Magna Carta Memorial
Runnemede, Surrey. Saturday 31 December 2011
Magna Carta memorial from the Thames Path
Walking to Old Windsor to have lunch we passed through Runnemede and I saw
the memorial to Magna Carta through a large block of teasels. The monument
was put there by the American Bar Association, but the principles that Magna
Carta established such as habeas corpus are abused and under threat
in America - as well as at Guantanamo Bay, now coming up to its tenth anniversary.
Perhaps a longer lens than the fixed 35mm on the Fuji would have been good.
intending to take pictures, and the camera was still set at ISO 3200 from
the previous day, but the detail from it still looks good at this scale.
Surrey Hills Walk
Westhumble & Ranmore Common, Surrey. Friday 30 Dec 2011
It was raining slightly as we walked along the edge above the valley
The weather wasn't great and days are so short at this time of year, so we
decided not to go to far for a walk, and did a roughly ten-mile circuit from
Box Hill & Westhumble station. It was dry when we started, though parts
of the path as we went along through Druids Grove. Many of the old yews (some
perhaps 2000 years old) have now been blown down in gales but there are still
quite a few on each side of the path. From there we walked past the Albury
Park sawmills and on through Polesden Lacy, passing under it's thatched bridge.
The steep track down from where we crossed the North Downs Way to the Pilgrim's
Way a couple of hundred feet lower down the slope was a greasy mud, but we
picked up some hefty sticks to help us keep upright, and from then on the
way was easy going, with just a short uphill scramble to join the North Downs
Way to take us back to Westhumble. The light, never good, was fading as we
walked above the Denbies vineyard and it was getting dark by the time we reached
the station around 4.15pm.
Whitechapel - Hospital Views
Whitechapel, London. Wed 28 Dec 2011
Stepney Way has changed since I last photographed it
I had noticed quite a lot of building work going on when I've been through
Whitechapel on the bus or bike, but hadn't really looked hard at it. Even
when I photographed protests against the NHS privatisation which had started
at the front of the Royal London Hospital on the Whitechapel Rd I hadn't really
taken in what was happening. Even on this visit, waiting at the front entrance
for a friend it seemed the same old Victorian building, with the same old
odd theatre of patients, some pulling stands with drips, dragging themselves
out in their dressing gowns for a fag.
But behind that as we walked through there had clearly been an enormous transformation,
with some towering buildings which offered some interesting views, particularly
towards the City, and I took a few pictures.
End The Siege Of Gaza
Kensington High St, London. Tuesday 27 Dec 2011
Women in the crowd opposite the road to the Israeli Embassy
A large and noisy protest on the 3rd anniversary of the Israeli attack
on Gaza called for an end of the ongoing violence against Palestinians and
siege of Gaza. A smaller group across the road protested against them.
The protest was called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim
Initiative, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al Aqsa, Stop the
War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Palestinian Forum
in Britain and supported by many other groups including the Muslim Association
of Britain, Unite and PCS trade unions and the anti-Zionist Jews of Neturei
Israel has closed off the Gaza Strip since 1991, but the current severe blockade
was started in June 2007. The strip, around 25 miles of coastline and a few
miles inland has roughly a fifth the area of Greater London and a population
of about 1.6 million, mainly the descendents of refugees from those areas
of Palestine which became Israel in 1948. The blockade was a response by Israel
to the strip coming under control of Hamas following the short battle between
Hamas and Fatah in 2007 after Hamas had won a decisive majority there in the
Many independent humanitarian organisations, including the World Health Organisation
and the Red Cross have concluded that the blockade is seriously endangering
the health of those living in Gaza, with many children and young people in
particular malnourished. As well as a lack of proper food there are insufficient
supplies of medicines and medical facilities, which have led to over 350 people
dying from treatable illnesses since 2010.
US pressure on Egypt has resulted in the almost complete closure of the Rafah
crossing from Egypt at the south of the strip, although some supplies still
reach Gaza through various tunnels - estimated by the UN to account for at
least 60% of Gaza's economic activity - which Egypt has been trying to close.
Unemployment in Gaza is over 40%.
Farming in the small area of land is seriously restricted by a "Buffer
Zone" set up by Israel along the border, a 'no-go' area in which the
Israel forces open fire on anyone who enters it, making around 30% of the
agricultural land unusable. Fishermen too have been attacked, detained and
On 27 Dec 2008 Israeli fighters launched attacks on Gaza in response to Hamas
rocket attacks; among the sites hit, which the Israelis alleged were being
used as weapons depots were police stations, schools, private houses, mosques,
government buildings and UN warehouses. Continuing air raids over the next
five days killed over 400 Palestinians and wounded thousands. These were followed
by a ground attack on January 3, and by the time the 22-day war ended, between
1000 - 1500 Palestinians had been killed, and many thousands of homes and
other buildings damaged, leaving 50,000 homeless, around a third of the population
without running water and perhaps two-thirds without electricity. 13 Israelis
were killed in the invasion.
