london diary

january 2008


my london diary

January Main Stories

New Year Parade
Burma Peace Walk
Twelfth Night - The Lions Part
Defend Asylum Seekers
Bow and Roof Unit
Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo - London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo - Parliament Square Rally
Hizb ut Tahrir against Bush tour
Siena Airport Protest
CSG Border Post
Freedom to Protest - Downing St
End Gaza Seige
Kenyans Protest Election Fraud
Blessing the Thames
Protest Against Deaths in Prison
Middle & Inner Temple - 400 Years
Ashura Day Procession
Police March for More Pay
Police Remember Colleagues Killed on Duty
Stop Kingsnorth - No New Coal
Kenyans protest against Ugandan President
Protest against Musharraf
Feminist Fightback
Kings Army remember Charles I
London Bloggers
Regents Park, Park Square & Park Crescent
Beckton Alp and DLR

The first Westminster New Year Parade I attended was an almost entirely American event, full of marching bands and young girls bouncing up and down with pom-poms and expensive denstistry. It was perhaps the London bombings that really put paid to much of that, many of the Americans deciding to stay at home and avoid the dangers of foreign travel, although the ridiculous exchange rate may also be another factor. There were still more than enough marching bands and cheerleaders to keep any sane person happy, but nothing like the wall-to-wall spectacle it used to be.

In their place we have more British eccentrics of various hues, along with entries from a number of the London boroughs

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Burma gained its Independence from the United Kingdom on January 4, 1948, sixty years ago on Friday. On Saturday, monks led a peace walk from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square in London to remind the world that Burma is still repressed by a brutal military junta that savagely puts down peaceful protests, killing thousands of monks who demonstrated last year on the streets of Burma.

The two hundred or so people marched in silence, with just the occasional banging of bells and some quiet chanting by some of the monks. They were joined by more people at Trafalgar Square and there were some short speeches, with the monks holding lanterns.
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Piccadilly Circus is an odd space in the centre of London, where tourists come, look around and wonder what they are supposed to do or see. The only time I've seen it have any real life is for the O.I.L valentine celebrations that have happened a few times around Eros. When I passed through there today there were a few young women adevertising a manga and gaming e-store, and of course Eros, which few people ever really look at in detail.
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The Lions part are a group of actors who perform on various occasions including two annual events on Bankside in London, starting close the the Globe Theatre with which they have strong links. I've previously photographed their October Plenty in 2005, but today was their Twelfth Night.

This began with the arrival by boat of the Holly Man, greeted on his landing by the Bankside Mummers, including a rather jolly devil (though he had brought his own bagpiper) , the Mayor of Southwark and the London Town Crier.

The Holly Man (a winter Green Man) then wassailed the Thames, before the whole crowd moved onto the steps of the Globe Theatre for further wassails of a small apple tree and the theatre by the Mayor and the Holly Man.

The Mummers performed an at times hilarious folk-play involving St George in several sword fights, being killed by a stab in the back from the Turkey Sniper, and then finally revived, all good and largely clean fun with a refreshing lack of political correctness. Then we all had to eat cakes to find who would get the golden bean and green pea and be crowned king and queen for the day.

the procession then led off to one of Southwark's finest buildings, the George Inn, in the High Street, always worth a visit, where there was more wassailing, dancing and more.

Unfortunately this made the George rather crowded, so along with several other photographers I slipped off to another nearby pub for a drink before coming home.
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Communications House, more or less next to London's Old Street tube station, is one of the centres to which asylum seekers have to make their regular reports, knowing when they enter that these may be their last steps as free persons on British soil, and they may emerge in the back of a van on their way to a detention centre to wait for a flight back to possible imprisonment and torture in their country of origin.

Some of those who took leaflets and stopped to talk to the demonstrators were themselves refugees. But few of the others who walked past (except those who worked at Communications House) were aware of what was going on in this rather anonymous building, and some were clearly appalled to learn.

It is hard to take the claims that this is a Christian country seriously when you look at the way we treat those who are seeking asylum here, or indeed other migrants who are here. With the recent news frenzies about Tony Blair becoming a Catholic my thoughts were that he should be spending some awfully long and difficult sessions in the confessional, and his policies towards the asylum seekers would be one of many difficult items. And surely that father in the manse that Mr Brown likes to parade should be screaming "Gordon, Read your effing Bible!"

