South East Alliance 'Racist Thugs Not Welcome'
Cricklewood, London. Sat 30 Aug 2014
An anti-fascist protester sends a clear message to the
South East Alliance as police drag her away
Several hundred people came to oppose a protest by around 30 from the
South East Alliance close to the empty offices they say are used as a recruiting
centre by the Muslim Brotherhood. Police kept the two groups apart but there
were some scuffles and arrests.
When I arrived in Cricklewood shortly after 11am, police and the North
West London United group formed to oppose the protests in Cricklewood
were both out in force. From the bus from Kilburn I'd seen several police
vans and a row of motorcyclists already waiting at Kilburn station and there
were another ten down a couple of side-streets off Cricklewood Broadway.
Outside the offices said by the South East Alliance to be used by the Muslim
Brotherhood, there was already a row of banners from organisations supporting
the counter-protest, along with perhaps 30 or 40 people, with others arriving
all the time. By the time I got on a bus to go back to Kilburn station to
photograph the start of the SEA march there were more than 150 present.
The Muslim Brotherhood have never had an official office in this country.
Press reports that in April this year the MB 'European Headquarters' had moved
from Cricklewood to Graz appear to have been misleading simplifications. But
like many Egyptians outside Egypt, those who worked at World Media Services
supported the MB, and there they produced an unofficial English Language web
site about it, along with other publishing activities.
The SEA march was supposed to be gathering at Kilburn Station between noon
and 1pm, but when I arrived a little after 12.15 the only people there were
a small group of police. Ten minutes later, SEA leader Paul Pitt
(I met him before as the Essex EDL organiser) arrived with three others. There
were still only four when the march set off at 1.15pm and I took the bus back
to Cricklewood to wait for them.
By the time the SEA march arrived and was stopped by police a couple of blocks
down the road the number on it had risen to ten. Some more SEA supporters
had also got to Cricklewood and were being held by police outside a funeral
parlour on the opposite side of the road to the World Media Services flat.
The police had stopped the march as a group of around 30 anti-fascists had
started to walk towards them, and held them while deciding what to do. A couple
of the anti-fascists had been held and arrested by police but this had not
stopped the others.
There was an uneasy confrontation, with just a double line of police separating
the two groups, and photographers milling around. One of the SEA, a well-known
former member of various ultra-right groups, was shouting insults loudly at
the anti-fascists, photographers and police; after a while police insisted
he moderate his language, but he continued to shout abuse, and I was surprised
he was not arrested.
It looked at one point that Paul Pitt had been arrested as he tried to break
through the police line and continue the march. Through the crowd of police
around him it was difficult to see but I think he was handcuffed and cautioned,
but then one of the officers intervened and he was freed. The SEA were told
again and again by police in response to their complaints that the police
intended to facilitate their protest.
I went back to photograph the protesters who were actually close to the flat.
The NWLU had occupied the pavement directly outside it and the SEA were held
by police on a corner roughly opposite behind some small road works and outside
a funeral parlour. A quarter of an hour later I saw police escorting the SEA
march - now with people carrying flags on bamboo poles towards us on the side
road next to the funeral parlour and I and other photographers rushed to meet
As they got close to us, several of the marchers used the poles and flags
to reach out to attack photographers. Some where just trying to hold the flags
over our lenses but others were clearly trying to cause injury with the poles.
I was surprised the the police did nothing to stop them, simply escorting
them into the area where the others were protected by police.
As I tried to photograph their protest, there were again people using their
flags to obstruct me, though others were keen to be photographed, a few holding
up posters, banners and flags. One man kept coming to stand in front of me
to prevent me taking pictures and filming me, but I just moved away to another
position each time. I went briefly inside the area where the SEA were held,
but soon decided there was more to photograph from behind the police around
the side of the area facing the NWLU protest which they were shouting at.
I was again disappointed by the police, who when they finally realised that
the SEA were trying to use the poles as weapons to try and injure photographers,
rather than trying to stop the attacks or take away the poles from the two
or three protesters involved simply set a small line of police to stop photographers
from going within range. I complained to the officers but as usual they took
Shortly after this, as I knew I'd got already got pictures to tell the story
and it seemed unlikely that anything else of great interest was going to happen
as people on both sides were already drifting away, I decided to leave.
Sodexo: racism & unfair dismissal of TU Rep
Holborn, London. Thu 28 Aug 2014
A tribunal found RMT Rep Petrit Mihaj was unfairly dismissed
because of his union activities
In the latest of a series of actions against Sodexo, one of the government's
favoured private facilities contractors, RMT London Underground Depot Staff
and supporters picketed the company's Holborn HQ offices across Thursday lunchtime.
The action followed other protests at the offices and a one-day strike on
They came to demand the reinstatement of their colleague and union rep Petrit
Mihaj; an employment tribunal has ruled his dismissal was 100% unfair and
that he was dismissed because of his trade union activities, but Sodexo is
refusing to give him back his job. It as, as Mihaj says "a matter
of principle" and one the protesters want TfL and the government
to support and put pressure on Sodexo to comply with the tribunal decision.