The protest on Kensington High St opposite the private road on which the
Israeli Embassy stands lasted for two hours, and towards the end there were
a number of speeches by representatives of the organisers, calling for an
end to the blockade. David Cameron both in the House of Commons and more forcibly
while in Turkey in July 2010 has stated Britain's opposition to the blockade,
saying "The situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people
must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain
a prison camp."
A smaller group of protesters waving Israeli flags on the opposite side of
the road from the main protest stated that Hamas is committed to the destruction
of the state of Israel and the killing of the Jews. They also accused the
Palestine Solidarity Committed of refusing to support the peace process over
Documents obtained and published by Al-Jazeera in January this year revealed
the enormous concessions that the Palestinian negotiators were willing to
consider in the cause of a peace settlement with Israel.
Staines & Stanwell Moor
Staines, Middx. Monday 26 Dec 2011
Boxing Day and we took a good walk before lunch to get an appetite. We sent
across Shortwood Common and then on the footpath between the two halves of
the original Staines reservoirs then around the north of them to Stanwell
Moor and came back to Staines across Staines Moor.
Syrians Protest at London Embassy
Belgrave Square, London. Monday 20 Dec 2011
Syrian women chant and clap opposite the Embassy
As news continues to come in of the killing of defected soldiers and civilians
in Syria, Syrians began to gather this afternoon for a noisy protest opposite
their embassy, calling for a Free Syria and an end to the killing.
By the time I left around 2pm there were around 50 people listening to speeches
and shouting noisily towards the embassy from across the road. As well as
the old Syrian freedom flags there were large banners naming the areas were
people have been killed by the Assad regime, remembering the earlier massacres
as well as those taking place now. The banners urged 'Get Out Assad' and listed
the bloody sites of Jesr Alshoughour and Palmyra in 1981, Hama in 1982 and
Daraa, Homs, Lattakia, Edleb, Hama, Damascus and elsewhere in 2011.
The protest came as Syria's president Bashar al-Assad signed a new law which
makes anyone found distributing weapons for "terrorist acts" liable
to the death penalty. The regime has from the beginning of the protests referred
to any protesters as terrorists.
Yesterday the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least
70 soldiers who had joined the opposition were killed by machine gun fire
as they tried to leave their units, and elsewhere they say there were more
than 40 civilian protesters killed.
The Syrian National Council, the main opposition coalition formed in August,
is calling for safe areas to be established in the border areas for humanitarian
assistance. They call for Assad to step down immediately to allow a peaceful
transition in Syria in which they hope the Arab League will play a role. Today
they were reported to have warned the Arab League that Assad's decision to
allow 'observers' into Syria is simply a ploy and that the regime will not
implement "any initiative" towards peace but will continue its bloody
crackdown on any dissent.
Egyptians Protest Against Attacks on Protesters
Egyptian Embassy, Mayfair, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Egyptians shout slogans opposite the Egyptian embassy in South St
News of the deaths and injuries in Cairo as armed forces attacked protesters
prompted Egyptians to protest at the London Embassy, calling for the Supreme
Council of the Armed Forces to halt the attacks and hand over power.
A few individual Egyptians living in London were so disturbed by the latest
reports of violence that they called an emergency demonstration at the embassy
on Saturday. There had been only one person present when I arrived at the
embassy as the protest had been scheduled to start, but by the time I left,
half an hour after later, there were around 25 people present, directed by
police into a small pen at the side of the road opposite the embassy and noisily
Violence has broken out with the military attacking the Egyptian protesters
While the recent election results are still being counted. The recent clashes
are reported to have killed at least 10 and left more than 500 injured. People
around the world have been particularly shocked by images of military officers
ferociously beating a veiled girl and pulling off her clothes in an attempt
to disperse a sit in outside the Cabinet offices.
The London protesters called for an immediate end of the violence and for
the Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt's military ruler, to hand
over power to civilians immediately.
Bradley Manning Birthday Demo
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
It was the 24th birthday of Bradley Manning, who was in court for disclosing
US documents to Wikileaks
Supporters of Bradley Manning held a vigil at the US Embassy on Saturday
afternoon, his 24th birthday, and on the second day of his pre-trail hearing,
calling him an American Peace Hero.
Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US Embassy
US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Iraqis celebrated the victory over the US but want all mercenaries to leave
and the BBC to report fairly
Iraqis met to celebrate their defeat of the occupation on the day US
troops left Iraq, and called for the mercenaries to go too, as well as for
proper coverage of Iraq by the BBC. They were joined by Syrian supporters
of President Bashar al-Assad, at the embassy to demand no US intervention
Those Iraqis present very much saw the US withdrawal as a defeat in a war
that had cost Iraq dearly, creating 5 million orphans, a million widows and
6 million displaced people in their country. They asked why the BBC had not
reported what had happened in their country, with a placard describing the
BBC as "a Patronizing Media Channel, With Racist Undertones, towards
Arabs & Islam." The BBC was "Deceptive and Inaccurate"
and they asked "Why does it not report on the wide spread asset looting
and corruption taking place in Iraq?"
Many of us do feel that the BBC has failed to live up to its reputation over
the reporting from Iraq and elsewhere since the invasion, and certainly other
channels have achieved a greater reputation in the past year over the reporting
of the 'Arab Spring'.
But a few yards away, I listened while a news reporter interviewed one of
the Syrians present who was defending the actions of the Syrian authorities,
and saying that the reports in our media are lies based on reports coming
out from rebels who are fighting the state. It was impossible not to reply
that if Syria had nothing to hide the country would have allowed the media
to report from there - and the few journalists who have managed to do so have
confirmed the reports that have come out from bloggers and others in the country.
The Iraqis were there to celebrate, but also to demand that the mercenaries
still in Iraq should also be expelled, and that the war criminals should be
prosecuted. They also want an end to the looting and pillaging of Iraq's natural
resources and an end to government sponsored executions there. The Syrians
want the US to stop their attempts to interfere with events in Syria through
UN resolutions and other means.
There were a number of speeches, including one from Lindsay German of Stop the
War who were there supporting the Iraqis.
Congolese Election Protests Continue
Downing St, Whitehall, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Congolese men pose for a photo at the protest
Congolese continued their protests in London against the election fraud,
rapes and massacres and called on the British government to withdraw its support
from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities
and voted out by the people.
The protest had been called to start at 2pm, but was only just beginning
to get under way when I left at around 2.30pm, when a small group of around
50 was singing and dancing in a very large penned area opposite Downing St
Despite large protests over the past couple of weeks the mass media have
so far taken relatively little interest in the desperate situation of the
people in the Congo. They seem to be being sacrificed while the vast natural
resources of their country are being largely stolen by underhand deals which
enrich a few in their and neighbouring countries while the industrialised
world turns an almost totally blind eye to the violence and injustice. As
some of their leaflets say, there is Congolese blood on the mobile phones,
the computers and other electronic devices on which our lives and the without
which the media would hardly exist.
As soon as I walked up to the demonstrators, a woman rushed up to me, insistent
that I photograph the pictures she was holding up of atrocities. Of course
I did, but those pictures and the stories that go with them have long been
available to the media who have failed to use them.
The police were ready for a much larger protest, and one with a very different
mood, with a number of vans parked opposite the protest and in some of the
side streets, but while I was there the protesters were singing and dancing.
Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres
Downing St, Whitehall, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Kurds with banners and flags call for an end to the massacres by the Assad
The Syrian Kurdish community protested at Downing St as massacres continue
in Syria, calling for Britain to help to stop them. They want freedom for
Syria and also for Kurds in Syria in a federation to replace the Assad regime.
The protest took place on the anniversary of the event a year ago when Mohammed
Bouazizi set fire to himself and the Arab world, and also on what was reported
as yet another very bloody day for Syrians, with forces loyal to President
Bashar al-Assad killing at least 32 civilians including two children.
Almost a fifth of the population of Syria are Kurds, although many of them
are not recognised by the Syrian state. At the protest many were waving a
double-sided flag, one side that adopted by the Syrian opposition, the flag
of the Syrian Republic, after Syria gained part-independence from France in
the 30s and continuing in use after independence in 1946 until Syria united
with Egypt in 1958 as the United Arab Republic, and the other the Kurdistan
flag. Larger versions of both were also being waved enthusiastically.
I was told that most Kurds in Syria vigourously support the protesters and
many are involved in the protests. Most of them want to remain a part of Syria
and for that country to become a federation with considerable autonomy for
the Kurdish region, though some continue to urge the formation of the separate
Kurdistan including the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. But the banners
in English at the protest stated 'The Federation is the best solution' and
called for 'Freedom for Syria' as well as for 'Britain Help us Stop the Massacres
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone
Oxford St, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Protesters hold a banner naming Vodaphone as tax dodgers and reminding them
they owe us £6 billion
After their protest at Topshop had been moved away by police, UK Uncut moved
to Vodaphone to protest about their dodging of UK tax. Police kept them a
few yards from the shop but otherwise did not interfere with the peaceful
UK Uncut gathered outside Vodaphone in Oxford St with several banners and
started their protest with a 'Human Microphone' in which their statement
about the company's tax avoidance was read in short phrases by one of them
and then repeated by the rest of the group shouting in unison. It was an effective
way of making their message carry to the shoppers walking past.
