Muslims march for Lee Rigby

Barking to Ilford, London. Thu 30 May 2013

A young British Muslim boy on the march
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A group of British Muslims and friends marched from Barking to a short rally in Ilford to show solidarity with the family of Lee Rigby and to denounce his brutal killing, describing it as against all the tenets of Islam.

The march was organised by Karwan e Fikar UK, a political organisation and Think Tank of British Pakistani Muslims, and among those taking part in the peace march were several councillors from East London boroughs, including Waltham Forest and Dagenham, as well as people from Redbridge, including members of Redbridge Equalities & Community Council.

The march was smaller than anticipated but set off in good spirits and was joined by a few more on the way and at the rally outside Ilford Sainsbury's, where there were speeches from several councillors, women and youth representatives, Shakir Qureshi, the chairman of Karwan e Fikar UK, an Islamic scholar and Imam and a British Muslim convert.

All the speakers expressed their sympathy for the family of Lee Rigby, and their revulsion at the terrible action of men who called themselves Muslims, but whose actions, they stressed, were completely at odds with both the Muslim religion, which in its early years declared murder to be a crime and Islam to be a religion of peace, and with the feelings of British Muslims. Several of them made clear that they have a great love for this country and respect for its institutions and traditions, and for its acceptance of freedom of religion and free speech.
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City Stroll

London. Tue 28 May 2013
The Gherkin and the Pinnacle
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I'd gone to the City for a meeting, and had a little time before I needed to be at another meeting near Kings Cross, but not enough to really do much. It was raining slightly, and I was about to find a pub to sit for half an hour or so before taking a bus when I decided the varying light with clouds and the occasional sun might make it worth taking a few pictures of the newer buildings in the city with the Fuji X-Pro I had taken in my bag, along with its 18-55mm zoom.
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Bank Holiday Walk

Around Berkhamsted, Herts. Mon 27 May 2013

Trees on field boundaries north of Berkhamsted
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I go out for a walk with my wife and son on most bank holidays, and decided that I wasn't going to change my habits just because there was a demonstration called by the EDL in London. It was a fine day for a walk, sunny but not too hot, and for once we didn't really walk too far. The bluebells were out in the woods, though perhaps just a little past their best, and I didn't spend much time photographing them.
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March Against Monsanto

Westminster, London. Sat 25 May 2013

Woman with three placards in Parliament Square

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Too many protested against Monsanto's threat to food and the world to fit the pavement in Parliament Square, so they moved to Old Palace Yard for a rally where the first speaker was Bianca Jagger, before going on an impromptu march through London.

Genetically modified foods are not all necessarily unsafe, but some made by Monsanto are alleged to have been shown to cause serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. Far more scientific research is needed to make sure that those that are introduced are safe both for humans and for the environment and make a real contribution to global health and well-being rather than simply to the profits of a few companies.

Unfortunately Monsanto has been allowed to gain a huge influence in the safety decisions made by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) which is largely run by former Monsanto employees, and Monsanto has been succesful in lobbying the US government to pass laws that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.

Monsanto appears to be aiming for a monopoly over world food supplies, by attempting to patent seeds and genetic makeup and even some traditional plants; its activities around the world threaten the livelihoods of small farmers and organic farmers around the world. In August 2012, a committee of experts appointed by the Indian Supreme Court called for a 10-year moratorium on all field trials of GM foods and the termination of all transgenic crop trials because of the possible dangers, and some countries have taken action to protect their population.

GM seeds and the insecticides needed to successfully cultivate them have also been implicated in the colony collapse of bees in countries around the world.

Today's London protest, one of a number taken place around the world today as a global 'March Against Monsanto' was intended to be a static protest on the pavement of Parliament Square. But clearly there was no way with the numbers involved that it would fit the space available, and it spilled over onto the grass area, about which the authorities are peculiarly sensitive since it's occupation by the Democracy Village peace camp in 2010 - as well as the over ten years presence of the Parliament Square peace camp until it was cleared earlier this year.

Police suggested to the organisers that they move to Old Palace Yard, where there is more space for the rally, and they did so. The first speaker at the rally was Bianca Jagger who has a long history of working for human rights and environmental causes - receiving for the latter the Green Globe Award from the Rainbow Alliance in 1997, and the United Nations Earth Day Award in 1994. She was followed by a number of other speakers stressing the danger of GM foods and biofuels and calling for some more organised action against them.

Hare Krishna had been providing free food for those who wanted it, and then their band turned up, with its bicycle-hauled drum kit, amps and speakers. Although this had been planned as a static event, soon the band was persuaded to lead those present in a march around Parliament Square and Whitehall, where there was a brief protest on the road outside the gates of Downing St. The march then continued up past Trafalgar Square, which was full of German football fans and up the Charing Cross Rd, as the band were intending to return to their base just off Soho Square. I left the march at the north end of Trafalgar Square.
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Don't hang Prof Bhullar!

Indian High Commission, London. Fri 24 May

A Sikh holds a placard 'Save Prof Bhullar' showing him and a large noose
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Sikhs who have been holding a Downing St vigil against the hanging of Professor Bhullar for over 5 weeks, a Sikh activist on death row for 18 years after conviction based on a confession obtained through torture, protested at the Indian High Commission.

Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar has been on death row in India for 18 years, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb in Delhi. The evidence against him was his confession obtained through torture in police custody and supporters say there is no other evidence to connect him with the Delhi bomb attack.

He was cleared for execution in April, despite reports, now confirmed by a medical board that he is suffering from severe depression with psychotic symptoms and suicidal tendencies, and that he is "a bag of bones and a mere skeleton, bony, lean and thin in hands of the Indian State."

There are also reports of fresh appeals for clemency from various organisations, including the British academic union the UCU that were being considered by the Indian government in the middle of May, but atwelve days ago the Daily Mail reported from India that the prison where he is held had ordered two new hanging ropes and speculated that the most likely person to be hanged was Prof Bhullar.

Bhullar taught electrical engineering and was a political activist; his father, uncle and best friend were all abducted and tortured to death by police in the early 1990s. When he was falsely accused of bombing the All India Youth Congress in Delhi in 1993, he understandably had no faith in Indian justice, and fled to Germany seeking political asylum. The German government turned down his asylum claim two years later and deported him back to India, their action too late being found illegal by a German court on the grounds that his life would be in danger.

The witnesses to the bombing failed to identify him, but Indian police beat him until he confessed and he was convicted and has been on death row for 18 years.

