No War Against Iran & Syria
US Embassy, London. Sat 28 Jan 2012
Free Iran supporters clash with stewards at the protest
Stop the War's Protest at the US Embassy against sanctions and war on
Iran and Syria was disrupted on several occasions when noisy and impassioned
heckling led to scuffles with stewards.
Although everyone present at the 'Hands off Iran & Syria' protest was
against US or Western Intervention in Iran or Syria, there were some noisy
protests which came to a head while Abbas Eddalat of the Campaign Against
Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran was speaking, from protesters
representing the Free Iran 'Green Movement'.
Although Stop the War is against war or sanctions against Iran, the protesters
wanted to make a clear statement of their opposition to the current Iranian
regime with its religious bigotry and persecution. Stop the War stewards reacted
by trying to stamp out their expression of opinion, first remonstrating with
them and then phyiscally ejecting them from the protest. There were a small
number of young supporters of the Khamenhi regime present who joined in, together
with rather more who supported Syrian president Asad. Eventually a small and
bewildered group of police officers came to try and sort things out and it
became very difficult to sort out who was who and what was happening. There
were also some Kurds waving a large Iraqi Kurdistan flag.
Eventually the Free Iran protesters were allowed to continue with a protest
beside the Stop the War protest and immediately in front of the US Embassy.
Their main banner read:
'You Bomb Iran You Have
The Islamic Republic For
Another 50 Years Khamenhi
Is Gagging For A War'
They continued to protest noisily for some time, and later some of them rejoined
the main Stop the War protest. Another small group, Hands
Off the People of Iran were
also present and handing out leaflets. They are opposed to the war and also
want to show solidarity with the people of Iran, but have been refused becoming
part of the Stop The War coalition, apparently because of their opposition
to the theocratic dictatorship in Iran. As the official Stop the War protest
showed, the organisation has favoured links with supporters of the regimes
in both Syria and Iran.
At one point police briefly held one young man who was wearing the current
Iraqi flag, but soon released him. As I and the other photographers photographed
him, one of the police tried to prevent us taking pictures, and said to us
"He has a right to privacy", and pushed some photographers
away. I told the officer that no such right existed under British law when
people were on the public street, but I'd already taken my picture.
Another group of protesters, mainly wearing 'Anonymous' V for Vendetta Guy
Fawkes masks protest inside the gardens on the other side of the main Stoe
The War protest. They held up a large banner with the message 'Obama Bin Lying!'
as well as an 'Anonymous' flag.
Later in the rally it was the turn of the pro-Asad Syrians to start a protest,
and again Stop the War stewards tried to stop the free expression of dissent,
this time with more success. The red white and black flag with green stars
is the official Syrian flag used by supporters of the Asad regime
A good array of speakers including Tony Benn, Lindsey German, John McDonnell
and others made a clear case against any Western intervention. There was no
clear evidence that Iran was engaged in a weapons program and it has the right
to develop nuclear for peaceful purposes. Iran has not attacked other countries
for over 200 years and has one one the lowest military spendings of countries
in the area. Sanctions are dangerous because they are likely to lead to a
war, and any attack would be expensive and almost certainly difficult and
probably counter-productive - as we have found both in IOraq and Afghanistan.
A war would be politically unpopular here and probably lead to yet greater
restrictions on our civil liberties and further demonisation of our Muslim
Speakers pointed out the difference in Western reaction to the possible moves
towards neculear weapons in Iran and the lack of any reaction to the Israeli
nuclear programme - and unlike Iran, Irael actually possesses nuclear weapons
and has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yet there have
been no demands from western governments for any sanctions against Israel
let alone threats of war.
Disabled Welfare Reform Road Block
Oxford Circus, London. Saturday 28 Jan 2012
Protesters shout at the officer in charge of the police
Disabled people protested today at Oxford Circus, chaining wheelchairs
together & calling for the dropping of Welfare Reform Bill, urging savings
cutting tax evasion by the rich rather than penalising the poor and disabled.
A small group of protesters met at Holborn Station and made there way together
with phtoographers and reporters to an undisclosed destination, which turned
out to be Oxford Circus. Those unable to use the tube went by taxi, and I
met some of them at the taxi drop-off point and went with them to the protest.
Shortly befere we arrived, at around noon another group of protesters had
lined up a row of wheelchairs across the road and run a chain through them
which was locked to posts on each side of the road, and banners and placards
were being raised.
There were a few police around, and more arrived shortly, forming a line
to stop the protest blocking Oxford St, though a long queue soon formed on
Regent St, back as far as the BBC and possibly more. Eventually the police
set up diversions to take traffic along different roads around the protest.
The protest proceeded with some noisy chanting against the government's welfare
reforms, which will have a devastating affect on many of those present and
the poor and disabled generally. Then a woman led a 'human microphone'
with the whole protest repeating after her a damning indictment of the policies,
explaing clearly to the many workers and shoppers around why this protest
Later many of those protesting took advantage of the 'open mike' megaphone
to speak about the bill and the cuts, some giving examples of what it will
mean to them. One woman who will lose her disablement allowance siad it would
mean sho would no longer be able to get out of the house and work. Many compared
the difference in treatment by the government of the rich, who are allowed
to get away with schemes to avoid tax with the shameful crackdown on the poor
and disabled, started by the previous government but now severely ratcheted
up under the coalition. It was, several said, "clearly class war",
and there was considerable applause when one speaker added "If they
want class war, they can have it!"
