East London Photomonth Opens
Bishopsgate Institute, London. Thur 29 Sept
Maggie Pinhorn of Alternative Arts (right) talks to
people at the opening in the Bishopsgate Institute Library
The East London photography festival, photomonth, is the
largest photographic event in the UK, an international photographic festival
with various special events as well as exhibitions in more that a hundred
venues, from internationally known public galleries and museums to displays
in local shops and shop windows. It is a uniquely democratic event, organised
by Maggie Pinhorn and her small team at alternative arts, encouraging photographers
to display their work, its nature very much a reflection of East London long
a home to radical movements.
The Bishopsgate Institute where this year's opening took place is a fine
example of both architecture (a listed arts & crafts / art nouveau building
from 1895 by Charles Harrison Townsend) and charitable provision for the education
of the then largely poor inhabitants of the area, with a fine collection of
material related to the history of the area. I was particularly interested
to see a wall display on Muriel Lester (1885-1968) a non-conformist
social reformer and pacifist from East London, who founded Kingsley Hall in
Bow where Ghandi stayed during his visit to London in 1931 and as
secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation toured Bihar with
Ghandi during the famine of 1934.
Opposite the display on her were a set of pictures from Liverpool taken by
Phil Maxwell, the earliest work in his retrospective of 40 years
work mainly from the East End which continued in the library, with images
on the end of book cases and high above our heads.
Despite its size and vibrancy, photomonth has never got the attention
it deserves from the UK photographic establishment or photographic press,
perhaps because the real money in the art market in photography lies in galleries
outside its area in the west of the city. photomonth is very much
an alternative rather than an establishment festival, and for me that is very
much its strength.
Enough Is Enough - Abolish Vivisection
Embankment and Battersea Park, London. Saturday 24 Sept 2011
The march along the embankment
Supporters of the National Anti-Vivisection Alliance visited the statue
of the Brown Dog, commemorating the start of the campaign against vivisection
in 1900, and then marched through London to take a letter to Downing St calling
for an end to animal experiments.
I joined around a hundred protesters at Temple Place as after an opening
speech the march was about to start. Unfortunately a number of the organisers
had been unable to come at the last minute. Marching behind a simple banner
with the message ABOLISH VIVISECTION, the march was a silent
one, and instead of placards the marchers carried purple flags, the colour
of the anti-vivisectionists. Many too wore purple clothying as a sign of their
support for the cause.
The group marched up Embankment and I left them as they were on their way
to deliver a letter to Downing Street and hold a protest opposite there calling
for the abolition of vivisection.
Founded in 2010, the National Anti-Vivisection Alliance (NAVA) has become
one of the UK's leading organisations campaigning to end animal research here.
Through branches across the country they carry out peaceful demonstrations
backed by investigations in a law abiding campaign "backed by scientists,
doctors, lawyers, journalists and members of the public across Britain"
to bring an end to the use of animals in research.
They state: "Every six seconds an animal dies in a UK laboratory
- poisoned, burnt, drowned, dissected, mutilated. This does not account for
those that do not make the research facilities. One in five primates die in
transit, other animals are killed at breeding centres because they are not
sufficient to be used in experiments."
Investigations by NAVA have already led to the closure of a number of unsuitable
facilities for animals in the UK and the end to some transp-vivort of animals
Public awareness of the sometimes horrific experiments being carried out
on animals led to public outrage and a political controversy over vivisection
in the early years of the twentieth century. The case of the Brown Dog,
alleged to have been the subject of a cruel and unlawful dissection at University
College led to pitched battles on the streets of London between vivisectionists,
suffragettes, medical students and police in December 1907 that make our recent
protests seem small beer. The scientist accused of cruelty sued for libel
and following a trial in which all the details were brought to public attention
won his case (and his research led to the discovery of hormones.)
A statue was erected to the Brown Dog on the Latchmere estate in Battersea,
but was so controversial it had to be guarded by police 24 hours a day. Eventually
the council decided to remove it - and the workers came at night with a guard
of 120 police in 1910, demolishing the ornate drinking fountain for people
and dogs on which it stood and taking the bronze dog to be melted down.
The current Brown Dog sculpture, hard to locate on a secluded path just to
the east of the formal English Garden in Battersea Park, was erected 75 years
later on a rather more workmanlike plinth, with four plaques telling the story
and ending - as did the 1906 statue - with the words used by today's protesters,
"Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?"
Silent Vigil For Yemen At Downing St
Downing St, London. Saturday 24 Sept 2011
Woman with Yemen flag on her cheek and 'Silence Kills'
taped over her mouth
Protesters from the Yemeni community held a silent protest opposite Downing
St against the killings of peaceful protesters in Sanaa by troops loyal to
President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Protests against the regime of President Saleh have been taking place since
January, when thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Sanaa
and other cities in southern Yemen. T
In March, government forces opened fire on the protesters killing 52, and
the president declared a state of emergency. Many politicians left the government
and several of the military leaders sided with the protesters and in April
the president announced he would stand down from office shortly, but then
refused to sign an agreement set up by the Gulf Co-operation Council.
This led to one of the most powerful tribes in the country declaring its
support of the opposition and fighting took place between the supporters of
this group and the army at the start of June, and the president was injured
when mortar shells fell on the presidential palace, leaving for surgery in
Attacks on the peaceful democracy protesters who had been camping in Change
Square in Sanaa and in other cities were stepped up a week ago, apparently
in preparation for the president's return to Yemen which took place yesterday,
Friday 23 September, with more than 50 protesters being killed in five days.
An attack today by Republican guards led by the President's son on Change
Square is reported to have killed between 19 and 29 people. The army are said
to have used anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades as well as automatic
weapons against the protesters and to have use Some reports put the number
of protesters killed in the last 5 days as more than 100.
The protest at Downing Street was a silent one, with protesters standing
with tape over their mouths with the message 'Silence Kills' and
placards listed the number of deaths and called for freedom rather than slaughter
in the Yemen. One read "The Silence of the International Community
and Media towards Crimes against Humanity in Yemen is a Crime against Humanity".
Many held the red,white and black of the Yemen flag, and others had it painted
on their cheek.
Intifada 11 Years Protest at M&S
Oxford St, London. Saturday 24 Sept 2011
Handing out leaflets and collecting petition signatures outside Mars &
Spencer on Oxford St
The Second Intifada or 'Al-Aqsa Intifada' started shortly after the failure
of the Camp David Middle East Peace Summit between US President Bill Clinton,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority,
Yasser Arafat in July 2000.
