Muslim Extremists March For Sharia Zones

Leyton to Walthamstow, London. Sat 30 July 2011

'Who are the Christian Terrorists?' I asked. USA and NATO forces I was told.
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Around 70 men from Muslims Against Crusades marched from Leyton to Walthamstow calling for the setting up of Sharia Controlled Zones in the UK which 'Islamic rules' would be enforced by Muslims. There were several small counter-demonstrations by groups including the English Nationalist Alliance.

Muslims Against Crusades are a very small extremist fringe Muslim organisation led by Dr Anjem Choudary, a follower of the jailed Omar Bakri and co-founder with him of al-Muhajiroun, banned by the UK in 2005, spokesman for Al Ghurabaa, proscribed in 2006, and former leader of Islam4UK, banned in 2010. The leaflet distributed by the marchers claimed support from other groups and organisations: Waltham Forest Muslims, Convert2Islam, Salafi Media, Abu Abdullah, The Islamic Council of Britain, The International Shariah Court, The Society of Muslim Lawyers, The Muslim Entrepreneur Foundation, The Shariah Court of the UK and a spokesman for Izharudeen.com.

Waltham Forest Muslims seems to be a web site written by a supporter of MAC, while Convert2Islam seems nothing more than a single page web site about converting to Islam. Salafi Media seems another of Choudary's organisations, linked to his London School of Sharia. He was chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, but was removed from the list of legal practioners in 2002. There are or have been several people known as Abu Abdullah, but this probably refers to the associate of Abu Hamza who has advocated terrorism in interviews and praised the London 7/7 bombers calling them "my honourable brothers in Islam."

The Islamic Council of Britain appears no longer to exist and seems to have been formed to try and created confusion with the much more respectable Muslim Council of Britain. Again it seems to have been linked to Choudary. The International Shariah Court is agaian Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjem Choudary, who is described as 'Lecturer in Shari'ah Law & Manager of The Shari'ah Court of the UK'. The Muslim Entrepreneur Foundation is presumably also a front for Choudary and his colleagues.

So although at yesterday's press conference, Anjem Choudary claimed that this march, the start of what was described as part of the 'Islamic Emirate Project' and intended to "pave the way for the establishment of Britain’s first Islamic Emirate" had "support from a wide range of organisations", in fact it was only supported by a very small circle of him and his fellow extremists.

Although MAC had told the local press there would be a thousand marchers, the police estimate of 50-100 turned out to be accurate, despite which they had mounted a large scale policing operation as several groups were expected to come and show their opposition.

When I arrived at the time the protest was due to start there were only a couple of people present, and half an hour later when we were assured the event would begin there were still less than twenty, and they were outnumbered both by the press and the police. Clearly it was not a local protest, as there were phone calls from those in other parts of London asking for directions on how to get the the starting place, and by around 1.20 when the march finally started the numbers there were over 50 men, with a few joining later to bring the total to around 70 when I made a careful count. There were no women marchers.

There was considerable media interest in this event, aroused largely by a poster campaign in several East London Boroughs including Waltham Forest, with small posters being stuck on bus stops and lamp posts declaring the area a 'Sharia Controlled Zone'

These stickers stated that the area was now under 'Islamic rules' and that these prohibited drinking alcohol, drug taking, smoking, prostitution, gambling, musics, concerts and pornography.

Speeches and slogans on the march and at the rallies before and after it also made clear that they MAC was opposed to 'secular culture', democracy and the police force. Law in these Sharia zones would be enforced by the kind of cleric-led officers and vigilantes that we see in countries such as Iran, although they did not make clear if we could expect to see stoning, hanging and amputations.

Many people took the leaflets that were being handed out and stopped to watch the march going by, but I saw very few expressions of support from the local people. There were are few enthusiastic youths, but I suspect if many had read the paragraph of the leaflet that read:

The amount of our own sons and daughters who have been affected by the non-Islamic culture is shocking, to the extent the Muslim youth today see no problem in having boyfriends and girlfriends; how common is it we see the youth leaving college together and to see your own daughters/sisters with a foreign man!

their response - like mine - would be rather less enthusiastic. Many like me would have questioned what was mean by a "foreign man", as they regard themselves as English.

The more general response from Muslims on the street seemed to be summed up by one shopkeeper who came to his shop doorway to ask a colleague of mine what was happening. On being told it was Mr Choudary he shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyes to heaven. Like most I heard comment, he thought that activities such as this give Muslims a bad name.

Placards carried on the march included 'Stop Christian Terrorism - Establish Islamic Emirates', 'Jihad Against Christian Extremists' and I was told by one marcher that the 'Christian' terrorists and extremists were the US, British and NATO armies in Afghanistan and Libya. They don't seem at all Christian to me.

Various threads on English Defence League (EDL) forums had suggested that the best response to this kind of Muslim extremism was to stay at home and ignore this event, but others had decided to take some action. At the start of the event one of the leading Christian campaigners against increasing Islamic influence was busily talking to the protesters, interviewing and photographing them and apparently trying to set up some kind of dialogue.

