my london diary index
 

December 2009

Around Belper
Remember Gaza
Ashura Day Procession
Defend Harrow Mosque
Protest Over Israeli Party Leader
Bells Not Bombs!
DP's Christmas Do
Kurds Hunger Strike
COP Out Camp Out
The Wave
Marching to the Wave
Anticapitalist Block
The Wave - Before the March
World Association of Carbon Traders
Climate Emergency Rally
Climate Emergency Bike Ride
Bhopal - 25 Years of Shame
We Remember Ian Tomlinson

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Remember Gaza

Israeli Embassy, Kensington, London. Sunday 27 Dec 2009

A Palestinian speaks about the suffering of Gaza under Israeli attack
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Around a thousand people came to demonstrate at the Israeli embassy in London on Sunday 27 December 2009, the anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza. They called for an end to the siege of Gaza, justice for the Palestinian people and the trial of Israelis responsible for war crimes, and for Egypt to allow the Gaza peace convoy to proceed.

The protest was called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The Israeli embassy is in a private road and police provided a penned area for the protesters opposite the gated entrance to this on the other side of Kensington High Street. The space was soon filled to overflowing and after a while the demonstration spilled over into the road as well as spreading along it at both ends of the pen.

Police stood in a line in front of the demonstrators, both preventing them from moving forward and protecting them from the traffic which continued to flow, although by the end of the event only around half the roadway was usable.

As well as speakers from the organising groups, there were politicians including Jeremy Corbyn MP, and Palestinians from Gaza. Speakers made clear the terrible conditions faced by those living in Gaza because of the Israeli siege; much needed food, medical supplies and building materials are blocked from entering the country. Volunteers from Britain in the Viva Palestina aid convoy of more than 100 vehicles were due to enter Gaza today, but they were prevented from entering Egypt on Christmas Eve; speakers called for the Egyptian government to let the convoy pass. At least two drivers from the previous aid convoy in July were at the demonstration.

It was a noisy and spirited protest, but the joint efforts of stewards and police prevented things getting out of hand. Police generally kept the temperature low. Protesters who did cross the road were politely asked to return, and one who sat down and refused to move was carried back with reasonable care by smiling officers.

Also taking part in the demonstrations were orthodox Jews from Neturei Karta, who oppose Zionism and regard the Jewish occupation of Palestine as a crime. The organisation was also taking part in similar demonstrations in major cities worldwide, and a delegation of Jewish Rabbis is currently on its way to Gaza to show solidarity with the people of Gaza.
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Ashura Day Procession

Marble Arch to Kensington, London. Sunday 27 Dec 2009

Drums and Cymbals at the start of the march
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Shia Muslims held their annual procession through London on Ashura Day, the 10th of the Muslim month of Muharram to mourn the assassination of the Imam Hussain and his followers at Karbala in AH 61 (680 AD.)

Around two thousand men and women marched in separate blocks in the procession from Marble Arch to the Islamic Centre in Holland Park, accompanied by the beating of drums and the sounding of a trumpet. Most of those taking part were dressed in black for the solemn event, but some carried green flags and coloured banners, a few wore white tunics. As they walked many beat their hands against their chests as a symbol of their mourning, and some were weeping for the Imam Hussain and the martyrs of Karbala.

Many Muslims fast for the first nine days of Muharram and also take part in studying the philosophy of the Imam Hussain and of Islam. Many prayers are said and gifts are given to charity. On Ashura day itself, they do not eat food or drink water until the fast is broken at the time of mid-afternoon prayers, more or less when the procession started.

Imam Hussain the grandson of Mohammad and his followers had been told to accept the authority of the Caliph Yazid or to face death. It would have meant him abandoning the "true" Islam of his grandfather and was to him unthinkable. On the 2nd Muharram his family and a small group of loyal followers making their way to Kufa were surrounded by Yazid's arm and forced to stop at Karbala. Imam Hussain continued to refuse to pledge his allegiance, and on the 7th Muharram, Yazid's army cut off their access to the river, leaving them in the desert heat with no water from the next three days. On the 10th day, the Imam Hussain had made a final attempt to sue for peace, telling Yazid's army that he had no desire to take over power and reminding them that he was the grandson of the prophet and lived by Islamic values.

The army attacked Hussain and his followers who fought bravely, killing many, but they were heavily outnumbered by an army of thousands. By the end of the day Imam Hussain and his 72 companions including his male children had been slaughtered. The tents were burned and the women and children humiliated by being made to march as captives to Damascus - and some of the children died on the way.

