Counihans Celebrate Anniversary
Kilburn Square, London. Sat 31 Aug 2013
Isabel Counihan Sanchez pours out squash on the first
'birthday' of their campaign
The Counihan Sanchez family housing campaign held a street rally in Kilburn
to celebrate a year of their fight against for themselves and others for fair
treatment over housing issues.
Anthony and Isabel Counihan Sanchez lived in council housing
in Brent for many years, bringing up five children on the South Kilburn estate.
When they had to go to temporarily to Ireland to look after Anthony's dying
father they went to the council housing department to ask what they should
do. There they were incorrectly told they could not keep their tenancy but
had to relinquish it - and were also told they would be rehoused without a
problem on their return.
Both aspects of the advice were wrong - they could have kept the tenancy
for up to a year and sublet the property, and on their return the council
would only provide accommodation at a high rent - more than they could afford
- and then withdrew their housing benefit because they had inherited a field
in Ireland which was rented out for £18 a week. The council said this
made them landowners and thus not eligible for housing benefit. One council
official suggested that they live there and that Anthony could commute from
Ireland to his job as a London bus driver, and local MP Glenda Jackson suggested
they should move to Wales. Brent Council went on the evict them and gave them
a bill for around £56,000. Brent refused to accept any responsibility
for the family and they were eventually temporarily rehoused in substandard
accommodation in Ealing in April 2012.
With the support of various local groups and individuals the family decided
to make their dispute with Brent council public and started up the Counihan
Sanchez family housing campaign, with meetings, marches and a song. They and
their supporters attended lobbied councillors and attended various council
meetings, where they asked questions and sang their song, 'You can't keep
the Counihans out of Brent'. They attracted more support, and also began
to campaign more widely on housing issues and on related aspects of the austerity
programme and cuts.
Eventually their fight to get their housing benefit restored was successful,
but in April 2012, a letter from the Brent Council Head of Housing Needs informed
them that they would be evicted from their temporary housing, as they had
made themselves intentionally homeless. Fortunately the family have now been
able to find for themselves - without any help from the council - accommodation
in Brent that they can afford.
At the start of the event there was a speech from Bakers, Food and Allied
Workers Union (BFAWU) President president Ian Hodson about the strikes
at Hovis in Wigan against zero hours contracts and his support of the Counihan
Sanchez Housing Campaign.
The Counihan Sanchez family housing campaign has not just fought for justice
for the family, but has also supported and campaigned on other issues related
to housing, both in the local area and more generally. These include the suicide
of a local man, Nygel Firminger, which the inquest found to have
been precipitated by his problems over housing after he had not been paid
for work he had done. One of the speakers at the rally was a neighbour of
his, who described how the housing association concerned was beginning to
force tenants out of the properties so they could be renovated and sold for
around £350,000 - 375,000 per flat. Tenants are being told they have
to move, and offered alternative accommodation - but in Leeds or Wales, and
if they refuse this they will have made themselves 'intentionally homeless.'
The street party also observed a minutes silence for Sabrina Moss, a nursery
teacher shot a few yards away on Kiburn High Road while celebrating her 24th
birthday a week ago.
Obama 'Don't Attack Syria'
Temple to Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 31 Aug 2013
Young women with Syrian flag face paint and scarf in
front of Big Ben on the march
Thousands marched through London to a rally in Trafalgar Square calling
on President Obama to drop his plans to attack Syria, saying this will inflame
the civil war and risk regional conflict.
The protest, called jointly by CND and Stop the War, gathered at Temple before
marching past Parliament and Downing St to Trafalgar Square, where there were
a number of speeches against any military intervention by the USA and other
powers. Although the UK Parliament has for the moment rejected taking part
in this,the government motion and the opposition amendment which were both
lost were in favour of taking military action, and although Cameron has been
forced to halt for the moment, Obama still seems intent on action, as in our
government in the longer term.
The parliamentary defeat came at a time when a poll in the Daily Telegraph
showed only 9% of the UK population would support an attack, but the defeat
was a matter of party politics rather than showing that many of our parliamentarians
have learnt anything from the catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan. But public
opinion and a vocal group of politicians who spoke in the debate shows that
protests over the years have had some influence, and several speakers claimed
with some justification the vote in parliament this week as a victory for
the protest movement. The decision by Ed Milliband to call for a halt until
the UN report is available was clearly influenced by the shift in public opinion
and the continuing protests have made us all aware of the "legacy of
The protest was supported by a wide range of groups, including some supporters
of the Syrian regime and many of the UK's Alevi community. Others, including
Peter Tatchell carried placards opposing war but also calling for solidarity
with Syrian democrats, and stating "silence re Assad's crimes is collusion."