Sodexo has a long record of union-bashing and treating staff like dirt across
the full range of their activities in the public sector - prisons, the NHS,
schools, defence etc. The supply the catering for London Underground. Of four
RMT reps working with Sodexo, two have been sacked and two face disciplinary
action; one has been suspended. One in ten RMT members have brought claims
against Sodexo to employment tribunals. A recent article in The Guardian
by Randeep Ramesh listed a catalogue of claims of bullying,
racism, sexism and harassment, along with allegations of 'ethnic cleansing'
of non-white staff in their defence division.
Along with the placards calling for the reinstatement of Mihaj there were
also those with the message 'Sodexo Workers Demand No More "Punch
a Black Week"', referring to an example of totally unacceptable
behaviour quoted in Ramesh's article. In October 2012, an African-Caribbean
female manager in the defence division was punched by her white male boss,
and when she asked for an explanation he said to her "It's punch
a black week." Although the article says that the woman left Sodexo
after a six-figure settlement in early 2013, and the man concerned has also
left, the protesters say he is still a director of Sodexo. According to Ramesh,
the 'company was "unable to conclude that this behaviour was due
to ... skin colour"'.
Sodexo internationally also have a record of bullying and racism. A lawsuit
by black employees in the US who had been routinely barred from promotion
and segregated was settle in 2005 at a cost of £47.3m.
As the RMT leaflet handed out at the protest says:
'It is shameful that a company like Sodexo, with its shocking track record
of racism and bullying, are allowed to win Government and LUL contracts.'
Soon after the protesters arrived the doors to the building were locked,
although the protesters had made no attempt to enter the building on this
occasion. Staff coming back with their lunch in their hands were unable to
use the doors, but the security pointed them away along the street. One of
the protesters followed them and found that the offices could be entered up
an open staircase in the bank next door. He came down into the lobby and talked
with the security there, who eventually let him out through the doors.
The protest continued for around an hour, with many of those passing on the
busy London street taking the leaflets and most expressing support. The leaflet
asked for people to help by boycotting Sodexo and emailing the Sodexo Chief
Executive Debbie White and TfL Catering Director Nigel Hall calling for Petrit
Hands Up! Against racist Police Shootings
US Embassy, London. Wed 27 Aug 2014
Brown was shot by police in Ferguson with his hands up, shouting 'Don't shoot!'.
Protesters came to the US Embassy in solidarity with the family of Michael
Brown and the people of Ferguson and against all racist police killings both
in the US and in the UK. They raised their hands and shouted 'Don't Shoot!'
as he did. But he was black, so they shot him.
The protest was called by Stand Up to Racism, and supported by other organisations
including Unite Against Fascism, Love Music Hate Racism, Stand Up to UKIP
and the United Friends and Family Campaign. In the call-out they stated:
'People in the United States and around the world have rightly been outraged.
Brown’s murder is the latest in a long line of killings by US police
of black men. Five have been murdered in the past month alone. Protestors
have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri every night since the incident
demanding justice for Michael and an end to police killings. The Police
response to the demonstrations has harked back to the days prior to the
Civil Rights Movement. They have used tear gas, dogs, automatic weapons
and armoured cars on demonstrators. Michael’s murder highlights the
deeply racist nature of US society today, however, deaths in police custody
are not limited to America. As we have seen in the cases of Mark Duggan,
Smiley Culture, Sean Rigg, and Christopher Alder to name but a few.'
Among those speaking at the event was Marcia Rigg, whose campaign
with her family to find out how and why her brother Sean Rigg was killed in
Brixton Police Station in 2008 has laid bare the corruption and racism of
the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC. It was only their persistence that led
to an inquest verdict that police had used "unsuitable and unnecessary
force", failed to uphold his basic rights and that the failings
of the police "more than minimally" contributed to his
death. It also led to a truly damning independent review of the IPCC's investigation
which found them to have made "blunder after blunder".
Of course the death was not an isolated case, but just one of many thousands
of questionable deaths that have taken place in custody over the past twenty
or thirty years. Most but by no means all of those who have died have been
young and black, and mostly male.
As well as Marcia Rigg, other speakers included Diane Abbott MP,
Talha Ahmad from the Muslim Council of Britain, Zita Holbourne
of PSC and BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), TUC Race Equality
Officer Wilf Sullivan and Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu
of Unite Against Fascism.
No More Page Three
London Bridge, London. Sun 24 Aug 2014
Petition organiser Lucy-Anne Holmes holds the 2nd birthday
The campaign to get The Sun to drop its sexist and demeaning 'Page 3'
semi-nude women celebrated 2 years and a massive petition with over 200,000
signatures by partying with a 70s theme reflecting the paper's outdated views
- at News UK 's new offices.
The Murdoch press in the UK has moved from its Wapping fortress to a brand
new building next to the Shard with a large forecourt facing London Bridge
station proving a good are for the party. At the start of the event most of
those present took a short turn at the microphone voicing their objections
to the publication of pictures of half-clothed women in what are intended
as titillating poses in a family newspaper. These are pictures of no news
interest. There was also an opportunity for people to write their reasons
for signing the petition on a small chalkboard and to be photographed holding
During the event, some taking part handed out leaflets to people entering
and leaving the News UK building, some of whom were clearly in support of
the protest. It must be embarrassing for people working for the company's
more serious publications to be associated with this old-fashioned sexism.
