South East Alliance 'Racist Thugs Not Welcome'

Cricklewood, London. Sat 30 Aug 2014

An anti-fascist protester sends a clear message to the South East Alliance as police drag her away
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Several hundred people came to oppose a protest by around 30 from the South East Alliance close to the empty offices they say are used as a recruiting centre by the Muslim Brotherhood. Police kept the two groups apart but there were some scuffles and arrests.

When I arrived in Cricklewood shortly after 11am, police and the North West London United group formed to oppose the protests in Cricklewood were both out in force. From the bus from Kilburn I'd seen several police vans and a row of motorcyclists already waiting at Kilburn station and there were another ten down a couple of side-streets off Cricklewood Broadway.

Outside the offices said by the South East Alliance to be used by the Muslim Brotherhood, there was already a row of banners from organisations supporting the counter-protest, along with perhaps 30 or 40 people, with others arriving all the time. By the time I got on a bus to go back to Kilburn station to photograph the start of the SEA march there were more than 150 present.

The Muslim Brotherhood have never had an official office in this country. Press reports that in April this year the MB 'European Headquarters' had moved from Cricklewood to Graz appear to have been misleading simplifications. But like many Egyptians outside Egypt, those who worked at World Media Services supported the MB, and there they produceed an unofficial English Language web site about it, along with other publishing activities.

The SEA march was supposed to be gathering at Kilburn Station between noon and 1pm, but when I arrived a little after 12.15 the only people there were a small group of police. Ten minutes later, SEA leader Paul Pitt (I met him before as the Essex EDL organiser) arrived with three others. There were still only four when the march set off at 1.15pm and I took the bus back to Cricklewood to wait for them.

By the time the SEA march arrived and was stopped by police a couple of blocks down the road the number on it had risen to ten. Some more SEA supporters had also got to Cricklewood and were being held by police outside a funeral parlour on the opposite side of the road to the World Media Services flat. The police had stopped the march as a group of around 30 anti-fascists had started to walk towards them, and held them while deciding what to do. A couple of the anti-fascists had been held and arrested by police but this had not stopped the others.

There was an uneasy confrontation, with just a double line of police separating the two groups, and photographers milling around. One of the SEA, a well-known former member of various ultra-right groups, was shouting insults loudly at the anti-fascists, photographers and police; after a while police insisted he moderate his language, but he continued to shout abuse, and I was surprised he was not arrested.

It looked at one point that Paul Pitt had been arrested as he tried to break through the police lineand continue the march. Through the crowd of police around him it was difficult to see but I think he was handcuffed and cautioned, but then one of the officers intervened and he was freed. The SEA were told again and again by police in response to their complaints that the police intended to facilitate their protest.

I went back to photograph the protesters who were actually close to the flat. The NWLU had occupied the pavement directly outside it and the SEA were held by police on a corner roughly opposite behind some small road works and outside a funeral parlour. A quarter of an hour later I saw police escorting the SEA march - now with people carrying flags on bamboo poles towards us on the side road next to the funeral parlour and I and other photographers rushed to meet them.

As they got close to us, several of the marchers used the poles and flags to reach out to attack photographers. Some where just trying to hold the flags over our lenses but others were clearly trying to cause injury with the poles. I was surprised the the police did nothing to stop them, simply escorting them into the area where the others were protected by police.

As I tried to photograph their protest, there were again people using their flags to obstruct me, though others were keen to be photographed, a few holding up posters, banners and flags. One man kept coming to stand in front of me to prevent me taking pictures and filming me, but I just moved away to another position each time. I went briefly inside the area where the SEA were held, but soon decided there was more to photograph from behind the police around the side of the area facing the NWLU protest which they were shouting at.

I was again disappointed by the police, who when they finally realised that the SEA were trying to use the poles as weapons to try and injure photographers, rather than trying to stop the attacks or take away the poles from the two or three protesters involved simply set a small ine of police to stop photographers from going within range. I complained to the officers but as usual they took no notice.

Shortly afterthis, as I knew I'd got already got pictures to tell the story and it seemed unlikely that anything else of great interest was going to happen as people on both sides were already drifting away, I decided to leave.
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Sodexo: racism & unfair dismissal of TU Rep

Holborn, London. Thu 28 Aug 2014

A tribunal found RMT Rep Petrit Mihaj was unfairly dismissed because of his union activitives
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In the latest of a series of actions against Sodexo, one of the government's favoured private facilities contractors, RMT London Underground Depot Staff and supporters picketed the company's Holborn HQ offices across Thursday lunchtime. The action followed other protests at the offices and a one-day strike on 4th August.

They came to demand the reinstatement of their colleague and union rep Petrit Mihaj; an employment tribunal has ruled his dismissal was 100% unfair and that he was dismissed because of his trade union activities, but Sodexo is refusing to give him back his job. It as, as Mihaj says "a matter of principle" and one the protesters want TfL and the government to support and put pressure on Sodexo to comply with the tribunal decision.