There were many left wing and pacifist groups on the march, some carrying
placards calling for spending on welfare rather than warfare. But all were
united in the view that any military intervention would be disastrous. As
Stop the War stated, "Apart from the inevitable casualties, any attack
on Syria can only inflame an already disastrous civil war and would risk pulling
in regional powers further."
Speakers at the rally, which was hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP, included Lindsey
German, John Rees and Andrew Murray, as well as Green Party leader Natalie
Bennett. I left before Tony Benn spoke.
More Holiday Snaps
Thirsk, Yorkshire. 23-30 Aug 2013
We stayed in a conference centre in Sowerby, which adjoins Thirsk with
a group of friends from the Ashram community, and had a number of walks around
the town and in the surrounding area, including a short stretch of the Cleveland
Way, as well as visiting Byland Abbey, Nunnington Hall, Mount Grace Priory
and across in the Yorkshire Dales, the Aysgarth Falls and Hawes.
Some of these pictures will mainly be of interest to those we shared the
holiday with, and those taken in English Heritage or National Trust sites
are not avaialable for commercial use.
SDL and UAF in Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland. Sat 17 Aug 2013
The marchers opposing the SDL were kept well away from
them by police
I started with the anti-fascist march, not far from the venue where we had
gone for a morning play. There were perhaps 5-600 people, with quite a few
banners and placards. Police took them down a route which avoided any contact
with the Scottish Defence League, ending in a large pen on Horse Wynd at the
back of the Scottish Parliament. The Fuji X-E1 was just a little slow to react
when I pressed the shutter compared to the Nikons I normally use for protests,
and I missed a few pictures.
I left the anti-fascists and walked a little up Canongate to meet the SDL
coming down. There were quite a few familiar faces from EDL marches I've photographed
before and a banner for the EDL Sunderland Division. One of the placards was
one that everyone in both protest and counter-protest would have agreed on
- 'Axe the Bedroom Tax'. The EDL march was tightly surrounded by police and
it was difficult to take photographs, but things became a little easier once
they were shepherded into a pen. The two groups were separated by an empty
space, wide enough to make it difficult to throw things, and they shouted
and gestured at each other.
Although police soon stopped protesters (and journalists) from walking from
one group to the other along Horse Wynd, it was possible to move between the
two by going into the entrance area for the palace of Holyroodhouse. A few
of the anti-fascists had done so and were protesting close to the SDL, but
were fairly quickly arrested by police.
The protest and counter-protest were still continuing when I left.
Edinburgh & the Festival
11-17 Aug 2013
We stayed in a flat with various friends for a week at the Festival. Although
I took very few photographs of the various talks, plays and performances we
saw, we spent some time looking at the city as well as photographing the festival
groups touting for business on the High St and a few other things.
Sunday 11 & Mon 12
Nat West Bank in the New Town
A few pictures from the train and on the street on Sunday. Monday morning
we went on a festival tour of the New Town and its gardens, before having
lunch in John Lewis's rooftop cafe and then going along the High St and visiting
Greyfriars Churchyard before going to a festival lecture by Paul Mason
and then back to Bruntsfield. After dinner we took an evening walk to Fountainbridge
(for obscure reasons) which took us across the Union Canal.
Linda at the top of Arthur's Seat
I walked to the Nam June Paik
exhibition, the visual arts high note of the festival, while Linda went
to a concert. After that I went to hear poet Danny Chivers giving a great
fringe performance. Linda and I grabbed some lunch from a street stall and
then walked up Calton Hill and across to Arthurs Seat, rushing back to see
a one-man play on the fringe, and after taking a few pictures along the High
St before dinner.
City of the Dead tour in Greyfriars Churchyard
We spent rather a lot of time in Greyfriars Churchyard, going there after
breakfast before going to see the play Eugenie Grandet. From there we went
to the mosque cafe for a cheap and very filling curry for lunch.