And the old-fashioned aspect was reflected in the clothes worn by some of
those taking part, as well as the party snacks - including pineapple and cheese
on cocktail sticks.
Marina Pepper, almost certainly the only person present to have
featured on 'Page 3' - back in the 1980s when she was only 17 - at one point
suggested some more direct action, and together with her dog led a charge
towards the large glass doors of the building, managing to swerve around a
security man, but support was lacking, and the party-goers ending up posing
and singing a specially written song outside the doors. But she may well be
back! (One small co-incidence is that she was born in Windsor and spent some
of her early years in Taplow, where I had been walking a few days earlier,
before her family began traveling around.)
Lucy-Anne Holmes, who started the petition two years ago spoke briefly
as the candles were lit on two birthday cakes (and were rather quickly blown
out by the strong breeze), and people had brought quite a lot of food to share.
The party was continuing as I left. It's hard to know why The Sun continues
to publish these pictures, which almost certainly lose them as many sales
as they gain. They clearly upset many people, and not only women, and are
Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killing
Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014
'Not just war crimes, it's planned genocide say Tamils calling for a referendum
on Tamil Eelam
Tamils protested at Downing St over the continuing genocide of the Tamil
nation, calling for a UN investigation and referendum on Tamil Eelam. Placards
called for an end to the use of rape to destroy their nation and sexual violence
Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat23 Aug 2014
A young man speaks at the rally on the North Terrace
of Trafalgar Square
A rally marked a year after the Ghouta massacre of 21/08/2013 when Assad
regime forces outraged the world by using Sarin gas, killing 1,477 residents
including over 400 children in this Damascus suburb. The world failed to act
After an hour-long rally in Trafalgar Square the protesters, who were mainly
Syrians, marched along the pavements to Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing
St, where they laid flowers in memory of the dead.
Gaza Protest - Stop Arming Israel
Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014
A woman with a large heart on her cheek in the colours
of the Palestinian flag
A large protest at Downing St called on the UK to stop selling arms to
Israel, and for an end to Israeli war crimes. Among the protesters were many
Jews. Three people came to wave Israeli flags across the road and were led
away for safety by police.
I met briefly with some of them after the rally at Downing St, marching towards
Trafalgar Square and onwards.
Divided Families protest over cruelty
Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014
A woman holds a small child in a white one-piece suit with the message 'I
miss my Daddy'
Families kept apart by Teresa May's cruel and unfair immigration rules
which discriminate against those earning less than £18,600 by not allowing
their non-EU spouses to join them protested at Downing St against this breaking
up of families.
This income requirement discriminates against women, the retired and disabled
young and many minority ethnic people who have on average lower incomes than
the general population. For couples with children, the income limit is even
higher, and to secure visas for a spouse and two children you could need an
income of £24,800.
The policy, which also includes tougher English Language tests, a proof of
greater attachment to the UK than of any other country and extending the probationary
period from two to five years, is in direct contradiction of the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights which states:
'No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy,
family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.
Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference
Applications for the relevant visas are also expensive, at £601 per
person for postal applications - and over a thousand pounds for the premium
'in person' application, large amounts to find for those on low wages.
Jubilee River & Taplow
Taplow, Bucks. Thu 21 Aug 2014
A private lawn and boat on the Thames near Maidenhead
A family walk took me to one of the places where the rich live, Taplow, just
across the Thames from Maidenhead, and by the Jubilee River (the Maidenhead,
Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme) built to protect the riverside
homes of billionaires from flooding, taking surges of the Thames after prolonged
rain downstream to flood Old Windsor, Datchet, Wraysbury, Staines and Chertsey
where most of us are considerably poorer. We saw its effects only too clearly
earlier this year.
Of course the authorities deny that this was the aim behind the Jubilee River,
or that it has any effect on flooding around Staines, but it does feed a huge
amount of water much more rapidly back into the Thames just above Datchet.
And that extra water has to go somewhere - and we saw in
February exactly where it did go.
But while they found the huge amount needed for the Jubilee River, they seem
to be having great problems in finding the money to do anything about flooding
downstream, or to do the very necessary work on the Victorian drainage systems
here. So next winter there is a good chance all those who were flooded this
year suffer again. Of course there was flooding in Maidenhead, Eton and Windsor
in 1947 - but so there was in the areas further down where the water is now
Taplow seems a nice village, and though I'm sure not everyone is filthy rich,
certainly quite a few people there seemed to be from what we could see through
their windows as we walked around. Its only a short distance to Maidenhead
for the commute into London - or a drive along the M4, and there are many
large businesses with their headquarters or large offices in the corridor
west from Heathrow an easy drive away.
Despite this, it still has one proper pub, proud to be the only 'Oak
and Saw' in the country - and while it has something of a reputation
for food, the prices are not as steep as you might imagine, and you can get
a decent beer or two - and I'd happily eat there again. And there is a walk
on the pub web site to get up an appetite, which we more or less followed,
though we had hoped to go a little further.