Ashura remains central to Shia Muslims, reminding them of their faith and the need to stand up for it, as they say: "Every day is Ashura and every land is Kerbala."
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Defend Harrow Mosque

Harrow, London. Sunday 13 Dec 2009

Hundreds turned up to oppose a handful of anti-Muslim demonstrators
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Around five hundred anti-fascist demonstrators turned up to support the Harrow Mosque and to show a community united against a demonstration by the English Defence League and Stop Islamisation of Europe.

Stephen Gash of the SIOE had promised there would be 1500 supporters at the event, but at 2pm when their rally was due to start only six had arrived, a rather sorry looking small group standing in the middle of a large area of car park with hundreds police in the area around. Later a few more came and by the time Gash himself made it an hour later there were just over twenty.

Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism had organised the community to oppose the event, although the mosque and the council had requested that people stay away. But many local people, particularly many from the schools and colleges were determined to show their opposition to racism, and were joined by others from across London.

There was a rally on the pavement opposite the mosque, although speeches stopped so as not to interfere with prayer times inside. Eventually part of the crowd drifted over to watch the handful of protesters from a distance, with police holding them well back. After a few minutes of chanting and a certain amount of spontaneous derision the crowd move forwards to the wide defensive barrier police had set up across the car park and continued their demonstration from there.

The SIOE goes to great pains to deny it is a racist organisation, but works together with groups such as the EDL, and at previous demonstrations there have been clearly racist chants as well as Nazi salutes. Here the protesters mainly seemed too despondent to indulge in any organised chanting and I saw no salutes, though one or two made rude gestures at the press photographers who outnumbered them fairly massively. One protester however was holding up a crude A4 poster depicting a woman in a burkha which could be thought offensive.

Just before 3pm Ajmal Masroor, a spokesman for the Harrow Central Mosque and Masood Islamic Centre, came out escorted by police and spoke to the EDL/SIOE demonstrators. They had what appeared to be a calm discussion surrounded by police who kept the press well back, and he invited them to send representatives into the mosque to discuss the issues. Although I understand some of the demonstrators expressed an interest, the offer was not taken up. When Stephen Gash arrived with Anders Gravers Pedersen, the Danish founder of SIOE and a few more supporters shortly afterwards, Gash gave an interview in which he said there was no point in talking to the Imams, he wanted to talk to the Communities secretary John Denham and the Home Office.

Gash and Pedersen had brought the SIOE banner and a Danish flag with them, and the demonstrators now made a slightly more determined effort, holding up these together with a couple of Israeli flags. Although there were no speeches, several of those present gave interviews to the TV crews present.

It was impossible not to see a huge contrast between the support shown by the community and others for the mosque and against racism and the small and rather pathetic group holding their protest against it.

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Protest Over Israeli Party Leader

Hendon Hall Hotel, Hendon, London. Sunday 13 Dec 2009

Protest as a car enters the hotel site

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Around a hundred demonstrators turned up early outside the hotel in Hendon where ex-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was scheduled to speak to the Jewish National Fund to protest against her involvement in the Israeli assault on Gaza which began almost a year ago, and to call for an intensified boycott of Israeli goods and a free Palestine.

The protest was called by the Brent Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supported by others from across London. Those protesting included a number of Palestinians and Jews and Muslims, including the 'Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods' (J-BIG) whose banner read "It's Kosher to Boycott Israeli Goods', and there was also a banner for the 'International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.'

One demonstrator had a placard with the word 'GAZA' in red and the seasonal punning comment 'Chanukah Guilt', a reference to the traditional gifts of money (gelt or gilt) to children at Chanukah/Hanukkah, (though now they often get other presents,) which began on Friday. The other side of his placard reminded of some relevant Jewish history. Sir Gerard Kaufman, MP speaking last January in the House of Commons stated:

"The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts that her Government will have no dealings with Hamas, because they are terrorists. Tzipi Livni’s father was Eitan Livni, chief operations officer of the terrorist Irgun Zvai Leumi, who organised the blowing-up of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, in which 91 victims were killed, including four Jews."

Eitan Livni was arrested and sent to jail for 15 years for terrorism but escaped from prison. Her mother Sarah was also a leader of Irgun, involved in a train robbery and blowing up another train. It’s a family history of which she can be proud, but one she denies in refusing to deal with ‘terrorists’.