So it’s a matter of some regret that I have to announce that neither Canterbury or Father Cormac Murphy O'Connor have yet put in an appearance at the regular monthly protests outside Communications House, held usually on the first Tuesday of every month from 1-2pm (perhaps if they have their diaries handy, they might make a note of it.)

These regular protests are organised by London Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) but others are welcome to come and to use the open mike. Announcements of them are posted on Indymedia.
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While in London I made a visit to 'Roof Unit' in Bow to collect the pictures I had in their show at [space] gallery in Hackney in October- December 2007. I took a few pictures as I walked there from DLR Limehouse and you can also see why they call themselves Roof Unit!
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Friday was the sixth anniversary of Guantánamo Bay, America's shameful home goal in the so-called 'war on terror".' Six years on there are still two British residents held there among the over 250 prisoners still illegally held, Binyam Mohamed and Ahmed Belbacha. And although Jamil El-Banna and Omar Deghayes have been released, the Spanish government is now trying to extradite them to face.

There was a day of action in London, with various events around the city organised by different groups.

I started in Grosvenor Square, just around the corner from the US Embassy, which appears to have taken over the street which goes along its frontage, presumably as a sneaky way of preventing demonstrations there.

Amnesty had set up a pair of Guantánamo cages there, each with a prisoner, and had kept up a vigil overnight with a relay of suitably orange-clad 'detainees'.

For the morning session another hundred or so volunteers were similarly dressed, lined up and then harassed by 'guards' with some impressive dogs.
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The London Guantánamo Campaign, together with Cageprisoners had organised a day of action, which included vigils and leafletting at various carefully chosen locations around London during the day, as well as a final event at Parliament Square in the early evening.

I managed to get to two of these, outside the Regents Park Mosque where Friday prayers were taking place, and at outside Paddington Green Police Station, chosen because this is where terrorist suspects are detained and questioned.
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I was back at the US Embassy, this time at the northwest corner of the square, for a vigil organised by the London Catholic Worker COmmunity from 4-6pm. As well as displaying placards, there was also a short circle of sharing before a number of candles were lit and the names of Guantánamo prisoners were read out and those who have died in captivity remembered.
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The final session at Parliament Square was attended by roughly a hundred people, and there were a number of excellent speeches from Victoria Brittain, writer of 'Enemy Combatant' with Moazzam Begg (who also spoke), laywers including Gareth Peirce and case-worker and hip hop singer Chris Chang, Bruce Kent, Yvonne Ridley, Jean Lambert MEP and Jackie Chase, who reminded us of the urgent need to campaign for the release of the remaining prisoners, particularly Binyam Mohamed, whose life is thought to be very much at risk because of his mental state.

The evening ended with a surprise announcement that following reports by peace activists from We Are Change UK and The Campaign to Make War History, the War Crimes division of the Counter Terrorism branch at Scotland Yard are now investigating allegations of 14 criminal offences committed by Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith and others which resulted in the deaths of Iraqi citizens during the armed invasion and occupation of Iraq. They promise more information at a press conference on Tuesday.
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Supporters of Hizb ut Tahrir Britain gathered at Marble Arch on Saturday for a march to the Saudi Embassy in Mayfair to show their opposition to George Bush's Middle East tour and American policies in the region as well as against the current corrupt ruling elites in the area.

By the time the rally at Marble Arch began there were perhaps 500 people at Marble Arch, the women staying in one corner of the area while the men gathered in front of the microphone. Some had earlier said prayers in a corner of the square.

Despite the peaceful intent of the march, and its highly organised nature - at one point it seemed likely there would be more stewards than other marchers - there was a very strong police presence for the event at Marble Arch and along the route, which seemed completely unnecessary.

The first speaker spoke in English, and was followed by a second who spoke both in English and Arabic. The speakers denounced American plans for a settlement of the Palestine-Israel problem with a two-state solution as well as other American approaches in the area. Hizb ut Tahrir beleives that the region can only truly be stable through the formation of a new Islamic Khalifah for the region, which will bring both peace and harmony to the area with "Jews, Christians and Muslims and peoples of other religions" able to "live together in peace and dignity as they did in the Khilafah of the past."