Around halfway through the march there were a couple of men, one with a St George's flag with the red hand of Ulster at its centre sitting on a bench by the side of the road. They wanted to protest at the march, but police prevented them from doing so. The police have a duty to allow peaceful protest and it seemed to me wrong not to do so in this case.

Later we came to the Shoe Laces Sports Bar, surrounded by large numbers of police, who were holding a number of men inside the bar and refusing to let them come out and protest. As the march passed they began singing the National Anthem, and the officers shut the door. It was impossible to tell what group they belonged to, and again the police action appeared to be preventing them from exercising their right to protest. There were more than enough police around to ensure public order had they been allowed to come out and do so.

Close to the end of the march in Walthamstow was another pub with a row of police outside, but they did allow a few members of the English Nationalist Alliance to protest as the march passed them. Among them was their leader, Bill Baker who was holding several placards. He asked me to make clear that they are not an anti-Muslim organisation but simply opposed to the kind of Muslim extremism represented by Choudary, and proposals to bring Shariah law to Britain.

One of his placards included the message:

Your version of Islam is a lie and relates to satanism and barbaric Sharia practice

a sentiment many Muslims would have sympathy with. The ENA also made clear their opposition to Sharia law in the UK, calling on the MAC to "submit to English Law or leave for a country that abides by Sharia barbarity."

We live in a society that values democracy, the toleration of different values and the rule of laws made by our elected parliament and enforced with some degree of fairness. Most of us would agree that we should submit to the law - or strive to change it through democratic means, but it seems odd to suggest that people who want to change the law should go elsewhere rather than engage in the democratic process. But certainly ours is increasingly - as MAC say - a secular society, and the great majority want our laws to be secular.

Also, while most of us are against drugs, prostitution and possibly against gambling and some of the other things the MAC called to be banned, many of us would feel our lives impoverished without at least the occasional glass of wine, not to mention music and concerts, and the ability to mix freely with people irrespective of their gender. Another of the ENA's placards expressed it more directly:

Sex, Drugs, Beer & Rock and Roll, it's our Western way of life, so get over it or leave, simple as that.

I'd prefer to leave off those last five words and simply call for toleration. I promised to write accurately about what happened, and I'm trying to do so. It was of course nothing special, as I always strive to present things fairly, while making my own point of view clear. When the MAC march came past, some of the ENA surged forward slightly, but made no attempt to break through the thin line of police in front of them, shouting and gesturing at the Muslim extremists. Again in the interests of accuracy, there were some shouts about Islam that any Muslim would find offensive (and similar sentiments about Christianity would offend most Christians.) But it remained an entirely peaceful protest, and made me wonder again why some other protesters were not allowed to make their views clear in a similar way.

As the march moved onto the square for a final rally there were some minor scuffles in a large crowd of Muslim youth, some of whom I think were objecting to the MAC protest. Police moved in quickly but a few of the young men grabbed cameras or pushed photographers who were trying to photograph what was happening. But the troublemakers quickly evaporated and the rally continued without problems, next to a group of black evangelical Christians preparing to play and sing when they were finished.
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Coalition of Resistance Picket Murdoch

Portcullis House, Westminster, London. Tuesday 19 July 2011

Protesters with placards at Portcullis House

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Supporters of the Coalition of Resistance turned up in Westminster for a protest against the Murdoch empire fot its corruption of democracy and attacks on the people of the UK as the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks were due to be questioned.

The protesters want to see Parliament, the press and the police cleaned up and an end to the abuse of power by Murdoch and his media empire which has caused such corruption in British public life.

A noisy group of protesters joined the large contingent of press photographers and TV crews waiting outside the parliamentary offices of Portcullis House to get pictures and interviews with anyone involved in the scandal. While I was there most were standing around looking rather bored with only a few bothering to photograph the protest.

Several speakers stressed the way that Murdoch had used his power to make attacks on working people, public services and the welfare state and to promote his interests and more generally those of the rich and powerful. His power had enabled him to corrupt police, politicians and press.

One speaker while I was taking photographs was talking about Murdoch's attacks on trade unions in the Wapping dispute, where police horses were used to attack protesters, gaining them the nickname 'Murdoch's cavalry.'
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Avaaz Murdoch Protest At Parliament

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tuesday 19 July 2011

Murdoch masked protesters pose with placards 'Murdoch: Wanted for News Crimes' outside parliament
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Murdochs abounded in Westminster as on-line advocacy group Avaaz staged a protest outside parliament naming him as 'Public Enemy #1' and calling for him to go.

The demonstration was held as others waited nearby for Murdoch to appear for his hearing in front of a Commons Committee. Around 40 Avaaz protesters donned Murdoch masks and t-shirts with the message 'Murdoch Wanted for News Crimes' although some disappeared before the final photo call, and unfortunately it was hardly the "massive, creative action" that Avaaz had hoped for.

For once the masks were quite lifelike, and the impression on seeing a whole flood of them a little disturbing. There was also a large puppet head of Murdoch, which was considerably less lifelike and even rather appealing. Other Avvaz placards read 'The People Vs Murdoch' and one stated 'Public Enemy #1.'

