my london diary index


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End Japanese dolphin slaughter

Leicester Square, London. Sat 28 Jan 2017

Probably the largest dolphin at the protest to shame Japan into stopping the annual Taiji cove slaughter
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Around a thousand people, many with model dolphins of various sizes and hand-painted posters, gathered in Leicester Square for a march organised by London against the Dolphin Massacre to march to the Japanese embassy.

They were protesting against the continuing annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji cove, where the animals are herded in by fishermen and attacked with knives and poles, their blood turning the water red. Others are captured and sold to perform for the public in aquaria, a cruel practice the protesters want stopped. I left as the march via Trafalgar Square to the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly.
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Save our NHS from STP Cuts

Westminster, London. Sat 28 Jan 2017

NHS campaigners march past Parliament to the Dept of Health
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Campaigners against the cuts and privatisation of the NHS held a rally opposite Parliament before marching in a funeral procession for a second rally at the Dept of Health.

Speakers at the rallies included Aneira Thomas, the first baby to be born at the start of the NHS in 1948, Paula Peters of DPAC, Ealing Save our NHS secretary Eve Turner, Junior Doctor Aislinn Macklin-Doherty and paediatrician Tony O'Sullivan Co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) being imposed on the NHS are a cut of £22 billion in funding of an already overstretched service that is rapidly being privatised and where many are now refused the treatment they need on purely financial grounds. STPs will cut services, reduce quality, cut social care and increase health inequalities. The protesters called on MPs, NHS England and minister Jeremy Hunt to restore the NHS which is several times more cost-effective than the privatised US model which our current government is introducing by stealth.
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Ban HP from BETT show

BETT2017, Excel Centre, London. Fri 27 Jan 2017

Inminds protesters prepare Palestinian flags for the protest
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Inminds human rights group protest outside BETT 2017 against Hewlett Packard, who play a key role in the Israeli military, in ID cards and systems used to implement Israel's 'Apartheid' movement control and in systems for the prisons and torture dens where, according to the United Nations Rights of the Child, Israel tortures and sexually abuses young children.

They also call for the release of Christian charity World Vision aid worker Mohammed Khalil al-Halabi, a UN 'Humanitarian Hero' whose arrest has forced the charity to abandon its work with 40,000 children in Gaza.

Police kept coming to the protesters as they were setting up their banners and posters, passing on orders from the Excel Centre management as to where they could and couldn't put banners, and whether they were allowed to chalk on the pavement, but in the end the protesters ignored the details of some of the demands which they felt were unreasonable.

One man came to argue with the protesters as they were getting ready, becoming rather agitated that they were protesting against Israel but not protesting about the persecution of Armenian Christians. They suggested that he should organise his own protests against this but let them continue with their protest against the injustices by Israel in occupied Palestine. Eventually police came and steered him away.

Another man threw a fat catalogue from the BETT show at one of the banners, and Inminds handed it back to him and told him to behave himself. He began to argue, and police led him away too, telling him not to disturb the police.

Many of those going in and out of the show or coming out for a break came over and read the fact sheets about HP, and when some of the protesters held them up in a line, a crowd gathered to watch, some applauding. One woman so appreciated the protest that after taking pictures on her phone she came and thanked each of the protesters, hugging them in turn.

The protest was still continuing as I had to leave to catch my train home
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King's College cleaners strike

King's College, Strand, London. Fri 27 Jan 2017

Cleaners make a lot of noise applauding the speeches at the rally

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Cleaners and supporters including students and staff from King's College spoke at a lunchtime rally at the picket line on the Strand on the second day of their 2-day strike against Servest who employ them at King's College.

King's disclaim any responsibility for the cleaners, who a paid below the London Living Wage and overworked, often expected to do the work of colleagues who are sick or on holiday in addition to their own.

