Save Legal Aid
Old Bailey, London. Tue 30 Jul 2013
Labour shadow minister Sadiq Khan in fighting mood
The Save Legal Aid Campaign held a rally at the Old
Bailey against proposed cuts in legal aid which will severely damage the UK
justice system, removing legal aid completely for many and providing a poor
quality cut-price service for others.
The event, attended by around a thousand people, was organised by the newly
formed 'Justice Alliance' which brings together over 70 organisations
including solicitors organisations, legal charities and others concerned with
the law. united by their opposition to proposed changes in the legal aid system.
These would bring in compulsory tendering on price, with legal aid services
being provided by the lowest bidder and remove any choice by defendants of
who should represent them.
Tendering would replace all the current specialist solicitors by groups such
as Tesco and Eddie Stobart employing less qualified and experienced people
and providing an inferior service for those unable to pay - and so choose
- their solicitors. As speakers and singer Tom Robinson pointed out in a new
song he taught the roughly thousand people at the rally, this would mean one
law for the rich, and another for the poor.
The rally also celebrated the acheivments of legal aid, with speakers including
Raphael Rowe, wrongly imprisoned as one of the M25 three, Anne Hall the mother
of Daniel Roque Hall, a man suffering from a rare condition who would have
died in prison without legal aid which got him released to receive care, and
Sally, the mother of a rape victim who police failed. Our legal aid system
has been the envy of the world for 64 years, since it was introduced by the
Legal Aid and Assistance Act on 30th July 1949, and this was celebrated with
the singing of 'Happy Birthday' and the cutting of a cake by MP Diane Abbott.
Other speakers included Sadiq Khan MP Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary,
Ian Lawrence of NAPO, activist, poet, co-founder and co-chair of BARAC Zita
Holbourne, Shauneen Lambe of Just for Kids Law and criminal defence solicitor
and Justice Alliance member Matt Foot, but the loudest applause was for a
rousing speech by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty.
The changes to the legal aid system proposed by justice secretary Chris Grayling
would result in a system similar to that in the USA, widely condemned as leading
to widespread wrongful convictions, and have attracted little or no support,
with widespread condemnation from everyone concerned with the legal system
and the public in general. The Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board (BSB)
response to the consultation that the Government's proposed legal aid reforms
could do "irreparable damage" to the UK justice system and "destroy
the livelihoods of many smaller solicitors' firms and rapidly destroy the
criminal defence Bar" is typical of many others.
Thames, Hoxton,St Paul's etc, London
Seeing double at St Paul's Cathedral
I had a little business in the city and in Hoxton and had gone up early for
it before the legal aid protest. I got off the bus at St Paul's Churchyard
and walked across to Tate Modern, taking a few more pictures on my way there
and back to the Old Bailey.
Against Global Racism and Injustice
US Embassy to Whitehall, London. Sat 27 Jul 2013
People raise fists in support of the fight against racism
BARAC led a march and rally against Global Racism and Injustice in solidarity
with families of Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Azelle Rodney, Jimmy Mubenga
and many others to highlight the reality of racism and seek justice, both
in the UK and US.
The event started with a rally outside the US embassy, led by Zita Holbourne
and Lee Jasper, founders and national co-chairs of anti-austerity, anti-racist
campaigning organisation Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC)
UK, with contributions from other activists and poets including Holbourne
who is also a National Executive member of the PCS Union.
The protest was supported by a wide range of groups including Operation
Black Vote, the National Black Students Campaign, Global Afrikan Congress,
PCS, RMT Black Members, Counterfire, UAF, Love Music Hate Racism, Lambeth
TUC, Lambeth People's Assembly, and other anti racist organisations.
There were a number of well-known faces from the British left among the marchers,
and some were scheduled to speak at the rally at the end of the march in Downing
The event started at the US Embassy because of the killing in Florida of
Trayvon Martin and the global outcry against the acquittal of his murderer
under the Florida 'Stand Your Ground' law. There were loud boos at the news
that George Zimmerman has been offered a large sum to write his story.
But this was a protest against global racism and injustice, and it had a
particular focus on this country. In a statement, Lee Jasper, after mentioning
the Martin case went on to say:
"We march to support the call from the Lawrence family for a full
and independent judicial led public inquiry into the allegations that the
Metropolitan Police sought to smear both the family and supporters through
a covert police surveillance unit.
We march for Jimmy Mubenga, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell, Smiley Culture
and Azelle Rodney. We march for justice and equality in the 50th anniversary
year of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1968 March on Washington. The truth
is that his dream is a threadbare vision here in the UK where racism is on
the rise amplified by austerity."
Similarly, Zita Holborne stated:
"Injustice and racism are increasing every day - it’s an issue
here in the UK and in the USA and elsewhere, this is why we need a global
response. We are demanding a truly independent public inquiry into police
spying on the Lawrence family and their supporters and the infiltration
of anti-racist organisations and for the ‘Stand Your Ground’
laws to go. We support the call from USA activists for a complete Florida
boycott until the laws are revoked and applaud artists such as Stevie Wonder
for refusing to perform in Florida. It’s a disgrace that families
who lose their loved ones through racism must then spend a life time pursuing
justice. No justice, no peace!"
Speakers and others at the protest were clearly appalled at the actions of
the Met Police in attempting to smear the friends and family of Stephen Lawrence,
and the other investigations of family members of those killed by the police,
including the improper surveillance of Janet Alder, the sister of former paratrooper
Christopher Alder who died in a Hull custody suite, as well as the killing
by security guards of Jimmy Mubenga during a forcible deportation attempt
and many, many other cases.
The march left the US embassy for Downing St a little after 3pm. There was
to be a further rally there with a number of speakers including George Galloway
MP, supporting the call for a public inquiry into the allegations against
the Met over the Lawrence family and friends, and calling for action against
the killers of Azelle Rodney and Jimmy Mubenga.
Free Bradley Manning Vigil
St Martin's, Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 27 Jul 2013
Protesters set up the vigil as Bradley's trial comes to an end
As a part of the international day of action the Bradley Manning Support
Network held a vigil at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. A verdict
is expected shortly but many see him as a hero who should be honoured rather
Bradley Manning's trial started on 3rd June in Fort Meade, US, and protests
have continued both inside and outside the court, with the 'gay whistleblower'
being celebrated in countries across the world and awarded the Sean MacBride
Peace Prize. Many have signed petitions calling on the Nobel prize committee
to award him their peace prize.
The US government's case that Manning had "aided the enemy" by
passing documents to WikiLeaks seemed to fail to produce any real evidence
in support, and it seems unclear who the "enemy" is. But certainly
his and other revelations through Wikileaks have exposed a great deal of illegal
and immoral actions by the US and other governments to the view of the people,
and the verdict seems likely to reflect this.
People were just beginning the vigil, with various groups attending to hold
up banners and posters as I took these pictures.
Rev Billy at HSBC
Victoria, London. Sat 27 Jul 2013
A gorilla and two golden toads leave the Victoria HSBC
branch after the performance
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir creatively invaded
the HSBC branch at Victoria to perform a "radicalized midsummer cloud
forest dream" against the support given to fossil fuels and climate
chaos by the banks and the City of London.
The Rev Billy and his choir on the Stop Shopping Church Tour England brought
along their Golden Toads for an impromptu uninvited performance in the bank
branch opposite Victoria Station.
The message was a simple one. Fossil Fuels are killing life on this planet.
Already many species have suffered extinction, and the continuing huge investment
in fossil fuel use backed by the banks and the stock exchange is driving climate
change, threatening us all with extinction.
London's banks and the London Stock Exchange are playing a key role in the
destruction of life on the planet, with over £900 billion of Fossil
fuel shares on the London Stock Exchange - a quarter of the value of all the
holdings and representing fossil fuel reserves of over 200 time the UK's annual
carbon emissions. Burning of all these reserves would create catastrophe.