The protest was enlivened by some unofficial additions, including a young man suggesting we should take action over Palestine, and an Asian-looking woman with a silver cross who I think was suggesting we should all give up our wicked ways and turn to Jesus. Perhaps more relevant was one of the funnier posters around Westminster with a caricature of Rebekah Brooks suggesting that since she had experience with telephones and lying she might have a good career opportunity on the end of an Essex girl phone line service.

I'd understood that the protesters would go on to Portcullis House, where Murdoch himself was expected and the major protest was taking place, but after the photo opportunity in Old Palace Yard they simply dispersed.
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Rev Billy's Tate BP Exorcism

Tate Modern, London. Monday 18 July 2011
The Rev Billy reaches out as he moves to lay hands on the BP logo inside the Tate Turbine Hall
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The Reverend Billy & the Church of Earthalujah preached a sermon loud and clear in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern today, an act of exorcism urging an end to extraction of oil for the Tar Sands and of arts sponshorhip by BP which gives a company engaged in this most polluting activity a false green image.

For some years BP gained green credential by saying it would not join in the rush to extract oil from tar sands, recognising that this was a highly polluting process, producing several times the pollution of normal oil extraction, as well as causing vast environmental damage as ancient forests are ripped up and indigenous people are displaced from their ancestral lands.

Then came a dramtaic change, and BP decided it could no longer give up the huge profits it saw from exploiting the Alberta tar sands in Canada. All the green promises were torn up and BP joined the other oil companies in the race for black gold, however dirty it was, and however much its activities threatened the future of people and planet.

BP despite all evidence to the contrary continues to advertise itself as a company concerned for the environment, promoting a positive green image through sponsorship, particularly in the arts where it supports major UK institutions including Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Reverend Billy and & The Church of Earthalujah on a European tour from their New York base came to present one of their unique performances at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, aiming to exorcize the evil spirit of BP, promoted by campaign groups Liberate Tate, UK Tar Sands Network, London Rising Tide, Art Not Oil and Climate Rush.

As the Rev Billy's statement said:

"Brothers and sisters, a dark beast lurks within the bosom of one of our most cherished arts institutions. While good-hearted, god-fearing, gallery goers glory in the miracle of art, the beast below is encircling the planet with its oily tentacles, destroying righteous communities, poisoning God’s beauteous creations, and bringing us all ever closer to the climate apocalypse.

And the name of that beast is BP. For 20 long years, BP has embedded its foulness deep within the Tate, using the fair face of the arts to mask the stench of its true nature."

On the dot of 5.30pm, the Rev Billy and his congregation donned their robes in the middle of the Turbine Hall and the service began. After an introduction by the Reverend, the congregation began to dance around him and annointed him with 'oil', a dirty black mixture which made quite a mess of his trademark white suit.

The Rev Billy then led the congregation towards the sponshorship board, casting out the evil spirits of BP in a highly dramatic performance, which drew in many of the visitors to the gallery (and even some of the Tate employees and security appeared to be enjoying the spectacle.)

Having smeared the oil over the BP logo, the preacher led his congregation singing and chanting out of the gallery and to a short rally on the grass in front of the building.

It was indeed a remarkable performance by the Reverend Billy Talen, an impassioned orator in the evangelical tradition, and Elvis impersonator who uses his powers to express "a passionate humanism that speaks to growing public anxiety in the face of ever-deadlier climate catastrophes and impotent leadership from politicians, NGOs and corporate CEOs." It would be hard to attend and not be converted.
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Swan Upping

Shepperton to Staines. Monday 18 July 2011

One of the Royal Swan Uppers catches a swan at Staines

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The annual swan upping, one of this country's oldest traditions, started in the 12th century makes starts at Sunbury on the third Monday in July and takes a week going up the River Thames catching and marking this year's cygnets.

I met the six rowing boats of the uppers in Shepperton Lock, where swan feathers in the caps of the Swan Masters confirmed that they had already found swans with cygnets on their journey from Sunbury.

In the lock were the six rowing boats of the uppers, each with three or four men, the Queens men in red tops, Vintners Royalty in white and Dyers Royalty in blue, the boats proudly flying their standards. The Sovereign’s Swan Marker David Barber was in his red blazer, and the Dyers and Vintner's Swan Markers in blue and black. Along with them was a small boat with an outboard carrying Professor Christopher Perrins of Oxford University, the Queen's Swan Warden with his two helpers, and a small flotilla of accompanying craft including a boat carrying press photographers and a foreign TV crew. The uppers are all skilled boatmen who work on the river and give up some of their holidays to take part in the week of upping.

A small crowd had turned up at the lock to see them as they came through, and as we continued upstream there were people sitting out in gardens to watch them go past, as well as others on the tow-path. There does seem to be a growing interest in this event, and a growing number of active retired people gives a greater audience. I'd lived a short walk from its route for 25 years before I saw it as I always worked on Mondays.

Unfortunately, although there were plenty of swans around on the river, and three or four pairs, there were no cygnets to be seen in the next few miles, and the uppers passed through Chertsey Lock without further sightings.

Coming out from Chertsey the river was equally empty; there were ducks, Canada geese, and even the occasional couple of swans, but no cygnets. Just as the boats were lining up to enter the next lock at Penton Hook, the Swan Warden's boat which normally goes ahead of the rest to spot the cygnets and had gone up the backwater towards the marina returned with a shout of 'Swan Up' and I rushed down the island path as the boats turned to find the swans. Unfortunately they were around a quarter of a mile down the backwater on a slipway on the other side of the stream, and even after making my way through chest-high nettles I could not get a clear view of the swans and their four cygnets as the uppers grabbed them and weighed, measured, ringed and recording them before releasing them. Sometimes being on a boat is a better way to follow the event.

After passing through the lock it looked as if the uppers would find no more before reaching their lunchtime halt at the Swan Hotel in Staines. But a hundred yards short of this, I saw a couple of swans with a large breed of cygnets on the opposite bank to me, and had to rush over Staines Bridge to be on the spot before the uppers arrived.

The swans had seen the boats approaching, and the male bird managed to escape, but soon the uppers had their boats surrounding the female and cygnets and closed right in before grabbing them out of the water. Swans immediately stop struggling once their feet are held behind them and become very calm and can then easily be carried. The uppers have strings in their belts to tie their feet and have been well trained in the safe handling of the birds, taking great care with them.

The female had been ringed and recorded on several previous occasions - swans usually pair for life and stay on the same stretch of river - and could be checked in the previous year's records.

The cygnets are allocated in turn to either the Queen or the Dyers or Vintners. Each is given a quick health check, looking in particular for any fishing hooks, their heads are measured and the birds are weighed

After only a few minutes the birds, who once they had been caught had generally looked very calm, were returned to the river, starting with the cygnets, who swam quickly to the male bird who had been watching, obviously a little worried, from the river, and finally with the female swan. It was a touching moment as his partner swam out to meet him and the two birds came together, rubbing their beaks; I've never seen swans kiss before. By the time I left to go home the swan family was swimming together happily on the other side of the river, and the uppers were going to enjoy their lunch in the pub before the afternoon's journey to Windsor and the end of the first of their five days travelling up the river to Abingdon, five miles south of Oxford.
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Angel Bank Robbery Protest

Angel, Islington, London. Saturday 13 July 2011

A man in a mask and striped jumper holds up a bag labelled 'Swag'.

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Heavy rain meant that protesters who had planned a colourful 'Bank Robbery' protest against bankers and cuts outside the RBS Angel had to protest more simply under cover.

'Bank Robbery', a street event outside RBS Angel branch in Islington, London, was planned to attract people to come dressed "as robbers, vagabonds, pick-pockets, safe-crackers and thieves" and to protest at the banks who "made off with billions of public money" to keep them afloat (and fund their bonuses) while leaving the resto of us to pay the bill through government cuts in public services, unemployment and inflation eating into our incomes.

As the protest organisers said, "this is daylight robbery" and the banks are "the biggest bunch of crooks around." As well as benefitting hugely from public funds, they also make use of tax dodges to avoid paying large amounts of tax - while most of those in employment get no chance to avoid PAYE. And of course we should pay tax - and so should they - to keep our essential services running well.

Bankers are also a major source of funding for the arms industry, and play their part in the gambling on future food prices that has caused huge rises - making many around the world go hungry. Speakers at the event identified the crisis we are now facing as a crisif of capitalism itself.

Although some of those passing by took the leaflets that were being handed out, and a few stopped to sign the petition against the cuts, there were relatively few people about compared to a normal Saturday lunchtime at the Angel, and most of them were rushing past to get to the tube station as quickly as possible in the rain.

After I left - on my way to another protest that was almost entirely rained off - the protesters decided to go into the bank and confront the real bank robbers, but I missed photographing this.
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Climate Rush Stop Traffic

Soho Square to Euston Rd, London. Wed 13 July 2011


I manage to photograph the correct side of the placard as Tasmin Osmond and others block the Euston Rd more pictures

The women-led eco-activist group Climate Rush staged a cycle ride from Soho Square to block traffic on the Euston Road in a protest over London having the worst air quality in Europe.

Climate Rush and other leading green activists gathered in Soho Square for 'Road-Block' , a protest against the terrible air quality in London, which causes more than 4,300 premature deaths each year and costs the capital up to £2 billion a year. On average these people's lives were cut by more than 11.5 years by the effect of dangerous airborne particulates.

Further research suggests that the figure which came from London's Mayor severely underestimates the damage as it only relates to those cases where air pollution can be assumed to be the sole cause of deaths. Air pollution actually contributes significantly to the early deaths of a much greater number, perhaps one in three of all deaths in the capital, cutting their lives by an average of around 3 years.

Additionally recent research suggests that air pollution from busy roads is responsible for around 15-30% of all new cases of asthma in children as well as worsening the heart and lung conditions in adults. One major problem with children is that a high proportion of London schools are close to busy roads.

Before the cyclists and walkers set off, there were a few brief speeches, including one by Green party London Assembly member Jenny Jones. She pointed out the failures of London's Mayor Boris Johnson, who not only has made the problem worse by scrapping the Western Extension Zone for the Congestion Charge, but has ordered the cleaning up of atmospheric monitoring stations in an attempt to falsify air pollution readings.