Class War steps up 'Poor Doors' protest
Aldgate, London. Wed 20 Aug 2014
Class War hold open the door of 1 Commercial St - the
'rich door' only for the luxury flats
For the fourth Wednesday running, Class War picketed outside 1 Commercial
St in Aldgate against London's new apartment blocks providing separate 'poor
doors' for the affordable flats they have to include to gain planning permission.
Class War continued their protests about 'Housing Apartheid', of
which 1 Commercial St is but one example. The block essentially contains two
completely separate groups of flats, one for the wealthy and the other providing
a relatively small amount of 'affordable accommodation' which was a condition
of the planning permission.
The apartments for the rich have an entrance into what looks like a hotel
lobby with a manned reception - at least three staff were on duty during the
protest, on the main street next to Aldgate East Underground. The poor door
is hidden away down a dingy side alley, and leads in via a card entry door
to a bare and bleak corridor, empty apart from mail boxes on one side. According
to one resident, the lift has often been out of action, with some elderly
and infirm tenants having to walk up the stairs to the 11th floor.
A large proportion of the flats in the rich section were bought by overseas
investors, and many are empty, increasing in monetary value. Others with overseas
owners are let out as holiday flats, and many of those who came in and out
during the protest were enjoying expensive holidays in London. One man who
talked to the protesters had no idea that there were separate flats in the
building for the poor residents, and went round with some of the protesters
to look at the poor entrance, he was clearly upset by the situation and in
sympathy with the protesters but he refused the offer of the megaphone to
say what he thought.
Those who have flats in the 'poor' section may well be - as one of them came
to tell the protesters - pleased to have a decent flat in the area. But the
proportion of affordable dwellings is low, and Tower Hamlets has a huge list
of people wanting housing. The whole idea of building large blocks as investment
properties for rich overseas buyers is simply obscene.
Class War draws attention to real and important issues - the gentrification
of this and other areas of London and the financially based social cleansing
that is resulting. They do so in a manner that is confrontational and theatrical,
but amusing and not always entirely literal. Among the banners at today's
protest was that of the 'Women's Death Brigade' with its message
'Smiters of the High & Mighty' and 'F**K Capitalism! F**k
Another banner referred to their election campaign - they hope to run as
many or more candidates than groups such as UKIP and the Greens, and already
have prospective candidates in around 30 constituencies. Given there is no
chance of them gaining power, they are safe to make the election promises
"Double Dole, No Bedroom Tax, Double Pensions", as well
as a 50% mansion tax.
After the protest had continued for some time, Ian Bone grabbed hold of the
'rich' door after some residents had entered and held it open, saying it was
now open to both rich and poor. Though of course there was no way that tenants
in the poor section could access their flats through it. A struggle ensued,
with three people from the 'concierge' trying to shut it, and failing, at
which point they told the protesters they were calling the police. Around
12 minutes later an officer arrived and after a couple of minutes assessing
the situation asked the protester standing in the doorway to let him close
the door. He asked politely, and after some deliberation he was allowed to
close the door after him as he went in to talk to the staff inside.
Meanwhile people were being allowed to leave and enter the building by the
protesters, though at times with quite a lot of derogatory comments about
the rich which clearly disturbed some. A few minutes earlier, someone had
thrown liquid down from one of the upper floors, probably water. It hadn't
hit the protesters, though some passers-by got splashed, but the protesters
were underneath a projecting canopy above the ground floor of the building.
Things began to get a little more heated, with protesters actually blocking
the doorway and telling those who wanted to go in that they had to use the
'poor door' instead - which would of course not allowed access to their properties.
Some stopped to argue with the protesters - and the arguments sometimes got
heated. One woman snatched a pile of papers from a protest and threw them
to the ground. But although they told the residents to go to the 'poor' door,
they didn't physically prevent them from going through the 'rich' one, though
a few were intimidated enough not to try.
The one police officer clearly could not control the group of around 20 protesters
and he radioed for assistance. The van pulled up around 10 minutes later as
the group were moving away to the pub having packed up their banners.
Shame on You Theresa May
Home Office, London. Sun 17 Aug 2014
Home' - but Talha is still in prison in the US despite his 'release'
A party outside the UK Home Office celebrated the release of Talha Ahsan,
held in UK jails for 6 years then extradited to solitary confinement in a
US Supermax prison who a US judge released last month and is expected to return
Talha Ahsan, declared free a month ago, was not at the party as he is still
held in a US immigration prison, but is expected home shortly. Outside the
Home Office, they shouted "SHAME ON YOU!, Theresa May"
for allowing his extradition to the US. The decision to allow his extradition
to go forward was widely seen as racist when she refused to allow that of
Garry McKinnon, because of his similar diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.
There were speeches and poems from a number of people, including Talha's
brother, Hamja Ahsan who has led the campaign for his return to the UK, Zita
Holbourne, Bruce Kent, Artist Taxidriver Mark McGowan, Marium Begg, Sheila
Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, A L Kennedy, Murad Qureshi,
the poet Hilaire, and Talha's father.
