DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions
Tothill St, Westminster, London. Fri 31 Aug 2012
Some DPAC activists were inside the building but
police kept the rest outside the door
Disabled activists occupied the Department of Work & Pensions
and protesters from the 'Closing Atos Ceremony' came to Westminster to
join them outside the offices. Outside, DPAC activist Adam Lotun
announced his intention to stand in the Corby by-election.
As the 'Atos Closing Ceremony' appeared to be coming to an end there
was an announcement telling people they should hang around, and in ten
minutes time there would be a special announcement about another action
that was taking place elsewhere that we would want to go on to.
I started trying to find out what was happening, and eventually got the
message that disablement activists had just walked in to Caxton House,
the home of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Tothill St in
Traffic was heavy in places and it took me around 25 minutes to get
there; when I arrived there were around 20 or so protesters outside with
banners in front of the entrance. Behind them were a block of around a
dozen police in several rows in the fairly narrow outer lobby, and
behind them I could see more police and a few protesters.
A couple of minutes after I arrived, the main group which had come from
the earlier protest arrived, and several more people in wheelchairs came
up in front of the banners, with a large crowd on the pavement and
spilling out into the roadway.
Adam Lotun arrived and also came to the front and gave a short address
about the actions today and earlier in the week of action against Atos,
a fight which would continue. As one way to keep up the campaign he
announced that he would stand as an independent candidate in the Corby
A few protesters decided to try to push through the police so they
could meet up with those already in the building. This was difficult as
there were a crowd of media people in the way as well as the people in
wheelchairs and some other protesters who wanted it to be an entirely
A confused mêlée developed and continued for the next ten minutes or
so, and with police reinforcemnents arriving, the protesters were forced
a few yards back from the actual doorway. There were still protesters
inside the building when I left to catch a train a little before half
Closing Atos Ceremony
Triton Sq, London. Fri 31 Aug 2012
The Atos Miracle Cure renders everyone fit for work
As the start of their grand finale to the week of protests around
the country against Paralympic sponsor Atos, DPAC and UK Uncut held
their Closing Atos Ceremony outside the company's UK Offices with
dancing and street theatre.
Disabled People Against the Cuts and UK Uncut had organised the week
of action as a protest against the sick spectacle of Atos, the company
who pressures its staff to unfairly declare disabled people 'fit for
work' to increase its profits and meet government targets, bathing in
the glory of sponsoring the Paralympic games.
In London, protests included a spoof opening ceremony next to Tower
Bridge with its Paralympic symbol, a vigil at Westminster and a memorial
service outside the Atos head office to remember the people who have
lost their lives at the hands of Atos Healthcare. In Cardiff campaigners
carried out a graphic protest on the same theme, with 40 protesters
stopping traffic as the lay in the road to represent the corpses. At the
Paralympics opening ceremony inside the stadium, many of the British
athletes covered up their lanyards with the Atos name on them as a
protest against their involvement as sponsors.
Tara Flood, a former Paralympian who represented GB at three Paralympic
games and whose gold-medal winning time at the 1992 Barcelona games
remains a world record, reflected the feeling of many disabled people
when she stated: "It is a shocking irony that Atos is a main sponsor of
London 2012 whilst destroying disabled people’s lives on behalf of the
More than 500 people came to Atos's offices in Triton Square for a
peaceful protest outside the offices. The mood was very different to
Wednesday's solemn service, and there was something of a festival
atmosphere, with music and darncing, poppers, brightly coloured plastic
water pistols and some fancy dress along the the usual banners and
placards, but there was no mistaking the anger against Atos, evident in
the slogans on the placards and chanted. 'Atos Kills!' and its
target-driven computer-based work capability assessments cause extreme
hardship and misery to many disabled - and death to some. Last year
1,100 claimants died after Atos tests placed them on compulsory
work-related activity to gain benefits, and a number of those found ‘fit
for work’ and left without income have committed or attempted suicide.
One of the protesters carried a poster giving details of Cecilia Burns,
declared fit to work by Atos in February, having been given no points
for her breast cancer, who died this morning. As it commented, 'Atos is
a sick joke.' Another placard listed some of the other conditions that
Atos has found to have no bearing on fitness for work, including fatal
heart conditions, kidney cancer and severe MS.
There were a couple of pieces of theatre at the event, and the second
starred the 'Atos Miracle Cure', and archway through which those
disabled people who truly wanted to be freed of their disabilities were
urged by 'Atos's own Reverend' to come forward and go through the arch,
which a number, mainly in wheelchairs, did. Nothing seemed to happen to
them, and they were disappointed, even after the 'Rev' had blessed them
and patted them on the head, but then an 'Atos doctor' in a white coat
came to assess them, and lo! she gave them each a certificate that they
were now fit to work, and, even more miraculous, a job. But unfortuntely
the whole thing was a con!
The Closing Atos Ceremony ended with the announcement that disabled
activists had entered and occupied the Department of Work and Pensions
offices, Caxton House, in Westminster. By that time I'd heard a couple
of minutes earlier and was already sitting on a bus on my way there.
Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims
Triton Sq, London. Wed 29 Aug 2012
The coffin was carried by wheelchair and mobility vehicle users
Disabled activists held a vigil to remember those who have died as
a result of the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Paralympic
Sponsor Atos, delivering a coffin to their head office on the day the
Paralympic Games opens.
It was raining as the activists met in the two coffee shops on Triton
Square and began to get ready for their vigil, but soon they were
outside in the rain waiting for event to begin. Fortunately they were
able to use an area under cover adjoining the Atos offices, where they
set up a PA system, an electronic organ, a lectern and an altar.
A short introduction which explained the problems with the Work
Capability Assessment delivered by Atos, "a relentless health and
disability assessment regime which has been used to slash vital benefits
from hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people" and where
assessors are told they have to reach strict targets in failing the
great majority of claimants, finding ways to fill in the relevant boxes
on the forms and often deliberately misinterpreting the claimants
responses and misrepresenting their medical condition.
A number of stories where then read out of people who had committed
suicide as a result of receiving incorrect assessments by Atos,
including only those cases where there was evidence of some kind that
the assessment had been a part of the direct cause of their deaths, or
had been stated by their families as having been so.
A coffin was then brought by four disabled people in wheelchairs or
mobility scooters to where the ceremony was taking place, and people
came forward to lay flowers on it. It was then carried the few yards and
put down directly in front of the Atos office entrance, and more flower
petals were then thrown over it.
The event was a solemn and moving reminder of the scandal of the work
capability assessments and the terrible effect they are having on the
disabled. Many are losing the allowances that enable them to travel to
work, others housing benefits, and are being told they are fit to work
when patently they are unable to do so. One of the protesters had a
placard with a list of some of the cases, "a suicidal woman - a man with
FATAL heart condition - rape survivor of Rwandan genocide - man with
kidney cancer - woman with sever MS". It is a list that could be
extended almost indefinitely - and now includes a man in a coma.
One of the activists came with a newspaper with a headline about Atos
being "engulfed by disability test row" and it does seem at last that
many people are seeing through the government's attempt to stigmatize
the disabled as benefit scroungers and realise the very real hardship
the removal of benefits is causing. It really is a cruel paradox that at
a time when the nation is celebrating the great achievements of disabled
people in the sporting world, our government is trying to reverse the
moves toward equality of treatment of disabled people, and that the
company that is trying to take the credit for sponsoring the Paralympics
is profiting from contracts to dishonestly deny benefits to the disabled
who need them.
