Russia, Free Greenpeace Arctic 30
Russian Embassy, Kensington, London. Thu 31 Oct 2013
Protesters call in turn for each of the 30 taken prisoner
on the high seas to be released
Demonstrators supported the 30 arrested after an illegal raid on Greenpeace's
Arctic Sunrise on the high seas and now held in jail in Murmansk and charged
with 'hooliganism' at a protest at the Russian Embassy. Those held include
The protesters held up portraits of those arrested in the direction of the
Russian Embassy across the road, and shouted for their release.
The two journalists on the ship were Kieron Bryan, a British videographer,
and Denis Sinyakov, a Russian freelance photographer, and many feel that their
continued detention is an attack on the freedom of the press. The other 28
held include activists and crew members of the Arctic Sunrise, which was stormed
on the high seas after two of the activists climbed a Gazprom drilling rig
in the Arctic Ocean.
Greenpeace and other environmentalists claim that drilling for oil in the
Arctic is likely to lead to environmental catastrophe as the ecosystem is
fragile, and dealing with oil spills extremely difficult.
Protest Against Colombian 'Vulture of Death'
Senate House, University of London. Thu 31 Oct 2013
against former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, responsible for many
thousand of murders
Colombians and others protested at Senate House in the University of
London against the presence of Álvaro Uribe Velez, the 'Vulture of
Death', President of Colombia from 2002-10, responsible for thousands of dissapearances
and 14,000 extrajudicial executions.
The protest was organised by the Plataforma 12 de Octobre, and supported
by numerous groups including Movimiento Micaela Bastidas-UK, Marcha Patriótica-Británica,
Polo Democrático-UK, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Mesa Permanente
por la Paz - Londres, MERU Verdadero, London México Group, Tawantinsuyu
Nation, Enlace Mapuche Internacional, Hands Off Venezuela, PARCOE, and the
Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB). By the time I left, twenty minutes
before Álvaro Uribe was due to speak there were over 50 people present,
and more were still arriving.
Álvaro Uribe had been invited to speak at an event organised by Canning
House, "a foundation dedicated to promote understanding and engagement
between Britain and the Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian world" and the
Institute of Latin American Studies, a part of the University of London at
Senate House on the subject of peace in Colombia.
The protesters call for him to be prosecuted at the International Criminal
Court for his many crimes against humanity. They say he is a well known “narco-paramilitar”
(paramilitary drug gang leader) and responsible for a 'dirty war' against
the people of Colombia, in which thousands have disappeared, and there have
been 14,000 extrajudicial executions, including more than 3,000 people killed
as “false positives”, and that his polices led to more than 5
million internally displaced people.
The protesters decided to hold their protest in the covered area under Senate
House in front of the main entrance. The police were called and two officers
came and talked briefly to the protesters before entering the building to
talk to the security inside. After a few minutes they left to sit in their
van in the car park and appeared unlikely to take further action.
The protesters, including many Colombians and some other Latin American as
well as British supporters made clear their disgust at the invitation to speak
to a man responsible for so many deaths and other human rights abuse in Colombia.
They chanted slogans against Álvaro Uribe and called for him to be
brought before the International Court of Justice, and made a considerable
noise, but it seemed unlikely that the former president would arrive by this
entrance, and I left a short while before he was due to speak. As I left the
police van was also driving away.
Later I heard that a few protesters had managed to get inside the Senate House
and protest in the lecture theatre wher Uribe was speaking before being ejected.
Cleaners Invade John Lewis Oxford Street
Oxford St, London. Sat 26 Oct 2013
The Cleaners started their protest on the top floor
and continued down to the basement before leaving
The IWGB union protested inside John Lewis's flagship store in Oxford
St 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
The cleaners who work at John Lewis Partnership (JLP) stores 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
£6.87 per hour, only four fifths of 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 directly employed JLP workers who are called 'partners'. As well as higher
pay and better benefits than the cleaners, partners also get a share in the
company's profits - which can be more than an extra two months pay. By hiving
off the cleaners to another company, JLP can still claim it is a ‘different
sort of company’ with a strong ethical basis, but leave its cleaners
- a vital part of its workforce - on poverty wages.
The cleaners belong to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)
who have asked JLP to insist that the outsourced workers in their stores are
paid the Living Wage - as 400 other employers do. JLP told them that they
did not think it "appropriate" and refused to do so.
The cleaners point to both the £50m profits by JLP from its department
stores as well as the huge profits of ICM. Christmas is coming and the store
makes huge sales in the Christmas season. They say that the JLP "should
put people before its profits and ensure the cleaners get Justice for Christmas.
Stop being scrooge and pay the Living Wage."
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, and was accused
by management of being racist for doing so. He had also exposed the fabrication
of temperature records for a fridge storing food. The management told him
to stop asking staff to join a union and said that 'Partners' discussing pay
and that this was a disciplinary offence. Raph was present at today's protest,
which as well as demanding and end to poverty pay for cleaners also demanded
justice for Raph.
The cleaners and supporters, including members of the RMT and PCS trade unions
as well as the IWGB, met in the cafe at the top of the large store, where
they got out their banners, flags, flyers, drums, horns, whistles and a megaphone
before walking out onto the fifth floor and beginning a very noisy progress
around it. They then made their way down the escalator to the next floor,
using the megaphone and flyers to let customers and staff know what was happening
Many customers took the leaflets and expressed their support - and some clapped.
As they made their way around the store the protesters took great care to
avoid any damage, not always easy with some large banners, but this, although
noisy and very visible, was a controlled and peaceful protest. John Lewis
staff, including security generally behaved very well too, and when one man
started to argue noisily with the protesters and seemed to be threatening
them, he was quickly pulled away.
I'm not sure the protesters had intended to go all the way down to the basement,
but finding themselves there, they made a little tour around that before going
back up to the ground floor and holding a short rally just inside the main
entrance, with speeches from RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley,
IWGB Secretary Chris Ford, and Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary of
PCS. By now, around 20 minutes after the protest had begun, the police had
arrived, and the JLP management were told to ask the protesters to leave the
store, and they did so, continuing their protest on the crowded street outside
for another half hour.
Gurkhas Hunger Strike for Justice
Downing St, London. Sat 26 Oct 2013
are curently taking part in a serial hunger strike, but will fast to death
if they don't get justice
The Gurkhas have still not had any positive response to their petition for
justice (see Gurkha Veterans Demand Justice and have
begun their serial hunger strike. If there is still no progress they will
start a fast to the death on November 7.
United Families & Friends Remember the Killed
Whitehall, London. Sat 26 Oct 2013
'No Justice No Peace' as the march to remember those
who died at the hands of police goes down Whitehall
The United Families and Friends Campaign remembered all those who have died
in the custody of police or prison officers, in immigration detention or psychiatric
hospitals in an annual procession down Whitehall to Downing St.
The campaign describes itself:
The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a coalition of families
and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison
officers as well as those who are killed in immigration detention and secure
psychiatric hospitals. It includes the families of Roger Sylvester, Leon
Patterson, Rocky Bennett, Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas,
Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms, Ricky Bishop, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley, Glenn
Howard, Mikey Powell, Jason McPherson, Lloyd Butler, Azelle Rodney, Sean
Rigg, Habib Ullah, Olaseni Lewis, David Emmanuel (aka Smiley Culture), Kingsley
Burrell, Demetre Fraser, Mark Duggan and Anthony Grainger to name but a
few. Together we have built a network for collective action to end deaths
Representatives of many of these families, and some others were on today's
march along with their supporters. As in previous years it gathered on the
edge of Trafalgar Square before making its way down Whitehall at a funereal
pace behind the main banner. Among those holding this were Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennet,
twin sister of Leon Patterson, murdered by Manchester police in 1992 and Carole
Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan whose shooting by police sparked riots in
The march halted opposite Downing St for a rally where many family members
spoke in turn in a shameful exposition of injustice perpetrated by police,
prison officers and mental health workers. Among those at the march for the
first time was the sister of Thomas Orchard, killed by police in Exeter in
2012 when wrongly restrained.
3 Cosas Defy London University Protest Ban
Senate House, University of London. Thu 24 Oct 2013
Students carry the banner through the police line to
leave Senate House after protest
Supporters of the '3 Cosas' campaign for sickpay, holidays and pensions
for all workers at the University of London today defied University management
ban of protests by holding a noisy protest in and around Senate House.
The protesters, mainly students and staff at the univeristy, including cleaners,
see the ban as an attempt to prevent free speech and freedom of assembly at
the university and the threat to bring in the police to prevent further protests
as one which recalls the actions of authoritarian regimes overseas, rightly
condemned across academia and the rest of society. The university threatened
to bring charges of trespass against any protesters.
The ban has served to harden the resolve of individuals and organisations
fighting for justice for the out-sourced workers. Today's protest was called
by the 3 Cosas campaign (Spanish for '3 things), University of London Union
(ULU) and IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) which represents many
of the cleaners in the university, and was supported by others including members
of Unison and the UCU.
The ban followed several highly visible protests at Senate House last academic
year, in the final one of which a philosophy student was arrested on suspicion
of criminal damage for writing a chalk slogan outside the university library.