ATOS, the French company that makes a considerable profit from running the
computer-based tests of fitness to work that have been condemned even by investigations
for the Department of Health came in for particular criticism. Recent press
reports have featured cases of terminally ill and clearly unfit people - including
a man in a coma - who their test process has passed fit for work.
Some had travelled from as far away as Cornwall and Edinburgh to take part
in the action organised by Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People’s
Direct Action Network and UK Uncut and supported by others including
Occupy London. Greater London Pensioners Association, Winvisible, Greater
London Pensioners Association, Global Women's Strike and Black Triangle.
A number unable to travel supported the action working on-line from their
homes, and one protester was holding up a list of seven members of Brighton
Disabled People against Cuts who were unable to travel to London.
Despite the obvious anger of the disabled at the cuts which will severely
affect their lives, the protest remained well ordered. The police officer
in charge walked through the protesters, at first trying to find someone in
charge (and of course nobody was) and then talking and joking with the protesters.
Later, at 13.23, he read out a statment informing the protesters that they
were committing an offence by blocking the road, but most of the protesters
made clear that they intended to ignore this. He then came and talked with
some of the protesters, and when some told him they would like to continue
their protest on the pavement, he brought some constables across to help clear
a route through the crowd for them to do so. For a moment it seemed as if
police were considering clearing the road by force - a FIT team had arrived
and was filming protesters and there were members of the Territorial Support
Group with bolt-cutters seen around the corner, and 'bust cards' were handed
out the the protesters, but then the mood lightened and the officer in charge
seemed more relaxed and I heard him say that he hoped they would leave soon.
500,000 families are expected to lose their homes as a result of the bill,
and others will lose the ability to travel outside them. Half a million people,
including disabled children, are expected to lose their Disability Living
Allowance. More than 3 million will be forced to take the unfair and badly
administered tests which have already led to those with terminal illnesses
and chronic health problems being certified fit to work and have already pushed
some to suicide. Government research has indicated that it will push 100,000
children into poverty.
The protesters point out although the government says the bill is necessary
cut the deficit, the savings from it will be far less than than the amounts
lost through tax-dodging by the super-rich, and that "bb."
Richard Whitehurst of DPAC said:
“These vicious cuts have already led to at least 31 disabled
people committing suicide and many more are now talking about it as they
feel they have no future. In the 21st century, in one of the richest nations
in the world, disabled people should not be forced to live in fear every
day of their lives.
Cuts to disabled people’s benefits and services will not save
money but will ultimately cost the taxpayer far more as pushing disabled
people into destitution and withdrawing care services will lead to an increased
demand for NHS care. With the cap on benefits some single disabled people
living in London will be left with only £25 a week to meet all their
needs for food, heating and all other costs after paying their rent."
After blocking the road for two hours the protesters unlocked themselves
and left at 2pm, a few minutes after I had gone to report on another event.
Around Trafalgar Square
Westminster, London. Wed 25 Jan 2012
Dramatic red lighting in the fountains
As the motorcycles and scooters swept under Admiralty Arch on their way to
visit Buckinham Palace I walked through Trafalgar Square, stopping to take
a few pictures, and then heard sirens and saw police cars and an ambulance
speeding towards Northumberland Avenue. I followed them more slowly and went
down the road, now closed to traffic. A group of police and paramedics were
attending to a person on the road; there were a couple of motorbikes nearby
and a pedal cycle abandoned on the road.
I walked on and made my way to Whitehall, where a small group of Syrians
were protesting at the continued killing of civilians by government forces
in Syria. There was nothing happening, but I stopped briefly on my way to
take a picture before making my way across Westminster Bridge.
Westminster Bikers First Olympic Jubilee Demo Ride
Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 25 Jan 2012
Protesting motorcyclists stop at the lights in Trafalgar Square
Westminster motorcyclists, incensed by the so-called experimental parking
charges for powered two wheelers held another of their regular Wednesday protests
around Trafalagar Square as ther 'first Olympic Jubilee Demo ride'.
“No To the Bike Parking Tax” is a non-political action group
representing motorcyclists and scooterists who object to the illegitimate
introduction of parking levies by Westminster City Council and any other authorities.
They demand the total withdrawal of all parking taxes levied on motorcyclists
and scooterists and a full refund of all fees paid to date by riders who had
no other option but to pay them.
They point out that two-wheeled vehicles have an important role to play in
reducing congestion in cities, and their use should be encouraged. They see
the impostion of parking charges by Westminster Council as a simple money-making
racket. The scheme is described as an expermient, and they want to ensure
that it is droppped when Westminster City Council reviews it. The campaign
makes the views of riders known through a legal challenge, protests, lobbying,
legal direct action and official objections.
Their protest rides are held regularly on Wednesday evenings, with large
groups of motorcyclists riding slowly in a pack around Central London, causing
some build up of traffic. I watched them riding several times around the gyratory
system at the south end of Trafalgar Square before heading off under Admiralty
Arch. Protests at the time of the Queen's jubilee and during the Olympics
could add to the traffic chaose and gridlock already expected.
