my london diary index


Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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Protest supports Windrush amnesty debate

Parliament Square, London. Mon 30th April 2018

Women of Colour in the Global Women's strike banner at the protest
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A protest outside Parliament supported the petition which was being debated inside calling for an end to the deportations of migrants in the 'Windrush generation' who arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1971, changing the burden of proof which means they are now required to prove their right to remain, and to provide compensation for any loss and hurt.

Most of those who have been deported, threatened with deportation or refused entry after visiting families abroad have worked here for many years, paying taxes and raising families here and have long regarded Britain as there home.

Despite government promises some are still under imminent threat of forced deportation on charter flights. The petition has gained over 170,000 signatures. Speakers included Harold who came to this country legally in the 1950s and and has worked here since who the Home Office has been refusing a passport, others whose parents and grandparents are from 'Windrush' families, anti-racism campaigners, NEU General Secretary Kevin Courtney and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.
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International Vigil supports Mumia Abu-Jamal

Trafalgar Square, London. Mon 30th April 2018
A campaigner holds a picture of Mumia Abu-Jamal on the steps of St Martin's
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A silent vigil on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square on the day that a court in Philadelphia is holding a hearing into the re-opening of his case.

Former spokesman for the Black Panther Party and radical journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was wrongly convicted in a trial dominated by racism in 1982 of killing a police officer. In December 2017 there was an international call to release the police and prosecution files on his case supported by over 500 organisations around the world including the UK's largest trade union, Unite.

The documents are thought to include material to prove he was wrongly convicted. Vigils and protests in his support are taking place elsewhere, including Berlin, Detroit, Houston, Johannesburg, New York, Oakland, Mexico, Paris, Seville, Toronto, Vallejo and outside the court hearing in Philadelphia.
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Windrush march to Home Office

Westminster, London. Sat 28 Apr 2018

Sara Burke speaks outside the Home Office
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People met at Parliament Square to march to the Home Office in a protest called by an individual disgusted by the government's incompetence and deliberately targeted attack on legal immigrants.

Sara Burke who organised the event wrote that "the government's abhorrent treatment of those from the Windrush generation is a national embarrassment" and planned the march to the Home office to put pressure on them to keep their promises to these people.

As well as Sara Burke there were also speakers from Docs Not Cops, Stand Up to Racism, Movement for Justice and the Socialist Party which made clear that the policy of a 'hostile environment' means that many other people in this country legally are also under threat.
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Workers’ Memorial Day Grenfell vigil

Notting Hill, London. Sat 28 Apr 2018

A memorial on the fence around the burnt tower block

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The Construction Safety Campaign held a short vigil outside Notting Hill Methodist Church for all those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

After speeches from the CSC, Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell and a nursery worker from the nursery in the tower there was a short silence in their memory. The speakers made clear that as more comes out about the disaster it becomes clearer that it was entirely preventable, and the the actions of the council and its TMO in specifying flammable cladding, applying it improperly, providing inadequate fire doors, and various other faults showed a culture that disregarded the safety of social housing residents, whose concerns about building safety were ignored.

Grenfell shows a need for tighter building regulations and also for the proper inspection and implementation of them, rather than the relaxation that has taken place, and for the lessons of this and of previous disasters to be taken seriously and implemented rather than ignored. The Grenfell community also need to be better involved in the inquiry and there need to be prosecutions of those responsible for the disaster.
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International Workers’ Memorial Day

Tower Hill, London. Sat 28 Apr 2018

Wreaths from CSC and Unite at the statue of the building worker on Tower Hill
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The International Workers’ Memorial Day rally at the statue of a building worker on Tower Hill remembered all those killed at work, around 500 in the last ten years, mainly in the construction industry, as well as those injured, disabled and made unwell, almost all in preventable incidents.

The actual number of work-related deaths is several orders of magnitude greater, estimated at over 150 per day, but the official figures only include those actually killed at work for which accident reports have been submitted - and not for example the 18,000 that die years after exposure from work-related cancers. The Government 'red tape initiative' has resulted in fewer and less rigorous safety inspections and the removal of many important safety checks that protect workers. At the centre of the event was a coffin with a pair of empty boots and a hard hat, and after the speeches by Peter Kavanagh, secretary London & Eastern Region Unite, Helen Clifford, a solicitor working on workplace deaths, Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell and Gail Cartmel, Assistant General Secretary Unite, wreaths were laid and there was a period of silence before black balloons were released, one for each worker killed this year in the construction industry.
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End outsourcing at University of London

University of London, London. Wed 25 Apr 2018

IWGB members outside the University
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A noisy rally by workers, students and other trade unionists supports over 100 cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post room staff and audiovisual staff in the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain - IWGB marked the end of the first day of a two day strike at the University of London central administration.

The workers, employed by various outsourcing companies, are demanding to be directly employed by the University, and receive the same conditions and benefits as directly employed colleagues; outsourced workers receive worse pension, holiday pay, sick pay, maternity pay and paternity pay entitlements than their in-house colleagues, may be on zero hours contracts and are often bullied by managers.

Among the speakers was Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who also brought support from Jeremy Corbyn and promised a Labour government would bring in new trade union laws and end the unfairness of outsourcing. Billy Bragg performed three songs, two poets from Poetry on the Picket Line performed, Goldsmith's UCU came announcing their donation of £1000 to the strike fund and there were other speeches and performances.

After the speeches the over two hundred people present marched around Russell Square, briefly holding up traffic, led by the yellow Precarious Workers Mobile and accompanied by a samba band, returning to dance outside the entrance to Senate House.
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Justice for Asifa protest

India House, London. Sat 21 Apr 2018

Some said the protest was non-political but others held the message 'Modi, you have blood on your hands'
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Protesters at India House call for the Indian government to take effective action against the rape culture that is leading to an increasing number of crimes against women.

In a recent horrendous incident, Asifa Bano, an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic Muslim family in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, was kidnapped and taken to a Hindu temple where she was gang raped before being strangled with her own scarf, her skull bashed in with a rock and her dead body left in a forest. According to the protesters there are 106 rapes per day in India with 4 our of 10 of the victims being minors.

Some of those at the protest called for the death penalty for rape, and one placard - which no one was holding - read 'Chop Off Their Raping Tools'. Previous horrific rapes led to the setting up of the Justice Verma Committee which reported at length in 2013, stressing that the rape culture resulted from the deeply rooted social and gender inequity. And although it did recommend stiffer legal penalties it also opposed the use of capital punishment or chemical castration, and called for an extensive program of educating police and medical personnel in dealing with the victims of rape and for sex education in schools. Most of its recommendations have been ignored.

Although the event organisers were anxious to point out that this was not a political protest, but one against violence towards women, there were some present who felt otherwise, they say rape has been encouraged by members and supporters of the ruling BJP party, who have shielded and attempted to excuse the actions of rapists in a number of cases, and at times suggested the women are responsible for their rape.

Right-wing Hindu groups continue to encourage violence against lower castes and supporters of other religions, and it was this normalisation of violence which led to the horrific assaults on Asifa, a premeditated crime in which she was drugged and raped repeatedly in a Hindu temple for four days before being taken outside, raped again by a special police officer and a juvenile before being strangled to death and her head bashed in to make sure she was dead, all part of a crime planned to create fear among her nomadic Muslim community and to drive them out of the area.

As well as the five men involved in raping Asifa, there were also 3 police officers involved in trying to cover up the crime, and Hindu lawyers and politicians who tried to block the investigation. It was the truly horrific nature of the crime that eventually caused the outrage that made the news and led to the Indian government finally expressing its revulsion - and to the resignation of two BJP ministers in the Kashmiri administration who had attended a rally in support of the rapists.
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Recognise the Armenian Genocide

Marble Arch, London. Sat 21 Apr 2018

Dirk Campbell, the father of Anna Campbell, speaks about her sacrifice for the future of Afrin
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Armenians march through London from Marble Arch to the Cenotaph at the start of a series of events commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, and demanding the UK to follow the lead of many other countries and recognise the Armenian genocide.

Between 1915 and 1923 Turkey killed 1.5m Armenians, around 70% of the Armenian population, but Turkey still refuses to accept these mass killings as genocide. The word genocide was coined in 1943 to describe organised killings such as that in Turkey, and most historians and genocide scholars as well as the UN recognise the killing of the Armenians as genocide, and it has been officially recognised by 29 countries including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Russia,

Before the march set off there was a short speech and a musical performance by Dirk Campbell, the father of Anna Campbell, a British volunteer killed fighting for Afrin in the Kurdish YPJ who drew comparisons between the plight of the Kurdish and Armenian peoples.
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Land Rover stop supporting Bahrain

Mayfair, London. Sat 21 Apr 2018

CAAT picket the Land Rover showroom calling on an end of arms sales to Bahrain
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Campaigners from CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) protest outside the Land Rover showroom in Mayfair against their continuing sale of military vehicles to the Bahraini regime, and their sponsorship for the Royal Windsor Horse Show where Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa will join the Queen on May 12th.

Despite Bahrain's horrific and deteriorating human rights record, Britain still sells large volumes of arms to the regime, over £82m licenced exports since the 2011 pro-democracy rising. Events such as the horse show and the meeting with the Queen serve to legitimise this despotic regimes and whitewash its human rights record. The campaigners call on Land Rover to end its sponsorship and for others to join them in a protest at the horse show on 12th May.
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Solidarity with the Windrush families

Brixton, London. Fri 20 Apr 2018

People listen as Diane Abbott speaks in Windrush Square
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Hundreds came to Windrush Square in Brixton to show their respect and support for migrants long settled here who have been told they cannot stay in Britain because they cannot prove they have the right to remain.

Immigration is the only part of the British judicial system in which those under investigation are required to prove their stories are true rather than the authorities having to prove them false.

Some have already been forced out of the country, others denied permission to return after going abroad to visit families and friends, locked up in immigration detention, lost jobs and homes, been refused urgent medical treatment, lost driving licences and had bank accounts closed.

The children of the Windrush generation are part of a much wider group of victims of the 'hostile environment' brought in by Theresa May's 2014 Immigration Act which introduced draconian and discriminatory provisions and changed the legal immigration landscape.

Speakers, included a number of local Brixton community workers, activists and councillors and Diane Abbott MP, one of 8 Labour MPs who voted against the 2014 Act pointing out it would cause the kind of problems which have now come to public notice. Speakers also condemned the destruction of vital historical documents including landing cards from the Empire Windrush and other vessels which would have been an important resource not just to prove the right of some to live here, but also as a part of the Black Cultural Archives in front of which the protest took place.
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City Highwalk

City of London, Wed 18 April 2018
The new bridge over London Wall
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Back in 1947 when architect Charles Holden and planner William Holford were looking at the reconstruction of the City of London after the destruction during the war they put forward an ambitious scheme to separate pedestrians from traffic, with elevated 'pedways'.

These were incorporated into major new schemes such as the Barbican, and during the 1950s and 1960s the provision of these first-floor walkways was a requirement for all major redevelopments. But they were costly to build and most were relatively little used, partly because there were only limited areas where they gave coherent routes. There was no overall plan, and considerable opposition to any links which would have required demolition or extensive alteration of existing buildings. The system was left with quite a few dead ends.

When I began to photograph the city intensively in the 1980s there were still a number of these walkways still around, and there are still odd bits of the system today, but only a few parts remain in use. Best known are of course those around the Barbican, where routes are still marked with yellow lines to help people find their way from nearby tube stations to the skillfully hidden Barbican Arts Centre.

From near the back of the Guildhall two highwalks led to bridges across London Wall to St Alphage Highwalk, one replaced in the 1980s and the walkway incorporated into the Alban Gate building over London Wall. I often walked and photographed the area around these highwalks. The area around the St Alphage Highwalk included gardens and a number of low 'kiosks' including shops and commercial premises, but has recently been redeveloped with tall office blocks.

During the redevelopment the highwalks in the area disappeared, but they have now been replaced with a new system with a new bridge across London Wall open to the public. I think it was this bridge that caused some problems, as when it was built it was found to be only 5.3 metres above the roadway, rather than the 5.41m which had been given planning permission. Apparently the difference of a little over 4 inches was because the designers had omitted to take the weight of the bridge into consideration when calculating its height, and its suspension method means this drags it down by this amount. At first the City asked to developers to raise it, but this wasn't practicable and eventually they decided to accept it after having got them to produce an assessment of the impact of a high vehicle on it.

Although the new buildings along London Wall are not attractive, the new walkway seems rather an improvement on the old, giving some interesting views, particularly of the Salter's building and garden and the ruins of St Alphage and its gardens, on which work is not quite complete.
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'Time to Twig' Masked Ball

Marylebone, London. Wed 18 Apr 2018

They hold large photographs showing forest clear cutting and some of the animals that are lost
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Environmental group Biofuelwatch hold their 'Time to Twig' Masked Ball Forest Flashmob outside the Marylebone hotel where the largest international biomass conference was taking place.

Biomass, such as that supplied by Enviva to the UK's Drax power station, comes from clear cutting unique ecosystems in the southern US, creating large scale environmental degradation and dumping toxic dust near communities, turning forests into sawdust pellets.

Environmental scientists are now virtually united in condemning the practice which destroys the only known large-scale method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the forest, agreeing, as one of the speakers noted, with the commonsense which even primary school children appreciate.

Wood burning returns carbon dioxide to the air which has taken the forests hundreds of years to remove. The protesters call for an end to this ridiculous industry, and the immediate cessation of the totally inappropriate environmental subsidy for this destructive and highly polluting practice.
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Indians protest President Modi's visit

Parliament Square, London. Wed 18 Apr 2018
The Indian flag turned out to be very difficult to burn
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London, UK. 18th April 2018. Kashmiris and Indians from many sections of the community including Tamils, Sikhs, Ravidass, Dalits, Muslims and others came to Parliament Square in protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who they say is pursuing policies dictated by the ultra-fight Hindu supremacist RSS. They want an end to his encouragement of mob violence against other religious communities, particularly Muslims and Christians, to his protection of rapists, to the promotion of caste hierarchy and persecution of Dalits, the assassinations of political opponents, the attacks on the free press and judicial system, the promotion of corporate plunder by global mining companies and for an end to the atrocities and occupation of Kashmir.

Hindus support Modi

Parliament Square, London. Wed 18 Apr 2018
A man holds up a scarf of President Modi's BJP party
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Several hundred Indians, some carrying scarves in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP party protested noisily against the thousands who were gathering across the road in Parliament Square against his visit to the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

A line of police on both sides of the road kept the two groups apart.
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Save Girl, Educate Girl

Parliament Square, London. Wed 18 Apr 2018
The women carried placards with President Modi's face on one side and 'Save Girl Educate Girl' on the other
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' initiative (Save girl child, educate a girl child) was celebrated by a group of Hindu women, mainly wearing red sarees, in Parliament Square.

They carried placards of the 'Save Girl, Educate Girl' women empowerment and education campaign, with a portrait of Modi on the reverse. police quickly shepherded them out from the square where several thousand were gathering to show their opposition to Modi's visit.
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Stop & Scrap Universal Credit say DPAC

Parliament, London. Wed 18 Apr 2018

DPAC and friends were joined by some of the protesters against Modi when they blocked the road
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Campaigners from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network), Black Triangle Winvisible and others began their nationwide day of action against Universal Credit in London with a rally in Old Palace Yard and a protest inside Parliament.

After those who had been protesting inside joined those outside, the rally continued for a short while before marching to Parliament Square, where they blocked the road for over half an hour before ending their protest.

They say the Universal Credit has so many flaws it must be scrapped and call it "an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it", pointing out it has been particularly disastrous for disabled people. Among various problems which impact them, the removal of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums means single disabled people lose around £2,000 per year and a disabled couple over £4,000.
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Grenfell silent walk - 10 months on

Kensington, London. Sat 14 Apr 2018
'Tories have blood on their hands' but the silent march seems to have had little impact
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People including many who lost family and friends at Grenfell take part in a silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster.

The marchers met at Kensington Town Hall to stress that they hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

They want justice with those responsible being brought to trial, for the community concerns to be heard and for changes to be made to ensure safety for all, particularly those living in social housing. The march started immediately after a bikers United Ride for Grenfell ride rode past on its way to Parliament.

Some of those supporting the march feel that the silent march is not being effective and is too easily ignored. They argue that to get justice it will have to become more political and more militant.
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Bikers for Grenfell

Kensington Town Hall, London. Sat 14 Apr 2018

Bikers ride past the crowd waiting to start the silent march at Kensington Town Hall
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Bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others took part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

They rode past the crowd waiting to start the march from the town hall to cheers and applause, making a loud noise. The monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the Grenfell fire disaster began immediately after the ride-past.
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Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey

Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Sq, London. Sat 14 Apr 2018
Men stand at the front of the protest opposite the Turkish embassy, with women in a group at the back
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Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain protested opposite the Turkish Embassy against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state "whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine" and call on "Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE."

The protest was on 27th Rajab in the Islamic calendar, the night when the Prophet made a night journey to al-Aqsa (Jerusalem) and called on Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who "are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime."

Hizb Ut-Tahrir call of a restoration of what Sunni Muslims call the Khilafah Rashidah, the "Rightly Guided" rule of the four caliphs who succeeded the Prophet in a 30 year reign when Muslim armies conquered much of the Middle East.
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The Landlords' Game

Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton, London. Sat 14 Apr 2018

The tour stops in front of the offices of a company whose boss founded an organisation to oppose the RSPB
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A tour of London's wealthiest areas, led by the Land Justice Network reminded people that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

The tour began in Westminster, largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, stopping at relevant points on the Grosvenor Estate and Park Lane. In Hyde Park we heard more about the enclosures and the fight for public access to parks and open spaces.

From there we crossed Knightsbridge and went on to Grosvenor Crescent, said to be the most expensive street in London, with an average house price of £16.9m and into Belgrave Square for more information and speeches.

The tour ended with a rally in Cadogan Square, part of he 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate, the wealthiest part of Kensington & Chelsea .

Unequal ownership of land is the basis of the class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.
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Ditch the Deal say NHS Staff

Department of Health, London. Fri 13 Apr 2018

Jeremy Hunt looks pleased with himself on the screen as NHS workers protest in the Dept of Health foyer
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A group of NHS staff from hospitals across London briefly staged a token occupation of the foyer of the Department of Health in Victoria St to show their opposition to the proposed pay deal for all NHS staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers.

Leaked information about the deal has caused widespread outrage, showing that for most staff it means a rise under predicted inflation over the three year period and will cut holiday entitlements. After sitting in the foyer for a short period they walked out for a group photograph on the pavement outside.

The deal also includes an appraisal process, which staff not at the top of their pay band must complete in order to progress to their next pay point. Both shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth have spoken out against the proposals and those protesting want all those involved in the NHS to ditch the deal and take action for a satisfactory offer.
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Don't Bomb Syria protests

Downing St, London. Fri 13 Apr 2018
A crowd blocks Whitehall outside Downing St and shouts at Theresa May not to bomb Syria
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Stop the War and Syrians protested at Downing St calling for Theresa May to stop her plans to bomb Syria with the USA and France following the reports of a chemical weapon attack there.

Stop the War went across to Downing St and tried to hand in a letter signed by MPs, trade unionists and others. But to get through security you need to apply several days in advance, and only Emma Dent Coad as an MP could enter to take the letter in.

Stop the War held a rally on the opposite side of Whitehall until 6pm, with speeches from Stop the War activists, along with Kate Hudson of CND and Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace. Most of those present had expected a larger protest with a wider range of speakers, and stayed on after the end. Noisy chanting continued and there were a few short speeches using a PA system which people from Inminds Palestinian Prisoners Campaign had brought along after their protest on the SOuth Bank.

Syrians had applied for permission to protest at 6pm, but although a number of them had come earlier and had joined in the Stop the War protest, the people leading their protest had not yet arrived.

Most of those present crossed the road to protest outside Downing St before blocking both carriageways of Whitehall. After some minutes police pushed the protesters on the southbound carriageway back onto the pavement including the Syrian surgeon who had got their permission to protest and wanted to do so on the street rather than on the pavement. Police had other ideas and eventually forced him and the others onto the pavement where the Syrian rally continued.

People were still sitting and blocking traffic on the other carriageway when I left, but police reinforcements had arrived and it looked as if the road would soon be cleared.
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Palestinian Prisoners Day protest

South Bank, London. Fri 13 Apr 2018
A campaigner holds a tall pole flying two large Palestinian flags
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A vigil on the South Bank of the River Thames on Palestinian Prisoners Day highlights the plight of the roughly 6,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails, around 350 of them children.

The protesters included several Palestinians and were joined by an anti-zionist ultra-orthodox Jew. Their display included an actual size drawing of an Israeli underground prison cell in which children are held in isolation as well as several banners and a series of posters detailing the involvement of HP in maintaining the apartheid regime.

The protesters handed out leaflets and talked with those walking by, and speeches gave facts about the prisoners. In two months this year alone 1319 were imprisoned, including 274 children, 23 women and four journalists. Over 500 of these prisoners are currently held indefinitely without charge or trial under administrative detention orders. Physical torture during interrogation is standard practice, even for children, and many are sexually abused; since 1967, 72 prisoners have been tortured to death.

As a part of the Israeli 'apartheid' system, Palestinians are not tried by the Israeli civil courts but by military tribunals with a 99.74% conviction rate. Since 1967, roughly 1 in 5 of the entire Palestinian population have been held in prison at some time.

The protest, organised by Inminds human rights group, called for a boycott of Israeli goods and of companies including HP who are complicit by supplying the IT infrastructure which runs the Israeli prisons and torture dens.
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Great March of Return - Stop the Killing

Downing St, London. Sat 7 Apr 2018
Around 2000 protesters packed the area opposite Downing St
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A protest at Downing St condemned the shooting by Israeli snipers of peaceful unarmed Palestinian protesters on the first day of a peaceful protest, the Great March of Return, at the separation wall in Gaza on Land Day, 30th March.

Live fire by the Israeli army on Land Day killed 17 and wounded over 750 unarmed protesters. A further nine Palestinians including one journalist were killed yesterday and 1,350 injured, around 400 by live fire, with around 25 in a critical condition. The protests continue every Friday until Nakba Day on May 15th.

There were many speeches condemning the Israeli killings, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza and for peace and a just settlement implementing the UN resolution allowing refugees to return to their homes and for the UK government to condemn the Israeli actions.

The only MP to speak was from Sinn Fein, and Baroness Jenny Tonge the only representative of the Lords (in her speech she asked any MPs or Lords to raise their hands - and none were raised) but messages of support were read from Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas. With parliament in recess for Easter many MPs will have been on holiday, but it seems more likely that it was the threat of being accused of anti-semitism that kept more away as we are now living in a situation where any criticism of Israel or support for Palestine gets pounced on by a small but vocal group and magnified by the media.

There was a small group of right-wing extremists just a few yards along Whitehall - I counted six when I visited them briefly - waving Israeli flags and shouting slogans in support of the shootings and against Hamas, but they were simply ignored - probably few in the large crowd at the protest heard or saw them.

There were many Jews at the protest, some wearing the badge of Jewish Voice for Labour, others supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other groups, some just individuals wanting to show their shame at the actions of the Israeli government. A speaker from Jewdas recited a prayer for peace in Hebrew and then in English translation, and Glen Secker of JVL spoke.

At the end of the protest the names of those murdered last week were read out and there was a two minute silence honouring them. The London protest was organised by the Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Stop the War, and supported by EuroPal, Olive and Muslim Association of Britain.
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Lea Valley Walk

Harpenden to Hatfield, Herts. Wed 4 Apr 2018

Stone bridge across The Broadwater (the River Lea) at Brocket Park - James Paine 1772-4 Grade II* listed
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With some of my family I walked from Harpenden to Hatfield, more or less following the published Lea Valley Walk, with some minor diversions.

We had planned to do this walk a couple of weeks ago, but cancelled it twice because of bad weather. Wednesday the forecast wasn't hopeful, but it turned out to be rather better, with only one short period of heavy rain, though much of the time it was overcast with the occasional spit of rain.

It's around a mile from Harpenden station to the path which starts beside the River Lea and then goes a little up a hillside and for a kilometer or so along a former railway bed, before diverting up a hillside and through fields to Wheathampstead. The path was waymarked in places and mainly follows public footpaths.

We spent some time in Wheathampsted Church, and I sat on a seat and ate my sandwiches in the churchyard, finishing them just as it started to rain more seriously. I took a little walk around the centre of the town (or village) in the only heavy rain we saw while the others stayed in the church. The footpath goes on close to the river, but most of the bank is private, owned by angling clubs, and the river meanders sometimes a couple of hundred metres distant. At Waterend a Roman Road crosses the Lea, with a shallow ford, which we walked through, though there is a footbridge, but the path stays on the north bank, so we walked back. It starts on the river bank but soon departs from it and is at times out of sight.

Another short diversion took us back to the river to admire the Flint Bridge, and unusual structure, inside which we sheltered for a few minutes from another shower before returning to to path which climbs steeply up a hill and on to a golf course. There appeared to be only one solitary golfer on the course, just walking back to his car as we made our way across, so there were no balls to avoid.

The path here goes past Brocket Hall, a Grade I-listed classical country house built around 1760, notable mainly for its size. But the estate was laid out to provide a suitable location for a grand house, with a dam making the the river here into a wide lake 'The Broadwater', and across this a Grade II* listed Palladian bridge from 1772-4. The grounds are now two golf courses, the second added by the current lessees.

Brocket Hall gained some notoriety when owned by the Lamb family, with Lady Caroline Lamb, the wife of Lord Melbourne but better known for her affair with Lord Byron, organised a state banquet for her husband's birthday in which she was served naked in a large silver tureen. In 1923 the estate was bought brewery owner Sir Charles Nall-Cain who was made Baron Brocket ten years later. His son, the second Baron was a Nazi sympathiser and was interned in the Second World War and the house was taken over as a maternity hospital. The third Baron Brocket leased the estate to the Club Corporation of Asia on a long lease until at least 2050while he was serving a prison sentence for insurance fraud. They converted the house into a conference centre and laid out the second golf course.

There is a good view from the footpath of the bridge across the lake, but we decided to make a detour to get a closer view, taking another footpath to rejoin the Lea Walk just before reaching Lemsford Mill. It's hard to see why this is not the official route. There appears to be no truth behind the story that this is the old mill often sung about by cliched drunks, and Nellie Dean, if she existed, was almost certainly American rather than from Hertfordshire.

The route goes across fields to the Great North Road, meeting it close to the bridge over the Lea. Our guides (one a first edition and the other recently bought) both then show the route going straight across this and then under the A1(M) to Stanborough Park, but the approved route apparently now diverts down the Great North Road. There is still a sign (rather hidden) on the opposite side where the path meets the road for the old route, and we followed this. There are some short steep muddy slopes, with the remains of some steps to get to the bottom of the bridge under the motorway, and the path leading under this is in places covered by water. It wasn't very deep, but enough to just go over the edges of the low boots I was wearing.

But if you can, it's better to go this way and walk through the north end of Stanborough Park than along the road, and you can walk close to the river for much of the way, following it under the main road to get to the southern part of the park before turning off at the end of the lake to go to a bridge under the railway line. The walk down past Woodhall farm is rather boring, and leads to the A1000, where we walked to a bus stop for a bus to St Albans. Altogether, with a little wandering in places, we'd covered around ten miles which was enough for me.
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CND At 60 at Aldermaston

Aldermaston, Berkshire. Sun 1 Apr 2018
Rebecca Johnson holds up a copy of the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons
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CND celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first Aldermaston march which mobilised thousands against the Bomb and shaped radical protest for generations with a rally at the main gate of the now privatised Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Their protest outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment included a giant version of their name and iconic peace symbol, speeches, including by some of those on the original march, singing and drumming and it celebrated the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, finalised last year and signed by 122 nations, for which ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which CND is a part was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Among the speakers was Rebecca Johnson of CND and ICAN who held up a copy of the treaty and the replica of the Nobel award and urged everyone to keep up the pressure on the UK government to sign the treaty, pointing out that past governments had professed support for multilateral nuclear disarmament such as this treaty, and that Britain's nuclear expertise would give opportunities for greater earnings from disarmament than from bomb-making. Walter Wolfgang, now in his 90s, and one of the organisers of the first Aldermaston march, spoke as did a woman who had been taken on it by her parents, while veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent recalled how he had cursed it as a young cleric in Kensington as it blocked the road for several hours and disrupted the schedule of four weddings he was conducting, going on to tell us of his conversion to nuclear disarmament not long afterwards. Antony Owen told us of his experiences speaking with those who survived the Nagasaki bomb and read two poems from his book 'The Nagasaki Elder' which had many of us listening in tears. Music came from the samba band Tribo and the Welsh socialist choir Côr Cochion.

At the end of the event faith groups held a vigil and people pinned doves with peace messages to the AWE security fence. The campaign continues to get the UK and other nuclear nations to ratify the UN treaty and reap the benefits of peace and employment from getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

Fortunately despite some days of bad weather leading up to the event and terrible forecasts for the following week, it was a fine day, mild for the time of year and with no wind, but some reasonable periods of sun, considerably better than had been predicted, and my bike ride from Reading station and back (12 miles each way) was a pleasant one.
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London Images

April 2018

A dramatic sky over the South Bank as I make my way home
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This months oddments include pictures are mainly pictures from buses, along with a few from a longer than usual visit to see my (and your) pictures in our National Gallery, which was even more crowded with tourists on a wet Saturday afternoon, but I photographed a couple of old favourites and two I'd not noticed before.
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