Tzipi Livni herself worked as an agent of the Israeli intellegence service Mossad in the early 80s in Europe, when they were involved in a number of missions to assassinate Palestinians allege to be terrorists in several capitals (according to The Times) before continuing her studies to become a lawyer. She rose quickly to the top of Israeli politics after becoming am MP in 1999, and became leader of the Kadima party in September 2008,. In the elections of Feb 2009 many expected her to replace Ehud Olmert as Israeli Prime Minister, but Benjamin Netanyahu gained a narrow victory.

Livni was to address a Jewish National Fund meeting. This organisation was founded in 1901 to buy land in Palestine for Jewish settlement and is owned by the World Zionist Organization. It owns around 13% of the land in Israel. JNF-UK claims that the JNF is "Israel's leading humanitarian and environmental Charity. We raise funds for the building blocks of everyday life in Israel such as reservoirs, irrigation systems, desalination plants, recycling schemes, forest planting, roads, housing and healthcare centres." Much of its work has aroused controversy, being seen as a deliberate attempt to wipe the former Palestinian presence from the very face of the country, for example by planting European pine trees in place of the native species and destroying evidence of former Palestinian villages and towns. Israeli historian and Palestinian rights activist Ilan Pappe describes it as trying "to wipe out the memory of the place and Europeanize it" and as "a colonialist agency of ethnic cleansing." It also works to consolidate the Jewish presence in highly disputed areas, particularly those outside the ‘Green Line.’

The Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee has considered the charity status of the JNF-UK largely because of the discriminatory land allocation practices and violation of human rights by the JNF - which led to the rejection of an application by the JNF-USA for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2007 - despite support from both the UK and USA.

As well the police who were in attendance there were also a number of Jewish men in dark suits stationed in the streets around the hotel where the event was taking place, but neither had anything to do except for a couple checking the people and cars that drove into the JNF event. Although the demonstration was at times noisy it was entirely peaceful.

What we didn't know then was that Livni had decided to cancel her visit as an arrest warrant had been issued for her the previous day in a court in Westminster as a war criminal under international law because of ther role in the attack on Gaza. Britain is one of four European countries - the others are Belgium, Norway, Spain - where former Israeli cabinet members involved in the war are advised not to visit. Instead in a late change of plans she addressed the conference over a video link. Israel is putting pressure on the UK to change its law so that such warrants can no longer be applied for in this way here.
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Bells Not Bombs!

Lockheed Martin UK, Carlisle St, London. Thursday 10 Dec 2009

A shopper wheels her trolly past a Santa Weapons Inspector outside the Lockheed Martin offices
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Trident Ploughshares, a group which campaigns "to disarm Britainís Trident nuclear weapons system in a peaceful, non-violent, open and accountable manner" held a Christmas demonstration at lunchtime on Thursday 10 December, 2009 at the UK HQ offices in London of Lockheed Martin, the giant US arms manufacturer which heads the consortium making nuclear bombs for the UK and the USA at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire.

Few if any of the people passing along Vauxhall Bridge Road were aware that the UK headquarters of bomb makers Lockheed Martin were just a few yards away in Carlisle Place, and many of them stopped to talk with the protesters and to sign the petition against replacing Trident as well as the Christmas card asking the company to stop making bombs and to invest in peace.

After an hour and a half of handing out leaflets, gathering signatures for their petition and card, a group of the protesters in Santa dress (and an odd reindeer) went to the building housing the Lockheed Martin offices to deliver their card. At the door they were met by a security man and the premises manager of the offices, which are shared with a number of other organisations, who told them that they could not enter the building and that nobody from Lockheed Martin was prepared to come out to meet them. He offered to take the card and deliver it to them, making sure that they got it, and after a short discussion his offer was accepted. At the request of the premises manager they left room for people to walk past on the pavement and to leave and enter the building.

The protesters then began to sing, start with their specially written "Lockheed Anthem" to the tune of 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeerí, which starts:

Lockheed the big bomb maker
Does some very nasty work
Building new nuclear weapons
Carlisle Place is where they lurk

After singing all three verses and choruses of this, they went on to other anti-nuclear carols for around 15 minutes, while one of the protesters with a Santa mask and a 'weapons inspector' white suit lay on the pavement in a black plastic body bag.