Around £90,000 in donations has already been collected to fight the
parking charges. Westminster has already had to give way over plans to impose
parking charges widely for cars at night, and it seems likely that they will
have to do so over the 'Bike Parking Tax.'
Egyptians Protest Against SCAF
Egyptian Embassy, South St, Mayfair. Wed 25 Jan 2012
Egyptians show solidarity with the protesters in Tahrir Square
On the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, Egyptians in London
protested at the embassy in solidarity with the Egyptian people and against
the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and called for the revolution
to continue and an end to military rule. London, UK.
Around a hundred people, mainly Egyptians, came to the embassy in London
in solidarity with the estimated 300,000 who marched today to Tahrir Square
to mark the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on 25 Jan 2011. There
was some noisy chanting and several speeches, including one from Chris Nuneham
of Stop the War.
The speeches called for solidarity with the Egyptian people, but also with
the other revolutions of the Arab Spring, and for an end to the Western attempts
to enforce an agenda on the Arab nations. In particular there was widespread
oppositino voiced to the increasingly likely military action against Iran,
and Nuneham and other speakers urged those present to make their feelings
on that issue clear at the protest planned for the US Embassy on Saturday.
Peace For Iran - No To War
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Whitehall. Wed 25 Jan 2012
Only a handful of protesters turned up today - the big
protest is on Saturday
One of those present lay briefly on the roadway in King Charles St and was
threatened with arrest. The protesters shouted noisily at a large group of
Norwegian visitors and handed out leaflets to tourists going down the road
Congolese Keep Up Protests
Trafalgar Square, London. Wednesday 25 Jan 2012
protesters were outside South Africa House, calling on South Africa to put
pressure on the Congo regime
Parliament Square Peace Camp
Parliament Square, London. Wednesday 25 Jan 2012
Barbara tidies up the site expecting a further police
The protest continues despite police harassment. But they didn't want to
talk to me about it.
National Gallery on Strike
Trafalgar Square, London. Thursday 19 Jan 2012
PCS members outside the gallery during the lunchtime strike
PCS members at the National Gallery went on strike for two hours across lunchtime
calling on the gallery to employ more gallery assistants. The 15% funding
cuts imposed by the government have meant a loss of staff and this has left
the gallery understaffed. During the current Leonardo exhibition, some public
galleries have been closed because there gallery does not have enough staff
to supervise them and keep both public and artworks safe.
Welfare Reform Bill Lobby at Parliament
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tuesday 17 Jan 2012
The English Collective of Prostitutes poster: 'Welfare
Reform Bill - drives women into destitution + prostitution'.
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
and others held a vigil outside the Houses of Parliament today while the House
of Lords was debating the Welfare Reform Bill, which threatens to deprive
around 700,000 disabled people of the money they need to live independently
and go to waged work.
As well as the abolition of low-rate Disability Living Allowance which was
being debated in the Lords today, the protests are also aimed at stopping
the cap on Child Benefit, which has been denounced by the UN children's commisioner
as risking "unjustified discrimination" and being a contravention
of UN conventions that the government promised to pay regard to.
They also called for proper regulation of the activities of bailiffs used
by local authorities to collect council tax arrears, increasing the amounts
owed with excessive collection costs on top of court fees with no safeguards
for vulnerable debtors.
The protesters also want an end to the hounding of the disabled and others
through disfunctional systems used to assess fitness for work, which has led
to terminal cancer patients having their benefits stopped and considerable
hardship for many other disabled people.
It was a small protest, with only around 20 people present, but many disabled
people find it very difficult to travel, particularly in the current cold
weather, and some were joining in the protest by making phone calls or sending
e-mails from home. Some are afraid to come and make a protest in public as
they fear that if they are seen able to protest they will be told they are
also fit to work. As well as the organising groups, there were representatives
from several other organisations present, including nurses, Global Women's
Strike, DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and the English Collective of
Prostitutes, whose poster read 'Welfare Reform Bill - drives women into
destitution + prostitution'.
Two women held a banner for 'Pat's Petition', started by Mrs Pat Onions,
a blind carer who made a long and difficult journey to a rally against the
cuts in Edinburgh, knowing that "there were many thousands who couldn't
make it. Disability, ill health, provideing care, or cost would prevent them
coming." She set up the following petition on the government petitions
site (number 20968),
open for signature until 01/11/2012:
Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling
disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families
Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions
The government were embarking on wholesale reform of the benefit system
when the economic crisis struck. These welfare reforms had not been piloted
and the plan was to monitor and assess the impact of the new untried approach
as it was introduced in a buoyant economy. Unfortunately since then the
economy has gone in to crisis and the government has simultaneously embarked
on a massive programme of cuts. This has created a perfect storm and left
disabled people/those with ill health, and their carers reeling, confused
and afraid. We ask the government to stop this massive programme of piecemeal
change until they can review the impact of all these changes, taken together,
on disabled people and their carers. We ask the government to stand by its
duty of care to disabled people and their carers. At the moment the covenant
seems to be broken and they do not feel safe. Illness or disability could
affect any one of us at any time, while many more of us are potential carers.
The organisers of today's rally say the the Government through this Bill
and other measures is going back to Dickensian days, with the caps on housing
benefit leading to many families in central London being evicted, the sick
and disabled forced to return to work while incapable, and single mothers
when their children still need them - as soon as they are one. Those with
the greatest need in our society will have their benefits slashed.