There were things on in the afternoon too, including another fine poetry
performance, 'Evie and the Perfect Cupcake' in the Banshee Labyrinth, and
then we we went on the City of the Dead tour, which turned out to be rather
more interesting than we had anticipated, telling the story of the covenanters
and taking us in to the locked area of the cemetery where 1200 were left to
more or less starve open to the elements in what our guide called the 'first
concentration camp'. Locked there by 'Bluidy Mackenzie' the Lord Advocate,
some were executed and hundreds died of malnutrition and exposure. Mackenzie's
own tomb is a few yards away.
We were told that Greyfriars is the most haunted place in Edinburgh, and
that the land we were standing on had been a pit, but was now a hill due to
the many thousands of bodies that were buried in it since it became a cemetery
in 1561. The other most haunted place, we were told, was where we had just
come from, the Banshee Labyrinth.
The area is kept locked after a large number of people on various occasions
- including some City of the Dead tours have been attacked by an unseen force,
feeling as if they are being strangled, and thrown to the ground. From 1990
to 2006 there were 350 attacks and 170 people reported to have collapsed.
They and others have reported strange bruising after visits, and there are
often strange drops in temperature. In a widely reported incident in 1999
homeless man broke into the Mackenzie tomb for shelter on a stormy night,
opened up one of the coffins and felt himself to be attacked, falling through
a grating into a mass of decaying human remains below. He managed to pull
himself out and ran screaming into the night, scaring the daylights out of
the cemetery nightwatchman and running around the city for some time before
being apprehended by the police. Our guide told the story much better, illuminating
himself from below - typical horror lighting - with a small torch while doing
so. And of course one of his colleagues appeared out of darkness made up as
a ghost and screaming at an appropriate moment - for which our guide apologised.
But his performance was one of the best of the festival.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre at 25 Palmerston Place
We began the day returning to Greyfriars, finally managing to get inside
the church which closes for a number of performances during the festival.
I also wanted to photograph the Mackenzie tomb after hearing the stories the
previous night. From there we went on to Old Calton Burial Ground, before
going to a fringe event, about Conan Doyle, at the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Centre, a spiritualist church and centre at the west of the New Town. I don't
think it had any real connection with Conan Doyle, but he was a leading spiritualist
of his day, and involved with psychical research. It was a splendid building,
but I didn't much enjoy the lecture or the exhibition of drawings and paintings
by his father, though some were amusing.
We made our way back towards the centre, stopping off to look at the book
exhibition which occupied the whole of Charlotte Square, and on to Henderson's
Restuarant in Hanover St, where I enjoyed one of the very few vegetarian meals
I've ever had that didn't make me think it was missing meat (and I've eaten
an awful lot of vegetarian food over the years.) Helped down with a large
bottle of Budvar.
And after that it was on to Writers at the Fringe at Blackwalls Bookshop
to hear four authors talking about their work.
On the High St trying to drum up an audience
for their performance
Friday morning we went to another one-person performance, this time about
Elizabeth Hooton, possible the first of George Fox's converts and an early
Quaker missionary. It was a powerfully moving performance by the author, Lynn
Morris about the life of an amazing woman who was gripped by the Holy
Spirit, and one of a number of events at the Quaker meeting house on Victoria
Terrace (we'd been there several times to enjoy possibly the cheapest cup
of tea in Edinburgh, and some nice cakes.) I went on to take some more pictures
in the High St, and while Linda went to an event at the French Institute I
paid another visit to the Nam June Paik exhibition to watch the film I'd not
had time to see earlier in the week - and to enjoy some of the other exhibits
again. I had time to take some more pictures in the High Street before meeting
Afterwards we happened to ba passing Picardy Place again, and outside was
a man handing out leaflets about the talke he was about to give. We took one
and went in to hear Max Scratchmann talk about having been brought up in the
Jute industry in India and later East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the 1950s
and early 1960s in the last days when it was run by Scottish working class
managers from Dundee, a peculiarly different perspective on the end of the
Raj. It was an interesting talk, but we didn't buy his book The Last Burrah
Sahibs - The secret life of the Scots in India. Picardy Place by coincidence
was where Conan Doyle was born.