A number of people from the other companies in the building came in and out during the protest, but there was no sign of anyone from Lockheed Martin, who have offices on the second floor of Manning House, a fine example of Victorian architecture that was once the house of Cardinal Manning. Their lease comes up for renewal in around 18 months and it seems that the building's owners - and doubtless the other companies leasing offices there - will be glad to be rid of them. So next year's Christmas demonstration there may well be the last in Carlisle Place.

It's very hard to find any rational explanation for the UK government's dedication to the continuation of the UK nuclear weapons program and the replacement of Trident. It has been many years since we have had an independent nuclear deterrent - the very heart of our special relationship with the USA is that our nuclear weapons are essentially an offshore arm of the US nuclear capability.

There has been a massive expansion in the manufacturing capability of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston since 2005 costing well over £5 billion, at a time when US and other world leaders have been talking about cutting stocks of warheads, and making great efforts to stop countries such as Iran and North Korea developing a nuclear capability. The AWE is owned by a private consortium led by the major US arms company Lockheed Martin and including another US company, Jacobs along with Serco from the UK. It is perhaps not surprising to read in the Guardian that as well as making warheads for the UK the AWE also makes them for the USA.

Our nuclear program was once justified as a deterrent against Soviet attack during the years of the cold war. Since we are now celebrating 20 years since the break-up of the Soviet empire this is an argument that is 20 years out of date, 20 years of entirely wasted expenditure on keeping our submarines with their nuclear warheads at sea.

With our current financial position, continued expenditure on a military nuclear programme seems clearly madness. That it has gone on for so long despite the end of the cold war seems to indicate some very effective lobbying by private arms manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. Our nuclear weapons programme now seems to be more about making vast profits for private enterprise than defence.
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DP's Christmas Do

Tuesday 8 Dec 2009

Self-portrait in the Princess Louise

Tuesday saw the annual Christmas meetup of a small group of former members of London Documentary Photographers who worked on projects together in the 1990s along with some other photographer friends. We met in one of London's nicest pubs where I took this self-portrait. Most of the pictures are probably only of interest to friends! DP could stand equally for 'documentary photographers' or 'desperate photographers'.

Hunger Strike in Parliament Square

Parliament Square, London. Tuesday 8 Dec 2009

Kuridh hunger strikers pose with picture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, now in a Turkish 'death-pit'
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On Sunday 5 December 2009 a post on the 'United States of Kurdistan' blog announced that The Kurdish Community in the UK were starting a hunger strike opposite the UK Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square, and asked for support.

The Kurds claim that the situation in Turkey is rapidly deteriorating , with Kurdish activists being tortured, jailed and killed at a higher rate than ever and racist attacks against Kurds areon the increase. Turkey is also attempting to ban the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP), which formed a parliamentary group of 21 deputies after the 2007 elections and represents an attempt to solve the Kurdish problem in a peaceful and democratic way. The final court deliberations began yesterday but a decision is unlikely this week. The European Union has criticised the attempted ban as a violation of Kurdish rights and it could damage Turkey's chances of EU membership, as well as certainly increase instability within Turkey.

The Parliament Square hunger strikers are demanding an end to what claim is a deliberated attempt by the Turkish authorities to kill their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned in the high security prison island of Imrali since his illegal seizure in Kenya in 1999.

In 2005, Turkey was found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have violated the European Convention of Human Rights in sentencing Ocalan to death without a fair trial and failing to allow him to properly appeal his arrest. Turkey had abolished the death penalty in 2002 to help their bid for EU membership.

In 2009, after the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (EPT) visited Ocalan in prison they complained about his treatment. On their recommendation (and that of the ECHR) the Turkish justice ministry built a new prison, where he was moved to a new cell on 17th Nov 2009. The Kurds say this new cell is a 'death pit', "meticulously and purposely designed to accelerate the death of the leader of the Kurdish people's Freedom Movement" in a way that can be attributed to 'natural causes'.

Ocalan commented: "My new cell is half the size of my old cell and consists of six square meters. The air conditioning here is also much worse. In order to be able to inhale and exhale air, I must stand by the window and open it. The window here is in the roof so I have no view on the outside world. The only thing I can behold is the sky. When I have to open the window in order to get oxygen, the sun burns me greatly. Even though the heat from the sun is so unpleasant, that I feel like I will get a heat stroke, I am forced to stay by the open window in order to get oxygen. I have very severe breathing problems here."