The Lords defeated the government in three votes on Jan 11, and the protesters
were hopeful that there would be further defeats on other parts of the bill.
Parliament Square Protests Continue After Police
Parliament Square, Westminster, London. Tuesday 17 Jan 2012
A supporter handing out information in front of the
Parliament Square Peace Campaign display
The late Brian Haw's Parliament Square Peace Campaign was continuing
today, Day 3881, despite the police seizure of tents from the square and the
arrest of leading campaigner Barbara Tucker last night. The Peace Strike campaign
in the square had earlier in the day had an injunction preventing their eviction
extended until a hearing in March.
I went to Parliament Square this lunchtime and was able to talk with both
Maria Gallastegui of the Peace Strike campaign and one of the
regular protesters in the Parliament Square Peace Campaign,
who was there in front of the display handing out strips of paper with the
web address of the campaign, now at the BrianHaw.tv
blog. The pavement looked very empty without the tents, except for a couple
for the Peace Strike, along with their two large boxes, but the Peace Campaign
poster display was still intact. It has been removed, almost certainly illegally,
by police on two occasions during the 3881 days of the protest so far, most
recently on 31st August 2011. There were a couple of police at each end of
the pavement, with more walking around the area, and at least one police van
with officers inside just around the corner.
The repressive Police Reform And Social Responsibility Act 2011
(PASRA) includes provisions intended to stop the loopholes in the earlier
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) which had been intended
to end Brian Haw's campaign but failed to do so. Among other things PASRA
makes it a criminal offence to sleep overnight as a part of a protest in the
designated area, or to use any amplification equipment. Although the law applies
to a smaller area than SOCPA, Westminster Council, the GLA and the Royal Parks
are expected, after routine and poorly publicised 'consultation'
to enact bylaws which will extend this ban on sleeping across the whole of
Westminster, the Royal Parks and Trafalgar Square as well as Parliament Square.
PASRA came into force on Dec 19th, and enforcement letters were sent to both
the Peace Campaign and the Peace Strike, and both groups have contested the
legality of PASRA and its enforcement. The Peace Campaign argue that they
are protected by a High Court ruling of March 17th 2011, which stated that
the campaign in its entirety - including the tents was proportionate. They
entered a claim with the police on receiving the notice under PASRA, also
stating that the PASRA legislation does not commence for existing protests
such as theirs until until 30th March 2012.
The Peace Strike obtained a High Court injunction preventing their removal
from the square until the court had decided whether Westminster Council had
the power to do so. That was supposed to have been settled in court yesterday
(16 Jan) but instead it was decided to postpone the case for a proper hearing
in the middle of March, with an agreement being reached that the eviction
would be delayed until after a court decision.
It had been thought that this stay of eviction would also apply to the other
protesters, who also have legal cases outstanding, but that was not the case.
Ms Gallastegui told me that a dozen or so police vans, police cars, 2 police
lorries and an ambulance had arrived around 7.30pm and had removed the tents,
sleeping bags and other equipment including megaphones despite the protests
by those present, including a group from Occupy London. Two people from Occupy
London apparently tried to put up another tent and were arrested, and police
tried to move people on from the square. They were still there until the early
morning, and according to the Peace Campaign member Barbara Tucker was arrested
around 3 am on Tuesday morning for obstructing the police. He told me she
was still being held in Charing Cross police station at 1pm, although it was
thought likely she would soon be released.
You can read Barbara Tucker's account on the BrianHaw.tv
blog, in which she states that police refused her bail and took her "to
City of Westminster Magistrates Court where a trial was set for June 1st 2012.
I was released around 5.30pm and returned later to the square."
Arbaeen Procession in London
Marble Arch & Park Lane, London. Sunday 15 January 2012
The cradle commemorating Imam Husain's murdered baby son and people at prayer
before the procession.
Around 5000 Muslims in London held their 31st annual Arbaeen procession,
organised by the Hussaini Islamic Trust UK, going along Park Lane with colourful
flags, large gold and silver replica shrines and beating their breasts as
a symbol of mourning for Imam Husain.
Around 5000 Shi'ite Muslims held their 31st Arbaeen procession in London
today commemorating the sacrifice made by the grandson of Mohammed, Imam Husain,
killed with his family and companions at Kerbala in 680AD. Arbaeen takes place
40 days after Ashura, the day commemorating the martyrdom and marks the end
of the traditional 40 days of mourning. After prayers and recitations at Marble
Arch they paraded along Park Lane in a ceremony of mourning.
Imam Husain is seen by Shia Muslims as making a great stand against the oppression
of a tyrant and representing the forces of good against evil. Husain and his
small group of supporters were hugely outnumbered but chose to fight to the
death for their beliefs rather than to compromise. Their stand is a symbol
of freedom and dignity, and an aspiration to people and nations to strive
for freedom, justice and equality. Among many who have admired the stand taken
by Husain are Ghandi, Charles Dickens and historians Edward Gibbon and Thomas
Arbaeen is also said to commemorate the return of the wives and families
of those killed - who were marched away as captives to Damascus after the
massacre - back to Kerbala mourn the dead after their release the following
Millions now attend the annual Arbaeen event in Kerbala though it was banned
while Saddam Hussein was in power. The Hussaini Islamic Trust UK first organised
this annual procession since 1982, making it the oldest Arbaeen/Chelum Procession
of Imam Husain in the west. It was the first annual Muslim procession in Central
London and is still one of the larger annual Muslim processions in the UK.