Remploy Protest at Stratford
Stratford Station, London. Wed 29 Aug 2012
Protesters show their Olympic flyer at Stratford on the day the
On the opening day of the Paralympic Games, Remploy workers and
supporters protested outside Stratford Station following the closure
of 27 Remploy factories last week. Few of the disabled workers who
lost their jobs will ever work again.
Remploy was established to make it possible for disabled people to do
useful and productive work. The nearest factory to the protest at
Stratford, Remploy Barking, one of the 27 that was shut down by the
government last week, produced printed circuit boards and electrical
assemblies, as well as recycling used computers. Remploy enabled
disabled workers and those with special health conditions to do useful
jobs, providing opportunities that are simply not otherwise available.
When some Remploy factories were cut by the previous government, 80% of
all the disabled workers were unable to find jobs, and given the current
economic position the situation for those who lost thier jobs last week
is even bleaker.
Originally Remploy was set up to give jobs to men and women who had
been injured fighting for their country in the Second World War - just
the kind of ex-servicemen who now make up a significant proportion of
our Paralympic Team GB. The protesters, including Phil Davies of the
GMB, secretary of the Remploy Consortium of trade unions, handed out an
Olympic-themed leaflet pointing out that the "Remploy workers are the
most vulnerable in society and will face a lifetime of poverty and in
some cases isolation" and calling for the public "not only to support
the athletes but also to spare a thought for Remploy disabled workers by
writing to the Prime Minister and objecting to how disabled people are
The front of the leaflet had the text 'We are NOT going for Gold, We
are Condemned to Dole' and the five Olympic rings were labelled
'Unemployment, Discrimination, Poverty, Ill Health and Death.
Remploy workers stepped up their actions last week with an occupation
of Remploy’s head office in Leicester last Thursday, only ended when the
disabilities minister Maria Miller promised fresh talks. A five day
strike begins at Remploy Chesterfield next Monday and a four day strike
Vedanta AGM Protest
Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. Tue 28 Aug 2012
Theatrical blood on the steps leading to the AGM
of mining company Vedanta.
A protest took place outside the AGM of Vedanta, owned by
billionaire Anil Agarwal, backed by the UK government but opposed by
groups in India, Goa, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa and Ireland,
Zambia and Sri Lanka for the environmental damage, pollution and human
rights abuses caused by its mining of bauxite and other minerals.
The stage blood was a little street theatre in a peaceful protest
against the mining company whose activities have been condemned by
Amnesty International, and have led to disinvestment by concerned
investors including the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, Martin Currie
Investments, the Church of England, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
and the Dutch Pension Fund PGGM, but they are still backed by more than
30 major banks and financial agencies including HSBC, RBS, Deutsche
Bank, Axa, Royal Bank of Canada, Credit Suisse, J P Morgan Chase,
Goldman Sachs, Lloyds Banking Group, Nordea Bank, ICICI, Citigroup,
National Bank of Kuwait, ANZ and Merrill Lynch.
The UK Department for International Development (DfID) and Department
of Trade and Industry (DTI) helped to launch Vedanta on the London Stock
Exchange and through the World Bank funded NGO Business Partners for
Development, helped it to take over copper mines in Zambia. Most
recently, government officials and David Cameron put pressure on the
Indian government to enable Vedanta to take over around 30% of Indian
Vedanta's mining and smelting of bauxite in Odisha, India has left over
10,000 displaced people landless, contaminated drinking water and
devasted vast areas of formerly fertile land, with famines every year
since 2007. Only prolonged resistance by the indigenous Advasi people
over seven years has so far prevented the devastation of their sacred
Another protest in Goa, where a pit wall collapse drowned a village in
toxic mine waste in 2009, managed to stop a further iron ore mine. There
have been other floods and other mass protests and the Vedanta
subsidiary there is accused of large scale fraud and illegal mining.
There have also been many large-scale protests in Tamil Nadu, where,
according to 'Foil Vedanta', the Vedanta subsidiary there "has
flouted laws without remorse, operating and expanding without consent,
violating environmental conditions, and illegally dumping toxic
effluents and waste." They allege that "damning court actions"
against the company have been overturned on several occasions by "Pollution
Control Boards, judges and expert teams" as a result of "large
scale corruption and bribery."
I was busy a few yards away and missed seeing the actual throwing of
the fake blood, but several protesters went to dip their hands in it and
were chased away by security and the one police officer who was then on
duty at the event. I think the person who had thrown the blood quickly
left the area.
Shareholders arriving for the meeting, including four protesters, among
them Bianca Jagger, had to step over the bloody area as they made their
way in. Later carpets were brought out from the centre and put down over
the blood, until Lincoln House provided their own little vignette of
street theatre as a black cleaner was supervised by white staff as she
was directed to clean up the mess.
The crowd of around 80 people across the road shouted 'Blood on
your hands, Vedanta! Blood on your hands Agarwal! Blood on your hands,
Cameron!' They kept up a high level of noise as they knew from
previous years - this was the eighth protest at a Vedanta AGM - that
they could be heard inside the meeting, and wanted to make their
A dozen or so police arrived ten or fifteen minutes later, although
there was little for them to do. One man walking past did turn and run
up the steps shouting "Blood on your hands!, but was stopped by security
and quickly dragged back onto the pavement by police, who pulled him
along a bit, but then appeared to let him go.
Half an hour or so later 3 police vans came and parked a short distance
away. By that time many of the protesters had left although the
shareholders were still in the meeting. Police probably outnumbered the
protesters, and I decided little further was likely to happen and it was
time to go.
Regrade GCSE English
Westminster, London. Tue 28 Aug 2012
Teachers with placards outside the Dept for Education
London teachers protested at the Dept for Education calling for the
immediate regrading of GCSE English following the government inspired
moving of GCSE grade boundaries that threaten the future of both the
students affected and their schools.
The urgent protest was called at the last minute by London teachers,
who as well as being appalled by the unfairness of the changes on their
students are also worried that the lower results will mean that many
schools now fail to reach the 40% A-C benchmark imposed by Education
minister Michael Gove, and will be forcibly privatised. Individual
teachers may also face 'capability' proceedings and loss of
performance-based pay awards as a result of the lower results, even
though the actual performance of students has not changed.
The protest was suggested late on Friday night by a young teacher from
Lewisham, and rapidly gained support, although teachers are still on
their summer vacation and many enjoying their last week away from home.
Among the more than 50 people present were several members of the NUT
executive and NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney.
The protesters carried placards reading 'Gove Stole My Grade' and 'Hey,
Michael, Leave Our Kids Alone' and there was Gove's face with a dunces
cap. Several of the teachers present spoke, including Kevin Courtney,
and a letter was signed to be delivered to the Education Minister
calling for the immediate regrading of the English exams. As the
teachers stressed, there just isn't time to wait for any inquiry as
students and sixth-form colleges will be having to make their decisions
for the future in the next couple of weeks.
The action by the exams boards means that many students with exactly
the same work who would have gained a Grade C if it had been submitted
in January have been downgraded to Grade D. Although GCSE was introduced
as a system that would grade students across the whole spectrum with no
special significance being attached to the Grade C/D boundary, over the
years it has been altered by governments to become a system in which
grades A (and now A*) to C are recognised as a pass and grades D and
below as failures, both for the students and for their schools.