The protest at the Indian High Commission had been organised at the last minute, and seems to have had little or no publicity. Given this and the bad weather, with heavy rain, it is not surprising that there were relatively few protesters there when I took the pictures. They were probably outnumbered at least two to one by the police and there was a very large pen and extensive barriers around the High Commission at Aldwych. The protest was due to continue for another couple of hours when I left and the protesters hoped that others would arrive.

One of the protesters showed me a book on Indian history written in the 1980s, with a picture of Sikh leaders with President Reagan. On the opposite page it states that the victimisation of the Sikhs began when they asked to enjoy the freedom they had been promised by Mahatma Ghandi and Pandit Nehru. "Their demands to recognise thier unique identity constituionally and to share the fruits of fredom equally were not only ignored but were declared antinational." As it goes on toe say, "the Indian government responded with iron fist policy."

Sikhs point to the way that the Indian government, police and legal system discriminate against minorities, and their failure to take any effective action against Hindu extremists, whose outrages against minorities at times appear to have been encouraged by the authorities.
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UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel

St Pancras to Park Lane, London. Fri 24 May 2013

Protesters from France and Belgium had arrived on Eurostar to a rainy London
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International protesters who had come by Eurostar were among those marching from St Pancras to a Mayfair hotel where UEFA was holding its annual congress, telling the it to kick out Israel and protest against the UEFA under-21 men’s football final being held there in June.

The march and demonstration was organised by the London-based Red Card Israeli Racism Campaign founded by members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and now part of a European coalition that has come together to oppose the participation of Israel in international football because of the contempt it has shown for the rights of Palestinian football players and supporters.

Last November Frédéric Kanouté and 51 other leading professional players issued a statement deploring Israel ’s attacks on Gaza and questioning UEFA holding the under-21 final in Israel, and this was followed by a protest at UEFA's Swiss offices. French trade union CGT-INRA passed a resolution against holding the games there in March and a former French minister of sport, Marie Georges Buffet, wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini asking the games to be moved elsewhere.

The Red Card campaign led the protests last year for the release of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak who lost almost half of his body weight in 3 months on hunger strike in an Israeli jail last year. He had been detained without charge in 2009 while travelling from Gaza to a new club on the West Bank, and was finally released in July 2012 after appeals from the international professional footballers association FIFPro, Eric Cantona, Frédéric Kanouté and the presidents of EUFA and FIFA, as well as others from outside football.

Red Card had called for a static protest outside the FIFA annual congress from 11am, and the march fron St Pancras International at noon brought around a hundred more protesters, including a large group who had come from France on Eurostar to take part. Announcements about the march were made in both English and French, but the French protesters soon learnt the English slogans to use on the march.

Police assisted the marchers, but insisted that the hundred marchers and their large banners went on the pavement along the busy Euston Road, which was a problem in places as the pavements are narrow and there are quite a few people walking with luggage to Kings Cross, St Pancras and Euston. Rain was also a problem and soon came on heavier, and by the time the march was going past Euston, many marchers were getting to look very wet, but it didn't stop them protesting. I left them shortly after, just before they went down the Tottenham Court Rd, to make my way to the protest outside the hotel where the UEFA congress was taking place.

The protesters were behind a row of police in the central grassed area between the two carriageways of Park Lane, opposite the hotel entrance where those attending the congress went in and out. As I approached the protest I had been able to hear the speeches some way down the road and the delegates must have all been aware of it taking place.

There was a small covered area with a literature stall and a temporary stage in the open for speakers, and around a hundred protesters were listening to speeches calling on UEFA to move next month's under-21 men's tournament and to eject Israel from UEFA.

Apart from the general mistreatment of Palestinian footballers which was a breach of the UEFA rules and human rights, two Palestinian footballers are still held in Israeli jails, Omar Abu Rouis, 23, the goalkeeper of the Palestinian Olympic team and Muhammed Namer, 22, who plays for Ramullah FC.

The Teddy Stadium on which UEFA intends to play is home to Beitar Yerushalayim football club, whose fans have a reputation for racism and boast that the club is the only one in the Israeli Premier League never to have had an Arab player. In 2005 the Nigerian Muslim footballer Ndala Ibrahim was signed by the club but quickly left after being mobbed by supporters, and when this year they signed two Chechen Muslim players there were racist banners and chanting at their first match and the club's offices suffered an arson attack. When one of the Muslims scored his first goal for Beitar, hundreds of fans left the stadium in protest. Their stadium is on the the site of a Palestinian village demolished in 1948.

There was a great round of applause when the marchers arrived from St Pancras and joined the rest of the protesters, and there was further loud applause when the message came to the protesters that Frédéric Kanouté had given his support to the campaign to move the tournament. But the loudest noise came when former hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak took to the stand, and he had to wait to speak while the crowd chanted his name letter by letter, 'Give me a M, Give me an A... ' and the couple of hundered people present really sounded like a rather larger football crowd before he could address us with the aid of an interpeter. I left while he was still speaking, but people were still arriving to join the protest which still had a couple of hours to run.
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ArtEco Opening - Daniele Tamagni

Wandsworth, London. Thu 23 May 2013

Three photographers - Charlie Phillips, Daniele Tamagni and James Barnor - at the opening

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You can read more about the show and the opening on my >Re:PHOTO blog Daniele Tamagni at ArtEco.

Battersea etc

London. Thu 23 May 2013


The power station from across the Thames
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Battersea power station is one of London's architectural cause célèbres, a landmark building with its exterior designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in a cathedral style that made it the largest brick building in the world. The first half was started in 1929, but it only got its iconic four-chimney appearance when the second half was added after the war, only coming into full operation in the mid-1950s.

After its closure in 1983 there were many plans for the redevelopment of the site in and around the listed building, and during one of these the public - including me - were invited to tour the interior, and of course I took some pictures, although being on film it wasn't easy to work in the fairly dimly lit spaces around the machinery.

Developers followed developers, mainly going bust and producing plans that stood no chance of getting planning permission, but one of them did almost manage to knock down the place, gutting the interior and removing the roof, presumably in an attempt to let the weather in and ruin it beyond repair. This part of their plan succeeded and the current developers - whose plans passed by the local council some years back now seem to be going ahead backed by Malaysian money - is having to demolish and reconstruct the four towers as a part of the overall development of the site at a cost of £100m.

Supposedly there is a garden at the riverside end of the site which is for a short period before further redevelopment open to the public, mainly at weekends, which provides an opportunity to get another close view of the exterior (there was a rather better opportunity I also took when the then developers held an exhibition of the plans in 2008.)