One of the several major issues on which the participants could find no agreement
was Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and although Yasser Arafat was allegedly
planning the Intifada prior to September 29th 2000, possibly in connection
with the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state that he had abandoned
a couple of weeks earlier, it was undoubtedly the visit to the Temple Mount,
also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque, by Likud party candidate for Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that acted as the trigger for riots and clashes
between Palestinians and Israeli police and security forces. In the next five
days, 5 Israelis and 47 Palestinians were killed and 1885 Palestinians wounded.
In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority,
having run on a policy of peaceful negotiation and non-violence against Israel.
The day before he was inaugurated, Ariel Sharon, now president of Israel,
froze all contacts with Abbas, but a month later following international pressure
the two men declared a truce at Sharm el-Sheik, often seen as the end of the
The day following Mahmoud Abbas's request to the UN to recognise a Palestinian
state, a special demonstration outside the Oxford Street Marks & Spencer
(M&S) marked the 11th anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
There has been a regular weekly picket of this branch of M&S every Thursday
evening for over ten years, starting shortly after the start of the Second
Intifada in 2000, as well as pickets on Saturday lunchtimes.
When I arrived as the event was starting there were around a dozen activists
handing out leaflets, talking with people passing by, collecting signatures
for a petition and running a literature stall. Banners, posters and leaflets
made clear why they were demonstrating and calling for people to boycott M&S.
They state that M&S has the strongest and most long-stading support for
Zionism of any British retail company, supporting Israel with £240 million
of trade each year. They sell goods from illegal settlement exporters including
Carmel Agrexco and Hadiklaim and are major outlets for socks, underwear and
lingerie made by the major Israeli textile compy Delta Galil and Israeli suit
M&S give financial support to various Zionist social projects including
World Ort, which supported Israel's war crimes in Gaza, and have recieved
awards from Israel for their support.
The Palestinian Authority want the recognition of a Palestinian state based
on the 1967 borders, as demanded by Security Council resolution 242, made
following the Six Day War. Over 120 of the 193 countries currently in the
UN already recognise Palestine.
Apprentice Boys Carson Memorial Parade
Temple, London. Saturday 17 Sept 2011
The British Ulster Alliance Flute Band
The City of London Campsie Club, a branch of the Apprentice Boys of
Derry, held their annual Carson Memorial parade on Saturday, marching to lay
wreaths at the Cenotaph.
The Campsie Club gets its name from Henry Campsie, leader of the 13 apprentice
boys who took the keys an shut the Ferryquay Gate of Londonderry against King
James II and his army in 1688. He was severely wounded when they went on to
take over the city's magazine and arms store.
Lord Carson became a member of the Orange Order at the age of 19, and was
a leading judge and politician in the UK around the start of the 20th century,
becoming Solicitor General. In 1911 he became the leader of the Ulster Unionists,
determined to fight against home rule for Ireland by "all means which
may be found necessary", and was one of the founders of a unionist
militia that became the Ulster Volunteer Force.
When Ulster opted out of Home Rule, Carson resigned as unionist leader and
came back to London to work as a judge feeling he had few connections in Ulster
and did not want to serve as Prime Minister in the Northern Ireland parliament.
Although an Orangeman he warned Unionists not to alienate Catholics in the
north: "from the outset let them see that the Catholic minority have
nothing to fear from a Protestant majority."
Parades in Northern Ireland have unfortunately had the opposite effect over
the years, but in London they are more simply a celebration of cultural and
religious identity. I've photographed this and other Orange parades over the
years, and many on them have seen my work on the web and appreciated it -
and sometimes used my pictures.
But a few of the nastier elements of Northern Ireland remain, and in 2008
and again while photographing this year's parade I was threatened and pushed
away by some of those taking part. It's a thuggishness that has no place on
English streets, and something that the Orange Order should take firm action
against. I fully support religious freedom and the freedom to demonstrate
on our streets, but there is no place for this kind of conduct. It sullys
the memory of one of our great British (and Irish) jurists, and is an insult
to the Protestant faith into which I was born and in which I grew up.
The parade seemed to be rather smaller than in some previous years with fewer
visiting groups taking part. Among those marching with the City of London
Campsie Club were the Westminster Campsie Club, the London Somme Association,
their banner commemorating the actions of the 36th Ulster Division in the
First World War, The British Ulster Alliance, Corby Loyalists and the Rising
Sons of William Flute Band from Cormeen in Northern Ireland.
I left the marchers as the made their way from Temple along the Embankment
towards the Cenotaph where they were to lay wreaths, before going back to
London. Saturday 17 Sept 2011
The beehive a symbol of thrift and industry
I started off at Bank, where I had hoped to see something a little more interesting
than a picnic taking place. There were long queues along in front of the Bank
of England, but not of anxious investors eager to get their money back, or
exchange those Bank of England paper notes with their signed promise to pay
the bearer on demand for some more real currency, but simply people wanting
to get a look around the interior on 'Open House' day. I've been in once and
didn't bother to join the queue.
I made my way down Fleet St towards the Strand, stopping to take a few pictures
- Gog and Magog, guardian giants of London, helped by a dragon in the middle
of the road, the offices of the Dundee Courier, People's Friend, People's
Journal and Sunday Post, the Royal Courts of Justice, a fat monk with a cat
and a beehive...
I've also been in the Roman Bath House in Strand Lane - probably a Tudor
construction - but since there wasn't a queue and I had a few minutes to fill
I went in again to take another look.
Later, as I strolled across Waterloo Bridge, the Thames was full of small
boats being rowed or paddled up with the tide from North Greenwich to Ham
in the 'Great River Race', two of which had a minor collision as they came
up to the bridge.
March For A Secular Europe
Temple, London. Saturday 17 Sept 2011
Maryam Namazie holding the 'One Law For All' banner
The Secular Europe Campaign held a march and rally in London, calling for
an end to religious privileges and for European institutions to remain secular.
London, UK. 17/09/2011.
The campaign was started in 2008, and has a particular focus on the Vatican
because of the enormous power and influence it has. As well as the London
march, a similar protest was taking place today in Rome, protesting about
the huge three billion Euro tax exemption the Vatican enjoys.
A year ago, the campaign led the protests against the Pope's visit to the
UK, with several marches, including one while the Pope was here attended by
more than five thousand people. today's event was less than a fifth of that
size but was still considerably larger than earlier marches by the campaign
I've attended. The organisers were hoping for a larger march, but in the absence
of any strong single current issue this seemed a decent size.
Many of the placards reflected the focus on the Catholic Church and the Pope,
though more were concerned with the church's covering up of sexual offences
by clergy than tax avoidance.
But the campaign is much wider than that, and "aims at representing
all the issues around secularism and human rights, including opposition to
state-funded faith schools, rejection of religious tribunals and support to
equal rights for LGBT citizens."