Police who came to arrest her later were accused of using unnecessary force.
When protesters arrived at Senate House today they found most gates and doors
locked and passageways blocked, ad there were security staff on the two remaining
narrow gates that were open, checking ID and refusing entry to most. The protest
began with a noisy session outside the locked gates to the East car park,
with several large banners. They were joined by one man protesting inside
the gates; security men came and argued with him, asking him to leave, but
left him alone when he refused to budge.
The protesters then took their banners, flags and placards and marched around
to the south Entrance to Senate House, opposite the rather grander North Entrance
to the British Museum, attracting a great deal of interest from the many tourists
waiting to enter.
By the time the march got to the locked West Gates, we could see a small
group of protesters in the lobby under the Senate House who were being ejected
by security. A few protesters climbed over the fence to join them, but the
rest simply pushed away an unguarded barrier or marched across a lawn from
the street to the north, and there was soon a lively protest at the base of
Senate House, where the gates to the lobby were now locked, with security
guards standing in front of them (the security guards are also outsourced
and are one of the main of workers who will benefit from the success of the
3 Cosas campaign.)
The protesters then withdrew to the area outside SOAS just to the north of
Senate House, and I thought the protest was probably over, but a group with
the IWGB banner had other ideas, rushing down the narrow path into the Senate
House East car park, and the rest of us followed.
At Senate House the protest was met by two police offices and management
representatives, who tole them they were not allowed to protest. The only
result of this was to add the slogan 'Cops Off Campus!' to that of
'Sick Pay, Holidays, Pensions, Now!' and the protest continued.
Soon the arrival of another small group of police inflamed the protesters
more, and the shouts of 'Cops Off Campus!' became deafening. The
protesters also complained about the man filming the event from a first floor
window. ULU Vice President Daniel Cooper used a megaphone to question his
activity, and that of the univeristy authorities, and a short time later began
what seemed to be a closing speech for the event, where he talked about the
campaign and the shame that the University was bringing on itself by its refusal
to insist on decent conditions of employment for all workers in the university,
for attempting a ban on freedom of speech and assembly in the university and
for bringing police onto the campus against staff and students of the university.
His speech was interrupted by the arrival of a larger group of police who
ineffectually tried to kettle the protest. There were far to few to do so,
and most protesters simply walked through the gaps in their line.
The police then regrouped in a slightly narrower area to attempt to stop
the protesters who were by now trying to leave the area, but common sense
soon began to dawn, and some officers realised it was counter-productive to
try and stop the protesters leaving. While a few officers were still attempting
with little success to stop the protesters, others were shouting at them to
let them go. The protesters walked away and held a short rally outside SOAS
celebrating their success before dispersing.
Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA
Eaton House, Hounslow, London. Thu 24 Oct 2013
Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters speaking in front
of the Hounslow Reporting Centre
In August, Southall Black Sisters sent a clear message to the UK Borders
Agency that they were not prepared to tolerate their racist behaviour in carrying
out immigration raids on shops and stations, the racist ‘go home vans’
and other manifestations of the government's racist stance on immigration
and its use of the right-wing press to stoke a racist backlash. They state:
"Using immigration laws, the government is seeking to target the
most vulnerable in our society and to legitimise racism in British politics.
It would seem that they are using the anti-immigration and race card for electioneering
The Labour Party too at times seems to have been competing with the Tories
in a contest of words over who can be 'tougher' on immigration, helping to
raise public feelings on the issue. The backlash - and the racial profiling
of the UKBA in their spot checks at rail and underground stations in areas
such as Southall, Slough, Brent and East London cause great anxiety in our
minority communities, many of whom are British citizens born in this country.
The Refugee & Migrant Forum East London (RAMFEL) launched a successful
legal challenge to the Home Office over their use of advertising vans (and
the the Advertising Standards Authority has also criticised some aspects o
fthe campaign.) In response, say Southall Black Sisters, "the UKBA has
shifted the ’Go Home’ message to reporting centres in Glasgow,
Croydon and Hounslow."
Sotuhall Black Sisters thus determined to hold a protest this morning at
the Hounslow Reporting Centre at Eaton House on the Staines Road at the western
edge of Hounslow, inviting others to join with them "in demonstrating
against the Government’s anti-immigration campaigns."
They continue: " We will not tolerate underhand tactics used to
instil fear and divide us. Let us return to the streets and make our voices
heard. We need to fight for our rights."
Around 30 people had found their way to this rather out of the way spot opposite
Hounslow Heath when I was photographing this morning. Most were from Southall
Black Sisters and wore t-shrts with the message 'Do I look illegal?', but
they were joined by others from Sol-Fed and other groups. As well as the familiar
bright red 'Southall Black Sisters' banner, there was also a larger one with
the message 'F**K ALL RACISM - NO ONE IS ILLEGAL'
Since during Labour were in office, governments have fed the newspapers and
broadcasters with propaganda about so-called 'illegal immigrants', a deliberately
slanted description of people who do not have a legal right to live in this
country. They are not 'illegal' but simply do not have permission to be here.
In France, such people are said to be 'without papers', but none of us in
the UK needs papers to live here, so an appropriate but less biased term might
be 'without status'.
The protesters blew plastic horns and whistles and generally made a lot of
noise, as well as shouting a number of chants including 'Teresa May, drop
the pretence, Go home vans cause offence', 'We are humans not illegal, We
want justice for our people' and 'Money for jobs and education, Not
for racist deportation.'
A police officer came and talked to the protesters as they began their protest,
enquiring what they intended to do. A few officers stood around and watched,
occasionally asking that people keep a clear pathway along the very wide pavement.
There were a few people coming to report at the Immigration Centre, quite
a few of whom took an interest in the protest, and a few joined in after they
emerged, and there was a small stream getting on and off buses at the bus
stop outside Eaton House.
There was a minor incident when one officer complained of the language used
by one of the women, who complained strongly that she had been responding
to a racist remark by a passer-by, and asked why the officer had not responed
to that. He replied that he had not heard the remark, but had heard her reply.
He was surrounded by a group of women blowing whistles and horns and banging
drums for a couple of minutes before being rescued by Pragna Patel, Director
of Southall Black Sisters, who told the group they should get on with their
The protest was continuing when I had to leave after around an hour.
Climate Deniers told 'Frack Off'
Regents Park Holiday Inn, London. Wed 23 Oct 2013
Protesters in gas masks stand in the driveway into Holiday
Inn with the message 'Frack Off!'
Activists protested outside the 'Shale Gas Environmental Summit' where
industry figures concerned to deny the environmental impact of fracking were
hearing from noted climate change denier Benny Peiser of the Global Warming
The protesters from Frack Off London came with a giant banner that they hung
between two roadside trees outside the Regents Park Holiday Inn where the
conference was taking place. They label the 'summit' as industry "greenwash"
designed to try to fool the public that fracking is safe and to minimise any
fears about the pollution of watercourses and other problems around unconventional
They chalked slogans across the roadway at the vehicle entrance to the hotel,
with 'No Drill, No Spill', 'No Fracking' and a message to Benny Peiser
, 'GWPF Frack off - climate change deniers'. The large 'KEEP CLEAR'
on the road in front of the entrance had 'of FRACKING!!' added below it in
Two of the protesters then posed wearing gas masks to symbolise the pollution
that fracking has caused at many sites where it is in operation, with some
of the poisonous materials that are pumped into the wells to shatter the shale
escaping into groundwater. Fracking also often releases methane into the air,
a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.
As I left the protesters, some of whom were still arriving, were getting
ready for some noisy chanting opposite the hotel.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded in 2009 to oppose ideas
of climate change and policies to mitigate this, and its director is social
anthropologist Benny Peiser, with former chancellor Nigel Lawson as chair.
It has refused several freedom of information requests to disclose where its
funding comes from. According to its 2011 accounts, voluntary donations from
around 80 individual members came to around £8,000, with the rest of
its over £500,000 budget coming from secret donors. It runs extensive
(and expensive) campaigns lobbying MPs and newspaper editors. Peiser has been
quoted as saying that climate change will actually be a benefit for humanity
and has consistently denied that is it occuring.
According to Wikipedia, the Charity Commission is currently considering the
GWPF's charitable status following a formal complaint by the policy and communications
director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
at the London School of Economics that it had "persistently disseminated
inaccurate and misleading information about climate change as part of its
campaign against climate policies in the UK and overseas."
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has
said that we must leave shale gas and oil in the ground if we want to tackle
Justice for Cleaners Protest
SOAS London University. Wed 23 Oct 2013
speak out on the steps of SOAS
The campaign to bring the SOAS cleaners back in-house and to ensure
that all outsourced workers at SOAS are treated with the dignity and respect
they deserve continued with another lunchtime protest.
Protests at SOAS over a number of years have reesulted in cleaners getting
the London Living Wage, but they are still employed by large outsourcing corporations
rather than the university. This makes them still very much second-class workers
in SOAS, with greatly inferior conditions of service - with only the statutory
provisions for sick pay poor treatment over holidays and no proper pension
The cleaners have enjoyed great support from students and both administrative
and teaching staff employed by SOAS, who all see the contradiction between
the worthy aims of the institution and its teaching with regard to social
justice and the failure to apply this to people working in the institution.