Sodexo has a long record of union-bashing and treating staff like dirt across the full range of their activities in the public sector - prisons, the NHS, schools, defence etc. The supply the catering for London Underground. Of four RMT reps working with Sodexo, two have been sacked and two face disciplinary action; one has been suspended. One in ten RMT members have brought claims against Sodexo to employment tribunals. A recent article in The Guardian by Randeep Ramesh listed a catalogue of claims of bullying, racism, sexism and harassment, along with allegations of 'ethnic cleansing' of non-white staff in their defence division.

Along with the placards calling for the reinstatement of Mihaj there were also those with the message 'Sodexo Workers Demand No More "Punch a Black Week"', referring to an example of totally unacceptable behaviour quoted in Ramesh's article. In October 2012, an African-Caribbean female manager in the defence division was punched by her white male boss, and when she asked for an explanation he said to her "It's punch a black week." Although the article says that the woman left Sodexo after a six-figure settlement in early 2013, and the man concerned has also left, the protesters say he is still a director of Sodexo. According to Ramesh, the 'company was "unable to conclude that this behaviour was due to ... skin colour"'.

Sodexo internationally also have a record of bullying and racism. A lawsuit by black employees in the US who had been routinely barred from promotion and segregated was settle in 2005 at a cost of £47.3m.

As the RMT leaflet handed out at the protest says:
'It is shameful that a company like Sodexo, with its shocking track record of racism and bullying, are allowed to win Government and LUL contracts.'

Soon after the protesters arrived the doors to the building were locked, although the protesters had made no attempt to enter the building on this occasion. Staff coming back with their lunch in their hands were unable to use the doors, but the security pointed them away along the street. One of the protesters followed them and found that the offices could be entered up an open staircase in the bank next door. He came down into the lobby and talked with the security there, who eventually let him out through the doors.

The protest continued for around an hour, with many of those passing on the busy London street taking the leaflets and most expressing support. The leaflet asked for people to help by boycotting Sodexo and emailing the Sodexo Chief Executive Debbie White and TfL Catering Director Nigel Hall calling for Petrit Mihaj's reinstatement.
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Hands Up! Against racist Police Shootings

US Embassy, London. Wed 27 Aug 2014
Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson withhis hands up, shouting 'Don't shoot!'.
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Protesters came to the US Embassy in solidarity with the family of Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson and against all racist police killings both in the US and in the UK. They raised their hands and shouted 'Don't Shoot!' as he did. But he was black, so they shot him.

The protest was called by Stand Up to Racism, and supported by other organisations including Unite Against Fascism, Love Music Hate Racism, Stand Up to UKIP and the United Friends and Family Campaign. In the call-out they stated:

'People in the United States and around the world have rightly been outraged. Brown’s murder is the latest in a long line of killings by US police of black men. Five have been murdered in the past month alone. Protestors have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri every night since the incident demanding justice for Michael and an end to police killings. The Police response to the demonstrations has harked back to the days prior to the Civil Rights Movement. They have used tear gas, dogs, automatic weapons and armoured cars on demonstrators. Michael’s murder highlights the deeply racist nature of US society today, however, deaths in police custody are not limited to America. As we have seen in the cases of Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture, Sean Rigg, and Christopher Alder to name but a few.'

Among those speaking at the event was Marcia Rigg, whose campaign with her family to find out how and why her brother Sean Rigg was killed in Brixton Police Station in 2008 has laid bare the corruption and racism of the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC. It was only their persistence that led to an inquest verdict that police had used "unsuitable and unnecessary force", failed to uphold his basic rights and that the failings of the police "more than minimally" contributed to his death. It also led to a truly damning independent review of the IPCC's investigation which found them to have made "blunder after blunder".

Of course the death was not an isolated case, but just one of many thousands of questionable deaths that have taken place in custody over the past twenty or thirty years. Most but by no means alll of those who have died have been young and black, and mostly male.

As well as Marcia Rigg, other speakers included Diane Abbott MP, Talha Ahmad from the Muslim Council of Britain, Zita Holbourne of PSC and BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts), TUC Race Equality Officer Wilf Sullivan and Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu of Unite Against Fascism.
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No More Page Three

London Bridge, London. Sun 24 Aug 2014

Petition organiser Lucy-Anne Holmes holdsthe 2nd birthday cake
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The campaign to get The Sun to drop its sexist and demeaning 'Page 3' semi-nude women celebrated 2 years and a massive petition with over 200,000 signatures by partying with a 70s theme reflecting the paper's outdated views - at News UK 's new offices.

The Murdoch press in the UK has moved from its Wapping fortress to a brand new building next to the Shard with a large forecourt facing London Bridge station proving a good are for the party. At the start of the event most of those present took a short turn at the microphone voicing their objections to the publication of pictures of half-clothed women in what are intended as titillating poses in a family newspaper. These are pictures of no news interest. There was also an opportunity for people to write their reasons for signing the petition on a small chalkboard and to be photographed holding this.

During the event, some taking part handed out leaflets to people entering and leaving the News UK building, some of whom were clearly in support of the protest. It must be embarassing for people working for the company's more serious publications to be associated with this old-fashioned sexism. And the old-fashioned aspect was reflected in the clothes worn by some of those taking part, as well as the party snacks - including pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks.