After the speeches the march, now nearer a thousand strong, moved off down Park Lane towards the Saudi Embassy, led by the men, with the women together as a group behind them.
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If you had enjoyed glorious summers in your parents (or grandparents) villas around Siena (where Tony Blair used to get his free holidays) you might hahave been a part of the small but very select demonstration taking place in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

This was against the expansion of an airport, but not Heathrow, at Siena, Italy and was on the closing day of the Siena exhibition at the National Gallery, as the airport extension is backed by the same bank as that show.

the protest group is apparently led by the young grandson of a Lord, and includes models and young people from some of the richest families around (the kind of people who own Guiness rather than drink it.)

If you had a nice big villa there you probably wouldn't want all sorts of riff-raff coming in on cheap flights either, and would have been there outside the National Gallery too.

Actually I'm opposed to any airport expansion, so good luck to them. But lets hope they can get back from Siena for the protests over Heathrow.
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The CSG (citizens supporting government) set up a Freedom to Protest Border Point again on Saturday on the edge of the SOCPA zone at Trafalgar Square to advise the public about the danger of passing into the an area where freedom is severely restricted.
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When I got down to Downing Street later on in the afternoon, there were three demonstrations taking place, one on the pavement immediately outside the gates and two in the pens across on the opposite side of Whitehall.

A couple of hundred Freedom to Protest demonstrators were actually in front of the gates, and for once the police seemed to be adopting a fairly relaxed attitude. Then a number of protesters decided to sit or lie down in the middle of the road, and this prompted the police to take action.

They grabbed the first couple of guys who went down on the tarmac and handcuffed them as well as seeming to try out a few strange holds. But when a dozen or so more went down in a neat line along the carriageway they decided to change tactics. A squad of around 20 police who had been waiting 50 yards down the road rushed in and began by clearing those of us standing on the road back onto the pavement.

Any who showed a reluctance to move were given a hand, sometimes with what seemed like unnecessary force. I was almost knocked flying when they threw one man bodily backwards - and I was in his way, probably rather luckily for him, as otherwise he could well have cracked his head open on the pavement.

They then took those lying down one by one, disengaging them where they had linked arms (and I think some pain compliance holds were used to assist in this) and then marching them back to the pavement where they were warned they would be arrested if they returned to the road. Again one or two of the officers appeared to be enjoying themselves with infllicting unnecessary pain as they twisted arms behing backs and generally pushed the guys around.

I didn't see the incident, but Brian Haw had the small video camera he was using pushed into his face by an officer, and there was as nasty trickle of blood running down his left cheek. He tried to make a complaint about the way he had been treated, but the officers either ignored him or told him they were too busy and he could go to a police station. Some did seem rather amused at his injury and complaints.
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Across the road, one demonstration was calling for an end to the seige on Gaza. There seemed to me to perhaps be a hundred or so people taking part, though I later watched an Internet TV report in which they were described as 'thousands'. I think a few more supporters arrived after I left, including Tony Benn.

Included among them were some Jewish demonstrators, and there was a banner annnouncing it was kosher to boycott Israeli products - a part of the J-BIG campaign set up as a part of the overall campaign to boycott Israeli goods (The BIG Campaign: by a number of British Jewish peace activists who feel that they will not be open to the charges of anti-Semitism often made by the Jewish community against those who oppose Israel's policies and in particular the occupation of Palestinian lands.
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The second and perhaps slightly smaller group of demonstrators were Kenyans, protesting about the electoral fiddle in their country, where the man who almost certainly lost the vote had set up an electoral commission that was certain to declare him as the winner, and so he remains President
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Sunday I went to photograph the blessing of the River Thames, which takes place in the centre of London Bridge, with clergy and congregations from St Magnus the Martyr at the city end of the old London Bridge, and Southwark Cathedral on the other side.

I didn't get as good a picture as last year (see right) of the actual throwing of the cross into the river, as it just wasn't possible to get into the right position at the critical time - you can't barge the clergy out of the way, and it all happens too quickly to be polite. But the best shot would really be if I was levitating a few feet out from the bridge over the river, and there are some skills I still have to hone. But it was again an interesting event, with plenty of other pictures.