The protests was not about the marking of the examinations, but at the
arbitrary and unfair change in the marks required to get the various
grades, and in particular the boundary between grade C and D. Regrading
would be a simple administrative exercise that could be done rapidly and
at relatively low cost - simply requiring a computer to re-run the batch
of results with the grade boundaries used in January rather than the
The change in the grade boundaries is seen as part of Gove's agenda to
blame schools and teachers for 'failing' students and provide a
rationale for closing down schools run by democratically elected local
councils and replacing extending the privatisation of exducation by
their replacement by 'academies.'
Many students who had been hoping to start A level courses in September
- even those not studying English - will now fail to get onto their
courses as a result of this downgrading, and there are estimates that
this could result in a rise of around 10,000 'NEETS', young people
currently "not in education, employment, or training." The protest came
on the same day that Employment Minister Chris Grayling announced that
young unemployed Londoners will be forced to do three months of unpaid
full-time work or have their benefits cut.
The downgrading will disproportionately affect students from working
class backgrounds, whose aims to better themselves through education
have already been hit by this government with the removal of EMA, the
educational maintenance allowance for 16-18 year olds, and by the hike
in University fees.
Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games
Potters Fields, London. Mon 27 Aug 2012
Paralympian gold medal winner Tara Flood is
stripped of her gold medal and blue badge
DPAC's week of action against Paralympics sponsor Atos began with
Gold medal winning Paralympian Tara Flood getting another gold at the
opening ceremony for the Atos Games, but like other medal winners was
stripped of it after an Atos assesment showed her fit to work.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) held a spoof Opening
Ceremony for the Atos Games in front of Tower Bridge, which now
has the Paralympic symbol hanging from it. The games are a national week
of action against Paralympics sponsor Atos, whose computer based
'fitness for work' tests have led to stress, hardship deaths and
suicides among the disabled.
Over 50 people, including many in wheelchairs arrived to take part in
the protest, which began with a several speeches about the problems
caused by Atos assessments which led to this action, as well as
mentioning other unsuitable Olympic sponsors such as Dow, still failing
to take up their responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and the scandal
of disabled prisoner Daniel Roque Hall, now in intensive care
after the failure of Wormwood Scrubs to provide the necessary medical
facilities for him.
After a few problems with the breeze, the Atos Games flame
was finally lit, although the candle seemed in constant danger of
blowing out it did burn for some minutes. Those at the protest then sang
the Atos Games song, 'Imagine there's no ATOS' though it wasn't
quite clear to me what tune was intended.
The first medals of the Atos Games were then awarded, in the 'Individual
pursuit of peace of mind - Everyweight Division', with Youcef
Bey-Zekkoub being given the bronze, Adam Lotun the
silver, and Tara Flood adding to her formidable total of medals
- as well as the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, she also gained
two silvers and four bronzes as well as a World Record for her swimming.
After all the winners had got up onto the podium and been awarded their
medals, they were then each assessed by the 'Atos doctor' present. She
asked them to spell 'DLA' and when they got it right told them that they
were not disabled enough to keep their medals, which she then cut off
with large scissors.
DPAC make it clear that this is not a protest against sports or those
taking part in the Paralympics, but against the government and Atos:
"We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in
it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon
may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for
Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion
from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a
year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide
whether they’re ‘fit for work’."
Independent reports, including those produced for the Department for
Work and Pensions, have found the testing by Atos to be unfit for
purpose, and the figures for appeals show this clearly, with around 40%
of the extremely high number of appeals being successful. But the appeal
process is also unsatisfactory in that it takes so long that almost as
soon as the result is given, a claimant may be due for a further Atos
test which will usually again give the faulty result.
A few of the more ridiculous results of Atos testing make the news -
such as a man in a coma found fit for work, or people with terminal
cancer who die within days of the test which tells them they must get
work, but mostly cases are less dramatic except to the person involved.
Benefit cuts for the disable can actually have a perverse effect, and
some disabled people whose current benefits enable them to work (for
example by providing aids to mobility) are having these cut and are no
longer able to work.
The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven,
in an interview with The Guardian recently called for the word 'disabled'
to be dropped from the media coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics
games, as well as defending the role of Atos as games sponsors. But many
among the disabled disagree, including Tara Flood. Although her 1992
Barcelona gold medal is safe, she now fears that her assessment by Atos
will result in her losing the allowance that enables her to drive to
work - and today's other medallists have both already lost benefits.
Flood is just one of 90,000 disabled people who expect to have their
support through the vital motability scheme removed.
Notting Hill - Children's Day
Notting Hill, London. Sun 26 Aug 2012
Dancers in All Saints Rd
Since I first went to carnival around 1990, I've gone almost every year
- except for one year when I was having knee problems only got as far as
my local station before I collapsed in pain and had to acknowledge I
wasn't going to be dancing that year.
But either I'm getting too old for it, or perhaps carnival is changing,
and this year I found it a little difficult. So I went on the Sunday,
stayed around three hours and didn't really want to return for the big
day. So I didn't.
Shoreditch, London. Sun 26 Aug 2012
What used to be the Foundry now has the Red Market
iin the open space behind
I got off the underground at Old St, and noticed as I walked out of the
station and through the arcade under the roundabout that the steps
leading up were open, so I went up and took a few pictures. I first
photographed up here some years ago, before the new buildings around the
roundabout. I'd not gone to Shoreditch to photograph the graffiti, but
ended up doing so, as well as a few other pictures around the streets.
A large group which seemed mainly to be of foreign tourists was being
given a conducted tour and lecture of Blackall St while I was there, and
I had to wait around a bit for them to move along, so I had time to take
plenty of pictures.
March Against Gangs, Guns and Knifes
Leyton - Walthamstow. Fri 24 Aug 2012
At the front of the march: Placards for CJ
Hendricks and Thomas Overton, killed the Sunday before the march.
Several hundred marched from Leyton to a rally at Walthamstow
Central in memory of C J Hendricks and others affected by serious
youth violence and gang issues to a rally where young people performed
and paid tribute to those who have been killed.
Police in 2011 investigated 155 incidents of stabbing in the London
Borough of Waltham Forest, in north-east London, though fortunately few
of them were fatal, though I'm not sure if the police report of only 2
fatalities tells the whole story. This year has seen at least two deaths
already, with a man stabbed in May and another, Tommy Overton, aged 18,
in Beaumont Road early last Sunday, August 19th. But the 2011 figures
possible represent a drop in knife crime, as in the year between between
April 2008 and March 2009 there were 544 'knife related incidents.'
Another teenager who lived on the Beaumont Estate, Michael Simon
Wright, also known as 'Sezmic', only 17, was stabbed outside Maryland
Station by one of his friends in 2009. The Beaumont Estate in Leyton,
the largest estate in the borough has a poor record, often linked with
the Beaumont Crew gang who see it as their territory.
Four years ago today, Charles Junior "CJ" Hendricks, aged 18, died
after being knifed in Walthamstow, close to the site of today's rally.
He was England's 24th teenage street murder victim. His family set up
the 'CJ Hendricks Trust Fund' to raise money for a memorial headstone
and to use any remaining donations to help youth projects in Waltham
Forest. His father, Charles Hendricks Snr, wrote to then PM Gordon
Brown, asking for more direct action to prevent knife crime. Two months
later the Home Office launched their anti-knife campaign "It Doesn't
Have to Happen".
