Poor Doors Truce Over – It's War!
One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015
A Mr Greedy placard and two fingers for Taylor McWilliams
Last November Class War halted the protests over separate doors for rich
and poor at One Commercial St after new owner Taylor McWilliams promised to
discuss the ending of separate entrances. But when talks to place last month,
broke down in minutes when it became clear that he was only prepared to make
cosmetic changes and not to end the segregated entrances.
The regular protests restarted today, though Class War had paid a brief visit
during the March for Homes on Jan 31. There was a new 'Mr Greedy property
developer bastard' placard too.
Building work is taking place in the side alley where the poor door is located,
and may possibly end with it a little more attractive. There is also new lighting
there, making it a little less risky for people coming home late at night,
though for the moment you have to make a lengthy detour around the block to
reach the poor door from the rear.
Muslim Lives Matter - BBC protest
Broadcasting House, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015
Protesters with #Muslim Lives Matter placards
opposite Broadcasting House
An emergency protest at the BBC condemned the killing of three young Muslims
in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, and the failure to report adequately
on this hate attack which they see as arising from systemic racism and Islamophobia
in the media.
Aylesbury rubble to Southwark Council
Southwark Council Offices, London. Tue 10 Feb 2015
Southwark residents dump waste from council demolition
of Aylesbury Estate in doorway of council offices
Residents dumped demolition waste at Southwark Council in a protest over
the so-called regeneration of their Aylesbury Estate. Despite a poll that
showed a large majority of residents wanted to stay there and were opposed
to any demolition, the council is going ahead with a scheme to demolish the
Activists, supported by residents, occupied part of a block on the estate
just over a week ago. In response Southwark Council sent workers to smash
up an adjoining empty block to prevent further occupation and later went to
court to criminalise the protest occupation rather than rely on slower civil
Housing campaigners gathered outside the council offices in a protest over
the council's action and their housing policy which involves demolishing social
housing and building large numbers of flats to let at high market rents, or
for sale to overseas property investors. Although the new schemes will include
some 'affordable' housing, properties are likely to be at much higher rents
than the current social housing for less spacious properties, and many existing
tenants will not be eligible for rehousing. Those who have bought properties
will receive compensation at rates below the cost of properties in the area
and most will have no alternative but to move well away from central London.
When a bike arrived with a trailer full of black bags, the residents quickly
picked these up and walked to the council entrance. One managed to get inside
the foyer, and another in the area between the inner and outer doors, but
most tipped the building rubble from the council's wrecking work onto the
pavement just in front of the entrance.
Although police were lined up across the front of the offices, they seemed
bemused by what was happening, though the two officers closest to me quickly
grabbed a woman holding up a poster about the occupation, enabling me to take
photographs and others to empty their sacks.
The protest continued outside for some time, with some short speeches about
the action and occupation, and with flyers calling for the council to adopt
a policy for housing rather than for social cleansing to staff leaving the
offices at the end of their work, people passing by and those entering the
offices who included councillors arriving for a meeting.
Surround Harmondsworth 6
Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre, London. Sat 7 Feb 2015
say 'End Fast Track' and 'Shut Down All Detention Centres NOW'
Well over a hundred Movement for Justice protesters at Harmondsworth
called for an end to the detained fast track system (DFT) which has been declared
illegal by the courts and and end to the scapegoating of immigrants; seeking
asylum must not be treated as if it was a crime. They hope to get all immigration
prisons like this one at Heathrow closed down.
The two immigration prisons at Harmondsworth, previously know as Harmondsworth
and Colnbrook, separated from each other only by a private road leading
to a BT depot, were recently put under a unified management provided by MITIE
and renamed 'Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre'. But changing
the name and transferring them to a different private company hasn't in any
way improved how these centres operate, with detainees held inside them still
being reported to be deprived of many of the rights they are supposed to have,
This was the sixth in the most recent series of protests which started last
year in support of mass hunger strikes inside immigration prisons across the
country. The Movement for Justice point out their continuing protests and
legal actions are having an effect:
Britain’s racist system of immigration detention has been thrown
into crisis by the victories of the growing movement, led by the independent,
collective organising of asylum seekers and refugees acting on Movement
for Justice’s political perspective to win. In July 2014 the High
Court declared the operation of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) system unlawful.
By December the Court of Appeal had ruled it UNLAWFUL to keep asylum seekers
on DFT if they are appealing against a refusal of their claim.
As Tony Gard of the Movement for Justice made clear, there is a need to build
a movement not just to oppose this particular "black hole at the heart
of British justice" but to unite the poor, those on benefits and others
in demanding change.
Since MITIE took over the running of the prisons, the protesters have been
limited to a small area at the front of the site, out of sight of the detainees,
but the noisy protests, with chanting, whistling, blowing of horns and dancing
as well as speeches can be heard by many inside these jails, letting them
know they are not forgotten and that many outside still support them. Detainees
have mobile phones and were able to be rung by the protesters and to tell
them about what was happening to them inside the prison and the many problems
Among the protesters who spoke were a number who have themselves been held
in centres like this, as well as some living in the community still seeking
asylum, unable to work and relying on the support of friends and concerned
groups to stay alive, never knowing whether their next weekly or monthly reporting
visit will end up with arrest and forcible detention. People had come from
across the country to be at the protest and to try to get justice for those
who have come here from desperate circumstances in their home countries.
