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New Years Eve Walk

Sudbury to Brentford, London. Sat 31 Dec 2016
The Hoover Buildings - now Tesco and Royal Naawab
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A family walk in Ealing - about ten miles..

We usually make at least one longish walk around the New Year, and this year the only possible day was New Year's Eve. It wasn't really good weather for it, though at least not raining hard, and the morning was just slightly damp and we were walking inside a little bit of cloud. It came on as more definite rain for a few minutes around lunchtime, then we had a few bright spells before darkness began to fall, and it got darker a little earlier and faster than usual.

As usual there had been argument about where to go. Linda wanted a country walk, so I promised her one in the city. Only a few yards from Sudbury Town station we were walking across a grassed open space before something of a suburban trek took us into Horsenden Wood and to the top of the hill. Had it been a clear day we would have had distant views for much of the way to the wood and from the top of the hill, but visibility was unfortunately poor.

More country walking took us down to the Grand Union, and across it into suburban Perivale, and soon the highpoint of the walk for some of us, the 1930s trading estate leading to the Art Deco Tesco on Western Avenue, together with the 1930s moderne canteen, now an Asian restaurant. We chose the Tesco both for a tiny bit of shopping and the toilets, then walked west to the footbridge to cross the busy road.

The footpath south took us to the rather remarkable St Mary the Virgin, where we explored the graveyard - with a little help from one of the volunteers who now keep the church running and are gradually repairing the vandalised monuments - before sitting on a couple of rather damp seats to eat our picnic.

We then more or less followed the River Brent along to the first of the viaducts on our route, on the Greenford Branch line, which has no trains on Sundays or Bank Holidays or over the Christmas period. Weekdays there are usually 2 each way per hour, but it is a service that looks as if is being run down ready for closure, with trains soon to run only between Greenford and West Ealing rather than on to Paddington.

I'd decided in planning the route to continue along the footpath that runs parallel to the line about a quarter mile to the east, down past Castle Bar station to Drayton Green Rd, mainly because I've never walked down it before, but in retrospect it wasn't a good choice, a rather boring walk between sports grounds and playing fields, the least interesting part of the walk. From Drayton Green the road down to Hanwell Church had some minor points of interest, particularly on the last section which emerges on to Churchfields Recreation Ground, with views across to the second viaduct of the walk.

We took a quick look at St Mary's Hanwell, which wasn't open, then made our way through Brent Lodge Park, where it took some effort to drag our party past the tea room - we didn't have time to stop, already we were well behind schedule - and down to the Brent, to walk alongside the Brent and across it the Wharncliffe Viaduct. This was the first major engineering work on the new Great Western Railway in 1836-7, with 8 semi-elliptical arches each of 70 ft span and rising 19 ft supported on hollow brick piers - the first time these were used in a railway viaduct. 886 ft long, the height to the parapet is 81 ft, and when built it was 30 ft wide to carry two broad gauge lines. Later it was widened to 55ft with a third pier added to each existing pair, and it could then take four standard gauge tracks, which were laid in 1892; the view from the north is of that addition. After going through under the viaduct we could see its original south face with the arms of Lord Wharncliffe, the chair of the parliamentary committee that got approval for the Great Western Railway.

By now the light was fading, so the viaduct was less impressive than it might have been. The walk continued along the Brent, which after a while joined the Grand Union Canal at the Hanwell locks. It was a pleasant but long walk to the Great West Road, and by the time we got there it was very dark - and a torch would have been useful, but we had hoped to finish at least an hour earlier.
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Boxing Day Walk

Staines to Old Windsor, Runnymede, Surrey. Mon 26 Dec 2016

Private Property - No Unprofitable Creativity - Violaters will be marginalised
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On Boxing Day we made our normal walk, mainly by the River Thames, to Old Windsor for a second Christmas lunch. It wasn't a very exciting walk, but at least this year I could take the five miles or so at an easy pace.

Last year's Boxing Day walk was a little more interesting, as flooding by the Thames meant we had to take the route up over Coopers Hill and then down to the west end of Runnymede and the Thames via America. This year was drier and we kept by the river, which meant passing by a large lump of bronze which looks more like a chess piece than a person. Its a statue I would be pleased if it were stolen by metal thieves and melted down for scrap value. Further along Runnymede are the far more interesting set of chairs, The Jurors, which I've photographed before, but by the time we were close to them it was getting late and we didn't have time to stop.
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Howls of protest for death of the NHS

Downing St & Parliament Square, London. Fri 23 Dec 2016
A campaigner howls and bangs a pan lid during one of the three howls
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On the day that contracts are signed for all 44 areas of the country to implement the government's 'Sustainability and Transformation Plans' (STP) campaigners meet at Downing St for a rally and a series of 'Howls of Protest for the NHS'.