School of Art show and castle
We started the day with an early performance of a play about a male clergyman
and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion, which was very clever,
quite funny but too early in the morning for me. Then I went off to do a little
work - see the separate post about the UAF protest against the SDL marching
in Edinburgh. Afterwards we went back through the High St to go to the postgrad
show at the College of Art. The fine art photography seemed rather disappointing,
with only one student whose work I found of much interest, and the one exception
was someone who had obviously been a succesful photographer before joining
the course. But there was some interesting work in other areas, notably product
design, and some interesting views of the castle and across the city from
the fifth floor of the newer building.
We went on to join a very long queue for the 'Attack of the 50 Foot German
Comedian' and I was surprised we got in to see Christian Schulte-Loh with
a very packed house. I'm not a great fan of live comedy shows, some of the
performances we hear on the radio are so much better. But at least Schulte-Low
was cleaner than most. But 50 ft was just a tall story.
The week came to an end with a meal of around a dozen of us in a handy Thai
restuarant. It was a very pleasant atmosphere and a good way to end the week.
The next morning we were up early to catch the 10.30 train back to London.
Putin, 'Hands Off Queers!'
Downing St, London. Sat 10 Aug 2013
Protesters call for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics
A large and lively protest opposite Downing St opposed the homophobic
policies of President Putin in Russia and called for the UK to urge Russia
to respect gay rights and called fora boycott of the Wintwer Olympics in Sochi,
the release of Pussy Riot and for freedom of speech in Russia.
During the protest a small group gave a performance about the harassment
and imprisonment of Russian 'Pussy Riot' protesters.
Against Live Animal Exports
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 10 Aug 2013
Protesters hold up posters in front of the National
Compassion in World Farming held a peaceful march in London against the
live export of farm animals to highlight this largely hidden trade, which
relies on a law from 1847 and inflicts great suffering on the animals concerned.
Several hundred took part in the march, which started in Covent Garden and
ended with photographs on the steps in Trafalgar Square. The heritage wardens
objected to the marchers coming down off the North Terrace for the photograph
on the steps beut were powerless to stop it. A few of the protesters wanted
to continue the march through Trafalgar Square to Whitehall and Downing St,
but the organisers collected in the placards they had provided and most of
the marchers dispersed.
Last year over 47,000 young sheep and calves were sent on journeys from as
far afield as Wales and Lincolnshire across the channel to France, Germany,
the Netherlands and Belgium.
The UK government continues to say that European legislation aprevents it
from stopping live exports, because the 1847 UK Harbours, Docks and Piers
Clauses Act 1847 prevents public ports in Britain from refusing to export
live animals as a part of the "free trade" in goods. But EU law
has recognised animals as sentient beings rather than "goods" since
1999, and different rules and regulations should apply to them.
One of the worst recent cases was at Ramsgate last year when there was a
temporary stop to live exports after 45 sheep on one lorry died. The lorry
was found to have faults, and had been declared unfit to travel on at least
three previous occasions.
The march through London was intended to send a clearr message to UK Farming
Minister David Heath MP to use his powers to amend the 1847 Act and stop the
cruelty of live animal exports to the EU.
Also in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 10 Aug 2013
While I was in Trafalgar Square I took a few pictures of other things, including
the blue cockerel and and East London church whose gospel choir began their
performance painfully out of tune, but had some splendid hats. I expect they
got things together better later, but I didn't stay to find out.
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 10 Aug 2013
A small group protested in Trafalgar Square against fracking, in solidarity
with the ongoing protests at Balcombe. After meeting in Trafalgar Square they
went to protest opposite Downing St, but by then I was busy with other things
and missed them.
Tavistock Square, London. Tue 6 Aug 2013
Hetty Bower, who will be 108 in October 3, spoke briefly
Flowers were laid at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square today.
Speakers included Bruce Kent, Peter Tatchell, Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party Leader
Natalie Bennett and a brief speech from the remarkable Hetty Bower, 108 in
Tony Benn was there, standing talking for some of the time to another veteran
figure from the left, Rodney Bickerstaffe, both pointed out by compere Jeremy
Corbyn, and Walter Wolfgang, now 90, spoke about the need to take action inside
the Labour party to get the party to vote against a Trident replacement. Celia
Mitchell read some poems by her late husband Adrian Mitchell, Val Brown from
the London Guantanamo Campaign talked about their work and the regular protests
at the US Embassy, and Nobo Ono about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and
the weekly protests organised by Japanese Against Nuclear UK, with another
Japanese peace activist also speaking.