A British poet and translator, Talha received the Platinum and bronze Koestler
Trust awards for his poetry in 2012. Among his translations is a tenth-century
Arabic poem, Above the Dust, by Syrian Abu Firas Al-Hamdani, which
was on the poet being held in captivity in Byzantium. Talha was detained in
July 2006 in London and detained without charge or trial for over six years
before being extradited to the US, where he was in held in solitary confinement
in a 'Supermax' prison for over a year before his trial.
His release came about because of a plea bargain in which he admitted charges
of conspiracy to provide and providing material support for terrorist groups
in Chechnya & Afganistan when he was working for a London-based Islamic
news website and publishing company in 1997-2004. As in many similar cases,
there was probably little substance in the allegations, but the bargain released
him from other charges for which he could have spent the rest of his life
in solitary had a court made the wrong decision.
Solidarity with Ferguson
US Embassy, London. Sun 17 Aug 2014
crowd who came to show solidarity pose in front of the US embassy
A vigil at the US Embassy in London sent solidarity to the people of Ferguson,
Missouri after police shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, calling for
an end to the violent oppression of black people in the US and for truth,
justice and peace.
The vigil was organised by 'London Black Revs', a recently formed
group of militant black activists after the murder of Michael Brown, shot
by a police officer when he had his hands up in the air in surrender, as both
eye-witnesses and video attest. Immediately after his murder, a media campaign
began to portray him as a 'thug' and to label the community protests that
followed his killing as 'riots'. Protesters were called 'looters' and military-style
forces were sent to control the area.
London Black Revs called "for the US to stop violently oppressing,
Black People and Black Protests". They pointed out that we have
similar instances of the oppression of Black people here in the UK, and among
those at the protest were members of the family of Mark Duggan, who was also
unarmed and surrendering when killed by police (and a gun apparently planted
later by an officer some distance away.)
People from across London's communities had come to show solidarity, although
the majority were black; there was some audible dissent from all sides when
one of the speakers suggested that the struggle for justice was one that only
black people could understand and that they should fight it alone.
Second Anniversary of Marikana Miners Massacre
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014
People came forward one by one to read something about
the 34 miners killed and lay a flower
A protest at South Africa House remembered the 34 striking miners killed
by state security forces two years ago and the continuing criminalization
and persecution of the survivors and their families for the profits of London
registered Lonmin plc.
Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014
This was a silent protest with people standing in line,but in front of them
were posters and a paper boat
The protest in Trafalgar Square was part of global day of support for the
Sewol Tragedy Victims' Family Committee petition, already signed by around
4 million, for a special bill to investigate the deaths of 304 people, mainly
high school students in the ferry disaster.
March against ISIS massacres
Portland Place, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014
The march gathered in front of the BBC before forming
up on Regent St
The Kurdish People’s Assembly and others marched against the attacks
on Kurds, Shia, Sufi, Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq, calling on
the UK government for greater action including pressure on Turkey and Qatar
to end support for jihadism.
R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres
Marchers met at the Egyptian Embassy to march to Downing St on the anniversary
of the massacres by Egyptian forces at Rabaa and Nahda squares on 14th August
2013 in which over 2600 were killed, 4000 injured and many arrested.
Boycott Israel - Boycott M&S
Brixton, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014
People were still arriving for the protest when I had
Protesters outside M&S in the centre of Brixton argued that the store
legitimises the illegal occupation of Palestine and supports Zionist racism
and brutality by selling Israeli goods and called for a boycott in solidarity
with the people of Gaza.
Kurds Protest against ISIS
Downing St, London. Wed 13 Aug 2014
People shout slogans against ISIS at the protest
Kurds from various groups came together today to protest in 'Solidarity
Against ISIS' and the genocide of minority faiths, calling on the UK government
and international community to provide greater support for the Peshmerga fighting
Class War's 'Poor Doors' Picket 3
One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Wed 13 Aug 2014
'There is Nothing Quite as Cheap as Wealth These Days'
For the third Wednesday running, Class War picketed outside One Commercial
St in Whitechapel High St, Aldgate against London's new apartment blocks providing
separate 'poor doors' for the affordable flats they have to include to gain
End Fast Track deportations
Home Office, Marsham St, Westminster, London. Tue 12 Aug 2014
outside the Home Office demand they stop fast track detentions which have
been found illegal.
A noisy protest called on the Home Office to respect the High Court decision
that Fast Track deportation is unlawful and to release the detainees arrested
for taking action against it including Juliet detained yesterday for her role
in the protests.
In July the High Court ruled that the 'Fast Track' deportation system set
up with the intention of deporting asylum seekers before they had time to
properly prepare and present their cases was unfair, and a parliamentary inquiry
has been set up into the whole immigration detention system, prompted largely
by increased public awareness of what is happening inside the detention centres,
made public by protests by the Movement for Justice (MfJ) against the arbitrary
detention and the routine brutality, psychological torture and sexual abuse
in detention centres.
It has also been the protests by the MfJ that have brought many of the acts
of defiance against these abuses inside detention centres to public attention,
including the many hunger strikes by detainees.