It is held on the Sunday closest to Arbaeen and attracts Muslims from all
over the UK.
Today's procession included three large gold and silver replicas of the shrines
of Karbala; known as Shabbih, they are over 10 feet high and the largest in
Europe. There was also a decorated and blood-stained white horse or Zuljana
representing the horse of Imam Husain, a cradle remembering his 6 month old
child Hazrat Ali Asghar who was also murdered and a ceremonial coffin. Throughout
the event there were people coming up to revere these, laying their hands
and sometimes their faces on them
The day started at Marble Arch with prayers and recitation which were followed
by speeches and chanting before the procession set off. This continued as
the procession made its way down Park Lane. Most of those taking part beat
their chests as a token of mourning in a symbolic rather manner, but as the
procession made its way down the road some of the men became very physical,
and a few soon stripped to the waist and beating themselves with enough vigorour
to produce swollen red areas of skin and in a few cases some slight bleeding.
The women marched in a tightly packed separate group at the rear of the march,
held back by a number of women stewards behind the last of the three Shabbih.
Like the men they chanted and made gestures of mourning. Although they were
almost all dressed in black, many of them were carrying standards and flags,
and some had some brightly coloured embroidery and headscarves.
The procession made its way down Park Lane for around half a mile along one
lane of the south-bound carriageway, then turned into the north-bound road
to make its way back to Marble Arch, but I left them at the turning point.
EDL March in Barking
Barking, London. Saturday 14 January 2012
EDL supporters play up for photographers outside the
pub before the march.
Around 200 EDL supporters marched from Barking Station to a rally outside
the town hall, calling for an end to Islamic influence in England. Their protest
was opposed by a smaller group of UAF supporters.
Groups of EDL supporters were gathering outside the 'The Barking Dog' pub
close to the station an hour and a half before the march was due to begin.
A neighbouring pub had decided to close rather than serve them, and a large
police presence stood around watching them, together with quite a few journalists.
Many of them wore various high-viz jackets denoting them as members of the
EDL Stewards Team, although there was little need for stewards with so many
This was the EDL's first march of 2012, organised by the Essex and Dagenham
Divisions of the English Defence League, and their leaflet says they are 'Peacefully
Protesting Against Militant Islam' and that the EDL "opposes
radical Islam and sharia law" as well as being against "Al
Qaeda both home and abroad." The flyer goes on to state: "We
are NOT against Islam, nor are we against muslims. It is only the more extreme
sections of this community that we oppose. It is similar to saying we are
against the Spanish Inquisition but have no problem with Catholicism."
The Essex groups were joined by others from around the south of England, as
well as some other groups including March For England.
As the time for the march approached, the crowd grew a little larger, both
with more people arriving and others emerging from the pub and a number of
chants and songs began, including 'EDL, EDL, EDL', 'England till I die', 'We're
the famous EDL' and 'Keep St George in my heart, keep me English' ending with
'No surrender, no surrender, no surrender to the Taliban', as well as 'Muslim
bombers off our streets' and Muslim pedos off our streets'. Later on the march
they also sang the national anthem, and several other chants.
One small group who began an offensive chant about Allah were quickly stopped
by others, although many may find their other chants singling out Muslims
as bombers and 'pedos' also offensive; most of us are equally opposed to bombers
and paedophiles from all groups of society, including both Muslims and right-wing
extremists. Although the EDL are always at pains to state they are not racist
and not opposed to Muslims, but only against Muslim extremists and extremism,
songs such as this and some other actions by supporters often suggest otherwise,
and a number of the better-known supporters are former members of racist organisations
such as the National Front or BNP.
They also seem to have a rather general emphasis against mosques, which are
generally not extremist, just as the vast majority of our Muslim population
are not extremist. Many of the activities that EDL supporters have engaged
in on the streets seem likely antagonise moderate Muslims and to encourage
extremism among Muslims rather than to gain the support of moderates in the
Muslim community and the majority of the British people.
A few hundred yards into their short march they passed a group of around
50 counter-protesters, mainly from the local area, organised at short notice
by UAF (Unite Against Fascism) who appear only to have noticed that this EDL
protest was taking place late on Thursday. On their web site they describe
the EDL as "an organisation of racist and fascist thugs, who particularly
target Muslims" and described the march through Barking as "as
part of its attempts to stir up racism and division in the area."
The UAF held up placards and chanted loudly 'Racist Scum', Fascist Scum',
calling the EDL' Nazis' and suggesting that they follow the example of their
leader, Adolph Hitler, and commit suicide. Both sides accuse the other of
being racist, and both were shouting "Whose streets? Our Streets",
with the UAF claiming to represent local people, while the EDL clearly had
the advantage of numbers; fortunately a strong police presence prevented any
A little way down the street, an argument developed between a few on the
EDL march and a young Muslim man on the pavement, and some shouted telling
him to "go back home." He shouted back that he had been
born here and was as English as they were, this was his home. The EDL also
shouted at the UAF protesters - who looked a fairly typical London crowd -
"you're not English any more", a taunt they seem to direct
at anyone who fails to agree with their views.