It wasn't really worth a visit, but I did take a few pictures, but it was really the views from across the river - enlivened by some dramatic clouds (and some short torrential showers) and of the development around what was built as London's shortest canal, the Grosvenor Canal. A tidal creek that was developed into a canal by the Chelsea Waterworks Company in 1823, it was originally around half a mile long, ending where Victoria Coach station now stands. Some of it was lost when the railway came to Victoria, and more when the council built the Ebury Bridge estate in the 1930s, but the stub remained in use after traffic on the rest of London's canals had ceased, taking some of London's rubbish away by barge until the late 1990s. Now it is a roughly 200 yard long water feature in the centre of the Grosvenor Waterside development, boats not allowed.
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Daddy's Pig heads for the Trough

Downing St to Bank, London. Wed 22 May 2013

Artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan pushing his Daddy's Pig along Fleet St
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Artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan pushed his Daddy's Pig, accompanied by another protester pushing a fire engine, the three miles from Downing St to the Bank of England, hoping to present it to the governor for services to austerity and the criminal activities of the City of London.

McGowan had a small group of supporters with him as he undertook the second stage of his gruelling journey on hands and knees, pushing the pig on its plastic roller skate. A few days earlier, he had pushed the pig from from Kings College hospital in Camberwell where he is receiving cancer treatment to Downing street as a protest against the privatisation of the NHS which is being driven by the bankers and private equity firms.

I met them at the Royal Courts of Justice and walked with them to just before Ludgate Circus, when I had to leave. McGowan, despite knee pads and gloves was finding the going tough and he and his pig were due to meet a banker at around 3pm and struggling to meet that appointment.
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Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Wed 22 May 2013

The coffin of Legal Aid is carried in

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Around a thousand, mainly lawyers, held a mock funeral and rally at Parliament against government proposals for justice on the cheap, restricting legal aid and ending the right of clients to chose their solicitor with work going to the cheapest bid. The protest was organised by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association.

After the marching jazz band led in the funeral procession, with robed and wigged figures carrying the coffin of Legal Aid, followed by a woman dressed as the Scales of Justice, there were speeches. And more speeches. At least all were well presented, often amusing and short, with a time-keeper in front of the speakers making hand signals to them to ensure they kept within a five miinute limit.

Lawyers are incensed at the proposed changes which will bring in price-competitive tendering (PCT) and have the effect of bankrupting smaller law firms, while opening up provision of legal aid to large non-legal companies, including Eddie Stobart and Tesco, and remove the ability of those in need of legal aid to chose appropriate specialists in the legal area involved.

Among the speakers were politicians, including Labour MPs Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and his fellow Islington MP Emily Thornberry, Natalie Bennett of the Green Party and senior figures involved with the law from both Tories and Lib-Dems. There were those who had been involved with legal aid over cases of injustice, including Gerry Conlan, one of the Guildford 40, a member of the family of Jean Charles De Menzes, Susan Matthews, mother of Alfie Meadows and Breda Power, the daughter of Billy Power, one of the Birmingham 6. Solicitors who spoke included Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Repreive, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, and notable among the QCs, Helena Kennedy. There were many memorable quotes (almost alll of which I've forgotten) with Gerry Conlan making clear "Back in the 1970s they sent innocent people to jail by the vanload. But if these cuts go through they’ll be sending them in by the Eddie Stobart truckload"

As well as the lawyers there were also a few protesters present representing those who very much rely on legal aid, and who would be very hard hit by the proposed changes, especially women involved in domestic violence and rape cases, and immigrants fighting for asylum.

At the end of the event there was a summary by leading barrister John Cooper QC after which the whole assembly delivered its verdict on Grayling, guilty as charged.
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Bring Shaker Home

Parliament Square, London. Tue 21 May 2013

Protesters on the last of nine days of vigil - but at Guantanamo the hunger strike continues
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The Save Shaker Campaign today completed its nine days of vigil at Parliament in solidarity with the Guantanamo hunger strikers, now on the 104th day of their protest, and demanded urgent Government action to bring Shaker Aamer back home to London.

The vigil began at the start of the Parliamentary session and has taken place from 12-3pm every weekday, with orange-clad black-hooded figures holding placards calling for the closure of Guantanamo and the release of the prisoners.

Londoner Shaker Aamer, a charity worker who was sold to US forces by bandits in Afghanistan in 2001. After being tortured in Bagram Air Force Base by the US forces (and allegedly with the collusion of UK agencies) he was illegally rendered to Guantanamo, where he has been held for over 11 years. Over 5 years ago he was cleared for release as there was no reliable evidence against him, but is still held in Guantanamo in extreme conditions, subject to daily harassment and beatings and is now on hunger strike in a bare solitary cell.

The Un Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur for Human rights wrote to President Obama last Novemember appealing for urgent action over his case, and over 117,000 people signed a Government e-petition urging the government to undertake urgent new initiatives to get him immediately transferred to the UK. Although this and the previous government have made requests to the USA for his release, there appears to have been a lack of vigour in pursuing these, perhaps because of the evidence Shaker might give about British involvement in his torture.

Around 20 protesters dressed and hooded Guantanamo style in bright orange suits and black hoods held up placards opposite Parliment and paraded around the area, attracting considerable attention from the tourists who were thronging past, and clearly discomforting some MPs who scurried away when they saw them, although others came over and praised their efforts over the 9 day campaign. Today Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn came across to speak with the protesters and present the excuses of John McDonnell who was unable to be with them.

Shortly after this the hooded protesters went on a walk along the pavement in front of Parliament, making their way through the crowds before returning to their position along the front of the pavement opposite.
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'Christian Concern' Against Gay Marriage

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Tue 21 May 2013

Protesters get down to serious prayer opposite the Houses of Parliament

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Around 200 supporters of 'Christian Concern', a fundamentalist Christian organisation, sung, preached, waved, prayed and spoke in tongues outside Parliament today against the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Some went to lobby their MPs.

Christian Concern believe that "in last few decades the nation has largely turned her back on Jesus and embraced alternative ideas such as secular liberal humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence. The fruit of this is rotten, and can be seen in widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration."

Their CEO, Andrea Minichiello Williams, stated "Marriage is between one man and one woman and our country’s laws should continue to reflect this. It’s good for men and women, good for children and good for society."