Around 200 people gathered at Abbots Park in Leyton for the mile and a
half march to Walthamstow Central Square this afternoon. Among them were
many family members and friends of 'CJ', 'Tommy' and 'Sezmic', and it
was very much a community event, with people of all ages and
representing the ethnic diversity of the area.
Led my a car with CJ's mother Melanie Hendricks as a passenger, the
march struck a brisk pace along Hoe St, with police clearing traffic.
Many of those taking part carried placards, including some showing a
'hoodie' dropping his knife and gun into dustbins. There were t-shirts
with a picture of CJ on the front, and on the back the message 'Don't
cry because it's over ... smile because it happened...' an
anonymmous proverb that has been attributed to both Gabriel García
Márquez and Dr. Seuss, which reflected the mood of the event.
At the rally everyone was urged to give thanks for what these young men
had shown in their short lives, to praise their memories and to remember
them. There was a highly emotional atmosphere, with passionate 'a
cappella' rap performances from several young men who were friends of
the murder victims, and when one man, Ryan, moved from rapping to an
intense gospel inspired vocal, there were few entirely dry eyes around.
Earlier we had heard Cllr Ali who said that Waltham Forest Council,
unlike some other councils acknowledged that the area had a problem, and
that their "honesty has enabled us to ... work with partners and
community members to build our programe which is called 'Enough is
Enough'" and to take active steps to deal with the problem. Some
of those active steps were explained by one of the organisers of the
event, Nicky Wilson.
But perhaps the mood of the event was summed up by a hand-written text
on one of the posters carried at the head of the march, with pictures of
CJ, which simply read:
Rest in Paradise - Gone But Never Forgotten.
"It's been 4 years and yor sitll missed so much! There's not a day
that goes past that I don't think about you! You will always be
loved & you will never be forgotten & always be missed!"
Sean Rigg Memorial - 4 Years
Brixton, London. Tue 21 Aug 2012
Sean Rigg's family with Mona Donle at the start
of the march to Brixton Police Station
Every seat in the Assembly Hall at Lambeth Town Hall was full for the
Sean Rigg Memorial, four years to the day after his death shortly after
he was taken to Brixton Police Station. By the time the event inside had
finished there were more around the sides of the hall and another fifty
or so waiting for the march and vigil after.
Sean Rigg's death at the hands of police and the attempt by the Met and
the IPCC to cover up the circumstances of his death has been brought out
into the public eye by the determined Sean Rigg Justice & Change
Campaign led by his two sisters, Marcia Rigg-Samuel and Samantha
Rigg-David, supported by the rest of Sean's family, including his mother
and organisations including Inquest, Black Mental Health UK and the
United Families and Friends Campaign.
The recent high-profile inquest on Sean's death made far clearer what
happened in the last few hours of his life, but continued to fail to
bring either the full truth or justice. As the family say, the pain they
feel "has been completely compounded by officers at best misleading the
jury and lying under oath. The evidence we have heard has left us in no
doubt that Sean died as a result of the wilful neglect of those who were
meant to care for him and keep him alive."
This lack of care began with the failure of the South London and
Maudsley Trust (SLaM) to do their job properly, and was compounded by
the police failure to respond to repeated 999 calls from the hostel
where Sean was living and take him to hospital. Instead, when police
finally came they forcibly restrained him, arrested him for stealing his
own passport, bundled him into a police van and sped him to Brixton
Police Station, where he died on the concrete floor of a caged area at
the rear of the station, surrounded by police officers.
Many of the facts of the case only came to light as a result of
persistent and repeated enquiries by the family, with the police being
more concerned about writing misleading press releases and the IPCC
showing itself incapable of conducting interviews with the officers
concerned, collecting appropriate evidence or asking questions. The 50
minute film 'Who Polices the Police' directed by Ken Fero of Migrant
Media shown at the end of the evening included interviews with the IPCC
in which they appeared to regard themselves as being more a PR
department for the police than a proper investigative body. The IPPC
decision to commission an independent external review of its
investigation into the death of Sean Rigg perhaps reflects a feeling
that in this case it failed to reach its normal level of competence -
and the frustration of some in the organisation at the limitations
imposed on it by statute.
Sean Rigg's case has been kept in the public eye because of the efforts
of the family-led campaign, but is only one of hundreds or thousands of
similar cases, few of which get more than a single paragraph in the mass
media before they are forgotten. Some of the other more high profile
cases were mentioned during the event, and the mother and sister of
Olaseni (Seni) Lewis, a 23 year old who had just started a Masters
Degree in IT and Business Management at Kingston University spoke
briefly. Seni A few hours after being admitted as a voluntary patient to
the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham (part of SLaM) Seni was taken to
Croydon's Mayday Hospital in Croydon in a coma after being forcibly
restrained by up to seven police. He died four days later on 4 September
Among those who spoke during the evening were Sam Rigg-David and Marcia
Rigg from the Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign, Matilda MacAttram
of Black Mental Health UK, Estelle Du Bulay from the Newham Monitoring
Project, Weyman Bennett of the UAF and the RMT union and Glenroy Watson
also from the RMT. There were also a number of contributions from the
floor, some voicing the anger against the police felt by many,
particularly in the black community.
There were two uniformed police who had attended the event, and I think
one or two in plain clothes. Although some in the Met had good
intentions in particular following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the
changes that were made following this appear to have resulted in changes
in reporting and not to have seriously challenged the blatant racism
that still exists in the force, particularly at the lower levels.
Last Sunday, 19 August, another incident took place locally when police
violently assaulted an individual in Windrush Square outside Brixton
Library, with three officers arresting a man who was clearly disturbed
and acting unpredictably. Mona Donle, a Brixton resident was quoted on a
"One officer choked him by holding his forearm across the man’s throat.
Then another officer stamped on him. The foot was on his face and then
the man passed out – we kept telling them to call an ambulance."
Another eye-witness told me last night that the man had the clear
impression of the boot across his face and that it was around 20 minutes
before the man came round.
The police account reads differently, making no mention of the violence
and suggesting that the ambulance arrived 'approximately' five minutes
after the arrest.
After the meeting, around 200 people joined in a march behind the Sean
Rigg Campaign banner from the town hall to Brixton Police Station, where
flowers were laid at the memorial tree outside, candles lit and a
minute's silence held for Sean Rigg and other victims of police
Samantha Rigg and Mona Donle then took a formal complaint into the
police station, and after a second or two were followed in by a crowd,
packing out the small lobby. Police there made a copy of the complaint
and then gave the complainants a signed and dated copy. They asked to
see the officer in charge, and after a few minutes he came to a side
door and answered what questions he was able to about Sunday's arrest.
I had to leave at this point, but it seemed as if the event was about
Solidarity with Marikana Miners
London. Sat 18 Aug 2012
Protesters gathered outside Lonmin's offices and
marched to South Africa House.
Around 50 people protested at short notice over the shooting of
striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine by police in South
Africa. After protesting outside the London offices of Lonmin, they
marched to South Africa house for a short rally.
The shooting by South African police of the striking miners appalled
many around the world, and as the news broke an emergency protest was
called for Saturday afternoon outside the London offices on Lonmin, the
owner of the mine.
Lonmin, previously even more infamous as Lonrho, has a small suite of
offices on the top floor of a recently refurbished office building near
Hyde Park Corner. Nothing on the outside of the building or the parts of
the lobby visible through the windows tells you of the company's
presence, and the offices were firmly locked and apparently completely
empty when the protesters arrived.