After the ceremony we took up the invitation to go back to St Magnus for a drink and lunch, and also took the opportunity to look around this splendid old church, really an impressive interior, and it also contains an interesting model of the old London Bridge.
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Jamie Pearce* died in Holloway Prison on 10 December 2007, aged only 24. She was the eighth woman to die in jail in 2007. Eventually there will be an inquest which may provide information about how and why she died. Prisons have a duty to take care of everyone entrusted to them, and any death represents a failure. Marie Cox, aged 34, also died in Holloway, just a few months earlier on 30 June 2007. "To lose both" in such a short time - to borrow a phrase from Mr Wilde, "looks like carelessness."

A small group of demonstrators gathered at the entrance to Holloway on the afternoon of Wednesday 16 January to display banners and lay flowers in memory of Jamie Pearce, although very little seems to be known about this young woman. Two of those present were mothers whose children had died in jail, the organiser of the protest, Pauline Campbell, and Gwen Calvert, whose son Paul died on remand in Pentonville in 2004. The jury at his inquest gave a damning verdict against the prison, finding "systematic failures, incomplete paperwork, lack of communication, disablement of cell bells, breach of security..."

Sarah Campbell was only 18 when she died in Styal prison in 2003, her death recorded by the prison authorities as "self-inflicted." Two years later the inquest found that her death was caused by antidepressant prescription drug poising and said that there was a "failure in the duty of care" and that "avoidable delays" in summoning an ambulance contributed to her death.

I first met Pauline Campbell when she spoke powerfully about her daughter's death at the United Families and Friends protest against deaths in custody in Trafalgar Square in October 2003. During the afternoon at Holloway she quoted to me something I had written in October 2006, and which I had actually forgotten. "One small piece of positive news came from Pauline Campbell, whose daughter Sarah Campbell died in Styal prison in 2003. She said 'After nearly four years of my struggle for justice - in a highly unusual move, the Home Office have finally admitted responsibility for the death of my daughter Sarah Campbell, including liability for breach of Sarah's human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Don't give up the fight.' It is a fight that has taken Pauline to many protests around the country on behalf of other women who have died in prison and numerous arrests, recognition by the 2005 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for her campaigning."

She also became a trustee of the Howard League for Penal Reform. After one of her 14 arrests she was brought to a criminal trial in September 2007 and acquitted when the judge threw the case out of court.

Since Sarah Campbell's death in 2003, forty women prisoners have died. We've suffered for many years under successive governments who have courted tabloid approval for being 'tough' by criminalising and banging up many more women and men with little regard for worsening conditions in prisons. Positive ideas and programmes have largely been sidelined, and the incredible number of prisoners with mental health problems largely brushed under the carpet. It's a system that is failing, one one whose failings actually greatly compounds the problem by increasing reconviction rates.

An inspector and seven police officers lined the roadway leading into Holloway, restricting it to a small area of pavement - and then periodically complained that the pavement was being obstructed. They did allow an adjoining area of pavement normally open to the public but apparently on prison property to be used briefly for photographs, but then made their own job considerably harder by insisting that the demonstrator and press moved back onto the relatively narrow pavement.

At intervals through the long afternoon, SERCO vans came to bring more prisoners to jail. As they did so, Pauline Campbell rushed forward with her double-sided placard demanding 'HOLLOWAY PRISON LONDON JAMIE PEARCE, 24 Died 10 DEC 2007 WHY?' and the line of police stopped her. The first time this happened she was pushed very forcefully by the Inspector, sending her flying to the ground. It looked for a moment as if we were going to see a repeat of the disgraceful treatment given to her at last year's demonstration here (I wasn't present, but I have watched the video and seen the photos) but the police appeared to have rethought their approach, keeping hold of her and preventing her going through the police line rather than pushing her away.

The atmosphere during the demonstration was quite unlike any other I've been to; in many ways it was more like some soiree with Pauline Campbell as an attentive host, talking to people, introducing everyone to the others present and keeping track notes of everyone's details in her notebook. The police too came in for a great deal of her attention, although some seemed rather resistant to her attempts to educate them. Some at least resented being taken away from other duties to police this event. But at least some of the blame for what is happening must fall on police and prison staff who run the business and are in a position to observe its many failings first hand. It's hard to see why prison governors, chief constables, leaders of the various professional associations for prison workers and police aren't far more active in campaigning for reform - and it would be good to see some of them standing beside Pauline Campbell.
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* Later Pauline found that the prison had not even got her name right on the death certificate and that she was JAIME Pearce. What does it say for 'prison care' if they do not even care enough to enter prisoners names correctly?

The Knights Templar moved down from the north end of Chancery Lane to Temple around 1160, and of course built a church. Soon after they were suppressed in 1308, the site went to the Order of St John, and not long after they leased the site to some law students.

Henry VIII didn't just become head of the church in England to make it easier to change wives, but also used it to grab for himself the huge riches of the monasteries - including the Temple site with its two templar halls full of lawyers. (When there was a pilgrimage of several thousand in protest, led by lawyer Robert Aske, Henry promised to look into their complaints and most went home happy. Then he had Aske hung in chains from a church tower until he starved to death and forgot his promises. But Aske came from Grey's Inn, not the Temple.)

In 1608, James I granted the site in perpetuity to the Honourable Societies of the Middle and Inner Temple for training and accomodating barristers, on condition that they also looked after the Temple Church.

Unfortunately most of the buildings were burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666, Middle Temple Hall only surviving because the buildings around it were blown up to make a fire break. Middle Temple also had its own major fire a few years later.

The Luftwaffe too did their best in the 1940s, and much of the Inner Temple buildings are from the 1950s. But some older parts remain, with cobbled streets and gas lamps providing a suitable atmosphere for many historical films. Recently the Da Vinci Code has increased the number of tourists visiting the area.

Many of the most famous men trained for the law here, including many best known for rather different careers, including Dickens, Thackeray, Sheridan, Henry Fielding, Inigo Jones, Sir Walter Raleigh and Wolf Tone. And of course in more recent years many women as well.
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I was suprised to find the annual Ashura Day procession in London referred to as a part of "Hidden London". It isn't too easy to hide several thousand people walking along one of the major roads in the capital, especially as some of them are banging drums and blowing trumpets, while others chant through loudspeakers to lead the mainly black-clad walkers in their mourning, remembering the martyrdom of Husain and his small group of followers at Kerbala, Iraq in 61AH (680 AD.)

Of course, its an event that was mentioned on this site in 2000, and I've photographed it in several other years, certainly 2006 and 2007. But then most of the events that I photograph pass unnoticed by that other site!

If you want to put it in your diary for next year, the commemoration of Ashura takes place on the 10th of Muharram. It even has a Facebook group.

I walked to Lancaster Gate with the procession, but by then it was getting rather dark to take pictures easily, and I left them as they continued on the the Islamic Centre in Penzance Place in Notting Hill.
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Along with what seemed like a thousand other photographers, I had decided that the police demonstration against their recent pay award was one that I had to cover. (We did wonder idly whether it was also being a good day out for burglars and other crims across the country - though of course all those attending the demo were off-duty.) But although it showed the ability of the federation to motivate officers on the issue of pay, bringing coachloads from over the country, it was a drab event on a drab day. For perhaps the one and only time, I've absolutely no reason to think that the figure given by police of around 20,000 attending was seriously in error. It was a signifant size, although rather smaller than many other demonstrations I've photographed in current years. I think a more normal police estimate would probably have put it at 10,000!

Of course it's axiomatic that the public services get screwed by governments, although, along with the armed forces, the police have over the years got a relatively easy ride compared to teachers and others, and I'm pleased to see a current trend to reverse that. The ride by some Devon and Cornwall police from Exeter to be with the demonstration was one of the few point of interest - just a pity the demo wasn't a couple of days later so they could have joined up with Critical Mass.

The Evening Standard gave the event the headline 'BNP chief on police march', and yes, the the Barking & Dagenham councillor and BNP Mayoral candidate Richard Barnbrook was there - as too was the Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick. Unlike Barnbrook, Paddick came to see the press at the beginning of the march for interviews and photographs, although it seemed to me that none of the police wanted to talk to him, although many most have been his former colleagues. It may be ok now to be gay and out in the police, but if you have liberal views best hide them under your helmet.

The press and photographers aren't too popular with the police either, and at one point when I walked along with the demonstration I was jostled and sworn at, told to get out. But 99% of the demonstration was well-behaved and just rather dull. How many pictures can you take of a crowd in white baseball caps?

As a crowd it really stood out in London for the very few black faces it contained - certainly very few compared even to the proportion among those policing the event, let alone those watching as it went through the streets around Victoria station.
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Fortunately a few left-wing groups turned up to give the police some advice and examples on demonstrating. The Space Hijackers had a Professional Protesters Stall at Hyde Park Corner, offering advice on making placards (and materials - although I don't think anyone took up their offer), handing out leaflets on 'Your Rights as a Proteser' as well as some suitable chants. Their:
What do we want?
More Money!
When do we want it?
Backdated from Spetember 2007!
did draw a few smiles and even the occasional cheer from those walking past, but most showed a total lack of humour, and there was quite a lot of abuse and offensive language.

Earlier, a group of around twenty from 'Class War' had made their opposition clear at the start of the march; the slogan on one cartoon showing four pigs in police uniform reading 'Bacon's pricy enough' (the second showed a member of the riot police being hit on the back of the head by a brick). Some FITwatch protesters gave out leaflets and then attempted to block the march by standing o the roadway. Their protest held up the start of the march for almost half an hour until the police on duty for the day made a couple of arrests. Surrounded by a media scrum, police tried hard to keep things relatively calm and made repeated attempts to the two to go back onto the pavement before making the arrest.
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I think there are many, many problems with the police, some of which arise from our problems with governments, although in some respects ours are still some of the better police forces around the world. Despite often having minor issues with them while working - and having once been threatened with a conspiracy to fit me up that was serious enough for me to make a complaint (and receive some kind of apology) there are still times I'm pretty glad they are there. Particularly when they drove up and rescued me from a vigilante attack.

Police - like firemen frequently put themselves at risk through their work, at times requiring considerable bravery; and serveral thousands have lost their lives serving us over the years. Although this is something that deserves public recognition, I was not sure it was entirely appropriate to make use of the National Police Memorial as a part of the demonstration over pay. But the ceremony that took place was certainly solemn and dignified and expressed deep feelings among those taking part.

Officers and families from around the country made their way to the Memorial at the top of the Mall. There was a short service, including the laying of wreaths and a two minute silence, followed by the playing by two pipers.
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Friday was a busy afternoon for demonstrations in London. I started in Pall Mall, outside the E.ON offices. This power company is a massive producer of pollutants, and its latest plans, recently approved by Medway Council, are for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth.

Currently this is awaiting government approval, but since it entirely contradicts their stated environmental policies it seems almost inevitable it will be given the go-ahead. When I left soon after the start of the demo there were perhaps 50 people present, but more may have come later.

Police were being rather officious in keeping the pavement clear, impeding myself and another photographer trying to cover the event. My reminder that police were supposed to allow the press to do their job was disregarded and I was told I was not allowed to stand on the edge of the pavement in the gaps between the police, although I would clearly not have been obstructing the pavement or getting in the way of the police carrying out their duty. So much for co-operation.
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From their I headed up to Whitehall, on my way passing the start of a demonstration by Kenyans against the Ugandan President Museveni, who has lent support to the fixing of the elections in Kenya.
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In Whitehall, a number of Pakistani protesters were waiting the arrival of President Musharraf who was expected to arrive by car at the Banqueting House. I took a few pictures and then left, deciding that I was unlikely to be able to get a decent picture when he arrived given the level of security.

One of the other photographers present mentioned that he had no difficulty in photographing Musharraf in Leicester, where he was allowed to be close enough to be able to reach out and touch him. It wasn't clear to us why photographers are thought to be so much more of a risk in London
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Finally I headed for the Borough, where Feminist Fightback were demonstrating outside the offices of the Christian Medical Foundation. The CMF gave misleading evidence to the Parliamentary Committee which was considering possible reforms of the abortion act last year, and a number of its members with little direct scientific knowledge also gave evidence as if they were expert witnesses. They also support (and hosts) the minority report, which is in part based on their unreliable evidence.

In particular the CMF is still pressing the government to reduce the current 24 week time limit on abortions. FF fixed up a washing line outside the CMF offices on which to hang cloth pieces with a number of their slogans and demands.

The CMF issued a press release stating that they welcomed the demonstrators and supported their right to protest - and also offered soft drinks and biscuits, as well as coming out to talk to the demonstrators (and film and photograph them.)

I think most of us would welcome a lowering in the number of abortions, but the way to do this is not by stricter laws on abortion. Similarly, the best approach to reducing the already small number of late abortions is to reduce some of the procedural bottlenecks that lead to delay in the system.

The practical arguments seem almost entirely on the side of the measures proposed by the feminists in simply being more effective and less hypocritical. But I also felt very much more at ease talking to the feminists than the christians, who somehow seemed to exude a self-righteousness that rather made my flesh creep. I'm with Charlotte Bronte when she wrote "self-righteousness is not religion."
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As a good Republican I don't share the sentiments of many of those taking part in the commemoration of the execution of King Charles I by the Kings Army. But it does make quite a spectacle, with the assembly of the regiments and the accompanying camp followers for the slow march down the Mall and across Horseguards Parade and through to Whitehall and the final ceremony next to the Banqueting Hall were the execution took place.

It's a relatively recent tradition, I think going back around 20 years, and the Kings Army is part of the English Civil War Society which was founded around 25 years ago.
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There is also a rather more serious Society of King Charles the Martyr, which is a Catholic Society of the Church of England, and was founded in 1894. It holds a commemoration on the actual anniversary of the execution on January 30, with the laying of wreaths at the Charles 1 statue and a Mass in the Banqueting Hall. But there is rather less to photograph.

So on Jan 30 as it was a rather nice day I took a walk in the alps, or rather the singular alp that London has on offer, at Beckton. Theoretically there are two, but the other is more of a pimple, while the northern alp is 36metres high. The gasworks started by Simon Adam Beck on agricultural land in 1868 became the largest in Europe, but closed down in 1967. The LDDC bulldozed all of the rubbish from the site into the two mounds, put a 2m capping, mainly of clay on top, and the larger one became a dry ski slope in 1989.

Despite the odd landslide it continued in use until 2001, and there were then plans for a 'Snowdome' with real snow on the site. The developer went bust, leaving the site in a dangerous condition with some exposed waste - which includes various nasty chemicals - acids, volatile hydrocarbons - including carcinogens such as benzene, cyanides. Meanwhile the LDDC had faded away, having done its job diverting large amounts of public wealth into private pockets, and had handed its problems to the local authority - in this instance, Newham, although the ski slope area is owned by Cresney who have had various ideas, including a possible hotel development on part of the site. It was also one of the shortlisted sites for a large scale artwork in the Channel 4 Big Art project to be shown in April 2008.

Although there is still access to the public open space around the alp, the ski slope site and the top of the alp is surrounded by a large fence. However there is a rather convenient hole in this, and since there was no notice telling me to keep out - and a very well-worn path on the other side, I carefully made my way to the summit to enjoy the views, before continuing my walk along the northern outfall sewer and then down along various paths through East Beckton to Manor Way and the Gallions Roundabout, where I took my life into my hands to dash across the Royal Docks way to the DLR station.
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London New Year Parade

Westminster, London 1 Jan, 2008
The Americans were still here, but fewer of them

And these dancers were from the London Borough of Harrow.
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Burma: Independence Day Peace Walk

Marble Arch - Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 5 January, 2008

Protests like this would be brutally repressed in Burma

Listening to the speeches in Trafalgar Square

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Eros and Piccadilly Circus

London. Sat 5 January, 2008

The white is lime from the water on these figures around the base of Eros.
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Twelfth Night - The Lions Part

Bankside, Southwark, London. 6th Jan, 2008

The crowning of King Bean and Queen Pea (and the mayor gets a globe!)
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Defend Asylum Seekers: Monthly London Protest

Communications House, Old Street, London. 8 Jan, 2008

Protesters tell passersby what happens in Communications House
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Bow and Roof Unit

Bow, London Tuesday 8 January, 2007

A view from the roof terrace at Roof Unit - with a crane. I like the new tower it adds to Canary Wharf!
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Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty International

US Embassy, London. Friday 11 Jan, 2008

Guards and Dogs harassed and humiliated the 'prisoners' in Grosvenor Square
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6 Years: London Guantánamo Campaign / Cageprisoners

Around London, Friday 11 Jan 2008

The group protesting at the Regents Park Mosque, London
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Guantánamo - US Embassy - London Catholic Worker

Grosvenor Square, London, Friday 11 Jan, 2008

A circle of protesters in the vigil outside the US Embassy
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Guantánamo Campaign / Cageprisoners in Parliament Square

Westminster, London, Friday 11 Jan, 2008

After many fine speeches, a simple message
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Hizb ut Tahrir protest Bush's Middle East tour

Marble Arch - Saudi Embassy, London. !2 Jan, 2008

Corrupt regimes in the Middle East must go and be replaced by Islamic Khalifah
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Young Rich Protest Siena Airport Expansion

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London 12 Jan, 2008

We can all support demonstrations against funding climate change
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CSG Freedom to Protest Border Point

Trafalgar Square/Whitehall, Saturday 12 Jan, 2008

To the left you have lost your freedom to protest
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Freedom to Protest - outside Downing Street

Whitehall, Westminster, London. 12 Jan, 2008

Police push protesters off the roadway
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End Seige on Gaza

Downing St, London 12 Jan, 2008
Protesters call for an end to teh Gaza seige and for a free Palestine.
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Kenyans Demand Justice after Election Fraud

Downing St, London, 12 Jan 2008

Kenyans say no to dictatorship
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Blessing the Thames

London Bridge, Sunday 13 January, 2008

Last year's event. This year too many people were in my way when the cross was committed to the waters.
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Protest Against Deaths in Prison

Holloway Prison, London. Wednesday 16 January

Police converge on Pauline Campbell as she tries to show her poster to an approaching prison van.
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Temple Festival: 400 Years of Middle & Inner Temple

City of London. Saturday 19 Jan, 2008

Middle Temple Hall dates from the C16, though restored after bomb damage in the Second World War
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Ashura Day Procession

Marble Arch, London. Saturday 19 Jan, 2008

Several thousand joined the march to remember the martydom of Husain
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Police March for More Pay

Westminster, London. Jan 23, 2008

Police on the march - along with BNP and Liberal Democrat candidates for London Mayor
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'Class war' demonstrator is arrested when she refused to move out of the road

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The professional protest stall offers advice to the police on making placards and more

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Police Honour Colleagues Killed on Duty

Police Memorial, The Mall, London. Jan 23, 2008
Preparing to lay wreaths at the National Police Memorial
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Stop Kingsnorth - No New Coal

E.ON Office, Pall Mall, London. Friday 25 January, 2008

Police kept demonstrators back against the wall and refused me permissio to work sensibly
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Kenyans protest against Ugandan President

Ugandan High Commission, Trafalgar Sq, London. Fri 25 Jan, 2008

The demonstration was just starting as I ran by
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Pakistanis protest at Musharraf London Visit

Whitehall, London. Friday 25 January, 2008

Waiting for Musharraf to arrive
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Feminist Fightback protest CMF Abortion lies

Christian Medical Fellowship, Southwark, London. Fri 25 Jan, 2008

Hanging washing on Marshalsea Street outside the CMF office
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Kings Army remember Charles I

Whitehall, London. Sunday January 26, 2008

Women and children form an important part of the Kings Army

Wreath at Banqueting House on 30th Jan
more pictures of the Kings Army

London Bloggers Meetup

Camel & Artichoke, Waterloo, London. Tues 29 Jan

What bloggers really look like! More pictures on the London Bloggers blog

Regents Park, Park Square & Park Crescent

London, 30 Jan, 2008

The gardens in Park Square are private, but it isn't far to go to walk in Regents Park.
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Beckton Alp and DLR Beckton Branch

Beckton, Newham, London Jan 30, 2008

East London University from the DLR

And a strikingly decorated shed at Gallions Reach
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on to Feb 2008








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