Speakers stressed the need to work for peace and to get rid of nuclear weapons
to avoid more tragedies like those in Japan in 1945, 68 years ago. In particular
they called for Britian to abandon its pretence to be a nuclear power and
to scrap Trident without replacing it. We then then be in a position where
we would be taken more seriously when we called on other countries to stop
As well as speeches there were a number of anti-nuclear songs sung by a choir
including people from socialist choirs 'Raised Voices', 'Red and Green Choir'
and Jan UK, including a 'Son't you Hear the H-Bombs thunder' which concluded
the ceremony. Earlier singer, activist and D-Day Veteran Jim Radford had given
fine acappella performances of Joan Baez's 'Hiroshima' and Sydney Carter's
'The Crow on the Cradle'.
There are other Hiroshima Day events remembering the terrible destricution
that ushered in the nuclear age around the world today, including several
more in London boroughs this evening, and further events on August 9th to
remember the second bomb which fell three days later on Nagasaki.
Stop MI6 Lies About Shaker Aamer
Vauxhall Cross, London. Mon 5 Aug 2013
Protesters on a foobridge in front of the MI6 building
say 'MI6 tell the truth'
Protesters at the MI6 in Vauxhall demanded they stop trying to get the
US to render Shaker Aamer, a witness to MI6 complicity in torture, to Saudi
Arabia, where he would be tortured and killed rather than coming home to his
family in London.
There never was any evidence against Aamer, a humanitarian worker who was
kidnapped by Afghan bandits and sold to the US and was then tortured at Bagram
Air Base before being forcibly rendered to Guantanamo shortly after it opened.
He was tortured both at Bagram and Guantanamo (where it still continues) and
alleges that UK agents were present while he was tortured and he also witnessed
to the torture of other prisoners.
MI6 are said to have been feeding false and defamatory statements to US intelligence
about Aamer to persuade the US authorities either to keep him in Guantanamo
or to forcibly render him to Saudi Arabia. He fled from there as a young man
and was granted permanent residence in the UK where he now has a wife and
several children, including one born shortly after his arrest who has never
seen his father. The Saudi authorities have recently said they would jail
him without any chance of appeal, and Saudi Arabia is a repressive country,
recognised in US, UN and UK human rights reports for its systemic use of torture.
As well as those changed into Guantanamo-style in orange jump suits and black
hoods, one man had come to protest in Arab dress. The protesters posed for
photographs before protesting in the island in the middle of the road outside
the large MI6 buildig for around an hour. They then all signed a copy of a
letter to the Chief of MI6, Sir John Sawers, and lined up to walk across to
the gate to the building.
The security on the gate refused to accept the letter, telling the protesters
that it was policy not to accept anything from the street. After some argument
the protesters were given a PO box address to which they could send the letter
- or, according to the card, their CVs, should they wish to apply for a job!
Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield
Westfield Centre, Stratford, London. Sat 3 Aug 2013
Westfield security harass the protesters after they
have left the John Lewis store
The IWGB union made a surprise visits to protest inside John Lewis in
Stratford Westfield in East London, demanding that the workers that clean
John Lewis stores be paid a living wage and share in the benefits and profits
enjoyed by other workers in the stores.
The cleaners who work at John Lewis are not employed by them but by sub-contractor
ICM of the Compass Group, who recently announced pre-tax profits for the year
of £575 million. They pay the cleaners £6.72 per hour, considerably
less than the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour set by the GLA and
backed by the London Mayor - and which David Cameron described as "an
idea whose time has come."
By out-sourcing its cleaners, John Lewis distances itself from the low pay
and poor conditions of service of these workers who share the workplace with
the much-lauded John Lewis 'partners', who as well as higher pay and better
benefits, also get a share in the company's profits - this year the pre-tax
profits of £409 million will mean a bonus equivalent to around nine
weeks pay for the direct employees. The trick enables John Lewis to claim
it is a ‘different sort of company’ with a strong ethical basis,
but still leave its cleaners - a vital part of its workforce - on poverty
Many of John Lewis's 'partners' who work alongside the cleaners question
the company's policy towards them, but they are afraid to speak out. Last
year Raph Ashley was one of the John Lewis 'partners' working in Stratford
who supported the clearners and urged others at the company to join the IWGB.