Campaigners, including many health professionals, see the setting up of the STPs as the last nail in the coffin of the NHS, effectively handing over the NHS to private companies without any public engagement of consultation, ending a public service whose vision which has long been the envy of the world, signing the NHS over for private profit.

A series of speeches was interrupted at 15 minute intervals for a long and loud 'howl of protest', timed to coincide with three social media 'Thunderclaps' across Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr by several hundreds of people mainly unable to be at the rally. Among the speakers were Paula Peters of DPAC, Ealing Councillor Aysha Raza, trainee nurse Anthony Johnson of the Bursary or Bust campaign, a trainee mental health nurse, Gina, a patient and campaigner and retired Paediatrician Tony O'Sullivan Co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public.

At the end of the rally a small group including several DPAC campaigners marched down Whitehall holding up traffic for a final howl outside Parliament and a speech by Paula Peters.

Police came to harass them after they had walked down Whitehall and Parliament St on the roadway, pushing some and making threats of arrest. They arrived too late for their intervention to have any effect, other than to annoy the marchers, who were about to leave the road to cross over to Parliament, if anything their intervention slightly slowing down the clearing of the road.
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Heathrow "M4-15"protesters at court

Ealing Magistrates Court, London. Thu 22 Dec 2016

Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid speaks outside the court
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The "M4-15" who blocked the motorway into Heathrow in a protest against the third runway, saying that airport expansion is a crime against humanity and our future on the planet were supported outside Ealing Magistrates by a lively protest.

They pleaded "guilty, but only guilty of standing up to climate injustice" and say the real crime is the expansion of airports, which will benefit the small number of rich frequent fliers but will break emission laws causing thousands of premature deaths, undermine global efforts to combat climate change, result in the devastation of local communities and generate extra noise and traffic that will cause misery to millions.

The trial started later than expected, and the 14 defendants present were able to take part in the rally for a couple of hours before being called into court. Several of them spoke along with others including Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid, environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy and a woman from Rising Up who had organised the Heathrow protest and this support.

I left after the defendants had come out and some had spoken when the court adjourned for lunch. They felt that their solicitor had presented their case well and that the court had listened, and were optimistic about the sentences. Twelve were later given a conditional discharge, with two who pleaded 'not guilty' coming up for trial in February, presumably along with another who had been given leave not to attend court for this trial.
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Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat 17 Dec 2016

Doctors and nurses at the die-in - some hold up stethoscopes
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Healthcare workers held a die-in at Parliament in solidarity with the Syrian people, calling for an end to the bombing of civilians, hospitals and schools and for the UK to pressure the Syrian government to allow the delivery of aid.

They urge the UK to make airdrops of aid, provide safe passage to all those trapped and grant asylum to refugees. The protest was organised by Medact's Arms and Militarisation (MAM) group with Syria solidarity activist groups and individuals including the Syrian British Medical Society.
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Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan

Downing St, Westminster, London. Sat 17 Dec 2016

A woman wears both the UK and KUrdish flags on her lapel at the protest
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Kurds, many wearing or waving the Free Kurdistan flag, protested opposite Downing St calling for the civilised world to recognise the sacrifices made by the Peshmarga in fighting for freedom and against Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria.

They point out the increasing attacks on Kurds by the Turkish government which is attempting to destroy their national identity and ask for support for their fight for a free and independent state of Kurdistan. The Kurdish forces have proved themselves as the most effective against ISIS in Iraq, but have increasingly come under attack by the Turkish army and also by Russian bombing in Syria.
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Vigil on Chelsea Manning's 29th birthday

Trafalgar Square, Westminster, London. Sat 17 Dec 2016

There were badges, banners and a cut-out of Chelsea Manning at the vigil
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A silent vigil on the steps of St Martin in-the-Fields was part of an international day of solidarity calling for the release of Chelsea Manning, jailed since 2010 for releasing thousands of documents to Wikileaks showing the US, UK and other governments’ war crimes and corruption in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Israel & the Palestinian Authority, Peru, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Chelsea, who came out as a trans woman in 2013 has been repeatedly harassed by the military in prison and twice this year has attempted suicide. Campaigners want her to be release on the basis of the prison time she has already served and call on President Obama to grant her release before he leaves office.
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UCL Students protest rents and marketisation

University College, London. Tue 13 Dec 2016

UCL students let off flares at the end of their protest
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Students at UCL who last year won over £1.5m in concessions when over a thousand took part in a rent strike, held a protest after UCL Management rejected their demand for a 10% rent cut.

