Great Badger Trail ends at Westminster
Westminster, London. Sat31 May 2014
The trail went around Parliament Square then through
the backstreets back to Old Palace Yard
The Great Badger Trail 112 mile fund and awareness raising march from
Gloucester ended in a rally in London today the day before the government
licence to resume its discredited cull is renewed, despite the failure of
the pilot culls and weight of scientific evidence against culling.
An independent expert panel reported in March 2014 that controlled shooting
alone (or in combination with cage trapping) did not deliver the level of
culling set by government. The report also states that it was 'extremely likely
that between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers that were shot at were still alive
after 5 min, and therefore at risk of experiencing marked pain'.
Most Bovine TB is not spread by badgers, but by farmers, moving livestock
around and selling cattle with a failure to observe proper measures. A cull
of farmers is not a practical solution, but independent research group Rethink
Bovine TB has proposed an alternative solution that is both practical and
cost effective using evidence from Defra and other sources.
Zombie Walk London
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 31 May 2014
Touching up some zombie scars
Few Zombies made it to Trafalgar Square for today's zombie walk, but those
who came attracted a great deal of attention from tourists in the square with
some dramatic make-up. My pictures of them include some inadvertently experimental
work. I think zombies are reluctant to emerge on sunny early summer days like
Gove "Read-In" protest in DfE
Department for Education, Westminster. Fri 30 May 2014
'Stand up for education banner' and class of protesters
in DFE as security orders me out
A 'class' of protesters sat down in the foyer of the DfE for an English
lesson in protest against Michael Gove's political interference in the curriculum
side-lining modern US books, promoting education for the needs of business
rather than people.
The protesters had not been stopped coming in to hold their protest class
in the foyer, though I heard one of them saying they expected to be ejected
when they began to make speeches and display their banner. Unfortunately I
was asked to leave before this happened as they were unhappy with the press
taking pictures in a public building were there were surely no security implications
- though perhaps a high risk - if not a certainty - of the minister and the
government being embarrassed.
The DfE issued a statement yesterday denying that Mr Gove had anything to
do with the decision to narrow the curriculum and promote a more narrowly
nationalist agenda for education - one that will sideline not only modern
US literature, but also the great wealth of writers from the Commonwealth
who have enriched English literature.
The DfE assert that the decision to put greater insistence on older classes
and modern British writing and the pressure being applied to exam boards to
remove classic American texts such as 'To Kill a Mockingbird' from
their options is a result of consultation with all interested parties, while
the protesters, along with other teachers, examiners, education and literary
professions have launched a mass campaign against what they see as a ministerial
diktat, a clear case of political interference in education. For them, the
DfE statement was simply an uninspired work of fiction.
African Liberation Day protest against Vedanta
Mayfair, London. Fri 30 May 2014
The protest was late to start and only a few had arrived
by the time I had to go
African protesters at Vedanta's Mayfair offices held an Afrikan Liberation
Day protest over the London listed company owned by Indian billionaire Anil
Agarwal alleged to have cheated both Zambia over copper and Liberia over iron
Recently a video on YouTube showed Anil Agarwal speaking at an event in India
last March, ridiculing the Zambian government for the small amount he paid
to buy the mine, and boasting that the that Konkola Copper Mines were giving
him US$500 million every year in profit and more. Other sources make it clear
that he is also avoiding paying tax on his huge profits there.
Something rather similar appears to have happened with iron ore in Liberia,
involving the government giving the Western Cluster to a small company called
Elenilto rather cheaply in 2009. That company immediately sold 51% to Vedanta,
transferring the rest in a few months.
Vedanta were also taken to court in Zambia over massive pollution of the
Kafue River and a large fine was imposed, although apparently it has not been
London Mosque protest for Sunni extremist
Regents Park Mosque, London. Fri 30 May 2014
Anjem Choudary listens to speeches outside the mosque
after Friday prayers
A protest outside the Regents Park Mosque by Anjem Choudary and his
followers supported militant Islamist Omar Bakri Muhammad, held in Lebanon
for his support of extremist fighters Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Few in the crowds leaving the Mosque after Friday prayers stopped to listen
to Anjem Choudary who was speaking when I arrived there.
Police kept the protesters to a narrow area at the rear of the pavement immediately
south of the wide entrance way, and attempted to keep a way clear so that
people could pass, though many chose to cross the road to avoid them.
As usual for Muslim protests, this was a segregated protest, with around
30 women covered from head to foot in black, most with small slits for their
eyes and some holding up posters. They joined enthusiastically in the chanting
of slogans, although no women spoke at the event.
Omar Bakri Muhammad came to the UK and claimed asylum in 1986, and became
well know while at Finsbury Park Mosque. He spent years building up Hizb ut-Tahrir
and was one of the founders of Al Muhajiroun, a radical Islamist group that
was banned after the London bombings, in which members of the group were alleged
to be involved. He returned to the Lebanon and was told by the Home Office
that he would not be allowed back to the UK.
In November 2010 he was convicted in Lebanon of acts of terrorism and sentenced
to life with hard labour, but was released on bail when some of his accusers
retracted their testimony.
In April 2014 the Lebanese security forces raided his house because of his
alleged involvement with militant Sunnis who have attacked Alawites in northern
Lebanon and the support he has expressed for the extremist group the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant fighting in northern Syria, calling on them to
set up cells in Lebanon. Omar Bakri had gone into hiding, but he was arrested
a few weeks later in May in the town of Aley.
Peckham Jobcentre - why penalise jobseekers?
Peckham Rd, London. Fri 30 May 2014
harass protesters to remove posters from Jobcentre wall
Protesters at Peckham Jobcentre demand to known why this jobcentre ia
sanctioning (taking away) the benefits of jobseekers at twice the rate of
any other job centre in London. 5,174 ISA sanctions in Oct 2012-Dec 2013 made
345 destitute each month.
Protesters at Peckham Job Centre Plus in south London asked the managers
in vain to explain why they withdraw benefits from twice as many people as
the average job centre in London. Sanctioning in this way leaves many job
seekers destitute, without any source of income, often for three months, removing
the 'safety net' the welfare state is supposed to provide.
Often the reasons for imposing sanctions are outside the control of the person
who suffers; many are a result of bureaucratic delays or inefficiencies by
the job centre concerned. People also get sanctioned for refusing to undertake
long periods of unpaid work without pay - doing jobs where they replace paid
staff in shops and elsewhere as a part of unfair 'workfare' schemes.
Around a dozen people arrived and set up stalls in front of the job centre,
fixing posters on the pavement and the outside wall of the building. They
used a megaphone to tell people why they were protesting and handed out leaflets,
including those giving information about UKBA raids.
At one point two police officers came to look at the stall, before going
in to the job centre to talk to staff there. They came out to pass on a request
that the protesters remove posters they had stuck on the outside of the building.
The protesters replied that the staff could come outside and take them down
or otherwise they would be removed at end of the protest.
The police argued for some time, but were unable to name any offence that
was being committed and eventually went back inside to talk to the staff again.
They were still inside when I had to leave.
Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners
Holborn, London. Fri 23 May 2014
Socialist Solidarity and IWGB protested outside the offices
A protest at the registered offices of London mining company Evraz, owned
by Russian Oligarchs Roman Abramov and Alexander Abramovitch, supported miners
in the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine who have ensured peace and unity
at Kryviy Rih and are striking to maintain real wages.
Kryviy Rih is a city in south-east Ukraine, around 400km from Kiev, at the
centre of the largest steel industry in Eastern Europe with a population of
around three-quarters of a million people.
It hasn't featured a great deal in the news from Ukraine, although a month
ago there was a rally of a couple of thousand people carrying Ukrainian flags
with banners 'Kryvyi Rih is my city' and shouting "Putin,
get out!”. Miners' brigades were organised to control protests
and defend the Maidan while preventing the situation in the city to get out
The unrest and devaluation in Ukraine has caused a rapid rise in the cost
of living with a fall in real wages of around 30-50%. The workers in the province
had been promised a rise of 20% in April but it was not paid - instead they
got what they describe as "an insulting handout" of between £25
The Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine has demanded an immediate doubling
of the real wage "in the interests of preserving social peace in
this country." They go on to say: "We are deeply convinced
that the main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed
of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers,
send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine. In
fact the oligarchs are almost completely exempt from taxes on their profits."