During last Saturday's MfJ protest outside Harmondsworth detention centre,
those inside told protesters by mobile phone that 200 detainees there had
begun a hunger strike demanding the release of all those on Fast Track. They
sat down in a courtyard in protest, staying there despite heavy rain until
the early hours of Sunday morning when they were attacked by officers sent
by the Home Office in riot gear, assaulted, handcuffed and arrested. Later
some were taken out of the centre in prison vans while others are being held
in isolation at Harmondsworth.
At Yarl's Wood, where women are detained a protest took place last week against
the mistreatment and abuse of two pregnant and ill detainees, demanding that
all pregnant, ill and disabled detainees be released.
Many of those taking part in the MfJ protests have been through the asylum
process, and others are still waiting for decisions on their asylum claims.
Among them are African men and women who have had to flee their country because
of draconian laws against homosexuals which have resulted in violence and
death threats. One woman, Juliet, active in the protests against the abuses
in the detention centre living in Manchester was detained yesterday when she
made her regular visit to the reporting centre, and the MfJ believe this was
because of her activism. Some of the posters at the event called for her release.
So far the Home Office, far from respecting the decision of the High Court,
appears to have tightened their policy of creating a 'hostile environment'
for immigrants and to be increasing its use of illegal procedures for deportation.
Wool Against Weapons
Burghfield to Aldermarston, Berkshire. Sat 9 Aug 2014
There were 7 miles of pink scarf along the roads between
the two atomic bomb factories - and some to spare.
CND stretched pink knitting 7 miles between UK atomic bomb factories
at Burghfield and Aldermaston on Nagasaki Day against the senseless waste
of £100bn in replacing Trident missiles, which would clearly breach
the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield is the
bomb factories which make Britain's nuclear warheads. Ahead of an expected
Parliamentary vote in 2016 on whether the government should spend over £100
billion on a new nuclear weapons system, there will be increasing demonstrations
at AWE calling for Trident and its replacement to be scrapped. The date was
chosen as it was the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.
Groups from all over the country and some from France brought long rolled
up lengths of knitted and crocheted scarves, made in individual sections and
joined together. A lot of planning was needed to make sure that there were
enough rolls and they were taken to the right places to be unrolled and joined
together, but it all worked on the day.
The project involved a very large number of people, many of whom had taken
no active part in protests against nuclear weapons before, but who are convinced
that we should not waste public money on the Trident replacement - money that
could be put to something useful like keeping our NHS running.
I cycled to Burghfield from Reading, and arrived just over two and a half
hours before the whole scarf was scheduled to be joined up at 1pm. After taking
some pictures around the end of the scarf there, I got back on my bike and
cycled slowly along the route of the scarf to Aldermaston, stopping at all
of the 'mile points' which were the bases for the various regional groups
(and a 'faith' group) and also where people were busy laying out the rolls
of scarf and joining them up and taking photographs. It took me around an
hour and a quarter to get to the Aldermaston end of the scarf at the fence
around the AWE there.
I made it back to Burghfield - with just a few stops for more pictures -
in half an hour. It helped that there is quite a long downhill section and
the wind was behind me, but I wanted to be sure to be back well before the
planned 'linking time' of 1pm.
I took pictures at Burghfield of the linking when people rang bells at 1pm,
then started running along the scarf, stopping to photograph the people holding
it up. After almost a mile I gave up and returned back to Burghfield where
a rally was to start at 1.30pm. It was actually a little later and including
singing and poetry and other performances as well as speeches from Walter
Wolfgang and Kate Hudson. It was still continuing when I left around 2.30pm
to ride back to Reading and take the train home.
Bring Back Mark Harper's Cleaner
Lambeth, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014
Protesters outside the flats where Isabella Acevedo cleaned for Tory Minister
Mark Harper and others.
Isabella Acevedo from Colombia worked as a cleaner in more than 10 flats
in this building on Westminster Bridge Road, cleaning the home of Tory Immigration
Minister Mark Harper and ironing his clothes for 7 years until February. They
took advantage of her status without legal documentation to underpay her,
and she received no holiday or sick pay.
As protesters gathered outside, a man came out from the reception in the
building and told us we could not protest there but had to go across the street.
He told them "I run everything here", but would not say whether
he had any part in employing her but did say that she had used another person's
ID. He told us that he was going to call the police. The protesters kept off
the steps but continued their protest on the pavement.
None of the people whose flats she cleaned stood up for Isabella when she
lost her job when her lack of documentation came to light, and no proceedings
have been taken against anyone for employing her despite this. She lost her
job and with it any income but faced legal proceedings over her immigration
status - the government and media criminalising her as an 'illegal immigrant'.
Mark Harper lost his job in February - but soon got another in a reshuffle.