Between 2010-2012 raised £170 billion the top five UK banks raised £170
billion for fossil fuel companies, and the largest of these was the HSBC.
The group met on the open space opposite Scotland Yard to prepare for the
performance, with some preparing to take the role of three Central American
species which have become extinct through climate change in recent years,
an eagle, a monkey and a jaguar, learning to move appropriately and make suitable
While they were doing this, others learnt the words of the chorus for the
protest, above which members of the Stop Shopping Choir would perform, and
small groups each learnt the name of seven villages which have been destroyed
through mining in Central America, which they would later chant.
The choir members had also brought along their 'Golden Toad' headdresses,
a species of amphibian forced into extinction by climate change 25 years ago,
their cloud forest habitat blasted by drought in the 80's in Central America.
They have 'resurrected' this species to rise "up in the high church of
banks that finance the CO2 emissions" as a symbol of the change that
must take place in the policies of the banks to enable a resurrection of world
ecosystems that are currently blighted, a symbol of a hope that could yet
save the world.
The activists (and it was clearly seen as a performance rather than a protest)
walked quietly along to the HSBC bank, with others carrying the 'Golden Toad'
heads in bags for the choir members who were also playing the role of animals.
Inside the bank, the people who were animals (and they had been joined by
a gorilla) walked up to the long row of cash points and stood as if using
them, while photographers tried to be inconspicuous. After a few seconds the
performance began, with animals dancing around the bank before finally falling
dead from the effects of climate change. The Rev Billy had strode in as the
performance began, preaching to the performers and bank staff about the need
for the bank to change its ways. Although there was an anger in his message
about how the banks were destroying the world, he had stressed earlier the
need to avoid any damage to bank property or distress to the bank staff, and
one of the team had the job of liasing with them if there was any problem,
reassuring them that there was no threat and everyone would leave in a few
minutes when the performance finished.
The bank staff stood and watched openmouthed as the Golden Toads arrived
to save the species, bringing with them some large eggs of ice to help cool
the planet down. As promised the performers soon left the premises, continuing
for a few minutes on the wide pavement outside. Thorughout the performance,
a few customers continued to come into the bank and use the cash machines
unperturbed, seeming not to even notice the people and toads dancing around
the bank and the loud sermonising of the Rev Billy.
The bank had called the police, and a couple arrived and went inside to talk
to the bank staff as the event was finishing. But the Rev Billy and others
were leaving to celebrate a succesful action at a cafe and bar in Victoria
New Bridge to Walton
Walton Bridge, Surrey. Thu 25 Jul 2013
The new bridge from the boatyard next door
Shepperton first got a bridge across the River Thames to Walton in 1750,
a fancy wooden structure similar to Cambridge's Mathematical Bridge but rather
larger, and four years later Canaletto came to paint it. Perhaps it didn't
scale up well, as a little over 30 years later it was declared to be dangerous
and taken down.
Its stone replacement, opened in 1788 lasted rather longer, collapsing in
1859, and Turner made sketches and paintings of it on a Thames tour in 1805.
Next came a iron girder bridge in 1864, which served its purpose well until
it was bombed in 1940. It continued in use for pedestrians and cyclists while
a temporary bridge took the vehicular traffic. It stayed in place when a new
'Callender-Hamilton bridge' was built in 1953, but was demolished in the 1980s.
Another temporary bridge was added in 1999 for road traffic, with the 1953
bridge being relegated to pedestrians and cyclists.
The latest bridge was partly opened at the end of July, a couple of days
before I took these pictures, though not fully, and we cycled across on the
footpath which is still on the older bridge. This is supposed to be demolished
by the end of the year, after which there will be no piers in the river with
its single span going from Middlesex to Surrey banks (both now administratively
in Surrey.) There are still a lot of works going on around the two bridges,
limiting access to photograph the new bridge.
Tamils Protest Sri Lankan Killings
Downing St, London. Tue 23 Jul 2013
Tamils opposite Downing St with placards
A rally by the British Tamil Forum at Downing St remembered the 3000
Tamils who died in riots across Sri Lanka in an anti-Tamil pogrom orchestrated
by the government in July 1983. They want the UK to boycott the Commonwealth
meeting in Sri Lanka.
This was the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Black July; Tamils say
that this was not the first anti-Tamil pogrom, but that it's unprecedented
frenzy of violence was a turning point after which Tamils knew they could
never be safe in a state dominated by the Sinhalese.
In the last four years - since the Mullivaikkal Massacre of 2009 - Tamils
claim that an estimated 147,000 Tamils are either dead or missing, and see
the only solution to be the formation of an independent Tamil state - 'Tamil
Tamils came to protest to show their hurt at the UK Government's continuing
support of the Sri Lankan government and in particular the UK's decision to
take part in the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
(CHOGM 2013) in November which will be hosted by Sri Lanka. They see this
as legitimising a state which has been serverely criticised by the UN and
human rights organisation for the atrocities it has been committing. The hundred
or two people who were present when I took the photographs were signing letters
and cards calling on HRH The Prince of Wales to reconsider his decision to
attend CHOGM 2013 and to uphold the values of the Commonwealth.
Another Dangleway Ride
Victoria Dock - North Greenwich, London. Tue 23 Jul 2013
The Shard seen between the towers at Canary Wharf from
Last month I took
my first ride on the Arab Emirates cableway from North Greenwich to Victoria
Dock - the so-called Emirates 'Airline'. Today I'd gone to have a look at
the bits of the 'Estuary'
show at the Museum of Docklands I hadn't managed to see at the opening,
and decided to take the DLR and have another ride going in the opposite direction.
You see more or less the same going either way, and the main difference in
the view comes from the time of day and the weather when you travel. And of
course, different things catch your attention, in particular on this ride
some of the buildings on the north bank to the east of the cableway. The ride
is certainly too short to photograph everything.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Italian Church, Clerkenwell, London. Sun 21 Jul 2013
Headscarves and haloes on women (and a painting) watching
The procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the first Roman Catholic
event on English streets for 349 years when it was allowed by Queen Victoria
in 1883, took place in Clerkenwell today from St Peter's Italian church founded
150 years ago.
The procession required special permission from the police, granted by Queen
Victoria in 1883, when the Clerkenwell area in which St Peter's Church is
was known as 'Little Italy', home to many refugees and immigrants from Italy.
They needed a Catholic Church in which they could worship in their own language,
and on the 16 April 1863, St Peter's Italian Church was consecrated.
The annual festival is one of London's oldest and most colourful religious
festivals, with the various statues from the church being carried around the
local area and the clergy and congregation following behind them. Nowadays
Italians have moved out to many other areas of the country, and groups from
Italian associations across the South East as well as Manchester, Cheltenham,
Birmingham, Peterborough and Gloucester come back to join in the procession.
As this was the year of the 150th anniversary of the church's founding, all
six floats in this years procession took their inspiration from statues or
paintings in the church.
One of the special features of the procession is the release of white doves
This year there where six doves released by a row of small children at the
start and they flew very quickly over the heads of the row of photographers
waiting to photograph them. The first had already gone over us when the last
Later I went back to the festival or Sagra which had started around lunchtime
in Warner St at the bottom of the hill below the church, with stalls selling
Italian food and drink - pizza, bread, wine, ice cream and more - and various
cultural artifacts as well as music and dancing.
Whitecross Street Party
Whitecross St, London. Sun 21 Jul 2013
I took a quick walk along Whitecross St to look at the street party there
on my way to Clerkenwell. It seems only a few years ago that this was a very
run-down working class area of London, where I would sometimes go for a very
cheap meal when I was out. Now many of the old shops are galleries and there
are trendy bars.
The old 'Cosy Supper Bar' which used to be a good chippy is now
a Fish and Chip Restuarant at almost double the prices and it just doesn't
taste the same.