Marina Pepper, almost certainly the only person present to have featured on 'Page 3' - back in the 1980s when she was only 17 - at one point suggested some more direct action, and together with her dog led a charge towards the large glass doors of the building, managing to swerve around a security man, but support was lacking, and the party-goers ending up posing and singing a specially written song outside the doors. But she may well be back! (One small co-incidence is that she was born in Windsor and spent some of her early years in Taplow, where I had been walking a few days earlier, before her family began travelling around.)

Lucy-Anne Holmes, who started the petition two years ago spoke briefly as the candles were lit on two birthday cakes (and were rather quickly blown out by the strong breeze), and people had brought quite a lot of food to share.

The party was continuing as I left. It's hard to know why The Sun continues to publish these pictures, which almost certainly lose them as many sales as they gain. They clearly upset many people, and not only women, and are incredibly clichéd.
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Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killling

Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014

'Not just war crimes, it's planned genocide say Tamils calling for a referendum on Tamil Eelam

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Tamils protested at Downing St over the continuing genocide of the Tamil nation, calling for a UN investigation and referendum on Tamil Eelam. Placards called for an end to the use of rape to destroy their nation andsexual violence against children.
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Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat23 Aug 2014

A young man speaks at the rally on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square
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A rally marked a year after the Ghouta massacre of 21/08/2013 when Assad regime forces outraged the world by using Sarin gas, kiling killing 1,477 residents including over 400 children in this Damascus suburb. The world failed to act against Assad.

After an hour-long rally in Traflagar Square the protesters, who were mainly Syrians, marched along the pavements to Richmond Terrace, opposite Dowing St, where they laid flowers in memory of the dead.
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Gaza Protest - Stop Arming Israel

Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014

A woman with a large heart on her cheek in the colours of the Palestinian flag
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A large protest at Downing St called on the UK to stop selling arms to Israel, and for an end to Israeli war crimes. Among the protesters were many Jews. Three people came to wave Israeli flags across the road and were led away for safety by police.

I met briefly with some of them after the rally at Downing St, marching towards Trafalgar Square and onwards.
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Divided Families protest over cruelty

Downing St, London. Sat 23 Aug 2014

A woman holds a small child in a white one-piece suit with the message 'I miss my Daddy'

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Families kept apart by Teresa May's cruel and unfair immigration rules which discriminate against those earning less than £18,600 by not allowing their non-EU spouses to join them protested at Downing St against this breaking up of families.

This income requirement discriminates against women, the retired and disabled young and many minority ethnic people who have on average lower incomes than the general population. For couples with children, the income limit is even higher, and to secure visas for a spouse and two children you could need an income of £24,800.

The policy, which also includes tougher English Language tests, a proof of greater attachment to the UK than of any other country and extending the probationary period from two to five years, is in direct contradiction of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states:

'No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.'

Applications for the relevant visas are also expensive, at £601 per person for postal applications - and over a thousand pounds for the premium 'in person' application, large amounts to find for those on low wages.
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Jubilee River & Taplow

Taplow, Bucks. Thu 21 Aug 2014

A private lawn and boat on the Thames near Maidenhead Railway Bridge
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A family walk took me to one of the places where the rich live, Taplow, just across the Thames from Maidenhead, and by the Jubilee River (the Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme) built to protect the riverside homes of billionaires from flooding, taking surges of the Thames after prolonged rain downstream to flood Old Windsor, Datchet, Wraysbury, Staines and Chertsey where most of us are considerably poorer. We saw its effects only too clearly earlier this year.

Of course the authorities deny that this was the aim behind the Jubilee River, orthat it has any effect on flooding around Staines, but it does feed a huge amount of water much more rapidly back into the Thames just above Datchet. And that extra water has to go somewhere - and we saw in February exactly where it did go.

But while they found the huge amount needed for the Jubilee River, they seem to be having great problems in finding the money to do anthing about flooding downstream, or to do the very necessary work on the Victorian drainage systems here. So next winter there is a good chance all those who were flooded this year suffer again. Of coruse there was flooding in Maidenhead, Eton and Windsor in 1947 - but so there was in the areas further down where the water is now being dumped.

Taplow seems a nice village, and though I'm sure not everyone is filthy rich, certainly quite a few people there seemed to be from what we could see through their windows as we walked around. Its only a short distance to Maidenhead for the commute into London - or a drive along the M4, and there are many large businesses with their headquarters or large offices in the corridor west from Heathrow an easy drive away.

Despite this, it still has one proper pub, proud to be the only 'Oak and Saw' in the country - and while it has something of a reputation for food, the prices are not as steep as you might imagine, and you can get a decent beer or two - and I'd happily eat there again. And there is a walk on the pub web site to get up an appetite, which we more or less followed, though we had hoped to go a little further.
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Class War steps up 'Poor Doors' protest

Aldgate, London. Wed 20 Aug 2014

Class War hold open the door of 1 Commercial St - the 'rich door' only for the luxury flats
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For the fourth Wednesday running, Class War picketed outside 1 Commercial St in Aldgate against London's new apartment blocks providing separate 'poor doors' for the affordable flats they have to include to gain planning permission.

Class War continued their protests about 'Housing Apartheid', of which 1 Commercial St (also known as and ) is but one example. The block essentially contains two completely separate groups of flats, one for the wealthy and the other providing a relatively small amount of 'affordable accomodation' which was a condition of the planning permission.