Students say the 'rent is still TOO DAMN HIGH', with some having to take on two or three part-time jobs while studying to pay rent and tuition fees, and they chanted this and other slogans as they walked around inside UCL and along the surrounding streets, ending with short speeches and setting off flares in the Main Quad.

They see students increasingly being regarded as a source of revenue for universities rather than as integral to them as learning establishments. They called for further rent strikes next year in UCL and across the country and a total boycott of the government's student survey - if they praise UCL the fees will go up, and if they condemn it, the university will suffer.
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Save Yazidi women and girls

Downing St, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016

Women stand with placards opposite Downing St after protesting in Parliament Square
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A small group of women protesters from WAVE (Women's Action against Violent Extremism) held placards in Parliament Square before coming to protest at Downing St calling for help for the Yazidi women who were targeted and captured by ISIS (Da'esh) in Iraq.

ISIS regard the Yazidi as devil worshippers who they want to purge to purify the country from non-Islamic influences. They subjected the women to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. The UN in 2014 reported that more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held.

Recently UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha who escaped from ISIS in 2014 started of 16 days of action urging Britain to save the lives of thousands of Yazidi women and girls by extending the UK resettlement policy for vulnerable people fleeing the war in Syria to include them.
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Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo

Downing St, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016

A campaigner wears a Trump mask in front of a poster against torture
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The Guantanamo Justice Campaign protest on UN Human Rights Day opposite Downing St calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

Speakers at the rally included Lewes Amnesty Group Chair Sara Birch, Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain and Stop the War convenor Lindsey German. Mizan the Poet gave an impressive performance of his poem '1984' against the government's anti-Muslim 'Prevent' counter extremism strategy.
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Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest

Downing St, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016
Protesters call for UK to stop ignoring Pakistan's genocide against Balochs
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Balochs who come from the west Pakistan province of Balochistan protest on UN Human Rights Day opposite Downing St calling on Theresa May to speak up for the Baloch people and their freedom against the Pakistan regime which they claim has a policy of genocide against the Baloch people and has killed thousands of Baloch activists and abducted more than 25,000 of them.

Balochistan was a kingdom with some autonomy when Pakistan gained independence in 1947, but was merged with Pakistan in 1948, and various separatist movements have emerged over the years both political and military and have been brutally repressed both by Pakistan and also Iran which also has a Baloch population. The protesters say that the over 25,000 who have been abducted will have been tortured and then killed, with their bodies being dumped in deserted areas.
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London Santacon 2016

Mornington Crescent, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016

Revellers pose for my camera

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Santas carrying flags led around a thousand santas along with a few elves, reindeer and others in Christmas-themed costumes on their way along the route from Camden - one of four - determined to have fun.

This was one of four routes of the annual pre-Christmas sprawl around London by large numbers of festively clad mainly young people. Many carried bags with cans of beer or bottles of wine which they drank on route and at stops where they sang and danced and jousted, with the occasional Brussels sprout fight between santas and elves.

Santacon has rules, though these are not always followed, but this year the event did seem rather more organised and tame, lacking some of the anarchic charm and chaos that brought much of London's traffic to a halt in previous years - or perhaps I just took these pictures earlier in the day before the Christmas spirits, wine and beer had really kicked in.
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BBC censors prison struggles

Broadcasting House, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016

Protesters from various campaigns against the BBC's failure to report illegal imprisonment
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Campaigners came to the BBC on UN Human Rights Day to highlight their failure to report on people wrongly held in prison around the world.

Among the cases which have been largely or totally ignored in BBC reports are the frame-up of the Craigavon 2, Irish Republican prisoners John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville convicted in a no jury Diplock court on flimsy and disputed evidence and the continuing internment of Tony Taylor for his legal political activities in northern Ireland.

Other cases apparently ignored as institutional policy by the BBC include the imprisonment of Mumia Abu Jamal held on Death Row in the USA, Palestinians held in Israeli jails, victims of Erdogan's purge in Turkey and other cases of illegal imprisonment around the world.
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Save the Rhino

Parliament Square, London. Sat 10 Dec 2016

Two people in impressive rhinoceros costumes attracted little attention from the tourists in Parliament Square as they waited to cross the road. They were being photographed for the 'Save the Rhino' campaign.

Silent Chain for Europe

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat Dec 10 2016
Campaigners opposed to Brexit link arms opposite Parliament
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Campaigners who say that Brexit threatens our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, the right of free movement around Europe, to live in the EU and for EU citizens to live here, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination link arms in silence in Old Palace Yard on UN Human Rights Day.

Other similar silent chains took place in other towns and cities.
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Israel free British citizen Fayez Sharary

Parliament St, London. Fri 9 Dec 2016

Fayez Sharary on the poster with his 3 yr old daughter Aya also at the protest in a buggy
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Inminds human rights group protesters outside the Foreign & Commonwealth Office calling for the UK government to act to free British citizen Fayez Sharary who has lived here more than 23 years and has a wife and 5 children here.

After visiting family in Palestine this September with his wife and 3-year-old daughter they were arrested at the West Bank border with Jordan on their way home. His wife and daughter were released after 5 hours of ill-treatment, but Fayez was tortured in an Interrogation Centre in Israel for 3 weeks until he signed a forced confession on 6th October.

A judge dismissed the confession because it was obtained by torture and granted Fayez bail, but the military kept him locked up and later overturned the judge's decision; he remains in jail, with his next hearing set for December 14th. The British embassy has provided no support at these hearings and the government has failed to take any action to demand his release.

The protest was also against HP (Hewlett Packard) who provide the IT services and infrastructure that enable the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to function. Both Fayez' wife Laila Sharary and his youngest daughter Aya were at the protest, and Laila spoke about the family's ordeal and the lack of support from Britain.
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King's College cleaners Servest protest

Strand, London. Fri 9 Sep 2016

A cleaner in a Grinch mask holds posters about Servest's Christmas threat of redundancies and cuts in hours
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Unison cleaners and supporters held an animated protest outside King's College on the Strand over their continuing dispute with cleaning contractor Servest over staffing, workloads and other issues.

Talks at ACAS have failed to resolve these and Servest has written to all the cleaners telling them they intend to restructure the workforce and that all their jobs are "at risk of significant change or redundancy".

A few supporters made their way into the college, but quickly left, and the peaceful protest ended with dancing and a character in a Grinch mask. The workers ballot on strike action next week.
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Movement for Justice Supreme Court picket

Parliament Square, London. Thu 8 Dec 2016

A poster spells out the problems faced by minorities after the Brexit vote
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Movement for Justice continued their picket outside the Supreme Court during the whole of the hearings over the process for triggering Article 50. I photographed them shortly before the hearing was to end.

They see Theresa May as abusing democracy by attempting to rush through an anti-immigrant deal and want to stand up for freedom of movement and oppose the racist and fascist hate crimes which have followed the Brexit vote.

A few Brexit supporters heckled their protest, one shouting "how many of you were born here?" Later I hear that after I left things had became more difficult, with a larger and more vociferous anti-Brexit crowd, but MfJ held their ground.
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Class War protests 'fascist architect'

Clerkenwell, London. Thu 8 Dec 2016

Cinema-style posters condemning Patrik Schumacher for suggesting clearing the poor from London
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Class War lead a second protest against Zaha Hadid Architects director Patrik Schumacher who suggested solving London's housing crisis by getting rid of regulations, privatising all public space and scrapping social housing.

They say this would be a fascist social cleansing of the city which would force out the working class and abandon it to the wealthy. Schumacher's ideas have been widely disowned by the architectural profession and the protesters demand he resign; he apparently left the building as the protesters arrived shortly before I got there but ran off down the road when challenged and asked to discuss the issues with the protesters.
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Cannizaro Park

Wimbledon, Merton, London. Tue 6 Dec 2016
Looking out from the Italian Garden
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I went for a pre-Christmas outing with three other photographers, and we walked around Cannizaro Park. The park has an interesting history, dating back to the early 18th century, and from 1817-41 was let to a Sicilian who became the Duke of Cannizzaro (from whom the current name, complete with spelling mistake.)

It could be worse. Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax Park had it been named after Sir Reginald Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax who sold it off around 1920 to someone with the rather ordinary name of Wilson (one of the owners of the Ellerman-Wilson shipping line) whose brought with them from Roehampton the fancy iron gates now at the entrance and whose gardeners created much of the gardens. Their daughter, Hilary Countess of Munster flogged it to Wimbledon Council in 1948. They opened the gardens to the public and leased the house to Surrey as an old people's home - which closed in 1977.

The house is now a silly expensive hotel, but the grounds, now owned by Merton Council but largely kept up the volunteers, remain open to the public.