The group stood on the pavement in front of the building, waving
placards at the constant flow of traffic on the busy junction and the
steady stream of passers-by for around an hour before deciding to march
to South Africa House to end the protest with a rally there.
Their route took them across Green Park and up into the Mall, still in
a terrible mess after the Olympics, which forced them to exit into Pall
Mall to continue their journey.
At South Africa House we listened to a socialist from Zimbabwe who told
both of her disgust at what had happened at Marikana, and also how it
fitted in to the pattern of exploitation and oppression that has
characterised the mining industry in Africa. Conditions in many of the
mines are terrible, with little or no attention to health and safety
issues, and miners are on low wages.
The older trade unions, linked through COSATU to the ruling ANC
government are seen by many as doing little to improve pay and
conditions for miners, many of whom, as at Marikana, are now joining the
more militant and recently formed AMCU.
EDL Outnumbered in Chelmsford
Chelmsford, Essex. Sat 18 Aug 2012
Dramatic light on the EDL - but few in the march
The EDL marched in Chelmsford, Essex against plans to build a large
mosque in the city. They were opposed by roughly 3 times as many
supporters of Chelmsford Against Racism. A heavy police presence kept
the city peaceful during the marches.
The English Defence League (EDL) were marching to show their opposition
against the plans for a large mosque in the city. They were opposed by a
counter-demonstration roughly three times as large by Chelmsford Against
Fascism and the UAF (United Against Fascism.)
The city was crowded with police both to keep these two groups apart
but also to deal with the very much larger crowds heading for the 'V'
festival in a nearby park.
I started by briefly photographing the UAF rally in the centre of the
city before making my way to the pub a quarter mile away, closer to the
site of the planned mosque, where the EDL were gathering. There were
roughly 80 of them, filling the small pub and its beer garden opposite
the police station. Facing the pub when I arrived were a row of police
horses, and there were more officers around it on foot. I started to
photograph some of the EDL through the railings around the beer garden
and was abused by one of those inside. He complained to police who
assured him that I was acting lawfully. Others inside the beer garden
posed for me, making 'V' signs and other gestures for the camera. When I
had taken a few pictures an officer requested I move away to avoid
further upsetting the marchers, and as I had already taken my pictures I
was happy to do so.
Next I photographed the EDL Essex Division spokesman Paul Pitt as he
was being interviewed for TV. His performance, polite and smiling, gave
a rather different impression to those supporters I had just been
Pitt stated that the EDL were not opposed to any building of mosques,
but that the size and location of the proposed building was unsuitable.
He denied that the EDL were racist and said that they represented the
views of local people who had invited them to march in Chelmsford.
He went on to comment on the counter-demonstrators, saying that the "UAF
and Unite are here to silence us", and that one EDL supporter who
had been intending to speak at the rally had withdrawn as he was a Unite
member, and had he been recognised would have lost his job. He went on
to say that today's event would be "a strong positive march"
but that "there will be no violence from us."
A few minutes later the march formed up in the street at the side of
the pub behind several banners. There was some singing of well-known EDL
songs, including one about Muslim Bombers, and as the march started, a
rather large and fat marcher came towards me as I was taking pictures
and said: "I hope all your family die of cancer."
I followed the EDL march, taking pictures until it turned down the
street where the rally was to take place. There was a huge police
presence, with vans from other forces including Norfolk, with various
fences and cordons across roads to ensure that the EDL and the counter
demonstration were kept apart.
I returned to the UAF counter-protest in the middle of the busy
shopping area. The rally had been going on there for almost two hours
and now were lined up ready to march. As soon as the police had sealed
off the street containing the EDL rally they were allowed to start their
march, led by Weymann Bennett of the UAF, on a route that took them
around the area where the EDL were meeting.
It was a very different march to that by the EDL, with over three times
as many people - well over 200 - and many more placards and banners. It
was also considerably louder, with almost continuous chanting calling
for an end to the racist provocations of the EDL, though usually rather
The only incident I saw came when two EDL supporters came to the
roadside and began to loudly shout 'EDL!, EDL!' For a few
moments I didn't realise anything was happening, as many of the UAF
chants had begun with 'EDL!' though followed in their case by
'Go To Hell!' or some similar comment.Police were quick to drag
the two men away to a seat away from the march, where they held them
until it was past and told them not to interfere with it again.
Although the EDL managed to hold their march, it was a small event and
went around the outskirts of the centre, seen by very few. The UAF and
others held a long meeting right in the centre of the shopping area with
much greater support, and clearly were far more successful and widely
Al Quds Day March
Portland Place - US Embassy, London. Fri 17 Aug 2012
Young women wait for the march to start
Back in 1979, the year of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Ayotollah
Khomeini invited "Muslims all over the globe to consecrate the last
Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day and to proclaim the
international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights
of the Muslim people of Palestine." At the start of the following year,
the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the
largest international body apart from the UN, with 57 member states
rerpresenting the Muslim world decided that Quds day would be celebrated
around the world.
Major celebrations take place particularly in countries with
significant Shia populations, including Lebanon, where they are
ogranised by Hezbollah, but Quds Dau is also celebrated in Gaza by
Hamas, a Sunni political party.
In Iran, the day is organised by the government, and in 2009 became the
focus for demonstrations by opposition groups against President
Ahmadinejad after the disputed election there.
The annual march in London had been taking place with realtively little
controversy for many years, but in 2007 there were small but noisy
protests by Iranian communists and royalists at Piccadilly Circus. The
march in London is organised by the the Islamic Human Rights Commission
(IHRC), which is thought to be sponsored by and promoting the Iranian
regime and right-wing fundamentalist Islam. Although many applaud much
of its research and campaigning work - including its support for the
Palestinian cause - its links with Iran cause many to criticise it or
not wish to be closely involved with it.
The following year there were more groups protesting, including the
extreme right United British Alliance and March for England,
International Alliance of Iranian Students, the Worker Communist Party
of Iran, Workers Liberty and a group of Zionists waving Israeli flags.
In 2009, after the protests in Iran and the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan
the Iranian democrats joined the protests, as well as the communists and
royalists, but the main group of protesters - and probably the only
group in double figures were from the EDL and related groups. Both the
EDL and the Iranian greens staged slightly larger protests in 2010, now
including a 'Jewish Division' of the EDL. Marchers (and I) narrowly
escaped serious injury when a two thirds full beer can was thown across
Park Lane into the march.
The same two groups also protested against the march in 2011, though on
a slightly smaller scale, with a few minor incidents around Trafalgar
Square where the march ended that year.
I saw no evidence of any counter-protests during this years march,
despite the event having been widely advertised on London's buses. It
was held on the actual Quds day, (as always a Friday) while previous
marches have taken place on a Saturday or Sunday. The organisers had
worried that this might impact on the numbers taking part. My careful
count as the march went past me in Mayfair showed that slightly over
2000 people taking part, a little down on some previous years but fairly
typical for the event.
There were a few marchers with placards or photographs of Khomeini on
the march, and a small number carried or wore Hezbollah flags, and many
placards also were from Hezbollah. But although this started as a small
Iran trained Shia military group, dedicated to the removal of Israel
from Lebanon, listed by the UK as a terrorist group, and still receiving
aid from Iran, it is now a much wider organisation, holding a third of
the cabinet seats in the Lebanese government and running a TV station
and social development programs.