The appartments for the rich have an entrance into what looks like a hotel lobby with a manned reception - at least three staff were on duty during the protest, on the main street next to Aldgate East Underground. The poor door is hidden away down a dingy side alley, and leads in via a card entry door to a bare and bleak corridor, empty apart from mail boxes on one side. According to one resident, the lift has often been out of action, with some elderly and infirm tenants having to walk up the stairt to the 11th floor.

A large proportion of the flats in the rich section were bought by overseas investors, and many are empty, increasing in monetarry value. Others with overseas owners are let out as holiday flats, and many of those who came in and out during the protest were enjoying expensive holidays in London. One man who talked to the protesters had no idea that there were separate flats in the building for the poor residents, and went round with some of the protesters to look at the poor entrance, he was clearly upset by the situation and in sympathy with the protesters but he refused the offer of the megaphone to say what he thought.

Those who have flats in the 'poor' section may well be - as one of them came to tell the protesters - pleased to have a decent flat in the area. But the proportion of affordable dwellings is low, and Tower Hamlets has a huge list of people wanting housing. The whole idea of building large blocks as investment properties for raich overseas buyers is simply obscene.

Class War draws attention to real and important issues - the gentrification of this and other areas of London and the financially based social cleansing that is resulting. They do so in a manner that is confrontational and theatrical, but amusing and not always entirely literal. Among the banners at today's protest was that of the 'Womens Death Brigade' with its message 'Smiters of the High & Mighty' and 'F**K Capitalism! F**k Patriarchy!'

Another banner referred to their election campaing - they hope to run as many or more candidates than groups such as UKIP and the Greens, and already have prospective candidates in aorund 30 constituencies. Given there is no chance of them gaining power, they are safe to make the election promises "Double Dole, No Bedroom Tax, Double Pensions", as well as a 50% mansion tax.

After the protest had continued for some time, Ian Bone grabbed hold of the 'rich' door after some residents had entered and held it open, saying it was now open to both rich and poor. Though of course there was no way that tenants in the poor section could access their flats through it. A struggle ensued, with three people from the 'concierge' trying to shut it, and failing, at which point they told the protesters they were calling the police. Around 12 minutes later an officer arrived and after a couple of minutes assessing the situation asked the protester standing in the doorway to let him close the door. He asked politely, and after some deliberation he was allowed to close the door after him as he went in to talk to the staff inside.

Meanwhile people were being allowed to leave and enter the building by the protesters, though at times with quite a lot of derogatory comments about the rich which clearly disturbed some. A few minutes earlier, someone had thrown liquid down from one of the upper floors, probably water. It hadn't hit the protesters, though some passers-by got splashed, but the protesters were underneat a projecting canopy above the ground floor ofthe buiding.

Things began to get a little more heated, with protesters actually blocking the doorway and telling those who wanted to go in that they had to use the 'poor door' instead - which would of course not allowed access to their properties. Some stopped to argue with the protesters - and the arguments sometimes got heated. One woman snatched a pile of papers from a protest and threw them to the ground. But although they told the residents to go to the 'poor' door, they didn't physically prevent them from going through the 'rich' one, though a few were intimidated enough not to try.

The one police officer clearly could not control the group of around 20 protesters and he radioed for assistance. The van pulled up around 10 minutes later as the group were moving away to the pub having packed up their banners.
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Shame on You Theresa May

Home Office, London. Sun 17 Aug 2014
'Welcome Home' - but Talha is still in prison in the US despite his 'release'
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A party outside the UK Home Office celebrated the release of Talha Ahsan, held in UK jails for 6 years then extradited to solitary confinement in a US Supermax prison who a US judge released last month and is expected to return here shortly.

Talha Ahsan, declared free a month ago, was not at the party as he is still held in a US immigration prison, but is expected home shortly. Outside the Home Office, they shouted "SHAME ON YOU!, Theresa May" for allowing his extradition to the US. The decision to allow his extradition to go forward was widely seen as racist when she refused to allow that of Gark McKinnon, because of his similar diagnosis of Asperger syndrome.

There were speeches and poems from a number of people, including Talha's borther, Hamja Ahsan who has led the campaign for his return to the UK, Zita Holbourne, Bruce Kent, Artist Taxidriver Mark McGowan, Marium Begg, Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, A L Kennedy, Murad Qureshi, the poet Hilaire, and Talha's father.

A British poet and translator, Talha received the Platinum and bronze Koestler Trust awards for his poetry in 2012. Among his translations is a tenth-century Arabic poem, Above the Dust, by Syrian Abu Firas Al-Hamdani, which was on the poet being held in captivity in Byzantium. Talha was detained in July 2006 in London and detained without charge or trial for over six years before being extradited to the US, where he was in held in solitary confinement in a 'Supermax' prison for over a year before his trial.