The best-known feature is probably the bust of the the exiled Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (1892-1975) who stayed at Lincoln House on Parkside from 1936 until British forces drove the Italian fascists out and he could return in 1941. His hosts were the Dr Richard Seligman and his wife Hilda, an amatuer sculptor, and she made a bust of him which stood in the grounds of their house until it was demolished in 1957 for a housing estate. The bust was given to Wimbledon, who found a place for it in Cannizaro Park, though it was only moved to its current location in the 1980s. It was restored and replaced in the same place in 2004-5, but has since deteriorated considerably.

We walked from the bust past the Italian Garden, where I went in quickly to take a couple of pictures and then on to the Belvedere, a feature added in the late 1970s with 8 free-standing columns on a high platform which gives a rather overgrown view. There Paul revealed his planning, producing miniature bottles of wine and glasses.

From there it was downhill back to the main gate, and further downhill in a bus to the centre of Wimbledon and a bar for some food and drink.
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South Ascot Walk

South Ascot, Berks. Mon 5 Dec 2016
A house we walked past in South Ascot
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Another of our family walks which ended in a pub meal. We took a route we had walked around before, though we started from a slightly different point.

It's not a particularly exciting walk, but one that goes past a number of large and expensive houses as well as through some remaining areas of woodland, part of the then much larger Windsor Great Forest which was the hunting ground of royalty and kings.

Most of the houses are relatively new - and architecturally bland, and it isn't a place I would choose to live -even where I one of the 1% who could afford to do so. Current prices for these houses are mainly in the £2-5million range. It's a short drive or a fairly long walk to the station and shops so not particularly convenient, but you can get to the City in a little over an hour, despite the SW Trains dawdle.

I don't think my attitude in seeing these places is envy, more surprise at seeing how differently some people live. Easy to see how many don't think a great deal about the poor or the homeless while they inhabit a different world.
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Shut Down Yarl's Wood 10

Yarl's Wood,, Bedford. Sat 3 Dec 2016

Prisoners inside welcomed the protesters

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Almost two thousand protesters travelled to the isolated site on a former RAF base to stand for several hours in the 10th protest organised by Movement for Justice calling for the closure of Yarl's Wood and all immigration detention centres.

They marched from the road along the footpath to the prison, waving and shouting support to the women asylum seekers held indefinitely inside Yarl's Wood as they got within sight. Those held inside responded enthusiastically by shouting and waving back from the prison blocks behind the high fence, hindered by windows that open only a small crack.

Several of the prisoners spoke to the protesters on mobile phones, including one woman held there without any charge or trial for over 2 years. Many say immigration detention is worse than prison as there is no limit to how long they can be held, and they can be seized and deported forcibly any time without notice.

All those speaking from inside thanked the protesters for coming and showing they had not been forgotten. They told of assaults and abuse by Serco security guards who today had locked many in other wings to stop them seeing the protest and threatened those who greeted the protesters and revealed there were cases of TB in the prison.

Many of the others who spoke at the protest had previously been held inside this and other immigration prisons, and encouraged those inside to keep fighting for justice.

As well as standing on the hill so that those on the upper floors allowed near the windows could see them and the banners and placards they held, others kicked and banged on the fence to make a noise that could be heard all over the jail - and indeed from the main raid half a mile away as I walked back to board my coach. Some of the protesters held posters on tall poles or climbed ladders against the fence so that those on the ground floor could see their banners, and there were also a number of flares let off to give large clouds of coloured smoke.
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Justice for LSE Cleaners

LSE, London. Fri 2 Dec 2016

The protesters made their way into the Old Building despite attempts by security to stop them
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Cleaner's union the United Voices of the World, LSE students and some staff hold a noisy protest at the LSE, moving around the campus and through the main building to press the case for union recognition, the reinstatement of sacked cleaner Alba Pasimo, the London Living Wage, better management with achievable workloads and the same conditions of service including sick pay, pensions and paid leave from contractor Noonan as those of equivalent grade staff directly employed by the LSE.

After protesting outside the Old Building in Houghton St, the protesters marched into the building. After the first few had entered, security staff tried to stop the rest coming in, but had to give up as the others pushed past them. The protest made its way slowly and noisily along the corridors used as a route to Portugal St because of the current building works, and formed up again outside the entrance there.

The protesters then briefly marched around the campus before heading off down Kingsway to the offices on the corner of Aldwych, No 1 Kingsway, used by both the LSE and the cleaner's employers Noonan. They then held a rally on the wide pavement, before finally marching back up Kingsway and along Portugal St to the LSE Library for a rally to end the protest - with a warning to LSE management that actions will continue until Alba is reinstated and the cleaners get an offer of equal treatment from Noonan and the LSE.
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London Images

London, December 2016

M4 and Boston Manor Rd, Brentford
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Various images from around London.

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