Ocalan's lawyer has released a statement condemning the move and there have been widespread demonstrations against it in Turkey and all over Europe, some of them involving three day hunger strikes and sit-ins outside Parliaments. But in London the hunger strike continues and the statement by the hunger strikers said "We will be outside the UK Parliament for the foreseeable future."
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COP Out Camp Out - Climate Camp

Trafalgar Square, London. Tuesday 8 Dec 2009

The Climate Camp aims to stay while the Copenhagen talks are taking place.
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I'd not made it to the Climate Camp when it was taking over Trafalgar Square on Saturday and for various reasons couldn't get there on Sunday either. But when I heard it was going to stay for longer than the originally planned 48 hours I decided to make a visit.

There wasn't a great deal happening while I was there, but it did seem to fit rather well in the square and was certainly something of a tourist attraction in what usually seems a rather bleak and empty area when nothing is happening. Unfortunately Boris doesn't seem to see it like that, but at least for the moment there didn't seem to have been any reall attempt to remove the camp.

While I was there there were absolutely no police in sight in the square, although several times van loads screeched around the roads on the edge of the square flashing ilghts en route to other places. There were the usual few 'Heritage Wardens' who occasionally came and talked to some of the campers.

Sharing the square with the camp were the usual Christmas tree and crib, but the sqaure was really dominated by the Climate Camp banner strung between two giant tripos, 'NATURE DOESN'T DO BAIL-OUTS'. But the Climate Camp was offering free cups of tea.

Rather more is perhaps likely to take place when things really get moving in Copenhagen with the Climate Justice Action days of protest, and the camp is also planning a lunch for protesters on their way to Copenhagen. But it felt good to have a reminder in the very centre of London of the need for "System Change Not Climate Change."
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The Wave

Houses of Parliament, London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

Three o'clock - time to wave
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Although possibly half the people in the march hadn't actually reached the Houses of Parliament by 3pm, the front had gone past, down Millbank and across Lambeth Bridge to return back across Westminster Bridge and surround Parliament (though some had cheated like me and taken a short cut down Bridge St despite the march stewards trying to send everyone - including the tourists around - along the march route.

At 3pm, everybody around Parliament waved, made a lot of noise and then wondered what to do next. Although the stewards tried to stop people returning to Parliament Square it seemed an obvious place to go, and there were still a few things happening there, includng my favourite bicycle-powered sond system, and samba band and the Climate Rush banners to photograph. After a while, avoiding the barriers and stewards who had tried to close the bridge off by using the subway I made my way across Westminster Bridge and to Jubilee Gardens where I'd been informed the Climate Camp was going to set up.

Unfortunately they weren't there. But I was tired and very close to Waterloo Station so I gave up rather than try to find them in Trafalgar Square and caught the train home.
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Marching to the Wave

Grosvenor Square to Parliament St, London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

Angels on the March in Mayfair - Power to the Poor!
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The march too the normal route through Berkeley Square where it was joined by a small ant-capitalist group to Piccadilly opposite the Ritz, and then on via Piccadilly Circus and Lower Regent St to Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square - where a solitary trio of climate-cahge deniers had a placard on the plinth of Nelson's column and down Whitehall, where I stopped to photograph people close to Downing Street, hoping for a little more animation.
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Anticapitalist Block - Not Much Waving

Mayfair, London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

The Polartariat have their say at the front of the march - but not for long
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COP15 is the official name of the Copenhagen climate change summit, and for a minute or two this banner led the march as it came through Berkeley Square while march stewards came and argued with them. After a short while and the intevention of a rather stout cop these protesters were persuaded to roll up their banner and suggested they join the march rather further back.

Although polar bears have every right to feel pretty pissed off at the moment, sceptics may doubt whether they have really come together to put their demands in such a negative way. Perhaps its just a symbol of teenage revolt among polar bears - "Up Yer Bum" was Lynda Mansell's favourite insult in the 1987 film "Wish You Were Here" based loosely on the teenage years of Cynthia Payne in Worthing and Bognor in the 1950s. But although the banner rather amused me it certainly didn't fit with the smooth PR presentation of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

Further back in the protest was a smallish group dressed mainly in black, some carrying red or black flags behind another black banner with the message "NO BOMBS NO BAILOUT NO CAPITALISM". Among the flags was that of the Stalinist AUPCB - the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks with its hammer and sickle and the message 'FOR BOLSHEVISM'.