On 21 July, police and fifteen border agency enforcement officers rushed
into Haringey Town Hall where Isabella was waiting with other guests to attend
her daughter's Registry Office wedding, dragging her away and taking her in
a van to Yarl's Wood. They tried to stop the wedding too, questioning bride
and groom, and telling them their papers were not in order, but the registrars
found they were fine and the wedding went ahead, but of course without the
The circumstances of this arrest can only be seen to be vindictive, and the
forced deportation of Isabella was equally so. Just hours after she had met
with her lawyer in the detention centre to discuss her case, Serco guards
came just after midnight and took her out of her room in her pyjamas. She
wasn't allowed to make any phone call - not to her lawyer or her daughter
- and a guard only packed a part of her belongings. By 6.40am that morning
she was on a plane to Colombia, seated with a plain-clothes guard on either
Her deportation appears to have been carried out in secrecy and in an illegal
manner to prevent action by family, supporters and trade unions or legal moves
to stop it. The protesters call for her return to the UK, and for proper legal
consideration of her right to remain in the UK. There is an appeal for a legal
The man from reception came out a couple of times to tell people to get off
the steps and towards the end of the protest, another man came out, shouting
angrily and rather incoherently threatening to assault the person speaking
at the time. His colleague followed him and persuaded him to go back inside
Ukrainians & Georgians Putin Protest
Russian Embassy, Notting Hill, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014
Women with Ukrainian flags hold posters 'The Real Face
of Putin' - with a Hitler moustache
Ukrainians and Georgians protested together at the Russian Embassy against
President Putin, comparing his invasion of Ukraine to Hitler's 1938 march
into the Sudetanland and calling for the UK to meet its obligations under
the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners
G4S, Victoria St, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014
A Palestinian woman hands out leaflets outside the G4S
A protest was held outside the London HQ of G4S in solidarity with the many
Palestinians, including hundreds taken in Gaza, detained and tortured by Shin
Bet in Israeli prisons run by G4S. One of them, Arafat Jaradat died in February
after 5 days of torture.
Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer reports that hundreds of Gazans
are being taken by Israeli occupation forces and then interrogated by Special
Unit 504 before being handed over to the Shin Bet for further interrogation.
Photographs have shown Palestinian prisoners stripped of their clothing, sometimes
blindfolded, held in humiliating conditions in the heat for extended periods,
all in violation of international humanitarian law.
Under Israel’s 'Unlawful Combatants Law' Palestinians from the Gaza
Strip can be detained for an unlimited amount of time without being charged
or brought to trial under permanent detention orders which are only subject
to juridical review by an Israeli District Court once every six months. The
forcible transfer of these prisoners by the occupying power is a war crime
in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Hiroshima Atomic Victims Remembered
Tavistock Square, London. Wed 6 Aug 2014
The Mayor of Camden lays a wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree
A ceremony at the Hiroshima cherry tree in Tavistock Square on the 69th anniversary
of the first use of an atomic bomb remembered the victims past and present
of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and promoted the cause
of peace in the world.
The cherry tree was planted there by the then Mayor of Camden, and the current
mayor, Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli, welcomed everyone to the event. Among the
others taking part, there were speeches from Kate Hudson, veteran of the Labour
Party Walter Wolfgang and Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett. Proceedings
were introduced by Jeremy Corbyn MP and there were songs from the Peace Choir
and WW2 veteran Jim Radford. We were reminded of the incredible record of
Hetty Bower, who became a pacifist during the First World War and died earlier
this year. She had attended many of these ceremonies, and spoke briefly at
last years events. Anthony Flaum sang and Buddhist monk Rev S Nagaze of the
Battersea Peace Pagoda prayed, and there were messages from Hiroshima and
At the end of the event there was a two minute silence for the victims of
the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all victims of war, during which
people came up to lay flowers and wreaths at the foot of the Hiroshima cherry
No Glory No More War
Parliament Square, London. Mon 4 Aug 2014
Campaigners with tin hats and quotations in front of
Peace campaigners marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First
World War with an event examining the truth about the war and calling for
the 15 million who died to be commemorated by creating a world in which there
is no more war.
Among those who spoke or performed at the 'No Glory - No More War' event
were actors Sam West and Kika Markham, writer AL Kennedy, WW2 veteran Jim
Radford, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition, CND's
Kate Hudson, Quaker Hannah Brock, German historian Juliene Haubold Stolle
and Neil Faulkner, the author of the pamphlet No Glory, which gives the real
history of WW1, which far from being the "war to end all wars" and
a "victory for democracy", was a military disaster and a human catastrophe,
"driven by big powers' competition for influence around the globe, and
caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16
million people dead and 20 million wounded."
While we remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who took part, we should
also be aware of the pointlessness of the war and make use of its anniversary
to promote peace and international co-operation.
Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Haringey, London. Sat 2 Aug 2014
Popular Front activists greet the march on its way through Wood Green
Hundreds marched through Haringey to show their anger over the Israeli
invasion of Gaza and the killing of civilians including many children. Many
on the route showed their support, but two people shouted pro-Israel insults
at the marchers.
The peaceful march, supported by people from across the various communities
in Haringey started at Ducketts Common opposite Turnpike Lane Tube station
and ended with a rally opposite the Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green High
Keith Flett, president of the Haringey Trades Council, which has long supported
the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said before the march: "This is about
human rights, it is about justice, it is about stopping the killing of civilians,
including children. There is a significant anger in the borough about what
is happening in Gaza and we want to see that turned into something practical-
collecting for and sending medical aid."
Sainsbury's protest at illegal Israeli Goods
Brixton, London. Sat 2 Aug 2014
manager from Sainsbury's tells protesters they cannot protest in his shop
Protesters invaded the entrance to Sainsbury's, handing out leaflets
to shoppers urging them to boycott Israeli goods, particularly food grown
in illegal settlements on Palestinian land and urging Sainsbury's to profiting
from Israeli war crimes.