They have conditions of employment significantly worse than any staff directly employed by King's, getting only statutory sick pay and other benefits and are subjected to arbitrary disciplinary measures. Servest has failed to keep promises made at ACAS and 98% of the Unison members voted for strike action.
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Nelson Walk

South Wimbledon, London. Thu 26 Jan 2017

Nelson Gardens (1905) & St. John the Divine (1914), both in memory of Nelson on the centenary of his death
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As a late post-Christmas event, four aging photographers took a walk around various sites in the area associated with Nelson.

Don't ask me why. I suppose it was meant to be more of a pub crawl than a walk, but we started at the Nelson Arms in Merton High St and it was closed. A few yards down Abbey St, The Princess Royal became an ex-pub a few years ago. We turned down High Path, where the Trafalgar was also closed, not opening until the evening, and went into the small and desolate park with two cannons. At The Prince of Wales we increased the clientele by 200%, but didn't stay long, as it was rather short on atmosphere, though it was a dull and freezing cold day and it was good to get out of the wind.

We found a second pub open in Morden at the end of the walk, after making a tour of Morden Hall Park, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, not quite wild west, more dead south., and we were soon catching the bus back to Wimbledon to eat in happy hour at a bar there.

The first section of the walk, my Fuji camera had decided to turn itself psychedelic, and the only thing I can do with the pictures is convert them to black and white. The mode dial really shouldn't be coupled to the ISO setting, a bad design fault. So they aren't black and white pictures, but they are in black and white.
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Justice for international students

SOAS & LSE, London. Wed 25 Jan 2017

Movement for Justice protesters outside SOAS

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Movement for Justice and NUS London protested outside several of London's Universities calling for justice for overseas students.

After a TV programme showed fraud at just two centres administering the compulsory English Language test for student visas, the Home Office paid ETS to investigate every single student who had taken the test at any centre and identify any who cheated.

ETS used unproven biometric voice identification software which they say showed large numbers of students had cheated and more might have done so, and the certificates of both groups, over 55,000 students, have been revoked, labelling them as international criminals.

Many have already been detained and deported in mid-course without any chance to appeal while in the UK. A court decision has held the evidence insufficient to discharge the legal burden of proof but the persecution continues and as well as unjustly devastating the lives of students is disastrous to the reputation and finances of UK higher education.

After protesting outside SOAS, the protesters went on to continue their protest outside Birkbeck and were intending to go on to UCL. I rejoined them later after they returned to SOAS before marching together, mainly on the pavement, to protest outside the LSE students union, where I left them to go home. They were intending to protest outside King's COllege on the Strand before going on to end the protest at Queen Mary College in Mile End.
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March against closing community centres

Stockwell, London. Sat 21 Jan 2017
Lambeth Labour Council has already closed the Carnegie and other libraries, despite huge public support
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Lambeth Labour organised a protest against plans to close community centres in Stockwell and Kennington Park which are run by Hyde Housing Association rather than by the council.

Both community centres are well used by their local communities but while Lambeth council is spending £50 million on a new town hall and supported the Garden Bridge vanity project, the Labour-run council is itself making drastic cuts in community services, including library closures, and selling off council estates to developers it apparently has no plans to support the community centres by leasing them from the housing association.

Lambeth Labour Council is one of a number of London Labour councils dominated by right-wing members who appear to have lost any sense that councils exist for the benefit of their residents rather than of the councillors.

I don't think there is yet any comprehensive study of Lambeth to match that of neighbouring Southwark, where journalist Anna Minton found that "20 per cent of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists" for developers in the planning industry and that a significant number of Councillors and Council officers are making use of a ‘well-oiled revolving door’ to the industry. You can read some of the very disturbing details about Southwark Labour councillors and officers on the 35% Campaign web site, and Lambeth seems to be very much a part of the same act.

I didn't follow the march to the Stockwell Community Centre where I think there were to be speeches. Among those advertised as speaking were Labour councillor and Progress member Alex Bigham, and Joanna Lumley - though I don't think she actually came. Lambeth Council have pledged £20 million to support the senseless Garden Bridge project, despite opposition from residents (and councillors) for which she is the major supporter. More than enough money to keep community centres open.
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Oh! Mother march against knife crime

Peckham, London. Sat 21 Jan 2017

Oh! Mother march for Ernest Kalawa, stabbed to death in Peckham on 30th December
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Oh! Mother, A Christian organisation based in South London which campaigns for change in communities and to put an end to gun and knife crime, marched through Peckham for Ernest Kalawa, a 24 year old who was stabbed to death in Peckham on 30th December 2016.

Among the marchers were members of the dead man's family, some of whom wore t-shirts commemorating him.
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Peckham welcomes march against deportations

Peckham, London. Sat 21 Jan 2017

A campaigner bangs a tambourine as people chant against deportations

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Movement for Justice led a march up and down the busy Peckham Rye against forcible mass deportations and demanding that Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan and Afghanistan end their collusion with the racist UK government.

Immigration raids and mass deportation charter flights target long-established African, Asian and Caribbean communities, dividing families, deporting people who have built lives in the UK with parents, partners and children here. Protesters say the flights are modern slave ships, with deportees shackled with a guard on each side in a cruel and divisive act of racist discrimination.

Many forced deportations were under the 'detained fast track' procedure; on the Friday before the march the High Court ruled that the version of this in use from 2005-2014 was unlawful and ultra vires - beyond the legal power of the Home Office. A previous court decision in 2015 had led to the system which had been amended in 2014 being suspended. Some 10,000 asylum seekers were deported under the older system can now in theory ask for the decision made on their cases to be set aside and lodge a new appeal, although few are likely to be in a position to do so.

Unfortunately the law is unfair. Had you or I acted illegally for so long and so persistently there would be little doubt that we would find ourselves in prison. But those responsible for these criminal actions will go unpunished. One of them indeed is our current Prime Minister.

People from various groups came to support MfJ, including SOAS Detainee Support (SDS), Anti Raids Network, Zimbabwe Human Rights Organization Mazimbabweans, Jewdas, BLMUK, London Mexico Solidarity, Sisters Uncut - South East London and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.
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F**k Trump

Trafalgar Square, London. Fri 20 Jan 2017

A giant orange Trump's head in Trafalgar Square
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Protesters from more radical groups gathered in Trafalgar Square, with large numbers of police watching them and the giant Trump's head some had brought.

Shortly after I arrived, the protesters along with Trump's head and a sound system moved from the North Terrace to the middle of the square. Heritage wardens came and told them they were not allowed to protest there, but they didn't move.

I hung around for a few minutes, but as nothing seemed to be happening and there appeared to be no plan for action I then left. Nothing did happen for some time, but protesters I spoke with the following day report that they were then the subject of an unprovoked attack by police.
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Crowds protest Trump's Inauguration

US Embassy, London. Fri 20 Jan 2017

No to hate, No to walls , No to Trump who just appalls. Charlie puts it more succinctly
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As Donald Trump was inaugurated as US President, well over a thousand gathered outside the US Embassy in London in protest.

There were strong lights shining from a stage set up by Stand Up to Racism, where a long list of speakers came to express their disgust at the man chosen by US voters. But the lights made it difficult to look towards the stage or take pictures of the speakers, who stood in shade close to the front of the platform.

Among those present were a small group from the London Guantanamo campaign, some in orange jumpsuits, who have held regular monthly protests outside the embassy for around nine years. Disappointed that Obama has not lived up to his promise to close the illegal prison, they fear that Trump may imprison even more innocent people.

Several had come with representations of Trump, including a large head on a pole, and others had their own banners and posters, and it was good to see Charlie X as Chaplin back again from South Africa. A group from the Campaign Against Climate Change had an illuminated banner with the message 'Trump Climate Disaster'. A woman held up a poster 'Dear Queen, We're sorry. Take us back? Love, an American'.

All were appalled at the thought of a president who is a climate change denier, has a long history of racist and Islamophobic outbursts, has boasted of sexually assaulting women and has downplayed the severity of sexual violence. The protest, organised by Stand Up to Racism and other groups stood in solidarity with protesters in the US who had called for protests around the world.
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Brixton march against mass deportations

Brixton, London. Sat 14 Jan 2017

Protesters in Windrush Square at the end of the MfJ protest

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Movement for Justice led a march through Brixton communities building the fight against mass deportations and demanding that Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan and Afghanistan end their collusion with the racist UK government.

Immigration raids and mass deportation charter flights target long-established African, Asian and Caribbean communities, dividing families, deporting people who have built lives in the UK with parents, partners and children here and have lived most of their lives in Britain, students in mid course, asylum seekers, people with serious health problems and long-term carers to elderly and disabled relatives in a divisive act of racist discrimination.

The march was supported by a number of other groups including Sisters Uncut, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and the Mazimbabweans, a movement for freedom, democracy and equality in Zimbabwe.

Thanks to a breakdown in signalling in the Clapham Junction region I arrived an hour later than intended (and found the rail fare had gone up by , by which time the protesters had their meeting point outside the Ritzy on Windrush Square and were already marching around the centre of Brixton. I walked up the Brixton Road and soon heard them from several hundred yards away as they were coming up Atlantic Road and joined them.

They marched noisily a short distance along Brixton Rd before going down Brixton Station Road, turning at its end to go back along to Brixton Police Station, before marching back slowly down the busy Brixton Rd, full of shoppers, to Windrush Square for a final rally.

The march got a very positive reception from many of those on the streets, some joining in to march some of the way, and many expressing support and taking the leaflets. Many in Brixton know that they and their families and friends are under threat from immigration raids, and that many caught up in them have been illegally deported by the UK government to countries which they may never have seen. Rather than the Home Office having to prove that people have no right to be living here, those caught up in the raids have to prove - often in a very short timescale - that they have the right to be here, with many still appealing their deportation when the are forcibly flown out.

The government turned to charter flights after passengers on normal services objected to people being handcuffed and forcibly restrained on their flights, at times refusing to allow the planes to take off, and airlines often refuse to accept their flights being used in this way. On charter flights there are no witnesses to see what is being done to deportees, but the airlines still need the permission of the destination airports and governments to land and disembark the deportees.

The UK government uses threats of reducing aid and promises of support to persuade overseas government to take in people who have no wish to return to countries where they often have no connections and many face persecution - particularly in some countries if they are gay. Some flights have gone to Afghanistan, where parts of the country are still war zones, and those returned may be under extra threat because of having lived in the UK.

Almost all of those deported have been making a positive contribution to the UK, working and paying taxes, looking after children or the elderly, and economically the government's actions makes no sense. It is all driven politically by the racist views of much of the UK press, who have whipped up hate against immigrants and made immigration a huge political issue - and one which dominated the Brexit vote. Successive governments - Tory, Coalition and New Labour - have played the numbers game, attempting to outdo the opposition in promising to deport more, and have been prepared to ignore some of the basic principals of UK law and natural justice in doing so.
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End Mass Deportation Charter Flights to Nigeria

Nigerian High Commission London. Wed 11 Jan 2017

Protesters with banner and posters chant slogans outside the High Commission

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Movement for Justice protest outside the Nigerian High Commission, demanding the Nigerian government stop allowing the mass deportation charter flights from the UK which are organised every two months by the Home Office.

MfJ liken these to the slave ships and many of those forcibly deported are people who have been in the UK for most of their lives, with parents partners and children here, as well as students who have not yet finished their courses, those still appealing for asylum, people with serious health problems and carers for elderly and disabled relatives. The flights are part of a racist government 'numbers game' which refuses to take account of the situation, history and relations of the people who are being deported or of the contribution many of them are making to UK society and the UK economy.
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15 Years of Guantanamo - No Joke!

Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 11 Jan 2017

'Trump rejects intelligence' and protesters against Guantanamo dressed as clowns

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On the 15th anniversary of the setting up of the illegal prison camp at Guantanamo, campaigners from the London Guantanamo campaign dressed as clowns to protest against President Obama's failure to keep his promise and close the camp.

Around 60 prisoners remain in Guantanamo, still suffering the indignities and torture which have shamed the USA in the eyes of the world. Most of those still held and virtually all of those already released were innocent bystanders sold to the US forces by bandits in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and were tortured in the CIA’s secret dark prisons around the world before being illegally rendered to Guantanamo.

The protest in Trafalgar Square was supported by the Guantanamo Justice Campaign who included a man in a Trump mask.
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Alarm Bells for the Housing Crisis

Old Palace Yard, Westminster,London. Mon 9 Jan 2017

The Rev Paul Nicolson stands holding a bell next to protesters with banners

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Taxpayers Against Poverty, Unite Community, DPAC, Defend Council Housing and other campaigners protest outside Parliament as MPs returned after the Christmas break, bringing a bell to ring as an alarm for the housing crisis.

Working people as well as those on benefits are struggling to pay rents in a chaotic housing market with unfair caps on housing allowances, benefits and the bedroom tax. 3.5 million adults are homeless, 73,000 household in temporary accommodation, evictions are rising dramatically and the housing needs of the disabled are often ignored.

Speakers demand rent controls, an end to demolition of council estates and selling of land to private developers and call for a land tax.
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Harrods stop stealing waiters' tips

Harrods, Knightsbridge, London.Sat 7 Jan 2017

Class War came to Harrods to support the UVW union
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Grass roots trade union United Voices of the World which represents chefs and waiters working at Harrods protested outside together with Class War calling for 100% of the service charges to go to staff rather than the vast profits of the owners, the Qatari royal family.

They also want conditions and wages to be improved for waiters who are currently paid at or a few pence per hour above the legal minimum, overworked and poorly managed. The robust but peaceful protest took place outside a Harrods guarded by large numbers of police, with protesters being threatened with charges of aggravated trespass if they entered the store.

There were two arrests during the protest for trivial offences but I heard later that after the protest had finished and I had left, as people were packing away, police came and made 4 more  arrests including of UVW General Secretary Petros Elia. People were kept in cells at Belgravia police station for up to 18 hours (some had apparently been dragged inside Harrods by employees of Harrods and kept at first in cells  inside Harrods - and if so should have a good case to sue for assault and wrongful arrest.)

All were released without charge (one apparently accepted a caution for letting off a flare) but on police bail - with the condition that they were not to go within 50m of Harrods. It appears to be a deliberate abuse of the law to try to stop further protests at Harrods - however legitimate these may be. Harrods and their owners, the Qatari royal family have many friends in high places including the Foreign Office and presumably these were able to put pressure on the police to take action against the protesters.

But the protesters have received tremendous support from the public and even from some of the right-wing press (perhaps because Harrods is owned by foreigners) and the union and its supporters are unlikely to be deterred. While those with bail conditions may keep to them, others will be prepared to carry on the protest. The police action is likely to make the protests larger and more vocal rather than diminish them.
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Save the Sunderbans Global Protest

Altab Ali Park, London. Sat 7 Jan 2017
Many of the protesters had black 'tiger stripes' on their faces - the Sunderbans are the home of the Bengal tiger
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The UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas & Mineral Resources, Bangladesh hold a rally in east London as part of the global day of protest to save the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest.

The Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site threatened by the planned Rampal coal-fired power plant and other commercial developments are the home of many species including the Bengal Tiger, and many at the protest had 'tiger stripes' on their cheeks.

The proposed development on the edge of the forest and inside the area which is supposed to be protected from development is a joint project between agencies of the Bangladesh and Indian governments.

It would endanger the livelihoods of over 3.5 million people and make around 50 million more vulnerable to storms and cyclones, against which the Sunderbans serve as a natural safeguard. There have been huge protests against the proposed coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh in which a number of protesters have been killed.
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London Images

January 2017

Canning Town is going up - but for who?

As usual many of the pictures are from my journey into London at Vauxhall and around Waterloo, but others are from Westminster, Peckham and Canning Town, where the picture above was taken through a rather dirty window on the DLR.
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