They want the cleaners to be directly employed by SOAS rather than being on
shoddy outsourced contracts.
Currently SOAS management are employing delaying tactics, using a plan to
bring cleaners at several university establishments under common management
to put off any decision about how the cleaners should be employed. They should
instead be using their influence to bring the cleaners in the several institutions
involved onto the university payroll and get rid of outsourcing.
Direct employment of cleaning staff would be beneficial to both the cleaners
and to SOAS, producing a more motivated and loyal workforce that would be
more directly under the control of the institution. Although the outsourcing
company is a huge corporation, its local management here and elsewhere is
generally poor - and cleaners at many workplaces complain of arbitrary treatment,
racism and bullying by poor managers.
The fight for justice at SOAS has been lead by Unison, and as well as their
local rep, Jon Rogers, a member of the Unison National Executive Council also
spake. It seems likely unless the management is willing to change its position
that the workers there will soon be balloting for strike action. Other speakers
included several of the cleaners, representatives from the SOAS students union
and University of London Union's vice-president Daniel Lemberger Cooper.
There was also a disturbing speech about the renaming of one of the rooms
at SOAS. G2 was where cleaners were interrogated by UK Borders staff after
the SOAS management invited them on campus for a raid on the cleaners who
had all been told they had to attend an early morning meeting. One of the
cleaners who was deported as a result of this raid was a woman six months
pregnant. Staff and students at SOAS pressed for management to rename the
room after her son as the Lucas Lecture Theatre. Instead, SOAS management
have decided to rename the room DL2 after the son of a wealthy donor. The
speaker asked those at the protest to reject this decision and to ensure that
the room was always known as the Lucas Lecture Theatre or LLT for short.
The protest was still continuing when I had to leave.
Fossil-Free London Lobby Tour
Bank & Stock Exchange, London. Tue 22 Oct 2013
The protesters used balloons to represent carbon dioxide
Climate campaigners made a tour of London sites which keep us locked
into a fossil fuel dependent economy, stopping to make brief speeches of explanations,
poems and songs, carrying black ballons to represent carbon dioxide.
The tour was a part of a campaign by People & Planet and 350.org to break
the links between UK universities and the fossil fuel industry, aiming to
build a clean energy future for all.
The group met at Bank, where police approached them and asked what they planned
to do, seeming to be satisfied when told it was just going on a tour around
the City with stops to talk about some of the companies and organisations
involved in promoting and profiting from fossil fuels.
At Bank several of the protesters changed into white protective suits, a
singer gave us his version of a Woody Guthrie song, and poet Pete the Temp
performed one of his poems, surrounded by 'Climate Crime Scene' hazard tape
held by the protesters and draped between a couple of lamp posts, and there
was a short introduction to the event and the role of City-based businesses
in promoting climate change through their continuing committment to fossil
Black balloons were then handed out and blown up, to represent carbon emissions,
and some were labelled with tape, others with correcting fluid to indicate
they were carbon dioxide. The group then walked with these to the Stock Exchange,
pausing briefly outside the entrance on Newgate St before moving around to
the main entrance in Paternoster Square.
Here there were more speeches and another song - 'Buddy Can You Spare a Dime'
and the balloons were popped as a small group of police and a security officer
from the Stock Exchange looked on from a few yards away.
The tour then moved off to visit other 'carbon criminals' in the City, and
I left them on the corner of Gresham St.
Chinatown Says 'No Entry UKBA'
Gerrard St, Soho, London. Tue 22 Oct 2013
A woman puts up a 'No Entry' Sign for the UKBA in a
Chinese restuarant window
Chinatown's restuarants and shops closed for two hours this afternoon
for a protest rally and march against 'fishing raids' in Chinatown by the
UK Borders Agency who enter premises and interrogate those present about their
The raids by the UKBA have greatly angered the Chinese community in London's
Chinatown, with groups of their investigators raiding restuarants and other
premises and demanding to see evidence by those at work there that they have
permission to live in the UK.
Many of those questioned in such raids are British citizens, and others have
leave to stay in the country, or are here visiting relatives on tourist visas,
but the raids have found a small number who are in the UK without the proper
papers. But the raids appear to be carried out in a random fashion on the
off-chance that there might be so-called 'illegal immigrants' working in the
premises - 'fishing raids'.
Such raids have no real legal status in the UK, as we are not required to
carry identification and can simply refuse to answer questions and there is
no requirement to give our name or address. We can simply walk away - as a
flyer that was being handed out advised.
As the start of the two hour shut-down approached, more and more shops and
restuarants began to turn customers away and put up signs in their windows
and doorways with the message 'No Entry to UKBA fishing raids'. Soon almost
every restuarant and shop in Gerrard St and the adjoining streets of Chinatown
was shut, and people gathered by the Two Lions statue.
The start of the protest was marked by much furious blowing of whistles,
and then there were a number of speeches by leading members of London's Chinese
Community. As well as objecting to the UKBA raids, some also expressed the
need to be able to bring workers skilled in Chinese cooking to this country
more easily in a legal manner if they were to maintain their traditional practices
which are vital to keep Chinatown truly Chinese.
A small group broke away from the rally to briefly protest outside the only
business still open on Gerrard St, standing outside and shouting for a couple
of minutes, but they soon moved off without any further action.
The organisers then staged a march around Chinatown, before returning to
the Two Lions for some more speeches, and the rally there was continuing as
I left, although some of the workers had gone back to the restuarants to begin
preparations to re-open their doors to customers at the end of the two hour
Movement Against Xenophobia
Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Tue 22 Oct 2013
Lee Jasper speaking towards Parliament in front of
The newly formed Movement Against Xenophobia held a protest and lobby
against Immigration Bill 2013 which was to be debated later in the day, complaining
about its racist and xenophobic nature.
Protesters met outside Parliament and held a rally with a number of speakers
including Habib Rahman, Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare
of Immigrants, Unite political director Jenny Formby, Antonia from the Movement
for Justice, Liberal Democrat Lester Holliday and Lee Jasper who chaired the
The Movement Against Xenophobia is a new campaign aimed at countering the
vicious anti-immigrant discourse of mainstream politics in the UK, and particularly
concerned about the xenophobic nature of the new Immigration Bill, which simply
removes the great majority of the grounds on which foreign nationals can lodge
an appeal against deportation, puts a requirement on banks and landlords to
check immigration status of those setting up accounts or becoming tenants,
increases the fines for employers who hire anyone without the right to work
here, and includes new powers to check driving licence applicants are in the
country legally. The bill also seeks to impose a levy on temporary migrants
to allow them access to free NHS care.
There are already draconian restrictions on bringing spouses to this country
that are splitting many families, with a minimum income level required that
literally half the population cannot meet, causing real hardship and heartache
The government conspires with the right-wing press to whip up distrust and
hatred of foreigners and to creat a climate of hostility and fear. It competes
with the opposition in an attempt to exhibit a harder line against immigrants.
The recent racist vans and e-mails sent out by the government are an example
of how low it will sink.
Yet report after report show that migrants make a substantial postitive contribution
to the economy, enrich Britain’s culture and improve the standard of
its public services. The Movement Against Xemnophobia (MAX)says in a statement
on their web site:
- We call upon politicians and the media to end the use of language that
could incite racism and xenophobia.
- We call upon the Government to reject the ‘numbers game’
politics of immigration and to pursue an immigration system built on human
rights and the needs of the UK.
- We call for the media to show responsibility and to put an end to the
publication of sensational and unfounded stories which incite racial hatred
and hatred towards migrants and refugees.
- We will defend the right of refugees to seek asylum in the UK under the
1951 Geneva Convention. We insist that while seeking asylum, people should
be treated with respect and afforded fundamental rights.
- We will resist any attacks on human rights. Any such attack on the European
Convention on Human Rights or domestic legislation would be primarily aimed
at immigrants and then used against all.
- We will speak out against racism and xenophobia and to defend migrant
communities and refugees.
- We offer our support to those in the political parties and in the media
who oppose the cultivation of xenophobia and hostility to migrants.
We want to live in a civilized society where people, irrespective of background,
are valued and treated with respect. We are migrants, descendants of migrants
and ‘indigenous’ British people. We stand together for a diverse
and inclusive society. We believe we can live together with dignity and
peace, learning from each other’s differences and contributing to
a better place for future generations to live in.
Join with us in rejecting this move towards intolerance, and join the fight
for a more inclusive UK.
MAX is a coalition of many existing groups concerned over the increasing
victimisation of migrants in the UK and the rising level of racism among politicians
and racist violence in the country. It intends to challenge the current vicious
anti-immigrant discourse. One useful starting point would be to challenge
the continual use of the term 'illegal immigrant'. No one is illegal, although
they may not have the legal right to live here. They are undocumented but
Vigil at Work Assessments Appeal
Royal Courts of Justice, London. Mon 21 Oct 2013
Woman speaking at vigil outside the Royal Courts of
Disablement activists from Mental Health Resistance Network & DPAC
held a vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice as the government appealed against
May's judgement that work capability assessments discriminate against the
disabled and mentally ill.