UK Uncut HSBC Food Banks
Regent St & Oxford St, London. Sat 20 Jul 2013
UK Uncut protesters arrive at HSBC Oxford St with their
food bank to find the doors locked
UK Uncut protesters against tax dodging by HSBC and its customers and the
huge payouts to banks whose greed and lies were central to the econnomic collapse
closed 2 HSBC branches in the West End, setting up symbolic food banks outside
The central London action by around a hundred activists was one of those
in 13 cities around the country targeting HSBC branches from Glasgow to Exeter.
In Brixton, they managed to set up their protest food bank inside the branch,
but those in central London were closed down by the HSBC and the doors locked
before the protesters arrived.
The protesters argue that the actions by the HSBC and other banks that led
to the collapse and the government's response to this was an austerity programme
that means that half a million people now rely on food banks, and increase
of 170% in the past year. Research shows that almost half of those now reliant
on food banks are those whose state benefits have either been cut or delayed
and around 20% need help because of low pay.
HSBC is the UK's largest bank and makes use of more tax havens than any other
UK bank shift the profits it makes in the UK to countries with lower TAx rates.
It also helps its customers to evade tax, with thousands of offshore accounts
in Jersey and a Swiss subsidiary alleged to have helped UK tax pauers evade
£200m in tax.
Today's protest comes after Friday's agreement by the G20 finance ministers
to take action on tax avoidance, which highlighted some of the flaws in the
current system that they will need to address.
Police had arrived at the branch in Regent St well before UK Uncut were due
and when I arrived the branch staff were standing outside the locked doors
talking with the police. A quarter of an hour later the protesters came, bringing
banners, placards and large amounts of food and began to set up a 'food bank'
on the pavement outside. All of the food used in the protest - except for
a tray of 'UK Uncut' decorated buns which were for protesters and passers
by to eat - was to be taken to a local food bank after the action.
The protesters put up signs about their protest, stretching tape with the
message 'Closed by UK Uncut' across the doors and windows. There were several
'mic checks' in which one of the protesters shouted out the reasons for the
protest which were then repeated loudly by all present, along with some chanting
of slogans and a few songs.
One of the protesters, in more business-like dress than most, then came forward
as an HSBC Press spokesman (the HSBC had declined to take part themselves)
and invited questions. Possibly a real press spokesman would have dressed
up his answers (or failure to answer in most cases) rather more decorously,
but would have got no more positive response.
After roughly an hour in Regent St, the protesters picked up the contents
of the food bank, and some rather heavily set off for another central Lodnon
branch, which turned out to be in Oxford St. Police had warned them of the
protesters' imminent arrival, and they had just locked the doors when they
The food bank was set up again along the frontage of the shop. Police pushed
the protesters back into around half of the not very wide pavement, and they
then sat down. The protest continued for around an hour, again with several
'mic checks' and some chanting. Police kept the area of pavement in front
of the protesters clear for passers by, standing in an open line on the curb.
When I stood in exactly the the same line as them I was told I had to move
on as I was blocking the path - somehow photographer's bodies are more a block
than those of police, even though most were fatter than me.
Fire Service March Against Cuts
Monument to Southwark, London. Thu 18 Jul 2013
Man in Save Our Fire Station t-shirt at rally
Around a thousand firefighters marched from the Monument to the London
Fire Brigade HQ for a rally outside the Fire Authority meeting where the cuts
were being decided. They mean firefighters will take longer to reach fires,
and more will die.
The protest started at the Monument, erected shortly after the 1666 Great
Fire of London had destroyed most of the city, as a permanent memorial to
the event which started nearby, its tall column topped by a bright brass ball
of fire. Firefighters, many in uniform amd supportes gathered here, along
with a fire engine and a small marching band with bagpipes sponsored by an
As well as London's own firefighters there were supporters from other brigades
around the country and even at least a couple from the New York Fire Department,
retired firefights and anti-cuts protesters.
The protest started at the Monument, erected shortly after the 1666 Great
Fire of London had destroyed most of the city, as a permanent memorial to
the event which started nearby, its tall column topped by a bright brass ball
of fire. Fire-fighters, many in uniform, and supporters gathered here, along
with a fire engine and a small marching band with bagpipes sponsored by an
As well as London's own fire-fighters there were supporters from other brigades
around the country and even at least a couple from the New York Fire Department,
retired fire-fighters and anti-cuts protesters.
The march set off at around 12,30, led by the fire engine and band and then
a crowd of people with banners and flags. It went on to London Bridge, where
it halted for a token minute or two sit-down before continuing through the
busy main streets of South London where many workers who were taking their
lunch breaks stopped to wave and cheer. Others came to office windows to wave
The Fire Brigade is a popular public service, appreciated by all except a
few dogmatic or grasping politicians. Poll after poll has showed widespread
support for fire-fighters and the public's realisation that any cuts, particularly
the proposed closure of fire stations, will lead to a slower response to fires.
The faster the fire-fighters arrive, the easier it is to deal with the fire
before it establishes a hold. Fewer fire stations will mean it takes longer
for the fire engine to arrive, and the result is sure to be a greater loss
of life. 7 out of 10 Londoners think that the Mayor's proposed cuts will put
public safety at risk, and the remaining 3 are just not thinking.
As several of the speakers at the rally - and there were a lot of them, including
3 members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority who spoke first
at the rally before going in to the meeting, Labour AM Navin Shah, Green AM
Darren Johnson and Lib-Dem AM Stephen Knight - made clear, these cuts will
reduce public safety but will free some very well-placed large London properties
to be sold.
Others speaking in support of the FBU and against the cuts - both a closure
of some fire stations and a reduction in the number of fire engines - were
SERTUC President Martin Gould, Peter John, the Leader of Southwark Council,
Labour's Shadow minister responsible for the Fire Service, Chris Williamson
MP, local MP Simon Hughes and former MP now Greater London Assembly member
Andrew Dismore. The rally was chaired by FBU London Regional Secretary Paul
Embrey, Fire-fighters who spoke included on who had come from the New York
Fire Dept, Bob Walker, FBU Brigade Chair from Devon & Cornwall, the FBU
executive council member for London, Ian Leahair and the rally ended with
a powerful fighting speech from Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire
London University Cleaners Protest
Senate House, University of London. Wed 17 Jul 2013
One of the cleaners speaking at the Senate House
Cleaners and other low paid staff at the University of London who are
employed through contractors to allow the University to evade its responsibilities
towards them continued their summer of action for pensions, sick pay and holiday
The cleaners, security, catering and other low-paid staff work alongside
others staff directly employed by the University of London, and their work
is essential in keeping the University running. But while staff employed by
the university get good contracts with decent provision of pensions, holiday
entitlement and sickness pay, those employed by outside contractors are on
rock-bottom contracts, receiving only the statutory minimum requirements.
The '3 Cosas' campaign has been fighting to get similar conditions for the
low paid staff to those enjoyed by the university employees. A long running
campaign at SOAS (the University of London School of Oriental and African
Studies) has called for 'One Workplace, One Workforce' and the elimination
of outsourcing, which seems inevitably to result in poor conditions of service
and inappropriate management. The 3 Cosas - or causes - that the campaign
is named for are sick pay, holiday pay and pensions, and the Spanish title
reflects the background of many of the university cleaners who are mainly
from London's Latin-American community.
'3 Cosas' has been successful in bringing together low paid staff and students
and others at the university to back the demands, with the Unison branches
actively recruiting members and taking a leading part in the campaign. Working
with them have been the students of the ULU (University of London Union) and
the IWGB (The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) . The protests have
also received support from branches and officials of other trade unions including
the RMT and UCU. Their protests in 2010-2011 were sucessful in getting the
London Living Wage for workers at the university.