He was targeted and sacked after he gave an interview to the Guardian. He
had raised concerns about the ethnic diversity at John Lewis. The management
told him to stop asking staff to join a union and said that 'Partners' are
forbidden from discussing pay and that this was a disciplinary offence. Raph
took a leading part in today's protest, which as well as demanding and end
to poverty pay for cleaners also demanded justice for Raph.
Cleaners and their supporters gathered at various points around Stratford
in an unannounced protest by the IWGB union in support of the cleaners at
John Lewis. Finally they came together and made their way to the third floor
restuarant in the large John Lewis store where they got out banners, whistles,
plastic trumpets and megaphones before moving out into the centre of the shop
for a noisy protest.
As shoppers and John Lewis staff watched and took photographs on their phones,
the cleaners marched around the open area with the escalators, stopping occasionally
to explain their claim to everyone and handing out flyers as they walkede
around . They then took the escalator down and continued the protest on the
floor below. The noise they made meant that everyone on all the floors, including
the basement Waitrose could not help but hear, and many of them stopped shopping
to watch and listen.
John Lewis staff stopped and watched, and prevented the protesters from moving
away from the central area - which they had no intention of doing. Eventually
they made their way down for a slightly longer protest inside the first floor
'street' entrance, before moving outside.
Waiting for them outside John Lewis were a small group of Westfield Security
who had little success in preventing them continuing the protest, though they
eventually persuaded them to move out of the enclosed 'street' into the open
air. There was a little pushing by security, and one man several times attempted
to put his hand over my lens, telling me I'd taken enough pictures, but I
John Lewis have another entrance just outside, and the protest continued
here for a few minutes, before moving down the side of the building. By this
time the police had arrived, and came to talk briefly with one of the union
leaders, who assured him that this was a peaceful protest and that they would
soon be leaving. They were beginning to finally pack up as I left.
John Lewis are shortly to issue new contracts for cleaning, and the IWGB
is urging them to write into these that the contractors must offer improved
conditions, including the London Living Wage.
End Zero Hours Contracts - Sports Direct
Sports Direct, Oxford St, London. Sat 3 Aug 2013
Protesters confront Plaza security ias they move nside
Protests around the country including on London's Oxford St called on
Sports Direct to abandon the use of zero-hour contracts which deprive all
their 20,000 part-time workforce (over 85% of staff) sick pay, holiday pay
and other employment rights.
Almost 50 protesters kept up a noisy protest on the pavement outside the
shop, with police constantly reminding them that they must leave a clear passage
along the pavement and into the shop. Security watched them from inside as
they handed out leaflets about zero-hour contracts and the insecurity they
cause, and several people spoke from their own experience of not knowing if
the would get enough hours in any particular week to pay their basic bills.
Many of those passing by took the leaflets that were being handed out and
some expressed support, with many being surprised when they learnt that there
were such contracts and that they were legal. They are a peculiar legal casuistry
that in essence denies the whole concept of a contract as normally understood,
agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers. They provide
no guaranteed weekly hours or income and are used to cut wages and avoid holiday
pay and pensions.
Although they give no guarantee of any income, they oblige the workers to
be available for work at the employer's whim, making it impossible for them
to take on other work. The use of such contracts has roughly doubled in the
last five years - and as well as large companies such as Sports Direct, the
Guardian has found they are also used by Buckingham Palace and 13 out of 32
London boroughs. Over 200,000 are known to be employed on them, but it is
thought that there are more, with many people who get regular work not realising
that they are on such contracts and their work could disappear or be drastically
reduced without notice.
After around 50 minutes of protesting on the street, the protesters surged
into the small street-level area of Sports Direct, making for the escalators
down into the main basement store. Security men stood at the tops of the escalator
and told them to stop, and they did so. One security man did start to push
a protester, but was warned that it was an assualt and stopped, and for the
next five minutes or so the protest continued inside the store, with security
and police watching the protesters. A police officer came to talk to one of
the leading protesters; it was clear that the protesters were being careful
to cause no damage and that they would shortly leave, and no further action
Having made their point for some minutes, the protesters left the shop in
an orderly manner, continuing the protest for a few minutes on the pavement
before deciding it was time to end.