The protesters called for the establishment of a Clean Air Zone across central London, similar to that imposed in some other cities. As well as banning older diesel vehicles from large areas of the capital, London also needs stronger traffic control measures, and a much faster program of encouraging cleaner forms of transport, including walking and cycling amd public transport. Unless some urgent action is taken, London faces unlimited EU fines over its failure to improve air quality.

The poor air quality in London causes premature deaths from heart disease and lung complaints, and particularly affects cyclists and pedestrians. Some wear filters over their mouths and noses, which can cut down the amounts of dangerous small particles they inhale, but effective particle filters tend to be uncomfortable to wear and expensive. And filters have no effect on the nitrogen oxides, one of the more damaging materials in vehicle exhaust fumes, which cause significant lung damage.

A group of walkers set off first from Soho Square to an undisclosed location, with the cyclists following later. Many of the protesters were wearing Climate rush Red sashes with the messages 'Clean Air For London' or 'Deeds Not Words' and masks with 'Let London Breathe'
and their were placards and posters demanding action over pollution.

The walkers had a couple of minutes to wait at the junction of Euston Road and Gordon St before the cyclists caught up with them, and together they swarmed on to the box junction at 7.22pm, blocking the Euston Road.

A minute and a half later Tamsin Omond called for the planned die-in to commence, and after a long and theatrical session of coughing laid down on the tarmac along with all the other protesters in the box junction. After a short time, the police officer in charge came and gave her a warning that they were committing an offence and could be arrested. Ms Omond ignored this for a minute or two but then when it appeared the police might act, started a count-down to end the die-in. The die-in hadn't quite lasted the full for 4.33 minutes, planned to mark the 4,327 early deaths from pollution last year, but the traffic on the Euston Road had been stopped for a little over 51/2 minutes in all.

After the protest had ended, people hung around on the pavement on Gordon St. Tamsin Omond thanked them all for coming and making a succesful protest and suggested that people go to the pub. The officer in charge thanked her for ending the protest promptly, and everything looked like it was over. There was then a small commotion when police decided to search one of the protesters, telling him they suspected he had come equipped to cause criminal damage, but as almost always they found nothing on him. I could see no reason why they had picked on this man rather than anyone else in the vicinity, or indeed anyone else in London, and was a slightly unpleasant end to the event, looking just as if they felt they had to pick on someone.
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Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival

Highgate Hill, London. Sunday 10 July 2010
Men roll along the street with coconuts in a ritual offering to Murugan
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Murugan is a popular Hindu God in Tamil areas and the patronal god of the Tamil homeland Tamil Nadu. As God of war Murugan with six heads has a divine lance and other weapons and rides a peacock.

In the Chariot Festival people make offerings to Murugan of baskets of frits, particularly coconuts, which are blessed and returned. Men on one side and women on the other pull on the long ropes to take the chariot around the neighbourhood, while a conch shell gives an audible warning of its movement; other women carry kavadi (burdens) offered to Murugan, chanting and carrying of pots, possibly of coconut milk on their heads. , while some men roll half-naked along the ground behind the chariot holding coconuts. People sweep the road to make their progress less painful, and others annoint them with sacred ashes.

Highgate Hill Murugan temple is one of the oldest and most famous in the UK, but the celebrations here seemed to be a little more restrained than those I've photographed at some other London Murugan temples.

Perhaps surprisingly, in Sri Lanka Murugan is also revered by Sinhalese Buddhists.
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Pro-Choice Rally at Parliament

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Sat 9 July 2011
The crowd, mainly women, applaud one of the speakers at the rally

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Several hundred people, mainly women, came to Parliament today to oppose restrictions on abortions proposed by Nadine Dorries and others and to campaign for a woman's right to chose, both here and Northern Ireland.

Nadine Dorries MP and Frank Field MP tabled amendments in march to the Health and Social Care Bill which would take away counselling for women wanting abortions from those groups which provide abortions and impose a separate layer of so-called ‘independent advice and counselling’ prior to abortion.

This would impose a further delay on abortions and would open the door to counselling provided by unregulated and unlicensed organisations including those opposed to abortions on religious grounds, and would remove the current obligations to provide medically sound and unbiased information.

The Department of Health is currently considering introducing what is essentially a wrecking amendment to the 1967 Abortion Act without any legislation, avoiding the need for parliamentary debate or a vote.

This comes after the setting up by the UK government of a new advisory group on sexual health which excludes the Pregnancy Advisory Service but includes Life, an anti-abortion group which preaches abstinence and, according to its web site, "is opposed to abortion on principle in all circumstances because it ends the life of a unique unborn child. This extends even to what many people consider the 'hard cases', such as disability, teenage pregnancy, and pregnancy after rape."

The government is also under pressure from anti-abortion groups to lower the time limit for abortions from the current 24th week of gestation. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have provided an opinion based on clear medical advice that this limit should remain:

The rally brought together many different groups who are opposed to the current attempts by right-wing Christians and some Conservatives to turn back the clock towards the position before the 1967 Act, where many women had dangerous illegal back-street abortions, often with disastrous effects on their health. The legalisation of abortion led to one of the greatest single improvements in health for women of the last century.

Among the speakers were women from various campaigning groups, including those wanting an extension of abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland, along with Labour MP and women's rights campaigner Diane Abbott, columnist Penny Laurie (Penny Red), Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, and doctor and former Liberal Democrat science spokesman and MP Evan Harris.

One man came to the rally to heckle, carrying several books including one entitled 'ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments' but failed to attract much attention. Earlier their had been considerable approval of one woman who had said that only when men had wombs would they have a right to have a say in the arguments over abortion.
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Protest At Hizb ut-Tahrir Conference

Whitechapel, London. Sat 9 July 2011

Hizb ut-Tahrir security man removes poster as we photograph Peter Tatchell with it
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A small group protested outside today's Hizb ut-Tahrir conference in East London today, including gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and others against the imposition of religious laws.

There had been considerable confusion over the time of the protest, which started at noon, but was advertised for 3pm on several web sites, so it was perhaps surprising to find even around a dozen people there more or less at the correct time, although rather more were expected.

While we were there waiting for the protest outside the Waterlily Business centre to start, men were slowly arriving and filing into an entrance at one end of the building, and women through a doorway at the extreme opposite end. A journalist who requested permission to cover the event was refused entry, although one video crew was allowed in. Two photographers who photographed the women standing on the street outside the building were approached by stewards who asked them not to photograph the women, but were told that as they were on the public street they could expect to be photographed, and if they wished to avoid being photographed they should go inside. Later a group of around a dozen Hizb ut-Tahrir security men and male stewards came and stood around the women to make further photography difficult.

As we were photographing Peter Tatchell beside a poster advertising the event outside the hall holding a placard reading 'Hizb ut-Tahrir = clerical fascism No to Hizb / EDL /BNP' , one of the Security men came up and stood in my way before tearing the Hizb ut-Tahrir poster from the cabinet on the street and taking it away. I've reported on many Hizb ut-Tahrir events over the years - including at least one women's demonstration and this was the only one where I've encountered any negative attitudes towards the press by them.

Earlier, Peter Tatchell had stated:

"Hizb ut Tahrir opposes democracy and wants to establish a religious dictatorship where non-Muslims and women are denied equal human rights. The group has a long history of anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry towards Hindu people. It is also guilty of extreme intolerance towards Muslims who do not share its harsh, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam."

Other protesters held posters stating 'Hizb ut-Tahrir's caliphate = fascist state' and describing it as the 'party of fascism, sexism and homophobia.' One, a reference to the Arab spring and the revulsion many felt at Hizb ut-Tahrir's protests which attempted to crash in on this, stated 'Hizb-ut-Tahrir: This is not your revolution.' One, directed at the centre where the conference was being held (the former Wickham's department store, now the Water Lily Centre) asked 'Would you host the BNP? The why Hizb-ut-Tahir?'. Another , held by one of the Muslims in this multi-racial and multi-ethnic protest made the point that 'Hizb-ut-Tahrir does not represent Muslims.'

Two local residents who were passing read the Hizb ut-Tahirir poster and decided to join the protesters, saying that these people were not welcomed by those who lived in the area. A Muslim man in his thirties walking past asked me what was happening and when I told him, described Hizb ut-Tahrir as "absolute nutters."
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Stop Murdoch BSkyB Takeover

Dept Culture, Media & Sport, London. Thursday 7 July 2011

Protester with Murdoch mask
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Protesters at the Dept of Culture Media & Sport greeted the announcement that the News of The World was to cease publication, but were unconvinced that it's replacement by a Sunday Sun would do anything to improve standards. They called for former NOTW editor to resign and for News International to be declared unfit to take over BSKyB.

Around 50 people turned up for on time for a demonstration called at short notice by Take Back Parilaiment who want the undue influence exerted by Murdoch on our parliamentary system to be halted and reversed. They had not reckoned on the whole of central London being taking over by Pottermania, halting traffic and causing long queues at some underground stations. Many of the protesters arrived late, and they were still arriving as I left a little over half an hour after the demostration had been due to start. Probably some gave up because of the congestion, which made even walking close to Trafalgar Square difficult.

The protest was called at this time following the announcement earlier in the week that culture minister Jeremy Hunt had decided that the undertakings made by the Murdoch press were sufficient to meet the concerns over the plurality of the media. Those taking part in the protest - along with many others - were not convinced, and remain opposed to any growth in the power of an empire which they feel already has a powerful anti-democratic effect.

Twenty minutes before the demonstration was due to start, the news began appearing online that this Sunday's issue of the News of the World was to be its last. Few felt this to be any great victory or surprise, given the number of advertisers and sponsors who have jumped ship since the revelations about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone and those of family members of victims of the London bombings and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The closure will result in many workers losing their jobs without bringing any of those responsible for the phone hacking to justice. Speakers at the protest called for the immediate resignation or sacking of Rebekah Brooks, the editor at the time of the law-breaking, who either knew what was happening or completely failed in her responsibility at editor. Murdoch may still have confindence in her, but no one else does.

There were calls for News International to be declared unfit to increase its stranglehold on the media; the regulators should be taking steps to decrease its influence on the media and politicans which has been demonstrated to be far too powerful, and certainly not allowing it to take over yet more of the industry.

The protesters marched together so far as they could, threading there way through the crowds around the south edge of Trafalgar Square to the Dept of Culture Media & Sport where they took over an area of the pavement and held a sprited protest.

 

Seen/Unseen Opening

Collective Gallery, Camden. Thursday 7 July 2011
As well as the show in the gallery, George Georgiou's pictures were on display on 8 bus shelters in Camden
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One of the more interesting shows of the London Street Photography Festival was Seen/Unseen, centred on buses, and I found George Georgiou's pictures taken from inside the bus looking out interesting on several levels. Displayed in the gallery on two rows each of three monitors, they were also on eight local bus shelters, at one of which I took the picture above on my way home from the opening.

Georgiou commented that although he seemed to be invisible when photographing out from the bus, he had attracted a lot of attention photographing the bus shelters.

I found the work by Mimi Mollica of people inside the buses, taken by photographing the screens on them linked to the cameras around the bus of less interest. I've never thought a great deal of photographers who photograph screens rather than real life, from early examples like Paul Trevor's TV pictures in the 70s or 80s, or Harry Gruyaert’s TV Shots or Michael Wolf's We Are Watching You.
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Syrian People Call For Help

Whitehall, London. Tues 5 July 2011

Syrians call across to Downing St for UK help against their dictator
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A group of around 30 Iranians staged a noisy demonstration opposite Downing St calling fro the UK government to help them in their fight against the Iranian regime. The UK government is likely to be extremely cautious in its approaches to Syria, and although the reported shooting of peaceful protesters and other atrocities will be condemned, little actual action of any sort seems likely.
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NHS 63rd Birthday March in London

Strand to Old Palace Yard, London. Tues 5 July 2011

Unite and Unison members pass Big Ben

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Around a thousand people marched through central London on the 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the NHS in a protest to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation. At the end of the march there was a rally opposite Parliament.

Although the Con-Dem coalition have made some changes to the bill which is going through Parliament, it is still opposed by many doctors and patients. The need for a comprehensive health service which is free at the point of need which was central to the National Health Service when it was set up in 1948 has not changed, and although we have some temporary financial problems caused by the irresponsible actions of bankers and a corrupt financial system, the economy is actually stronger than when the NHS was set up.

We need a health system that stresses the need for cooperation between providers of services at all levels rather than the competition that ineveitably results when commercial providers are encouraged. We also need a comprehensive system that will cater for the needs of patients who are inherently unprofitable and whose needs would not be met by private enterprise.

The privatisation of cleaning services has been a disaster for the NHS and for the cleaners employed by companies only concerned with maximising profits. When I was in my local hospitals the standard of cleaning was abysmal, with dirt, dressings and used needles under many of the beds. Cleaners were given inadequate equipment and insufficient time to do the job, and paid a pittance. But the firms that employ cleaners are probably among those who would be tendering to provide medical services if the bill goes through.

As a patient who has required considerable medical services over the last eight and a half years, I've generally been impressed by the medical care provided, but also aware of the waste when some services have not really worked together. I'm not interested in choice, I want a service that is well provided at my local surgery or hospital.

Despite the light rain, around a thousand people from across Londonturned up for the march at Savoy Street, a few yards from the Savoy Hotel on the Strand. It was one of a number of events arounde the country on the anniversary of the inaugurtion of the NHS protesting at the plans under Andrew Lansley's bill to radically alter the NHS and allow commercial providers to carry out the easy and profitable areas. The march started around ten minutes earlier than advertised, going along Strand to Trafalgar Square where it turned down Whitehall, pausing briefly outside the headquarters of the Department of Health at Richmond House before continuing into Parliament Square and on to Old Palace Yard for the rally.

Among those at the front of the march and the leading speaker at the rally was Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite trade union, which was backing the march.
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Pride Parade

Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, London. Saturday 2 July 2011

Pink Punters dancers are photographed limbering up before the parade

Having a good day out
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Thousands took part in the annual Pride Parade through the centre of London, this year marching from Broadcasting House in Portland Place because of road works in Oxford St.

What started as a political demonstration calling for gay rights is now almost entirely a carnival attracting considerable corporate sponsorship and providing a major spectacle for tourists and London crowds. But there are still a few people and groups who give it a little of an edge and keep me going there to take pictures.

I gave up in Waterloo Place, where another now traditional event was also taking place with a protest against the marchers by backwoodsman fundamentalist Baptists waving bibles and biblical quotes, but I didn't stay long, walking through the crowds around Trafalgar Square to Charing Cross station.
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Prosecute Rapists Not Rape Survivors

CPS, Southwark Bridge, London. Friday 1 July 2011

Men and women joined in the protest outside Keir Starmer's offices
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Black Women’s Rape Action Project, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) and Women Against Rape (WAR) and others picketed the Crown Prosecution Service offices in Central London today calling for them to stop prosecuting rape survivors and sex workers who work together for safety.

Following on from London's Slutwalk, these groups acting together with some of the Slutwalk organisers as 'Slut Means Speak Up' set up this protest at the CPS offices on Southwark Bridge calling for action over miscarriages of justice against rape survivors. There is considerable and compelling evidence that police and prosecutors are too often failing to bring rapists to justice and also disturbing cases where rape victims have been jailed for so-called false allegations.