The slogans chanted on the march were the familiar ones of all
Palestinian protests, with perhaps the most popular being 'From the
River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.'
There were one or two short halts on the march outside businesses which
support Israel and its occupation of Palestine where the marchers
shouted chants of shame, and along the route they gave out s short
illustrated leaflet that explained the protest and invited everyone to
the rally "where speakers from all communities, including a Rabbi, will
talk about Palestine." On the reverse it had a cartoon about a woman's
experiences living on the West Bank under Israeli occupation. It told a
story that mirrored that suffered by one of my friends who went out to
live in Palestine a few years ago, when Israeli settlers came to destroy
his village's crops, with the Israeli army giving them protection, and
the leaflet ended with a call to boycott Israeli goods.
Although organised by the IHRC, many other groups support the march,
including the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of
Britain and Muslim Council of Britain and . Among the banners and
t-shirts were those of many campaigns supporting the Palestinian cause
including Bin Veolia, Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds, Show Israeli
Apartheid the Red Card, Don't Dance with Israeli Apartheid, Boycott
M&S Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Campaign ...
Prominent in the march as on previous occasions were the anti-Zionist
Jews of Neturei Karta UK, one of whom spoke at the rally outside the US
Embassy. The first speaker after a recitation from the Koran was the
Anglican Rev Stephen Sizer who gave us a short sermon about our Quds Day
wishes for Jerusalem, suggesting that 'if we wish to do God’s will, we
will work and pray for Al Quds to become an inclusive city that reflects
God’s vision, a city of justice, peace and reconciliation.' It was a
sentiment greeted with loud applause.
Ecuador's Embassy & John Massey
Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, London. Fri 17 Aug 2012
Photographers, protester and police outside the
Ecuadorian (and Colombian) Embassy
There wasn't a great deal happening when I dropped by the Ecuadorian
embassy, where Julian Assange was somewhere inside, but keeping away
from the windows. Only the ground floor to the left of the doorway is
the Ecuadorian embassy, and on the previous night the police had turned
up in force as if they were about to storm it - following Foreign
Secretary William Hague's note saying we might - but had apparently only
entered the non-embassy areas of the building, as yet avoiding the major
diplomatic own goal that would result from the disregard of the Vienna
convention - and one which legal opinion (which Hague decided to ignor)
appears to think would be judged illegal under UK law.
The police are one of three groups staking out the embassy - there were
perhaps around 50 of them visible - a large and almost entirely wasted
cost. The world's media were also there in force, with TV camera after
TV camera, their crews largely sitting around with nothing to do, and a
horde of still photographers.
The smallest group were the protesters - who don't get paid to be
there. Quite a few of them were still at the Pussy Riot protest and
expected to return later. The few who were there put on a little theatre
for the cameras while I was there, though few of the TV crews took any
As well as Assange, there have been other protests taking advantage of
the media presence, including a call for the release of one of the UK's
longest serving prisoners. In 1975 John Massey used a sawn-off shotgun
to murder nightclub bouncer Charlie Higgins who had gouged out the eye
of one of his friends with a broken glass, and the following year he got
a life sentence. The judge said he should serve at least 20 years.
Massey was allowed a home visit in 1994, having served 18 years, and
took the chance to escape, living for 3 years in hiding on the Costa Del
Sol before being brought back to a British jail.
In 2007 he was again going to be released, and even had a job waiting
for him, but the authorities refused to let him go home, insisting on
him staying at a hostel in Streatham. He made a hospital visit to his
dying father in the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, stopping off on
his way back to Streatham for a drink at the Fiddlers Elbow in Kentish
Town. He had asked for an extension of his curfew for the hospital
visit, but this had been refused. A massive police search was mounted
for him, with helicopters and at least one door being knocked down by
police. When police officers came to the pub he gave himself up and was
taken back to jail.
By 2010 he was in Ford open prison near Chichester, when he heard that
his sister was dying. He walked out of jail and went to visit her
bedside and then went to live openly at his mother's house in Camden. It
was 10 months before the police bothered to come an collect him and
retun him to a secure prison. He was sent to Pentonville, locked up for
23 hours a day and heavily medicated.
A parole board decision this February that he still represented a
danger to the public and should be kept locked up for at least 3 more
years is inexplicable, and according to the case decision of which the
Guardian has a copy, appears to have been made in ignorance of Massey's
circumstances. Given that he committed no crimes in the periods he was
out of prison this seems inexplicable.
In June this year, Massey again made the headlines when he climbed over
the wall of Pentonville. His escape made the national news, and he was
described as 'potentially dangerous' and people were warned not to
approach him. He was arrested 2 days later in Kent.
Massey has served his time - and shown remorse - for his orginal crime;
as he asked in an interview with The Guardian 'why he should remain in
prison for being a "loving son and brother".'
But perhaps Julian Assange should take some lessons from John Massey
about escaping from tricky positions! I hope both of them are soon free.
Free Pussy Riot
Bayswater Road, London. Fri 17 Aug 2012
Protesters in orange hoods call for freedom for
There was a noisy protest close to the Russian embassy, with many in
brightly coloured hoods or balaclavas to condemn the political trial in
Moscow of the 3 Pussy Riot members on the day the verdict and the
sentence of two years hard labour was announced in the court.
The embassy is down a private street, Kensington Palace Gardens, where
no protests and no photography are allowed, but the embassy also own a
building at the top of this street with a frontage on Bayswater Rd,
opposite which the protest took place. There were around a hundred
protesters, many dressed appropriately for the occasion. I left shortly
after the sentence was posted on Twitter and those taking part had
expressed their disgust.
Battersea, London. Tue 14 Aug 2012
Sand and gravel at Wandsworth
It was a nice day and I had an hour or two to spare, so I took a walk
from Battersea Bridge to Wandsworth along the Thames Path. It's a
riverside that has changed pretty dramatically in the past 30 years,
with little remaining of the industry that lined most of the south bank
of the River Thames. Every time I walk it a little more has gone with a
new block of flats or hotel or other luxury development. But a few
Hizb ut-Tahrir Supports Rohingya Muslims
Bangladesh High Commission, London. Sat 11 Aug 2012
Speakers stressed the Muslim identity, the 'Ummah'
and the need for an Islamic Khalifah
Hizb ut-Tahrir UK organised a large protest opposite the
Bangladesh High Commission against the blocking of aid to Rohingya
refugees by NGOs and their policy of sending them back to be oppressed
in Myanmar (Burma.)
Approaching a thousand Hizb ut-Tahrir UK supporters had turned up for
the protest opposite the High Commission in Kensington and they formed
an impressive mass on the pavement opposite with placards and Islamic
They listened attentively to the Hizb ut-Tahrir speakers, including the
UK media director, Taji Mustafa, Liaquot Sharker, Mujibul Islam, and Dr
Abdul Wahid. Sharker, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir's Bangal committee
spoke in Bengali but the other speakers I heard were in English.
The crowd responed lustily with chanting of support and slogans
"Muslim Ummah, one Ummah"
"Open borders to the Rohingya Muslims"
The event began with a speaker saying that we had been unaware of the
Muslims in Myanmar until news began to leak out about their oppression,
with terrible stories of rapes and killings, and that there was a
terrible hypocrisy in the way the Western media reported events in
Myanmar. It's true there has been little in our papers, but the same is
true of media in the Muslim world.