They stated that:
"when UK Uncut first targeted Vodaphone
we were told
that 6 billion
was an urban myth
Now we are told
that they may have dodged
8 billion pounds"
They went on to comment that there are alternatives to the cuts that make
the poor, the unemployed and the disabled pay the price for the crisis caused
by the banks, one of which is to
"force the richest to pay the tax they owe
starting with Vodafone's billions."
Police stood in a line along the pavement behind the protesters allowing
shoppers to pass freely, and another line stood directly in front of Vodaphone.
One of the Vodaphone employees came out to photograph the protest, and the
others stayed inside watching the protest. There were very few customers entering
the shop while I was there, though I think they were mainly deterred by the
police rather than the protesters.
It soon developed into quite a jolly event, very much in keeping with the
decorations along the middle of Oxford St above our heads, as the protesters
sang a number of carols specially adapted for the event, including ''Away
in a mansion' whose first two verses were as follows:
Away in a mansion
On my four poster bed
You lie outside freezing
While I'm resting my head
The stars in the bright sky
They sparkle like jewels
The ones that I paid for
By robbing you fools
When I left they had started dancing on the pavement.
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop
Oxford St, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Police clear UK Uncut protesters who are handing out leaflets outside Topshop
Supporters of UK Uncut protested briefly inside the Oxford Circus Topshop
at the failure of Arcadia group to pay UK tax on its UK earnings, continuing
their protest on the pavement outside until cleared away by police.
A small group of UK Uncut supporters had made their way into the shop before
noon, when they sat down and were immediately threatened with arrest. Most
then made their way out of the shop and continued the protest on the pavement
Together with other press photographers, I had earlier been informed by one
of the higher ranking officers outside that members of the press would be
allowed into the store to photograph from a designated area, but this turned
out not to be true. 15 minutes before the event started I had walked past
the heightened security carrying two large cameras on my chest without them
noticing, but had decided to come out and see if anything was happening outside
on the basis of this advice, but I was not allowed back in.
At the time, no one would confirm whether there were any actual arrests made
inside the store. The protest continued on the pavement outside with the UK
Uncut banner being held on the public area a few yards in front of one of
the doorways, where the protesters read out a statement about Sir Philip Green's
tax avoidance as a human microphone, starting with the words 'MIC CHECK!',
after which the words of one reader were repeated in a shout by all the others
This reminded everyone in the vicinity that Green runs a vast empire that
includes Topshop, BHS and Dorothy Perkins, but exploits a loophole in that
the business is owned by his Monaco-based wife who does not have to pay income
tax. UK Uncut went on to state:
this arrangement allowed Sir Phil
to dodge a £300m tax bill
when he awarded himself
the biggest corporate paycheck in British History"
They also pointed out that David Cameron had appointed Green to advise them
on how best to slash public spending, and they pointed out that the problem
could be solved if the rich were made to pay the tax they owe rather than
being allowed to dodge their fair share of UK tax.
Police soon moved people away from Topshop, although there seemed little
if any reason to stop a peaceful protest taking place on what is a fairly
wide pavement in front of the shop, which they continued to block. It was
hard not to laugh when an officer threatened one of the protesters standing
in front of him in an area clearly blocked by the police that unless he moved
away he would be arrested for obstruction.
It did seem clear that on this occasion the police were determined not to
let what had from the start been an entirely peaceful protest continue.
UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett
HMRC, Parliament St, London. Sat 17 Dec 2011
Santa and one of his helpers at 100 Parliament St, the HMRC Westminter headquarter
UK Uncut's Santa, along with two helpers called at the Westminster offices
of the head of UK's tax collection with a present and a card. but unfortunately
Dave Hartnett was not at home.
Dave Hartnett, the UK's top tax man is shortly to retire with a massive pension
despite a huge series of blunders. Last year, he had to apologise after an
intevention by George Oshorn, when a mistake led to some 1.4 million ordinary
tax payers getting demands for an average of £1,400. But his more important
'mistakes' have come from his dealings with major companies.