Roma Genocide Commemorated
Hyde Park, London. Fri 2 Aug 2013
Grattan Puxon speaking in front of the Holocaust Memorial
draped with a Roma flag
Roma and others met at the Holocaust Memorial in Hyde Park on the anniversary
of the mass killing of 3,000 Romas at Auschwitz to remember them and protest
against the rise of neo-Nazi attacks against the Romas in the Czech Republic
Around a quarter of a million Sinti and Roma were killed in Nazi Germany,
and many others in Romania and Croatia. Gypsies were forced to wear badges
with the letter 'Z' for 'Zigeuner', the German for Gypsy, and forced into
camps to be killed.
On the night of 2 August 1944, all the remaining 3000 inhabitants of the
'Gypsy family camp' at Auschwitz-Birkenau were taken by lorries and forced
into the gas chambers in what is known as the Porajmos (great devouring in
Romani) in the final liquidation of the camp. August 2 is now recognised as
Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
The ceremony at the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial began with a short introduction
calling for a two minute silence, which was then followed by a number of speeches,
some in Czech and others in English. Among the English speakers were Grattan
Puxon and Professor Rainer Schulze, who spoke in some detail about the way
Sinti and Roma were treated by the Nazis, and of the fight they put up even
as they were being forced into the gas chambers.
We then heard a statement of support from Hiroshima, read in English by a
Japanese who now lives in Basildon, and who went on to give a speech which
included reference to the events at Dale Farm, where travellers were forcibly
evicted. Another speaker was a Jewish socialist, who regretted the fact that
the inscription on the memorial only referred to the Jewish holocaust victims
and hoping that something might be added to remember the other victims of
Several of the speakers expressed their concern at the increasing discrimination
against Roma in Europe, including harassment of those sleeping rough on the
streets of London. Before the ceremony some of those present had been to the
Czech embassy to protest at the rise of Neo-Nazi attacks against the Roma
in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and after it there was to be a protest
at the nearby French embassy against the the deportation of Roma people in
Al Quds Day March
Portland Place to US Embassy, London. Fri 2 Aug 2013
A young woman holds placards calling for a Boycott
Several thousand on the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march through
London marched peacefully with no opposition to the US Embassy for a rally
at the US Embassy calling for the liberation of Palestine, with banners and
chants in support of Hezbollah.
The annual march through London on Al Quds Day, is organised the the Al Quds
Day Committee of the Islamic Human Rights Commission and supported by many
organisations involved with Palestine, including the Ahlulbayt Islamic
Mission, Friends of Al Aqsa, Friends of Lebanon, Innovative Minds, Islamic
Centre of England, Islamic Students Association, Jews for Boycotting Israeli
Goods, Lebanese Community UK, Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim Council
of Britain, Muslim Directory, Neturei Karta International, Scottish PSC, Sons
of Malcolm, Passion Islam, Stop the War Coalition and UKIM.
The celebration of Al Quds day on the last Friday of Ramadan was introduced
by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979 and its observance has spread, mainly
in Arab and Muslim countries. The march has in some years been opposed by
various Zionist and Iranian freedom, communist and royalist movements as well
as fringe UK right wing groups including the EDL and March for England and
others. This year the start of the march was watched by one dancing eccentric
and two young men who have previously been seen at ultra-right events, but
there was no protest.
Some of the groups involved in the march, including the main organisers do
receive some funding from the Iranian government, and many marchers were carrying
placards or chanting support for Hizbullah. But the march is in support of
Palestine and a show of solidarity with the people of Palestine and oppressed
The march started close to the BBC, which many accuse of a pro-Israel bias,
and went past there and down Regent St across a busy Oxford Circus before
turning right into the side streets of Mayfair on its way to a rally outside
the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
There was a large police presence, perhaps in case of counter demonstrations
by right wing or Zionist groups. The Al Quds protest itself brings young people
and families from mosques across the UK as well as a small group of ultra-orthodox
Neturei Karta Jews and is an entirely peaceful and closely stewarded event
that requires no policing other than traffic control.