After the results of the Senate House Unison branch elections were annulled
by the Unison union leadership, the majority of the outsourced workers and
some of the direct employees have left Unison and the IWGB is now the largest
union representing the outsourced workers. They 3 Cosas campaign and local
Unison members had long complained aboput the failure of the national union
to support either the successful Living Wage Campaign or the 3 Cosas campaign
and publicly dissociated itself from the protests which were supported by
the local branches.
Todays protest was attended by a larger crowd than usual, with the university
having stirred up feeling by bringing in the police to ULU yesterday when
students were protesting as a part of the 3 Cosas campaign after students
had chalked slogans including 'Sick Pay, Holidays, Pensions Now, support the
cleaners struggle' on pavements and walls, including the a wall plaque commemorating
the founding of the Senate House Library. Police entered the ULU cafe and
assaulted several students and arrested a young woman who was charged with
ULU vice-president Daniel Cooper spoke during today's protest, saying that
the action by the university would greatly increase the support for 3 Cosas,
and that the point of using chalk was that it caused no damage, being easily
wiped off. There were no signs of damage after the plaque was washed.
Protesters, including a large samba band and with banners from 3 Cosas, SOAS
Unison, 3 Cosas, the IWGB and others met just outside the Senate House, watched
by a larger than usual security presence outside the door into the building
and two police officers who kept well out of the way. As the protest began,
Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett arrived and gave a short speech of support,
apologising for being unable to stay as she had a BBC interview.
After she left the protesters decided to go into the open lobby of the Senate
House, where they continued their usual noisy protest, chanting 'Sick Pay,
Holidays, Pensions, Now!' and other slogans, blowing whistles and horns and
using megaphone siren sounds to the accompaniement of some highly dynamic
After around ten minutes they walked out the west side of the building and
marched around to the south entrance opposite the British Museum, where they
stopped briefly to tell the tourists and others around about their protest
for proper working conditions. A man from the RMT cleaner's branch gave a
short expression of solidarity, and then the protest moved on to again stop
outside Stewart House for some noisy protest before going bock to the lobby
under the Sente House.
After some more noise there was one of the quieter parts of the protest where
everyone listened to the ULU vice president, and then a few more minutes of
noise before the protesters again went out of the west entrancve.
They stopped at the road where IWGB cleaners' leader Alberto Durango asked
the protesters if they would like to go over to the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine, where the IWGB is just starting to fight for the cleaners
there to get the London Living Wage. Virtually everyone was enthusiastic to
do so, and there was a short protest on the steps, ending with Durango giving
them the warning that this was just the start and there would be further protests.
We then all returned for the final session in the Senate House, where the
'No Justice No Peace' banner was held in front of the line of secuirty staff
guarding the entrance. One of those holding it was the woman who had been
arrested for chalking the slogan the previous day, and she spoke briefly,
expressing her continuing support for the protest. One of the cleaners leading
the 3 Cosas campaign also spoke, thanking everyone for coming and making it
such a succesful protest, and that the campaign would continue. A couple of
students also spoke briefly, urging those present to campaign to get the university
to drop the charge of criminal damage, and another offered chalk for anyone
who wanted to show their solidarity, and as the protest was ending a few chalked
slogans on the tarmac outside to add to those that had been made on the pavement
at the start of the event.
Trayvon's Killer Acquitted
US Embassy, London. Tue 16 Jul 2013
A speaker in front of the Women of Colour banner outside
For the second night running, a protest took place outside the US Embassy
in London following the shocking acquittal of vigilante George Zimmerman who
challenged Trayvon Martin because he was young, black and wearing a hoody
and then shot him.
The Florida court acquitted Zimmerman, who had been asked to stay in his
car by a police dispatcher and leave the police to deal with Martin. He was
found not guilty under so-called 'Stand your ground' laws that generally decide
in favour of anyone claiming they shot someone in self-defence. Or as several
speakers at tonight's protest said, favours white men who shoot black youths,
but don't seem to apply to black women, with Marissa Alexander, also in Florida,
50 miles from where Martin was shot, getting 20 years for firing warning shots
when she felt threatened by her husband. In her case, the jury decided she
didn't feel threatened and she was convicted of aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon. Perhaps had she killed him rather than firing above his head
she would have stood a better chance of acquittal.
As speaker after speaker made clear, although the laws are different here,
people, particularly black people are being killed by police, with thousands
having died at the hands of police, in prisons and in mental institutions
and other similar cases over the past 20 years. A few high profile cases make
it into the news, largely because of the fights by their families for justice,
including Azelle Rodney, Ricky Bishop, Sean Rigg, Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture,
Ian Tomlinson, Jimmy Mubenga and so many more. Many but not all are black.
Also at the forefront of the minds of those present was the Stephen Lawrence
case, with new evidence of police misconduct, and the deliberate attempts
to discredit both the Lawrence family and the main witness, Duwayne Brooks,
rather than to properly investigate the crime.
The event, proposed by the National African Caribbean Forum and supported
by many other groups including the International People's Uhuru Movment (InPDUM),
Women of Colour in the Global Women's Strike, Free Mumia, Socialist Workers
and a number of individuals got off to a slow start, but people were still
arriving to support it and there were approaching a hundred when I left. A
larger protest is planned for the 27 July with a march from the US Embassy
to a rally at Downing St, backed by a wide range of organisations.
Staines, Middx. Mon 15 Jul 2013
Uppers surround a swan and two cygnets under the railway
bridge at Staines
The annual swan upping, one of this country's oldest traditions dating
from the 12th century began today at Sunbury, with uppers for the Queen, Dyers
and Vintners catching and ringing cygnets on the Thames and recording their
I met the six rowing boats of the uppers in Penton Hook Lock near Staines,
where swan feathers in the caps of the Swan Masters confirmed that they had
already found swans with cygnets on their journey from Sunbury.
Each of the boats had three or four men, the Queens men in red tops, Vintners
Royalty in white and Dyers Royalty in blue, the boats proudly flying their
standards with swans on them. The Sovereign’s Swan Marker David Barber
was in his red blazer, and the Dyers and Vintner's Swan Markers in blue and
Along with them was a small boat with an outboard carrying Professor Christopher
Perrins of Oxford University, the Queen's Swan Warden with his two helpers,
and a small flotilla of accompanying craft including a boat carrying press
photographers and a couple of large passenger boats watching the spectacle.
The uppers are all skilled boatmen who usually work on the river and give
up some of their holidays to take part in the week of upping which continues
up river over the next five days to Abingdon, five miles south of Oxford.
Last year, for the first time ever recorded, the annual census of swans could
not be carried out because of the flooded state of the river. Originally upping
was carried out to divide the swans on the between the sovereign and the two
guilds, who were also allowed to serve the birds at their banquest, and the
birds were marked for the different owners by notches on their beaks.
Nobody eats the swans now, and marking is by attaching a ring around one
leg with a tracking number. The cygnets are weighed, their heads measured
and given a quick health check, particularly looking for fishing hooks and
they are ringed and their details noted in log books. These annual surveys
give valuable evidence about the health of the swan population.
The methods of catching and handling the swans have perhaps changed little
over the years and it is fascination to watch the six boats crewed by the
uppers surrounding a group of swans, usually close to the bank, edging in
and removing any gaps between the boats through which the swans could flee,
then moving closer and closer until they can actually grab the birds.
I watched them do this on a swan with 3 cygnets who were on a slope just
out of the water under Staines Railway bridge. They had to manoeuvre the boats
to prevent the birds escaping but then were able to come on land and grab
them. As they approached another swan was trapped by their boats, but was
not I think a part of the family, but still suffered the indignity of being
grabbed, its wings forced into its body and its feet being tied behind its
back with the strings the uppers carry on the belts.
Although swans have powerful wings and can peck viciously, once they are
restrained they go limp - years ago one of the uppers described carrying one
as just like carrying a hand bag, though I doubt he often did that.
After the cygnets have been checked and ringed, and the swans recorded, the
family is carefully carried to the waterside and released, taking care to
ensure the family stay together. They quickly speed away, but seconds later
birds that have been ringed are swimming calmly along the river together as
if nothing has happened.
The uppers were stopping for lunch at the Swan Inn on Egham Hythe, opposite
Staines before continuing up river, their work today ending at Windsor, where
they drink a loyal toast standing in their boats in Romney Lock before sculling
up to Eton College boathouse from where they start tomorrow. I've followed
them to Windsor on several occasions - as you can see by searching this site
- and didn't feel a need to take more pictures today.
Bring Talha Home
St Martins-in-the-Field, Trafalgar Sq, London. Sat 13 Jul 2013
'It could be YOU' says the t-shirt of a man handing
out flyers at the protest
Activists stood in the hot sun in Trafalgar Square yesterday holding
up the letters spelling 'BRING TALHA HOME' and handing out flyers about the
British poet now held in solitary in the US after arrest in the UK in 2006
and extradition in 2012.
People in black hoods and orange suits at vigil on steps of St Martins in
the Fields, Trafalgar Square to bring extradited Londoner Talha Ahsan back
from solitary confinement in the US. 'Solitary Confinement is no place
for a poet!' read one placard.
Abolish Bedroom Tax
Old Palace Yard to Downing St, London. Sat 13 Jul 2013
Many carried 'posters by proxy' for those affected by
the tax too sick or disabled to attend the protest
Protesters including many disabled people who will be hard hit by the
Bedroom Tax held a rally in London before marching carrying posters from those
unfit to attend to deliver a large box of personal petition letters to Downing
The campaign, led by Jessica McCarnun of 'WeWillBeHeard.Org' has
been running the Personal Petition Campaign has been running since November
2012, been collecting letters to the Prime Minister from those who will suffer
from the Bedroom Tax. They include are carers, shared parents, grandparents,
the disabled and many more.
The campaign says "Families are being left destitute and literally
separated and segregated by The Bedroom Tax and, if allowed to continue, this
will only cause more damage to our families and the fabric of our society."
They say that of around 660,000 who will be put into financial difficulties
by the tax, around 440,00 are disabled. Many are already having great difficulty
making ends meet and this tax will make their lives impossible. Even where
it would be possible to manage in smaller properties, these are seldom available,
and where they are, generally only at higher rent in the private sector.
Most commentators agree that this tax will make no contribution to solving
our housing problem - what is needed is not financial penalties for those
already finding it difficult to get by, but building more affordable social
housing in the areas that people need to live and where there are jobs for
As many of those who spoke pointed out, despite the current austerity and
cuts, the real problem is not a lack of money, but one of priorities and distribution.
As Theresa Cole asked, speaking on behalf of her very good friend
Hazel Quinn, too sick to attend todays protest, "Why ... through
the austerity cuts are the government choosing to target those people in society
who are too weak and ill to fight?", going on the compare the cuts
in welfare spending to the continued huge avoidance of tax by the wealthy
and global companies through offshore accounts and other tax avoidance, the
recent increase in the Queen's budget, proposed pay rises for MPs, the ridiculous
waste of going ahead with HS2 rail link, the huge subsidies paid to foreign
companies running our rail services, the £1.1 billion paid for hotels,
meals and drinks for civil servants and more.
Many of those present at the protest were disabled people who will be directly
affected by the tax. Many of those taking part in the protest carried 'Posters
by Proxy' from those too unwell to come in person. Many of those hit worst
by the cuts and reductions or loss in benefits have already committed suicide,
with a huge increase reported by the DWP. Many of those taking part wore arm
or head bands with the letters 'R.I.P.' in memory of those who have died already
becasue of the cuts.
After the speeches in Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament, they set off for
Parliament, some in wheelchairs and others moving with obvious pain. A small
delegation went inside with a large box containing the 'Personal Petitions'
while the others continued to support them noisily outside the gates.
I left the protest here, without seeing their return to Old Palace Yard where
they were to release a couple of hundred white helium balloons carrying white
'messages of hope' written earlier by those taking part to travel across the
Punish the Deed, Not the Breed
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat 13 Jul 2013
Dog owners protest against Breed Specific Legislation
DDA Watch, set up to monitor dog legislation and support fair and effective
dog laws protested opposite parliament calling for an end to Breed Specific
Legislation that bans dogs based on physical measurements.
The protesters say that categorising dogs as being of 'pit bull type'
under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and a 1993 High Court ruling based
on this which based identifcation on the basis of a series of measurements
regardless of evidence of parentage or behaviour is unfair, and has led to
the destruction of many dogs that pose no threat to the public.
They say that 'Punishing innocent dogs for over 20 years has not reduced
dog bite incidents' and that the law should instead 'look at the
other end of the lead - target dangerous owners.'
They call for a repel of the breed specific legislation in Part 1 of the
Act, which prohibits Pit Bull Terriers, Japanes Tosa, Dogo Argentino
and Fila Brasiliero, and in its place want stricter laws on breeding,
education for all dog owners, education programmes in schools and harsher
penalties for dog fighter and animal abusers.
While many of these suggestions make sense, so too does legislation based
on the power of the bite and thus the potential danger of animals including
the specified breeds. Some would argue that far more breeds should be prohibited
in the UK.
The protesters also warned dog owners that they should not sign anything
if their dog is taken by police. Although they may be told it is just a simple
receipt it actually is a document that relinquishes ownership of the dog to
the authorities, who can then put the dog down if his measurements show him
to be a prohibited type.
The heat made it an uncomfortable day for both dogs and protesters, and although
they came into the sun on Old Palace Yard for some short sessions of protest,
most of the time they stayed in the shade under the trees at the back of the
area. One of the speakers was a man dressed as a pink fairy, and he described
another of those present, Nicky Hoad of Nicky's Pad as the 'Patron Saint of
Staffies' for her dedication to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed - and
she was handed a certificate recording this.
M&S Told Stop Workfare
Hackney, London. Sat 13 Jul 2013
Protesters outside the store with banners; others handed
Protesters picketed Marks and Spencer in Hackney calling on the company
to stop using unemployed people bullied by Jobcentres to stack their shelves,
working up to 30 hours a week for the equivalent of £1.60 per hour,
a quarter of the minimum wage.
The protest was organised by Feminist Fightback, who explain that
people on Jobseeker's Allowance will be sanctioned aned lose their benefit
if they do not take part in Workfare or leave the scheme although it is supposed
to be voluntary. They also say that only 3.5% of all thouse who have gone
through the scheme have found work, and that the scheme is effectivtive a
punishment for people who are out of work.
They also point out that every workfare placement at M&S means one less
normal job there, reducing employment opportunities in the area. M&S are
being given essentially free labour to replace jobs that would otherwise pay
someone at least on the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour for
those over 21.
This action is one of many across the country in a campaign led by Boycott
Workfare, which had targeted companies taking advantage of this source of
cheap labour which exploits the unemployed. Their actions have led to a number
of employers dropping the scheme, and they have been supported by a wide range
of bodies including many union brnaches, trades councils and others. Feminist
Fightback are particularly concerned by the disproportionate effect of workfare
on women workers, many of whom are employed in the low paid sectors where
jobs have been lost to workfare.
Around 30 people, including some disabled activists and a small samba band
turned up for the lunchtime protest on Hackney's main shopping street, handing
out leaflets to shoppers passing by and entering and leaving the large M&S
store. When I arrived just before the protest started, a police officer was
talking to a manager from the store, and he stayed to watch the protest from
inside while another officer stood on the pavement. When the protesters arrived
they were asked not to block the doorway. Many of those walking past took
the leaflets, and some stopped to talk with the protesters and expressed agreement
with their protest. A few seemed very pleased to have a copy of an adice leaflet
suggesting how those who were unemployed could resist being put onto workfare
At one point a fire engine turned up, but it had not come to deal with the
protest. The firemen did however ask for a leaflet
The management at the Hackney M&S had refused to answer questions about
how many people at the store were on workfare schemes and had apparently told
some of the organisers of the event to leave when they tried to talk to staff
about it. But some workfare workers there and at ohter M&S stores have
complained to the organisers, including some single mothers who are unable
to make proper provision for their children while on workfare. And although
although a number of companies and organisations have left the scheme after
protests and representations about its unfairness, along with the Princes
Trust, M&S have recently pledged to take another 1400 workfare placements
Cypriots Demand details of 1974 Killings
Houses of Parliament, London. Tue 9 Jul 2013
Greek Cypriot women with photographs of some who disappeared
Dressed in black and holding photographs of relatives who went missing during
the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, protesters in London urged the UK government
to put pressure on Turkey to release information and allow investigation of
Bitter struggles both political and violent took place between Greek and Turkish
Cypriots in the years following independence from Britain in 1960, with many
Turks and Greeks being killed or missing. Events came to a head in 1974 when
the Greek junta backed a Greek military coup in Cyprus and in response Turkey
invaded Cyprus, taking over the north of the island. Around 160,000 Greeks
- a third of the Greek population - were forced from their homes and move
to the south, and a slightly higher proportion of the Turks, around 40,000
people, moved to the north.
in the process, many Cypriots from both populations went missing and are
presumed dead, and little is known about what happened to some 1,500 Greek
and 500 Turkish Cypriots. The north of Cyprus remains under Turkish military
occupation, with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus being only recognised
as a state by Turkey.
Various attempts to reach a solution to the Cyprus dispute have been unsuccesful.
It was hoped that the accession of Cyprus to the EU would help to solve the
problem, and in 2004 a UN peace settlement was accepted by a large majority
of the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by more than three-quarters of Greek
Members of the Organisation of Relatives of Missing Cypriots (UK) were on
the pavement opposite Parliament, many holding pictures of their missing relatives,
on their way to attend a meeting organised by the National Federation of Cypriots
in the UK in the House of Commons on 'Cyprus: prospects for a reunited island'
with a number of MPs and Lord Harris of Harringey. One of the MPs involved,
Mike Freer, MP for Finchley & Golders Green and Chairman of London Conservative
MPs, came over to talk to the relatives while I was there.
They have now been waiting for 39 years to find out what happened to members
of their families in 1974 as a result of the Turkish invasion. They aim to
inform the British public about the problem and they also coordinate the efforts
of those trying to collect and record an evidence of their fate and whereabouts.
They demand that Turkey should release all information that it has on them
and allow the opening of graves in military areas and abide by the judgements
of the European court of human rights. They lobby to persuade the UK government
to put all possible pressure on Turkey to comply with these demands.
Against Undercover Police in Protest Movement
Scotland Yard, London. Tue 9 Jul 2013
Police watch as Zita Holbourne speaks at Scotland Yard
Youth Against Racism in Europe protested at Scotland Yard after revelations
by ex-undercover policeman Peter Francis who infiltrated their movement and
acted as an 'agent provocateur' and other police abuses of legal protest and
Youth Against Racism in Europe was a legal and democratic protest movement
which organised mass protests against the BNP in the 1990s, succeeding in
geting its south London HQ closed down after four racist murders withing two
miles of it - including that of Stephen Lawrence. Among the other undercover
police actions recently revealed were attempts to discredit the main witness
of that murder, Duwayne Brooks, and the secret recording of meetings between
the police and Brooks and his lawyers.
Francis was a member of a covert police unit known at the Special Demonstration
Squad (SDS), founded in 1968 to infiltrate mainly left-wing groups which the
police called 'extremist'. Most like YRE were legal and democratic, and undercover
agents would have found nothing that could not have been gleaned from reading
the leaflets and attending the meetings. But Francis went further than this,
trying to push members of the YRE into vigilante actions against individual
BNP members. But the YRE was an open and democratic movement dedicated to
mass campaigns and other legal actions and his attempts failed. However he
says he was given a bottle of whisky by Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon
in appreciation for his work for the SDS infiltrating the YRE, although Condon
claims he was unaware of the activities of the SDS.
Several of those who had known and worked with Francis were present at the
protest, and hope to be able to claim compensation for the damages they suffered
due to his activities. One woman told me she had been badly beaten by ten
police officers for speaking with a megaphone and laid the blame for this
illegal assault on him.
Among the speakers were several from the PCS union, including an organiser
from the Ministry of Justice, a few yards from Scotland Yard where the protest
took place. She joked about the additions being made to her secret file as
she talked, as well as saying she was proud to work for the Ministry of Justice
and wished they would always behave as they should. Other PCS speakers included
Zita Holbourne, a race activist, poet, artist and co-founder with Lee Jaspaer
of BARAC - Black Activists Rising Against Cuts.
The protest called for a genuinely independent public inquiry into the 'infiltration
scandal', with representatives from the trade unions, anti-racist and environmental
protest groups that have suffered from infiltration, and for the abolition
of the Territorial Support Group and similar units as well as the Special
Branch, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. They urged that all political
files and computer recrods not connected with criminal investigations to be
destroyed and for the repeal of anti-trade union laws and other laws that
trample over civil liberties. They say that the police should be directly
accountable to local democratically elected committees with representatives
from bodies such as trade unions, community associations and local authorities
to ensure proper democratic control over the police.
The protesters link the repressive use of the police to the increasing inequality
in our society with rapidly diverging income levels between the top and bottom
of our society, of which the current austerity program and cuts in public
services are a part.
Divided Families Day
Home Office, Marsham St, London. Tue 9 Jul 2013
man's placard - United by LOVE/divided by the Home Office
Families and supporters protested at the Home Office on the anniversary
of the UK's new family migration policy which prevents British Citizens and
refugees earning less than £18,6000 (more if they have children) from
bringing non-EU spouses to live here.
These new restrictions which require an income of £18,600 for childless
couples, £22,400 for those with one child and another £2,400 for
each additional child were introduced as statutory instruments without any
parliamentary debate in June 2012, and are dividing many families, making
it impossible for wives and husbands to both live in the UK unless they have
a high income. A recent High Court judgement convluded that these restriction
were legal but that the earnings threshold and the other requirements were
"so onerous in effect as to be an unjustified and disproportionate
interference with a genuine spousal relationship". A written ruling
by the judge suggested that the minimum income requirement should be reduced
to around £13,000, around 2/3 of the current figure.
Although £18,600 may seem a low income threshold to the millionaires
in the cabinet, or even those relying on an MP's salary (currently £66,396,
but they are expected to be recommended a rise of £10,000), according
to the official national wage index around 40% of wage-earners - 2 out of
5 - earn less than this. For women with children who want to bring husbands
here the barrier is even higher, as many are in part-time work due to child-care
responsibilities, and in any case women's pay remains less than men. Over
60% of British women in employment earn less than the amount needed to bring
a non-EU partner to the UK.
Home Secretary Theresa May's response was to consider an appeal against the
judgement while also considering if the income threshold should be lowered.
The all-party Parliamentary Group on Migration has called for an independent
review of the income requirement after a six-month review of over 175 cases
of real anguish for families who are unable to live together in the UK. They
found that costs to the taxpayer of the forced separations is often greater
than if the spouses were along to come here.
Around a hundred members of families who have been affected by this ruling
which clearly discriminates against poorer families gathered outside the Home
Office for several hours of protest organise by migrants' rights network with
other groups, with many of those suffering from the rules speaking. Although
this was a very small proportion of those affected by the rules, thought to
number around 18,000 families a year. Many at the protest had pictures of
their families, who are now separated by these unfair rules.
It seems a clear case of a measure that has been introduced merely to make
the current government look 'tough' on immigration, while making no real contribution
to reducing the reliance of any migrants on support from the taxpayer. Although
the lower figure suggested by the judge would greatly reduce the number of
cases, it would still cause great hardship for those remaining.
Brixton Protests Gentrification & Evictions
Windrush Square, Brixton, London. Sat 6 Jul 2013
Short term tenants who have long occupied flats in Rushcroft
Road are to be evicted in 15 July
75 residents of 6 blocks of flats in central Brixton organised a protest
against their eviction scheduled by Lambeth for 15 July, in a further council
move to force residents out of the area and replace them largely with ultra-rich
tenants and owners after the properties are refurbished.
Many of the tenants have lived in Rushcroft Road for many years - one for
32 years - and some have families. They have seen other council evictions
in this and nearby roads which have ended up with renovated properties that
are let at over £2000 a week to corporate tenants and flats which sell
for around half a million pounds.
Lambeth council say that they will renovate three of the buildings as social
housing, but the tenants say that similar promises over other evictions in
the area have not been kept. Some referred to the actions of the council as
'ethnic cleansing', pushing out the existing population and replacing them
by rich incomers, attracted by the good transport links and the lively area.
The council sold two mansions in the same road with a total of 20 flats for
£2.5m in 2009 and their current market value is probably three times
The tenants say they have explored many avenues to make it possible for them
to stay in the area, including setting up a housing cooperative in a council
owned property, so far without any success. Evictions are common in Lambeth
and few make the news. For those who lose their homes in the area, there are
few affordable local properties - and even fewer with the bedroom tax putting
up the cost of living in slightly larger homes. The only alternative is to
move out of London - and away from jobs and the possibility of jobs.
People brought out a table, a sofa and some chairs under the large tree left
when the square outside the library was redeveloped into the "barren,
windswept open space" of Windrush Square, where there was some shade
from the unusually hot sun. They put up several banners, including a couple
on railings of the long-closed public toilets.
It took a while to write placards and then to get things going, with an explanation
of how the council was involved in the gentrification of the area. One of
the protest organisers then spoke a little about their own eviction and proposed
a 15 minute 'standing man' protest on the pavement opposite Lambeth Town Hall,
but only around half of those present took part, and most stood in a group
near the library, where they were not very noticeable and it was hard to recognise
as a protest. The megaphone had failed just before the call, and perhaps some
had not heard or it had not been clear enough what they should do. It came
to a natural end after a few minutes as person after person just gave up.
The problems with amplfication continued, with people standing around waiting
for more speeches and everyone becoming frustrated. There was a lot of fiddling
with cables to try to get a small amplifier to work, but nothing emerged.
Finally the meeting began without amplification, and a debate started in
which a number of arguments emerged. Several people said very forcibly that
people ought to be doing something, but no plan emerged. At times the megaphone
worked (new batteries helped but didn't entirely solve its problems) and people
were able to hear more clearly above the traffic noise. Although quite a few
of those around seemed to be taking little part in the proceedings, with some
hardly distinguishable from the normal groups around the square (already a
casualty of the council's clean-up plans to make it a less pleasant area to
hang out except as a customer) holding cans or bottles, it began to seem more
like a real protest, but despite the real efforts of a few nothing much seemed
to be emerging by the time I left.
The root of the problem is that there is simply not enough affordable housing
in London. Its a problem that has probably always been there, but which has
been made much worse by the policies of successive governments. None has done
much to get more affordable housing built, and several have been catastrophic
for those on low incomes. The laws that used to give tenants some protection
are largely gone, and the 'right to buy' while perhaps giving some a hand
up on the 'ladder' (often a fairly temporary one) disastrously reduced the
stock of social housing, and was a policy that presented many with 'snakes.'
Many of those properties are now 'buy to let' or even 'rent to rent', with
some owners having portfolios of hundreds of properties. Some are even simply
held as 'investments' and deliberately left empty.
Gentrification is a problem, not just in Brixton, but in other nearby areas
including Battersea and Wandsworth, with soaring house prices and rents and
some previously varied shopping streets now being full of estate agent after
estate agent. There seems to be no legal way to fight much of this - as is
often remarked, it's the rich who make the laws and they clearly make them
for the rich. Both Labour and Tory governments - and now the coalition. It
seems unlikely that a general election will bring any change. Nor does the
response of today's 'protesters' to the invitation to the 'standing man' protest
suggest that Windrush Square (or Ritzy Square) is likely to become another
The problem is with the failure of the Lambeth council to ensure that the
regeneration of the area has at its heart the needs of the current local population
and in particular those on low incomes and from minority groups. While this
should self-evidently be a central concern for a Labour council, in practice
the council has put as its central priority the interests of investors, developers,
estate agents and anyone except the people it is meant to serve. In part perhaps
because like everywhere else councils are largely dominated by their officers,
who are generally - at least at the higher levels - the kind of middle-class
professionals that are the driving force behind gentrification.
International Brigade Commemoration
Jubilee Gardens, Waterloo, London. Sat 6 Jul 2013
Wreaths were laid at the foot of the memorial
The International Brigade Memorial Trust held its annual commemoration
in London, with several hundred remembering the sacrifice of those who went
to fight fascism in Spain. As always it was a moving event and many wreaths
were laid at the memorial.
Few now remain of those who made the journey to Spain to fight with the International
Brigade or otherwise serve in the Spanish Civil War for the Spanish Republic,
a war that began on 17 July 1936 and ended in April 1939 with a fascist dictatorship
under which General Franco ruled the country until his death in 1975.
The last two veterans living in the UK both died in 2012. Only one Briton
who fought in Spain is still known to be alive, Stanley Hilton, now 103 and
living in Australia. There was a moving contributions from John Kenton about
his father Lou, which started with the whistled password from 'Toreador' which
took him through the forward lines of the International Brigade with his fellow
stretcher bearer from Cuba, mostly under fire to get the wounded to safety.
He ended by bringing the struggle up to date, reminding us that "'their
eyes could see no other way' and we can be so proud of them. We can continue
to work for socialism against slavery. They were the only choices for my father
and his comrades. They are the only choices now... Yes I am proud of my father
and his comrades, and, father, I salute you with the only salute you ever
honoured, the clenched fist..." and he did so, whistling again that
Irvine Loman told how his father saw himself as a normal man who "hated
injustice in all its forms and was very much a socialist at heart."
He had "thought about going to Spain to help the Spanish people in
their fight against fascism but had not made a final commitment. The Battle
of Cable St changed everything for him." The very next day he joined
the Communist Party so he could go to fight in Spain.
Rodney Bickerstaffe talked about the remarkable Jones family, Jack Jones,
familiar to many of us as a trade unionist had fought in Spain who died in
2009, and his wife Evelyn Taylor, a remarkable woman who took part in the
Kinder Scout mass trespass, was prosecuted by Mosley for organising the disruption
of one of his meetings (and went to jail rather than pay the fine), went to
Moscow and became a Comintern courier in Europe, marrying Jack after her first
husband - one of his comrades had been killed fighting in Spain and Jack came
home badly wounded, and continuing with her work as a trade unionist and in
the Labour party until she died three years before Jack, and of their son
Mick, an artist and designer very much influenced by a trip to Mexico where
he was greatly influenced by the work of Diego Rivera and Orozco, who went
on to produce his own fine murals and other work for the trade unions and
Wreaths were then laid by representatives of many groups and individuals,
followed by a minutes silence and the singing together of 'Valley of Jarama'
remembering the many brave comrades of the British Battalion who died there,
led by Grace Petrie, who went on to sing one of her own anti-fascist songs.
Earlier the choral group Catalans UK had sung for us.
I had to leave at this point, and so missed the singing of 'The Internationale',
a song which seems to express much of the spirit of those who went to Spain,
its final words 'So comrades. come rally, And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale unites the human race.'
NHS 65: Rally & Camarathon
Westminster, London. Fri 5 Jul 2013
National Health Action Party campaigners with coffin
and wreath at Parliament
On the 65th Birthday of the NHS, Dr Clive Peedell began a 65 mile ultramarathon
to David Cameron's Witney constituency to bury the NHS coffin and launch the
National Health Action Party plan by doctors and health professionals to revive
Before Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action Party and another
doctor running with him set off, the National Health Action Party held a protest
outside the Dept of Health in Whitehall with a coffin and wreaths for the
NHS, then briefly outside Downing St and the Houses of Parliament before holding
a rally in Old Palace Yard. Speakers there included former MP and co-leader
of the NHAP Dr Richard Taylor, Dr Clare Gerada, the Chair of the Royal College
of GPs and Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Chair Louise Irvine.
In a statement Dr Peedell said:
"This Government has abused the democratic process by forcing
highly unpopular £4 billion top-down reorganisation of the NHS, which
promised they would never do. This is all at the same time as the NHS is
being asked to make record efficiency savings of £20 billion by 2015.
The new legislation enshrined within the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, will
result in the NHS being increasingly dismantled and privatised. The
electorate clearly did not vote for these changes to the NHS and the
Government continues to mislead and misinform the public about what it is
doing to the NHS.
"The Labour Party has failed to mount sufficient opposition to
and its previous pro-market, pro-privatisation reforms, actually set the
platform for the current changes. We therefore formed the National Health
Action Party to raise awareness and inform the public about what is
happening to their NHS.
"Today we also set out our own 10 point plan to reinstate, protect
improve the NHS, which includes policies to restore the duty of the
Secretary of State to provide comprehensive NHS care, and return the NHS
as the preferred provider of services."
The rally ended with a sketch about what is happening to the NHS, but I left
before the two runners, who were to be accompanied for part of the distance
by Dr Clare Gerada, set off on their 65 mile journey
Deptford-Canary Wharf, London. Fri 5 Jul 2013
Deptford Creek rail bridge from the DLR
I had plenty of time to get back from Lewisham to Westminster, so took the
more scenic route, traveling on the DLR into Bank and then getting on the
tube. I took a few pictures from the DLR in Deptford and on the Isle of Dogs.
NHS 65: Lewisham Hospital
Lewisham, London. Fri 5 Jul 2013
Protesters hoping to save Lewisham hospital cut a cake
at a 65th birthday party
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign held a party to celebrate the 65th Birthday
of the NHS, and keep this busy, successful and much needed hospital open rather
than sacrifice it to meet the disastrous PFI debts of a neighbouring hospital.
There were speeches from the Campaign Chair Louise Irvine and Unite hospital
rep Anita Downs, as well as free food including curry and rice and a very
large cake depicting the old hospital building. People wrote cards to tie
to helium balloons, and some were released while others where given away to
The campaign to save the hospital continues, and seems very much to be a
campaign to save the NHS from privatisation.
NHS 65: GMB
Westminster, London. Fri 5 Jul 2013
GMB members and others protest outside the Dept of Health with a vintage ambulance
The GMB trade union brought 3 vintage ambulances to Westminster for a
protest outside Parliament saying the NHS is at Risk, and in Whitehall, where
they took in 65th Birthday cards for the NHS, with the message inside "Do
Not Pension Off Our NHS'. A few other 'Save the NHS' protesters joined in
with the protest.
Earlier members in vintage ambulance uniforms had posed with the ambulances
in front of Parliament and were joined by several MPs including Dennis Skinner
and Sadiq Khan.
SOAS Cleaners' Independence Day
SOAS, London University. Thur 4 Jul 2013
Cleaners want dignity and respect for their work as
well as proper conditions of service
Today was 'Cleaners' Independence Day' at SOAS University, with a large
rally where cleaners, students and academic and no-academic staff came together
to demand that SOAS decide at this afternoon's meeting to directly employ
Staff who clean SOAS, the School of Oriental & African Studies of the
University of London, some of whom have worked there for many years, are not
employed by the university but by an outside contractor. This results in these
low-paid workers getting much less favourable conditions of employment. The
get half the paid holidays of those they work alongside, only statutory sick
pay - so are often forced to come to work when they are injured or ill - and
London University offers its own staff decent working conditions and pensions,
but these low-paid workers at the university are denied these benefits. SOAS
has an enviable reputation world-wide for its academic work in support of
social justice, but is denying it to some inside its own institution.
The cleaners, who belong to Unison, also complain of poor and arbitrary management
by the cleaning contractor, and that their human rights are being violated.
In part of a long letter about the campaign they make their point clear:
"We wonder why SOAS treats us as second-class workers, and why we
do not have the same benefits, which are enjoyed by the rest of the workers
at this university, and knowing that we perform a very important and risky
job that involved direct contact with chemicals that we are using daily
to keep this university clean, and we also have risks of getting infected
with diseases and bacteria from daily contact we have with the bathrooms,
kitchens, classrooms, offices and communal areas that are used by many people
daily leaving them dirty and contaminated."
"During our time as cleaners, we have done our work with pleasure
and pride and with great professionalism, we even have much affection and
respect for workers of this University, even despite not having the same
benefits or treated as a human being, we feel part of SOAS."
"We wonder why the SOAS cleaners do not have equal rights, perhaps
are we not human beings? Or do we not get sick? Or do we not have family
(Fair holiday)? Or do we not think of the future of tomorrow (Pension)?."
"We also wonder why a university where human rights and equality law
is taught as theory, but in reality the opposite is practice, which is discriminate,
exploit, and victimize their cleaners, by denying us the benefits that the
rest of the workers at SOAS have."
We also wonder how this can happen in the UK, where is a country that fights
for human rights and who walks around the world, trying to free people from
their rulers or dictators where they do not respect human rights."
Several of the SOAS cleaners spoke at the protest; most are from Latin America
and came to the UK because of persecution in their own countries, and most
spoke in Spanish with a translator for those of us who needed it. There were
also speakers from related campaigns, including the Birckbeck University cleaners,
the '3Cosas' campaign and the IWGB who have also protested recently on behalf
of low-paid workers at London University. Other speakers were from the University
of London Union, the SOAS branch of the UCU, SOAS students union and other
trade unionists and activists.
The Unison branch has already balloted its members involved over a possible
strike if their demands are not met - with unanimous support, and we were
told that any action would have the whole-hearted support of other students
and staff at SOAS and more generally, with the UCU refusing to cross picket
lines and a mass mobilisation of students.
Today's action came a few hours in advance of a meeting by the SOAS administration
where a decision was to be taken over bringing the cleaners into direct employment
by the university, and the shouts were directed particularly in the direction
of the office of Professor Paul Webley, the Director and Principal of SOAS,
who attracted criticism in 2009 when he was alleged to be complicit in a raid
by UK Border Agency officials raided in which nine cleaners were detained.
Cleaning contractors ISS had collaborated with the UKBA, allegedly because
of union activity by some of those involved, calling them to an 'emergency
staff meeting' at 6.30am inside SOAS with 40 UKBA staff in riot gear waiting
to pounce. The incident led to a high-publicity student sit-in in Webley's
office, which he de-fused by writing a letter of complaint to the Home Office
over the action, and calling for the cleaners to be given leave to stay. But
seven of the nine, most of whom had fake Spanish passports were deported.
Traveller Children Book Launch
E5 Bakehouse, London Fields, Wed 3 Jul 2013
Travellers recognise some of the people in the pictures
The launch party for Colin O'Brien's book, 'Travellers' Children in London
Fields' was held in the E5 Bakehouse, around 50 yards from where he made the
series of portraits over a couple of weeks in 1987. The project finished when
he went back and found the travellers had moved on, but rather surprisingly
some of them made it back for the opening. I wrote more about the event on
>Re:PHOTO at the time.
Hackney, London. Wed 3 Jul 2013
Empire Coaches at Bethnal Green across the canal
I had a few minutes to spare on my way to a book launch at London Fields
and took a few pictures with the Fuji. Nothing very special.
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