Many of us, including probably the great majority of British Muslims, would
agree with the EDL in not wanting Sharia law in this country, and would also
support our soldiers even if opposing our current wars. But there are some
things I find it impossible to get worked up about such as the increasing
prevalence of Halal foods. The only objection I would have to Halal (or Kosher)
meat is on grounds of possible cruelty to animals, and I think that our laws
cover that both for these methods and our more industrial slaughter practices.
Outside Barking town hall, there were two pens at opposite ends of the large
square. At one end was a larger pen for the couple of hundred EDL, surrounded
by police, and at the other a smaller area behind barriers for the UAF. There
were probably a few more than fifty UAF supporters, although a number of locals
who saw the protest came and joined them for some time, and around a hundred
police in the square to keep the two sides apart. The two groups were within
shouting distance of each other, and kept that up for most of the next hour
and a half, with the UAF waving placards and the EDL making V signs and other
gestures towards them.
The EDL had problems getting their public address system going, but eventually
it was working and they were able to play a little music, and later there
were a few speeches. One speaker began by making a comment about the recent
trial of Stephen Lawrence's murderers, denouncing all attacks on grounds of
race, and saying how the EDL were pleased to see "racist scumbags"
such as his killers locked away, as well as hoping that the other gang members
would also be tried, found guilty and banged up.
This statement enraged many of the UAF supporters, who felt it was entirely
hypocritical, as they regard the EDL as exactly the kind of racists who would
carry out such attacks or encourage others to do so. They were further incensed
when the speaker went on to compare the vast input of resources to get a verdict
in this case with the failure to bring anyone to justice for many racially
motivated crimes against white people, saying that this illustrated that the
law was not, as it should be, colour-blind.
My attention was soon drawn away from the speeches as there was a commotion
at the opposite end of the square, and I saw from a distance police leading
away a couple of men, apparently EDL supporters who had approached the UAF
barrier. A short time later, just to one side of the square at the same end,
I noticed that police had stopped and were talking to two men, and I watched
as they closely searched one of them. The other was Stephen Yaxley-Lennon
(aka Tommy Robinson) who seemed to be showing little if any sign of the injuries
recently inflicted on him although it had previously been announced that he
was not sufficiently recovered from the attack by "islamofascist
thugs" to speak at the rally. (Some extreme-right sources have blamed
his injuries on a group of Luton Town football hooligans with which he is
associated.) After talking to the police for some minutes, Yaxley-Lennon was
escorted out of the area by police, and he appeared to be leaving freely.
Later I was told he had asked to be escorted to his vehicle.
Shortly afterwards the rally ended and again surrounded by police, a now
slightly smaller group of EDL supporters made its way back towards the station,
where I left them and caught a train home. Later I heard that there had been
some minor clashed with local youths as the march ended. One group from the
march apparently went on to Whitechapel and had to be escorted out of the
area by police for their own safety.
Bikes Alive - End Killing Of Cyclists
Kings Cross, London.Monday 9 Jan 2012
Waiting outside Kings Cross for the protest to start.
Around 150 cyclists and a smaller number of pedestrians demonstrated
at Kings Cross in the evening rush hour calling for an end to the killing
of cyclists on city roads.
The protest was organised by a new campaign group, Bikes Alive,
which wants changes in policy by Transport In London, because too many cyclists
are being killed on our streets. They wanted to take some more definite direct
action than previous protests that were polite and symboic and decided to
try to block one of London's most public and visited junctions at Kings Cross.
Bikes Alive argue that it is time to re-balance road usge to prioritise people
over machines - which will mean slowing down traffic in the city in various
ways. In particular they call for changes at major road junctions with longer
gaps between different phases that would allow both pedestrians and cyclists
to clear junctions before traffic from other directions dashes across. They
want more to be done to discourage journeys by private car inside London.
Kings Cross was chosen as one of the more dangerous junctions in London for
cyclists and pedestrians, with one-way systems that are confusing and often
difficult for cyclists.
I arrived early for the protest, as a group of friends of cyclist Deep Lee
(Min Joo Lee), a 24-year old student who was killed riding her bike there
on 3 Oct 2011 came to put fresh flowers on the 'ghost bicycle' which is chained
to a lamp post at the centre of the junction.
Gradually cyclists began to arrive for the protest, waiting with their bikes
on the wide pavement in front of Kings Cross, along with a dozen or so police
officers on bikes and a few others. Among them were Bikes Alive spokesman
Albert Beale, who had said that this protest "is the first
step in a campaign to stop – by whatever nonviolent means needed –
the completely unnecessary level of deaths, injuries and fear inflicted by
motorists on the more vulnerable" and Green Party mayoral candidate
Jenny Jones who stated "London’s roads must be fixed
urgently if we are to make them safe for cyclists and all other road users.
This is the Mayor’s responsibility, and I hope that if we make a statement
through peaceful, direct action he will start to listen." Also present
was Tamsin Omond of Climate Rush, who have organised several cycle
protests, including one last year against London's terrible air quality with
briefly blocked a junction a little to the west of tonight's protest.