Apparently the block left the march and went to Jubilee Gardens rather than stay for the wave at Parliament.
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The Wave - Before the March

Grosvenor Square, London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

Lib Dems were out in force but other political parties hard to find
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I walked through Grosvenor Square on my way to the Hyde Park Rally, then came back shortly before the march was due to start. But whenever I see Nick Clegg I thinkwhat a nice man Vincent Cable is. Somehow when I was taking this picture it seemed to sum up why I've never taken an serious interest in party politics and the Westminster muppets. The polar bear is more likely to get my vote.
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World Association of Carbon Traders

London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009
Trust Me I'm a Banker - WACT in Piccadilly
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Protesters dressed as city traders made an ironic protest against carbon trading as the 'World Association of Carbon Traders' in the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition march through London on Saturday 5 December.

One of the few logos displayed on the march that does not appear on the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition web page is that of the World Association of Carbon Traders. This group of around 50 smartly dressed 'city gents' - who included a few ‘gentesses’ and rather more bad false moustaches – along with power-dressed business women marched under the banner 'Carbon Trading: The Final Solution' in a rather nasty yellow, perhaps meant to be gold, though it seemed more mustard to me.

Although I saw quite a few tourists looking puzzled, the WACT logo - CO2$ and placards including 'Trust Me, I'm a Banker, Capitalise On The Climate', 'In Markets We Trust', 'One Solution. Trade Pollution', 'Greed is Green', 'Carbon Trader = Eco Crusader.' and 'Cash In On Climate Change', as well as the 'Permits to Pollute' they were handing out made their ironic intention clear.

And of course I recognised some of the faces of these agents from previous demonstrations by the Space Hijackers, a group who call themselves 'Anarchitects' whose various projects over the last ten years given a new creative face to protest. They added a welcome touch of ironic humour and substance to what was perhaps otherwise a rather bland if colourful demonstration that often seemed more like a PR media stunt than a political demonstration.

As they strode down through Waterloo Place I pointed out to them that the building ahead of them was the headquarters of the Institute of Directors, and obligingly they stopped for a group portrait on its steps.

The message behind their protest as the WACT is of course a serious one. Carbon trading is now seen widely by environmentalists as at best an irrelevance in environmental terms, allowing 'business as usual' and with fat profits for some. But worse, as with all markets, it is a mechanism for allowing the wealthy to increase their domination at the expense of the poor.
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Climate Emergency Rally

Hyde Park, London. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

Mermaid and fish at Hyde Park

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The Campaign Against Climate Change has organised an annual Climate match at the time of the UN Climate talks every year since 2005. This year with the talks in Copenhagen looming, they were joined for the first time by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition representing around 100 UK organisations with a combined membership of around 11 million "from the Women’s Institute and RSPB to Christian Aid and Unison."

Although it was good to see a wider participation - although despite that huge potential and massive publicity the march was perhaps only a little more than five times the size of previous years - this year's event, entitled 'The Wave' did seem more a stunt for the media than an informed political event. Surely with the backing of 11 million the coalition should be making demands, not just waving, and it’s perhaps hard to see the significance of blue hands and faces in a demonstration about global warming.

Though this year the Campaign Against Climate Change were rather sidelined by the much larger organisations, they did provide a much more weighty political and environmental input through the Climate Emergency Rally they held in Hyde Park before the start of 'The Wave' - which the several thousand listening to the speeches there from MPs Michael Meacher MP, Simon Hughes MP and John McDonnell MP (Lab), Caroline Lucas MEP, Bolivian ambassador Maria Souverin, John Stewart from the campaign against the Heathrow 3rd Runway, Chris Baugh of the Public and Commercial Services Union and Ellie Hopkins from the UK Youth Climate Coalition, as well as music from radical protest band Seize the Day.

With so much happening to photograph, I didn't stay to listen to all the speeches, but the Campaign's position is clear. They want to ensure that the Government doesn't simply take 'The Wave' as supporting their position at the Copenhagen talks, and as well as supporting the Coalition's call "for a fair and effective international agreement we also want to demand much more action on climate from the UK government, here at home. We believe that in any case there is no chance of an effective agreement until the North wins the trust of the South and it will only do that if Northern countries like the UK match words with action and take radical emission-reducing measures at home."

They stress we really need to take emergency action in the UK now, starting with the declaration of a Climate Emergency. Immediate actions should include a 10% cut in carbon dioxide by the end of 2010, a million new green jobs by the end of 2010, a ban on domestic flights, the scrapping of the roads program and a 55 mph speed limit, and an end to the use of agrofuels.