I left the march shortly before it arrived at the US Embassy for a rally
Victory Celebration at Vedanta AGM
London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. Thu 1 Aug 2013
Vedanta monster arrives to take part in the protest
Around 100 protesters and a Vedanta Monster came to protest against Vedanta's
ecological and human rights crimes around the world and to celebrate the 9
tribal meetings that have said 'NO' to Vedanta destroying their sacred mountain
Protesters outside the annual meeting of London-based company Vedanta Resources
plc at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square celebrated the decisions
taken so far by nine of the twelve 'gram sabhas' (village councils) to reject
plans by the company to destroy their sacred Nyamgiri mountain to provide
the aluminium ore bauxite for the smelter they have built at the base of the
In April the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Vedanta could only go ahead
with plans for their huge mine on the mountain if the local tribal people
gave their approval. So far nine of the twelve local councils have unanimously
turned down the plans, and local Dongria Kondh tribal leaders expect the remaining
three to follow suit, saying that the mining would violate their socio-cultural
and religious rights. The decision of the tribal councils is expected to be
confirmed by the court later in the year.
Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy was among those attending a protest
in Delhi yesterday supporting the London demonstration, and one of the placards
at the protest was a quotation of her comment "Take your goddamn refinery
and leave!", for as she pointed out, if it remains, Vedanta will continue
its campaigns to mine bauxite, if not from Nyamgiri from other hills in the
area. As well as demanding the refinery to be dismantled, she called for the
land it is on to be restored to the people and reparations to be paid, and
that the many security personnel be withdrawn from the area and the imprisoned
protesters to be released.
'Foil Vedanta' which has organised annual protests at Vedanta's London AGMs
and coordinates protests against Vedanta around the world in the countries
in which it and its subsidiaries operate and where the many corporate investors
in the company are based. Although more than 30 major banks and financial
agencies still have investments in the company, their exposure of Vedanta’s
ecological, and human rights crimes have led to disinvestment by the Norwegian
Government Pension Fund, Martin Currie Investments, the Church of England,
the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Dutch Pension Fund PGGM. Reuters
today reported that Aviva, one of the largest investors in the London stock
market has criticised Vedanta saying much of its recent poor performance was
due to a "ack of focus on sustainability issues, including the environment
and human rights."
Protesters arrived outside the hotel with banners, placards and drums and
began a noisy protest. Many of the placards showed photographs related to
the crimes and alleged crimes committed by the company around the world, and
among the many slogans were those directed at the Indian billionaire founder
and Executive Chairman Anil Agarwal, who they named and followed by the response
'Blood on Your Hands!" In 2007 it was reported that unsafe mining operations
by the company and its contractors led to over 1200 injuries and 27 deaths
and a chimney collapse in 2009 for which they are accused of negligence killed
at least 40 workers.
As well as Foil Vedanta, other organisations including Amnesty International
and Survival Internationl have issued extremely critical reports over the
human rights record of Vedanta and its subsidiaries, and even the UK government
in 2009 criticised it for its treatment of the Dongria Kondh in Orissa, although
current prime minister David Cameron tried to put pressure on the Indian government
to allow it to mine when he visited India.
The protesters repeated their call for the company to be de-listed from the
London Stock Exchange because of its activities around the world.
Police wanted protesters to stay on the opposite site of the road to the
hotel and provided a pen for them their, but the protesters were loath to
move, partly as the felt their protest outside the hotel fence was more effective.
Eventually a compromise was reached with protesters on the hotel side forming
a single file so as not to impede the pavement, and others going to the pen,
much of which was in uncomfortably hot direct sun.
Proceedings were enlivened by the arrival of the 'Vedanta Monster' an inflatable
beast with long tentacles for various subsidiaries of Vedanta, which arrived
to loud cheers and was greeted by a small crowd of police telling it to get
off the road. They stopped it from going into the hotel forecourt and eventually
it was directed across the road to a new pen.
The monster had sprung a leak and needed patching, but once restored to health
it made another dash for the hotel, and this time with more success, but was
stopped by police and hotel security in the forecourt. Argument ensued, and
eventually after a little pushing and shoving by the security and police it
was removed to the pavement, but not until some protesters had also entered
the area and carried on a noisy protest there too.
One of the people carrying the monster then sat down, wrapping part of the
monster around him. Eventually police extracted him and persuaded him to stand
up, and, after a long argument with persistent threats of arrest, he and the
now deflated monster retreated back to the pen.
Shut Down Guantanamo
US Embassy & Marble Arch, London. Thu 1 Aug 2013
Protesters in front of the US embassy
The monthly protest at the US embassy and Marble Arch stood in solidarity
with hunger strikers in Guantanamo and in California calling for human rights
for prisoners and against solitary confinement and for the urgent release
of Shaker Aamer.
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