His release came about because of a plea bargain in which he admitted charges of conspiracy to provide and providing material support for terrorist groups in Chechnya & Afganistan when he was working for a London-based Islamic news website and publishing company in 1997-2004. As in many similar cases, there was probably little substance in the allegations, but the bargain released him from other charges for which he could have spent the rest of his life in solitary had a court made the wrong decision.
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Solidarity with Ferguson

US Embassy, London. Sun 17 Aug 2014
The crowd who came to show solidarity pose in front of the US embassy
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A vigil at the US Embassy in London sent solidarity to the people of Ferguson, Missouri after police shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, calling for an end to the violent oppression of black people in the US and for truth, justice and peace.

The vigil was organised by 'London Black Revs', a recently formed group of militant black activists after the murder of Michael Brown, shot by a police officer when he had his hands up in the air in surrender, as both eye-witnesses and video attest. Immediately after his murder, a media campaign began to portray him as a 'thug' and to label the community protests that followed his killing as 'riots'. Protesters were called 'looters' and military-style forces were sent to control the area.

London Black Revs called "for the US to stop violently oppressing, Black People and Black Protests". They pointed out that we have similar instances of the oppression of Black people here in the UK, and among those at the protest were members of the family of Mark Duggan, who was also unarmed and surrendering when killed by police (and a gun apparently planted later by an officer some distance away.)

People from across London's communities had come to show solidarity, athough the majority were black; there was some audible dissent from all sides when one of the speakers suggested that the struggle for justice was one that only black people could understand and that they should fight it alone.
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Second Anniversary of Marikana Miners Massacre

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014

People came forward one by one to read something about the 34 miners killed and lay a flower
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A protest at South Africa House remembered the 34 striking miners killed by state security forces two years ago and the continuing criminalization and persecution of the survivors and their families for the profits of London registered Lonmin plc.
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Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014

This was a silent protest with people standing in line,but in front of them were posters and a paper boat

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The protest in Trafalgar Square was part of global day ofsupport for the Sewol Tragedy Victims' Family Committee petition, already signed by around 4 million, for a special bill to investigate the deaths of 304 people, mainly high school students in the ferry disaster.
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March against ISIS massacres

Portland Place, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014
The march gathered in front of the BBC befoer forming up n Regent St
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The Kurdish People’s Assembly and others marched against the attacks on Kurds, Shia, Sufi, Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq, calling on the UK government for greater action including pressure on Turkey and Qatar to end support for jihadism.
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R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres

South St, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014

A woman raises her hands in the 4-finger R4BIA salute
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Marchers met at the Egyptian Embassy to march to Downing St on the anniversary of the massacres by Egyptian forces at Rabaa and Nahda squares on 14th August 2013 in which over 2600 were killed, 4000 injured and many arrested.
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Boycott Israel - Boycott M&S

Brixton, London. Sat 16 Aug 2014

People were still arriving for the protest when I had to leave
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Protesters outside M&S in tne centre of Brixton argued that the store legitimises the illegal occupation of Palestine and supports Zionist racism and brutality by selling Israeli goods and called for a boycott in solidarity with the people of Gaza.
Protesters outside M&S on the High St.
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Kurds Protest against ISIS

Downing St, London. Wed 13 Aug 2014

People shout slogans against ISIS at the protest
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Kurds from various groups came together today to protest in 'Solidarity Against ISIS' and the genocide of minority faiths, calling on the UK government and international community to provide greater support for the Peshmerga fighting against ISIS.
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Class War's 'Poor Doors' Picket 3

One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Wed 13 Aug 2014

'There is Nothing Quite as Cheap as Wealth These Days'
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For the third Wednesday running, Class War picketed outside One Commercial St in Whitechapel High St, Aldgate against London's new apartment blocks providing separate 'poor doors' for the affordable flats they have to include to gain planning permission.
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End Fast Track deportations

Home Office, Marsham St, Westminster, London. Tue 12 Aug 2014
Protesters outside the Home Office demand they stoptrack detentions which have been found illegal.
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A noisy protest called on the Home Office to respect the High Court decision that Fast Track deportation is unlawful and to release the detainees arrested for taking action against it including Juliet detained yesterday for her role in the protests.

In July the High Court ruled that the 'Fast Track' deportation system set up with the intention of deporting asylum seekers before they had time to properly prepare and present their cases was unfair, and a parliamentary inquiry has been set up into the whole immigration detention system, prompted largely by increased public awareness of what is happening inside the detention centres, made public by protests by the Movement for Justice (MfJ) against the arbitrary detention and the routine brutality, psychological torture and sexual abuse in detention centres.

It has also been the protests by the MfJ that have brought many of the acts of defiance against these abuses inside detention centres to public attention, including the many hunger strikes by detainees.

During last Saturday's MfJ protest outside Harmondsworth detention centre, those inside told protesters by mobile phone that 200 detainees there had begun a hunger strike demanding the release of all those on Fast Track. They sat down in a courtyard in protest, staying there despite heavy rain until the early hours of Sunday morning when they were attacked by officers sent by the Home Office in riot gear, assaulted, handcuffed and arrested. Later some were taken out of the centre in prison vans while others are being held in isolation at Harmondsworth.

At Yarl's Wood, where women are detained a protest took place last week against the mistreatment and abuse of two pregnant and ill detainees, demanding that all pregnant, ill and disabled detainees be released.

Many of those taking part in the MfJ protests have been through the asylum process, and others are still waiting for decisions on their asylum claims. Among them are African men and women who have had to flee their country because of draconian laws against homosexuals which have resulted in violence and death threats. One woman, Juliet, active in the protests against the abuses in the detention centre living in Manchester was detained yesterday when she made her regular visit to the reporting centre, and the MfJ believe this was because of her activism. Some of the posters at the event called for her release.

So far the Home Office, far from respecting the decision of the High Court, appears to have tightened their policy of creating a 'hostile environment' for immigrants and to be increasing its use of illegal procedures for deportation.
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Wool Against Weapons

Burghfield to Aldermarston, Berkshire. Sat 9 Aug 2014

There were 7 miles of pink scarf along the roads between the two atomic bomb factories - and some to spare.
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CND stretched pink knitting 7 miles between UK atomic bomb factories at Burghfield and Aldermaston on Nagasaki Day against the senseless waste of £100bn in replacing Trident missiles, which would clearly breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and Burghfield is the bomb factories which make Britain's nuclear warheads. Ahead of an expected Parliamentary vote in 2016 on whether the government should spend over £100 billion on a new nuclear weapons system, there will be increasing demonstrations at AWE calling for Trident and its replacement to be scrapped. The date was chosen as it was the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.

Groups from all over the country and some from France brought long rolled up lengths of knitted and crocheted scarves, made in individual sections and joined together. A lot of planning was needed to make sure that there were enough rolls and they were taken to the right places to be unrolled and joined together, but it all worked on the day.

The project involved a very large number of peopl, many of whom had taken no active part in protests against nuclear weapons before, but who are convinced that we should not waste public money on the Trident replacement - money that could be put to something useful like keeping our NHS running.

I cycled to Burghfield from Reading, and arrived just over two and a half hours before the whole scarf was scheduled to be joined up at 1pm. After taking some pictures around the end of the scarf there, I got back on my bike and cycled slowly along the route of the scarf to Aldermaston, stopping at all of the 'mile points' which were the bases for the various regional groups (and a 'faith' group) and also where people were busy laying out the rolls of scarf and joining them up and taking photographs. It took me around an hour and a quarter to get to the Aldermaston end of the scarf at the fence around the AWE there.

I made it back to Burghfield - with just a few stops for more pictures - in half an hour. It helped that there is quite a long downhill section and the wind was behind me, but I wanted to be sure to be back well before the planned 'linking time' of 1pm.

I took pictures at Burghfield of the linking when people rang bells at 1pm, then started running along the scarf, stopping to photograph the people holding it up. After almost a mile I gave up and returned back to Burghfield where a rally was to start at 1.30pm. It was actually a little later and including singing and poetry and other performances as well as speeches from Walter Wolfgang and Kate Hudson. It was still continuing when I left around 2.30pm to ride back to Reading and take the train home.
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Bring Back Mark Harper's Cleaner

Lambeth, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014

Protesters outside the flats where Isabella Acevedo cleaned for Tory Minister Mark Harper and others.

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Isabella Acevedo from Colombia worked as a cleaner in more than 10 flats in this building on Westminster Bridge Road, cleaning the home of Tory Immigration Minister Mark Harper and ironing his clothes for 7 years until February. They took advantage of her status without legal documentation to underpay her, and she received no holiday or sick pay.

As protesters gathered outside, a man came out from the reception in the building and told us we could not protest there but had to go across the street. He told them "I run everything here", but would not say whether he had any part in employing her but did say that she had used another person's ID. He told us that he was going to call the police. The protesters kept off the steps but continued their protest on the pavement.

None of the people whose flats she cleaned stood up for Isabella when she lost her job when her lack of documentation came to light, and no proceedings have been taken against anyone for employing her despite this. She lost her job and with it any income but faced legal proceedings over her immigration status - the government and media criminalising her as an 'illegal immigrant'. Mark Harper lost his job in February - but soon got another in a reshuffle.

On 21 July, police and fifteen border agency enforcement officers rushed into Haringey Town Hall where Isabella was waiting with other guests to attend her daughter's Registry Office wedding, dragging her away and taking her in a van to Yarl's Wood. They tried to stop the wedding too, questioning bride and groom, and telling them their papers were not in order, but the registrars found they were fine and the wedding went ahead, but of course without the bride's mother.

The circumstances of this arrest can only be seen to be vindictive, and the forced deportation of Isabella was equally so. Just hours after she had met with her lawyer in the detention centre to discuss her case, Serco guards came just after midnight and took her out of her room in her pyjamas. She wasn't allowed to make any phone call - not to her lawyer or her daughter - and a guard only packed a part of her belongings. By 6.40am that morning she was on a plane to Colombia, seated with a plain-clothes guard on either side.

Her deportation appears to have been carried out in secrecy and in an illegal manner to prevent action by family, supporters and trade unions or legal moves to stop it. The protesters call for her return to the UK, and for proper legal consideration of her right to remain in the UK. There is an appeal for a legal fund.