After the rally finished, the several thousand people there joined the rather larger group starting from Grosvenor Square to march to surround the Houses of Parliament in 'The Wave.'
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Climate Emergency Bike Ride

Lincolns Inn Fields to Hyde Park. Saturday 5 Dec 2009

The ride sets off from Lincolns Inn Fields
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Over 200 cyclists, along with a unicyclist and a skateboarder gathered at Lincolns Inn Fields at 10am on Saturday for a urge the government to make major emissions cuts at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. The Climate Emergency bike ride was organised by the Campaign against Climate Change, who have been organising major demonstrations over climate change since 2001 when they held a rally in London against the US rejection of the Kyoto Climage treaty. Every year since 2005 they have organised a National Climate March to put pressure on the government at the time of the annual UN climate talks, and the bike ride was a part of this year's event.

After two speeches at Lincoln's Inn Fields, the ride went on to hold demonstrations outside the London offices of two multinationals guilty of activities that are contributing to climate change, BP in St James' Square and E.On in Pall Mall. Speakers there outlined some of the damage the companies were doing to the environment and how their activities were accelerating climate change.

BP has a huge involvement in agrofuel production - with a disastrous environmental and social impact. They are a major investor in Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, which has displaced food production in large areas, and are developing a UK wheat ethanol plant that may make us a net importer of wheat and push up world prices. They also fund other damaging biofuel projects in various countries around the world, and are investing in synthetic biology research that may have extremely dangerous health, social, economic and environmental consequences.

BP is also a major investor in the production of oil from tar sands, described as "the great white hope of the oil industry", particularly in Canada, where Alberta has huge resources. But this is the dirtiest source of oil; its separation from the sand involves three times the amount of greenhouse gas emission as oil from wells and the open cast digging of the sands involves the destruction of huge areas of forest, and creates massive pollution, poisoning rivers, killing fish and increasing human cancer rates.

E.On is involved in the opencast mining of coal at Merthyr Common (Ffos y Fran) in Wales, where working has been allowed just 36 metres from homes – and legislation calling for a minimum gap of 350m delayed by the Welsh Office to allow it to go ahead (the Scottish standard sets out a 500m gap.) Coal extraction there is expected to last at least 15 and perhaps as long as 40 years.

E.On is better known for its proposal to build a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, despite the technology for carbon capture and storage not yet being available. Burning coal inherently produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, and it currently seems unlikely that any cheap long-term method of removal and storage of this can be found on the scale required.

From there cyclists continued a tour of central London, leading them eventually to Hyde Park to join the Campaign against Climate Change Rally. Later along with the others at the rally they joined in the ‘Wave’ protest organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. Police, mainly on pedal cycles but with a few motorcyclists, accompanied the ride and stopped traffic where necessary to facilitate the protest.
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Bhopal - 25 Years of Shame

Trafalgar Square, London. 2 December, 2009

Sheets as shrouds to remember the 8,000 who have died from Union Carbide's corporate crime
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The Bhopal Medical Appeal held a memorial service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster and remember the many thousands who have died at the time and since. Deaths continue as Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) have refused to clean up the pollution, which also causes horrific birth defects. Some of those attending had brought white sheets representing funeral shrouds, and wrapped themselves in these.

At the time that the incident which led to the leak which killed thousands in the surrounding city began on the afternoon of 2 Dec 1984, a choir lead the singing of 'Abide With Me', apparently popular across all religious denominations, and Gandhi's favourite hymn. It had been planned that some of those present would lay down and cover themselves in the white sheets at this point, but a heavy downpour shortly before the service that left puddles on the square made this impractical.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) campaigns for justice for the people of Bhopal who are still suffering from the effects of the disaster and also supports the Sambhavna clinic which provides "simple, safe, effective, ethical and participatory ways of treatment monitoring and research for the survivors of Bhopal."

You can find much more about the Bhopal disaster and its continuing aftermath on the BMA web site at bhopal.org as well as on other sites such as Wikipedia. It is a horrific story showing how giant corporations can carry out horrendous corporate crimes and evade their responsibilities, thanks in part to the support of the US and Indian governments. The following brief account is based largely on information on the BMA site, with a few details from various press and other sources.

On the night of 2-3 December 1984, 27 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India in a cloud containing other highly toxic gases.

The leak began around 10pm and those close to the plant began suffering almost immediately. Three hours later the plant director denied there had been a leak but residents were already evacuating the area as they were woken up by feeling suffocated and vomiting. Because the cloud was heavy an hung close to the ground, children suffered more.