Many of those attended die appear to be somewhat militantly atheist, which
perhaps limits its appeal. There are after all many moderate Christians (and
probably those from other religions) who would wholeheartedly support its
Among those on the march was 'One Law For All', opposed to all religious
laws and in particular to any attempt to impose Sharia law in the UK. It was
also supported by humanist and gay rights groups including the British Humanist
Association, the Central London Humanist Group, the Gay And Lesbian Humanist
Association, the National Secular Society, OutRage! and the Rationalist Association.
There were also several groups from Europe, including France and Italy.
Wreath For Victims At London Arms Fair
Royal Victoria Dock, London. Friday 16 Sept 2011
The campaigners walk along the opposite side of the
dock to the Excel Centre
On the last day of the DSEi Arms Fair in London Docklands, East London
Against Arms Fairs processed around Royal Victoria Dock and floated a wreath
for victims of the arms trade in the dock opposite the fair.
The funereal procession made its way slowly around the dock side, led by
woman carrying a wreath followed the East London Against Arms Fairs
(ELAAF) banner and small group with other banners and flags, with the rear
being brought up by six policemen.
ELAAF organises regular protests against holding the Arms Fair here and has
received considerable support from local residents and councils. The arms
fair is unpopular in the area not just becuase it sells arms to repressive
regimes around the world, but also because of the considerable disruption
to local life it causes, with a large area around the ExCel Centre being closed
to the public, the closure of roads and footpaths, including the high-level
bridge across the dock to West Silvertown, and disruption to local stations
on the DLR.
Because of the closure of large areas it is impossible to protest around
the arms fair itself, although at other times of the year campaigners protest
against it outside the ExCel centre. However it is still possible to walk
along the opposite side of the very wide dock, and the procession slowly made
its way along the dockside to some steps opposite the centre.
As they did so, several small military boats demonstrated their paces on
the dock, throwing up a considerable wake, and crowds on the terrace outside
the Excel centre watched them, with the small procession singing peace songs
visible in the background, though the songs were most of the time surely drowned
out by the engine roar, as well as the frequent planes coming over us to land
at London City Airport.
When we reached the steps close to the closed high-level bridge which leads
across to the centre the procession halted and after a few short words the
wreath, with its dedication "Remember victims of the arms trade"
was placed in the water and floated away. The group then observed a two minute
silence, and perhaps by coincidence the boats had also stopped for that time,
starting up again later as the protesters walked on after singing two more
There was a further short vigil at the end of the path opposite the centre
where the protest ended.
Flash Mob Against Dale Farm Evictions
Bressenden Place, London. Thursday 15 Sept 2011
Singing at the protest
A flash-mob protest at the Department of Communities and Local Government
called for the eviction of travellers from the Dale Farm site they own to
be abandoned, and for councils not to evict where a family member had been
involved in the riots.
The flash mob appeared on the dot of 5pm, but was rather smaller than anticipated,
almost outnumbered by the photographers and journalists. Eventually there
were around 30 people, most of whom sat on a few sheets of newspaper and cardboard
in front of Eland House, the home of the Ministry of Communities and Local
Although most of the protesters were from the left, socialists or anarchists,
one well-known Muslim member of the English Defence League came up at the
start to ask me and the other press what was happening and stopped to take
part in the protest.
Many of the activists who might otherwise have come to the protest are already
at Dale Farm in Camp Constant there, set up to oppose the bailiffs who are
expected to come and evict them on September 19th. Yesterday there were rumours
that the eviction was about to start earlier than the date previously leaked
from Basildon Council, but nothing has yet happened. Many expect the bailiffs
simply to deliver notice to the residents on the 19th when the activists will
be ready for them and large numbers of press are expected to attend, and to
return a few days later in the middle of the night to dismantle the defences
and remove the activists before starting on evicting the protesters.
There is increasing international pressure on the government to stop the
evictions and put pressure on Basildon Council to come up with a culturally
acceptable solution. Although the courts, council and government insist that
it is simply a planning issue, most from outside the UK (and many inside)
who have examined the issue see it as the culmination of essentially racist
manipulation of planning procedures by the Basildon over many years. Almost
all other councils have also failed to make adequate provision for travellers,
and the rather limited requirement that they should do so was largely removed
by parliament some years ago.
The protesters came with a single tent and banners with the messages 'Homes
Not Jails' and 'Housing is a Human Right'. A smaller poster,
written in biro on the back of a cardboard box summed up the mood of the protesters:
'Housing Justice for ALL! Save Dale Farm - evict the tories!', and
one of the speakers held up a banner with the words 'Eviction Notice -
6 Months Warning', calling for radical changes in Con/Lib Dem coalition
policies or else the people would get rid of them.
A couple of people came up separately during the protest to argue with the
protesters. The first argued that they were being evicted on planning grounds,
but the second said that they should all go home to Ireland, and was surrounded
by a group of protesters calling him a racist. Again he left after a minute
or so, and here were no threats of violence.
There were quite a few police standing some way back and watching the protest,
and the front of the Ministry where the protest was taking place had been
closed before it started.
Arms Fair Fracas At National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London. Tues 13 Sept 2011
Police force protesters away from the steps of the gallery
After a day of peaceful demonstrations against the DSEi Arms Fair in London,
a fracas developed as police attempted to clear the National Gallery steps
while peaceful protest continued below in Trafalgar Square. London, UK. 13/09/2011
A group of well over a hundred protesters came to the National Gallery as
it was closing to protest at a dinner being given there for those attending
the DSEi arms fair, including representatives of many of the most repressive
regimes around the world. The protesters attempted to enter the Gallery as
it was closing but were ushered out by security staff, and then began a peaceful
protest on the steps of the gallery.
The protest came at the end of a coordinated day of action on the opening
day against DSEi (Defence & Security Equipment International), the world's
largest arms fair, which takes place every two years at the ExCel centre in
London Dockland by the 'Stop the Arms Fair Coalition' .
Gallery staff asked protesters to leave the steps but some decided to stay
and display banners there, while others continued to protest peacefully on
the North Terrace in front of the gallery, displaying banners and holding
After a while police came and asked the protesters to move, and with a great
deal of argument and protestation they were moving very slowly down the stairs.
There was quite a lot of joking between some of the police and protesters
and the atmosphere was generally friendly, although the protesters were not
Suddenly one of the protesters was roughly carried away by police towards
a nearby van. He did not appear to be formally arrested, and police would
give no reason for his detention either to press. legal observers or protesters.