On 11th May, the miners marched through the streets of Kryvyy Rih to the
offices of the mining company EVRAZ "and showered its office with
loose change as a sign of protest against the fictitious 'wage increase' for
The Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine called upon the British public
to picket the offices of EVRAZ plc and the offices of other Russian and Ukrainian
oligarchs’ corporations in London and other cities in Europe, and in
response to this a protest was held outside the registered office of the company
in the City of London.
The majority share of the vast multinational EVRAZ empire is owned by Russian
Oligarch Roman Abramovich, along with his business partner Alexander
Abramov who built up the business. But like many multinationals, its
actual business is somewhat opaque, and as the police who turned up to talk
to the protesters confirmed, its London address is simply that of a firm providing
accounting, tax, Human Resources and payroll services to businesses.
The protesters stood outside the offices with placards declaring their solidarity
with the Kryviy Rih miners and shouting slogans including "Western
Banks, Russian Tanks, Hands off Ukraine."
As well as calling for protests, the miners have also asked for information
and humanitarian support, as well as appealing for personal protective clothing
for the workers self-defence brigades and mobile radio communications equipment.
A further protest is planned for June 12 outside the Chelsea Football ground,
another enterprise owned by Roman Abramovitch. There might also be an opportunity
for protests at the EVRAZ Investor Day, on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at the
Grange City Hotel, 8-14 Cooper's Row, London, EC3N 2BQ, where company chair
Alexander Abramov is due to attend.
Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails
G4S HQ, Victoria St, London. Fri 23 May 2014
hands out leaflets supporting Palestinians on hunger strike
Protesters at the London HQ of G4S supported the mass hunger strike by
Palestinians demanding an end to Israels’s illegal policy of rolling
Administrative Detention which can jail them for years without charge or trial
in prisons which G4S secures.
A mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners demanding an end to Israel's
illegal policy of punitive Administrative Detention began on 24th April this
year, with 134 administrative detainees taking part.
Israel uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinians indefinitely
without charge or trial, using rolling detention orders of 1-6 months which
are renewable indefinitely in defiance of international law. The orders are
based on "secret information" which never needs to be produced to
the detainee nor their lawyer and are used to arbitrarily jail Palestinians
where there is no evidence for a trial. 9 Palestinian MPs have been given
detention orders as a punishment.
In recent years, there have been an average of 2000 detention orders each
year. Of the 186 currently in jail, 160 are held in G4S secured prisons including
Ofer, Ketziot and Megiddo. Most have been transferred from the West Bank into
Israel in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Now 34 years old, Ayman Al-Tabeesh has spent over 10 years in Israeli prisons.
After being held under an administrative detention order in Spring 2013 he
protested against his imprisonment with a 105 day hunger strike, only stopping
when he was given a written promise that his administrative detention would
not be renewed. But it was renewed in January 2014, and he began a second
hunger strike on 28th Feb 2014. 70 days later he was in a critical condition,
having lost over 25kg in weight, and now after 85 days doctors tell him he
is at grave risk of a heart attack if he continues his hunger strike.
A small group of protesters set up banners and handed out leaflets on the
busy Victoria St outside the London headquarters offices of G4S while a loudspeaker
played Palestinian music. Although some hurried by, quite a few of those passing
took the leaflets, and some stopped to read and discuss them. Most expressed
their concern over Palestine but there was one young man who stopped to argue,
calling the Palestinians who were in prison "terrorists".
People were arriving slowly to join the protest when I had to leave after
around half an hour. Later the was to be a statement relayed from the Muhammed
Al-Tabeesh, the brother of hunger striker Ayman Al-Tabeesh, who had himself
been a hunger striker but was released from prison four months ago. He wrote
to express his thanks for the London protest outside G4S two weeks ago:
"Thank you for standing besides us in supporting the steadfastness
of my brother Ayman Al-Tabeesh in his hunger strike.
"Thank you for your humanity in supporting the Palestinian prisoners,
especially the hunger strikers.
"We need you to tell the international community of Israel’s
criminal brutality against our prisoners, the violation of their rights.
The occupations illegal never ending administrative detention orders is
nothing less than a slow death for Palestinian prisoners."
Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London, Fri 23 May 2014
The protesters had put down most of their banners by
the time I arrived and were waving their flags
Oromo and Ogaden National Liberation Front supporters protested at Parliament
over the Ethiopian government's killing of Oromo university students peacefully
protesting the grabbing of Oromo land and calling for the release of political
Around 30 million Oromo people live in present day Ethiopia and adjoining
areas of Kenya and Somalia, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, and their
Oromo language is Africa's third most widely spoken.
They are an ancient civilisation with a highly developed democratic form
of governance, Gadaa, and there were a number of Oromo kingdoms co-existing
in the region. They were conquered in the late nineteenth century by Abyssinian
emperor Menlik II, aided by the European colonial powers and their modern
weapons. Around half the Oromo are said to have died during the period of
the wars, with mass killings by the Ethiopian Army, mutilations and slavery
on a large scale. Successive regimes made determined attempts to destroy Oromo
identity - its language, culture, customs and tradition.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was founded in 1973, shortly before
the fall of Emperor Haile Selassassie but the new military goverment continued
the suppression of the Oromo, and initiated mass resettlements from Northern
Ethiopia onto Oromo lands and moved millions of Oromo into camps run by the
military. After the fall of the communist Derg regime, in which the OLF took
part, the new Ethiopian state continued to imprison and kill Oroma - estimates
suggest over 50,000 in the first ten years. Following September 11, the US
worked together with the Ethiopian in an alliance against "terrorism",
and in 2011 BBC Newsnight and and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed
how the the Ethopian goverment was "using billions of dollars of
development aid as a tool for political oppression" with programmes
of deliberate starvation of communities, and "of mass detentions,
(and) the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings."
The protest in London today by supporters of the OLF and the Ogaden National
Liberation Front (ONLF) was to raise public awareness about the continuing
situation in Ethiopia, and in particualr about the crackdown since the start
of May with mass killing of Oromo University students and other innocent civilians.
The students were peacefully protesting about the illegal forcible evictions
of Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands around Addis Ababa under the governments
Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan. This will result in the eviction of millions
of Oromo farmers and their land being given to government supporters or sold
to foreign investors.
The OLF are calling on the Ethiopian government to stop killing Orormos and
release the many held as political prisoners as well as respecting the land
rights of the Oromo in accord with UN provisions. They want the international
communisty to condemn the human rights abuses and atrocities, and for UN,
EU and humanitarian organizations operating in Ethiopia to closely monitor
the political and military action against innocent civilians in the region.
The protest was coming to an end when I arrived, with the placards in a heap
while people were taking photographs outside the Houses of Parliament.
Defend UoL Garden Halls workers
Senate House, London. Fri 23 May 2014
protesters set up in front of the main door to Senate House
A further protest by the IWGB union defending the rights of 80 workers
being made redundant at the University of London's Garden Halls took place
at Senate House. The union is demanding proper consultation and negotiation
over the redundancies.
The workers to be made redundant include caterers, porters, cleaners and
security guards and includde many of those who are active in the continuing
struggle for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions in the '3 Cosas' campaign
at London University.
Many are members of the independent union, the Independent Workers of Great
Britain, which the University and its contract employers Cofely refuse to
recognise. They prefer to talk to the more compliant traditional unions, even
though these have few if any members among the workers. Cofely's response
has been to send a threatening letter full of apparently false accusations
to the IWGB; the IWGB have published their reply refutating these.
The IWGB has also asked supporters send London University Vice-Chancellor
Professor Sir Adrian Smith letters backing their demands.
- a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies
- length of service be respected
- full and meaningful consultation with the IWGB
- the same wage levels for any workers transferred to
contracts outside the UoL
- the same terms and conditions for any transferred workers.
The union says: "many of these workers have been at the University
of London for decades" and "the University bears responsibility
for the treatment of these workers, regardless of the fact that their roles
are contracted to private companies."
Around 30 union members and supporters met at Senate House at lunchtime for
a noisy protest, which they intend to repeat every Friday until the end of
term or until management engages in meaningful talks over the issues. After
a short noisy protest with megaphone, drums, whistles and shouting in the
covered area at the bottom of the building in front of the main door they
marched on the streets around the building before returning to the main door.
Many of those entering the Senate House took their leaflets and expressed
support for the workers, but as they were going around the streets, one irate
young woman ran up and shouted at them that they were disturbing her revision
- and was told that it would only be a short protest and was about an vital
issue for those concerned.
Towards the end of the protest they were approached by a member of staff
from one college who requested that they finish by 2pm so as exams were starting
then; the protesters assured here that they intended to do so, having planned
to protest not to interfere with the examinations, while reminding the University
management that they needed to act reasonably and talk with the union about
As usual the protest ended with the loudly chanted reminder "We'll
be back, and that's a fact!"
Obama keep your promises
Trafalgar Square, London. Fri 23 May 2014
Obama free prisoner 239 - Londoner Shaker Aamer and
keep your promise to shut Guantanamo!
A year after President Obama again pledged to close Guantánamo,
activists in black hoods and orange jumpsuits in London and 40 other cities
reminded him of yet another broken promise and called for the urgent release
of Londoner Shaker Aamer.
When media attention fell on the ongoing hunger strike by prisoners in at
Guantánamo Bay last May, Barack Obama made yet another promise to close
it down. In the year since then only 12 prisoners have been released and 154
remain, subjected to appalling conditions, beatings and daily abuse of their
Almost all of those still incarcerated have been held now for 12 years without
charge or trial, and many like former London resident Shaker Aamer have been
cleared more than once for release. His family in Battersea include one son
who has never met his father, born a few months after his capture by bandits
Today's protest in Trafalgar Square was part of an international day of action
coordinated by the US organisation Witness Against Torture, with protests
in 40 cities in three continents calling for the release of the prisoners,
the closure of Guantanamo and other similar prisons and an end to the practice
of extraordinary rendition.
Activists, some dressed in orange jumpsuits, brought a giant inflatable figure
of Shaker Aamer to Trafalgar Square to draw attention to his case. They did
so with the backing of Aamer himself, expressed through his lawyer, and using
for his face the photograph he had asked to be used.
They also brought a series of large printed posters which they held in line
at the top of the square in front of the National Gallery to read "Not
Another Day in GUANTANAMO", along with other posters and banners.
Aisha Maniar, a spokesperson for the London Guantánamo Campaign, stated:
"In over five years as US president, Barack Obama has failed to deliver
a change we can believe in on Guantánamo Bay. Twelve years of indefinite
detention almost wholly without charge or trial for 154 prisoners has made
the world an infinitely more insecure, dangerous, and lawless place. Closing
Guantánamo has long been a question of when as opposed to how.
"A prisoner hunger strike ongoing more than 15 months later, in addition
to his failure to transfer any Yemeni prisoners - who make up the largest
nationality and the majority of those cleared for release, following the
lifting of a moratorium - signal that Obama’s words remain purely
rhetorical. There is little intention to close Guantánamo Bay and
the legal black hole it has created."
Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant
Elephant & Castle, London. Wed 21 May 2014
Campaigners take part in a die-in along the cycle bypass
they say would save lives
Several hundred cyclists held a chalk and die-in protest at London's
Elephant and Castle where yet another cyclist was killed by an HGV last week
calling for urgent action to make roads safe for cyclists.
The protest was organised following the death of 47 year-old Abdelkhars
Lahyani on May 13, killed at the junction with Newington Butts by a HGV,
whose driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.
Lahyani's son was present at the event and passed on his thanks to those who
had come to remember his father and try to prevent more similar tragedies.
The safe cycling organisers who spoke at the event say it would be wrong
to call his death an accident; Donnachadh McCarthy described it as
"a designed-in killing", criticising Southwark Council, the Greater
London Authority and the government for their failures to implement the measures
needed to improve cycle safety. Cyclists say that we should be putting a similar
amount of money and expertise into cycling safety as they do in Holland.
McCarthy quoted from Southwark Council's transport plan which argues against
segregation of cyclists and says that including them in traffic is useful
to slow traffic flows; it may, but at the expense of regarding them as expendable.
The traffic system at the Elephant & Castle, one of south London's busiest
and more complex junctions, was redesigned a few years ago at a cost of £3
million, but the changes made had not made proper provision for cyclists.
The protesters marked out a 'bypass lane' across a wide area of pavement which
would have avoided the killing and called for emergency crews to make this
permanent as soon as possible.
The marked cycle lane was soon filled with chalk messages about cycle safety,
and the protesters put down their bikes on the pavement on either side. After
an announcement from McCarthy they then staged a die-in, lying on the pavement
in silence in the middle of the bikes for around ten minutes, leaving the
lane with its chalking as a 'sacred space' in memory of the killed cyclist.
At the rally which followed, co-organiser Steve Routley read out
the names of the cyclists killed in London - there were 14 in 2013 and six
so far this year. Abby Taubin then read one of several poems by Seamus
Heaney which arose from his feelings over the loss of his younger brother,
killed in a road accident when the poet was still a schoolboy.
We were then read a speech written this week in hospital by Bart Chan,
who had a very close escape from death on the same day as Lahyani, when a
HGV drove over him in Upper Thames St. Despite going under the whole length
of the vehicle from front to back he emerged alive, though with considerable
injuries. He pointed out that banning HGVs from city streets during the rush
hours (as is done in some other countries) would be a 'Magic Wand' reform,
with immediate improvement in safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Along with
others at the protest he also called for much greater urgency over improvement
in lorry design to give drivers the all-round view that is essential for safety.
The final speech was by Donnachadh McCarthy, who set out very clearly the
failures that were leading to the deaths of cyclists, and also thanked the
police for their cooperation in the event. At the end of his speech he talked
about the great advantages of cycling for personal health and for the environment:
"Cycling is a gift: cleaner planet; safer lives." But only
if we make our cities safe to cycle in. As he pointed out as well as the roughly
60 cyclists and 300 pedestrians killed in London traffic accidents since the
last election, an estimated 13,000 had died before their time because of traffic
Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, now a Life Peer
as Baroness of Moulsecoomb and a consistent long-term campaigner for cycling
in London - and someone who whenever possible cycles herself was one of those
taking part in the protest. As I left, McCarthy was having a long discussion
with Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark Simon Hughes
who had arrived during the rally.
Turks protest Soma mine deaths
Turkish Embassy, London. Tue 20 May 2014
A protest, mainly by London's Turks and Kurds, at the Turkish embassy
laid blame on the Erdogan government's failure to enforce health and safety
regulations and the employer's greed for the recent death of over 300 miners
in the Soma mine disaster.
One black banner with large white letters expressed clearly their view: 'Soma
Is Not Destiny It Is A Massacre!' and those who spoke emphasized the terrible
record on health and safety in Turkey in all areas of industry.
They said that the Turkish state has "a black history with regards to
work health and safety" and the ILO ranked Turkey as the country with
the third highest number of workplace fatalities in the world. Despite having
been a member of the ILO since 1932, Turkey has refused to sign the ILO conventions
on miners' safety and working conditions, including Convention 176, introduced
in 1995 with the aim of protecting mine workers from injury and the environment
from mining-related damage. More than 11,000 Turks have died in workplace
incidents in the last decade, and deaths per tonne of coal mined there are
over 5 times as high as in China and a staggering 180 times those in the USA.
The protesters say that even those regulations that do exist are not enforced,
and that the situation has got worse since privatisation - or as the protesters
put it "selling all state property to (their) own gang" - the Soma
mine was privatised in 2005. Observers claim the the drastic reduction in
production costs to around one fifth of its previous amount is entirely due
to the removal of safe working standards and the introduction of unsafe practices.
At Soma one aspect of this as been the extension of the tunnels from 350
metres to over 2.5 kilometres from the lift shaft. The Turkish body responsible
for safety inspection was disbanded by the government in 2011, and there are
now no on-site inspections - just brief visits by officials the the mine company
headquarters. Despite this, the Ministry of Work and Social Safety rapidly
issued a statement saying "The last health and safety inspections were
made in March" when "there were no discrepancies found according
to the regulations." Workers in privately owned workplaces are now over
2.5 times as likely to die at work than those in state concerns.
The protesters stood on the edge of the pavement opposite the embassy for
around an hour of speeches and chanting, waving flags and holding banners
and placards. Some wore hard hats, and the name of the mine, SOMA, was spelled
out in front of the protest in nightlights alongside a small pile of coal.
A popular placard showed a an image of coal with the message Devlet Katletti
('Killed by the State) and another in Turkish stated 'No Accident - Massacre.)
Others were in English, calling for the prosecution of the government and
the mine owners and for the release of the jailed Turkish protesters and lawyers
who have supported them. Many of them were from the Worker-Communist Party
of Iran - Hekmatist who earlier sent a message of deepest sympathy to "Comrade
workers, families of the workers in Soma mine, and people of Turkey!"
and in support of the "protests, strikes and struggles which the workers,
trade unions and the people of Turkey have started and have rightly pointed
their fingers at the real culprits. The culprits of this tragedy, the owners
of the mine and the government must be prosecuted."
After around an hour, a red rose and a large black wreath were carried across
the road and left in the doorway of the embassy, where they remained when
I left at the end of the protest. After this there were some final speeches
and a minute of silence for the dead. The official death toll is 301, but
the actual figure is thought to be higher as there were not accurate records
of who was working in the mine.
Christian Aid Circle the City
City of London. Sun 18 May 2014
Not a church but one of my favourite city buildings
Walk the City is an annual sponsored walk to raise money for Christian
Aid. As usual my wife was taking part along with a small group from her church
and I went with them for company or to stop them getting lost.
It's a good way to get to see inside a lot of the City churches although
most are usually open during daytime on weekdays as well as for services and
some have free lunchtime concerts. One novel feature of this year's walk was
that it included Bevis Marks synagogue, though unfortunately photography is
not allowed inside. And because we had a whole long list of churches to visit
it wasn't possible to stay long in each of them.
Lambeth College March for Further Education
Clapham Common to Brixton, London. Sat 17 May 2014
came from F E colleges across the country to join the Lambeth college marchers
Lambeth college workers and supporters from around the country marched
to a rally in Brixton to defend FE against cuts and privatisation by college
management, which is trying to slash terms and conditions and attacking the
right to strike.
The management of Lambeth College in inner-city south London have launched
plans to 'restructure' the college, selling off most of it Brixton campus
to allow a so-called 'free school' to be set off, and attacking the pay and
conditions of the academic and service staff. The management want to cut the
pay of staff, to increase the number of working hours and to cut holiday and
sickness benefits, and have set out to break the power of the two unions,
the lecturers union UCU and Unison to which the service workers belong, at
There is no need for the extra places a free school would provide in the
local area, and if for no other reason the views of the chair of governors
of the 'Trinity Free School', Dennis Sewell on Darwin and evolution should
disqualify him from any role in education in the UK - and some of his other
views expressed in the right-wing press are also deeply worrying. Despite
being a "non-selective school with a Catholic ethos", the
Roman Catholic Diocese have not offered their support for the scheme which
will have a negative impact on existing Catholic secondaries in the area.
Lambeth's cabinet member for children and families Rachel Heywood has made
it quite clear that Lambeth already has enough secondary places and told the
Brixton Blog "had we been consulted we would have said that we did
not need another secondary school in Brixton as we already have a variety
of good schools with space."
The march was also about protecting the right to strike, and the College
management recently spent tens of thousands of pounds in getting an injunction
against the UCU using anti-trade union laws after a 95% vote for a strike
in a ballot with a 70% turnout. The UCU is re-balloting and will almost certainly
get greater support second time round. Despite the injunction, and a letter
from UCU general secretary Sally Hunt stating "all members will be required
to return and work normally tomorrow. Failure to do so would mean that you
are liable to be dismissed and you would have no claim for being unfairly
dismissed" there was a second one-day strike on May 1, and further action
Although the local Unison branch is reported to have unanimously asked for
an indefinite strike at mass meetings, Unison nationally appears not to be
entirely supportive of its members desire to fight. They forced the members
at Lambeth to have a time-wasting and bureaucratic ballot about whether they
wanted a ballot
The altered contracts which will initially affect all new staff, staff who
are promoted or who change their fractional hours and all current hourly paid
staff (and the management intends to impose on all existing staff) include
increased working hours including an extra hour per week of contact time,
an extended working week, a cut of 2 weeks in annual leave, additional duties
with no extra remuneration, a link between pay increments and capability,
reduced notice of redundancy and a drastic reduction in sick pay.
The UCU realise that the action of the Lambeth College management is not
just a local issue but that if the management can get away with these changes
here, they will also be brought in by other colleges, and has declared the
Lambeth dispute to be one of "national significance".
Over 200 trade unionists, including representatives from colleges across
London and from the Midlands brought banners to Clapham Common for a march
in solidarity with the workers at Lambeth College. There were a few short
addresses as the marchers arrived, with those from various organisations expressing
As the march went through the busy streets of Clapham, Stockwell and Brixton,
people stopped to watch and responded to requests to cheer and for motorists
to sound their horns in support. Almost everyone seemed keen to take the flyers,
postcards and leaflets being handed out, though there were just one or two
people I heard telling a leafleter that teaching was an easy number. "Have
you ever tried it?" was the response, and the answer of course was negative.
Waiting at Windrush Square for the march to arrive was an open-top bus from
which the speeches were made, including a number of speakers from Lambeth
college and other Unison and UCU branches. Ian Hodson, the general
secretary of the Baker's union BFAWU, gave a stirring address, telling the
story of the Hovis dispute, where by standing together and fighting for their
rights, the members had won the fight not just for themselves but also for
agency workers who had been brought in to replace striking workers. Another
fine speech came from Labour MP John McDonnell, who made the point
that employers were attempting to destroy the unions and impose a new form
of feudalism - which needs a new form of unionism to oppose it.
As well as the Lambeth College workers, there were several other groups who
have already led the way in this new militant grass-roots trade unionism.
In the audience were those from Tower Hamlets College who fought
their management and won recently, as well as supporters of the '3 Cosas'
campaign for low paid workers at the University of London from the IWGB. And
a local group who marched and spoke, workers from the Ritzy cinema,
a few yards from where the rally was taking place, members of BECTU, who have
enjoyed great local backing for the series of strike they began last month
to be paid the London Living Wage.
Garden Halls Closure Senate House Protest
University of London. Fri 16 May 2014
protester with placard 'University of London Shame on You!' in front of the
London University has announced the closure of the 3 Garden Halls of
residence, making over 80 workers redundant from June 30. They have refused
to consult properly with the cleaners union, the IWGB, and today was the third
protest against the cuts.
Among the workers to be made redundant are caterers, porters, cleaners and
security guards; the cleaners at the Garden Halls were among those at the
forefront of the London Living Wage campaign and are active in the continuing
struggle for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions in the '3 Cosas' campaign.
The majority of the affected workers who are in unions, including 27 cleaners
and cleaner supervisors, belong to the Independent Workers of Great Britain,
but the University and the contract employers who provide the labour here
and in other workplaces for the University have refused to recognise the IWGB.
They prefer to talk to the more compliant traditional unions. Although some
of the workers used to belong to these, at many workplaces they left after
seeing that these were unwilling to stand up to the employers on their behalf,
and formed their own active independent grass roots union, the IWGB.
In a letter the IWGB requests supporters send to London University Vice-Chancellor
Professor Sir Adrian Smith, the workers' union demands are clearly listed:
- a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies
- length of service be respected
- full and meaningful consultation with the IWGB
- the same wage levels for any workers transferred to
contracts outside the UoL
- the same terms and conditions for any transferred workers.
As the letter says, "many of these workers have been at the University
of London for decades" and "the University bears responsibility
for the treatment of these workers, regardless of the fact that their roles
are contracted to private companies."
It is a scandal too that the University is prepared to hide, along with the
contract employers Cofely and Aramark, behind the deliberately evasive provisions
of the law on trade union recognition rather than recognise the rights of
the workers to proper recognition. It should be recognising the union its
workers have chosen to represent them, and insisting that Cofely and Aramark
also do so.
Around 30 protesters gathered at lunchtime outside the main entrance at the
base of Senate House, making a considerable amount of noise with a few drums
and whistles, handing out leaflets to those going in and out and displaying
banners. After around 40 minutes they were joined by the President of the
IWGB, Alberto Durango, and after a further few minutes of protest there he
led them out to walk around the building.
The doors on the south side of Senate House in Montague Place were quickly
closed as the protesters approached, but around the corner in Russell Square,
the doors to Stewart House, part of the university estate connecting with
Senate House were open, and around half of the protesters walked in.
They wandered around the corridors and stairways of Stewart House for a few
minutes, still banging drums and carrying banners and making their presence
felt before leaving by a side entrance into the Senate House car park.
There, as usual, their noisy protest ended with the a clear message to the
University of London, 'We'll be back!' Yesterday the IWGB served
notice of ballots for industrial action to both Cofely and Aramark over the
redundancies at the Garden Halls. Voting will begin in one week.
Communists & Anti-Fascists protest Ukraine Massacres
Ukrainian Embassy, Holland Park, London. Wed 14 May 2014
Protesters with banners, flags and placards opposite
Communists and Ant-Fascists protested together in a protest organised
by the Young Communist League at the Ukraine Embassy calling on the neo-Nazi
junta in Kiev step down and against the massacres of trade unionists in Odessa
Almost 50 people had turned up for the protest by the time I left, from a
number of communist and anti-fascist groups. The YCL listed six reasons they
had called the demonstration, to:
- Condemn the recent massacre of trade-unionists in Odessa.
- Condemn the expulsion of the Communist Party of Ukraine from Parliament
- Call for the embassy staff to refuse to obey orders or diktat
from the Neo-Nazi junta installed in Kiev.
- Demand Britain cuts all diplomatic ties with the junta.
- Demand an end to the assault on Ukrainian workers and progressives
and that the openly Fascist, anti-democratic coup government steps down.
- Express solidarity with the Communist Party of Ukraine, communist
youth and all anti-fascists in Ukraine."
Some of those present were worried that the protest might attract the attention
of fascist groups, and were advising those they spoke to to leave the protest
in groups rather than singly. But there was absolutely no evidence that this
was the case, and previous protests I've attended in support of the ousting
of the former Ukrainian regime by the protests in Kiev have had no support
from the British ultra-right. Most of those taking part have appeared to be
middle-class Ukrainians with liberal views who want their country to remain
united and free from Russian control.
One young Ukrainian woman who has lived in the UK for some years did come
to talk to the protesters, and argued that their view of situation in Ukraine
was simplistic and bore little relation to reality. It is hard for those of
us not there and reliant on the various media sources - including both Russian
and western media - to be sure what is really happening, but there does seem
to be no shortage of evidence of atrocities by both pro and anti-Kiev groups.
The protesters chanted loudly:
"Remember Odessa, Down with the fascist junta" and "No
more fascist massacres" referring to the events of May 2 when 42
people were killed and over 200 injured as nationalists burnt their protest
camp and set fire to Trade Unions House, trapping many activists inside. Placards
told the story of one of them, Andrew Brazhevsky, who fled there after the
camp was attacked and burnt. Like most of the others who died, he escaped
from the burning building alive, jumping out of an upper floor, but then "The
neo-Nazi beasts finished him off with bats as he lay at their feet."
Doubtless many of the other 42 deaths were similar.
There was a small jarring aspect of the chant which threatened to disrupt
the unusual unity of the various groups protesting. Those leading the protest
ignored the Spanish pronunciation of the word 'junta' widely used on the left
after the word came into common use during the Spanish Civil War, along with
the phrase 'no pasaran', made famous by 'La Pasionaria', which was on most
of the placards at this protest.
Travellers protest Spectator's racist language
Old Queen Street, London. Wed 14 May 2014
Roma flag and Traveller Movement banner outside the Spectator offices
A deputation from the Traveller Movement protested at The Spectator offices
in Westminster handing a petition to the editor after an article in the magazine
suggested that it was acceptable to use racist names for Roma, Gypsies &
The article that caused considerable offence in the Traveller community
for was by Rod Little, and contained the phrase "It still seems to
me that ‘gyppo’ and ‘pikey’ are useful means of lumping
them all together". It led to a petition by the Traveller Movement
(formerly the Irish Travellers Movement in Britain) to Spectator editor Fraser
Nelson asking for his "help to stamp out racism against the UK’s
and Europe's Gypsy, Irish Traveller, Roma and other Traveller populations
who are often the target of negative press coverage."
The petition further states that Liddle's use of offensive terms is "the
equivalent of using the highly offensive n-word to describe ethnic minority
black groups." and they ask "for the Spectator to make
a public apology for giving a platform for racism and to give a right to reply
to Rod Liddle’s article."
Liddle's article seems to have been written largely with the intent of causing
offence to the communities concerned and squeezing the maximum innuendo into
the minimum regard for the facts of the case he was allegedly discussing,
that of 'Maria', a blonde young girl whose Roma mother had placed in the care
of Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou as she lacked the funds to look
after her. The couple were for some weeks the target of a xenophobic campaign
by media around the world after Greek authorities wrongly accused the couple
of abducting her, an incident which prompted similar actions by authorities
and vigilantes elsewhere in Europe with Roma children with light skin and
blue eyes being taken (and later returned) from their families.
But why on earth should Liddle think he is in a position to pontificate on
the subject of the proper terms to use for any minority? The NUJ has some
guidelines on fair and accurate reporting of race relations subjects which
includes the advice: "Think carefully about the words you use. Words
which were once in common usage are now considered offensive... Ask people
how they define themselves."
I walked to the Spectator offices with a group of around a dozen people from
the Traveller Movement, and others joined us later on the pavement outside
the offices in Old Queen St. It was a quiet protest, with people holding a
Roma flag and the ITMB banner, sometimes folding it to present just their
new initials, TM.
The protest was joined by two policemen, but they were not in uniform, just
some of the growing number of officers from the traveller community, but it
required no policing. Present along with staff from the Traveller Movement
was also Rainer Schulze, Professor of Modern European History at
the University of Essex and founding editor of the journal 'The Holocaust
in History and Memory.'
There was much serious discussion on the pavement about the various threats
faced by travellers with two particular changes in UK law causing problems
for them. One is the regulations requiring Driver Certificate of Professional
Competence for those driving lorries of 3.5 tonnes or more, with both theory
and practical tests. For those with horses, a more serious threat is of a
law against 'fly-grazing' which would make it illegal for horses travelling
around the country to graze at the roadside or on common land. Already brought
in in Wales, so far Defra has resisted legislation for England. Although there
are real problems of cruelty that animal welfare charities press to be addressed,
the law would extinguish ancient rights and almost certainly lead to an end
to our traditional horse fairs.
After the protesters had been outside the offices for around a quarter of
an hour, Spectator editor Fraser Nelson came out to greet them carrying
a plate of chocolate cake. It was his birthday he told them, and there was
more cake than they could eat in the office and would they like some. Several
took up his offer, including myself, and as I told him, it was my own birthday
too, though I was a little older. The cake was excellent, though several of
the travellers would not take any on principle; as a journalist I had no such
At 5pm Traveller Movement Communications Officer Mike Doherty and
a couple of others rang on the bell and went inside to deliver the petition
to Fraser Nelson. Around half of those present then posed outside the door
for a photography before going on to a Parliamentary seminar organised by
the Traveller Movement in partnership with the Travellers’ Times and
hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies Roma and Travellers
to scrutinize and challenge media portrayals of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.
Save Independent Living Fund
Dept of Work & Pensions, London. Mon 12 May 2014
Disabled protesters and supporters outside the DWP in
Disabled activists and supporters protested at the Dept of Work &
Pensions against plans to end the Independent Living Fund, cutting support
to the disabled, forcing them to be imprisoned in care homes rather than continuing
to live independently.
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who
have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather
than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective
compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average
£300 per person per week.
The Government, having already closed the scheme to new applicants, announced
they were going to end the ILF in December 2012, but was taken to court over
the decision. In April 2013 they won a ruling in the High Court that the decision
was lawful, but this was overturned on appear in November 2013, the Court
of Appeal ruling unanimously that the minister had not specifically considered
the duties imposed by the Equality Act, which they made clear were not optional
even in times of austerity.
In a decision which appears to ignore the Court of Appeal decision, the DWP
announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility
for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject
to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure. For many
currently on ILF this is expected to reduce the level of care to a basic and
often inadequate level of cleaning and feeding which prevents them from having
any active life in the community and will force many into residential homes.
The protesters included many in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters as well
as several blind people and those with other disabilities, as well as their
supporters. Police tried to persuade the protesters into a small penned area
to the side of the DWP entrance, but they declined to be side-lined in this
way, protesting in the larger space in front to the two sets of doors in the
main entrance, both of which had been closed for the protest. The pen was
in any case far too small for the protest.
At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message 'NO ILF -
NO LIFE' across its top, and below the barred window 'Without Support We Become
Prisoners In Our Own Homes - Save the Independent Living Fund'. Squeezed into
this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who
had organised the protest.
Many of the disabled people attending the protest spoke about what the ILF
had enabled them to do and how its loss would seriously affect them. DPAC
has put together a number of 'ILF stories' of how the closure of ILF would
affect the lives of the individuals concerned and sent them to the DWP. They
had brought a letter for Minister for the Disabled Mike Penning, but were
refused entry to the building to deliver it. They asked for the minister or
someone from his department to come out and receive the letter, but no one
was prepared to do so.
Many of those taking part were intending to go on to parliament to meet their
MPs, and Mary who had travelled down from Newcastle, phoned her MP while sitting
in her wheelchair outside the DWP, and was delighted to be able to announce
that Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, would be coming
shortly to the protest to lend her support. When she arrived she tried to
get the DWP security to let the protesters deliver their letter without success,
and then offered to deliver it for them. After some discussion they decided
to accept her offer and she did so, being allowed to enter the building through
a side entrance away from the protest.
When she came out, she spoke briefly to the protest expressing her support
and promising that her staff would see that the letter was followed up
The protest was continuing when I had to leave after over an hour.
Bin British Gas
QEII Centre, Westminster, London. Mon 12 May 2014
and DPAC were among those supporting the Fuel Poverty Action protest
A protest outside the British Gas AGM called for an end to energy profiteering
and fracking which causes energy poverty and climate change and a future based
on community ownership, sustainable renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Fuel Poverty Action who organised the protest say that there were over 10,000
extra deaths last winter because people were unable to heat their homes, while
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.
British Gas raised its gas prices by a 10.4 percent in November, and electricity
by 8.4 per cent.
One factor in rising bills is the rising cost of gas, and the commitment
by government and the energy companies to fracking under much of the UK will
not only result in increasing costs, but threaten our water supplies as well
as continuing carbon dioxide emissions resulting in climate change and global
The protesters urge and increased investment in renewable energy, which in
the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate
change. But this isn't popular with the big six energy companies (and the
government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation
and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and
As the protesters say "Our energy system & economy are run to
make private profit at all costs - our rights to warm home and a safe climate
are sidelined. We're being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have
to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us,
not big business."
The protest began as shareholders queued outside the QEII centre in Westminster
for the AGM of Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, with protesters
with banners and placards handing out fliers. Many of those taking part were
disabled and pensioners, two groups disproportionately affected by high energy
costs because of their greater needs and generally low incomes.
There were a number of speeches from people in various organisations involved
and concerned over fuel poverty, fracking, dirty energy and climate change,
including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Paula Peters of Disabled
People Against Cuts, and pensioners.
The protesters, from 23 poverty, pensioner, climate, housing and renewable
energy co-operatives groups, then came together to tear up British Gas energy
bills, including a giant bill which was torn up by a disabled protester and
a pensioner, before a Lambeth pensioner, Ellen Lebethe, brought out a poster-size
Fuel Poverty Action 'Energy Bill of Rights.'
- We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
- We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment,
or the climate.
- We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety,
water, air, or the local environment of a community.
- We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise
those who use less.
- We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
- We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
- We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
One of the protesters then read out a version of Hamlet’s iconic monologue,
entitled “To Heat or Eat, that is the question”, and shortly after
a member of Reclaim Shakespeare Company who had performed this inside the
Centrica AGM with a tin of beans and a skull in his hands came out to report
on his performance.
The protesters then planted 100 small windmills made from folded British
Gas bills in the grass outside the QEII centre.
Sheffield, Sun 11 May 2014
Bedford Steels, Sheffield
Our bus arrived in Sheffield a couple of hours before the train we had booked
seats on, so I took a walk from Victoria Keys along the Sheffield & TInsley
Canal, coming back mainly along roads and then briefly along the River Don
before going to the station. I didn't have a map and had to be careful not
to get lost and miss the train.
Castleton etc. Fri 9 - Sat 10 May 2014
We arrived at Castleton in the late afternoon
We travelled to Castleton via a lightning visit to family for lunch in Belper,
catching the bus from there to Bakewell and then a second bus to Castleton.
That journey between Bakewell and Castleton must be one of the more scenic
routes in Britain, and although the bus is only a single-decker, the extra
height compared to car or bicycle makes for far better views. And although
the downhill parts would be exhilarating on a bike, you always spend far more
time slogging uphill.
But though bus (and train) windows are good to look out of, they are seldom
great for taking pictures, with dirt and scratches and irregularities, as
well as reflections from the various surfaces.
We were there for a conference, but had some time free on Saturday for a
walk. I'd meant to go up Mam Tor, and we set out to do so despite the occasional
rain and heavy showers and having forgotten to bring the walking map. But
we ran out of time and had to settle for a shorter route back to the centre.
A walk around the Excalibur Estate
Catford, London. Tue 6 May 2014
A 146 degree view taken on the Excalibur Estate
The Excalibur Estate in Catford was constructed during 1945-6 by
German and Italian prisoners of war using two prefabricated designs of housing,
and was initially intended to last 10 years, with a promise being made to
Lord Forster who gave the LCC the land that it would be returned to parkland
when these single-storey two bedroom temporary houses were cleared.
Instead the prefabs has lasted rather longer (a few of the 187 have been
rebuilt following fires etc) but most were in habitable condition over 60
years later when Lewisham council decided to knock the lot down and redevelop
the site with developers London & Quadrant to provide roughly twice the
number of homes.
One end of the estate has already been demolished, and many of the pre-fabs
are now empty, but others are still lived in and loved. A hard-fought campaign
by residents who wanted to remain failed to save the estate, and attempts
to get the estate listed as a unique example of post-war provision, the largest
of its kind remaining in Europe, failed, with just half a dozen token prefabs
and the estate church being given Grade II listing in 2009, despite English
Heritage recommending that 21 buildings be listed. The smaller number allowed
by the Dept for Culture, Media & Sport appears to have been as a result
of lobbying by L&Q. The unlisted buildings are all expected to be demolished
by August 2017.
I've visited the Excalibur Estate a couple of times before. Back in the late
1990s on the second phase of my 'Meridian' project (only work from the first
part, north of Greenwich is online), going south from Greenwich I walked
through the estate and made several panoramas, and back in October 2010 after
reading that the estate was to be demolished I paid another visit
taking more pictures and writing about it on >Re:PHOTO.
My return this month was for two reasons. Although the pictures I'd taken
in 2010 showed the prefabs well, I didn't think I had captured the nature
of the estate as I had done in that earlier panorama, so I wanted to make
some new panoramas. But also I had been meaning since it opened to visit the
Prefab Museum, an art project by
Elisabeth Blanchet. It wasn't originally intended to be open for more
than a month or two, but will be open Saturdays only from 11am till 5pm until
30th September 2014, with a number of special events - check on the Facebook
Inside the Prefab Museum is a line marked across the floor of one room where
the Greenwich Meridian runs - I think my Meridian picture may include the
bungalow that is now the museum. It isn't of course a huge museum, but is
packed with interesting material and I recommend a visit to this and the estate.
Or if you can't physically get there, my panoramas will give you a good idea
of what you are missing.
Support for Harmondsworth Mass Hunger Strike
Harmondsworth, Middx. Mon 5 May 2014
Protesters shout and wave at prisoners who are waving
back from inside the immigration prison
Protesters at Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre showed solidarity
with prisoners who went on mass hunger strike on Friday over the unfair 'fast
track' system which denies many a proper hearing and other problems in the
The hunger strike and protest by over 300 of the prisoners at the centre,
just to the north of Heathrow, was suspended over the weekend after Home Office
officials met delegates and promised to give answers to their demands on Tuesday,
6 May. The protest was sparked off by the failure of the only fax machine
at the prison, essential for those who are trying to prepare their cases.
The fast track system, introduced by the Blair government, is inherently
unfair, giving asylum seekers little or no time to prepare their cases and
has resulted in many unfair decisions. It disadvantages those in most need
of asylum who are unlikely to have prepared essential documents in advance
and to be in a condition to represent themselves effectively. And as they
are held in detention it is very difficult or impossible for them to prepare
a case, particularly when communication with the outside world is limited
The prisoners also complain about the lack of proper healthcare at this and
other Immigration Removal Centres. A recent report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons
included the case of Alois Dvorzac, an 84-year-old who suffered from dementia
sufferer, who died after being held without any proper medical attention for
almost three weeks before being taken in handcuffs to hospital.
Some are being held in Harmondsworth despite having agreed to voluntary repatriation,
in one case for 17 months, presumably because of administrative incompetence
by the Home Office. It is hard to believe it can take that long to book a
Others have got stuck in Harmondsworth after being transferred there from
other other immigration prisons to enable them to have interviews in London,
but the Home Office has simply failed to make the necessary arrangements to
take them back to the centre where they can again consult with their lawyers
and receive family visits.
The prisoners also complain of a lack of legal help and advice at the centre,
and say that sometimes important faxes and documents sent to them over the
Internet about their cases take up to 5 hours to reach them, impeding progress
on their cases.
The Harmondsworth prison is run by GEO Group, who have tried to play down
the protest, saying that it only involved 30 or 40 prisoners missing a single
meal. What does seem to be agreed is that the protest was a peaceful one,
with the prisoners delivering a petition stating their demands. And what also
seems clear is that unless GEO and the Home Office can sort out at least some
of the legitimate causes for complaint the hunger strike and other protests
Just under 30 protesters make the trek out to Harmondsworth on a Bank Holiday
afternoon, and after around 15 minutes gathering at the main entrance to the
site were approached by a couple of police officers, who asked politely what
they intended to do. Receiving no answer, the officer told them that so long
as they behaved sensibly and caused no trouble they would be allowed to protest.
IWGB Cleaners at Royal Opera
Covent Garden, London. Sat 3 May 2014
Police grab one of the protesters outside the Opera House
Cleaners at the Royal Opera House held a noisy demonstration outside
in the evening, shouting and banging drums. They demand recognition of their
IWGB union and reinstatement for sacked workers, victimised for union activities
or through nepotism.
The protesters called for an end to the abuse of staff by MITIE and for
the recognition of their union, the IWGB. They also demanded the reinstatement
of Yovana, Vivian and Reinaldo. They claim that some of
their workers at the Royal Opera House have lost their work because managers
have brought in people from their own community in their place and that anyone
who stands up for their rights at work is in danger of being replaced. The
workplace rep, Vivian, who spoke at the protest has not yet been given a proper
reason for her sacking, other than that she showed IWGB president Alberto
Durango the way to the door of the Opera House.
Earlier in the year action by the IWGB cleaners and the threat of a picket
line which would have disrupted the BAFTA awards ceremony, with some participants
making clear they would not cross a picket line. The management made concessions
and the strike was called off, but the management of the Royal Opera House
and cleaner's contract employees MITIE 'negotiated' with another union, refusing
to deal with the IWGB, a grass-roots union which has achieved a great deal
for many of its members through spirited high-profile actions such as this
evening's return to the ROH.
Mitie is a very profitable company and could afford to treat its employees
with decency and respect and give them better conditions. As the IWGB posters
pointed out, CEO Ruby McGregor-Smith was paid £1,377,000 in 2013. There
is no justification for not recognising the union which the employees actually
belong to - in this case the IWGB, although the law enables them to refuse
to do so by having an agreement with another union. It is certainly a blot
on that union's reputation that is is willing to collude with the management
in this way.
The cleaners and their supporters met outside the Opera House and then marched
down to the ROH entrance in the Covent Garden Plaza with drums beating and
IWGB President Alberto Durango calling out their grievances and demands on
a powerful megaphone. Security staff stood in the doorway and the protesters
made no attempt to enter the building, but continued their noisy demonstration
After a few minutes they marched around to the front of the opera house in
Bow Street, where as well as security staff a dozen or so police came to watch
them. When they had been there around half an hour and I was expected the
protest to end shortly, the police unexpectedly waded in to the protesters
and tried to grab one woman. Other protesters pulled her back from them and
for some minutes the situation was very confused.
The protest continued and after another quarter of an hour there were speeches
from some of those taking part, including a worker who had lost her work at
the Opera House because one of the managers there had brought in other workers
from his own community to replace her, and Vivian who has been sacked because
of her union activities. Another of the protesters, Liliana also spoke, complaining
about the action by the police who had hit a number of women, in particular
pointing to the Inspector in charge, Inspector Rowe, as one of the offenders.
He continued to stand there taking notes.
The protest, which I think had been prolonged by the police action, was still
continuing when I had to leave an hour and a half after it started. Previous
protests by the IWGB have seldom lasted more than an hour.
Horse Traps at the Nag's Head
Covent Garden, London. Sat 3 May 2014
horses had problems on the polished stones which made their hooves slip
An outing to London on horse-drawn traps from around the south-east surprised
tourists in Covent Garden as they parked outside the Nag's Head. The traps
had started at Forest Gate and had already visited Borough Market on their
route around London.
Baloch Hunger Strike
Whitehall, London. Sat 3 May 2014
Balochs opposite Downing St in a token hunger strike
Balochs staged a token hunger strike on Whitehall calling for the immediate
release of all those forcefully disappeared by Pakistani forces.
The strike was in support of the hunger strike by student activist Latif
Johar of the Baloch Students Organisation-Azad (BSO-A) who began a hunger
strike outside the Karachi Press Club on April 22 in protest at the disappearance
by Pakistan security forces of the BSO-A chair Zahid Baloch in March.
(Johar continued his hunger strike for 46 days, losing over 30 kilograms,
ending his protest after an appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission,
who promised they would raise the issue at the United Nations’s International
Commission for Missing Persons.)
20 years of Women Vicars
Westminster, London. Sat 3 May 2014
Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin carries her placard from
20 years ago on the march to St Paul's
On the 20th anniversary of the first women to be ordained by the Church
of England, a thousand or more women priests went to a rally in Dean's Yard
before marching to St Paul's Cathedral for a service.
Although the Congregational Church had its first women minister in 1919,
it took the Church of England another 75 years before they caught up. But
they ordained their first women as priests in 1994, and women now make up
a large proportion of the church.
Dean's Yard had a large crowd of women and rather fewer men, perhaps around
a thousand in all, listening to speeches by some of the women ordained in
1994, and the event was just coming to an end as I took photographs of the
final few speakers and some of the audience, the majority of whom were wearing
Not all of those present were fit enough for the longish walk to St Paul's,
though there were quite a few in wheelchairs who did so. Although the march
soon became rather spread out, it was still fairly impressive.
Among those marching was the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin,the Jamaican-born vicar
of Holy Trinity Church, Dalston and All Saints Church, Haggerston (and also
finding time to be Speaker’s chaplain at the House of Commons, priest
vicar at Westminster Abbey and chaplain to the Queen. She marched carrying
the same placard she had carried when the church was making its decision to
ordain women in 1994, with the message "Women - beautifully & wonderfully
made in the image of God!" She is widely expected to be one of the first
women to become Bishops when the Church of England finally decides they can
have women bishops.
Anti-Fur Picket at Harvey Nichols
Knightsbridge, London. Sat 3 May 2014
protest at ''Heartless Harvey Nichols' for selling fur farmed abroad under
Protesters continue a weekly vigil outside Knightsbridge fashion store Harvey
Nichols calling on shoppers to boycott them for selling animal fur products,
which come almost entirely from farms with exceedingly cruel practices banned
in the UK.
Restore the Ethiopian Monarchy
Ethiopian Embassy, London. Sat 3 May 2014
The placards read 'Economic Liberation', although Selassie
was deposed because of economic failures
Rastafarians of the Church of Haile Selassie I protested opposite the
Ethiopian Embassy calling for the restoration of the Dynasty of Emperor Haile
Selassie 1st to bring about economic liberation of the country.
The Ba Beta Kristiyan Church of Haile Selassie I in Cricklewood
holds an annual protest outside the embassy in Kensington calling for the
return of the monarchy in their country, as well as organising an on-line
petition. Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat the European colonialists
and was the first independent African state to become a member of the League
of Nations and the UN under Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Haile Selassie was am Ethiopian Orthodox Christian and widely regarded as
a powerful but repressive and undemocratic ruler. Rastafarians see him as
a messiah who will bring in a new golden age.
In 1974 an economic crisis in Ethiopia led to riots and eventually a group
of army officers, the DERG took power, and Haile Selassie, then 83, died under
possibly suspicious circumstances following an operation in prison. The communist
Derg, formally abolished in 1987 was eventually replaced in 1991 following
military defeat by a coalition of opposition forces after support from the
Soviet Union had ended. Since then the country has been nominally democratic,
but effectively an authoritarian one-party state with fraudulent elections
and strict control of the opposition and press.
The petition - now closed - by The Church of Haile Selassie 1st "to
bring back a traditional culture which unites the people in ethiopia/afrika
,creating peace and stability which will spread to the wider world. 1936 -
41 restoration, four years later saw the end of world war two."
attracted 61 supporters on Change.org.
Joint Enterprise - NOT Guilty By Association
London, London. Sat 3 May 2014
Protesters march towards Parliament along the Albert Embankment
Families fighting to abolish a 300 year old law that has wrongfully imprisoned
family members in a gross breach of human rights marched through London today
campaigning to get the law. introduced to stop dueling, repealed and their
loved ones freed.
Under 'Joint Enterprise' you can be convicted of a crime you took
no part in - even if you were not present when it was committed. Hundreds
if not thousands are in British jails having been convicted under this law,
which was introduced three hundred years ago in a clamp-down on dueling, enabling
the seconds and doctors who attended duels to be arrested as well as the actual
The law appears to be currently interpreted by judges and the courts in a
way that makes almost any connection with a person committing a crime a matter
of common purpose, and failing to apply the safeguards of calling on the prosecution
to prove the existence of any act by the defendant that assisted the commission
of the offence, or to show that the defendant knew that the crime that occurred
was a real possibility, or that the defendant intended to assist the perpetrator
of the illegal act that occurred.
In a recent statement, Justice Minister Chris Grayling stated that for a
conviction of joint enterprise to be upheld it was not necessary for their
to be any plan by those taking part - a 'knowing look' shared between
the defendants would be enough to convict. In other words, no real evidence
at all is required - or in most cases has it been offered.
Without the proper safeguards, the offence has become popular for police
and prosecution, enabling them to get convictions where the is no real evidence
against those who end up with lengthy prison terms in what is often clearly
a miscarriage of justice and a violation of the human rights of those on trial.
Almost all of the just over fifty people taking part in today's march were
from families of those who have been unjustly imprisoned, many for very lengthy
terms of up to 30 years. Most commonly the offence has been used against young
people after stabbings and other violence on the streets, often wrongly accusing
some of being gang members. It has been used disproportionately against Afro-Caribbean
young men, although most of those supporting today's protest were not Afro-Caribbean.
The protest was organised by JENGbA - Joint Enterprise - NOT
Guilty By Association - and co-ordinator Gloria Morrison led
the march which went from just behind Tate Britain over Lambeth Bridge and
along the embankment to recross the river over Westminster Bridge to a rally
opposite Parliament. After the rally those taking part intended to picnic
in Victoria Gardens before continuing their protest, handing out leaflets
and getting signatures for their petition against the use of the joint enterprise
law. A similar protest was also taking place in Manchester today.
Last year Gloria Morrison received the Sheila McKechnie Foundation's London
Social Justice Award, sponsored by the Trust for London, for campaigners
tackling poverty and inequality in London for her work for JENGbA. She got
involved with campaigning on the issue when her son’s best friend was
convicted under joint enterprise. JENGbA aims to reform the law, and wants
to raise awareness about the way in which it is currently being applied in
the courts. They also campaign on behalf of and with those who have been wrongfully
convicted under the law.
May Day Rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 1 May 2014
Crow's daughter Natasha Hoarau speaking in Trafalgar Square
The London May Day March in support of left unity, solidarity and trade union
rights ended at a rally in Trafalgar Square with speeches in honour of Tony
Benn & Bob Crow and powerful speeches from several trade unionists calling
for a fairer society.
Many of the marchers left after the tributes to Tony Benn and Bob Crow, which
included a video for each of them with clips of some of there more memorable
May Day March for Bob Crow & Tony Benn
Clerkenwell, London. Thu 1 May 2014
The RMT turned out in force to remember Bob Crow and
Thousands of trade unionists, human rights activists, members of London's
diverse communities, pensioners and others from the left marched in a display
of unity, solidarity and support of trade union rights and in honour of Tony
Benn & Bob Crow.
Both Tony Benn and Bob Crow had been regular attenders at the annual May
Day march in London and had spoke at many of the rallies after the march,
as well as on so many other occasions. Both were men who had dedicated their
lives to socialism and to improving the condition of ordinary workers, to
equality and to a fairer social system. Both are sadly missed.
Traditionally May Day has been a day when everyone across the left has put
aside sectional differences to march together for a new future, recognising
that their common cause is stronger and more important than the factional
differences. Although many may wince at the large images of Stalin which some
groups parade (as I do) we can come together in a common belief in humanity
and the rights of all over the world to a decent existence rather than in
the rights of a tiny minority to unbelievable wealth which drives capitalism.
As usual the march gathered at Clerkenwell Green, a site with a history of
political radicalism at lest since the Peasant's revolt of 1381, and in the
19th century with the Chartists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, William Morris and
Lenin, and since 1933 the home of the Marc Memorial Library.
As I walked towards it, from several hundred yards away it was clear that
this year's march was going to be larger than usual. Although I arrived before
the time for meeting and over an hour before the march was due to start I
could already see a forest of flags and banners. In previous years the march
has been dominated by those communities in London from countries where May
Day is celebrated on a huge scale, particularly London's Turkish and Kurdish
peoples. While UK unions such as the RMT had been present, their numbers have
been rather smaller. But today the RMT was out in force to honour its leader,
Bob Crow, who died on March 11th. There were RMT banners from around the country
and I lost count of how many, and hundreds if not thousands of flags and placards.
The march is organised by the London May Day Organising Committee and this
is supported by a wide range of organisations including 'GLATUC, S&ERTUC,
UNITE London & Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London & South
East Region, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA, NUT, MU London, FBU London & Southern Regions,
GMB London & Southern Regions, UNISON Greater London Region, Peoples Assembly,
NPC, GLPA and other Pensioners’ organisations and organisations representing
Turkish, Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Portuguese, West Indian, Sri
Lankan, Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish, Nigerian migrant workers &
communities plus many other trade union & community organisations'.
These groups are rather mixed up in my pictures, particularly those taken
before the start of the march, when I was wandering rather randomly around
Clerkenwell Green where the march gathered. The pictures are roughly in the
order that I took them.
This year they had the march a little more organised than in previous years,
necessary because of extra numbers and the two men being honoured. It set
off promptly at 1pm with Bob Crow's wife and family members with others at
the front of the march, and with the RMT Brass band playing behind them. Members
of Tony Benn's family were behind the main May Day banner,and they were followed
by many trade union banners, then the international and community groups,
and finally other groups, including anarchists and Occupy.
As well as the RMT band, there was another marching band, and a Socialist
Choir, the Strawberry Thieves, who performed as the marchers walked past.
I left the march at Holborn, around halfway to their rally at Trafalgar Square.
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