The protest was slow to start, with everyone reluctant to take charge, but
eventually people took to the road and began to cycle as a slow mass of around
150 cycles with perhaps 50 more on foot on the roads around the junction,
turning up York Road, then going across to the Caledonian Road and down and
around the one-way system to return to the Kings Cross junction. Arriving
there the group dismounted and blocked the box junction for a few minutes
until police came and said they must move. They then made a few more circuits
along a short section of the Euston Road in front of Kings Cross, then making
a 'U' turn and going back east along the road before again going around the
one-way system. By the time they were on their second or third circuit I felt
I had seen enough and left.
Although the protest had caused some hold-ups for traffic, there were still
buses going along the Euston Rad and I was able to take one to the station.
Bhopal: Drop Dow From London Olympics
Trafalgar Square, London. Monday 9 Jan 2012
Barry Gardiner holds a bottle of water from Bhopal
(B'eau Pal) and invites Lord Coe and Boris for a drink
With just 200 days to the London Olympics,Farah Edwards, a survivor of
the Bhopal Disaster, challenged Lord Coe, and Mayor Boris Johnson, to taste
some Bhopal drinking water, bottled as 'B’eauPal' mineral water.
Farah Edwards is a survivor of the Bhopal disaster, when Union
Carbide, a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, released a huge dense cloud of lethal
gas from their plant in was released on the night of December 2-3, 1984. The
government estimates of the immediate deaths were more than 3,700, and since
then the deaths have risen to between 8,000 and 25,000 people. Around 100,000
to 200,000 people are thought to have permanent injuries and the number continues
to grow as much of the contamination produced by the disaster has not been
Farah's aunt died on April 2, 1987 as a result of the disaster, which not
only released tons of toxic gas but in dealing with the incident Union Carbide
also recklessly dumped many other highly toxic chemicals which have resulted
in highly contaminated groundwater across a very large area.
Union Carbide has always refused to accept full responsibility for the disaster,
and continue to fight the case both in Indian and US courts. The company is
owned by Dow Chemicals who are one of the sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics.
In front of the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square, 200 days before the opening,
Farah Edwards read the following statement:
I am here today to remind you that only 200 days are left for London
to drop Dow Chemical's sponsorship from what is claimed to be the most sustainable
Thousand of families in Bhopal are being poisoned today by water contaminated
by Dow Chemical's business.
They have asked me to invite Lord Coe and Mr Johhnson to Bhopaol to
drink just a single sip of the water that they themsoleves have to consue
every day of their lives.
By allowing Dow Chemical to be a sponsor Lord Coe is encouraging Dow
to continue poisoning the unborn.
It is ironic that champion runner Sebastian Coe is helping Dow to run
away from its liabilities in Bhopal.
Also speaking in front of the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square was Barry
Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North and Chair of Labour Friends of India.
He held up a bottle of water from Bhopal, bottled for the occasion as a mineral
water, 'B'eau Pal' and also invited Lord Coe and London Mayor Boris Johnson
to drink some of it, and invited them to go to Bhopal and see the ongoing
contamination there with their own eyes. He called for the London Olympic
organisers (LOCOG) to drop Dow Chemical Company as a sponsor.
Gardiner had earlier raised the issue of Bhopal at the G20 climate change
conference on Bhopal, where a 2 minute silence was held to mark the 27th anniversary
of the disaster. The Indian government has supporte the call for Dow to be
dropped as a sponsor, asking the Indian Olympic Association to take up the
matter with both LOCOG and the International Olympic Committee. It remains
possible that India will try to persuade others to join it in a boycott of
the London games if Dow remains as a sponsor.
Dow inherited responsibiity for Bhopal when it bought Union Carbide, and
has continued with their policies of denial and refusal to accept proper responsibility.
But its earlier record during the Vietnam war and arising from it also makes
them an unsuitable sponsor for the Olympics.
Dow was a major supplier of napalm used by the US in Vietnam, continuing
to supply after all other companies had discontinued production after protests.
They were also a major supplier of Agent Orange, a defoliant sprayed by the
US over Vietnam, Laos and parts of Cambodia - around 5 million acres in total
- in an effort to deprive the guerrillas of food and force the rural population
to move to the largely US-dominated cities. It was contaminated with dioxins
and Vietnamese estimates are that 400,000 people were killed or seriously
maimed and half a million children born deformed because of its use.
London Mourning Mothers of Iran
Trafalgar Square, London. Saturday 7 Jan 2012
Solidarity with the The Mothers of Laleh Park, Tehran.
The London Mourning Mothers of Iran stand every first Saturday of the
month in Trafalgar Square to show solidarity with the mothers of political
prisoners and those murdered by the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979.
The Mothers of Laleh Park (formerly known as the Mourning Mothers of Iran)
are women whose children were killed or imprisoned after the 2009 Iranian
election, when the regime began a crackdown on members of the opposition.
They have carried out a series of protests in Laleh Park in central Tehran
and other locations to bring attention to these injustices.
Those in jail include Parvin Mokhtare, mother of the imprisoned human rights
activist Kouhyar Goudarzi, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters
who was jailed for a year in December 2009. In November 2010 she sent a message
to the National Press Club (USA) who had awarded Gourdazi with their John
Auchobon Award for press freedom, thanking them for the award which she dedicated
"to the green and great nation of Iran, to Argentinian mothers, Palestinian
mothers, patient mothers of Iran, especially the mother of Neda Agha Soltan,
mother of Sohrab Arabi, mother of Mohsen Rooholamini, mother of Kianoush Asa,
and all mothers of imprisoned, but free-spirited, political prisoners of Iran."