Many Christians do not support their views, and a YouGov poll found that equal numbers of those who identify themselves as Christians support and oppose gay marriage. Poll after poll has found majority support among the UK population for gay marriage, and in all those countries where it has been allowed by law, support for it has grown since it was adopted. Studies generally suggest that it has made little difference to general attitudes to marriage, divorce and the family and the evidence is that gay marriage is 'good for men and women, good for children and good for society' too.

While I was at the protest I heard little argument about the biblical or theological argument against same-sex marriage though there was a considerable amount of preaching and prayers. Many of those taking part waved their hands in the air, and at one point they were all urged to get down on their hands and knees to pray - and most did. There was a lot of talk about praying, and one of those speaking seemed to be suggesting that they should all spend seven hours a day at it.

Two young women came along with hand-drawn posters supporting the marriage of same-sex couples and stood silently facing the crowd. One of the posters said 'Love is Just Love' and the other 'Marriage For All'. After a while one or two of the younger protesters came to argue with them; I listened for a short while but there seemed to be no meeting of minds, with those from Christian Concern seeming not to share their ideas about love and equality.
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Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide

Hyde Park to Waterloo Place, London. Sat 18 May 2013

Tamil man in tiger scarf calls for a Tamil homeland
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Thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland - Tamil Eelam.

The Tamil march had started in Hyde Park, close to Marble Arch, but I only joined it near the Ritz on Piccadilly, and photographed large banner after large banner, each with a noisy crowd behind coming down to Picadilly Circus and then turning down Regent St. There were too many for an accurate estimate, but perhaps around 5,000 marchers - but so far as I (and Google) can see there was no mention of it in the British press, and I saw no other non-Tamil photographers at work.

Tamils are disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place and is still continuing in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The British Tamil Forum (BTF) which organised today's protest stated:

The blatant refusal by the Sri Lankan government to give ear to the recommendations of the UN, together with its gross arrogance towards international institutions like Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and UNHCR has created an impasse in delivering justice to the victims and finding any meaningful solution to the Tamil grievances.

The BTF; having focused its attention on the current political situation in Sri Lanka, emphasises the need to boycott CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) to be held in Sri Lanka. BTF’s main concern is that if CHOGM-2013 is convened in Sri Lanka, automatically allow Mahinda Rajapakshe (President of Sri Lanka), who is already accused of Human Rights violations, War Crimes and (a continuing) Genocide to hold the chair of the Commonwealth for the next two years. This will not only be disgraceful to the Commonwealth and Britain, but will also create a permanent blot in their history. BTF demands that Sri Lanka be expelled from the Commonwealth outright, in the backdrop of its records on human rights, war crimes and the continuing genocide.

It is ridiculous as well as painful to find that Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to attend CHOGM in Sri Lanka, hosted by Mahinda Rajapakshe, who acts with a dictatorial attitude (in the name of democracy) in every aspect.

The march ended at Waterloo Place, where there was to be a rally, but I left just before this started - it had been a long day.
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More US Embassy Protests

US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 18 May 2013
A Muslim man speaks to Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye through her daughter Zeinab
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Also protesting outside the embassy as she has for a number of weekends was Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when held by them, and his now being tortured by the Iraqis. He is also on hunger strike. His young daughter Zeinab came and spoke briefly to the Guantanamo protesters, telling them that she wanted her daddy to be released.

A Muslim man had earlier come and talked with Zeinab, asking her to ask her mother about her protest. As I was getting ready to leave, he returned with around a dozen other Muslims and they joined her in the protest. There was nothing on their placards or the leaflet they handed out about Guantanamo to say who they were, and when I asked I was told they were just Muslims who were appalled by the actions of the US democracy which was waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Meanwhile, at the north end of the pavement in front of the embassy a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.
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Guantánamo Murder Scene

US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Sat 18 May 2013
Seven hooded bodies in orange suits on the pavement during the murder scene outside the US embassy
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London Guantánamo Campaign staged a 'murder scene' at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

As I arrived there were 8 black-hooded 'prisoners' in orange suits lying on the pavement, the number of prisoners who have died there in suspicious circumstances who had previously taken part in sustained hunger strikes. At least seven of them had the cause of death reported as 'suicide'.

Their positions on the ground were then marked with chalk, and one of the 'dead' got up, the marked place then being indicated with a large question mark, representing the next prisoner who will die. It could be British resident Shaker Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, cleared for release in 2007 but still held there after over 11 years without charge or trial.

Aamer is among those who is being force fed in Guantánamo, using a method the UN has described as torture, with the prisoners being tied down and a wide plastic tube pushed up one nostril and then down into their stomach to administer liquid food. He claims to have been tortured repeatedly throughout his years of captivity, and is now brutally restrained several times a day. The guards have removed the photographs he had of his family and he is kept in a bare concrete cell in solitary confinement.

Other protesters held up placards and quotations from Thomas Jefferson and other prominent Americans. The 'detainees' got up and surrounded the chalked figures on the pavement with incident tape 'Crime Scene - Do Not Enter' and there was a short enactment of forced feeding, which was followed by a speech about Aamer and the ten days of protest vigils that are being held outside the Houses of Parliament as a part of world-wide protests to draw attention to the hunger strike and the urgent need to close Guantanamo. Most of those still held, like Aamer, have been cleared for release.

Aisha Maniar, an organiser from the London Guantánamo Campaign, said:

"Weeks of official denial of the legitimate protest by prisoners has been met with violence and a lockdown. There has been no attempt whatsoever to address the issues raised by the hunger strike or to bring this desperate protest to an end, which inches ever closer to a fatality.

"President Obama’s recent statements on Guantánamo Bay ring hollow in light of actions he sanctioned just prior to and during this hunger strike. The time for rhetoric expired long ago as did the indefensible defences for over a decade of indefinite detention. The current and former US administrations have deliberately chosen not to close Guantánamo Bay; it remains as expedient as ever. With hands already steeped in the blood and physical and psychological torture of prisoners, unless it takes immediate positive action, the US government will continue to see this situation spiral out of control with disastrous consequences all round."

As I left the protest, some of the poems written in Guantánamo by Shaker Aamer were being read.
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London Marches to Defend NHS

South Bank to Whitehall, London. Sat 18 May 2013

Nurses who were part of the Olympic opening ceremony were among those on the march
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Thousands gathered by the Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, including many groups opposed to hospital closures around London, trade unionists and others concerned the the government is ending the NHS.

An unprecedented coalition of Londoners, including medical staff, trade unions, health campaigners, patients and others have been alarmed at what they see as an attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand - and many lives put at risk.