The incident, and in particular the lack of communication, changed the mood
of the event and tempers on both sides rose somewhat. When police in larger
numbers arrived and finally cleared the steps as protesters linked arms to
prevent their removal, well in the main they used the minimal neccessary force,
there were a few incidents of what seemed thuggish violence towards both men
and women, and several more were dragged away towards the police vans. It
is never possible to see everything that happens in such confused situations,
but their offence seemed to have been arguing and trying to protect themselves
against police violence. For a few moments things did seem to get a little
out of hand and one senior officer pushed violently past me and entered the
affray with what looked like gay abandon. Apart from these exceptions the
police had generally behaved well over the day, doing a difficult job with
proper respect for the right to demonstrate as well as for the safety of the
Meanwhile on the pavement in front of the gallery the peaceful demonstration
by the 'Stop the Arms Fair Coalition' continued, with a large number of people
taking part in a 'die-in'. A speaker from 'East London Against Arms Fairs'
made a speech explaining to the crowd that had gathered why the protest was
taking place and calling for an end to UK arms sales to authoritarian regimes
(including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both responsible for the ruthless suppression
of people in the 'Arab Spring' as well as countries involved in major armed
conflicts and human rights abuses.
DSEi Protest at BAE Systems
Carlton House Terrace, London. Tues 13 Sept 2011
The mass 'die-in' on the road outside the BAE offices
Protesters against the DSEi arms fair staged a die-in outside the London
offices of BAE Systems, a major arms company that has been alleged to be involved
in corrupt deals in many countries.
The Serious Fraud Office was forced to drop its enquiries into bribery over
an arms deal by BAE Systems with Saudi Arabia by then UK government afer a
Saudi royal prince threatened cancellation of the order in 2006. The Campaign
Against Arms Trade (CAAT) obtained a High Court decision that this
breached the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, but the government appealed and
the law lords decided that national security should be an overriding principle
and overturned the decision.
The lords got BAE off the hook, although the government decision was seen
by most as an admission of BAE's guilt in the matter. According to The
Guardian they have also been under investigation for bribery in Chile,
Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, the Czech Republic and Qatar.
BAE systems are one of the world's largest arms companies, producing fighter
aircraft, warships, missiles and tanks along with other weapons. They are
also one of the companies that will profit hugely from the replacement of
Trident nuclear missiles, a high-spending and potentially dangerous project
with no military significance.
The protest outside their offices in Carlton House Terrace, close to Buckingham
Palace and easy lobbying distance from Whitehall was part of a coordinated
day of action by the 'Stop the Arms Fair Coalition' against DSEi (Defence
& Security Equipment International), the world's largest arms fair, which
takes place every two years at the ExCel centre in London Docklands, and took
place on its opening day. The coalition includes the Campaign Against the
Arms Trade (CAAT), Disarm DSEi, East London Against Arms Fairs, Fellowship
of Reconciliation, London Catholic Worker, Pax Christi, Stop the War Coalition,
Trident Ploughshares, War or Want and other groups.
There were a few songs and some very short speeches before almost all of
those present, except for a few who kept holding banners in the doorway of
BAE, got down flat on the pavement for a die-in. After around five minutes
on the ground, filling a 50 yard or so stretch of the road, everyone got up
and left. This protest was listed as the last in the day of action, but most
of those present were going on to take action at the National Gallery, which
was hosting a dinner for those attending the DSEi arms fair.
Down the Drones City Arms Fair Protest
Tower 42, Old Broad St, City of London. Tues 13 Sept 2011
Protesters briefly laid on a large target on the pavement
while another held a games controller
FoR and Speak organised a protest against drones - remote-control killer
robots - outside the new London offices of General Atomics makers of Predator
and Reaper drones.
This action was a part of the Day of Action by the 'Stop the Arms Fair Coalition'
against DSEi (Defence & Security Equipment International) on its opening
day. DSEi is the world's largest arms fair, and takes place every two years
at the ExCel centre in London Docklands The coalition includes the Campaign
Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), Disarm DSEi, East London Against Arms Fairs,
Fellowship of Reconciliation, London Catholic Worker, Pax Christi, Stop the
War Coalition, Trident Ploughshares, War or Want and other groups.
This legal non-violent protest at the Tower 42 offices of General Atomics
was organised by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) and Speak
Network, which connects "together young adults and students
to campaign and pray about issues of global injustice." FoR is an
interfaith movement, founded in 1914 and with permanent representation at
the UN and describes itself as "an international, spiritually-based
movement of people who, from the basis of a belief in the power of love and
truth to create justice and restore community, commit themselves to active
nonviolence as a way of life and as a means of personal, social, economic
and political transformation."
Around 50 people turned up outside the offices at Tower 42 in Old Broad St,
at one time the tallest building in the city but now long eclipesed. They
chalked slogans on the pavement, displayed banners, sang and handed out leaflets
to passers by about the dangers of militarism.
The had intended to to invite passing members of the public to use a Playstation
controller to play 'Remote Control Killer Robots' so they could discover "how
targeted and preice armed drones really are." Unfortunately although
there is a lot of empty space open to the public around the tower, only a
narrow strip of the pavement is public space, and with the police insisting
on keeping a passage clear this game proved impossible.
Using drones turns warfare for those 'piloting' them from a centre perhaps
several thousands of miles from the battlefield into something very much like
a computer game, removing any normal human inhibitions about the indiscriminate
killing of others.
The US is currently using around 48 Predator and Reaper drones in Iraq and
Afghanistan, controlled from an airforce base in Nevada. One of their main
advantages is that they can remain in flight for long periods of time - up
to 42 hours - while waiting for the order to strike. The UK has around 10
active MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan, operated by RAF pilots also at the Nevada
Shortly before the protesters left Tower 42 the police allowed the protesters
to briefly lay their target cloth out on the pavement and pose for photographs
for a few seconds.
Secret Gardens of St John's Wood
Queens's Terrace Café, St John's Wood, London. Tue 13 Sept 2011
The main wall of the café with 30" or 36"
wide prints. Design & decoration by Jiro Osuga.
During a gap between protests I rushed to St John's Wood and the Queens's
Terrace Café, where my show 'Secret Gardens of St John's Wood' had
been hung at the weekend, and I had been too busy to be there. I took a series
of location views of the show before rushing back into the city of the next
Dr Zig's 'Bubbles Not Bombs' Protest
Thames Embankment, Tate Modern, London. Tues 13 Sept 2011
Kids try to catch the bubbles from the peace protesters
Dr Zig and his gang came from Wales and made their "seriously
HUGE bubbles" on the riverside walk outside Tate Modern, shouting "Bubbles
not Bombs" as a child-friendly protest against the DSEi Arms Fair.
This protest was part of a coordinated day of action by the 'Stop the
Arms Fair Coalition' against DSEi (Defence & Security Equipment International),
the world's largest arms fair, on the day that it opened in London Docklands.
In child-friendly terms it is a place "where bad people the world
over can come and buy the latest in guns, drones, warships etc."