Burberry Cleaners Strike
Regent St, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015
IWGB official picket outside Burberry in Regent St
Striking IWGB workers and supporters protested outside Burberry on the
wide pavement in Regent St for the London Living Wage, pay for covering absences,
uniforms and proper equipment, as well as an end to bullying management by
Security & police watched the noisy and colourful protest and tried to
interfere but the protesters stood up for their right to protest.
Benefit Sanctions protest at Croydon Job Centre
Croydon Job Centre, Croydon, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015
Handing out flyers at the Jobcentre on Dingwall Rd, Croydon
Protesters handed out leaflets about the unfair use of sanctions, which
many staff there feel they are forced to make to keep their own jobs, often
having to cut off benefits for trivial reasons, forcing more and more people
to use food banks.
I arrived shortly after the protest began, as security staff from the job
centre were insisting that the protesters stayed on the pavement rather than
come onto the wide area of grass and driveways outside the job centre. The
protesters set up their stall on the table and handed out flyers to people
going past as well as to those entering or leaving the job centre.
Many of those who stopped to talk had stories about their own benefits having
been stopped, unfair 'fitness to work' tests or other benefit issues. Unfit
by design the system is also applied in an unfair manner. The protesters offered
some advice as to the rights of claimants and how to appeal unfair decisions.
After around half an hour a manager came out from the job centre to talk
to the protesters. He tried to defend the use of sanctions, saying that they
were effective in getting people back into work and insisted that - despite
much evidence to the contrary - they were applied fairly and according to
strict rules. He denied that there were any of the targets that various whistle
blowers have insisted exist to force employees to sanction more claimants.
Obviously he was concerned by the effect the protests were having on job centre
staff, as the protesters reminded them of the hardship and even suicides that
sanctions have led to.
The argument was conducted in a very civilised manner but showed the manager
was living in a world divorced from the realities where the great majority
of those forced into using foodbanks are there because of sanctions and delays
in the benefit system.
Croydon, with its tall buildings, always seems to be something of a wind
tunnel, and today there was a truly bitter wind sweeping down the open road
- more open than normal as the area opposite the job centre is now a large
building site for a luxury development of shops, offices and expensive flats.
As I walked away, too cold to stay longer, I passed a glass door to a tall
office block just along the road; fixed the glass said "Caution! Glass
awaiting Manifestation". With the way the screws are tightening on the
poor in our society it could just provoke one.
Getting By - Lisa's Book Launch
Young Foundation, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
Ken Loach , Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie, author
of 'Getting By' talk at the book launch
Lisa McKenzie's book 'Getting
By' is the result of her years of study from the inside of the working
class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling
her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand
the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for
others who have researched this and similar areas.
Earlier studies had of course given a great deal of information about the
lives of those in this and similar working class urban areas. The same location,
St Ann's on the edge of central Nottingham, had been studied by Ken Coates
and Richard Silburn in the late 1960s and published in their book
Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen, published as a Penguin Special
Like many similar areas of other cities, St Ann's was then undergoing a huge
slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some
of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left
many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived
Similar things were happening in cities across the country, and I'd had some
experience of them in Manchester, where the Hulme and parts of Moss Side that
I'd walked through as a first year student were razed to the ground, and then
replaced, largely with anonymous blocks - many of which have now been redeveloped
A few years later, living on the edge of the area in similar working-class
Victorian housing I became involved in the area, both as a volunteer interviewer
for the social science department on a project on racial attitudes between
neighbours on the council estates (a follow-up in Manchester to the work of
Rex and Moore in Sparkbrook published in their 1967 Race, Community and
Conflict) and as a political activist in the Moss Side Housing Action
Group, which attempted to organise local opinion and encourage it to
participate in planning for the rebuilding of the area through 'Planning
for Real' exercises, as well as taking part in the local elections.
MSHAG was possibly the first UK group to carry out such participatory planning
exercises around 1968 (I think the idea came from Germany or Scandinavia)
which became more common some 10 years later. Shortly afterwards there were
kits available published by the University of Nottingham, perhaps based on
the work of the St Ann's Tenants' and Residents' Association from
Nottingham which was active at around the same time. MSHAG failed to change
the council's plans at the time, but did unofficially involve some of the
city's younger architects and planners and certainly influenced later redevelopment
in Manchester and elsewhere.
My first major photographic project in Hull in the 1970s, centered around
the mass redevelopments that were still happening there, repeating many of
the mistakes that we had agitated against in Moss Side. Eventually it presented
a wider view of a city in transition in the show and 27 years later the book
'Still Occupied - A view of Hull'.
The book launch took place very appropriately in the Young Foundation in
Bethnal Green, established by Michael Young as the Institute
for Community Studies in 1954 (it became the Young Foundation when it
merged with the Mutual Aid Centre in 2005, three years after Young's death.)