The protest was supported by a huge list of groups and individuals, including eight of London's MPs, many London Assembly members and local councillors, trade unions including Unite, Unison, PCS, NUJ, RMT and GMB, the London Region and several local groups of the BMA, London Region RCN, the National Pensioners Convention, Occupy London, Anonymous UK, Friends of the Earth and many more.

Already many A&E units are hopelessly overworked, at times with ambulances in a queue outside on the street waiting as there is simply no room for the emergency cases in them. The response of the hospital groups set up by the government is to decide to cut the number of units, and they already withdraw funding from those units which admit more patients that an arbitrary government limit. Inside the units many patients are waiting for many hours for treatment, often with only a cursory assessment of their need. Many are waiting for hour upon hour on hospital trolleys in corridors as there is no bed available - and the response is to cut the number of beds.

Fifteen thousand or more marched in Lewisham against plans to cut services at a succesful and financially sound local hospital - to pay the private companies under PFI schemes that another hospital group entered into. Thousands marched in protests against closures at Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London, and today many of those from these campaigns came together to march through central London.

As the march went across Waterloo bridge, protesters hung down a huge banner with the message 'Save the NHS', and on the Strand, a small group of people had climbed some scaffolding on a Barclays branch to hang a banner 'Barclays - P.F.I. - bleeding the NHS dry!' above its entrance - and were getting loud cheers from those passing. On the ground together with a few people with placards against PFI, Socialist Choir 'Strawberry Theives' was singing to provide an appropriate accompaniment.

The protest was to continue with a rally in Whitehall at 2pm, and I left the march as it was waiting to enter Whitehall.
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End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing

Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Sat 18 May 2013

Protesters, including a woman and child, listen to speeches at the rally
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65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the 'Nakba' (catastrophe) when Israel was created, Palestinians call for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

Palestinians protested earlier this week in Jerusalem on Nakba Day, May 16, against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians.

Many workers have to waste hours going to work and returning home queing at Israeli checkpoints - and may be turned back at whim. Some Palestinian farmers are separated from the land they own and stil try to farm by checkpoints and the separation 'wall', making it difficult or impossible for them to continue to grow food. Others have to travel many miles to reach fields that they can see from their windows. We were told of one Palestinian who insisted on continuing to farm his land - so the Israeli army turned it into a rifle range.

Over 500 Palestinian villages and towns have been taken over or destroyed, with Palestinians remaining in Palestine crowded into an area less than one eight of their original lands (12%) with an estimated total of 4.7 million Palestinian refugees hoping for an eventual return to their homeland - many more than six decades later.

Several hundred people turned up for the event in front of the Houses of Parliament, including a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism. Many of the others present were also of Jewish or Palestinian origin, although there are people of all faiths in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the many other organisations who supported todays protest, including Architects & Planners for Justice in Palestine, ASLEF, the British Muslim Initiative, CND, the Communication Workers Union, Fire Brigades Union, the Friends of Al Aqsa UK, the General Union of Palestinian Students UK, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, the PCS, Stop the War Coalition, UNISON, UNITE the Union, War on Want and Zaytoun.

The speeches were still continuing when I left to go to another protest.
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Staines Walk

Staines, Middx. Fri 17 May 2013

Staines gets a new mural under the by-pass on the passage to the moor
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I didn't much feel like a walk, but this was just a short stroll around Staines and Staines Moor on the way to have lunch at 'The Bell' with some of my family.
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Canary Wharf & Estuary Opening

Canary Wharf & Museum of Docklands, London. Thu 16 May 2013

There were several hundred people listening to the museum directors speech before we could see Estuary
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I took a Fuji camera with me to the opening of the exhibition Estuary, an exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary of the Museum of London Docklands, is at the museum of West India Quay, a short walk from Canary Wharf. I was delighted to be one of the dozen artists in various media to be included, with ten of my panoramic images from my work on the north and south banks of the Thames.

We had to wait some time to actually see the show, but at least there was plenty to drink and eat - including quite a lot of fish and shellfish, but I doubt if any of it, even the oysters - came from the Thames. Pollution has killed off most of the species in the Thames and its estuary, and although the water quality has recovered considerably in recent years, I'm still not sure I'd want to eat anything from it.

After considerable hospitality at the museum I wandered back to Canary Wharf station taking a few pictures en route and a couple on the train.
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Hands off Assata!

US Embassy. Grosvenor Square, London. Mon 13 May 2013

A woman from Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement speaking in front of the Black is Back Coalition banner
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Tonights London protest followed a protest last Thursday organised by the recently formed Black is Black coalition at the Harlem State Office Building in New York last Thursday after the US government added Assata Shakur to the list, and doubling the reward to anyone who brings her back from Cuba, dead or alive.

The protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square was sponsored by the Black is Back coalition along with the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) ande the We Are Patrice Lumumba Coalition. Also speaking were people from the Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement and other activists from Africa and South America, and there were a few from the British left in the audience.

None of those present believe that Shakur who was in a car that was stopped by police in 1973 was guilty of the murder for which she was convicted - and she was apparently holding up her hands as ordered by a police officer who was pointing a gun at her when the killing took place and was herself shot twice. Forensic tests proved she had not fired a gun. Her conviction came as part of a concerted series of arrests and trials - this was the seventh crime with which she was charged, three of the previous six cases being dismissed and she was acquitted three times.

Two years after her conviction on the murder charge she was freed from jail by armed Black Liberation Army members and after being in several 'safe houses' in the US was granted asylum in Cuba four years later.

The protesters argue that 'terrorism' is now the charge that is being made against all political dissidents in the US, and that anyone who stands up against imperialism and for African liberation or African nationalism is now to be labelled as a terrorist. As Glen Ford of Black Agenda Radio put it last week "They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement as a priority domestic target for repression."

One speaker at the event said that imperialism is essentially parasitic: "like a mosquito, it sucks the blood of all the people on earth. We are the host..." Another ended his speech with a call for unity among all those opposed to Western imperialism with the words "United we stand" and the crowd of around thirty people with one voice completed the phrase: "Divided we fall." It was very much in this spirit that the Black is Back Coalition demanding Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, whose banner was held up at the front of the protest, was formed in 2009.

For Black activists, President Obama is a great disappointment, black only in skin colour and ancestry, but they see him very much as a front for white imperialism, and much of the chanting at the event was directed against him, as the leader of the country they see as the real agent of terror in the world, or, as they put it, "Uncle Sam is the Real Terrorist", behind many coups and illegal killings around the world, through CIA operations, illegal invasions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, commando raids, torture at Guantanamo and other bases and targeted assasinations by drone attacks. Several mentioned the recent murder in Mexico of Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of US political activist Malcolm X which they felt must be the result of US agencies.
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Leveller Thomas Rainsborough

St John's Churchyard, Wapping, London. Sun 12 May 2013

A musket volley celebrated the unveiling of the plaque
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Tony Benn unveiled a plaque to Leveller Thomas Rainsborough in in the Wapping former cemetery where this early proponent of democracy was buried in 1648 and this was celebrated by men of Rainsborough's regiment parading and firing their muskets.

Colonel Thomas Rainsborough was a military leader in Cromwell's New Model Army, fighting for Parliament against the king in the English Civil War.

He is best known for his statement in the Putney Debates in London in 1647 about all men being equal:

"For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly, sir, I think it’s clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under…"

It was truly a revolutionary idea at the time, and he was labelled as an extremist. He was the most senior officer to support the Levellers.

In 1648 he was killed when four royalists entered his lodgings at night and attempted to arrest him. There was a huge funeral procession by Levellers from Tottenham to Wapping for his burial. His sea-green regimental standard (a replica of which was carried by the Sealed Knot's 'Colonel Rainsborough's Regiment of Foote' in today's ceremonies) was torn into strips and the sea-green ribbons became a Leveller symbol.

In the 1645 battle of Langport, Rainsborough had commanded 1500 musketeers, but the five present at today's event (along with their officer and some pikemen) put on a good performance.

The churchyard of the former St John's Church in Scandrett St where he was buried was saved from development by local campaigners in the 1980s and reopened to the public as a park. Around a hundred people turned up to hear the speeches, by John Reese, Tony Benn and others before Tony Benn pulled the string to unveil the plaque.

Colonel Rainsborough's Regiment of Foote then marched to pay their respects, and then move back into the centre of the churchyard and the five musketeers went through the laborious process of loading and firing a couple of volleys with their muskets.

There were then a few more line-ups for photographs, and Ian Bone seized the opportunity to speak against the appropriation of Rainsborough by members of the political establishment who had taken part in the ceremony, but would still be opposed to the radical ideas put forward by the Levellers.

Standing in front of a fine banner showing a red sleeping lion with the text 'Who shall rouse him up' he spoke about the more radical Fifth Monarchists, fifty of whom staged a brief and doomed insurrection following the restoration in 1661, led by Thomas Venner. They stormed St Paul's Cathedral on January 1 and held parts of London for three days before all were killed or taken prisoner. Venner was captured after suffering 19 wounds, tried and then hanged, drawn and quartered on 19 January 1661.
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Bikers

Bethnal Green, London. Sun 12 May 2013


The bikers stopped at the traffic lights at the end of Old Ford Rd.
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The bikers were coming out of Old Ford Road as the Bangladeshi processin was waiting to turn into the road. They seemed to be from Essex, with some from Dagenham, and were on a pretty mixed bunch of bikes.
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Boishakhi Mela Procession

Bethnal Green, London. Sun 12 May 2013

Woman with flower garlands and bowl of blossoms

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This year's Boishakhi Mela (Bangladeshi New Year) was held in London's Victoria Park, the visitor numbers having outgrown the Brick Lane area where it was previously heard. Celebrations began with a colourful march to the park from Weavers' Fields.

Boishaki is the Bengali New Year - the same as Baisakhi or Vaisakhi in the Punjab. The event is commissioned the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and organised by the Boishakhi Mela Community Trust Ltd. Boishaki was actually in the middle of April, but they hold the event in May as the weather is generally better. It is claimed to be the largest celebration of Boishaki outside of Bangladesh and began in London in 1997.

I left the procession as it made its way into Victoria Park for the Bangladeshi festival with food, live music, sports activities and traditional arts and crafts workshops.
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Kidnapped by Pirates

Twickenham, London. Sat 11 May 2013

Pirates on the platform at Twickenham
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I wasn't really kidnapped. The pirates were very friendly and had certainly drunk rather more grog than me, though I'd not been entirely abstemious on my way home from Hayes via New Malden.

As well as pirates I'd also seen tigers and some other animals, though no sign of the giraffe I'd spotted on the platform from my passing train earlier in the day. There was also a white hunter and Ali G, though rather to the consternation of myself and other passengers he failed to get off the train and join the West Staines Massive when we got to Staines.
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London's 101st May Queen

Hayes, Kent, London. Sat 11 May 2013

London's 101st May Queen is crowned in a ceremony dating back to 1913
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I've written in previous years on this site about the history of the Merrie England and London May Queen festival which began in 1913, and a longer account appears in my book London's May Queens (ISBN: 978-1-909363-06-9) also available as a PDF, although I'm still hoping that a friend of mine will carry out the research needed to produce a more definitive text to go with my images as well as probably some historic pictures.

Since 2005 I've photographed various May Queen events including the London May Queen crowning and some of the other activities involving both the London May Queen and other groups, and at each of them I've learnt a little more about these events - including this year.

The event began as normal, with the May Queens from around 20 realms along with their attendants meeting on Hayes Common and forming up into a procession behind the London May Queen group. The London May Queen was in her carriage, pulled by four young men (I think Sea Cadets) and in front of her was a bagpiper leading the procession. There was also a pipe band at the other end.

The procession moved off towards Hayes Parish Church (St Mary the Virgin) but as we got close to it, what had been the occasional spot of rain turned into a downpour. Usually the London May Queen Group (LMQ) stops outside the west door of the church for a short outdoor service, following the order of service compiled by the founder of the event while the procession carries on slowly with the LMQ joining on to its end at the end of this 'Little Sanctum', but the rain was coming down too hard for this.

Instead the LMQ went inside the church for the ceremony, and as the rain continued to pour down the decision was made to bring in the rest of the children and parent to watch. It did have the advantage of letting them all see and hear the ceremony as well as keeping them dry, though some had got quite soaked by the time they got into church, even though most of the groups had brought umbrellas for the girls.

It was only a fairly short shower and had more or less stopped by the time the short service had finished, though it took a while to get all the groups organised and out of the church. The procession then took a more direct route than normal to go down past the shops along Station Approach and back to the common for the crowning ceremony.

Here there were more changes from the normal routine, at first to let all the realms see the May Queen better she went around the arena in her carriage, with the realm May Queens joining on behind her as she processed around and to the platform with her throne. More or less as she arrived there, another heavy shower began, and the rest of the ceremony was taken as rapidly as possible with parents coming to hold umbrellas over the line of May Queens. After the Royal Speech the London May Queen went along the line of realm queens giving each a card thanking them for coming to her crowning.

This year there was no maypole dancing, as the wet grass would have made it dangerous. The event ended with the newly crowned May Queen and her attendants going around the arena in her role as Flora, scattering flowers towards the realms. It was raining fairly hard as she did this, and quite a few pictures I took were spoilt by water drops on the lens.

Permanent link to this post: http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2013/05/may.htm#lmq
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Cleaners Return to Capgemini

Vauxhall, London. Tue 7 May 2013

Cleaners make a lot of noise outside Cap Gemini in Vauxhall

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Cleaners protesting for the London Living Wage and an end to racism and bullying at work returned to protest outside the Vauxhall offices of Capgemini after the management refused to talk with the IWGB union over racist management.

Early in March the cleaners had held a noisy protest outside the offices at a busy junction in Vauxhall, calling for the London Living Wage and the replacement of racist management staff. Although the cleaners work inside the offices of Cap Gemini (an "implementation-focused management consulting and Information Technology services group") they are not employed by Cap Gemini, but by another multinational contractor, ISS, "one of the world’s largest facility services providers."

Contractors such as this are generally used to give cleaning staff the kind of low pay and poor working conditions that companies such as Cap Gemini would be ashamed to give directly employed staff. The cleaners say they are treated like dirt, paid the minimum legal wage - recognised to be insufficient to live on in London - and that the largely Spanish-speaking workforce are subjected to racist comments by their ISS manager. They call for fair and decent treatment by their employers, saying, "We are not the dirt we clean!"

Today's protest was called at short notice after a meeting between the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) union and the ISS last week, at which the ISS refused to discuss the issue of racism in the workplace and no progress was made. At the start there were only around a dozen protesters, but more soon arrived bringing the number up to over 30.

It was a fairly short and very noisy protest, starting around 4.15pm and ending when the Cap Gemini cleaners taking part went inside to start work at 5pm. For most of the time they stood outside the offices chanting slogans, blowing horns and using a siren to make their presence felt. Near to the start of the protest some of them entered the Cap Gemini foyer and made a lot of noise inside for a minute or so before responding to the requests of security to leave. Later they tried to go inside again but were stopped by a man standing in the doorway and made no attempt to get past him. While they were crowded in the entrance they were still making way for people to come in and out of the building.

Cap Gemini appear to have chosen not to call the police, and although noisy the protesters were peaceful and seemed unlikely to cause any problems and several had brought their children with them. A man working in a nearby building made a complaint to the police and he told me they were disturbing him and preventing him getting on with his work, despite his double glazing. He seemed very upset, and seemed to feel that protests shouldn't disturb anyone, and complained he had also been disturbed by the cleaners at their previous protest in March. I didn't feel he had much ground for complaint if it only happens for an hour every couple of months.

Two officers drove up near the end of the protest and talked to the people inside Cap Gemini. They then came out and talked to cleaner's leader Alberto Durango, who told them that the protest would be finishing in a couple of minutes, and they stood back and watched, making notes. The Cap Gemini cleaners then walked into the building to start their shift, and after applauding them the protesters packed away their IWGB flags and left with the promise that they would return.
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Bank Holiday Walk

Hemel Hempstead, Herts. Mon 6 May

St Lawrence's Church, Bovingdon
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The weather unusually for a Bank Holiday was fine for one of our occasional walks and we met Sam at Hemel Hempstead station to start two walks which both went past there. The first one took us along the canal, then to Potten End which is a couple of miles to the north-east of Hemel. We sat on the green eating our sandwiches and looking at the pub across the pond, and then went back through the edge of the new town and down Old Fishery Lane to the canal, where we joined the second walk. This followed the Chiltern way up the hill and along to Bovingdon, where we finally got to go into the Bell pub. Then we left along Stoney Lane, and across yet another golf course on what used to be an airfield to make our way back along the Grand Union to the station.

Like most walks it was too long, and designed to carefully avoid the more interesting parts of the town, which we hardly saw. Hemel was one of the new towns marked for development after the war, and the ancient town which got its charter from Henry VIII was soon surrounded by more modern developments. Although it had long been known to its residents as Hempstead, to its new inhabitants from inner London it became Hemel.
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Beckenham May Queens

Beckenham, London. Sat 4 May 2013

Elmers End May Queen and her retinue before the crowning in Croydon Road Recreation Ground
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The Beckenham May Queen Procession goes through the middle of the town from St George's Green to the Croydon Road Recreation Ground. The six May Queen realms that take part - Beckenham, Bromley Common, Coney Hall, Eden Park, Elmers End, Shortlands and West Wickham lead the procession in alphabetical order and the London May Queen with her retinue bring up the rear.

In the park, the May Queens come up in turn to be crowned by this year's London May Queen. At the end of the crowning ceremony the procession leads on to a local hall were all of those taking part have afternoon tea, though this year I left them as they left the park.

You can read more about the May Queen ceremonies and their origins in my articles on this site - including last year's 100th anniversary - and in my photo-book London's May Queens.
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Cleaners at Clifford Chance

Canary Wharf, London. Fri 3 May 2013
IWGB protester confronts Canary Wharf Security Head
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Cleaners complaining of bullying, race, sex and disability discrimination and victimisation of trade unionists by cleaning contractor MITIE held a noisy protest at the towering Canary Wharf offices of law firm Clifford Chance.

Around 30 protesters met up and travelled together on the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf station, where they were joined by a few others. There they got out their red IWGB flags and a couple of placards before marching quickly to the office tower occupied by leading law firm Clifford Chance next to the station.

I was with the first group to arrive and went with them through the revolving doors before the building security guards had reacted and managed to stop some of the others. Inside the protesters simply shouted their slogans and made a lot of noise, being careful to cause no damage, and they left when asked politely after a few minutes.

The protest then continued on the pavement outside, attracting some attention from the workers rushing out of the other offices around to the Underground entrance. Soon some Canary Wharf Estate security men arrived, dressed to impersonate police, and stood in front of the two doorways. A few minutes later the Head of Security arrived, and attempted to talk to some of the protesters.

After a while the security men came and tried to push the protesters back, but they refused to move, telling them that they were not police and that they would be guilty of assault if they continued to try to remove them. There were loud protests when one of the security men hit a woman protester, but fortunately the security then backed off slightly. There were a few more scuffles as they tried to grab Alberto Durango, the cleaner's leader.