The Dragon Bubbles were indeed impressive, although the weather
was perhaps not at its best for them, with a strong gusty wind and occasional
showers, and there were fewer walkers along the path than usual. Between the
showers, the performance did gather some small crowds, and a few children
(and some not so young) were at times delightedly chasing and trying to catch
Along the railings by the river, a large banner spelt out the message 'Kids
need human rights NOT cluster bombs' while another larger banner in colourful
lettering on the other side of the path simply stated 'Stop the arms fair.'
Dr Zig and his gang were hoping to go on to the ExCel Centre where the DSEi
was taking place to "bubble mob" the arms dealers later
in the afternoon.
Arms Fair Protest At Parliament
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tues 13 Sept 2011
A queue with loaded baskets waits to pay at the arms
Around 250 protested opposite parliament against the government sponsored
DSEi arms fair at the Excel Centre in East London where arms are being sold
to repressive regimes.
The protest began with singing from socialist choir 'Raised Voices'
and then there was a mock 'Arms Supermarket' where people, including
veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent and a Buddhist monk, queued at
the till to pay for their purchases in fornt of people carrying placards agains
the arms fair and letters spelling out the message 'THIS IS NOT OK'.
The rally continued with a number of short speeches, inclduing a powerful
performance by our only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who urged us all
to press our MPs to sign the early day motion against the arms fair she has
She said it was hardly surpsing that the government had kept quiet about
those attending to the last minute, as the list contained many unsavoury countries,
including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia whose troops had gone to supress popular
feeling in Babhrain.
The protest was organised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) as a
part of a week of action against the DSEi arms fair and supported by other
groups, including various peace and anit-war groups. Among them were "
'Sparkles Not Shrapnel' and their gorgeous allies", a LGBT Queer
action against the DSEi arms fair and the international arms trade in what
they called " 'Operation Hello Sailor' (Code Word: Ahoy!)"
It was a serious and purposeful event, but also one which set out to inform
and and also to entertain the public. Few people other than the protesters
appeared to be aware that there was an arms fair taking place in London, and
were surprised to learn that the UK is one of the major arms suppliers to
trouble spots around the world.
Although the UK has a policy which claims to include safeguards to make sure
that arms are used for "legitimate purposes, not for internal repression"
this is a simple fictional figleaf and their actions tell a different story.
Both this and the previous Labour government have sold weapons to countries
that have used them to repress their own people, and it was hardly a surpise
that David Cameron's first action on hearing about the 'Arab Spring'
was to rush out to the region with a group of arms salesmen.
Many of the weapons used by Gadaffi's regime over its years of repression
and its fight against the revolution came from the UK. In 2010 the UK government
issued licences for the export of £218 million of miltary equipment
there, including tear gas and sniper rifles.
The UK Government's Human Rights Annual Report for 2010 listed 26 countries
where there was considerable concern over human rights violations, and in
the same year it approved arms exports to 16 of these,including as well as
Libya, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Although our government stated that the Sri Lankan offensive against the
Tamil Tigers "raised grave concerns over human rights",
they took place with the help of weapons supplied by the UK and we continue
to supply them to Sri Lanka. The government has also admitted that UK weapons
were almost certainly used by the Israeli armed forces in their 2008-9 attack
on Gaza, 'Operation Cast Lead' in which around a thousand civilians,
including 350 children, were killed.
9/11 Anniversary - EDL & MAC
Grosvenor Square, London. Sunday 11 Sept 2011
Muslims Against Crusades were held in pen just to
the north of the square and the EDL just to the south
Muslims Against Crusades came to Grosvenor Square to
protest noisily near the US embassy throughout the afternoon during the 10th
anniversary of 9/11. The EDL and others turned up
to show their disgust at the MAC.
Today was the 10th anniversary of the attacks on America that are universally
known as 9/11, and an official event was held at the memorial in Grosvenor
Square to commemorate this, including a minute's silence for the three thousand
who died as a result of these attacks.
Anjem Choudary's extremist group, Muslims Against Crusades had earlier posted
an animation involving aircraft crashing into towers on their web site and
announced their intention to hold a noisy protest at Grosvenor Square to break
the silence and to make clear their opinions to those attending the Grosvenor
Security in Grosvenor Square was heavy and the police had decided to provide
two pens just outside the square on opposite sides; on the north side for
MAC, and on the south for the EDL who had announced their intention to demonstrate
against MAC's attempt to disrupt the commemoration.
First to arrive were the EDL, and a group of around 50, some carrying wreaths
and flowers, came to a pen set up by police close to where the MAC were to
protest. Police objected to their presence there, and after some heated discussion
an officer read out a 'Section 14' notice under the Public Order Act 1986,
which allows police to specify the location of a protest (and numbers and
duration) when reasonably necessary to prevent serious public disorder.
The EDL argued that they were behaving peacefully and with suitable respect
for the occasion and wished to lay the wreaths and flowers which some were
carrying and so there was no threat of serious public disorder, but it would
have been difficult to sustain that argument given their behaviour at some
previous events. Eventually the police persuaded them to move and escorted
them across in front of the heavily guarded US Embassy to a pen on a side
road off the opposite side of the square. Like a number of other individuals
who arrive during the afternoon they were not allowed to lay wreaths at the
memorial, but police did take one of their wreaths and say it would be laid
later. Others were told they could come back after 5pm to lay wreaths.
Once the EDL had been moved, police allowed the MAC to enter their pen, which
was a few yards back from the square on a side road. There was a double row
of barriers between them and the square, but despite this, police almost immediately
moved photographers further back, and put two widely spaced rows of police
in front of the protesters, moving the photographers behind these. They made
sure it was not possible to properly photograph the MAC from inside Grosvenor
There were the usual speeches from Anjem Choudary and a couple of other leading
members of MAC, as well as from a visitor from the Lebanon. They argue that
the number who died on 9/11 is small compared to those killed by the US in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and their overall message, repeated in their posters,
was that Islam is the fastest growing religion and will take over the whole
They came with powerful loudspeakers, and their message bounced off the large
frontage of the US Embassy and resounded around the whole square, and must
have been very noticeable to those taking part in the commemoration at the
far end of the gardens (which was being covered under the normal 'pool' arrangements
for such major events with other photographers being excluded.)
The EDL had been sidelined (and most soon disappeared) but the MAC managed
to protest as they had intended. There were rumours that they had again burnt
a US flag as a part of their protest, but I could not see this from where
the press were allowed to photograph.
The policing prevented any serious clash between the MAC and the EDL while
I was present, but also kept both groups just outside the square in which
they wanted to protest. And although relations between police and press were
generally good, a number of photographers with press cards were refused access
to the square and some of the restrictions imposed seemed unnecessarily restrictive.