Vodaphone owed around £6 billion in taxes, but sweet-talked Dave into
letting them off the hook for £1.25 billion - with a loss to taxpayers
of £4.75 billion. The more recently he gave a helping had to Goldman
Sachs, which resulted in them gaining around £8 million that should
have come to our tax revenues. Doubtless there are other handouts we are not
yet aware of, but these two alone amount to around £200 he has given
away for every man, woman and child in the country.
If he had collected these amounts due in taxes, and a decent percentage of
the other amounts currently dodged by the richest few percent of those living
in the UK or running businesses here, we would have no need for the cuts in
spending our government now says are needed. It's a fairly simple message
that UK Uncut are putting out but the figures seem to add up. If the rich
(and profitable companies) paid their fair share, there would be no financial
I was outside the Parliament Street main offices of Her Majesty's Revenue
& Customs this morning when UK Uncut's extremely well-bearded Santa turned
up carrying a sack of Big K Barbecue charcoal, along with her 2 helpers with
a large wrapped present and Christmas card for Mr Hartnett. I don't know if
the largish box contained a fraction of the missing billions, but he wasn't
there to take it in.
The UK seems to be loophole central for the rich, not just for taxes but
also for the kind of fraudulent unregulated creation of imaginary money that
has sustained and grown the City since the 'big bang' and lies at the epicentre
of our current world financial crisis. Doubtless it is too much to hope that
Mr Hartnett will be called to account for his relatively small part in this
process, but as a taxpayer it pains me to think of him retiring and enjoying
an excessive civil service pension for his misdeeds.
Congolese Election Protests Continue
Gt Portland St-Downing St, London. Wed 14 Dec 2011
Women on the march against Kabila
Around 4000 Congolese people and supporters marched from their embassy
to Downing St, continuing their protest against the rigged election, calling
for an end of western support of Kabila.
The protesters are emphatic in their conviciton that around 80% of the Congolese
people voted for Tshisekedi in the recent elections and that the 'election'
of Kabila as president of the DRC was a fraud, carried out with the support
of western governments. They called on David Cameron to withdraw support for
the Kabila regime and to put pressure on the EU and other western governments
to do the same.
The Congo is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural
resources, and is the source of almost all the world's coltan, essential for
almost every modern miniature electronic device, enabling the production of
the small high power magnets that are essent for phones, laptops and other
devices, as well as diamonds and other minerals.
Its bloody history, with killings and rapes taking place on an enormous scale
is the price the country pays for the exploitation of these minerals by foreign
companies, and this happens with the support of our government.
Over 3000 protesters gathered outside the Congolese embassy near Oxford Circus
at noon, and over an hour later began a slow march through the centre of London.
The start of the march was delayed by police for more than 20 minutes, and
tempers began to rise, with much angry shouting.
Many of those stewarding the march were dressed in various types of military
dress. At the front of the march were around a hundred small children carrying
placards and posters. It was a lively and noisy march, with drumming, dancing
and singing as well as chanting, and there were many placards calling for
Kabila to go and denouncing the killings, rapes and other atrocities, some
including horrific photographs.
Many of those marching carried posters or placards supporting Tshisekedi
or t-shirts with his picture, and slogans such as 'The President Congolese
People Want.' There were a couple of very brief token sit-downs by people
on the route, including one by the children at Piccadilly Circus.
The march filled the pavement opposite Downing St stretching out for around
a quarter of a mile along Whitehall, kept behind a triple line of barriers
with a large police presence in the closed southbound roadway. People were
shouting, singing and dancing behind the barriers.
A few fireworks were thrown out of the crowd towards the police and the police
vans, one hitting a photographer. They exploded harmlessly. A few glass bottles
were thrown and smashed on the road. Police with loud hailers and a display
system told the crowd that the protest had to finish by 6pm, and that they
should leave in the direction of Trafalgar Square.
People had been drifting away since around 5pm, but others had arrived, and
at 6pm when the police informed the crowd in both English and French that
the protest was now illegal there were still a couple of thousand there. At
6.20pm I left with a crowd of Congolese who proceeded to block the upper end
of Whitehall as they left, but most seemed to be on their way home, although
noisy shouting was continuing opposite Downing St.
Oxford St & Russell Square, London. Mon 12 Dec 2011
Oxford St Christmas decorations from the bus
I'd left a pair of glasses at a party in St John's Wood on Saturday, and
went to pick them up on my way to another Christmas party in Holborn, so found
myself going along Oxford St on the top deck of a bus. The bus took me to
Euston and I walked down from there and across Russell Square where I took
a few more pictures.
10 Years of Stop The War Book Launch
Housemans, Caledonian Rd, London. Fri 9 Dec 2011
Tony Benn speaking at the launch
Stop The War held a launch party for their new book, a profusuely illuatrated
graphic history of their 10 year campaign, at Housemans radical bookshop.
The event was attended by many of the leading figures in the campaign, including
Tony Benn who contributed the foreword to the book 'Stop The War: A Graphic
History' and made a short speech at the event.
Many artists and photographers have contributed to the campaign through their
work over the years, and have continued that in making their work available
for this volume. A central section, 'The Art of Politics' includes images
by such well-known figures as Banksy and Ralph Steadman, and throughout the
book both as illustrations and in many of the photographs we see the work
of David Gentleman, whose graphic posters have inspired the movement.
The book, produced under the editorial direction of Andrew Burgin, with Marie
Gollentz as editor and design by Peter Palasthy is a fine piece of work and
should win prizes. There are photographs by around a couple of dozen photographers,
including Guy Smallman who responsible for photography research (Ruth Boswell
for the art research) with most of the pictures coming from from half a dozen
of us, including Paul Mattsson and Brian David Stevens as well as Guy himself.
Many of the photographers and some of the artists were present at the launch,
and several of us took pictures.
Fittingly the first section of the book is given over to photography, and
after the art section the final part of the work is a 'Graphic Timeline' which
attempts to list all of the many actions organised by the national movement
(of course there were many more local events), illustrating many by posters
and photographs, as well as thumbnails giving page numbers of photographs
in the initial section.
Mumia Abu-Jamal 30th Anniversary Protest
US Embassy, Grosvenor Sq, London. Fri 9 Dec 2011
The protesters marched from Oxford Circus to protest
at the US Embassy
30 Years after the killing for which Mumia Abu-Jamal was sentenced to
death in 1982, supporters of "the world's most famous death-row inmate"
protested outside the US Embassy calling for his release from prison.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, often known simply as Mumia, was arrested after an incident
in which police officer Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed. Mumia had allegedly
run across from his parked taxi to intervene when his younger brother was
stopped by police at 4am, and was wounded by a shot from Faulkner's gun. A
revolver registered to Mumia which had fired five shots was found at the scene.
Mumia, a journalist and former Black Panther, was found guilty of the crime
and sentenced to death in 1982. The police had failed to carry out tests to
show that he had fired the gun, and Mumia and his supporters claimed that
the verdict was a racist one, with a predominantly white jury, ineffective
legal support and incorrect direction to the jury by a racist judge. Another
man is also alleged to have admitted to the crime.
While in jail he wrote the book 'Live From Death Row' (1995) in which he
described his life in jail and the corrupt racist nature of the US Justice
system. Thousand around the world have supported the 'Free Mumia' movement,
protesting around the world against his continued imprisonment and the racist
US justice system.
His sentence has been upheld through various legal appeals, but more recently,
a federal appeals court decided that a new sentencing hearing was needed as
the instructions the jury were given were potentially misleading. In October
the US Supreme Court decided not to consider the case, and rather than going
to a new sentencing hearing to try and get the death sentence confirmed, the
prosecutors accepted that his sentence be reduced to life imprisonment.
Around 40 people had arrived at the protest outside the US Embassy when I
left, most arriving marching behind the 'Free Mumia' banner. There were several
speeches and a lengthy statement about the life imprisonment decision was
Although many around the world have welcomed the decision to drop the death
sentence, the mood of the protesters was very much that the life sentence
was still unacceptable. Mumia was innocent of the crime and in prison because
of his race and his revolutionary views, held by a racist system. Protests
will undoubtedly continue until justice is obtained and Mumia is a free man.
USA Climate Treaty Wrecker
US Embassy, Grosvenor Sq, London. Fri 9 Dec 2011
The Koch Brothers finance climate denial - a giant banner
in front of US Embassy
As the US continues to block progress at the Durban Climate talks, an
emergency protest was held at the US Embassy in London calling for the adoption
of binding targets to avert climate catastrophe.
Other news has virtually eclipsed the ongoing climate talks in Durban, South
Africa, which are heading for near total failure as the US leads in blocking
any progress on adopting the worlds' only emissions reductions treaty, the
Kyoto protocol. The Campaign Against Climate Change held a demonstration outside
the US embassy tonight, calling on the US to admit the threat to the planet
of global warming, and to drop its opposition to any effective attempts to
avert the coming catastrophe.
The US is the leader of the small but vital group of countries - also including
Japan and Canada - who are preventing agreement at a global level. The protesters
blame the US policy on the lobbying by US industries, and in particular the
Koch Brothers who are the major funders of the extreme right Tea Party movement.
The small group of protesters who turned up at short notice raised a giant
8x4 metre banner outside the embassy condemning the Koch brothers and their
"dirty money" for preventing progress in tackling climate change.
Continued opposition to any effective action by the US seems likely to result
in much of the world becoming uninhabitable by the end of this century, with
billions mainly in the world's poorer countries dying.
City and North Acton, London. Saturday 3 Dec 2011
A few pictures near Willesden Junction and also earlier
on the march in central London
Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging
Downing St, London. Saturday 3 Dec 2011
Congolese women protest against the violence of the Kabila regime and rigged
The DRC has vast mineral resources, perhaps the the richest of any country
in the world, including 80% of the world's cobalt reserves, and between 65-80%
of coltan, the mineral from which tantalum capacitors, vital for mobile phones,
games consoles, computers and other electronic devices. Coltan is generally
considered to be the major factor behind the African conflicts.
Despite the huge wealth of natural resources, the people of the DRC remain
some of the poorest in the world, while the country is judged to be amongst
the most corrupt in the world.
The have been 8 million killed in the Congo, and many injured. Rape is routinely
used as a a military and political tactic. The Kabila regime has been kept
in office by western interests who have now turned a blind eye to the widespread
vote-rigging violence and fraud in the elections. The opposition later claimed
to have outvoted Kabila with 54% of the vote to his 26%, while Kabila claimed
to have won by 49% to 32%. The elections were monitored by the independent
Carter Centre who point to the loss of around 850,000 ballot papers and the
suspiciously high turnout in some areas including two where over 99% of voters
turned up to record a vote for Kabila. They concluded the election lacked
Stand Up For Climate Justice
Blackfriars to Old Palace Yard, London. Saturday 3 Dec 2011
Climate justice marchers and the CCC greenhouse go past the Houses of Parliament
Around a thousand supporters of the Campaign Against Climate Change marched
through London calling for Climate Justice, highlighting the fact the 7% of
the world's population cause 50% of the worlds emissions as the Durban climate
talks take place.
The 17th UN climate change conference taking place in Durban is widely expected
to lead to a breakdown in efforts to combat global climate change, as the
US continues to block serious attempts to combat climate change. The continued
refusal of the US to accept mandatory limits on carbon emissions seems likely
to prevent any progress on global reductions in emissions, and seems certain
to lead to catastrophic increases in global temperature. To put it bluntly,
our planet is going to fry.
The US Climate Ethics Campaign (CEC), endorsed by many leading figures in
the US, was lauched California Democrat, Barbara Boxer the head of the Senate
environment committee on Wednesady and points out that the US is the world's
largest historic emitter and thus has a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions. But the US right, and the 'Tea Party' movement in particular
deny the existence of climate change and vehemently oppose any restrictions
on the emissions of US industry.
Currently predicted global temperature rises by the end of the century would
lead to an environmental crisis that would be expected to lead to huge areas
of the world becoming uninhabitable, and billions dying through flood, famine
and and other catastrophes. Those who will die will largely be the poor who
currently are responsible for only a small proportion of the emissions, while
the rich and highly polluting are those who will survive.
There is no longer any serious scientific debate about the reality of climate
change, just about the the exact magnitude of the effects and the timescales
involved. But all informed opinion agrees that urgent action is needed. We
need to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The most industrialised countries
who have contributed most to the increase in CO2 levels over the past centuries
have a particular moral obligation to make drastic cuts.
Around a thousand people gathered at Blackfriars for the start of the march,
which was led by the Campaign Against Climate Change's greenhouse containing
the earth. It marched from there past Downing Street to a rally in Old Palace
Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Speakers there represented a number of environmental groups as well as the
Campaign Against Climate Change. Other campaigns included those calling for
the end to false solutions to the crisis such as Biofuel production, and an
end to airport expansion. John Stewart pointed out that while the richest
7% who cause 50% of the world's polution, aircraft use, one of the major sources
of emissions, is limited to an even more limited group of the world's population,
with only 5% of the world's population ever having flown.
Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops
St Paul's Cathedral steps, London. Saturday 3 Dec 2011
Workshops on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral
There were several workshops taking place on the steps talking about various
aspects of climate justice and campaigning, including one making placards
and banners for the climate justice march.
The workshops ended with a plenary session where representatives summarised
what had been discussed, but one or two of them were rather rambling, and
the promised 'Climate Walk of Shame' around the offices of various climate
change villians ('unsavoury sites of climate criminality') in the City started
around 20 minutes later than scheduled, its first stop outside one of the
banks in St Paul's Churchyard. The group of around 50 peaceful protesters
was watched very nervously by a slightly larger group of police.
I left them at this point to walk down to the meeting point of the Climate
Justice march at Blackfriars to where they were making their roundabout way.
City Xmas Celebrations
Bank, London. Saturday 3 Dec 2011
A real life music box outside the Royal Exchange
It was a special Xmas shopping event in the City. The young women giving
out programmes told me there were free drinks inside the Royal Exchange, but
I couldn't see any. I raised my camera to take a picture inside, and almost
immediately a polite security man was telling me that photography was prohibited,
so I left, and walked towards St Paul's, passing Santa, the odd reindeer and
a band playing on the way. This was the first year that the city had organised
a Christmas event, and the attendance while I was around seemed pretty minimal.
Britain First Support Emma West
Bronzefield Prison, Ashford, Middx. Fri 2 Dec 2011
Protesters pose for a photograph outside Bronzefield
Just under 20 people held a quiet protest outside HMP Bronzefield this
lunchtime calling for the Just under 20 people held a quiet protest outside
HMP Bronzefield this lunchtime calling for the release of Emma West, held
there on remand after her foul-mouthed outburst on a Croydon tram was posted
The prison protest was called by 'Britain First', 'a patriotic
political movement', and was led by Andy McBride, its National
Coordinator, who resigned in March after over seven years as a regional organiser
for the BNP.
Along with others at the protest, Mr McBride insisted to me that this was
a protest over the right to freedom of speech. Although the outburst by Emma
West was full of foul language, he said that the organisation's lawyers had
examined the video (now seen on YouTube by over 8.7 million) and had concluded
it was not racist, and that otherwise they would not be at Bronzefield protesting.
Although police had apparently asked for it to be removed, the video was still
on YouTube and a pretty accurate asterisk studded transcript was published
by the Daily Mail on Tuesday. I studied both on returning from the protest
and her outburst seems clearly to me to have been driven by racial hostility.
McBride also reminded me that none of those actually present on the tram
had made a complaint, and that proceedings had only taken place after the
video had been uploaded to YouTube and then brought to the attention of the
British Transport Police. He said that his organisation had received evidence
from some of those present who state that there had been some provocation
of Ms West before the events recorded on the video which had led to her outburst.
It says on the Britain First web site:
"What she said on that tram was harsh, coarse and very unladylike,
no doubt about that, but what abuse had she been subjected to before the
camera phone was switched on?"
Ms West, 34, from New Addington, is the mother of two children, one of whom
was sitting on her lap during the whole incident. She appeared in Croydon
Magistrates Court on Tuesday in an apparently distressed state, did not enter
a plea and was remanded in custody while psychiatric reports are prepared.
She is expected to be back in court next Tuesday.
The protesters feel strongly that she should not have been held in custody,
and that as in many other cases detention on remand is being used as a way
to punish her - and her children who have been taken into care - without a
trial. One of those present contrasted the treatment of her with the 'kid
gloves' approach used against Muslim extremists who had taken part in burning
poppies at last years Remembrance Day.
Several of those present expressed the opinion too me that her treatment
was an example of the way that white British people are now discriminated
against by our police and legal system. I pointed out to them that similar
treatment does occur to many from the ethnic minorities, some of who are subjected
to a great deal of harassment by police, and there was some agreement with
my suggestion that the poor and the powerless in our society are discriminated
against by police and our legal system, whether black or white. But while
I in no way condone her behaviour, I do wonder if the huge publicity given
to her case through the press and YouTube may have influenced the decision
to remand her in custody, and whether in general holding in police stations
and remands are now used as a kind of punishment above and outside the law.
The actual protest was a quiet affair, with the group standing by the visitor
centre a short distance away from the prison, holding posters with the text
'Free Emma West' as well as Union flags and a Britain First banner.
One protester held the white dragon on a red field, the English flag before
the adoption of the St George's cross. There had been rumours before the event
that the EDL would be attending the protest, but there was no sign of their
presence. It was a calm and entirely peaceful protest, with no racist chanting,
hardly any noise at all, with just a few rather half-hearted chants of 'Free
Emma West' for the video camera of one of the protesters, who also recorded
Andy McBride talking to me.
The Britain First web site refers to Emma West as a "feisty English
mother" and having watched the full video of her outburst several
times I don't find this at all an appropriate description. Her language and
attitude suggest to me someone with psychiatric problems - disturbed rather
than feisty - and her condition seems almost certainly aggravated by an excess
of alcohol. It is an insult to the English to associate her behaviour with
our nation. Certainly too it is no way for a mother to behave, subjecting
her own rather nervous looking young son to this kind of filthy outburst.
Whether or not her behaviour accounts to the racially aggravated offence of
intentional harassment, alarm or distress under Section 4A of the Public Order
Act 1986 is of course for the court to decide.
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