000 people recently supported in a local protest march. The closure is threatened by the administrator put in to run the areas hospitals which are crippled by debts from PFI programmes undertaken by other hospitals in the group. There was a speaker from the NUT about the problems caused by the cuts in education, and NUT members came from Connaught School in Waltham Forest where they are taking strike action over the decision by school governors to pursue academy status despite the opposition of the teachers, parents, the local MP and councillors.

Other speakers included one from UKUncut, urging people to join the protest against Starbucks across the country planned for Saturday and several trade unionists. Many of the speakers talked of the necessity for the unions to take effective action against the cuts, calling on union leaders to stop simply speaking against them and take the lead from their members and start organising strike action.
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Olympic Area Slightly Open

Stratford Marsh, London. Wed 5 Dec 2012

The Greenway reopened between Pudding Mill Lane and Hackney Wick on 1 Dec
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The Stratford Marsh section of the Greenway was closed in May for the Olympics and has now re-opened, with new management at the View Tube, which has also been enlarged with a conservatory between it and the wire - you now have to walk around behind it to get into the garden area between it and the railway.

Although you can walk along the Greenway now - I went down the slope onto the navigation (the towpath is also open) and walked along to Old Ford and then on to Hackney Wick, most of the area will remain closed off for years - and much probably never opened as it was before. I think those tall and rather ugly fences are likely to be a permanent feature.

The section of the Greenway between the railway and Stratford High St remains closed because of the works for Crossrail which are continuing. The route to the Greenway isn't entirely straightforward, and if I hadn't known it was possible and seen the signs put out by the View Tube in a vain attempt to attract custom I would probably have been deterred by the fencing and signs. The View Tube cafe had a total of zero customers when I went in and up to the viewing area on its first floor.


As well as the normal digital images, I also produced a number of panoramas.
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Climate March Says 'NO' to Fracking

Grosvenor Square & Westminster, London. Sat 1 Dec 2012

People held the pipeline which ran from the US to Canadian embassies across Grosvenor Square
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On the Global Day of Action on Climate Change, activists laid a pipeline from the US to Canadian embassies before marching to Parliament to erect a giant mock fracking rig with the message 'No Fracking in the UK'.

The protest aimed to highlight the dangers of using shale oil and tar sands for energy, both of which would lead to excessive global warming and make reaching the targets set for carbon emissions impossible. Other concerns related to climate change were also represented in banners, placards and posters, including the melting of Arctic sea ice - now expected to disappear completely in the summer by 2015 and the dangers of nuclear energy, made very clear at Fukushima, with a number of Japanese anti-nuclear activists taking part in the protest.

The event started with a short rally outside the US Embassy, chosen because the dirty energy lobby in the USA, led by companies including the Koch Brothers, has succeeded in making the US the main barrier to effective climate action over the years. Their success led to an effective total silence over climate change as an issue in the recent US election - until Hurricane Sandy forced it onto the agenda at a very late stage. The US is also a leader in 'fracking', going ahead with it a full speed despite the problems of contamination of water tables it has been shown to cause.

At the end of the rally people began to collect the long 'pipes' to build the pipeline from the front of the US embassy to the Canadian Canadian High Commission at the opposite end of Grosvenor Square to show their outrage at the continued exploitation of high-carbon tar sands. There were just about enough pipes to stretch the length of the square - about 250 metres, but it wasn't really possible to see the whole thing as it had to go along the pavement rather than through the gardens in the centre.

The march then formed up along the side of the square, with around a thousand people, and set off towards Berkeley Square and then past Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall to Parliament.

I had left the march soon after the start to photograph some other events, and returned to Old Palace Yard just before the mock fracking rig was raised. After this the rally there continued with speeches from Eve Macnamara from REAF (Ribble Estuary against Fracking), John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington) and Natalie Bennett (leader, Green party).
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Morsi's Dicatatorial Decree

Egyptian Embassy, South St, London. Sat 1 Dec 2012

One of the few posters I could understand at the protest against Morsi and his decree
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Over 50 protesters shouted noisily outside the Egyptian embassy condemning the decree by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi calling him a dictator. A few yards down the street, separated by police was a protest by 5 of supporters of his action.
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Free West Papua Independence Day

Indonesian Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 1 Dec 2012

A woman with the Free West Papua flag painted on her face
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Supporters of Free West Papua, including Maria Wenda, protested at the Indonesian Embassy in Grosvenor Square on West Papua's independence day, when they were given their freedom by the Dutch in 1961, a year before the Indonesian occupation.

West Papuans were granted their freedom by the Dutch in 1961, and have their own national flag - the Morning Star - and national anthem. A year later they were invaded by Indonesia who still occupy their country and have killed over 400,000 of the civilian population.

The Free West Papua organisation is based in the UK and led by Benny Wenda, a tribal chief who escaped from an Indonesian prison and came to the UK. His wife, Maria Wenda and their children were present at today's protest, along with other supporters of their struggle for freedom. After the protest opposite the Indonesian embassy, they planned to protest outside the headquarters of mining company Rio Tinto.

The campaign say that "operations by the military in the highlands are continuing, and all human rights groups and foreign media remain banned" and that 40 civilians have been killed by the Indonesian security forces since August. They ask supporters to lobby their MPs. Amnesty International continue to produce disturbing reports on the country including a recent one in which they say that Indonesia lacks 'human rights accountability' after Indonesian police officers involved in the killing of 7 civilians at a peaceful Congress meeting last month had been allowed to return to work with just a written warning.

The dozen or more protesters with flags and placards held a very spirited demonstration, often making a rather louder noise than the thousand or more climate demonstrators who were also in Grosvenor Square. The flags with their white star on a red square and blue and white stripes. which some of the protesters also had painted on their faces made this a colourful event.
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Adidas 'Pay Your Workers'

Oxford St, London. Sat 1 Dec 2012

Protesters in front of the Adidas windows on Oxford St address shoppers
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Protesters outside Adidas in Oxford St told the company to pay the $1.8 million they still owe in redundacy pay to former workers in Indonesia a year after the factory closed down.

PT Kizone was a factory in Indonesia making sportswear for Adidas, Nike and Dallas Cowboys, and in January 2011 the factory owner fled and the factory closed in April 2011. The 2,800 workers were left with no jobs and without the severance pay they were entitled to by law, of around US$2.8 million (about £1.74 million.)

They had made goods for Adidas for many years, often being paid as little as US $0.60 an hour (37p) and the three companies were obliged to share the payments. Both Nike and Dallas Cowboys have agreed to pay their share, but Adidas are refusing to pay the $1.8 million (£1.12 million) they owe.

A worldwide campaign led to a 50,000 signature petition and 5000 posts on their Facebook page demanding they pay, and today was a day of action at Adidas stores across the country, with actions planned for 4 locations in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Bridgend, Cardiff and elsewhere.

Around a dozen people came to Oxford St with banners and leaflets, as well as masks with the face of Justin Bieber, who is the 'global style icon' for their NEO label. The protesters point out that Adidas were "happy to pay their $157m to sponsor the Olympics, but won’t pay 1% of that to avoid the destitution of those that made them their profits."

Last month a third US University, the University of Washington, cut contracts with Adidas over the issue. Although they have now lost contracts worth tens of million dollars since the campaign began, Adidas are still refusing to pay this $1.8 million in legally-owed redundancy pay.
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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2012; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

my london diary index
 

December 2012

Gaza - End the Siege
Around Staines
Energy Bill Second Reading Protest
Schroders Cleaners call for 'Justice
Anti-Capitalist Carols in the City
Santacon Comes to Town
Boycott Workfare Surprise Party in Brixton
Starbucks Euston Road - LRC
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks
Activists Dump Manure for Niyamgiri
Osborne's Budget Cuts
Olympic Area Slightly Open
Climate March Says 'NO' to Fracking
Morsi's Dicatatorial Decree
Free West Papua Independence Day
Adidas 'Pay Your Workers'

january
february
march
april
may
june
july
august
september
october
november
december

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