March Supports Dale Farm Against Evictions
Wickford to Cray's Hill, Essex, UK. Saturday 10 September 2011
Children lead the march after a short stop for prayers
in the centre of Wickford
Over 200 people, including some women and children from the travellers
site at Dale Farm marched over 3 miles from Wickford Station
to a rally at the site in a protest against the planned eviction there.
The marchers stopped in the centre of Wickford for a bible reading and brief
prayers before continuing on the march, with children at the front initially
holding the main banner, then skipping along in front of it and playing to
the cameras. Three young women, with a banner 'No Ethnic Cleansing at Dale
Farm' spent most of the march joking with policemen, posing for photographers
and singing loudly and tunefully.
Children, some of whom had carried a placard 'We Love Our School' ran ahead
to pose in front of it when we reached Cray's Hill, and they were joined by
Labour Euro-MP Richard Howitt who had marched the whole way and spoke at the
Despite the desperate situation the travellers face it was a very cheerful
and optimistic event and there was never the slightest hint of any violence.
The only slight unpleasantness came when we reached Camp Constant, where many
volunteers who have come to oppose the eviction at Dale Farm are living -
its name comes from the firm of bailiffs, Constant and Co, which was awarded
the multimillion-pound contract to carry out the Dale Farm evictions.
One of the march organisers, a non-traveller who had been filming the event
(and had already annoyed the press on several occasions by deliberately walking
in front of those photographing or filming) tried to get the travellers to
refuse the press access to the site and the protest camp, although many of
us had earlier been invited to visit their homes by the travellers on the
We were stopped and kept waiting for around ten minutes until one of the
women leading the travellers insisted we be allowed inside, and we were then
able to photograph the rally there. It seemed ridiculous and entirely counter-productive
to deliberately try and antagonise the journalists and photographers, most
of whom are sympathetic to the cause of the Dale Farm residents - even if
the editors of some newspapers clearly are not.
Basildon Council have for a long time been trying to get rid of the travellers
who have made their homes on land that they own at Dale Farm, a little over
three miles from Wickford and a similar distance north of Basildon.
The land had been concreted over in the 1950s and was in use as a registered
scrap yard and was contaminated by toxic waste. The travellers bought the
land on the advice of the Local Planning Authority, but unfortunately only
half the land was granted planning permission for the site.
Although situated within the green belt, this has not been true green belt
for more than 50 years, and the council's decision to pursue the matter through
the courts to the bitter end of evicting the community can only be understood
in terms of racism. Basildon is not alone in this; the Commission for Racial
Equality reports that 90% of all Traveller planning applications are initially
refused compared to the normal rate of 20%.
The eviction is expected to cost the council around £18 million, and
is totally unnecessary, even to meet the two reasons the council give, the
protection of greenbelt land and the equal application of planning law to
Dale Farm residents have been offered another site in Basildon by the Homes
and Communities Agency, and the families agreed to move as a community to
that site. But the council has failed to grant the necessary planning approval.
The council will also have a statutory duty to house many of the residents
should the eviction go ahead, and this was also a condition of the court decision.
Basildon have completely failed to understand that suitable alternative accommodation
for these people, which should mean providing a site where the community can
continue to live together, and seem likely to fail in providing social housing
of any kind for many of the 86 families. The council simply do not have sufficient
housing available, and are presumably hoping that because these are travellers
they will travel away from Basildon borough if sufficiently harassed through
being given unsuitable accommodation, perhaps by splitting up families and
the use of bed and breakfast hostels.
The people at Dale Farm were very much heartened when the United Nations
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made a statement just
over a week ago asking the Council to take no action against the residents
of Dale Farm but to find a peaceful and appropriate sollutio. They called
on the council and the government to suspend the “immature and unwise”
eviction, saying it would “disproportionately affect the lives of the
Gypsy and Traveller families, particularly women, children and older people”.
The Dale Farm site looked clean and tidy - more so than some other areas
we passed on the way, and the lanes leading to it were also clear of any rubbish.
It seemed in many ways an ideal location for a traveller site. Although many
of those living along the route waved cheerfully at the protesters, there
where a few properties where we passed people with large and unfriendly dogs
and sullen stares.
At the rally, East of England Euro MP Richard Howitt repeated his call for
the report made by a Council of Europe delegation that visited Dale Farm earlier
this year to be made public. They were reseating into whether the human rights
of travellers there were being respected; their recommendations were recently
given to the government but have not been published.
Among the other speakers were Kika Markham, the widow of Corinne Redgrave
who had long been a fervent supporter of the human rights of the Gypsy and
Traveller community in general and the Dale Farm residents in particular,
the secretary of the Roma Federation Grattan Puxon and Richard Sheridan, president
of the Gypsy Council and a Dale Farm resident, as well as speakers from Amnesty
International, No Borders, UAF and the regional trade union organisation.
Candlelit Vigil Against NHS Privatisation
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 7 Sept 2011
Our Health Service - Not for Sale - No NHS cuts
Several hundred health workers gathered opposite the Houses of Parliament
for a candlelit vigil as MPs gave the Health and Social Care Bill
its third reading.
Pressure from Lib-Dem MPs led to a pause and some minor revisions in Andrew
Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill in April, but these made little difference
to the intention of the bill, which its opponents say is to break up and privatise
the National Health Service.
The proposals have been rejected by most health professional and have led
to numerous protests around the country, culminating in the massive TUC march
in London on 26 March and a petition signed by over 400,000 people.
The bill is based on models from the USA, which many people find themselves
unable to afford appropriate medical treatment. People who need expensive
or long-term treatments are often told these are not covered by their insurance
and can be faced with huge bills for drugs and medical care; costs of treatment
there have soared as private firms operate them for profit.
Already in England the Department of Health is reported to be discussing
handing the management of between 10 and 20 hospitals to a German firm, Helios.
Various medical services, including intensive care beds and some whole areas
of medicine are already being put out to tender in different areas of the
The plan to privatise the NHS began more than 20 years ago, with a significant
landmark under New Labour in 2000, when then Health Secretary Alan Milburn
reached an agreement with the so-called 'Independent Healthcare Association'
which then represented most of the private hospitals and private health provision,
about the direction in which healthcare here should be moving. Their joint
vision was for the NHS simply to become an organisation that would provide
a 'kitemark' to accredit health services provided by private companies. Lansley's
bill if passed will make a great leap forward towards this, fragmenting the
service, introducing commercialisation and market competition.
Campaigning group 'Keep Our NHS public' point out that in 2009 management
consultants McKinsey drew up a list of treatments that might no longer be
made available as a part of the NHS but which could be provided at a charge
by private sector organisations - including hernias & varicose vein operations,
knee & hip replacements and cataract operations.