TThe judicial review in May focussed on specific issues for those with mental
health issues – that of gathering supporting evidence. Individuals are
responsible for gathering their own medical evidence and sending it to the
Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). There have been many complaints of
the information submitted being lost, but even if not, the requirement to
make this submission is difficult for many applicants. Many have also complained
that even when this evidence is submitted is is not properly considered in
coming to a decision.
The case was taken by the Mental Health Resistance Network, and today they
had organised a vigil at the start of the appeal against the ruling by the
DWP. It's difficult to understand why the DWP decided to appeal rather than
to mend their ways and introduce a fairer and more rational assessment system.
Perhaps they hope they can win on some legal technicality, but the system
is widely seen to be both discriminatory and largely dysfunction - as even
reports they have themselves commissioned have shown. There is an urgent need
for change, and radical reform to a system so that it makes the needs of benefit
claimants rather than a simplistic approach to cost-cutting its priority.
Frankly the court case seems a distraction when change is so obviously needed.
As one of those who spoke today pointed out, cutting benefits is not necessarily
cost-effective. After failing an Atos assessment, her benefit was cut, which
precipitated a breakdown that required crisis care from the NHS at a cost
of around £40,000, approaching a hundred times the saving of the benefit
It is perhaps surprising that any government can withstand public opinion
over a policy that in 2011 resulted - according to DWP statistics obtained
by Freedom of Information request - 73 deaths per week within 3 months of
a failed Atos assessment. The DWP's response to these damning statistics was
to stop collecting the statistics - and to leak various stories about 'benefit
scroungers' to the press, who continue to publish many stories about this
while ignoring the much more serious problems of the benefits system.
The DWP's attitude can be clearly seen in their recent response to a 'consultation'
over the distance disabled people have to be unable to walk to qualify for
Personal Independence Payments. The consultation only took place after legal
action forced them to do so.
While a distance of 50 metres is generally used as a Government measure of
mobility, the distance for PIP is set at only 20 metres. Of 1124 responses
to the consultation only 5 supported the 20 metre criterion. The DWP response
notes this and that many respondents were concerned that the 20 metres distance
"would have negative consequences for individuals" and "could
increase isolation and reduce independence, have significant financial impact,
and cause deterioration in their physical and mental health.
But despite the overwhelming response the DWP have decided not to change
from the 20m criterion. What is the point of consultation if no action is
taken on the comments made?
The appeal proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice are expected to finish
at 1pm tomorrow, but it may be some weeks before the decision is announced.
Make Caste Discrimination Illegal Now
Hyde Park to Whitehall, London. Sat 19 Oct 2013
Protesters, mainly from the Ravidassia community, marched in the rain demanding
the government act
Approaching a thousand marched through central London taking a petition
by CasteWatch UK with over 20,000 signatures to Downing St, calling for an
end to the government delays in making caste discrimination illegal in the
The Labour government in the Equality Act 2010 gave the power to the Minister
to prohibit caste discrimination by making caste an aspect of race, but they
lost the election before doing so.
The coalition government did not want to act, but suffered several defeats
in Parliament and were eventually forced to do something. Earlier this year,
Parliament inserted a provision in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act
2013 mandating the minister to provide for caste to be made an aspect of race,
but instead of carrying this out, they set a two year timetable for consultation.
The consultation appears only to be with established groups dominated by upper
caste interests, and its length entirely unnecessary.
The long delay announced by Minister for Women and Equalities Helen Grant
MP appears to be as a result of lobbying by the Alliance of Hindu Organisations,
(AHO) a body set up to oppose what they call "the threat posed by
this proposed amendment to the Equality Act 2010."
It isn't clear why a simple elimination of a clearly discriminatory practice
shouled be regarded as a threat. Caste discrimination has long been illegal
(although still rife) in India. A speaker from the South Asia Solidarity Group
at the rally challenged the claim of the AHO to speak for the Hindu community
in the UK, and alleged that they were dominated by supporters of groups that
would be considered fascist in the UK and were responsible for atrocities
against non-Hindus in India.
Other speakers included leaders from the Ravidassia community and a Sikh,
who reminded the rally that opposition to castism was one of the central aspects
of the Sikh religion - and so also of Ravidassia, which has close links to
Sikhism which have been strained since the murder in 2009 of a leading Ravidassia
cleric by hardline orthodox Sikh militants.
The organisers, CasteWatch UK, brought with them a petition with over 20,000
signatures which a small group took into to 10 Downing St while a rally was
held opposite on Whitehall. The petition called on the government "to
act quickly to give effect to Parliament's intention and to protest actual
and potential victims of caste discrimination" and to set an new,
prompt timetable, starting as soon as possible and lasting no more than 12
weeks so that an order under the Equality Act 2010 is made at the latest by
Both houses of parliament have voted for caste discrimination to be made
illegal in the UK and the government's failure to act immediately to do so
under pressure from extremist higher caste groups seems inexcusable.
CasteWatch UK say over 200,000 people from the so-called lower castes are
now living in the UK and are affected by caste discrimination. A statement
by Satpal Muman (Chairman) and Davinder Parsad (Secretary) of Caste Watch
“There is opposition to the legislation from some sections of Asian
communities who want to maintain the status quo of Caste. These communities
have exerted a powerful influence on the government to procrastinate.”
“Victims of Caste Based Discrimination deserve the same legal protection
as those affected by discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion
and disability etc. It is unacceptable that in modern Britain, why one section
of the community should discriminate against another based on outdated ancient
customs and traditions. Caste victims deserve immediate protection!”
Don't Be Blind to DR Congo Murders
Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 19 Oct 2013
Protesters handed out a thousand free flowers
Activists posed in blindfolds while others handed out a thousand free
flowers at Piccadilly Circus to urge people not to be blind to the atrocities
in SR Congo, Uganda & Rwanda as battles continue for their mineral wealth.
The west has largely turned a blind eye to the horrific conflicts in these
countries, where more than 8 million people have been murdered and over 500,00
men, women and children raped as various armies, funded by many European and
North African multinational companies have fought for gold, diamonds and in
particular coltan in the area.
Few in the UK have heard of coltan, but this mineral containing both niobium
and tantalum is a vital material for the capacitors which are essential in
mobile phones, computers, missiles and other modern technology on which we
rely. The fight for it has been the main incentive behind the genocidal wars
that have waged in the area.
Various protests over the years by Congolese in London have met with no real
response from our government. The 'Don't be Blind This Time' campaign aims
to draw public attention to what is happening in this part of Africa, where
no one has been brought to justice for the crimes against humanity. They have
lunached an online petition at the 'Don't be Blind This Time' web site and
today were handing out a thousand flowers with their message that we need
to demand justice and an end to the impunity and cover up around this conflict.
Global Frackdown: Lord Browne resign!
Mayfair, London. Sat 19 Oct 2013
'Lord Browne Frack Off!' was the message to Cuadrilla boss.
A protest at Riverstone Holdings, a private equity firm in which Lord
Browne of Madingley is managing director, called on the former BP boss to
resign from his position in the House of Lords because of his vested interests
Lord Browne became managing director of BP from 1991 until he resigned on
May 1, 2007 after news of his private life and in particular that he had committed
perjury to prevent details of this becoming known. In his time at BP he was
responsible for a ruthless programme of cost-cutting that many feel compromised
safety and contributed to the 2005 Texas City Refinery explosion and in 2010,
the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Lord Browne is now Managing Director and Managing Partner (Europe) of Riverstone
Holdings LLC, and more significantly for today's protest the chairman of Britain's
only shale gas driller Cuadrilla Resources, the company whose exploratory
drilling at Balcombe hit the news earlier this year.
In a protest that was a part of a 'Global Frackdown' taking place round the
world today, with protests elsewhere in the UK and in Romania, France, Spain,
Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and Indonesia - and 26 countries in all, around
20 young Friends of the Earth activists met on Oxford St before walking to
the offices of Riverstone Holdings in Burlington Gardens, where the company
are on the 6th floor of an office building.
After a brief speech explaining Lord Browne's involvement with both Riverstone
Holdings and Cuadrilla, those taking part were invited to write messages to
be put into a small brown rubbish bin to be left at the offices for him. Several
people did so while others posed with banners and posters. Then people posed
holding letters that spelt out first 'Lord Browne don't frack our futures'
and then 'Solidarity Elsipogtog', showing their support for Elsipogtog First
Nation, a Mi'kmaq First Nations band government in New Brunswick, Canada,
where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police attacked protesters demonstrating
against fracking a few days ago. The RCMP used live ammunition and tear gas,
and then arrested more than 40 people in their attempt to enforce an injunction
to end the protest there.
In London, police merely came to ask the protesters what they attempted to
do before saying 'Fine, no problem' and moving back. PCSOs did later ask the
protesters to ensure there was a free path along the pavement and remind them
and photographers of the danger from the slow moving traffic along Burlington
The protesters are worried about the pollution of the fracking process -
a single well can need 2-9 million gallons of water contaminated with sand
and toxic chemicals, much of which returns to the surface to contaminate water
sources with radioactive chemicals. They also oppose the further exploitation
of any fossil fuels - whether fracked or not - because of the contribution
of carbon dioxide and other climate changing chemicals when the gas produced
The protesters got ready to deliver their messages to the office reception,
only to find that the doors, which had been open earlier, were now locked.
They left the bin containing them in front of the doors and dispersed.
Stop Shipping Tear Gas to Bahrain
Korean Embassy, Westminster, London. Fri 18 Oct 2013
A protester in a gas mask in front of a Bahraini flag
A protest at the Korean Embassy in London by the Campaign Against Arms
Trade and free Bahrainis called on the Korea to stop a massive teargas shipment
by Korean companies to Bahrain.
Recently the Bahraini government put out a tender for the supply of over
1.6 million canisters of teargas to Bahrain - more than one canister for every
single Bahraini. The main suppliers of teagas used there have been the DaeKwang
Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech of South Korea along with South African/German
company Rheinmetall Denel. The two Korean companies between them supplied
more than 1.5 million canisters in 2001-2012.
Since 2011, Bahrain's security forces have misused tear gas indiscriminately
and inhumanely, causing injury, death, miscarriages, and possible long-term
health complications. Tear gas is supposed to be 'non-lethal' but the high
level of use, including firing directly into homes and also the firing of
canisters at short range at people have caused serious injuries and deaths.
According to Physicians for Human Rights, 39 people have died from the use
of tear gas, and some of the protesters today held up some horrific photographs
of their injuries.
The protesters asked the Koreans to immediately stop exporting CS gas and
other chemical agents to Bahrain, so that no more peaceful protesters would
be killed with Korean products. They reminded the Korean Ambassador that other
countries, including the United States, have already stopped exporting tear
gas to Bahrain because of the abuses there, and that companies that continue
to export these products will be held liable under International Law on the
grounds of contributing to the intentional abuse and misuse of chemical agents
by the Bahrain security forces.
The protesters invited the Ambassador or other Korean representative to come
out from the embassy and discuss the issue with them, but no one had done
so by the time I left the protest. The embassy had presumably called the police,
as a police car and two police motorcyclists had arrived and were watching
the peaceful protest on the pavement opposite the embassy.
Many of the protesters wore rubber 'gas masks' and waved Bahraini flags.
One chalked the message 'Stop the Shipments' in large chalk letters on the
pavement, and there were several banners about tear gas.
Anti-Slavery Day Sinai Torture Protest
Westminster, London. Fri 18 Oct 2013
A protester holds up a poster in front of the Houses of Parliament
The Stop Sinai Torture Campaign marched to parliament on UK Anti-Slavery
Day against human trafficking and criminal gangs in Egypt’s Sinai Desert
who traffick and brutally torture refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from
Eritrea and Sudan.
They came to present a petition to the UK Government to put pressure on the
United Nations to identify and apprehend traffickers, and to help protect
victims of trafficking. Amnesty International reported in April that “many
people held captive in Sinai have been subjected to extreme violence and brutality
while waiting for ransoms to be paid by families. Including beatings with
metal chains, sticks and whips; burning with cigarette butts or heated rubber
and metal objects; suspension from the ceiling; pouring gasoline over the
body and setting it on fire...being urinated on and having finger nails pulled
out. Rape of men and women, and other forms of sexual violence have been frequently
The protesters met at Marble Arch to march through London to the Houses of
Parliament where I met them and they held a rally. When I left they were waiting
for Frank Field MP who was to come out later and to present their petition.
He is working with Teresa May who at the Tory Party conference announced that
the government plans to introduce a Modern Day Slavery Bill, aimed at eliminating
slavery in the UK.
Teachers March against Government Plans
Westminster, London. Thu 17 Oct 2013
The protest reached a peak outside the offices of the
Department for Education
Striking teachers from London and the South marched through London to
a rally in Westminster against government attacks on pensions and pay and
Michael Gove's plan to remove all limits to the working day and the school
The strike by members of the NUT and NASUWT has been well supported in schools,
with some London boroughs reporting over 40% of schools completely closed,
with less than 10% able to work normally. The march through London was huge,
at one point stretching out almost a mile, and it brought much of central
London to a halt for several hours with traffic chaos.
Teachers are angry at what they see as an attack which threatens the future
of education in England by ninister Michael Gove, and at his failure to negotiate
with the unions over his proposals to severely worsen their working conditions.
They demand that he abandon his plans to de-regulate teachers' pay and conditions,
which would allow schools to set their own pay levels, working hours and holiday
dates and lead to chaos and, at school level, waste much time and effort in
bureaucracy. National pay negotiations lead are fairer and prevent much pointless
competition between schools to attract the best teachers and avoid contention
between management and staff. As NUT General Secretary Christine Blower points
out "even large multinational companies like Tescop and Sainsbury's have
a national framework of pay and conditions for their staff."
The teachers want Gove to carry out the long overdue valuation of the Teachers'
Pension scheme and withdraw the threat to make teachers work until they are
68, and to withdraw his proposals for Performance Related Pay.
I met the front of the march, which began next to the University of London
in Malet St, as it came past Downing St, where many protesters paused briefly
to shout. The march continued past the Houses of Parliament in Parliament
Square, then past the Dept for Education. After a few thousand had marched
past, others decided to stop on the road there and there was a large crowd
still outside shouting at the ministry when I left some time later. The end
of the march was by then just leaving Parliament Square.
I had to walk to my next destination, as the bus services were disrupted
and many roads jammed with traffic. At Aldwych I got on a bus, only to get
off it again five minutes later as it had only moved a few feet in that time,
and continued on foot. An hour later, coming home, traffic on Kingsway was
still moving at less than walking speed in both directions.
Letting Agencies Illegal Colour Bar
Willesden, London. Tue 15 Oct 2013
On the march against racist letting agencies with Brent
Housing Action, Unite Community and others
Protesters in Brent were quick to react after revelations broadcast last
night on BBC London's 'Inside Out London' shown on BBC1 showed ten lettings
agents, including two on Willesden High Road, prepared to break equality laws
and discriminate against African-Caribbean people on behalf of landlords.
The BBC investigators had asked the agents to put a Ladbroke Grove flat on
the market having first checked with them they were willing to discriminate,
although the agents clearly knew it was illegal. Matched Black and White investigators
then went to ask for a viewing. At National Estates, the Black applicant was
told the flat had already been let, while the White man was given an appointment
to view, while A to Z told the Black investigator they would ring back - but
never did, while offering the White investigator a viewing. It seems clear
that both agents were operating an illegal colour bar.
Brent Housing Action organised a protest against National Estate
Agents and A to Z Property services, the two agents highlighted in the BBC
report, supported by Unite Community, Brent Renters Campaign, Housing
4 All (the Counihan Family Campaign), Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group,
and Cllr Margaret McLennan, Brent Council's lead member for housing. Several
other Brent councillors and prospective councillors and other members of the
Labour and Green Parties were also present. Khuran Siab and Kevin Smith from
the Willesden Green branch of estate agents Harts just along the road from
National Estates also joined the protest.
There was a little unpleasantness at the start of the protest when some Brent
councillors were unhappy at the presence of Counihan's 'Housing 4 All' banner
and Isabel Counihan-Sanchez and other supporters. The family campaign, revealing
unfair treatment and mismanagement by Brent Council has been a cause celebre
in the area, and there was some rudeness towards them, and an attempt to stop
their banner being photographed by the press.
But the local politics were soon forgotten in the unity shown by all against
the illegal colour bar by the letting agents. It seemed to many like a return
to the disgusting practices of the 1950s and 60s, made illegal under the 1968
Race Relations Act, and now against the Equality Act 2010.
Both letting agents were closed and shuttered for the day, possibly in reaction
to the BBC report and planned protest. The protesters want to see them and
others who break the law in this way brought to justice, and would like to
see such businesses closed down. It is well known that discrimination by letting
agents is a common practice, and the BBC report mentioned a Runnymede Trust
survey that showed "29% of black people seeking private housing had
experienced discrimination - compared to 1% of white respondents."
The BBC also say that "36 people told the Property Ombudsman they
were the victim of racial discrimination in the past three years, not one
single complaint was upheld" and "Only two allegations
resulted in a full investigation."
After around half an hour of protest outside National Estate Agents, around
30 protesters marched the half mile along Willesden High Rd to A to Z Properties,
where a further protest with a few short speeches by Sarah Cox and others
Brent is one of London's more multicultural boroughs, and one with a proud
record of community activities celebrating this. Brent Housing Action and
others including Brent councillors are to take further actions against this
colour bar by the lettings agencies and intend to "make sure these
practices - and the racism underpinning them - can finally be consigned to
Vigil for Shaker Aamer
Parliament Square, London SW1. Wed 9 Oct 2013
carry the banner and placards along the pavement in Parliament Square
Every weekday in spring and summer, lunchtime visitors to the Houses
of Parliament were greeted by campaigners in orange jumpsuits, from the Save
Shaker Aamer Campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker
Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has just complained to
the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which "investigates complaints
about the conduct of the UK’s intelligence agencies," about
the intelligence services’ role in his kidnapping and torture, and,
in the US, has submitted a motion calling for him to be allowed a visit by
an independent medical expert.
Cleared for release in 2007 and again in 2010, Shaker’s ongoing detention
is an abomination, and an indictment of the indifference of both the US and
Campaigners are resuming regular vigils, normally weekly, beginning on Wednesday
October 9, seeking to draw attention to the failures of both President Obama
and David Cameron, as well as demanding a full Parliamentary debate about
Earlier this year, campaigners secured the 100,000 signatures on an e-petition
that were necessary to trigger a Parliamentary debate, but all that has happened
so far is a backbench debate in Westminster Hall.
Cannabis Hypocrisy Protest
Westminster, London. Wed 9 Oct 2013
An MS sufferer tells me how important cannabis is in her condition
A protest opposite Parliament called for reform of the laws about cannabis,
in particular to allow its medical use for MS sufferers. Legal medical cannabis
is mainly available here to MS sufferers who can afford to pay its very high
The protest started late, and by the time I went home around 90 minutes afterwards,
the megaphone or PA system they wanted to begin the speeches had still not
arrived. They had hoped to have a Dutch MS sufferer with a licence allowing
them to smoke it legally - even in the UK - would be at the protest, but he
was unable to attend, and a replacement could not get the paperwork through
But quite a few people did arrive, and sat around on the grass smoking. Someone
played a guitar, and there was some music from a small loudspeaker with a
cannabis motif. Two police came and took a look and then strolled away. I
was finding the smell of the smoke a little disturbing, making me feel just
slightly unbalanced, and left.
Gurkha Veterans Demand Justice
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Wed 9 Oct 2013
of the Ghurkas wore their campaign medals
Elderly Gurkha veterans did not benefit from earlier campaigns for fair
treatment and most live here in extreme poverty. They petitioned the government
and hold regular protests at Parliament, in advance of a hunger strike to
begin on 24 October.
They hold a protest by the statue of King George V in Old Palace Yard every
Wednesday and Thursday at noon, 2pm and 4pm, with an invitation to the government
to hold talks with them there.
They submitted their petition to Prime Minister David Cameron and the Nepalese
Prime Minister and have "with a heavy heart ... issued an ultimatum to
Downing St that if serious action does not take place and talks are not held
with our advocated by 24 October 2013" they will begin a programme of
nonviolent resistance (Satyagraha) with hunger strikes, at first
with a "13 days relay hunger strike in the name of the 13 Ghurka
VCs followed by a fast-unto-death."
Police & Developers Evict Soho Working Girls
Greek St, Soho, London. Wed 9 Oct 2013
Women support Soho sex workers in fight against evictions
that render them unsafe
Soho police threatened to prosecute Soho Estates for letting their premises
be used as brothels; they threatened the leaseholders who last night evicted
the women. The real reasons that underlie the continuing campaigns for these
and similar evictions in Soho is thought to be to empty properties to allow
Evictions like this in Romilly St last night of sex workers and their receptionists
are taking place regardless of whether there is evidence that the flats are
brothels. If there is only one sex worker in each flat, no offence is being
committed. Many sex workers apparently chose to work in this way, with a receptionist,
as a legal and far safer alternative to working on the street. The action
by the police which leads to the eviction of women forces many back to working
on the street and the many dangers that arise.
Soho Estates managing director John James (the son-in-law of the late Paul
Raymond) came out to meet the protesters and argue their case, saying that
the police notice gave them no choice but to get their leaseholders in Romilly
St to take action. Of course that isn't true; they could have asked the leaseholders
to investigate if any of the flats were occupied by more than a single sex-worker,
and if so to either evict those particular flats or ensure that they only
had a single sex worker. Having done so, they could have told the police that
they have investigated and are satisfied there are no brothels on the premises
- and ignore the notification letters.
Soho estates own over 60 acres around Soho, and are thought to be worth more
the £370 million. They could well afford to back cases like this as
a part of their avowed aim to keep the unique edgy intimacy of the area -
this is really a part of the heart of Soho that the company says it wants
The police are then very unlikely to take cases to court, and likely to lose
should they do so. The whole point of using the notification letters is as
a rather underhand method of avoiding court proceedings by intimidating the
property owners and leaseholders. It's something the English Collective of
Prostitutes (ECP) is hoping to challenge in court.
As well as speakers from various groups supporting the 'working girls', including
Women Against Rape and the ECP who organised the protest, and several of the
women who were evicted, the protest was addressed by a speaker from the Soho
Society, who gave her support. Their activites are one of the oldest traditions
of the area, and cause no problems with their neighbours and the many other
trades of the area.
In a press release, Tracy, one of those evivted from Romilly Street commented:
“We will all lose our livelihoods. I’ve been working in
Soho for 33 years, first as a working woman and now as a receptionist. We
are not criminals. We are mothers and grandmothers supporting families.
What other choices do we have to make a living – zero hours contracts
on less than the minimum wage in restaurants, warehouses or cleaning? We
cannot support our families on that.”
The police are widely seen as being agents of the property developers who
want to make billions from knocking down Soho and redevelop parts of it as
hotels and luxury flats.
Soho is an area of London with a unique ambience, and one that is very much
at danger from redevelopment. Women working in flats in Peter Street were
recently told they are to be evicted in January - to make way for a major
hotel and luxury flats development.
The ECP say:
Local residents and businesses have always supported sex workers in
Soho. Thousands signed a petition against previous evictions. Many express
fears that gentrification is behind attempts to close these flats and that
if sex workers are forced out it will lead the way for other small and unique
businesses and bars to be drowned out by major construction, chain stores
Scrap Royal London NHS PFI Debt
Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, London. Tue 8 Oct 2013
Nurses and others protest behind the banner outside
the Royal London Hospital
Campaigners protested at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel where
PFI payments of £129m a year to a private consortium are ruining Barts
Health Trust leading to downgrading of staff, staff shortages and planned
hospital closures across east London.
The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel was in desperate need of a new
buiding, but instead of funding this through government expenditure, a ruinous
Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was agreed with a private consortium. The
annual repayment on this of £129m threatens NHS services not just at
the Royal London, but at all the hospitals in the Barts Health Trust, which
covers much of East London, including Barts, The Royal London, Newham General,
Whipps Cross and London Chest Hospital, as well as many smaller community
To meet these repayments, Barts Health Trust needs to cut £78m from
its budget this year, an impossible task without severely limiting the services
it provides both in the hospitals and in community services.
The trust proposes to downgrade the posts of many of its staff, paying them
less for doing the same work, or rather doing more work, as there will be
increasing staff shortages with vacancies being deliberately left unfilled
- and new staff being unwilling to come and work for a trust that wants to
pay them less than their experience and qualifications merit.
Inevitably as well as attacking the staff, the trust will close some departments
and A&E at Whipps Cross or Newham seem likely to close. The situation
for those who live in east London is made wose by the threats of closures
at neighbouring Homerton Hospital. Altogether there are nine casualty departments
in London currently under threat of closure.
The protesters started their rally on the pavement outside the hospital on
the busy Whitechapel Road, but police soon told them there were too many people
and after a short debate the protest moved into the access road in front of
the new PFI-finanaced Royal London Hospital (where they had previously been
denied permission to hold it.)
There were speeches from GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and trade union reps
from the Royal London and from Whipps Cross, who made clear both the severity
of the current problems and the likely consequences of the plans by the trust.
At the moment the Royal London is seriously under stress, unable to open the
top two floors of the very expensive new building, and for two days recently
unable to admit any new patients.
The only solution is to find ways to remove the PFI debt. There is a strong
argument for renegotiation of the contracts, which were often far too favourable
to the providers of the finance and made in a very different financial climate.
As one speaker pointed out, althought he government say that this is not possible
because they are contracts, the fact that hospital staff have contracts is
not preventing their employers from trying to change them to pay them on lower
Trade unionists from other unions and workplaces also came to give their
support, both from local government and the RMT. There was a good spirit to
the rally, and a real determination to keep the NHS providing a good service
to the public. In the closing speech, Candy Udwin, of Keep Our NHS Public
shared some good news to encourage the fight to save the hosopitals. She told
the meeting of some successes. Lewisham Hospital had not just won its court
case, the trusts also received extra funding to offset some of the PFI cuts.
Another success had been acheived at the Whittington Hospital, where protests
had led to the dropping of closure plands. And in Hackney, Harmoni had lost
their contract for out of hours services to local GPs.
Don't Gag Free Speech
Parliament Square, London. Tue 8 Oct 2013
A protester with a gag across here mouth and a placard
'Censorship = Dictatorship - You will not silence us
A rally in Parliament Square in London celebrated freedom of speech
on the day that the government debated a controversial gagging law which would
prevent non-politicians from expressing their views and campaigning on serious
The aim of the new proposed anti-lobbying laws was said to be to prevent
lobbying by commercial lobbyists on behalr of companies and private interests,
but it almost totall fails to address this. Instead it would place severe
limitations on the ability of charities and non-governmental organisations
to campaign on an very wide range of issues in the year before elections,
leading to complaints from a whole range of charities and organisations, including
Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Hope Not Hate, the British Legion and the RSPB.
The changes have been opposed by bodies including the National Council for
Voluntary Organisations and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary
Organisations, attacked by MPs on both sides of the house and by many champtions
of free speech, including bloggers who would be affected by the law.
There are already some bodies whose expenditure on campaigning is capped
in the year before an election, and the bill proposed to cut the amount they
could spend drastically, reducing the cash amount to well under half the present
limit, and also including items of expenditure previously not accounted for
- such as rallies, advertising and staff costs - into the regulated amount.
Campaigners see the proposals as undemocratic, preventing the free expression
of any views that may have a political dimension except by those who are a
part of registered political parties. Politics really is too important to
be left to the politicians, however inconvenient or embarassing the views
of the rest of us may be to them, their free expression is at the base of
PMOI call for release of 7 Hostages in Iraq
Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 6 Oct 2013
I think the white balloons with faces represented
the 52 martyrs who had gone to heaven.
Members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, many on
the 36th day of hunger strike, held an protest in Trafalgar Square calling
for the release of 7 hostages taken when Iraqi forces invaded Camp Ashraf
on September 1, killing 52.
The attack on the camp in Iraq where the Iranians live as refugees was ordered
by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Mailki and is the latest in a long history
of attacks on the Iranian militia group who are refugees in Iraq. The seven
prisoners are still held in the Baghdad Green Zone in Iraq despite calls by
a hundred Iraqi MPs for their release. Hunger strikes were started at Camp
Ashraf and by Iranians in Geneva, Berlin, Ottawa, Melbourne and London, where
they set up a camp in front of the US Embassy. A line of hunger strikers,
on the 36 day of their strike, was seated at the front of the audience at
today's rally, holding roses and taking an active part in the event, raising
their fists and shouting.
The rally called for immediate release of the seven prisoners, and for UN
forces to be stationed permanently at Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty to provide
the protection the PMOI, who the UN granted asylum status. They urged the
USA and UN agencies to make urgent representtion for the release of the prisoners.
The People's Mujahedin of Iran is also known as the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK)
and was formed as a leftist political mass movement in Iran in 1965. It was
one of the groups that took part in the 1979 revolution against the Shah.
After the revolution it at first sided with Ayatollah Khomeni but was soon
involved in an armed struggle with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, eventually
having to take refuge in neighbouring Iraq, where Saddam Hussein gave it refuge.
After the US invasion of Iraq when its camps were bombed, a ceasefire was
agreed with the US and the PMOI renounced violence and gave up its arms -
including 19 Chieftain tanks and the party became the main part of the Iranian
parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), with
its base in Paris. In Iraq, the roughly 5000 PMOI fighters were confined in
the refugee Camp Ashraf, guarded by the US military and declared by the US
as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The camp was transferred
to Iraqi control at the start of 2009, and in 2012 those remaining were transferred
to the former US military base Camp Liberty in Bagdhad, renamed Camp Hurriya.
Both Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty have been attacked by Iraqi security forces,
with a raid in July 2009 on Camp Ashraf killing 11 and injuring over 500.
They also arrested 36, who were later released in near death condition following
an extended hunger strike. There was a further attack in October 2010 and
in January 2011, when 176 were wounded, apparently by Iraqis paid by the Iranian
government. In April 2011, Iraqi security forces attacked again an 36 camp
residents were killed and 320 injured. Camp Liberty was attacked by the Iraqis
on 9 Feb 2013 using mortars and rockets, with at least 7 deaths and many injuries.
The PMOI residents have appealed to the UN Secretary General and the US for
help, and to be allowed to move back to Camp Ashraf, which has concrete buildings
which give greater protection.
The PMOI is regarded as a terrorist group by both Iraq and Iran, but the
EU removed them from its list of terrorist groups in 2009 and the US in 2012.
But they are alleged to have carried out severe human rights abuses against
former members. After they left Camp Ashraf there were several allegations
that mass graves were found there, but the PMOI say that these reports were
part of a continuing Iranian demonization campaign against them, and point
out that US and UN investigations have been unable to confirm the reports.
Egypt For & Against Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian Embassy, South St, London. Sun 6 Oct 2013
Egyptian women shout their support of the army deposing
A group of around a hundred Muslims, including some Egyptians was protesting
noising opposite the Egyptian Embassy against the removal of Egyptian President
Morsi by the army, and the subsequent heavy-handed suppression of protests
by the Muslim Brotherhood. They call the army's actions a military coup.
A few yards along the road was a smaller protest with perhaps half as many
present, mainly women and almost all Egyptians. They were there to support
the actions by the army, saying that ed-President Mohamed Morsi who had narrowly
won the election run-off in June 2012 had abused his position of power by
granted himself unlimited powers and issuing an Islamist-backed draft constitution.
His call for a referendum on this was seen as a betrayal of the Egyptian revolution
against Mubarak and an attempt at an Islamist coup.
Freedom for Ocalan & Kurdistan
Wood Green, London. Sun 6 Oct 2013
banners, including a large image of Ocalan are laid out ready for the march
Kurds marched through north London on the 15th anniversary of the kidnappping
of their national leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1998, calling for peace, the release
of Ocalan and a free Kurdistan.
Daily Mail You Told All the Lies
Daily Mail, Kensington, London. Sun 6 Oct 2013
Daily Mail apologise now over the lies about Ralph Milliband
Several hundred went to the Daily Mail to protest against the many lies against
the BBC, NHS, public sector workers, trade unionists, socialists, women, Muslims,
travellers and others brought to a head in its unfair attack on Ralph Milliband.
The lies about and distortion about Ralph Milliband, published in the Daily
Mail as a part of its smear campaign to discredit his son Labour Party leader
and possible future Prime Minister Ed Milliband marked for many a new low
in British politics and the press. Many, even many staunch Conservatives,
felt the Daily Mail had gone over the line of what is acceptable in British
politics. It was an attack based on an out of context adolescent observation
by a man who served his adopted country valiantly in the war and went on to
be one of the most respected academics of the post-war period, respected by
people across the political spectrum. Like a majority of the British, he despised
the class system and he wanted the reform or abolition of many British institutions,
as too does the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail hates most of those institutions that have truly made Britain
great - like the welfare state, the NHS and the BBC and the public sector
generally. It may perhaps have outgrown the anti-semitism which in the 1930s
made it praise the Blackshirts and Hitler (when Ralph Milliband was fleeing
from the Nazis and then enlisting to fight them) although its recent backing
for French fascist Marine Le Pen suggests otherwise.
The protest at the Daily Mail's Kensington headquarters was organised by
The People's Assembly, a nationwide group set up in opposition to the current
government's austerity programme and to defend the provision of education,
health and welfare from general taxation and available to all.
Several hundred came on a Sunday morning and held a rally opposite one of
the entrances to the building. Many carried placards showing they were proud
to be a part of the Britain 'Hate By the Daily Mail'. They chanted "NHS,
Welfare State, This is what the Mail hates" and "Who told all the
lies? Daily Mail, Daily Mail, you told all the lies" and other slogans.
One woman sang a song expressing the Daily Mail's view of Britain, with words
by Mavis Cook. One verse ran:
'When Hitler's fascist forces
were trampling on the Gypsies and the Jews.
The Rothermere rage was a daily bag
of fascist-friendly racist views'
After around half an hour a rally began, with a short introduction and then
a little entertainment by a singer. Two men then delivered the two boxes full
of petitions across the road into the Daily Mail offices.The speeches started
shortly after with a characteristically powerful one from Owen Jobes. A number
of others were waiting to speak, but I had to leave.
protest at the The Daily Mail against its many lies and distortions against
the welfare state, the public sector, socialists and trade unionists and minorities
and its recent attack on Ralph Milliband.
Owen Jones and other protesters at the The Daily Mail against its lies and
distortions against the welfare state, the public sector, socialists and trade
unionists and minorities and its recent attack on Ralph Milliband.
Bring Talha Ahsan Home
Parliament Square, London. Sat 5 Oct 2013
Members of Talha's family were among those at the vigil
on the first anniversary of his extradition
A peaceful vigil in Parliament Square marked a year since British poet
Talha Ahsan was extradited to the US. They say his long-term solitary confinement
is torture and call for him to be returned home and unjust US-UK extradition
Talha Ahsan, an award-winning British Muslim poet and translator has been
detained for over seven years without trial and was extradited to the USA
on 5th October 2012 with his co-defendant Babar Ahmad. Although he was diagnosed
with Asperger’s syndrome, the Home Secretary Teresa May refused to prevent
his extradition, unlike that of Gary McKinnon, raising suspicions that this
relected an anti-Muslim predjudice.
Like other cases this was a cause of controversy over the 2003 US-UK Extradition
Treaty. Talha, along with co-defendant Babar Ahmad, is accused over association
with the obsolete Azzam websites from 1997-2002 which covered Bosnia, Chechnya
and Afghanistan. Their supporters have always argued that they are British
citizens who have had no connection with the USA and that they should be tried
in the UK for any crimes they are alleged to have committed.
Talha is now in pre-trial solitary confinement in a Connecticut Supermax
prison, held under conditions that have been described by the UN as torture.
His younger brother Hamja Ahsan, leader of the campaign for his release,
made the following statement today:
“We remember Talha today so that tomorrow no more British families
will be subject to this ordeal.”
“The nightmare of extradition became a reality exactly one year
ago today - Talha has been a year in pre-trial solitary confinement. It
has been a terrifying ordeal for our entire family - with no contact allowed
in such an extreme isolation prison regime, meaning our mother cannot even
hug her own son. Talha could have received a trial in the UK if our rotten
and unjust extradition laws were amended in time and in line with the recommendations
of the Human Rights Select Committees and the guidelines of Liberty. We
still hold out hope for Talha’s repatriation – bring Talha home!”
“Caroline Lucas MP recently paid tribute to our family’s ‘persistence
and courage’ in Parliament, warning that the extradition would alienate
the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the national campaigns
for Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad.”
UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid
Old Bailey & Royal Courts of Justice, London. Sat 5 Oct 2013
Disabled and their supporters chained themselves across
the zebra crossing at the Royal Courts of Justice
UK Uncut marched from the Old Bailey to the Royal Courts of Justice,
where wheelchairs and protesters blocked the road and a trial found Justice
Secretary Chris Grayling guilty of perverting the course of justice for his
proposed cuts to Legal Aid.
Protesters gathered outside the Old Bailey, an appropriate venue for a protest
against the governments proposals which look set to demolish a vital part
of our justice system, Legal Aid. The proposals will mean that justice becomes
largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another
for the poor.
Legal Aid currently enables people without personal fortunes to fight unjust
arrests, to challenge incorrect decisions by councils and much more. It isn't
a perfect system, but does at least provide some justice for the poor, which
will in many cases disappear under the government's proposals.
We hung around for a while wondering when something was going to happen,
and were joined by a samba band before finally marching off behind a banner
reading 'No Justic No Peace'. Behind the banner was the samba band, as well
as a woman dressed as a judge with a legal wig and Lee Jasper riding his bike
and blowing a plastic horn. Following them were a hundred or two supporters,
including a small group in black with face masks and at the rear a police
Reaching Ludgate Circus the march went up Fleet Street and I realised the
likely destination was the Royal Courts of Justice. I rushed ahead of the
march to find my guess confirmed as a number of wheelchairs were just making
their way across the pedestrian crossing outside the court. They stopped on
it and began to padlock together to form a block. The far half of the crossing
was blocked by a line of figures dressed in gold, one holding the (plastic)
Sword of Justice, and another her Scales.
The road was fully blocked by the time the march arrived, with a tourist
bus stopped just behind the wheelchairs, its passengers getting a grandstand
view of one of London's more interesting sights, with the road soon covered
by sitting protesters.
The band made a lot of noise, the protesters chanted, and police came and
told them politely that blocking the highway was an offence, asking if they
would move. They took no notice.
After a lengthy period of protest, the trial of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling
was announced, and the court took its place in front of the central island,
with Judege, clerk to the court, prosecuting and defence counsel and a man
wearing the dock around his waist and a mask with Grayling's face.
There were several witnesses, some giving testimony of how without Legal
Aid they would have been unable to fight their cases, and others reading written
testimony from others. We were then told we were the jury and would now have
some time to consider our verdict. That time was filled with some more drumming
and chanting, with some poetry from Sam Berkson and some legal advice.
The police were still making occasional attempts to get the protesters to
move, and warning people they might face arrest if they continued to block
the highway. Eventually most people moved from the carriageway further from
the court so that traffic might use that, although it was still blocked by
the police van.
The trial continued to its inevitable guilty verdict, although there seemed
to be no agreement about a suitably severe punishement, most of those suggested
no longer being avaialable under UK law. The prisoner was led away (though
unfortunately only to the pub opposite rather than prison) and the protest
continued noisily, still blocking the road.
By this time, the police who had showed admirable patience were beginning
to get a little more insistent. The DPAC activists in wheelchairs who were
still blocking the road consulted with each other and decided it was time
to leave, and that they would have a final five minutes of protest and then
all leave together. It had been a succesful protest and had gone without a
Support South African Shack-Dwellers
South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London. Thur 3 Oct 2013
Protesters call for the release of Abahlali baseMjondolo
(AbM) Secretary General Bandile Mdlalose
Protesters at South Africa House showed their solidarity with South
African shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, a partner organisation
of War on Want, after the shooting by police of its members and the arrest
of its Secretary General.
Earlier this week, South African Police shot dead a 17 year old girl, Nqobile
Nzuza and arrested the Secretary General of War on Want partner, Abahlali
baseMjondolo, (AbM) Bandile Mdlalose.
Nqobile Nzuza, a girl aged 17, was shot twice from behind at 5am on Monday
30 September, and two other women who were also shot are in hospital. They
were protesting against their forcible removal from their homes on vacant
municipal land where they had settled after a previous forced removal from
their homes at Cato Crest near Durban 8 months ago.
Two other Cata Crest members of AbM at Cato Crest were assassinated by gunmen
earlier this year in an incident allegedly linked to the local ANC councillor.
Others are still in critical condition in hospitals after being shot by law-enforcement
officials during protests.
As in the shooting of the Marikana miners, the police claim that the shootings
of the unarmed protesters were carried out in self-defence, in what locals
say were peaceful protests in which no police suffered any injuries.
The shack dwellers had named their new settlement on council land 'Marikana'
after the miners' shooting.
Bandile Mdlalose, general secretary of AbM is a mother with 3 children, and
was arrested when on her way to offer her condolences to the family of the
dead girl. She has been refused bail.
AbM is the largest shack dweller's organization in South Africa and is a
grass roots movement campaigning to improve the living conditions of the poor.
Its key demand is that the social value of land should take priority over
its commercial value and it campaigns for public expropriation of large private
land holdings. It refuses to take part in party politics, boycotting elections
and has been subjected to a long campaign of llegal harassment by the state,
with over 200 arrests of its members over the last three years and many incidents
of police brutality in homes, streets and when under arrest.
Cops off Campus- Royal Holloway
Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey. Wed 2 Oct 2013
Protesters with the main college building behind them
Students protested after heavy-handed policing by a large group of police
at Royal Holloway Students' Union last Friday when a student who challenged
the racial profiling by police was jumped on, manhandled by 7 police and held
for 16 hours.
Surrey police have come under attack for their activities in conducting a
raid on the students' union, when there was no information that any criminal
or untoward activities were taking place. According the a statement from the
university management, the police action, with over 15 officers, both uniformed
and plain clothes taking part, as well as sniffer dogs and the student union's
own security staff, was a routine exercise in drugs awareness and education
at their invitation. If so it appears to have got very much out of hand.
Royal Holloway, its original building a copy of a French chateau provided
from a Victorian fortune made selling pills of no medicinal value, is situated
in Englefield Green, a leafy part of Surrey on the outer fringes of London,
not far from Wentworth golf club and Virginia Water. It is probably the cleanest
campus in the country so far as drugs are concerned. Entry to events at the
student union requires a student card.
Police were invited into the student union to make the raid by the university
authorities on the first big night of the year for freshers, and once there
started to harass and intimidate students, picking in particular on black
and minority ethnic students who they stopped and searched. Students alleged
to me that this was not the first occasion on which Surrey police have appeared
to be racially profiling but that it was a matter of routine when stopping
and searching students on or near the campus; one black student described
to me how having been stopped and searched by an officer in a police car he
was stopped again only five minutes later by the second officer in the same
University of London Union Vice President Daniel Cooper was present in the
student union during the police drugs raid, and tried to challenge what he
saw as their racial profiling. He wrote on Facebook: "I intervened in
and obstructed a stop and search of two black students. Not liking this the
cops proceeded to tackle me to the floor, 6 or 7 pinning me down for some
time and then arrest me."
An eye witness commented: "My comrade Daniel objected when they
started targeting and harassing specifically black students and was arrested
and detained for doing so." Daniel was held for 16 hours before
The students recognise that police have the right to carry out operations
on campus, and in particular to act on information concerning crimes. But
they have to do so in a legal and correct manner rather than come in force
to harass, threaten and intimidate students, and should certainly not act
in a racially discriminatory fashion.
The students demand that Royal Holloway University Management and the Commercial
Services team should not invite the police onto campus to carry out 'exercises'
of this type without the prior knowledge and consent of the elected student
body. They also want investigations by police on campus to be carried out
in a proportionate and legal manner.
Students held a small low-key protest today on campus, collecting signatures
for a petition and to remind the university of its duty of care towards the
students. They say that inviting "the police in to parade around,
harass and worst of all racial profile directly contravenes this duty. We
want to feel safe but whoever it is that make us feel unsafe, including the
police we need to speak out and let the university know that it will not be
No-one I spoke to believed there is a drugs problem at Royal Holloway, but
if the university authorities beleive that there is, it would seem elementary
that they should engage with the students' union and the elected representatives
of the student body in taking appropriate measures. To bring in the police
- even if the police could be persuaded to behave appropriately - without
consultation is surely counterproductive and seems ill-advised in the extreme.
top of page
All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright
© Peter Marshall 2013; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures
or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact