Cleaners protest at Capita
City, London. Fri 20 May 2016
security guard tries to move a woman carrying a CAIWU poster calling for a
real living wage now
Members of the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union protest
at the St Paul's office of Capita after contractor Mitie sacked two of the
only three African workers and reduced the hours of the third, allegedly on
racist grounds, and demand cleaners there be paid the London Living Wage.
Seven or eight protesters rushed into the foyer of the shared offices at
65 Gresham St, leaving others, including some who clean that building, protesting
on the pavement outside, where they held a banner and posters and blew plastic
Inside the foyer there was also a noisy protest, and the protesters tried
to ignore the security staff and handed out flyers about the sacking and reduction
in hours to workers as they went in and out for lunch. Most of the workers
were from other companies that have offices in the building rather than Capita,
and almost all took the leaflets and looked at them with interest.
After around 5 minutes of protest in the foyer, two security men persuaded
CAIWU General Secretary Alberto Durango to leave, pushing him firmly towards
the door, and the other protesters shortly followed him to continue the protest
outside. A few minutes later they moved around the corner to the rear entrance
of the office block, where the protest continued for another quarter of an
hour. Shortly after they arrived there, a police officer arrived and talked
with both protesters and secuirty staff, before standing back to watch and
take notes, and to maintain passage along the pavement as well as trying to
prevent any protesters being run over by the occasional car going past.
The protesters then returned for a final session of protest at the front
entrance which was continuing as I left around a quarter of an hour later.
Shortly before I left, a man in a suit walking past shouted at Alberto Durango
to stop making a noise and tried to grab his microphone; Alberto turned away
and the man then approached me telling me I should not be taking pictures.
I photographed him standing directly in front of me, and he walked past and
grabbed the shoulder of a protester who was blowing a plastic horn. Alberto
and I both walked towards him, and the police officer watching the protest
came up and intervened, telling the man to stop interfering with the protest.
He took him to one side and spent several minutes talking to him before making
sure he left the area.
Further protests and strike action are expected until Capita re-instate the
sacked worker, abandon attempts to impose an impossible workload and improve
conditions of service, including paying the London Living Wage.
No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts
Tottenham Court Rd, London. Thur 19 May 2016
Paula Peters (centre) speaks between the two banners as the protest blocks
Tottenham Ct Rd
Delegates at the TUC disabled workers conference led by activists from Disabled
People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible
(Women with visible and invisible disabilities) marched from Congress House
to Tottenham Court Road calling for an end to government benefit cuts which
have led to the deaths of many disabled people - including 2 DPAC members
the previous day.
There were speeches and chanting as they blocked traffic, with pedestrians
, including workers on their break from nearby sites, gathering and applauding
and some drivers hooting in support. Many people across the UK now realise
the terrible treatment of the disabled and all benefit claimants by the DWP,
using unfair tests administered by half-trained assessors designed to trick,
the target-driven imposition of benefit sanctions for trivial reasons, often
those entirely beyound the control of the claimants, and the withdrawal of
various benefits. And although the minister responsible for the worst of those
crimes has now resigned, there is little reason to hope that his successor
will be any less inhumane.
For any still sceptical about the effects of government policies and their
administration, one of the banners carried the names of around a hundred of
those known to have died because of sanctions and benefit cuts, with photographs
of some of them. But many more have perished, and more still have only kept
alive through the charity of friends and neighbours, through the many food
banks around the countries, and charities which feed people on the streets
- something some councils have tried to make illegal.
Police diverted traffic away from the area and otherwise kept a low profile
for half an hour, only turning up to talk with the protesters as they were
preparing to leave to return to the afternoon sessions at the TUC.
Greenpeace 'Sinking Cities' banners at BM/BP show
British Museum, London. Thur 19 May 2016
Geenpeace banners re-christen the BP sponsored exhibition
At first I couldn't see what all the fuss was about as I walked past the
police tape outside the British Museum, but when I studied the very professionally
produced banners hanging down each of the seven columns of the famous portico
I realised that this was a dramatic intervention on the opening day of the
BritishMuseum/BP exhibition 'Sunken Cities', a part of BPs activities to give
it a more acceptable image.
BP is one of the world's major polluters, through its own activities and
oil catastrophes such as that in the Gulf of Mexico, but more importantly
by its lobbying for the continuing use of oil and the supply of huge quantities
of climate-harming petrol and diesel - including some from filthy sources
such as tar sands.