The leak was brought under control by 4am, but already people were dying. Roughly half a million people living in Bhopal were exposed to the gas and around a third of that number were treated in temporary clinics and hospitals. Conservative estimates are that around 8,000 died in the first week after the leak, and a total of around 20,000 to date. More than 120,000 still suffer from the effects of the accident and the subsequent pollution, which is still spreading and causing birth defects.

The plant, part-owned by the Indian Government, had proved unprofitable, perhaps why the company had changed to a cheaper manufacturing method there using the highly toxic MIC before production had ceased. The plant had been allowed to run down to a level where none of the safety systems worked and the workers there were not properly trained or resourced.

After the disaster, Union Carbide refused to release important information about the leak. The corporation was charged with cuplable homicide but has refused to appear before an Indian court. Its CEO, Warren Anderson was charged with manslaughter. He disappeared for years, evading an international arrest warrant and a summons to appear before a US court, and since he was discovered by Greenpeace living in luxury in Bridgehampton on Long Island, New York. The Indian government finally reuqested his extradition in 2003, but it was refused by the US Government in 2004. A new warrant for his arrest was issued in New Delhi in June this year.

A partial settlement was made between Union Carbide and the Indian Government in 1989 resulting in small amounts of compensation for some victims. It did not cover the liability for cleaning up the pollution caused. Dow Chemical who bought Union Carbide in 2001 claim that it has no liability for the Bhopal disaster.
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We Remember Ian Tomlinson

Royal Exchange, London. 1 December, 2009
Ian Tomlinson's widow and family members where he died in Cornhill
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The tragic death of Ian Tomlinson following a police assault as he tried to make his way home through the G20 demonstration was marked by a candlelit vigil on 1 December 2009 at Royal Exchange in the centre of the City of London exactly 8 months after the event. Around a hundred people, including members of his family attended the vigil which was organised by the Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign.

Police at first issued statements they knew to be false about Tomlinson's medical condition. Then they tried to blame his death on the demonstrators. But a few days later another bystander who had videoed the scene on his mobile phone set the film to the Guardian which clearly showed a police officer assaulting him, after which he fell to the ground.

Other eyewitnesses and photographs attest that Tomlinson was assaulted by police, possibly on two separate occasions as he tried to make his way home from the pitch where every day he sold newspapers.

After the final assault, demonstrators who tried to assist him say they were driven away by police. Tomlinson managed to stagger a few yards from Royal Exchange Buildings down Cornhill, where he collapsed. At last police medics tried to help him, but it was too late and he died there.

Tomlinson's family put up a brave performance at the vigil, paying tribute to him as a husband and father and stressing their determination to have a full enquiry and to get justice. His widow, Mrs Julia Tomlinson, was overcome by emotion while speaking, and Rev Phil Summers of the Tower Hamlets Methodist circuit had to complete the reading of her speech. Also supporting the family was their lawyer, who - within the limits imposed by the continuing case - gave details of the incident and the family's campaign.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had sent a letter of condolence, which was read at the event. Speakers included MP John McDonnell and Samantha Rigg-David, whose brother Sean Rigg died in suspicious circumstances while being questioned in Brixton Police Station in August 2008. She pointed out that despite thousands of such deaths in the hands of the police over the years, not one single officer had been convicted of any crime. It was a statement given added moment by a speech by Vivian Figueiredo, a cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, who warned the family that they faced a long and frustrating struggle to get the truth.

At the end of the vigil, the family members, attended by several TV crews and a bunch of photographers, walked in a solemn procession to the exact site where Ian Tomlinson died. There they laid flowers and stood in silence for a few moments before a short prayer was said by Rev Summers.

Several times I found it hard to keep taking pictures, not wanting to intrude on the grief of the family. But they had made the decision to have this public expression of mourning and I felt I had a duty to them and to the public to record it as best I could.

The family continue to campaign for a full investigation into the death that "scrutinises the individual conduct and operational command tactics of police officers present at the G20 protest and those in command of them when Ian was assaulted and died" and to "call for full criminal charges to be brought against any officer whose actions or failure of duty resulted in Ian's death." You can read more about their campaign on their website.
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Around Belper

Derbyshire, December 2009

Ice on pond near Bakewell
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We went to stay with family in Belper and made several walks in the surrounding areas, including around Belper itself, near Bakewell and Chatsworth and to Crich. It was dull, wintry and cold most of the time we were there, though the sun came out on the morning we were travelling home.


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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2009; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

 

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