The man from reception came out a couple of times to tell people to get off the steps and towards the end of the protest, another man came out, shouting angrily and rather incoherently threatening to assault the person speaking at the time. His colleague followed him and persuaded him to go back inside again.
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Ukrainians & Georgians Putin Protest

Russian Embassy, Notting Hilll, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014
Women with Ukrainian flags hold posters 'The Real Face of Putin' - with a Hitler moustache
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Ukrainians and Georgians protested together at the Russian Embassy against President Putin, comparing his invasion of Ukraine to Hitler's 1938 march into the Sudetanland and calling for the UK to meet its obligations under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
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Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners

G4S, Victoria St, London. Fri 8 Aug 2014

A Palestinian woman hands out leaflets outside the G4S offices
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A protest was held outside the London HQ of G4S in solidarity with the many Palestinians, including hundreds taken in Gaza, detained and tortured by Shin Bet in Israeli prisons run by G4S. One of them, Arafat Jaradat died in February after 5 days of torture.

Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer reports that hundreds of Gazans are being taken by Israeli occupation forces and then interrogated by Special Unit 504 before being handed over to the Shin Bet for further interrogation. Photographs have shown Palestinian prisoners stripped of their clothing, sometimes blindfolded, held in humiliating conditions in the heat for extended periods, all in violation of international humanitarian law.

Under Israel’s 'Unlawful Combatants Law' Palestinians from the Gaza Strip can be detained for an unlimited amount of time without being charged or brought to trial under permanent detention orders which are only subject to judidical review by an Israeli District Court once every six months. The forcible transfer of these prisoners by the occupying power is a war crime in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
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Hiroshima Atomic Victims Remembered

Tavistock Square, London. Wed 6 Aug 2014

The Mayor of Camden lays a wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree

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A ceremony at the Hiroshima cherry tree in Tavistock Square on the 69th anniversary of the first use of an atomic bomb remembered the victims past and present of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and promoted the cause of peace in the world.

The cherry tree was planted there by the then Mayor of Camden, and the current mayor, Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli, welcomed everyone to the event. Among the others taking part, there were speeches from Kate Huson, veteran of the Labour Party Walter Wolfgan and Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett. Proceedings were introduced by Jeremy Corbyn MP and there were songs from the Peace Choir and WW2 veteran Jim Radford. We were reminded of the incredible record of Hetty Bower, who became a pacifist during the First World War and died earlier this year. She had attended many of these ceremonies, and spoke briefly at last years events. Anthhony Flaum sang and Buddhist monk Rev S Nagaze of the Battersea Peace Pagoda prayed, and there were messages from Hiroshima dn Nagasaki.

At the end of the event there was a two minute silence for the victims of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasiki and all victims of war, during which people came up to lay flowers and wreaths at the foot of the Hiroshima cherry tree.

 

 

No Glory No More War

Parliament Square, London. Mon 4 Aug 2014

Campaigners with tin hats and quotations in front of Big Ben
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Peace campaigners marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War with an event examining the truth about the war and calling for the 15 million who died to be commemorated by creating a world in which there is no more war.

Among those who spoke or performed at the 'No Glory - No More War' event were actors Sam West and Kika Markham, writer AL Kennedy, WW2 veteran Jim Radford, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition, CND's Kate Hudson, Quaker Hannah Brock, German historian Juliene Haubold Stolle and Neil Faulkner, the author of the pamphlet No Glory, which gives the real history of WW1, which far from being the "war to end all wars" and a "victory for democracy", was a military disaster and a human catastrophe, "driven by big powers' competition for influence around the globe, and caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16 million people dead and 20 million wounded."

While we remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who took part, we should also be aware of the pointlessness of the war and make use of its anniversary to promote peace and international co-operation.
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Haringey March & Rally for Gaza

Haringey, London. Sat 2 Aug 2014
Turkish Popular Front activists greet the march on its way through Wood Green
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Hundreds marched through Haringey to show their anger over the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the killing of civilians including many children. Many on the route showed their support, but two people shouted pro-Israel insults at the marchers.

The peaceful march, supported by people from across the various communties in Haringey started at Ducketts Common opposite Turnpike Lane Tube station and ended with a rally opposite the Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green High Road.

Keith Flett, president of the Haringey Trades Council, which has long supported the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said before the march: "This is about human rights, it is about justice, it is about stopping the killing of civilians, including children. There is a significant anger in the borough about what is happening in Gaza and we want to see that turned into something practical- collecting for and sending medical aid."
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Sainsbury's protest at illegal Israeli Goods

Brixton, London. Sat 2 Aug 2014
The manager from Sainsbury's tells protesters they cannot protest in his shop
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Protesters invaded the entrance to Sainsbury's, handing out leaflets to shoppers urging them to boycott Israeli goods, particularly food grown in illegal settlements on Palestinian land and urging Sainsbury's to profiting from Israeli war crimes.

The protest in Brixton was one of a number taking place at Sainsbury's stores because they sell products produced in illegal settlements inside the occupied Palestinian areas. Part of the ongoing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign, the protesters also wanted to show their anger and disgust at the horrific attack on Gaza then taking place, in which by this date over 1200 Palestinians, mainly innocent civilians including many children, had been killed by the Israeli forces.

The protesters had met outside Brixton station and held a meeting on Windrush Square to plan their protest before marching down to Sainsbury's. Security at the store stopped them going inside, and a few who managed to get in were quickly escorted out. But the protesters filled the lobby in front of the door and refused to move, and after a while sat down in the area. Customers were still entering and leaving the store but had to pick their way between the protesters.

As I left to go to North London, police were beginning to warn the protesters inside the lobby that they were committing an offence if they stayed after being told to leave, and it seemed likely that they would continue to protest outside the store rather than be arrested.
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Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds

De Beers, Piccadilly, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014

Protesters lined the front of the shop both here in Piccadilly and around the corner in Old Bond Street
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Protesters at De Beers in Piccadilly asked people to bocott diamonds cut and polished in Israel which contribute around a billion dollars every year to the Israeli military and security industries and fund Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.
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Vedanta told 'end your killing'

Lincoln Inn's Fields, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014
Protesters outside the Vedqanta AGM in Lincoln's Inn Fields
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Protesters outside the Vedanta AGM in London, along with others in Zambia and Odisha and Delhi in India told the mining company hated around the world to stop their killing, environmental devastation, anti union action and corruption around the world.

The protesters gathered on the opposite side of the road with banners and placards. The banners included one large inflatable one with the ironic message 'Anil says we have not touched one blade of grass', referring to the less than truthful statements made by the billionaire owner of Vedanta Anil Agarwal.

Several of the protesters have bought a share in the company so they can attend the AGM and ask questions. Shortly after they went inside a figure appeared on the roof of the adjoining building and threw a banner reading 'Vedanta Out of London' down over the roof.

The protesters say:

Vedanta Resources is a FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company guilty of thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and contentious companies in the world.

This year Vedanta have paid the price for their arrogance and greed. Many of their metals operations in India have been affected by local activism. In December their share price crashed and they dropped out of the FTSE 100. Anil Agarwal bought as many shares as possible, putting his current holding at 69%, virtually a private company. In Zambia, revelations by Foil Vedanta have shaken the country and led to demands for Vedanta's subsidiary KCM to be re-nationalised.

One high profile scandal has been over Vedanta's attempts to dig up the Nyamgiri mountain, sacred to the Donria people. Resistance over10 years by the tribal people in the area led to an Indian Supreme Court decision that has for the moment at least brought a halt to their mining there. Foil Vedanta, the group organising the protest have also carried out research into the activities of Vedanta's subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), which poisoned thousands of people, causing ongoing birth deformities, in major pollution spills in 2006 and 2010. They showed that KCM, which has claimed they were making a loss and so could not afford to pay they fines, or even their tax bill, were actually making around $500 million/year.
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Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade

Windrush Square, Brixton, London. Fri 1 Aug 2014
Rastafarians say 'we have been waiting to return since the 1st of August 1834' (Emasncipation Day.)
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On the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Rastafaris met at Brixton to march to Parliament demanding reparations for the descendants of those taken from Africa by the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Marcus Garvey left his native Hamaica at the age of 23 and traveled through central America, eventually working as a journalist. In 1912 he came to England where he worked as a journalist for the for the African Times and Orient Review, and studied law and philosophy at Birkbeck College. In 1914 he returned to Jamaica where he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)on 1 August 1914 as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into "one grand racial hierarchy." He went on to the USA and worked at establishing the UNIA there. A meeting on 1 August 1920 at Madison Square Gardens was attended by 25,000 of the 4 million membership then claimed by the UNIA.

August 1 was chosen as the founding date for the UNIA and for the Madison Square meeting and this protest as it was the 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire.

In 1999, the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years as compensation to the descendants of those who have been enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade. At the time this was around 10 times the annual production of goods and services of the entire planet.

Five years later, Lloyds of London was uncucessfully sued by the descendants of African slaves for compensation. In 2004, a group of Jamaican Rastafari movement groups argued that European countries, particularly Britain, should pay £72.5 billion to resettle 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa, but the British goverment rejected their claim. Other claims havebeen lodged in 2007 by Guyand, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda, More recently Barbados has established a task force to keep up the claim for reparations and Jamaica has set up a commission to renew its claims.

Today's protest, on the100th anniversary of Garvey's setting up of the UNIA was in the form of a march to Parliament to present the claim for reparations. The event started slowly, with drumming and dancing, and then there were some speeches. I had to leave after around an hour and a half before the march started.
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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2014; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

my london diary index
 

Aug 2014

South East Alliance 'Racist Thugs Not Welcome'
Sodexo: racism & unfair dismissal
Hands Up! Against racist Police Shootings
No More Page Three
Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killling
Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary
Gaza Protest - Stop Arming Israel
Divided Families protest over cruelty
Jubilee River & Taplow
Class War steps up 'Poor Doors'
Shame on You Theresa May
Solidarity with Ferguson
Second Anniversary of Marikana Massacre
Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act
March against ISIS massacres
R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres
Boycott Israel - Boycott M&S
Kurds Protest against ISIS
Class War's 'Poor Doors' Picket 3
End Fast Track deportations
Wool Against Weapons
Bring Back Mark Harper's Cleaner
Ukrainians & Georgians Putin Protest
Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners
Hiroshima Atomic Victims Remembered
No Glory No More War
Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Sainsbury's protest at illegal Israeli Goods
Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds
Vedanta told 'end your killing'
Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade

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