The protest in Brixton was one of a number taking place at Sainsbury's stores
because they sell products produced in illegal settlements inside the occupied
Palestinian areas. Part of the ongoing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment,
Sanctions) campaign, the protesters also wanted to show their anger and disgust
at the horrific attack on Gaza then taking place, in which by this date over
1200 Palestinians, mainly innocent civilians including many children, had
been killed by the Israeli forces.
The protesters had met outside Brixton station and held a meeting on Windrush
Square to plan their protest before marching down to Sainsbury's. Security
at the store stopped them going inside, and a few who managed to get in were
quickly escorted out. But the protesters filled the lobby in front of the
door and refused to move, and after a while sat down in the area. Customers
were still entering and leaving the store but had to pick their way between
As I left to go to North London, police were beginning to warn the protesters
inside the lobby that they were committing an offence if they stayed after
being told to leave, and it seemed likely that they would continue to protest
outside the store rather than be arrested.
Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds
De Beers, Piccadilly, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014
Protesters lined the front of the shop both here in
Piccadilly and around the corner in Old Bond Street
Protesters at De Beers in Piccadilly asked people to boycott diamonds cut
and polished in Israel which contribute around a billion dollars every year
to the Israeli military and security industries and fund Israeli war crimes
Vedanta told 'end your killing'
Lincoln Inn's Fields, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014
outside the Vedanta AGM in Lincoln's Inn Fields
Protesters outside the Vedanta AGM in London, along with others in Zambia
and Odisha and Delhi in India told the mining company hated around the world
to stop their killing, environmental devastation, anti union action and corruption
around the world.
The protesters gathered on the opposite side of the road with banners and
placards. The banners included one large inflatable one with the ironic message
'Anil says we have not touched one blade of grass', referring to the less
than truthful statements made by the billionaire owner of Vedanta Anil Agarwal.
Several of the protesters have bought a share in the company so they can
attend the AGM and ask questions. Shortly after they went inside a figure
appeared on the roof of the adjoining building and threw a banner reading
'Vedanta Out of London' down over the roof.
The protesters say:
Vedanta Resources is a FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company guilty of
thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption
and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and
contentious companies in the world.
This year Vedanta have paid the price for their arrogance and greed. Many
of their metals operations in India have been affected by local activism.
In December their share price crashed and they dropped out of the FTSE 100.
Anil Agarwal bought as many shares as possible, putting his current holding
at 69%, virtually a private company. In Zambia, revelations by Foil Vedanta
have shaken the country and led to demands for Vedanta's subsidiary KCM
to be re-nationalised.
One high profile scandal has been over Vedanta's attempts to dig up the Nyamgiri
mountain, sacred to the Donria people. Resistance over10 years by the tribal
people in the area led to an Indian Supreme Court decision that has for the
moment at least brought a halt to their mining there. Foil Vedanta,
the group organising the protest have also carried out research into the activities
of Vedanta's subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), which poisoned thousands
of people, causing ongoing birth deformities, in major pollution spills in
2006 and 2010. They showed that KCM, which has claimed they were making a
loss and so could not afford to pay they fines, or even their tax bill, were
actually making around $500 million/year.
Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade
Windrush Square, Brixton, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014
say 'we have been waiting to return since the 1st of August 1834' (Emancipation
On the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal
Negro Improvement Association, Rastafaris met at Brixton to march to Parliament
demanding reparations for the descendants of those taken from Africa by the
Atlantic Slave Trade.
Marcus Garvey left his native Jamaica at the age of 23 and traveled through
central America, eventually working as a journalist. In 1912 he came to England
where he worked as a journalist for the for the African Times and Orient
Review, and studied law and philosophy at Birkbeck College. In 1914 he
returned to Jamaica where he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association
(UNIA)on 1 August 1914 as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora
into "one grand racial hierarchy." He went on to the USA
and worked at establishing the UNIA there. A meeting on 1 August 1920 at Madison
Square Gardens was attended by 25,000 of the 4 million membership then claimed
by the UNIA.
August 1 was chosen as the founding date for the UNIA and for the Madison
Square meeting and this protest as it was the 1 August 1834 was Emancipation
day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the
In 1999, the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission
called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years as compensation
to the descendants of those who have been enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade.
At the time this was around 10 times the annual production of goods and services
of the entire planet.
Five years later, Lloyds of London was unsuccessfully sued by the descendants
of African slaves for compensation. In 2004, a group of Jamaican Rastafari
movement groups argued that European countries, particularly Britain, should
pay £72.5 billion to resettle 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa,
but the British government rejected their claim. Other claims have been lodged
in 2007 by Guyana, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda, More recently Barbados
has established a task force to keep up the claim for reparations and Jamaica
has set up a commission to renew its claims.
Today's protest, on the100th anniversary of Garvey's setting up of the UNIA
was in the form of a march to Parliament to present the claim for reparations.
The event started slowly, with drumming and dancing, and then there were some
speeches. I had to leave after around an hour and a half before the march
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