It was inevitable that the government would get the bill through its third
reading, although many were hoping that Lib Dem MPs would put up a rather
greater fight. The fight against it will continue, with the hope that the
House of Lords will fight to retain a comprehensive national health service,
free at the point of need. For many years it was the envy of countries around
the world, and although it clearly needs reform, it remains a service of which
most of us are rightly proud and which we do not want to lose.
When the results of the vote were announced, there was a powerful feeling
of disappointment, disgust and anger. People are going to keep up the fight
for our National Health Service.
Protest At Koch Bros Climate Change Deniers
Fenchurch St, London. Tuesday 7 September 2011
The US Tea party say climate change is all voodo, nonsense, hokum a hoax (Michelle
The Campaign against Climate Change protested outside the London
offices of leading climate change deniers and Tea Party funders Koch Industries
as workers came to and left the City.
Koch Industries is a huge privately owned US company that Koch Industries
is a huge privately owned US company that operates oil refineries and other
industries - one of its brands is Lycra. Owned by brothers Charles and David
Koch, the company has a deplorable environmental record and has paid huge
fines for various oil spills and other violations, although it expends massive
amounts on political influence to evade penalties. According to the the Campaign
against Climate Change (CCC):
"in April 2001 after Koch helped to elect George Bush in 2000,
the Bush Justice Department abruptly settled a criminal case with $350 million
in penalties that Koch faced for discharging toxic chemicals from a refinery
in Corpus Cristi, Texas. "
Koch Industries has one of the largest teams of political lobbyists in the
US, considerably larger than that of comparable companies and at times larger
than that of the body representing the whole of the chemical industries.
Greenpeace in the US recently produced a damning report on their
activities. As well as detailing many of their known safety and environmental
violations it also exposes the large donations they have made to politicians
on key safety committees in both chambers of Congress.
Koch industries are also major supporters of various right wing groups that
deny that climate change exists or that it is a problem. Greenpeace in 2010
identified them as the leading funder behind climate change disinformation.
David Koch himself was reported by Rolling Stone magazine claiming global
warming as a benefit: "The Earth will be able to support enormously more
people," he says, "because a far greater land area will be available
to produce food."
Koch Industries have offices on one or two floors of Fountain House, a block
with a lengthy frontage of shops on Fenchurch Street with a smaller office
tower above. CCC came with a large banner and a balloon at 8 am to attract
attention and many of those entering the office building and hurrying elsewhere
along the street took copies of the leaflet which explained why they were
protesting against this company run by and supporting right wing extremist
climate change deniers and environmental criminals. On the back were portraits
of some of the public figures they support, including talk show host Glen
Beck (ex Fox News TV host), vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin,
Texas congressman and founder of 'Campaign for Liberty', Ron Paul,
Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry,
former congressman Dick Armey, chairman of 'FreedomWorks' and
representative Michelle Bachmann from Minnesota, the founder of the
House Tea Party Caucus.
In their evening protest which I photographed, CCC used placards with enlarged
portraits of these leading figures related to Koch Industries who are major
funders of the Tea Party movement. It was too windy for their very large banner,
and rather cold for the 'tea party' they had intended to stage, but they did
get out the cups (and teapot) for a picture.
The Tea Party movement not only denies the reality of climate change and
is preventing US moves to deal with it, but is also very much threatening
the global financial system by opposing President Obama's attempts to revive
the US Economy. The whole of the City of London should have been out there
protesting as well!
Tower Hamlets Unites Against EDL
Aldgate and Whitechapel, London. Sat 3 Sept 2011
Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets congratulates the protesters and tells
them it is time to go home
A peaceful protest by several thousand stopped the EDL from entering the
Tower Hamlets and they celebrated with a short victory march. London, UK.
The protest in Tower Hamlets by residents and their supporters against the
plans by the English Defence League to hold a rally somewhere in their borough
had started around 11am, but I only arrived at around the same time as the
EDL had expected to be holding their rally.
I had heard that the static protest by the EDL was to be at the back of Aldgate
East station. I made my way there but the street was empty with a row of police
who refused to let me pass despite showing my press card. The EDL rally was
held in front of Aldgate Station in the City of London - around a hundred
metres short of their intended destination, Tower Hamlets.
Originally the EDL had intended to march through the area, but following
the ban on marches announced by home secretary Theresa May after a request
by the police had planned a static demonstration. This was planned to be on
a supermarket car park close to the East London Mosque, but the supermarket
refused to let them make use of the site, as did some other owners of possible
The EDL was also denied access to various pubs across London where they intended
to meet and march to the area, and the RMT union had stated they would close
stations in London that the EDL wanted to use because of the danger this would
cause to rail staff.
The EDL rally attracted fewer supporters than expected, and a a small number
were turned back by police when trying to enter London. Others are said to
have got lost after making considerable detours to find pubs that would serve
I returned to the junction of Commercial Street and Whitechapel High St,
where a crowd of around a thousand had gathered to oppose the EDL. A little
further down the road at the bottom of Brick Lane was another crowd of a similar
size, and there were more people further along the Whitechapel Road close
to the East London Mosque and still more at the corner of Vallance Road.
A great cheer went up from the crowd when it was announced over a megaphone
that EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) had been arrested
after speaking at the EDL rally, where he had apparently boasted of having
broken his bail conditions.
There was jubilation too when the crowd heard that police were moving the
EDL away from Aldgate and back to Liverpool Street Station and to the coaches
waiting for them on Tooley St near London Bridge. The counter-demonstration
had greatly outnumbered the EDL and had succeeded in stopping them reaching
At around 4.20pm the protesters began a 'Victory March' from the bottom of
Brick Lane along Whitechapel High St, led by the Mayor, councillors and others
who linked arms across the width of the road.
Th march stopped outside the East London Mosque, but activists moved the
front of the councillors and continued along the road. They were then briefly
stopped by a line of police who told them that what they were doing was illegal
as there was a ban on marches in the area, but the marchers were in no mood
to stop. Some simply walked around the side of the police line, while others
pushed their way through the heavily outnumbered police.
A few hundred yards on, stewards and some of the protest leaders managed
to bring the march to a halt, and several speakers urged the people to enjoy
their victory but not to continue with an illegal march which would result
in arrests and become the story of the day for the press rather than it being
one of a community victory over racism. Eventually the crowd calmed down;
some took up the offer of a cup of tea back in the Muslim Centre, while others
Protest Against Repression In Syria
Downing St, London. Sat 3 Sept 2011
Syrians protest at killing of peaceful protesters in Syria
Syrians of all ages marched from the Syrian embassy to a noisy protest
at Downing St calling for freedom in Syria and an end to oppression, atrocities
and humiliation by the Assad regime.
Around a hundred members of the Syrian Community in London protested at Downing
Street, calling for further sanctions and diplomatic pressure to support the
peaceful protests in Syria against the Assad regime and to bring freedom and
democracy to their country.
Peaceful protests which began on the 15 March, calling for reforms have been
met by brutal repression, with more than 1800 people killed, including many
children. Soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians or take part in torture
have been themselves killed.
Marches have been met with tanks, cities and villages attacked by helicopter
gunships, men, women and children tortured, but the protests have intensified,
now calling for the overthrow of the regime and the prosecution of President
Assad as a war criminal.
The British Government has been among those calling for sanctions and condemnation
of the Syrian regime and for reforms in the country. There were calls for
further pressure on Russia to remove its veto on UN actions against the regime.
The solidarity protest included people of all ages, with several young children
taking an active part, and there was also a creche with other young children.
Many of the women taking part wore Muslim headscarves, but there were others
who did not, and although most of the drumming, dancing and flag-waving was
by the men, this was not a rigidly segregated event. Several flags were in
use, including both the current red, white and black Syrian tricolour with
its 2 green stars and the older green, white and black with three red stars
adopted by many taking part in the Syrian revolution. There were aslo some
red, black and green Libyan revoltionary flags and arm bands at the protest.
Alternative Action Anti-Sharia Protest
St James to Whitehall, London. Sat 3 Sept 2011
Time to march - getting ready opposite St James's Station
Patriotic groups formerly allied to the EDL held an 'Alternative Action'
march in London, and were disgusted when their letter to Downing St calling
for one system of law in the UK and an end to Sharia courts was refused.
This small protest was in marked contrast to the events taking place in the
City of London, where later police arrested around 60 of the EDL. Here the
protesters made their protest in a quiet and generally dignified manner, apart
from one small incident where English Nationalist Alliance leader Bill Baker
got out his megaphone to shout at the Syrians demonstrating opposite Downing
St against the repression of dissent in Syria, apparently under the misconception
that they were Islamic extremists he told them to go back to Syria nad make
their protests in their own country.
After a couple of minutes, one of the leaders of another of the groups involved
in Alternative Action (AA) pulled him to one side and reminded him that they
were not there to do that kind of thing, and the protest continued in its
earlier more dignified manner.
AA brings together a number of "patriot activist groups" which
have previously demonstrated with the EDL but now want to dissociate themselves
from the loutish behaviour, violence and racism that has attended many EDL
protests. They include the English Nationalist Alliance, the British Patriotic
Alliance, the Combined Ex Forces, the Ex EDL Association and the National
League of Infidels.
Their peaceful protest march and rally in Central London was organised to
take place at the same time as the EDL were planning an imflammatory incursion
into Tower Hamlets and was deliberately held well away from areas with a significant
Muslim population. Previous events organised by groups including the ENA and
March For England have been marred by the bad behaviour of EDL supporters,
and EDL leader Tommy Robinson was reported as telling a meeting in Luton last
week that the EDL would try to disrupt their peaceful march, but they did
not turn up.
The setting up of AA also reflects various bitter disputes that have emerged
on the web over the leadership and policies of the EDL, in particular over
the lack of accountability in the organisation and the behaviour of some of
its self-appointed leaders, including Robinson and the 'Jewish division' of
The met at St James's Station and from their marched to lay wreaths at the
Cenotaph. From there they went to Downing Street where they had arranged to
hand in a letter before going on to hold a short rally in Waterloo Place.
The protest turned out to be considerably smaller than the organisers had
expected, and I was told a few of those on their way to it were stopped and
turned back by the police. Only around 20 people arrived, although well over
a hundred had signed up for the event on Facebook. At 1.30pm they set off
to march on the pavement to the Cenotaph, where one of the women present laid
a wreath, watched closely by three former members of the Kings Regiment and
a former Grenadier Guard from Combined Ex Forces, with the rest of the group
observing in silence a few yards back. The ex-servicemen saluted, after which
all of the group observed a minute's silence in memory of the soldiers who
have given their life for their country.
The march then moved on to Downing St, where they attempted to deliver a
letter, following arrangements that had been made earlier in the week with
the Downing St police liaison officer, but police there refused to take it.
James Devine, second in command of the Combined Ex Forces, made a lengthy
statement in which he expressed the disgust of the protesters. By refusing
to take the letter today, the Prime Minister has shown he has no respect for
servicemen". It showed "a total disrespect for the armed forces."
He went on to say that the government "work for the British people"
and should be ready to listen to them, and that "they are traitors."
The letter, which should be available on the web shortly, demanded that the
British government takes action to ensure that everyone in Britain came under
the same law, and that there should be no Sharia courts (or other religious
courts) in this country. Before the election, David Cameron had expressed
his agreement with this but in power had done nothing about it. This is the
latest in a series of similar letters delivered by previous marches, and the
civil servants who had replied to these had failed to answer any of the points
Opposite Downing Street there were a group of Syrians protesting against
the continuing repression of protests in their country. The AA protesters
lined up beside their banner facing them across the road. At least some of
those taking part felt that it was inappropriate to allow protests involving
foreign flags so close to the Cenotaph with its flags honouring our military
dead, although the Syrians (and many others who regularly protest in the area
opposite Downing St) do so because it is the closest the police allow protests
to Downing St, and certainly intended no disrespect to the British armed forces.
I left the AA protest at this point, as, after the incident mentioned above,
it continued to protest peacefully on the pavement just part Downing St for
some minutes before continuing on its way to Waterloo Place. From there some
at least of those present were intending to go on pay their respects at the
grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.
Brian Haw Peace Protest Continues
Parliament Square, London. Sat 3 September 2011
The campaign in Parliament Square still continues 24/7
The permanent 24/7 peace protest in Parliament Square begun by the late Brian
Haw more than ten years ago is continuing despite the campaign by police and
politicians to bring it to an end. On 31 August, police came and removed the
display despite the protests of the campaign members present at the site,
saying that it had been abandoned despite their protestations. This was not
the first time that the display here has been stolen by police, the most famous
being in May 2006, after which a reconstruction by an artist was controversially
put on display at Tate Britain.
Since then, the size of the display has been restricted, but the protest
has remained continuous despite harassment and arrests of Brian Haw, Barbara
Tucker and others involved. Since Brian's death Barbara has been the main
campaigner at the site but is helped by a team of others, who have kept up
the protest since she was sent to Holloway Prison for a few weeks.
As well as the Brian Haw campaign there are other campaigners present in
the square most of the time, including the Peace Strike campaign and various
other groups. It seems to me a scandal that Parliament Square is still kept
fenced off by the council and the public are denied access to the statues
of Churchill, Lloyd George and others.
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