Young, together with Peter Willmott, published the seminal Family
and Kinship in East London in 1957.
At the opening were quite a large cross-section of political activists involved
in housing issues across London, some of whom spoke at the event, among them
Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, and others from New Era and West Hendon.
Also at the event was film director Ken Loach, whose Cathy Come
Home (written by Jeremy Sandford) on homelessness made a huge impact
in 1966 and in 2000 was voted the second best British TV programme ever made
(after Fawlty Towers!)
Lisa, now research fellow at the LSE, intends to stand against Iain Duncan
Smith in the May elections in his Chingford constituency as the candidate
for the Class War party. It promises to be an interesting campaign.
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
People gather outside the occupied block to go and leaflet
the estate about a public meeting
Protesters about the demolition of social housing and its replacement by
private developments with little or no social housing on the Aylesbury Estate
and elsewhere in London occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland
Road after the March for Homes on Saturday.
I came to see them on Thursday, but was unable to climb up to the occupation
on the first floor as even without a large camera bag I would have found the
climb difficult. There is one open flat on the ground floor which I briefly
looked inside, but it was extremely dark and nothing of interest was happening
there, although another neighbourhood assembly was scheduled for a few hours
The occupiers have had a lot of support from residents almost all of whom
want to stay on the Aylesbury estate. After the area was given regeneration
status, a poll of the residents gave a large majority against the proposed
redevelopment. The flats were well designed, built to Parker Morris standards
of space and are mainly in good condition, though in need of some modernisation,
but Southwark council wants to replace this and other estates, making deals
with private developers, which will result in properties built to meaner standards
of space, fitting more properties into the same area. Although the plans include
some affordable housing, most schemes of this sort end up with much less than
anticipated, and in any case so-called affordable rents are much higher than
current rents and beyond the means of most current residents in the area.
Many of those who live on the estate are on short tenancies which do not
qualify them for rehousing and will have to find private rented accommodation
elsewhere, and those who have acquired their flats are offered compensation
at a fraction of the cost of any similar accommodation in the area and will
have to move much further from the centre of London.
Close to central London and with good transport links, areas like this are
prime sites for developers, but the developments that will result will have
little housing that ordinary Londoners can afford. The estate which was started
in 1963 is one of the largest public housing estates in Europe, with 2,700
I went out with some of the volunteers who had come to distribute flyers
for a public meeting in the flats across the estate. They split into pairs
and I went with those who were putting them in the letterboxes of the flats
on the top floor of what is I think the longest single block on the whole
estate, Wendover. Its flats number 1-471 and from the top floor there are
extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor
seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built.
At one point we came across a notice on a door 'Danger - Do Not Use - Unsafe'
but it looked perfectly safe and we went through it, to find a broken window
through which were were able to get a clear view.
Around the Elephant
Elephant & Castle, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
The Underground substation -a memorial to Michael Faraday-
in the Elephant and Castle roundabout at dusk
On the way to the Aylesbury Estate and after leaving it I walked through
the Elephant making some panoramas and a few other pictures. On the way there
was some winter sunshine, and as I returned the light was fading fast.
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Trafalgar Square and DCMS, Whitehall, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
try to deliver their petition to the National Gallery, but no one from management
would come to take it
The National Gallery has told 400 of its 600 staff they are to be taken over
by a private company. These staff are responsible for the security of the
paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise
school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.
A private company CIS has already been brought in to “temporarily”
take over the services in a third of the gallery at the additional cost of
hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.
It is also a scandal that the National Gallery is the only major museum or
gallery that does not pay the London Living Wage. Privatisation threatens
the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on
PCS members out on a five day strike against the privatisation were incensed
when management suspended one of the union's senior reps and member of the
negotiating team at the ACAS talks, Candy Udwin, accusing her of breaching
commercial confidentiality. They called it a "disproportionate act of
unfathomable bad faith" and demanded her re-instatement.
Nobody came to answer the door when they knocked to deliver their petition
with around 40,000 signatures against privatisation, so a group went inside
the Sainsbury Wing to deliver it. Security there tried to get them to leave,
promising they would try to get a member of the management team to come down
and receive it. After some discussion and arguments the PCS members left and
rejoined those outside to ask union members if they should leave it with the
Head of Security who had promised to personally hand it to management who
would not come down. This was agreed and the petition was handed over.
The strikers and their supporters then marched through Trafalgar Square and
Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned
had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. Three people were allowed to
take it inside for a short meeting while the protest continued outside, with
Jeremy Corbyn MP joining it and speaking. Graham Eve, the PCS branch organiser
for the National Gallery then came out from the DCMS to give a report on what
had happened at the meeting and the protest then ended.
Close Guantanamo - 8 Years of protest
US Embassy, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
Protesters get ready for the start of the monthly protest
at the Embassy
The London Guantánamo Campaign held its usual monthly protest at the
US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. These have now kept these up for 8 years,
calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including
Londoner Shaker Aamer.
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