The posters for the forthcoming 'Sunken Cities' exhibition were already up
when I last visited the museum with
BP or Not BP? last December, and I took a few pictures in front of them.
Clearly this was going to be a controversial sponsorship, and the banners
reading Sinking Cities, New Orleans, Boscastle, Manilla, Maldives, Hebden
Bridge and Sinking Cities again, listing some of those places in the
UK and across the world recently flooded due to global warming induced climate
change was I think the third major protest even though this was only the first
day the show would have been open to the public.
The whole museum had been closed to the public and people were being told
it would not reopen that day. I felt a little sorry for those groups milling
around on the pavement, some of whom had travelled some distance to see the
exhibition, but felt that the closure was an unnecessary panic response -
there are other entrances to the museum and all that was necessary was the
closure of the portico area and some minor diversions. The climbers on the
columns were obviously experienced and operating safely and apparently without
damage to the museum structure. And their banners were certainly an improvement,
far more professoinal than the two rather dull large official display boards
that can be seen below them.
Canada House vigil condemns CETA
Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London. Mon 16 May 2016
Protesters with banner under the maple leaves at Canada
A protest and vigil outside Canada House condemned the secret CETA trade
deal currently nearing completion between Canada and the EU. Negotiations
have been in secret and the deal would allow the big corporations to force
privatisation of public services such as the NHS and prevent governments adopting
environmental legislation that might harm company profits.
The deal wil not be voted on in the UK parliament and ours is the only EU
Parliament that cannot veto CETA or TTIP. The day of action was continuing
after the vigil with an evening rally, but I had to leave after the first
few speeches at the vigil, including those by Maude Barlow of the Council
of Canadians and London Green MEP Jean Lambert.
Banner Drop against CETA & TTIP
Westminster Bridge, London. Mon 16 May 2016
'#noCETA #noTTIP' banners in front of the Houses of
As part of a day of protest against the Canada/EU and UAS/EU trade deals
being negotiated in secret, activists lowered banners over Westminster Bridge
with the messages '#noCETA #noTTIP' and '#noCETA HANDS OFF DEMOCRACY'. Even
MPs are being kept in the dark about the details of these deals, and the UK
Parliament will almost certainly not be allowed to vote on them; it is the
only EU Parliament that cannot veto CETA or TTIP.
BIS protest against CETA & TTIP
Dept of Business (BIS) Westminster, London. Mon 16 May 2016
Green MEP Jean Lambert speaks inside a mock 'MPs reading
room' - promisee by BIS but not provided.
A day of protest by activists opposed to the discredited US/EU TTIP and CETA
Canada EU secret trade deals begins at the Dept of Business (BIS) where a
small cell was constructed to dramatise the fact that the access for UK MPs
has never been provided. UK Mp's are the only EU MPs who have been denied
access and the UK parliament is the only EU parliament that cannot veto CETA
The protesters were not allowed to enter the building to present their letter
reminding the minister of the promise to set up the MPs reading room, but
a few minutes later a friendly and polite civil servant came out to take it
There were a few arguments between protesters and security about putting
banners on the wall and later across the vehicle exit from the building, with
security threatening to call the police at one point. If they did, they police
failed to arrive before the protest ended
Topshop protest after cleaners sacked
Oxford St, London. Sat 14 May 2016
red flare behind the Womens Death Brigade banner as the protesters head for
Protests took place outside Topshop in Oxford St and other stores around
the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living
wage; one has now been sacked.
Other groups joined the cleaners union UVW in the protest including Class
War and cleaners from the CAIWU and other trade unionists. Ian Hodson,
General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell were
among those at the London protest.
The protest began outside the Oxford St Topshop, which was heavily defended
by police, as well as by extra illegal security guards wearing no ID. Several
hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police
blocked the entrance to the shop. They made a lot of noise but made no serious
attempt to enter the building.
After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade
moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them
to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus
junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly
gently persuade them to move.
They did, but not in the direction the police had wanted, instead marching
west along Oxford St. As they approached John Lewis, a red flare was set off
and then protesters crowded around the entrance, protesting noisily. John
Lewis is another major store that allows its cleaning contractor to pay its
cleaners low wages, with porr conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming
any responsibility for workers who keep its stores running.
There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police, but I saw
no arrests, and after a few minutes the protest resumed its march towards
Marble Arch and another branch of Topshop where the protest continued.
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 14 May 2016
A small group of protesters standing in front of the National Gallery held
posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees.
Some held a banner with the message 'free movement for People Not Weapons'.
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 14 May 2016
The protesters were standing in a large circle on the
Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large ciricle in Trafalgar Square holding
laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food
production, bull-fightng, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions
and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end
Unfortunately bright sun made the laptop screens almost impossible to see
and few small computers have sound that is audible more than a foot or two
away in the large open public square, and the protest was rather less eefective,
though the large circle of people standing in white masks did attract attention.
68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Oxford St, London. Sat 14 May 2016
woman hands out leaflets about the Nabka at the protest
A protest outside shops supporting the Israeli state made its way along
Oxford St from Marks and Spencers, with speakers detailing the continuing
oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise
and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The event marked Nabka Day, the 'day of the catastrophe', remembering the
roughly 80% of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes between
December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning
to their homes, or claiming their property. It is usually commemorated on
May 15, the day following Israeli Independence Day, so this event was a day
early, when OXford St would be busier.
Among the protesters were a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing
oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of
counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the
protesters of anti-Semitism, but there was no suggestion of this, with the
protest being clearly directed against some actions of the Israeli government
and against Zionism, and the event organisers and police clearly trying to
avoid confrontation with the counter-protesters, which they were trying to
provoke by standing in front of the protest and shouting at them as they moved
along the street.
Many UK businesses play an important part in supporting the Israeli government
by selling Israeli goods and those produced in the occupied territories and
in other ways, and their were brief speeches as the protest halted outside
some of them detailing some of these links.
Holloway, London. Sat 14 May 2016
Jeremy Corbyn speaking before the march
Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start
of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the
Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that
when the prison, which is in his constuency, iis closed the site remains in
public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing
and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up
in a damaging criminal justice system.
A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently
already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches
by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council
would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate owned by HM
Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold
for private development.
Going Backwards on Climate Change
Whitehall, London. Sun 8 May 2016
Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid (centre) spoke at Downing
St - there is no need for more airport capapcity
Protesters marched backwards down Whitehall against UK Governments backtracking
over clean energy, which has seen them dropping insulation grants and crippling
our green energy programmes while backing climate-wrecking fracking and biomass
projects along with proposing massivily polluting and unnecessary road and
The protesters stopped several times for short rallies adressed by politicians
and campaigners, among the Dame Vivienne Westwood, Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid,
Labour and Green politicians and Lianna Etkind from Campaign for Better Transport.
The march ended in the yard in front of the Dept of Health where there were
more speeches and some street theatre.
Before the start of the march there was a very warm reception for Kye Gbangbola,
the father of Zane Gbangbola,
who was killed when floodwater released hydrogen cyanide from waste landfill
in February 2014; the same deadly gas left Kye part paralysed and he spoke
from his wheelchair.
The authorities have repeatedly impeded attempts to get at the truth, and
are refusing to give the family legal aid for the inquest. The case raises
much wider questions about the safety of landfill sites across the country
and the lack of proper oversight by local authorities - in this case Spelthorne
Council - and the Environment Agency. Many at the event signed
the petition and there is also a crowdfunding
appeal to enable the family to have proper representation at the inquest,
where the public bodies involved will be spending large sums on legal representation.
They lost their appeal for legal aid despite a letter of support from the
senior coroner for Surrey.
Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Barbican, London. Sat 7 May 2016
Petros Elia confronts a police officer who is trying
to get the protest to stop
Cleaners union UVW staged a protest inside the Barbican Centre, after
cleaning contractor Servest proposed making many of the cleaners redundant
or serverley cutting their hours and pay. Earlier protests at the Barbican
had led to the cleaners getting the London Living Wage in January 2016 but
the Barbican disclaims any responsibility for the people who clean the building
although Servest claims they driving the cuts.
I met the cleaners at Moorgate on their way to the Barbican, and they walked
quietly along the road, breaking into a run as they turned into Silk St and
making for the main entrance of the Barbican. Their arrival was unexpected
and they were able to rush in and make their way into the middle of the arts
centre, to portest outside the hall where customers were entering a sold-out
concert of music by Yann Tiersen.
After a few minutes, City of London Police arrived and the protesters were
told they had to leave, and after some argument they slowly did so, continuing
to protest as they made their way out of the building and into a pen in front
of the main entrance.
The flashmob, supported by activists from the Bakers Union, Class War, SOAS
Unison, Unite Hotel workers branch and IWGB Couriers branch, was in response
to Servest, the Barbican Centre's new cleaning contractor's attempt to sack
a number of cleaners who are UVW members
Detention Centres Shut Them Down
Harmondsworth, London. Sat 7 May 2016
guards manhandle a protester who refused to walk out
Protesters at Europe's largest detention centre complex at Heathrow,
two Category B prisons, Colnbrook & Harmondsworth, managed by private
security company MITIE, called for all immigration prisons to be shut, and
the racist scapegoating of immigrants to end. They ran past security guards
between the two prisons and were able to communicate with some of the prisoners
inside, but were quickly forced back to the front of the building when police
The protest here was part of a day of action at all UK detention centres
as well as some on mainland Europe, and the Heathrow event was organised by
Anti Raids Network. While I've always been welcomed at earlier protests at
Harmondsworth and had received an invitation to go to this one, there were
just a tiny minority of protesters who made clear they not happy with being
photographed, and attempted to impede my work. Others taking pictures were
not harassed, and of course most of the time the protest was being recorded
both on CCTV and by police evidence gatherers and security guards with cameras.
Many of those present knew me and had no problems with being photographed
as they have been on previous occasions; curiously it appeared to be mainly
some of those who were masked who objected.
Most of the protesters had travelled from central London and they had arrived
at the prison complex earlier than I had expected from what I'd been told.
When I arrived there was just a small group of people in front of the roadway
between the two prisons, who told me I had just missed the others who had
rushed past security down the road between the two prisons and were at the
back of the Harmondsworth block.
I stood talking for a few minutes, wondering what to do next, then the protesters
came into view at the end of the road being harassed by police and security
who were trying to move them out. One of the protesters I'd been with rushed
past the one remaining security man watching us along the road to join the
others, and as he made no real attempt to stop him, another protester followed
and I walked down after her.
The protesters held up a large banner with their mobile number for people
held in the prison to phone, and made a lot of noise, using megaphones, banging
pans and kickiing the tall prison fences. Police and security tried to move
them on, but were only making very slow progress. After a few minutes a police
van drove up and more police were soon able to force them to the front of
There they continued to protest, making a lot of noise. When they made a
lot of noise there was a response from some of those inside, and they were
able to call some of the prisoners and hear their stories. As always with
protests at these detention centres, those inside were very glad to know that
there were people who knew they were imprisoned and supported them.
I walked with some of the protesters as they made their way out of the complex
and walked the few yards along the Bath Road to the footpath which runs beside
the tall fence on the east side of the Colnbrook prison, soon emerging into
a field. Bushes and small trees along the outside of the fence prevent a clear
view of the blocks inside, but it was easy to hear some of the prisoners inside
shouting. The protesters managed to shout a phone number to them and we could
hear some of their stories.
Bashir from Lebanon told us he had been held in detention for 18 months and
that his wife and children need his help, but he is stuck inside, unable to
see them or do anything. Indefinite detention such as this seems a clear breach
of so many of the human rights that everyone in the UK should be entitled
to under our Human Rights Act 1998. Treating people like our system does is
F**k Parade 4: Ripper & Tower Bridge
London. Sun 1 May 2016
Fire-breathing and flares as partying protesters block
From Aldgate, the protesters in Fuck Parade 4 (FP4) headed south, going down
Leman St to the junction with Cable St, where they briefly diverted to pay
a short visit to the Jack the Ripper tacky attraction for the odd perverted
tourist which opened in a shop there under false pretences of being a 'museum'
and against which Class War and others have held a number of protests.
Here most of the area soon became thick with red smoke, though a line of
parked vehicles protected the narrow pavement between shop and street where
a line of police face the Class War banner.
But the parade quickly left and moved along a back street to turn down on
to Tower Bridge. They moved down the approach on the south-bound carriageway,
but on reaching the narrower bridge stopped traffic in both directions. At
the middle of the bridge they stopped and watched a display of fire-breathing
while others set of flares and shouted.
The protesters then walked slowly across the bridge and turned into Tooley
St, where I left them as they reached Southwark Council Offices. It was getting
late and I'd been on my feet far too long and it was time to get home for
Anti-Capitalist May Day Street Party Starts
One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Sun 1 May 2016
Dancing on the street outside the 'Rich Door' to One
Fuck Parade 4 (FP4), the fourth in a series of anti-capitalist street
parties organised by anarchists in East London returned to its origin at One
Commercial St, the venue for over 30 protests by Class War against social
apartheid in housing, and where last year's May Day event was the first of
this series of roving music and dancing protests.
Among the several hundred mainly black-clad FP4 party-goers were a number
from Class War, who had brought a couple of their banners for the event. I
met some of them outside a local pub and took some pictures as a cycle-drawn
sound system came to join them. After a few minutes we walked down to One
Commercial St together.
There was already a small crowd outside the 'Rich door' of the building when
we arrived and FP4 really got going, while police guarded the building but
made no attempt to interfere with the protest. The music got pretty loud,
and people, many in masks of one kind or another were dancing wildly, and
smoke from blue and move flares was soon drifting across the area.
May Day Rally & Gonosangeet
Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, London. Sun 1 May 2016
Long Live May Day' was the message on the red headbands of the Bangladeshi
The Bangladeshi Workers Council along with Red London, trade unionists,
labour movement, political and community activists held a rally to commemorate
and celebrate May Day at Altab Ali Park in Tower Hamlets.
May Day Rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 1 May 2016
The front of the plinth during the rally
Speakers at the rally included NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, UNITE
Regional Secretary for London & Eastern Region Peter Kavanagh, Yannis
Gourtsoyannis from the BMA Junior Doctors' Committee, a representative from
Turkish/Kurdish Community Centre Daymer, Patrick Brill, better known by his
pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith and Luciana, one of the Brazilians protesting
against the opposition impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff which
they say is a coup.
Ahwazi Protest at May Day Rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 1 May 2016
Ahwazi Arabs demand an end to repression and ethnic cleansing
I clambered up onto the plinth of Nelson's Column to photograph the march
as it entered Trafalgar Square, as I've done on previous marches. The event
stewards were trying to keep the plinth clear of marchers and press, which
neither of the two groups felt was in spirit with the fraternal nature of
the event, and largely ignored.
As one of the groups came into the square, they set off smoke flares, while
others arrived with a sea of red flags. More and more protesters brought flags
and banners onto the plinth despite stewards attempting to stop them, including
a number of Ahwazi Arabs protesting against their repression over many years
by the Iranian regime which they say has stolen their land and is trying to
eradicate their culture. Their region, Al Ahwaz (incorporated into Iran as
Khuzestan in the 1920s), is the source of much of Iranian oil and is under
military control with many Ahwazis being imprisoned and executed.
The Ahwazi protesters then set off flares and protested noisily along the
east side of the plinth as the remaining marchers made their way into the
May Day March
Clerkenwell to Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 1 May 2016
Brazilians on the march protesting against the attempt
to remove their president
I photographed the march as it left Clerkenwell Green and going along slowly
with it on the Clerkenwell Rd, waiting to see the last marchers as they went
past the top end of Leather Lane. There were perhaps five thousand marchers,
and they were quite well spread out, so by then the front of the march was
probably at Holborn.
I walked down to Chancery Lane tube and changed at Tottenham Court Rd to
get to Charing Cross a few minutes before the front of the march came along
May Day at Clerkenwell Green
Clerkenwell Green, London. Sun 1 May 2016
There was intense media interest this year as Labour
leader Jeremy Corbyn came to speak
Socialists celebrating international Workers Day including many from London's
international and migrant communities gather at Clekenwell Green where they
are addressed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and TUC General Secretary Frances
O'Grady before marching through London to a rally at Trafalgar Square.
May day is a time to celebrate the many acheivements of struggle by workers
over the years and show the determination to fight against attempts to reduce
workers rights and to continue the fight for equality and justice.
This year differed from all the previous years I've attended in that the
two main speakers of the day came to make their speeches here, TUC General
Secretary Frances O'Grady and Jeremy Corbyn, rather than at the final rally
in Trafalgar Square.
Jeremy Corbyn was the reason the TV cameras and a large crowd of press, most
of whom were probably at their first ever May Day event, were present. I didn't
bother to join the mob of photographers who tried to photograph him as he
made his way to the bus to speak or to the car to drive away, but was disgusted
to hear on a video of his leaving one of the stewards shouting about there
being so many expensive cameras that might get wrecked.
If anything, attendance at the event overall - apart from the media - seemed
lower than in some previous years, with rather fewer of the Turkish groups
who have been a major part.
While Corbyn was speaking from the upper deck of an open-top bus I deliberately
stood well back to get a decent angle, and avoid being blocked by banners.
But at one point a person carrying a CPGB-ML flag attempted to block Corbyn
from the TV cameras around me - and I think there were a few arguments and
some pushing before he was persuaded to move away.
London, May 2016
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