Among the cases highlighted by the groups are those of Layla Ibrahim, found guilty in a Carlisle court of having fabricated evidence that she had been raped and sentenced to 3 years, and Gail Sherwood, sentenced to two years at Bristol in 2010, according the The Guardian "despite protests from her family and anti-rape campaigners that she had been telling the truth" over the attacks and rapes by an unknown stalker.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer, has so far refused to take action over these cases but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently conducting a review of such prosecutions, and the protest hoped to influence their views.

One current case, due to come to court in September, is of Sheila Farmer, who spoke at the Slutwalk rally in Trafalgar Square. Around 18 years ago had to give up her work as an IT consultant due to deteriorating eyesight caused by diabetes. She went into sex work as the only way she could support herself, working on her own for six months but then suffered a vicious attacked by a man who raped her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and kept her tied up for hours. He was deported after an Old Bailey trial and since then she has always worked with friends.

Farmer's flat was raided by police in August 2010, following complaints by neighbours, and she agreed to move elsewhere in response to the complaints. The police could find no evidence that there was any force or coercion at the flat, where she was working with others consensually and independently, but returned later and arrested her while she was moving away. They only released her from custody when a doctor stated her health would be in serious danger if further detained.

She has in the past stood up for other women who have been attacked, appearing as a witness against an armed gang and helping to ensure their conviction. She is now also suffering from a malignant brain tumour. Her consultant has now stated that because of the progress of her tumour "If possible it would be medically justifiable to try and avoid any stress associated with any prolonged Court hearing." One of the women read out a long message from her at the protest, which she was unfortunately not well enough to attend.

The ECP state "The laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and make us more vulnerable to attack must be abolished. For safety’s sake, decriminalize."

The ECP banner says "no bad women, just bad laws" and in the area of sex and prostitution there are certainly many bad laws, and the few bad women are not those who become sex workers but a very small minority of those who oppress other women. In recent years we have seen some limited attempts to crack down on the true horrors of parts of the sex industry forging an unholy alliance between some of left women and right-wing Christians to clamp down on prostitution, resulting in police persecution of sex workers and in forcing them out of working in relatively safe flats and on to the street, exposing them to dangers.

There seems to be no public benefit in bringing a case against Sheila Farmer that could result in up to seven years in prison, as well as the loss of her savings which she needs to pay for her cancer treatment. Currently she is having to survive on state benefits.

Around 50 people turned up for this 'Slut Means Speak Up' event, an hour -long protest with banners, placards and speeches on an open microphone on the pavement in front of Rose Court. Mainly they were women, but there were men there too. Some of those present identified themselves as sex workers, including one man who was a leader of the sex workers section of the GMB union. There were speakers from all the groups present, including one of the Slutwalk organsers, as well as from a number of individuals.

Most moving were the testimonies by a number of women present who had been raped and came forward to tell a litany of obstruction and obfuscation they had faced in trying - and failing - to get justice for the crimes against them. Often it was the police who were at best unhelpful and in some cases treated them as criminals rather than as victims. Even in perhaps the only case where the police did their job well, the prosecution was blocked by the CPS, who seem to make it very difficult for women to present their cases to them and to be able to come up with endless reasons to brand rape victims as unreliable witnesses - in some cases it seemed because they had suffered rape. One case we heard about appeared to have been shelved simply because the woman judge set to hear it found the evidence disturbing. Clearly we have a legal system that is failing victims regularly and systemically and justice is not being done.

It is hardly surprising hearing these accounts that over 90% of rapes are thought not to be reported, and that of those which are reported only around 1 in 16 end in a conviction. Women Against Rape report that over 30 women who have "reported rape have been disbeleived and imprisoned in the last 12 months. Asylum seekers who report rape and other torture are often deported. Sex workers who come forward risk prosecution." Those who have complained to the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commision have usually failed to get any satisfaction. Rape is not of course the only case where police and the legal system fail to protect; one man spoke about how trying to get a case of child grooming investigated led to his prosecution.

Speakers made clear that not everyone in the police or prosecution service adopts a negative and unfeeling atttitude or trivialises rape, although as the recent comments by Ken Clarke suggest there are people at the very top among those who fail to take rape - or at least some rapes - seriously. There wre hopes that some of those who are sympathetic to the victims of rape may become whistle-blowers, exposing some of the cover-ups, illegal practices and kicking into the long grass that is too often taking place.

This protest aimed at the CPS and the DPP is the first in a series they are organising at key sites concerned with criminal justice around London, including New Scotland Yard and the Home Office. More details of the campaign and the cases are on the ECP and WAR web sites.
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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2011; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

my london diary index
 

July 2011

Muslim Extremists March For Sharia Zones
Coalition of Resistance Picket Murdoch
Avaaz Protest Murdoch At Parliament
Rev Billy's Tate BP Exorcism
Swan Upping
Angel Bank Robbery Protest
Climate Rush Stop Traffic
Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival
Pro-Choice Rally at Parliament
Protest At Hizb ut-Tahrir Conference
Stop Murdoch BSkyB Takeover
Seen/Unseen Opening
Syrian People Call For Help
NHS 63rd Birthday
Pride Parade
Prosecute Rapists Not Rape Survivors

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