Although our press has long paid great attention to the plight of Aung
San Suu Kyi until recently the media and Western governments had ignored
what was happening to minority tribal groups in Myanmar, including the
Muslim Rohingya and the Karen. The story of the Rohingya, who have been
persecuted since Burma became independent, only really emerged in the
Western press recently when three interational NGOs working in
Bangladesh, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Action Against Hunger (ACF)
and Muslim Aid UK, were ordered by the Bangladesh government to stop
giving aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The leader of the Rohingya Solidarity Organization of Myanmar (RSO),
speaking in Pakistan, has alleged that the Bangladesh government has
issued orders to its troops to shoot Rohingya refugees entering their
country, and there are other reports of them being handed back to the
Arakan or Rakhine, the western coastal state of Myanmar, was an
independent kingdom for several thousand years before becoming part of
Burma in 1874. Later it came under British rule as a part of India in
the days of empire and was transferred to Burma again in 1942. Roughly
25% of its inhabitants are Rohingya Muslims, and these 3/4 million
people are described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted
minorities. In 1970 the Burmese military government stripped them of
their citizenship, giving them 'Foreign Registration Cards'.
There is a long history of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, and
settling in the south-east coastal area around Cox's Bazaar, and of
repeated attempts by Bangladesh to repatriate them to Myanmar, with a
number of agreements betweent the governments over the years which have
been largely inneffectual.
The current violence in Rakhine State between Buddhist Rakhine, Muslim
Rakhine, and Muslim Rohingya is said by the RSO to have started on May
28, following the conversion to Islam and marriage to a Muslim man of a
Buddhist girl; the Buddhist community then stopped a bus containing
Muslim pilgrims and killed some of them and the violence spread. On 10
June, the Myanmar government declared a state of emergency and sent in
the Border Security force, army and police to Rohingya areas and,
according to Amnesty International, "Hundreds of mostly men and boys
have been detained, with nearly all held incommunicado, and some
subjected to ill-treatment."
Amnesty has also received reports of "other human rights abuses against
Rohingyas and other Rakhine Muslims– including physical abuse, rape,
destruction of property, and unlawful killings – carried out by both
Rakhine Buddhists and security forces." Some details were given of
incidents, particularly those involving attacks on Muslim women, at
Hizb ut-Tahrir call for Muslims to stand united against such
persecution and see the only war to prevent such abuses as the formation
of an Islamic Khalifah - their organisation's aim of a united Islamic
state. But the idea of the 'Ummah' which underlies this and today's
protest is one that transcends nations and national identities with a
The protest today was outside the Bangladesh High Commission, and
Bangladesh has a roughly 90% Muslim population. Formed out of British
India at Partition in 1947 as a Muslim state of East Pakistan, after it
gained independence in 1971 adopted in 1972 a secular democratic
constitution. The secular principle was contradicted by a presidential
decree when the country was under martial law in 1975-7 but was restored
in 2010 under the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was featured
on a number of the placards at the protest for her government's actions
against the Rohingya.
Sheikh Hasina has been the target of earlier protests by Hizb ut-Tahrir
Britain in which they have called for an end to the 'fascist
dictatorship' of the Awami League, which they regard as "anti-state,
anti-Islam and anti-people" and its replacement by an Islamic Khilafah
which they say is the only way to ensure the safety and security of the
country, the people, and Islam.
Waterloo, London. Wed 8 Aug 2012
Just a slightly different picture of the London Eye.
I was rushing to catch my train home when I thought this might be an
interesting picture, though very tricky to get it lined up exactly. But
as much as anything I was amused by the copyright problems it might
embody. I only took the one frame, but perhaps another day when I have
more time I might retake it more precisely, although it looked more or
less right in the viewfinder - where the image is just a little small
for this kind of thing.
Unions Continue Fight For Remploy Workers
Dept of Work and Pensions, Westminster, London. Wed 8 Aug 2012
Phil Davies, Remploy Consortium secretary argues with activists over
the trade union actions
A protest outside the Dept of Work and Pensions in Westminster stressed
the determination by the unions to continue to fight to save the jobs of
the disabled workers employed by Remploy.
On 2 August, the Remploy Consortium of trade unions, which includes the
GMB, Unite and Community, suspended the strike due to take place on
Monday 6 August to hold consultations with their members over further
actions and to discuss Remploy's Individual Consultation meetingss and
Accord and greivance procedure at factory meetings on the Monday 6 or
Tuesday 7 August.
They intend to set up regional Remploy Support Groups in every town and
city and to call for demonstrations in London and other city centres to
step up the fight.
A special Olympic flyer stresses 'We are NOT going for GOLD, We are
condemned to DOLE' over the top of the five 'Olympic' rings of
Unemployment, Ill Health, Discrimination, Death and Poverty and the
message 'Stop. Stop the closure of Remploy factory sites.'
Remploy announced on 10 July that it was talking with bidders for 9 of
the factories and a business which it proposed to close. The remaining
27 factories and its Boston Spa operations will end later this year.
They say the closures 'will put at risk 1421 jobs in those factories and
in central departments'. The union puts the figure around a hundred
Remploy was set up to provide jobs for servicemen injured in WW2, and
most of the workers for which it provides employment will find it
difficult or impossible to find jobs elsewhere. Not because they do not
have skills, but because they need the support that Remploy uniquely
provides, enabling them to produce useful products.
The myths put about by Conservative politicians such as minister Mr
Duncan Smith, who when he met Remploy workers at the House of Commons
disgracefuly said “Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory
where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?”
are simply untrue.
The workers at Remploy do skilled work producing useful products such
as furniture, circuit boards, windows and doors, leading edge chemical
and biological and nuclear protective suits, wheelchairs and other
mobility products, packaging, printing, and more. According to Remploy,
their products are sold to 'the Police, high street retailers, leading
vehicle manufacturers, banks, Government and thousands of hospitals and
schools' among others.
The factories the Government wants to close are loss-making, although
the losses are perhaps small in relation to the benefits. The unions
have proposed changes that would greatly cut costs at Remploy by cutting
down the layers of non-disabled management involved. They also point out
that closing down the factories will end in costing the government more
in benefits from the workers, most of whom will fail to find other work.
The previous Labour government closed 29 Remploy factories in 2008, and
85% of the workers made redundant then are still on benefits.
The only group who will benefit from the closures are the asset
strippers who get a cut-price deal from the government on the factories,
who have been given a promise by the government that they will pay in
full the cost of redundancy payments for the disabled workers.
Around 40 people came to the protest outside the DWP offices in
Westminster, including Phil Davies, the Secretary of the Remploy
Consortium and Kevin Hepworth, its Chair. This had not been intended to
be a mass public demonstration, but just a small group including the
officers and a Remploy worker, who would have gone into the offices and
delivered their demands. But details of the event were published on
Facebook and in the left-wing press, and a number of supporters with
banners, placards and literature stalls, along with a small police
presence turned up.
During the protest some of the supporters argued strongly with Phil
Davies that the GMB and other unions were not putting their full weight
behind the campaign, and that the strike should not have been called
off. He disagreed vehemently, and made clear that it was the Remploy
workers who were leading the actions and that they fully supported the
actions of the union consortium. Some of the protesters were insistent
that the workers should take direct action and be urged to occupy their
workplaces, but, as Kevin Hepworth pointed out, our far-reaching trade
union legislation made it impossible for unions to officially support
more radical actions - they would simply have their property
After an hour and a half standing around outside the doorway of the
DWP, the protesters began to drift off, and I left too.
Iraq Day Festival
Queen's Walk, South Bank, London. Sat 4 Aug 2012
The stage with Iraq and Kurdistan flags and a
Kurdistan group performing
The Iraq Day 2012 was "organized to celebrate the games with a
hint of Iraq flavor" by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and
sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima- Baghdad in conjunction with Local Leader
London 2012 program.
It aimed to build stronger relationship among British-Iraqi communities
and to entertain those who are curious about the the rich cultural
heritage of Iraq including its music, food and art and to promote
tourism to the country.
It was an afternoon of sunshine and showers, and the event to some
extent mirrored this, with some disagreements between those taking part
over the programme. I watched as one of the performers stormed off the
platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against
the Kurds, and the fashion show I had been asked to photograph and was
told would be taking place in two minutes just didn't happen before I
went home almost an hour later after loud and bitter argument between
its director and the organisers.
So although there were some interesting things happening, there were
also disappointments. For many of the Iraqis attending the biggest
disappointment was that this event was taking place during Ramadan and
they were thus unable to eat the Iraqi food on offer.
Many of the thousands of people who walk along by the Thames stopped at
least for a few minutes to look and listen, but there could perhaps have
been more to detain them. I would have stayed longer but I had other
stories to write and file.
Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary
Great Cumberland Place, London. Sat 4 Aug 2012
Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld and leading the chanting of
a Psalm in Hebrew at the thanksgiving
Raoul Wallenberg, one of the great heroes of the
twentieth centry who as by his efforts as a Swedish diplomat in
Budapest saved over 100,000 Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps was
remembered today at ceremonies around the world.
In London, a short ceremony took place at the monument erected to him
in 1997 in Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch
Synagogue. It was led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld and many of those
present were from the synagogue as well as the Lord Mayor of Westminster
and the Swedish Ambassador and some from the Swedish Church in London.
Three psalms were read in thanksgiving for the life of Raoul
Wallenenberg, with Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church in
London reading Psalm 121 in English, and the others were recited by most
of those present in Hebrew. Psalm 121, which begins 'I will lift up
my eyes to the hills; from where my help may come? My help comes from
the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot stumble...'
and was described on the service sheet as 'One of the great
expressions of trust in God's protection, often recited in times of
Rector Persson then talked about Wallenberg, who he called 'an
average man' who grew up in a banking family but was too
sensible, too friendly and too nice to be a banker and so became a
businessman. Faced with the situation of thousands of Jews being sent to
their death in Hungary he did everything he could to help, an ordinary
man who was brave when the time came, one of Sweden's greatest heroes.
Wallenberg had followed the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be
yourself and to do good for other people.
Wreaths were laid at the foot of the fine statue of Wallenberg erected
here in 1997. By sculptor Philip Jackson, it shows Wallenberg standing
in front a a large wall with his name inscribed high on it. The wall is
made of stacks of the roughly 100,000 very official looking 'protective
passports' he issued identifying the bearer as Swedish subjects awaiting
repatriation. Although these had no legal status, they looked impressive
and, sometimes with the aid of a little bribery, saved the bearers from
deportation. The 4m high statue is a moving piece of work in a fine
setting (by Donal Insall Associates), arguably Jackson's finest work.
Another copy of it is in Buenos Aires.
The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Angela Harvey, and Swedish
Ambassador Ms Nicola Clase also spoke at the event and Mrs Jill Blonsky,
volunteer of the Wallenberg Foundation reminded us of the need to find
the truth about the death of Wallenberg after his imprisonment by the
Russians; new information is coming to light and it may be that one day
we will know more about how and when he died.
At the end of the event there was a performance by a choir from the
Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation
Adidas, Oxford St, London. Sat 4 Aug 2012
War on Want athletes tackle hurdles of poverty
wages, union busting and 90 hour week faced by workers who make Adidas
sportwear outside the official Olympic sportswear partner's flagship
store on Oxford St.
War on Want handed out leaflets and played games
outside Adidas on Oxford St, claiming that workers making clothes for
the official sportswear partner of London 2012 get poverty wages are
not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.
The protesters started by handing out leaflets to shoppers in the busy
street outside Adidas's main store in Oxford Street, watched by around
20 police. Many of those passing, took the leaflets and some, including
several with Olympic passes, stopped to talk and express their disgust
at the exploitation of foreign workers.
War on Want say:
Around the world thousands of workers, mainly women, producing
clothes for Adidas are not paid enough to live. There wages do not
cover basic essentials like housing, food, educatin and healthcare.
With such low wages, workers have to work excessive hours just to
scrape together enough to get by, sometimes beyond legal limits - up
to 15 hours a day.
In many cases workers are told that if they try to organise trade
unions to defend their rights, they face harassment or they will be
Since the protest was taking place on one of the busiest days of the
London games, the protesters had come prepared to play some games in
their protest. They started with badminton, using a banner as the net,
in front of the main entrance to Adidas, but the mid-Scottish police on
duty in Oxford St soon objected to that as they thought it might be
dangerous to passers-by. The protesters moved on a little, but the
police still didn't like it, and they had to go into the quiet turning
on the west side of the shop, just ten yards from busy Oxford St, to
continue the game, which became rather more competitive than some at the
After Badminton came a short hurdles event, with 2 runners making their
way over the hurdles of 'POVERTY WAGES', 'UNION BUSTING' and '90 HOUR
WEEK'. After a few preliminary runs in the side street they moved onto
Oxford St, where the police let them play for a few minutes before
telling them it had to stop. Adidas were unhappy about it as a part of
the pavement nearest the store - which formed half of the hurdles course
- was their property.
I left them after more than an hour of protest outside Adidas still
handing out leaflets inviting people to fill in a Freepost postcard to
Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, care of War on Want, calling for
Adidas to end the exploitation of workers.
Someone from the PR agency acting for Adidas approached me as I was
preparing to photograph the event, and later she sent me a statement,
starting with the paragraph:
"adidas respects the right to peaceful protest but we strongly
refute War on Want’s claims. We take all allegations about working
conditions extremely seriously but it is very important to note that
the independent women’s NGO Phulki, which visits our factories on a
monthly basis, found absolutely no evidence to support the
allegations being made."
Even more important is to note that Phulki is only active in
Bangladesh, and the specific claims made by War on Want on their web
site relate to wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka
and China producing goods for Adidas.
War on Want are not an organisation that makes claims without the
evidence to back them, and in many other cases companies making claims
such as those by Adidas have been shown to be very happily allowing
their partners to pull the wool over their eyes so long as their profits
are high. Adidas is only one of many doubtful sponsors backed by LOCOG,
which has also shown itself to be blind to the activities of Dow, Atos,
BP and all the others.
The PR statement continued by stating that "The adidas Group is
fully committed to protecting worker rights and to ensuring fair and
safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply
chain." and claimed that it had tried to contact War on Want to
discuss the claims they are making - presumably including those of
workers being paid 34 pence an hour - but had been unable to do so.
The following day, after another protest against Adidas on the edge of
the Olympic site, War on Want published a press release with links to
the cases on which they based their claims, and stressed that they had
taken part in discussions with Adidas, "but the multinational
continues to deny the widespread nature of the problems and has failed
to respond to the organisation’s demands that the firm commits to
paying a living wage."
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