Gourdarzi was arrested again last July, and his mother a few days later.
She has been sentenced to 23 months in jail apparently because of media interviews
she gave about her son.
Several other members of the mothers group have also been given jail sentences
and others threatened and interrogated for calling for the release of political
prisoners, the abolition of the death sentence and the trail of those who
have ordered the killings of the last 30 years.
Around 20 people, mainly woment, but including some men and children came
to the protest in Trafalgar Square today, standing quietly around their display
holding posters and giving out postcards about the Mothers of Laleh Park.
Shut Guantánamo – End 10 Years of
Trafalgar Square, London. Saturday 7 Jan 2012
Among the 'detainees' were some wearing 'Anonymous' masks
A rally in Trafalgar Square called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay
and for the UK Government to step up efforts for the return of Shaker Aamer
and former UK resident Ahmed Belbacha.
The rally came on the weekend before the 10th anniversary of the setting
up of the illegal US prison camp at in the US military base at Guantánamo
Bay, Cuba on 11 January 2002. Although President Obama came into office pledging
to close the camp down and end the discredited military trials there, he has
failed to do so, authorising the continued regime of arbitrary detention without
charge or trial. 171 prisoners are still detained there.
Shaker Aamer is among those prisoners who were cleared for release by the
US military in 2007, and this was confirmed by Obama’s administration
in 2009. He is thought to be still detained as his revelations of torture
over his ten years of imprisonment by the US authorities (and on one occasion
in the presence of a British intelligence agent) would be embarrassing to
the US government. Gordon Brown when Prime Minister unsuccesfully urged the
US to release him. Before his detention, his home was in London, where his
wife and four children, including a son of almost 10 he has never seen are
living in Battersea. There are grave concerns for his physical and mental
health due to his imprisonment and illtreatment.
Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national who had a residence permit and lived
in Bournemouth from 1999 to 2001, was also cleared for release by the US military
in 2007. An injunction prevents his return to Algeria where he would probably
die. The campaigners want the UK to again offer him a safe home.
Several hundred people came to the rally at Trafalgar Square where there
were speeches by Lib Dem Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, solicitor Louise Christian,
Lindsey German of Stop the War, Kate Hudson of CND, journalist Victoria Brittain
and others, including student representatives, trade unionists and other activists.
Among those taking part were a number of 'Anonymous' protesters in 'V' for
Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks who had come from the Occupy London protest camp
at St Paul's Cathedral.
The speakers urged both the UK government and the EU to put pressure on the
US to close Guantanamo and to either release those still detained or to give
them a fair and open trial.
Halfway through the event there was a display by a large number of activists
in orange jumpsuits and black hoods as a visual reminder of those still detained.
They walked up holding the prison numbers of the 177 prisoners still in Guantanamo,
and their numbers were called and their names read out.
Rally - 53 Years Of Cuban Revolution
Angel, Islington, London. Saturday 7 Jan 2012
The iconic image of Che Guevara and the bookstall at the Angel
A street rally at the Angel Islington celebrated 53 years of the Cuban
revolution with speeches and collection of signatures demanding justice for
the Cuban Five before a lecture and social.
The event was organised for Rock around the Blockade by Fight Racism Fight
Imperialism, and celebrated the achievement of Cuba in building a socialist
country despite the blockade by its powerful neighbour USA.
Around twenty people were spread out on both sides of the busy shopping street
handing out leaflets and collecting signatures for a petition calling for
the release of the remaining members of the Cuban 5, arrested in 1998 in Miami
for gathering information on groups of Cuban refugees who were planning illegal
acts against Cuba. Their treatment in US courts has been criticised as unfair
by the UN Commisison on Human Rights and by Amnesty International, who also
condemned their treatment in jail as "unnecessarily punitive." Eight
Nobel prize winners from around the world including Nadine Gordimer, Desmond
Tutu, Wole Soyinka and Gunter Grass joined together in calling for their freedom,
as well as many other people and groups around the world.
Speeches at the event also called for the US to leave the naval base it illegally
occupies at Guantanamo Bay, and to release the prisoners still held there.
Fifty-three years ago Cuba was a poor and corrupt country, its natural resources
exploited by foreign companies, its people largely living in poverty with
low educational standards and life expectancy. The country now has probably
the best health service in the world, low infant mortality and a life expectancy
better than many parts of the UK. Free education is provided for all, and
soon most will follow it to graduate level.
Cuba provides free medical training for students from many African and South
American countries, and also sends many doctors and nurses to work in them.
It has made a major contribution to controlling AIDS in Africa.
Cuba is a country which has shown that there is a real alternative to capitalism,
and that has provided a healthy and dignified life for its people, improving
their condition over more than 50 years.
Between the speeches, Cuban music was played on the sound system. After the
street rally, there was to be a lecture and discussion on 'The revolutionary
thought of Che Guevara: education and socialism' at a nearby pub, followed
by a social. Other Rock around the Blockade events planned to celebrate Cuba's
achievements include a fund-raising meal and a classical concert by Cuban
musicians on 20 Jan to raise money for sports equipment for Cuban youth, a
cause chosen to mark the London 2012 Olympic year.
top of page
All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright
© Peter Marshall 2012; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures
or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact