Muslims march for Lee Rigby
Barking to Ilford, London. Thu 30 May 2013
A young British Muslim boy on the march
A group of British Muslims and friends marched from Barking to a short
rally in Ilford to show solidarity with the family of Lee Rigby and to denounce
his brutal killing, describing it as against all the tenets of Islam.
The march was organised by Karwan e Fikar UK, a political organisation
and Think Tank of British Pakistani Muslims, and among those taking part in
the peace march were several councillors from East London boroughs, including
Waltham Forest and Dagenham, as well as people from Redbridge, including members
of Redbridge Equalities & Community Council.
The march was smaller than anticipated but set off in good spirits and was
joined by a few more on the way and at the rally outside Ilford Sainsbury's,
where there were speeches from several councillors, women and youth representatives,
Shakir Qureshi, the chairman of Karwan e Fikar UK, an Islamic scholar
and Imam and a British Muslim convert.
All the speakers expressed their sympathy for the family of Lee Rigby, and
their revulsion at the terrible action of men who called themselves Muslims,
but whose actions, they stressed, were completely at odds with both the Muslim
religion, which in its early years declared murder to be a crime and Islam
to be a religion of peace, and with the feelings of British Muslims. Several
of them made clear that they have a great love for this country and respect
for its institutions and traditions, and for its acceptance of freedom of
religion and free speech.
London. Tue 28 May 2013
Gherkin and the Pinnacle
I'd gone to the City for a meeting, and had a little time before I needed
to be at another meeting near Kings Cross, but not enough to really do much.
It was raining slightly, and I was about to find a pub to sit for half an
hour or so before taking a bus when I decided the varying light with clouds
and the occasional sun might make it worth taking a few pictures of the newer
buildings in the city with the Fuji X-Pro I had taken in my bag, along with
its 18-55mm zoom.
Bank Holiday Walk
Around Berkhamsted, Herts. Mon 27 May 2013
Trees on field boundaries north of Berkhamsted
I go out for a walk with my wife and son on most bank holidays, and decided
that I wasn't going to change my habits just because there was a demonstration
called by the EDL in London. It was a fine day for a walk, sunny but not too
hot, and for once we didn't really walk too far. The bluebells were out in
the woods, though perhaps just a little past their best, and I didn't spend
much time photographing them.
March Against Monsanto
Westminster, London. Sat 25 May 2013
Woman with three placards in Parliament Square
Too many protested against Monsanto's threat to food and the world to
fit the pavement in Parliament Square, so they moved to Old Palace Yard for
a rally where the first speaker was Bianca Jagger, before going on an impromptu
march through London.
Genetically modified foods are not all necessarily unsafe, but some made
by Monsanto are alleged to have been shown to cause serious health conditions
such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. Far
more scientific research is needed to make sure that those that are introduced
are safe both for humans and for the environment and make a real contribution
to global health and well-being rather than simply to the profits of a few
Unfortunately Monsanto has been allowed to gain a huge influence in the safety
decisions made by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) which is largely
run by former Monsanto employees, and Monsanto has been succesful in lobbying
the US government to pass laws that, among other things, bans courts from
halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.
Monsanto appears to be aiming for a monopoly over world food supplies, by
attempting to patent seeds and genetic makeup and even some traditional plants;
its activities around the world threaten the livelihoods of small farmers
and organic farmers around the world. In August 2012, a committee of experts
appointed by the Indian Supreme Court called for a 10-year moratorium on all
field trials of GM foods and the termination of all transgenic crop trials
because of the possible dangers, and some countries have taken action to protect
GM seeds and the insecticides needed to successfully cultivate them have
also been implicated in the colony collapse of bees in countries around the
Today's London protest, one of a number taken place around the world today
as a global 'March Against Monsanto' was intended to be a static
protest on the pavement of Parliament Square. But clearly there was no way
with the numbers involved that it would fit the space available, and it spilled
over onto the grass area, about which the authorities are peculiarly sensitive
since it's occupation by the Democracy Village peace camp in 2010
- as well as the over ten years presence of the Parliament Square peace camp
until it was cleared earlier this year.
Police suggested to the organisers that they move to Old Palace Yard, where
there is more space for the rally, and they did so. The first speaker at the
rally was Bianca Jagger who has a long history of working for human
rights and environmental causes - receiving for the latter the Green Globe
Award from the Rainbow Alliance in 1997, and the United Nations Earth Day
Award in 1994. She was followed by a number of other speakers stressing the
danger of GM foods and biofuels and calling for some more organised action
Hare Krishna had been providing free food for those who wanted it, and then
their band turned up, with its bicycle-hauled drum kit, amps and speakers.
Although this had been planned as a static event, soon the band was persuaded
to lead those present in a march around Parliament Square and Whitehall, where
there was a brief protest on the road outside the gates of Downing St. The
march then continued up past Trafalgar Square, which was full of German football
fans and up the Charing Cross Rd, as the band were intending to return to
their base just off Soho Square. I left the march at the north end of Trafalgar
Don't hang Prof Bhullar!
Indian High Commission, London. Fri 24 May
A Sikh holds a placard 'Save Prof Bhullar' showing
him and a large noose
Sikhs who have been holding a Downing St vigil against the hanging of
Professor Bhullar for over 5 weeks, a Sikh activist on death row for 18 years
after conviction based on a confession obtained through torture, protested
at the Indian High Commission.
Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar has been on death row in India for 18
years, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb in Delhi. The evidence against
him was his confession obtained through torture in police custody and supporters
say there is no other evidence to connect him with the Delhi bomb attack.
He was cleared for execution in April, despite reports, now confirmed by
a medical board that he is suffering from severe depression with psychotic
symptoms and suicidal tendencies, and that he is "a bag of bones
and a mere skeleton, bony, lean and thin in hands of the Indian State."
There are also reports of fresh appeals for clemency from various organisations,
including the British academic union the UCU that were being considered by
the Indian government in the middle of May, but atwelve days ago the Daily
Mail reported from India that the prison where he is held had ordered two
new hanging ropes and speculated that the most likely person to be hanged
was Prof Bhullar.
Bhullar taught electrical engineering and was a political activist; his father,
uncle and best friend were all abducted and tortured to death by police in
the early 1990s. When he was falsely accused of bombing the All India Youth
Congress in Delhi in 1993, he understandably had no faith in Indian justice,
and fled to Germany seeking political asylum. The German government turned
down his asylum claim two years later and deported him back to India, their
action too late being found illegal by a German court on the grounds that
his life would be in danger.
The witnesses to the bombing failed to identify him, but Indian police beat
him until he confessed and he was convicted and has been on death row for
The protest at the Indian High Commission had been organised at the last
minute, and seems to have had little or no publicity. Given this and the bad
weather, with heavy rain, it is not surprising that there were relatively
few protesters there when I took the pictures. They were probably outnumbered
at least two to one by the police and there was a very large pen and extensive
barriers around the High Commission at Aldwych. The protest was due to continue
for another couple of hours when I left and the protesters hoped that others
One of the protesters showed me a book on Indian history written in the 1980s,
with a picture of Sikh leaders with President Reagan. On the opposite page
it states that the victimisation of the Sikhs began when they asked to enjoy
the freedom they had been promised by Mahatma Ghandi and Pandit Nehru. "Their
demands to recognise thier unique identity constituionally and to share the
fruits of fredom equally were not only ignored but were declared antinational."
As it goes on toe say, "the Indian government responded with iron fist
Sikhs point to the way that the Indian government, police and legal system
discriminate against minorities, and their failure to take any effective action
against Hindu extremists, whose outrages against minorities at times appear
to have been encouraged by the authorities.
UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel
St Pancras to Park Lane, London. Fri 24 May 2013
Protesters from France and Belgium had arrived on Eurostar
to a rainy London
International protesters who had come by Eurostar were among those marching
from St Pancras to a Mayfair hotel where UEFA was holding its annual congress,
telling the it to kick out Israel and protest against the UEFA under-21 men’s
football final being held there in June.
The march and demonstration was organised by the London-based Red Card
Israeli Racism Campaign founded by members of the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
and now part of a European coalition that has come together to oppose the
participation of Israel in international football because of the contempt
it has shown for the rights of Palestinian football players and supporters.
Last November Frédéric Kanouté and 51 other
leading professional players issued a statement deploring Israel ’s
attacks on Gaza and questioning UEFA holding the under-21 final in Israel,
and this was followed by a protest at UEFA's Swiss offices. French trade union
CGT-INRA passed a resolution against holding the games there in March and
a former French minister of sport, Marie Georges Buffet, wrote to
UEFA president Michel Platini asking the games to be moved elsewhere.
The Red Card campaign led the protests last year for the release of Palestinian
footballer Mahmoud Sarsak who lost almost half of his body weight
in 3 months on hunger strike in an Israeli jail last year. He had been detained
without charge in 2009 while travelling from Gaza to a new club on the West
Bank, and was finally released in July 2012 after appeals from the international
professional footballers association FIFPro, Eric Cantona, Frédéric
Kanouté and the presidents of EUFA and FIFA,
as well as others from outside football.
Red Card had called for a static protest outside the FIFA annual congress
from 11am, and the march fron St Pancras International at noon brought around
a hundred more protesters, including a large group who had come from France
on Eurostar to take part. Announcements about the march were made in both
English and French, but the French protesters soon learnt the English slogans
to use on the march.
Police assisted the marchers, but insisted that the hundred marchers and
their large banners went on the pavement along the busy Euston Road, which
was a problem in places as the pavements are narrow and there are quite a
few people walking with luggage to Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston. Rain
was also a problem and soon came on heavier, and by the time the march was
going past Euston, many marchers were getting to look very wet, but it didn't
stop them protesting. I left them shortly after, just before they went down
the Tottenham Court Rd, to make my way to the protest outside the hotel where
the UEFA congress was taking place.
The protesters were behind a row of police in the central grassed area between
the two carriageways of Park Lane, opposite the hotel entrance where those
attending the congress went in and out. As I approached the protest I had
been able to hear the speeches some way down the road and the delegates must
have all been aware of it taking place.
There was a small covered area with a literature stall and a temporary stage
in the open for speakers, and around a hundred protesters were listening to
speeches calling on UEFA to move next month's under-21 men's tournament and
to eject Israel from UEFA.
Apart from the general mistreatment of Palestinian footballers which was
a breach of the UEFA rules and human rights, two Palestinian footballers are
still held in Israeli jails, Omar Abu Rouis, 23, the goalkeeper of
the Palestinian Olympic team and Muhammed Namer, 22, who plays for
The Teddy Stadium on which UEFA intends to play is home to Beitar Yerushalayim
football club, whose fans have a reputation for racism and boast that the
club is the only one in the Israeli Premier League never to have had an Arab
player. In 2005 the Nigerian Muslim footballer Ndala Ibrahim was signed by
the club but quickly left after being mobbed by supporters, and when this
year they signed two Chechen Muslim players there were racist banners and
chanting at their first match and the club's offices suffered an arson attack.
When one of the Muslims scored his first goal for Beitar, hundreds of fans
left the stadium in protest. Their stadium is on the the site of a Palestinian
village demolished in 1948.
There was a great round of applause when the marchers arrived from St Pancras
and joined the rest of the protesters, and there was further loud applause
when the message came to the protesters that Frédéric Kanouté
had given his support to the campaign to move the tournament. But the loudest
noise came when former hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak took to the stand, and
he had to wait to speak while the crowd chanted his name letter by letter,
'Give me a M, Give me an A... ' and the couple of hundered people
present really sounded like a rather larger football crowd before he could
address us with the aid of an interpeter. I left while he was still speaking,
but people were still arriving to join the protest which still had a couple
of hours to run.
ArtEco Opening - Daniele Tamagni
Wandsworth, London. Thu 23 May 2013
Three photographers - Charlie Phillips, Daniele Tamagni and James Barnor -
at the opening
You can read more about the show and the opening on my >Re:PHOTO blog
Daniele Tamagni at ArtEco.
London. Thu 23 May 2013
The power station from across the Thames
Battersea power station is one of London's architectural cause célèbres,
a landmark building with its exterior designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
in a cathedral style that made it the largest brick building in the world.
The first half was started in 1929, but it only got its iconic four-chimney
appearance when the second half was added after the war, only coming into
full operation in the mid-1950s.
After its closure in 1983 there were many plans for the redevelopment of
the site in and around the listed building, and during one of these the public
- including me - were invited to tour the interior, and of course I took some
pictures, although being on film it wasn't easy to work in the fairly dimly
lit spaces around the machinery.
Developers followed developers, mainly going bust and producing plans that
stood no chance of getting planning permission, but one of them did almost
manage to knock down the place, gutting the interior and removing the roof,
presumably in an attempt to let the weather in and ruin it beyond repair.
This part of their plan succeeded and the current developers - whose plans
passed by the local council some years back now seem to be going ahead backed
by Malaysian money - is having to demolish and reconstruct the four towers
as a part of the overall development of the site at a cost of £100m.
Supposedly there is a garden at the riverside end of the site which is for
a short period before further redevelopment open to the public, mainly at
weekends, which provides an opportunity to get another close view of the exterior
(there was a rather better opportunity I
also took when the then developers held an exhibition of the plans in
It wasn't really worth a visit, but I did take a few pictures, but it was
really the views from across the river - enlivened by some dramatic clouds
(and some short torrential showers) and of the development around what was
built as London's shortest canal, the Grosvenor Canal. A tidal creek that
was developed into a canal by the Chelsea Waterworks Company in 1823, it was
originally around half a mile long, ending where Victoria Coach station now
stands. Some of it was lost when the railway came to Victoria, and more when
the council built the Ebury Bridge estate in the 1930s, but the stub remained
in use after traffic on the rest of London's canals had ceased, taking some
of London's rubbish away by barge until the late 1990s. Now it is a roughly
200 yard long water feature in the centre of the Grosvenor Waterside
development, boats not allowed.
Daddy's Pig heads for the Trough
Downing St to Bank, London. Wed 22 May 2013
Artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan pushing his Daddy's
Pig along Fleet St
Artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan pushed his Daddy's Pig, accompanied by
another protester pushing a fire engine, the three miles from Downing St to
the Bank of England, hoping to present it to the governor for services to
austerity and the criminal activities of the City of London.
McGowan had a small group of supporters with him as he undertook the second
stage of his gruelling journey on hands and knees, pushing the pig on its
plastic roller skate. A few days earlier, he had pushed the pig from from
Kings College hospital in Camberwell where he is receiving cancer treatment
to Downing street as a protest against the privatisation of the NHS which
is being driven by the bankers and private equity firms.
I met them at the Royal Courts of Justice and walked with them to just before
Ludgate Circus, when I had to leave. McGowan, despite knee pads and gloves
was finding the going tough and he and his pig were due to meet a banker at
around 3pm and struggling to meet that appointment.
Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Wed 22 May 2013
The coffin of Legal Aid is carried in
Around a thousand, mainly lawyers, held a mock funeral and rally at Parliament
against government proposals for justice on the cheap, restricting legal aid
and ending the right of clients to chose their solicitor with work going to
the cheapest bid. The protest was organised by the London Criminal Courts
After the marching jazz band led in the funeral procession, with robed and
wigged figures carrying the coffin of Legal Aid, followed by a woman dressed
as the Scales of Justice, there were speeches. And more speeches. At least
all were well presented, often amusing and short, with a time-keeper in front
of the speakers making hand signals to them to ensure they kept within a five
Lawyers are incensed at the proposed changes which will bring in price-competitive
tendering (PCT) and have the effect of bankrupting smaller law firms, while
opening up provision of legal aid to large non-legal companies, including
Eddie Stobart and Tesco, and remove the ability of those in need of legal
aid to chose appropriate specialists in the legal area involved.
Among the speakers were politicians, including Labour MPs Sadiq Khan, Jeremy
Corbyn and his fellow Islington MP Emily Thornberry, Natalie Bennett of the
Green Party and senior figures involved with the law from both Tories and
Lib-Dems. There were those who had been involved with legal aid over cases
of injustice, including Gerry Conlan, one of the Guildford 40, a member of
the family of Jean Charles De Menzes, Susan Matthews, mother of Alfie Meadows
and Breda Power, the daughter of Billy Power, one of the Birmingham 6. Solicitors
who spoke included Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Repreive, and Blur
drummer Dave Rowntree, and notable among the QCs, Helena Kennedy. There were
many memorable quotes (almost alll of which I've forgotten) with Gerry Conlan
making clear "Back in the 1970s they sent innocent people to jail
by the vanload. But if these cuts go through they’ll be sending them
in by the Eddie Stobart truckload"
As well as the lawyers there were also a few protesters present representing
those who very much rely on legal aid, and who would be very hard hit by the
proposed changes, especially women involved in domestic violence and rape
cases, and immigrants fighting for asylum.
At the end of the event there was a summary by leading barrister John Cooper
QC after which the whole assembly delivered its verdict on Grayling, guilty
Bring Shaker Home
Parliament Square, London. Tue 21 May 2013
Protesters on the last of nine days of vigil - but at
Guantanamo the hunger strike continues
The Save Shaker Campaign today completed its nine days of vigil at Parliament
in solidarity with the Guantanamo hunger strikers, now on the 104th day of
their protest, and demanded urgent Government action to bring Shaker Aamer
back home to London.
The vigil began at the start of the Parliamentary session and has taken place
from 12-3pm every weekday, with orange-clad black-hooded figures holding placards
calling for the closure of Guantanamo and the release of the prisoners.
Londoner Shaker Aamer, a charity worker who was sold to US forces by bandits
in Afghanistan in 2001. After being tortured in Bagram Air Force Base by the
US forces (and allegedly with the collusion of UK agencies) he was illegally
rendered to Guantanamo, where he has been held for over 11 years. Over 5 years
ago he was cleared for release as there was no reliable evidence against him,
but is still held in Guantanamo in extreme conditions, subject to daily harassment
and beatings and is now on hunger strike in a bare solitary cell.
The Un Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur for Human
rights wrote to President Obama last Novemember appealing for urgent action
over his case, and over 117,000 people signed a Government e-petition urging
the government to undertake urgent new initiatives to get him immediately
transferred to the UK. Although this and the previous government have made
requests to the USA for his release, there appears to have been a lack of
vigour in pursuing these, perhaps because of the evidence Shaker might give
about British involvement in his torture.
Around 20 protesters dressed and hooded Guantanamo style in bright orange
suits and black hoods held up placards opposite Parliment and paraded around
the area, attracting considerable attention from the tourists who were thronging
past, and clearly discomforting some MPs who scurried away when they saw them,
although others came over and praised their efforts over the 9 day campaign.
Today Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn came across to speak with the protesters and
present the excuses of John McDonnell who was unable to be with them.
Shortly after this the hooded protesters went on a walk along the pavement
in front of Parliament, making their way through the crowds before returning
to their position along the front of the pavement opposite.
'Christian Concern' Against Gay Marriage
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 21 May 2013
Protesters get down to serious prayer opposite the Houses of Parliament
Around 200 supporters of 'Christian Concern', a fundamentalist Christian
organisation, sung, preached, waved, prayed and spoke in tongues outside Parliament
today against the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Some
went to lobby their MPs.
Christian Concern believe that "in last few decades the nation has largely
turned her back on Jesus and embraced alternative ideas such as secular liberal
humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence. The fruit of this is rotten,
and can be seen in widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration."
Their CEO, Andrea Minichiello Williams, stated "Marriage is between
one man and one woman and our country’s laws should continue to reflect
this. It’s good for men and women, good for children and good for society."
Many Christians do not support their views, and a YouGov poll found that
equal numbers of those who identify themselves as Christians support and oppose
gay marriage. Poll after poll has found majority support among the UK population
for gay marriage, and in all those countries where it has been allowed by
law, support for it has grown since it was adopted. Studies generally suggest
that it has made little difference to general attitudes to marriage, divorce
and the family and the evidence is that gay marriage is 'good for men and
women, good for children and good for society' too.
While I was at the protest I heard little argument about the biblical or
theological argument against same-sex marriage though there was a considerable
amount of preaching and prayers. Many of those taking part waved their hands
in the air, and at one point they were all urged to get down on their hands
and knees to pray - and most did. There was a lot of talk about praying, and
one of those speaking seemed to be suggesting that they should all spend seven
hours a day at it.
Two young women came along with hand-drawn posters supporting the marriage
of same-sex couples and stood silently facing the crowd. One of the posters
said 'Love is Just Love' and the other 'Marriage For All'. After a while one
or two of the younger protesters came to argue with them; I listened for a
short while but there seemed to be no meeting of minds, with those from Christian
Concern seeming not to share their ideas about love and equality.
Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide
Hyde Park to Waterloo Place, London. Sat 18 May 2013
Tamil man in tiger scarf calls for a Tamil homeland
Thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India,
Sri Lanka and the UK marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the
Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide
in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland -
The Tamil march had started in Hyde Park, close to Marble Arch, but I only
joined it near the Ritz on Piccadilly, and photographed large banner after
large banner, each with a noisy crowd behind coming down to Picadilly Circus
and then turning down Regent St. There were too many for an accurate estimate,
but perhaps around 5,000 marchers - but so far as I (and Google) can see there
was no mention of it in the British press, and I saw no other non-Tamil photographers
Tamils are disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth
and the world to the organised genocide that took place and is still continuing
in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.
The British Tamil Forum (BTF) which organised today's protest stated:
The blatant refusal by the Sri Lankan government to give ear to the recommendations
of the UN, together with its gross arrogance towards international institutions
like Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and UNHCR has created an
impasse in delivering justice to the victims and finding any meaningful
solution to the Tamil grievances.
The BTF; having focused its attention on the current political situation
in Sri Lanka, emphasises the need to boycott CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meeting) to be held in Sri Lanka. BTF’s main concern
is that if CHOGM-2013 is convened in Sri Lanka, automatically allow Mahinda
Rajapakshe (President of Sri Lanka), who is already accused of Human Rights
violations, War Crimes and (a continuing) Genocide to hold the chair of
the Commonwealth for the next two years. This will not only be disgraceful
to the Commonwealth and Britain, but will also create a permanent blot in
their history. BTF demands that Sri Lanka be expelled from the Commonwealth
outright, in the backdrop of its records on human rights, war crimes and
the continuing genocide.
It is ridiculous as well as painful to find that Prime Minister David Cameron
has decided to attend CHOGM in Sri Lanka, hosted by Mahinda Rajapakshe,
who acts with a dictatorial attitude (in the name of democracy) in every
The march ended at Waterloo Place, where there was to be a rally, but I left
just before this started - it had been a long day.
More US Embassy Protests
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 18 May 2013
Muslim man speaks to Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye through her daughter Zeinab
Also protesting outside the embassy as she has for a number of weekends was
Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham,
whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq
by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was
tortured by the Americans when held by them, and his now being tortured by
the Iraqis. He is also on hunger strike. His young daughter Zeinab came and
spoke briefly to the Guantanamo protesters, telling them that she wanted her
daddy to be released.
A Muslim man had earlier come and talked with Zeinab, asking her to ask her
mother about her protest. As I was getting ready to leave, he returned with
around a dozen other Muslims and they joined her in the protest. There was
nothing on their placards or the leaflet they handed out about Guantanamo
to say who they were, and when I asked I was told they were just Muslims who
were appalled by the actions of the US democracy which was waging a war against
Islam and Muslims.
Meanwhile, at the north end of the pavement in front of the embassy a group
of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist
Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour
of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.
Guantánamo Murder Scene
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 18 May 2013
hooded bodies in orange suits on the pavement during the murder scene outside
the US embassy
London Guantánamo Campaign staged a 'murder scene' at the US Embassy
on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100
of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer
now being forcibly fed.
As I arrived there were 8 black-hooded 'prisoners' in orange suits lying
on the pavement, the number of prisoners who have died there in suspicious
circumstances who had previously taken part in sustained hunger strikes. At
least seven of them had the cause of death reported as 'suicide'.
Their positions on the ground were then marked with chalk, and one of the
'dead' got up, the marked place then being indicated with a large question
mark, representing the next prisoner who will die. It could be British resident
Shaker Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, cleared for release in
2007 but still held there after over 11 years without charge or trial.
Aamer is among those who is being force fed in Guantánamo, using a
method the UN has described as torture, with the prisoners being tied down
and a wide plastic tube pushed up one nostril and then down into their stomach
to administer liquid food. He claims to have been tortured repeatedly throughout
his years of captivity, and is now brutally restrained several times a day.
The guards have removed the photographs he had of his family and he is kept
in a bare concrete cell in solitary confinement.
Other protesters held up placards and quotations from Thomas Jefferson and
other prominent Americans. The 'detainees' got up and surrounded the chalked
figures on the pavement with incident tape 'Crime Scene - Do Not Enter' and
there was a short enactment of forced feeding, which was followed by a speech
about Aamer and the ten days of protest vigils that are being held outside
the Houses of Parliament as a part of world-wide protests to draw attention
to the hunger strike and the urgent need to close Guantanamo. Most of those
still held, like Aamer, have been cleared for release.
Aisha Maniar, an organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, said:
"Weeks of official denial of the legitimate protest by prisoners
has been met with violence and a lockdown. There has been no attempt whatsoever
to address the issues raised by the hunger strike or to bring this desperate
protest to an end, which inches ever closer to a fatality.
"President Obama’s recent statements on Guantánamo
Bay ring hollow in light of actions he sanctioned just prior to and during
this hunger strike. The time for rhetoric expired long ago as did the indefensible
defences for over a decade of indefinite detention. The current and former
US administrations have deliberately chosen not to close Guantánamo
Bay; it remains as expedient as ever. With hands already steeped in the
blood and physical and psychological torture of prisoners, unless it takes
immediate positive action, the US government will continue to see this situation
spiral out of control with disastrous consequences all round."
As I left the protest, some of the poems written in Guantánamo by
Shaker Aamer were being read.
London Marches to Defend NHS
South Bank to Whitehall, London. Sat 18 May 2013
Nurses who were part of the Olympic opening ceremony
were among those on the march
Thousands gathered by the Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures
and privatisation of the NHS, including many groups opposed to hospital closures
around London, trade unionists and others concerned the the government is
ending the NHS.
An unprecedented coalition of Londoners, including medical staff, trade
unions, health campaigners, patients and others have been alarmed at what
they see as an attack by the government on the principles that underlie our
National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency
facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead
to our health system being unable to cope with demand - and many lives put
The protest was supported by a huge list of groups and individuals, including
eight of London's MPs, many London Assembly members and local councillors,
trade unions including Unite, Unison, PCS, NUJ, RMT and GMB, the London Region
and several local groups of the BMA, London Region RCN, the National Pensioners
Convention, Occupy London, Anonymous UK, Friends of the Earth and many more.
Already many A&E units are hopelessly overworked, at times with ambulances
in a queue outside on the street waiting as there is simply no room for the
emergency cases in them. The response of the hospital groups set up by the
government is to decide to cut the number of units, and they already withdraw
funding from those units which admit more patients that an arbitrary government
limit. Inside the units many patients are waiting for many hours for treatment,
often with only a cursory assessment of their need. Many are waiting for hour
upon hour on hospital trolleys in corridors as there is no bed available -
and the response is to cut the number of beds.
Fifteen thousand or more marched in Lewisham against plans to cut services
at a succesful and financially sound local hospital - to pay the private companies
under PFI schemes that another hospital group entered into. Thousands marched
in protests against closures at Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central
Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London, and today many of
those from these campaigns came together to march through central London.
As the march went across Waterloo bridge, protesters hung down a huge banner
with the message 'Save the NHS', and on the Strand, a small group
of people had climbed some scaffolding on a Barclays branch to hang a banner
'Barclays - P.F.I. - bleeding the NHS dry!' above its entrance -
and were getting loud cheers from those passing. On the ground together with
a few people with placards against PFI, Socialist Choir 'Strawberry Theives'
was singing to provide an appropriate accompaniment.
The protest was to continue with a rally in Whitehall at 2pm, and I left
the march as it was waiting to enter Whitehall.
End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing
Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Sat 18 May 2013
Protesters, including a woman and child, listen to speeches
at the rally
65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as
refugees in the 'Nakba' (catastrophe) when Israel was created, Palestinians
call for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions
until Israel complies with international law.
Palestinians protested earlier this week in Jerusalem on Nakba Day, May 16,
against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them
into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli
settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians.
Many workers have to waste hours going to work and returning home queing
at Israeli checkpoints - and may be turned back at whim. Some Palestinian
farmers are separated from the land they own and stil try to farm by checkpoints
and the separation 'wall', making it difficult or impossible for them to continue
to grow food. Others have to travel many miles to reach fields that they can
see from their windows. We were told of one Palestinian who insisted on continuing
to farm his land - so the Israeli army turned it into a rifle range.
Over 500 Palestinian villages and towns have been taken over or destroyed,
with Palestinians remaining in Palestine crowded into an area less than one
eight of their original lands (12%) with an estimated total of 4.7 million
Palestinian refugees hoping for an eventual return to their homeland - many
more than six decades later.
Several hundred people turned up for the event in front of the Houses of
Parliament, including a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who see
themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism. Many
of the others present were also of Jewish or Palestinian origin, although
there are people of all faiths in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the
many other organisations who supported todays protest, including Architects
& Planners for Justice in Palestine, ASLEF, the British Muslim Initiative,
CND, the Communication Workers Union, Fire Brigades Union, the Friends of
Al Aqsa UK, the General Union of Palestinian Students UK, the Israeli Committee
Against House Demolitions UK, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Lib Dem Friends
of Palestine, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the PCS, Stop the War Coalition,
UNISON, UNITE the Union, War on Want and Zaytoun.
The speeches were still continuing when I left to go to another protest.
Staines, Middx. Fri 17 May 2013
Staines gets a new mural under the by-pass on the passage
to the moor
I didn't much feel like a walk, but this was just a short stroll around
Staines and Staines Moor on the way to have lunch at 'The Bell' with some
of my family.
Canary Wharf & Estuary Opening
Canary Wharf & Museum of Docklands, London. Thu 16 May 2013
There were several hundred people listening to the
museum directors speech before we could see Estuary
I took a Fuji camera with me to the opening of the exhibition Estuary,
an exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary of the Museum of London Docklands,
is at the museum of West India Quay, a short walk from Canary Wharf. I was
delighted to be one of the dozen artists in various media to be included,
with ten of my panoramic images from my
work on the north and south banks of the Thames.
We had to wait some time to actually see the show, but at least there was
plenty to drink and eat - including quite a lot of fish and shellfish, but
I doubt if any of it, even the oysters - came from the Thames. Pollution has
killed off most of the species in the Thames and its estuary, and although
the water quality has recovered considerably in recent years, I'm still not
sure I'd want to eat anything from it.
After considerable hospitality at the museum I wandered back to Canary Wharf
station taking a few pictures en route and a couple on the train.
Hands off Assata!
US Embassy. Grosvenor Square, London. Mon 13 May 2013
A woman from Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement speaking
in front of the Black is Back Coalition banner
Tonights London protest followed a protest last Thursday organised by
the recently formed Black is Black coalition at the Harlem State Office Building
in New York last Thursday after the US government added Assata Shakur to the
list, and doubling the reward to anyone who brings her back from Cuba, dead
The protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square was sponsored by the Black
is Back coalition along with the International People’s Democratic Uhuru
Movement (InPDUM) ande the We Are Patrice Lumumba Coalition. Also speaking
were people from the Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement and other activists from
Africa and South America, and there were a few from the British left in the
None of those present believe that Shakur who was in a car that was stopped
by police in 1973 was guilty of the murder for which she was convicted - and
she was apparently holding up her hands as ordered by a police officer who
was pointing a gun at her when the killing took place and was herself shot
twice. Forensic tests proved she had not fired a gun. Her conviction came
as part of a concerted series of arrests and trials - this was the seventh
crime with which she was charged, three of the previous six cases being dismissed
and she was acquitted three times.
Two years after her conviction on the murder charge she was freed from jail
by armed Black Liberation Army members and after being in several 'safe houses'
in the US was granted asylum in Cuba four years later.
The protesters argue that 'terrorism' is now the charge that is being made
against all political dissidents in the US, and that anyone who stands up
against imperialism and for African liberation or African nationalism is now
to be labelled as a terrorist. As Glen Ford of Black Agenda Radio put it last
week "They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement as
a priority domestic target for repression."
One speaker at the event said that imperialism is essentially parasitic:
"like a mosquito, it sucks the blood of all the people on earth.
We are the host..." Another ended his speech with a call for unity
among all those opposed to Western imperialism with the words "United
we stand" and the crowd of around thirty people with one voice completed
the phrase: "Divided we fall." It was very much in this
spirit that the Black is Back Coalition demanding Social Justice, Peace and
Reparations, whose banner was held up at the front of the protest, was formed
For Black activists, President Obama is a great disappointment, black only
in skin colour and ancestry, but they see him very much as a front for white
imperialism, and much of the chanting at the event was directed against him,
as the leader of the country they see as the real agent of terror in the world,
or, as they put it, "Uncle Sam is the Real Terrorist",
behind many coups and illegal killings around the world, through CIA operations,
illegal invasions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, commando raids, torture at
Guantanamo and other bases and targeted assasinations by drone attacks. Several
mentioned the recent murder in Mexico of Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of
US political activist Malcolm X which they felt must be the result of US agencies.
Leveller Thomas Rainsborough
St John's Churchyard, Wapping, London. Sun 12 May 2013
A musket volley celebrated the unveiling of the plaque
Tony Benn unveiled a plaque to Leveller Thomas Rainsborough in in the
Wapping former cemetery where this early proponent of democracy was buried
in 1648 and this was celebrated by men of Rainsborough's regiment parading
and firing their muskets.
Colonel Thomas Rainsborough was a military leader in Cromwell's New Model
Army, fighting for Parliament against the king in the English Civil War.
He is best known for his statement in the Putney Debates in London in 1647
about all men being equal:
"For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath
a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly, sir, I think it’s
clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his
own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the
poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government
that he hath not had a voice to put himself under…"
It was truly a revolutionary idea at the time, and he was labelled as an
extremist. He was the most senior officer to support the Levellers.
In 1648 he was killed when four royalists entered his lodgings at night and
attempted to arrest him. There was a huge funeral procession by Levellers
from Tottenham to Wapping for his burial. His sea-green regimental standard
(a replica of which was carried by the Sealed Knot's 'Colonel Rainsborough's
Regiment of Foote' in today's ceremonies) was torn into strips and the sea-green
ribbons became a Leveller symbol.
In the 1645 battle of Langport, Rainsborough had commanded 1500 musketeers,
but the five present at today's event (along with their officer and some pikemen)
put on a good performance.
The churchyard of the former St John's Church in Scandrett St where he was
buried was saved from development by local campaigners in the 1980s and reopened
to the public as a park. Around a hundred people turned up to hear the speeches,
by John Reese, Tony Benn and others before Tony Benn pulled the string to
unveil the plaque.
Colonel Rainsborough's Regiment of Foote then marched to pay their respects,
and then move back into the centre of the churchyard and the five musketeers
went through the laborious process of loading and firing a couple of volleys
with their muskets.
There were then a few more line-ups for photographs, and Ian Bone seized
the opportunity to speak against the appropriation of Rainsborough by members
of the political establishment who had taken part in the ceremony, but would
still be opposed to the radical ideas put forward by the Levellers.
Standing in front of a fine banner showing a red sleeping lion with the text
'Who shall rouse him up' he spoke about the more radical Fifth Monarchists,
fifty of whom staged a brief and doomed insurrection following the restoration
in 1661, led by Thomas Venner. They stormed St Paul's Cathedral on January
1 and held parts of London for three days before all were killed or taken
prisoner. Venner was captured after suffering 19 wounds, tried and then hanged,
drawn and quartered on 19 January 1661.
Bethnal Green, London. Sun 12 May 2013
The bikers stopped at the traffic lights at the end
of Old Ford Rd.
The bikers were coming out of Old Ford Road as the Bangladeshi processin
was waiting to turn into the road. They seemed to be from Essex, with some
from Dagenham, and were on a pretty mixed bunch of bikes.
Boishakhi Mela Procession
Bethnal Green, London. Sun 12 May 2013
Woman with flower garlands and bowl of blossoms
This year's Boishakhi Mela (Bangladeshi New Year) was held in London's
Victoria Park, the visitor numbers having outgrown the Brick Lane area where
it was previously heard. Celebrations began with a colourful march to the
park from Weavers' Fields.
Boishaki is the Bengali New Year - the same as Baisakhi or Vaisakhi in the
Punjab. The event is commissioned the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and
organised by the Boishakhi Mela Community Trust Ltd. Boishaki was actually
in the middle of April, but they hold the event in May as the weather is generally
better. It is claimed to be the largest celebration of Boishaki outside of
Bangladesh and began in London in 1997.
I left the procession as it made its way into Victoria Park for the Bangladeshi
festival with food, live music, sports activities and traditional arts and
Kidnapped by Pirates
Twickenham, London. Sat 11 May 2013
Pirates on the platform at Twickenham
I wasn't really kidnapped. The pirates were very friendly and had certainly
drunk rather more grog than me, though I'd not been entirely abstemious on
my way home from Hayes via New Malden.
As well as pirates I'd also seen tigers and some other animals, though no
sign of the giraffe I'd spotted on the platform from my passing train earlier
in the day. There was also a white hunter and Ali G, though rather to the
consternation of myself and other passengers he failed to get off the train
and join the West Staines Massive when we got to Staines.
London's 101st May Queen
Hayes, Kent, London. Sat 11 May 2013
London's 101st May Queen is crowned in a ceremony dating
back to 1913
I've written in
previous years on this site about the history of the Merrie England and
London May Queen festival which began in 1913, and a longer account appears
in my book London's
May Queens (ISBN: 978-1-909363-06-9) also available as a PDF, although
I'm still hoping that a friend of mine will carry out the research needed
to produce a more definitive text to go with my images as well as probably
some historic pictures.
Since 2005 I've photographed various May Queen events including the London
May Queen crowning and some of the other activities involving both the London
May Queen and other groups, and at each of them I've learnt a little more
about these events - including this year.
The event began as normal, with the May Queens from around 20 realms along
with their attendants meeting on Hayes Common and forming up into a procession
behind the London May Queen group. The London May Queen was in her carriage,
pulled by four young men (I think Sea Cadets) and in front of her was a bagpiper
leading the procession. There was also a pipe band at the other end.
The procession moved off towards Hayes Parish Church (St Mary the Virgin)
but as we got close to it, what had been the occasional spot of rain turned
into a downpour. Usually the London May Queen Group (LMQ) stops outside the
west door of the church for a short outdoor service, following the order of
service compiled by the founder of the event while the procession carries
on slowly with the LMQ joining on to its end at the end of this 'Little Sanctum',
but the rain was coming down too hard for this.
Instead the LMQ went inside the church for the ceremony, and as the rain
continued to pour down the decision was made to bring in the rest of the children
and parent to watch. It did have the advantage of letting them all see and
hear the ceremony as well as keeping them dry, though some had got quite soaked
by the time they got into church, even though most of the groups had brought
umbrellas for the girls.
It was only a fairly short shower and had more or less stopped by the time
the short service had finished, though it took a while to get all the groups
organised and out of the church. The procession then took a more direct route
than normal to go down past the shops along Station Approach and back to the
common for the crowning ceremony.
Here there were more changes from the normal routine, at first to let all
the realms see the May Queen better she went around the arena in her carriage,
with the realm May Queens joining on behind her as she processed around and
to the platform with her throne. More or less as she arrived there, another
heavy shower began, and the rest of the ceremony was taken as rapidly as possible
with parents coming to hold umbrellas over the line of May Queens. After the
Royal Speech the London May Queen went along the line of realm queens giving
each a card thanking them for coming to her crowning.
This year there was no maypole dancing, as the wet grass would have made
it dangerous. The event ended with the newly crowned May Queen and her attendants
going around the arena in her role as Flora, scattering flowers towards the
realms. It was raining fairly hard as she did this, and quite a few pictures
I took were spoilt by water drops on the lens.
Permanent link to this post: http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2013/05/may.htm#lmq
Cleaners Return to Capgemini
Vauxhall, London. Tue 7 May 2013
Cleaners make a lot of noise outside Cap Gemini in Vauxhall
Cleaners protesting for the London Living Wage and an end to racism and bullying
at work returned to protest outside the Vauxhall offices of Capgemini
after the management refused to talk with the IWGB union over racist management.
Early in March the cleaners had held a noisy protest outside the offices
at a busy junction in Vauxhall, calling for the London Living Wage and the
replacement of racist management staff. Although the cleaners work inside
the offices of Cap Gemini (an "implementation-focused management consulting
and Information Technology services group") they are not employed by
Cap Gemini, but by another multinational contractor, ISS, "one of the
world’s largest facility services providers."
Contractors such as this are generally used to give cleaning staff the kind
of low pay and poor working conditions that companies such as Cap Gemini would
be ashamed to give directly employed staff. The cleaners say they are treated
like dirt, paid the minimum legal wage - recognised to be insufficient to
live on in London - and that the largely Spanish-speaking workforce are subjected
to racist comments by their ISS manager. They call for fair and decent treatment
by their employers, saying, "We are not the dirt we clean!"
Today's protest was called at short notice after a meeting between the IWGB
(Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) union and the ISS last week,
at which the ISS refused to discuss the issue of racism in the workplace and
no progress was made. At the start there were only around a dozen protesters,
but more soon arrived bringing the number up to over 30.
It was a fairly short and very noisy protest, starting around 4.15pm and
ending when the Cap Gemini cleaners taking part went inside to start work
at 5pm. For most of the time they stood outside the offices chanting slogans,
blowing horns and using a siren to make their presence felt. Near to the start
of the protest some of them entered the Cap Gemini foyer and made a lot of
noise inside for a minute or so before responding to the requests of security
to leave. Later they tried to go inside again but were stopped by a man standing
in the doorway and made no attempt to get past him. While they were crowded
in the entrance they were still making way for people to come in and out of
Cap Gemini appear to have chosen not to call the police, and although noisy
the protesters were peaceful and seemed unlikely to cause any problems and
several had brought their children with them. A man working in a nearby building
made a complaint to the police and he told me they were disturbing him and
preventing him getting on with his work, despite his double glazing. He seemed
very upset, and seemed to feel that protests shouldn't disturb anyone, and
complained he had also been disturbed by the cleaners at their previous protest
in March. I didn't feel he had much ground for complaint if it only happens
for an hour every couple of months.
Two officers drove up near the end of the protest and talked to the people
inside Cap Gemini. They then came out and talked to cleaner's leader Alberto
Durango, who told them that the protest would be finishing in a couple of
minutes, and they stood back and watched, making notes. The Cap Gemini cleaners
then walked into the building to start their shift, and after applauding them
the protesters packed away their IWGB flags and left with the promise that
they would return.
Bank Holiday Walk
Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Mon 6 May
St Lawrence's Church, Bovingdon
The weather unusually for a Bank Holiday was fine for one of our occasional
walks and we met Sam at Hemel Hempstead station to start two walks which both
went past there. The first one took us along the canal, then to Potten End
which is a couple of miles to the north-east of Hemel. We sat on the green
eating our sandwiches and looking at the pub across the pond, and then went
back through the edge of the new town and down Old Fishery Lane to the canal,
where we joined the second walk. This followed the Chiltern way up the hill
and along to Bovingdon, where we finally got to go into the Bell pub. Then
we left along Stoney Lane, and across yet another golf course on what used
to be an airfield to make our way back along the Grand Union to the station.
Like most walks it was too long, and designed to carefully avoid the more
interesting parts of the town, which we hardly saw. Hemel was one of the new
towns marked for development after the war, and the ancient town which got
its charter from Henry VIII was soon surrounded by more modern developments.
Although it had long been known to its residents as Hempstead, to its new
inhabitants from inner London it became Hemel.
Beckenham May Queens
Beckenham, London. Sat 4 May 2013
Elmers End May Queen and her retinue before the crowning
in Croydon Road Recreation Ground
The Beckenham May Queen Procession goes through the middle of the town from
St George's Green to the Croydon Road Recreation Ground. The six May Queen
realms that take part - Beckenham, Bromley Common, Coney Hall, Eden Park,
Elmers End, Shortlands and West Wickham lead the procession in alphabetical
order and the London May Queen with her retinue bring up the rear.
In the park, the May Queens come up in turn to be crowned by this year's
London May Queen. At the end of the crowning ceremony the procession leads
on to a local hall were all of those taking part have afternoon
tea, though this year I left them as they left the park.
You can read more about the May Queen ceremonies and their origins in my
articles on this site - including last year's 100th
anniversary - and in my photo-book London's
Cleaners at Clifford Chance
Canary Wharf, London. Fri 3 May 2013
protester confronts Canary Wharf Security Head
Cleaners complaining of bullying, race, sex and disability discrimination
and victimisation of trade unionists by cleaning contractor MITIE held a noisy
protest at the towering Canary Wharf offices of law firm Clifford Chance.
Around 30 protesters met up and travelled together on the Jubilee Line to
Canary Wharf station, where they were joined by a few others. There they got
out their red IWGB flags and a couple of placards before marching quickly
to the office tower occupied by leading law firm Clifford Chance next to the
I was with the first group to arrive and went with them through the revolving
doors before the building security guards had reacted and managed to stop
some of the others. Inside the protesters simply shouted their slogans and
made a lot of noise, being careful to cause no damage, and they left when
asked politely after a few minutes.
The protest then continued on the pavement outside, attracting some attention
from the workers rushing out of the other offices around to the Underground
entrance. Soon some Canary Wharf Estate security men arrived, dressed to impersonate
police, and stood in front of the two doorways. A few minutes later the Head
of Security arrived, and attempted to talk to some of the protesters.
After a while the security men came and tried to push the protesters back,
but they refused to move, telling them that they were not police and that
they would be guilty of assault if they continued to try to remove them. There
were loud protests when one of the security men hit a woman protester, but
fortunately the security then backed off slightly. There were a few more scuffles
as they tried to grab Alberto Durango, the cleaner's leader.
The head of security on the large private Canary Wharf estate had come out
to talk with the protesters and had a heated discussion with several of them
including Durango. I think he was told that they would shortly end their protest
and leave, and things then calmed down a little. There was a short final burst
of protest and then Alberto outlined the problems that the cleaners were facing,
with MITIE managers treating their workers with disrespect, and failing to
answer the many and lengthy complaints made by the union, except by banning
union representatives and victimising union activists.
The workers complain of bullying by management as well as against discrimination
over race, sex and disability. They say that one cleaner was suspended for
asking that a document he was told to sign to be translated so he could understand
what he ws signing, and the MITIE boss at Clifford Chance is said to have
boasted of conducting research into the union rep who is not employed there.
The IWGB has been pressing for a meeting with MITIE to discuss the dispute
at Clifford Chance for a month (including at ACAS) and has not received made
TUC May Day Rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 1 May 2013
'Trade Union Rights Are Human Rights' says the banner
behind Len McCluskey, waiting to speak
Several thousand people attended a May Day rally in Trafalgar Square
after the International Workers' Day March where speakers called for an end
to cuts in public services, and for growth and jobs to get us out of austerity.
As the several thousand people on the march filed slowly into Trafalgar Square,
the main banner was brought up onto the plinth, along with several banners
from the Kurdish and Turkish communists and their flags.
Some of the loudest applause came when a PCS speaker representing civil servants
working in the Education Ministry told us that his members had walked out
on strike this afternoon as the latest in a series of strikes against cuts
in jobs and services and had come to the rally.
The rally was chaired by Martin Gould of the South East Region Trade Union
Councils and Linda Kietz from the Greater London Association of Trade Union
Councils. Among the speakers were Unite General Secretary Les McCluskey, NUT
General Secretary Christine Blower, TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak,
Jeremy Corbyn MP and John McDonnell MP. One disappointment was that Tony Benn,
who has often provided the main speech at May Day events, due to speak if
he felt well enough on the day, was unable to do so.
London May Day March
Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. Wed 1 May 2013
Kurdish Workers party (PKK), Syrian Kurdish Democratic
Union Party (PYD) flags and Abdullah Ocalan flags.
Thousands of trade unionists and socialists including members of London's
many ethnic communities as well as the major trade unions came together to
march from Clerkenwell Square through central London to Trafalgar Square on
International Workers' Day.
The march, organised by The London May Day Organising Committee, was supported
by the Greater London and South East TUC ( GLATUC & S&ERTUC), UNITE
London & Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London & South East
Region, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, MU London, FBU London & Southern Regions, GMB
London & Southern Regions, UNISON Greater London Region, NPC, GLPA and
other Pensioners’ organisations and organisations representing Turkish,
Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Portuguese, West Indian, Sri Lankan,
Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish, Nigerian migrant workers & communities
plus many other trade union & community organisations.
There was the usual festival atmsphere at Clerkenwell Green, with people
waving flags, playing loud music and a little dancing, along with just a few
speeches to small groups around the square, which has the usual bookstalls
around the edges and in the centre.
Punctually at 1pm the march began to leave the square, led by the Musicians
Union band in front of the main banner. There were a few faces of well-known
trade unionists on the march, but the largest groups were from the Turkish
and Kurdish communities in north London. Among the faces on flags and banners
were the old figures from the Communist pantheon - Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao
along with others including William Morris, Che and Abdullah Öcalan,
the Kurdish Leader still in jail on a Turkish island, although peace talks
are continuing and he has declared a unilateral cease-fire from the Kurdish
New Year in March.
The march was densely packed in parts, but there were some gaps. I stopped
to photograph as it passed through Holborn and it took around 30 minutes to
go completely past me. Although a large march, it was not on the same scale
as those in some other capital cities, particularly those where the day is
a national holiday, although it was surprising that the BBC radion news this
morning listed several foreign cities where May Day marches were taking place
but somehow failed to mention London. Traffic was stopped in much of central
London, with a very long list of bus routes which were stopping short of their
normal destinations across the middle of the day.
It was a great shame that when Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan introdued
the early May Bank Holiday to England in 1978 he did not make it May Day -
which would have restored an ancient English tradition as well as celebrating
International Labour Day. Today's march took place when most of the workers
were at work it being a normal working Wednesday, though later a PCS representative
speaking at Trafalgar Square told us to considerable applause that some government
offices were closed this afternoon as PCS members walked out on their latest
strike against the cuts in services - and in their jobs.
Trade Union efforts to acheive an 8-hour working day that began in the US
in the 1860s led directly to May Day being recognised as International Workers'
Day. In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions the United
States and Canada passed a resolution that the 8 hr day should be confirmed
as a legal day's labor from May 1, 1886, with strikes starting that day to
acheive it. On 3 May, when police attacked a strike meeting in Haymarket Square,
Chicago, a bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing a sergeant and leading
to a fight. In all seven police and four workers died. In membory of this,
May 1 was widely adopted around the world as an international labour holiday
from 1889-91. It is now a national holiday in over 80 countries and widely
celebrated in many others, including the UK.
Although many newspapers and broadcasters reported May Day events around
the world, and some of the odder events in towns and villages in the UK, there
appeared to be a total media blackout on large events such as this march and
the rally which followed it.
Clerkenwell & Finsbury. Wed 1 May 2013
Clerkenwell Close - Peabody estate
I got to Clerkenwell Green a little too early and took a short walk to the
north, going up Clerkenwell Close through the Peabody estate and climbing
the stair to cross Bowling Green St and take a look at Berthold Lubetkin's
Grade 1 listed Finsbury Health Centre (1935-8). It's a tricky building to
photograph. The Finsbury Health Centre Preservation Trust want to
restore and modernise it so it remains at the heart of the community, doing
the job it was designed for, rather than being sold off. It was a building
that inspired and embodied the ethos of the National Health Service. It is
now owned by NHS Property Services, a government owned private company with
the Secretary of State for Health as the only shareholder, whose aim appears
to be to sell off public assets such as this. I took a few pictures then came
back down Farringdon Lane to photograph the May Day march.
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