The head of security on the large private Canary Wharf estate had come out to talk with the protesters and had a heated discussion with several of them including Durango. I think he was told that they would shortly end their protest and leave, and things then calmed down a little. There was a short final burst of protest and then Alberto outlined the problems that the cleaners were facing, with MITIE managers treating their workers with disrespect, and failing to answer the many and lengthy complaints made by the union, except by banning union representatives and victimising union activists.

The workers complain of bullying by management as well as against discrimination over race, sex and disability. They say that one cleaner was suspended for asking that a document he was told to sign to be translated so he could understand what he ws signing, and the MITIE boss at Clifford Chance is said to have boasted of conducting research into the union rep who is not employed there. The IWGB has been pressing for a meeting with MITIE to discuss the dispute at Clifford Chance for a month (including at ACAS) and has not received made any progress.
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TUC May Day Rally

Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 1 May 2013
'Trade Union Rights Are Human Rights' says the banner behind Len McCluskey, waiting to speak
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Several thousand people attended a May Day rally in Trafalgar Square after the International Workers' Day March where speakers called for an end to cuts in public services, and for growth and jobs to get us out of austerity.

As the several thousand people on the march filed slowly into Trafalgar Square, the main banner was brought up onto the plinth, along with several banners from the Kurdish and Turkish communists and their flags.

Some of the loudest applause came when a PCS speaker representing civil servants working in the Education Ministry told us that his members had walked out on strike this afternoon as the latest in a series of strikes against cuts in jobs and services and had come to the rally.

The rally was chaired by Martin Gould of the South East Region Trade Union Councils and Linda Kietz from the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils. Among the speakers were Unite General Secretary Les McCluskey, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak, Jeremy Corbyn MP and John McDonnell MP. One disappointment was that Tony Benn, who has often provided the main speech at May Day events, due to speak if he felt well enough on the day, was unable to do so.
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London May Day March

Clerkenwell Green to Trafalgar Square. Wed 1 May 2013

Kurdish Workers party (PKK), Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) flags and Abdullah Ocalan flags.
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Thousands of trade unionists and socialists including members of London's many ethnic communities as well as the major trade unions came together to march from Clerkenwell Square through central London to Trafalgar Square on International Workers' Day.

The march, organised by The London May Day Organising Committee, was supported by the Greater London and South East TUC ( GLATUC & S&ERTUC), UNITE London & Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London & South East Region, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, MU London, FBU London & Southern Regions, GMB London & Southern Regions, UNISON Greater London Region, NPC, GLPA and other Pensioners’ organisations and organisations representing Turkish, Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Portuguese, West Indian, Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish, Nigerian migrant workers & communities plus many other trade union & community organisations.

There was the usual festival atmsphere at Clerkenwell Green, with people waving flags, playing loud music and a little dancing, along with just a few speeches to small groups around the square, which has the usual bookstalls around the edges and in the centre.

Punctually at 1pm the march began to leave the square, led by the Musicians Union band in front of the main banner. There were a few faces of well-known trade unionists on the march, but the largest groups were from the Turkish and Kurdish communities in north London. Among the faces on flags and banners were the old figures from the Communist pantheon - Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao along with others including William Morris, Che and Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdish Leader still in jail on a Turkish island, although peace talks are continuing and he has declared a unilateral cease-fire from the Kurdish New Year in March.

The march was densely packed in parts, but there were some gaps. I stopped to photograph as it passed through Holborn and it took around 30 minutes to go completely past me. Although a large march, it was not on the same scale as those in some other capital cities, particularly those where the day is a national holiday, although it was surprising that the BBC radion news this morning listed several foreign cities where May Day marches were taking place but somehow failed to mention London. Traffic was stopped in much of central London, with a very long list of bus routes which were stopping short of their normal destinations across the middle of the day.

It was a great shame that when Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan introdued the early May Bank Holiday to England in 1978 he did not make it May Day - which would have restored an ancient English tradition as well as celebrating International Labour Day. Today's march took place when most of the workers were at work it being a normal working Wednesday, though later a PCS representative speaking at Trafalgar Square told us to considerable applause that some government offices were closed this afternoon as PCS members walked out on their latest strike against the cuts in services - and in their jobs.

Trade Union efforts to acheive an 8-hour working day that began in the US in the 1860s led directly to May Day being recognised as International Workers' Day. In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions the United States and Canada passed a resolution that the 8 hr day should be confirmed as a legal day's labor from May 1, 1886, with strikes starting that day to acheive it. On 3 May, when police attacked a strike meeting in Haymarket Square, Chicago, a bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing a sergeant and leading to a fight. In all seven police and four workers died. In membory of this, May 1 was widely adopted around the world as an international labour holiday from 1889-91. It is now a national holiday in over 80 countries and widely celebrated in many others, including the UK.

Although many newspapers and broadcasters reported May Day events around the world, and some of the odder events in towns and villages in the UK, there appeared to be a total media blackout on large events such as this march and the rally which followed it.
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Finsbury

Clerkenwell & Finsbury. Wed 1 May 2013

Clerkenwell Close - Peabody estate
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I got to Clerkenwell Green a little too early and took a short walk to the north, going up Clerkenwell Close through the Peabody estate and climbing the stair to cross Bowling Green St and take a look at Berthold Lubetkin's Grade 1 listed Finsbury Health Centre (1935-8). It's a tricky building to photograph. The Finsbury Health Centre Preservation Trust want to restore and modernise it so it remains at the heart of the community, doing the job it was designed for, rather than being sold off. It was a building that inspired and embodied the ethos of the National Health Service. It is now owned by NHS Property Services, a government owned private company with the Secretary of State for Health as the only shareholder, whose aim appears to be to sell off public assets such as this. I took a few pictures then came back down Farringdon Lane to photograph the May Day march.
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May 2013

Muslims march for Lee Rigby
City Stroll
Bank Holiday Walk
March Against Monsanto
Don't hang Prof Bhullar!
UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel
ArtEco Opening - Daniele Tamagni
Battersea etc
Daddy's Pig heads for the Trough
Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid
Bring Shaker Home
'Christian Concern' Against Gay Marriage
Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide
More US Embassy Protests
Guantánamo Murder Scene
London Marches to Defend NHS
End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing
Staines Walk
Canary Wharf & Estuary Opening
Hands off Assata!
Leveller Thomas Rainsborough
Bikers
Boishakhi Mela Procession
Kidnapped by Pirates
London's 101st May Queen
Cleaners Return to Capgemini
Bank Holiday Walk
Beckenham May Queens
Cleaners at Clifford Chance
TUC May Day Rally
London May Day March
Finsbury
 

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