Occupy Westminster Abbey - save the ILF
Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey, London. Sat 28 Jun 2014
Police twist back the arm of a protester they are arresting
with unnecessary force at Westminster Abbey
Disabled Activists in their wheelchairs and and others from Occupy London
set up camp on the grass area in front of Westminster Abbey in a protest against
the removal of the Independent Living Fund, which will force them into institutions.
When we arrived at the grassed area in front of Westminster Abbey the gates
were shut and there were perhaps 40 protesters inside, including quite a few
in wheelchairs. St Paul's security staff were standing by the gates which
some protesters were locked to, and it was not possible to get in. As well
as the DPAC protesters there were also many from Occupy London who had organised
the protest with them, their aim being to occupy the green area for a week
Quite a few of those who had arrived with me jumped over the fence, but I
decided I was too old and unfit, and instead rushed around the outside of
the fence to see what was happening. At one entrance a protester told me that
the gate wasn't really locked and they would let me in later. Quite a few
journalists and protesters did get let in - including some of those in wheelchairs,
but I wasn't in the right place at the right time - and I also wasn't too
sure I wanted to go inside.
Soon swarms of police were arriving, and they were controlling another gate,
but told me they were not letting journalists in. I suspected that this meant
that if I did go inside they might well not let me out, at least not until
they thought they had the situation under control, so I stopped trying to
get inside, and worked from the fence. Having seen the pictures taken by those
inside I think I did as well.
Soon the police outnumbered the protesters by perhaps four or five to one,
and were lined up all around just inside the fence to stop anyone else entering.
Fortunately I could still take pictures between them.
The protesters had managed to bring a lot of equipment into the area, but
their plans were scuppered when one officer stood in the middle of the main
tent they were trying to erect, and refused to move. Without that tent there
was just not enough shelter for the disabled protesters to continue to occupy
The protesters had hoped for support from the Church of England, as many
Christians had called the government's actions immoral. But they had picked
the wrong place, and the Dean of Westminster refused even to talk to the protesters,
calling on the police to get rid of them. I stood next to Labour MP John McDonnell
as he tried without success to phone the Dean and talk to him about the protest;
the Dean was busy and didn't call back as requested.
There were a number of small incidents between protesters and police. In
one of them police tried to stop DPAC's Andy Greene using a ramp to drive
his wheelchair up a small step onto the grass. A protester stood on the ramp
to prevent the police grabbing it, and a small crowd of protesters surrounded
the officers, shouting that they were discriminating as able-bodied protesters
had not been stopped by police from stepping up. Eventually the police conceded
and moved away. Another protester who had complained when police grabbed a
wheelchair and moved it was arrested with what seemed like totally unncessary
violence and taken away to a police van. It was the only arrest I saw.
It became obvious to me that the protesters were not going to be allowed
to stay, and that with only the shelter of a gazebo and a couple of small
tents and with no access to facilities the protest could only last a few hours.
Probably this was also obvious to the police, who despite the huge number
present did not look as if they were about to use force to remove the protesters.
It was getting pretty dark (despite only being the early evening) and the
rain was continuing and I was begining to get tired and hungry and decided
there was no point in my staying longer.
UK Uncut 'Boot Out Boots'
Victoria St, London. Sat 28 Jun 2014
Uncut protesters protest outside books to divert police attention
A football-themed protest by UK Uncut outside Boots claiming they have
dodged £1.3bn in tax since 2007 took police eyes off the ball as disabled
protesters set up camp at Westminster Abbey to protest the ending of the Independent
Boots have dodged over £1bn in tax since 2007, but HMRC won't take
an interest in their dodgy tax deals,even though the could use the huge sums
they could reclaim from tax dodgers to avoid the need for cuts in health and
welfare. Tax dodging by the super-rich - including some cabinet members -
costs the UK over £25bn every year.
So the protesters were kicking around two supersized footballs (once they
had managed to inflate them) and shouting it was time to 'Boot out Boots!'.
They also had a rather nice version of the Boots logo, but reading 'Loots'.
There were an awful lot of police watching the rather small demonstration,
as they knew that something else was going to happen somewhere else - as the
protest flyer said, follow #BootOutBoots on twitter for a surprise.
I didn't know where the surprise was taking place, but I did know it would
be a protest somewhere involving disabled protesters from DPAC, and it seemed
the police only knew as much as me. It's a little harder for police officers
to infiltrate groups of disabled protesters with agent provocateurs like Mark
Kennedy, as they don't have disabled officers.
Rain on Pride Parade
Baker St, London. Sat 28 Jun 2014
Beat back the bigots - No to UKIP - Fight for liberation
The annual Gay Pride celebration in London continued despite a torrential
downpour as the parade was due to part. As usual there were some more serious
protests, including those against persecution of gays in Uganda and elsewhere,
in a largely celebratory parade.
I photographed only in Baker St, where the procession was starting, By the
time the end of the procession was moving off it was time for me to go to
Torture Solidarity Vigil
Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 26 Jun 2014
Protesters in front of the National Gallery
A 30th anniversary vigil for the UN Convention Against Torture highlighted
the increasing use of torture, in solidarity with victims world wide and raising
awareness of crimes against humanity funded by UK taxpayers and by India in
Kashmiris wore black hoods and headbands with messages 'Mutilated', 'Raped',
'Tortured', 'Executed' and waved the Kashmiri flage to protest at the widespread
human rights abuses bythe 7,000 custodial killings and torture of prisoners
by theIndian state Indian state in Kashmir- 1 in 5 Kashmiris is a torture
Other protesters posed with posters and with blindfolds or gags calling for
an end to impunity for torturers. They called for the release of Londoner
Shaker Aamer, still held and routinely tortured in Guantanamo Bay despite
having been cleared for release seven years ago.
The UN Convention Against Torture became international law on 26 June 1987,
but has not stopped the growning use of torture. States around the world of
all political persuasions fail to fully investigate violations, fail to bring
to justice and punish the perpetrators, fail to provide victims with effective
The UK has failed over allegations of prisoner abuse by the British military
in Iraq and Afghanistan and has continued to be involved in the “rendition”
and torture of British and foreign nationals abroad. Our government prevents
violations becoming public knowledge, relying on secret courts and partial
and biased investigations.
Greenwich from the Isle of Dogs
Island Gardens, London. Tue 24 Jun 2014
Naval College, Queens House and Greenwich Park with General Wolfe and Royal
Although I'd gone out with the intention of making panoramic images, I couldn't
resist taking some pictures of the cruise liner 'Deutschland', based in Schleswig-Holstein
moored by Deptford Creek. Ships this size - 175m long, 22,500 tons - are uncommon
so far upriver now. Apparently the ship, built in 1998, has interior decor
that recalls the art-deco days of the luxury ocean liners, and passengers
are expected to live up to this - you need a dinner jacket to dress for dinner.
Although I've photographed the Royal Naval College from across the river
many times, I can't recall ever having seen it in the late evening light it
really needs before. With a sky full of clouds, the sun came and went across
the facades, and I sat for a quarter of an hour in Island Gardens watching
it - and eating a couple of sandwiches - before leaving to attend an exhibition
opening a short walk away.
Millwall - Isle of Dogs pans
Isle of Dogs, , London. Tue 24 Jun 2014
The Barkantine Estate was built by the LCC in 1968-70,
since re-furbished with odd 'roofs' added
When I first walked these streets there was virtually no access to the riverside,
with wharf after wharf between Westferry Rd and the river until you came to
the park (Sir John McDougall Gardens.) A footbridge led from the Barkantine
estate - built to replace a heavily bombed area of densely-packed small houses.
South of this you again walked along the busy street until there were a few
empty wharves around the south of the Isle of Dogs.
Now you can walk mainly along the riverside, with only one working area blocking
the path. But there are several other places where you have to divert, including
one wall dividing social housing from its wealthy neighbours. There was also
a temporary diversion in one area, though it wasn't clear why.
Further on are fine views across the river to Greenwich, along with further
diversions from the riverside, where several earlier developments did not
include riverside walks.
I finished my walk at Island Gardens, where you get the finest view of Greenwich,
and sat there in the sun eating some sandwiches enjoying the spectacular lighting
and cloud formations. They really look too extreme on the panoramas, even
though I've toned them down a little. The view from there doesn't really suit
the panoramic format, so is in a separate section above.
Limehouse, London. Tue 24 Jun 2014
The riverside path runs between blocks of flats and
Panoramic images from a walk from Limehouse DLR station along Narrow St and
then the Thames Path. I photographed the area, mainly in black and white in
the 1980s when there was less riverside access. The replacement of wharves
by expensive riverside flats has resulted in more rights of way to the river;
unfortunately the view is now largely of these flats and their counterparts
on the south bank.
The boundaries of the various areas of London are seldom precise - except
where they are defined by natural features such as the Thames. I have chosen
to end this 'Limehouse' section of images just after Limekiln Dock, with the
Piers Gough designed bridge which now takes the path across the mouth of the
The weather was very changeable, with fast-moving dramatic clouds, blue sky,
light showers and some rather curious light.
People's Assembly Rally
Parliament Square, London. Sat 21 Jun 2014
There were a lot of speakers at the rally after the march, and most of the
pictures I took are of them, including Chris Baugh, PCS, Caroline
Len McCluskey Unite the Union, Lutfur Rahman Tower Hamlets
Mayor, journalist Owen Jones , Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sam
Fairbairn, People's Assembly, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union,
Jasmine Stone of Focus E15 Mothers, Lindsey German,
Ian Lawrence, NAPO, Rehana Azam of the 999 Call for NHS,
comedian Francesca Martinez and Christine Blower, National Union
Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary with the Houses
of Parliament reflected in her glasses
Russell Brand was an hour late and I couldn't be bothered to wait for him.
No more Austerity March
London. Sat 21 Jun 2014
PCS members wait at the start of the march by the BBC
The national demonstration organised by The People's Assembly, trade
unions and campaign groups attracted huge support, marching from the BBC to
demand they no longer ignore the alternative to austerity to a rally in Parliament
Square. (See my post above for pictures from the rally.)
These pictures are at the moment without captions and are presented in the
order that I took them while the march was forming up and as it made its way
to Oxford Circus, where I left it for another story, rejoining the protest
as the marchers came in to Parliament Square for the rally.
Call for Nationwide Homeless Spikes Ban
Tesco, Regent St, London. Sat 21 Jun 2014
talk with protesters outside Tesco
A protest outside the Tesco store earlier forced to remove its 'anti-homeless'
spikes called for a nationwide ban on all such anti-homeless devices, reminding
us that 'The Destitute are not Vermin' but humans who deserve our support
not persecution. We should be trying to help the homeless instead of isolating
World Naked Bike Ride London
Marble Arch & Westminster Bridge, London. Sat 14 Jun 2014
One of the riders poses for my camera as he comes down
The annual World Naked Bike Ride in London started at five points
around the capital and converged at Westminster for a ride around central
London. It's supposedly a protest against car culture, and riders are invited
to ride 'as naked as you dare'. The police in London take no action against
the riders other than stopping to watch like everyone else!
It's a rather mixed event bringing together people who want to ride for various
reasons, including naturists and environmentalists and those who just do it
for fun. In my pictures I try to concentrate on those who are clearly making
a protest with slogans or placards - including those against cars killing
cyclists - and also those who make the event more colourful with costumes
and body paint.
The pictures here are a fairly small sample from those I took but bearing
the comments above in mind I think show a pretty fair view of the event, taken
at the main start at Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and a square a couple of
hundred yards from there. I will possibly send some others to the event organisers
as I have in some previous years.
Mile End, London. Sat 14 June 2014
Canal at Mile End
I'd gone to Mile End hoping to meet some people, but
it didn't happen. Instead I ate my lunch beside the canal and spent a few
minutes on my way back to central London at a Gypsy Roma and Traveller festival
there, but I couldn't stay long and it was only just starting.
UK Uncut Party at Vodafone
Oxford St, London. Sat 14 Jun 2014
Focus E15 Mothers and Andy Greene of DPAC block the
A DPAC activist and mums from the Focus E15 campaign stopped security
closing the shutters on their Oxford St flagship when UK Uncut came to protest
at their failure - abetted by the UK government - to pay UK tax, and against
other tax dodgers.
Vodafone have paid no corporation tax since 2011, and in 2010 the UK government
allowed them to avoid paying £6 billion the owned. While ordinary people
pay their taxes, UK Uncut say the government lets the super-rich get away
with tricky schemes for avoiding - and sometimes evading - the tax they should
pay. 30,000 low income households have been forced out of their homes by bedroom
tax, and far more are homeless because of the refusal by sucessive governments
to build social housing.
They say the rich and companies like Vodafone should pay tax - which could
be spent on public services. Tax dodging by the super-rich costs the nation
at least £25 billion a year.
UK Uncut protesters gathered in the gardens in Cavendish Square and got
ready to party and protest, blowing up balloons and handing out masks of some
of the well-known people who have gone to unreasonable lengths to avoid paying
tax, including Jimmy Carr, Chris Moyes and Gary Barlow, along with the politicians
who are refusing to clamp down on tax abuse by the rich, George Osborne and
David Cameron. Osborne and Cameron are themselves extremely rich, and benefit
from some of the tax abuses, while many of the others who do so are major
donors to the Tory party.
From there the protesters marched the short distance to Vodaphone. As they
arrived they were stopped in front of the door by security staff while the
shop managers tried to lower the shutters over the entrance, but Andy Greene
of DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) drove his wheelchair into the entrance
to prevent it being lowered, and was soon joined there by several from the
Focus E15 campaign, including Jasmine Stone with her young daughter in a buggy.
Security staff brought in by Vodafone tried with little success to keep protesters
and press out of the area in front of the doorway which is marked by studs
as belonging to the store, but had little success until a few minutes later
when police arrived and gave them a hand.
There were a few minor incidents caused by the security staff who seemed
less than professional, and were neither uniformed nor wearing any ID. I heard
one of them clearly threaten a protester with violence - though he quickly
denied he had done so when I questioned this - and there were a number of
incidents when uncooperative protesters were pushed rather roughly. When one
of the Focus E15 women was pushed just outside the doorway, Jasmin Stone quickly
rushed to her aid, and then had great difficulty in persuading a police officer
to let her go back to her daughter Safia who was still in her buggy underneath
the half-closed shutter.
Shortly after, the protesters who had been preventing the shutter from being
closed for around three quarters of an hour decided to leave the shop, and
came out celebrating their action. They were warmly applauded by the other
protesters and the Focus E15 group came to the microphone to explain their
campaign, which had begun when they were all given notices of eviction from
the Focus hostel in Stratford, but had now developed into a wider campaign
for housing for all/
The protest party continued on the pavement outside Vodafone in Oxford St,
though it was a little dampened by a heavy shower. A police officer came to
talk with some of the protesters, wanting assurance that if Vodafone was to
open again the protesters would not go inside to protest, but no one was prepared
or in a positin to say they would not (and I think some would certainly have
Left Unity protest Tesco anti-homeless spikes
Regent St, London. Thu 12 Jun 2014
Andrew Burgin with 'Homes Not Spikes' protesters at
Tesco Metro on Lower Regent St
Left Unity organised a protest against the anti-homeless spikes installed
outside the Tesco store to stop the homeless sheltering and sleeping on the
wide ledges there. But earlier on the day of the protest and following a flood
of complaints on-line, Tesco had already said that the spikes would be removed.
I arrived a few minutes early for the protest, only to find that workmen
had come half an hour or so earlier and removed the spikes. But others had
got in rather earlier, at dead of night in high-viz jackets with buckets of
concrete, which they had poured on to try and cover the spikes. They hadn't
made much of a job of it, but their direct action had made rather a mess,
perhaps prompting Tesco to get on with the job in a hurry.
Probably the news - which was all over Facebook and Twitter - kept the numbers
at the protest down. But the public revulsion over the matter will perhaps
mean that others follow the example of Tesco (and the Vue cinema next door
which shared the spikes.) Sleeping rough isn't a lifestyle choice, but something
that people are forced into out of necessity, and it is very much on the increase
at the present time. We should be trying to cut it down by paying basic benefits
(and not removing them for largely arbitrary reasons) as well as providing
suitable low cost housing in London , not persecuting those unfortunate enough
to be forced onto the streets.
Focus E15 Mums Expose Carpenters Estate
Carpenters Estate, Stratford, London. Mon 9 Jun 2014
Stone of Focus E15 Mums speaks at the end of the protest outside a vacant
The campaign started by mothers evicted from the Focus E15 hostel pasted
up posters on deliberately emptied quality social housing vacant for years
on Newham's most popular council estate and called for it to be used to house
The Carpenters Estate in Stratford came to national attention two years ago,
when broadcasters set up studios on two of the three point blocks overlooking
the neighbouring Olympic site, but deserves rather more detailed attention
because of the plans for the area by the local labour-dominated Newham Council
under its elected Mayor, Sir Robin Wales.
After war damage, the Carpenters Estate was redeveloped in 1967 with three
tower blocks and good quality low-rise housing. It was a popular estate with
residents, fairly quiet and pleasant with little or no crime, open spaces
and very convenient for the facilities and transport of Stratford. Many of
those living there took advantage of the right to buy, and many of those still
there are owner ocuppiers. Most of the remaining social housing tenants were
forced to move some years ago. One of the reasons given for the removal of
tenants was the presence of asbestos (as in all buildings of the era) which
was said to be too expensive to be removed - but most has now been removed.
If Carpenters Estate were in a distant part of the borough it might occasionally
be paraded by the local council as a good example of social housing (though
there were problems with asbestos as with all developments of the era, but
that has been dealt with.) But because of its position, all Newham Council
sees when it looks in that direction are large and flashing £ signs.
It is a area about which property developers salivate and which the local
council appears desperate to knock down and sell off, despite its recent claims.
Thanks largely to powerful local opposition which also gained the support
of academics and students, plans to sell off the whole area as a new campus
for University College London fell through. The council is still looking for
other developers although following the defeat over the UCL plans it issued
a statement suggesting it would work with others who had expressed an interest
in the regeneration of the estate. So far relatively little seems to have
happened, with most of the shuttered and sealed properties still in that condition,
and at the start of today's protest, workers from the Carpenters Tenant Management
Organisation came to talk with the protesters, expressing support for their
demands for the re-opening of the closed properties as social housing. The
council's web site still appears to be confused over the intentions for regeneration.
Because of the future prospects of big money which still seem to entrance
the council, it seems likely that any tenancies offered on the estate are
likely to short-term, allowing tenants to be readily evicted, probably now
for piece-meal private development rather than grand schemes like the UCL
The protesters see Newham as carrying out a policy of social cleansing, selling
off prime development sites, mainly to be used for high-rent housing for those
in high paid employment in the City and elsewhere outside Newham. Meanwhile,
the people who used to live on those sites are offered rehousing in distant
areas of the country or expensive and insecure privately rented accommodation
elsewhere in London.
The protesters came to the Carpenters Estate armed with posters and wallpaper
paste and brushes. After putting up banners denouncing the council's policy
of social cleansing they began to paste up posters on the metal shutters which
the council use to stop empty properties being squatted. The larger posters
were life-size portraits of some of the E15 mothers and children and others
involved in the Housing Campaign in desperate need of housing in Newham. And
with these large photographs, they put up smaller posters, with the messages
including 'We Could be Here', 'This home needs a family', 'These homes
need people', 'You could be here'.
Among those present at the protest were several residents and former residents
of the estate. One man who had grown up and lived most of his life on the
estate and had been forced to move told me that he was now homeless, spending
nights at the homes of several friends. One resident still living there who
owns her house just a few yards from where the protest was taking place was
Mary Finch, who told me she had come to live on the estate 43 years ago, and
was certainly not going to leave of her own free will - she told me "they
will have to carry me out."
London Uni workers Garden Halls picket
University of London Commonwealth Hall. Mon 9 Jun 2014
Striking workers on the picket line in Cartwright Gardens
Workers on strike for a week held a lively picket at UoL Garden Halls,
due to close at the end of June, calling for no redundancies, recognition
of their IWGB union and transfer to other jobs without loss of length of service
The roughly 80 workers in the three inter-collegiate University of London
halls of residence in Cartwright Gardens, including cleaners, catersing staff,
porters and maintenance staff, many of whom have worked for the university
for ten years of more, are not directly employed by London University but
the jobs have been outsourced to varioius contractors - now Cofely and Aramark.
Most of them are now members of the International Workers Union, the IWGB
and many have been involved in the campaign supported by the IWGB for comparable
sick pay, holidays and pensions to those enjoyed by their directly employed
The Garden Halls are to be renovated and enlarged resulting in full closure
for the next academic year and it will be two years before they are fully
open again. The work is being financed by a private company who will run them
when they re-open and hike up the fees to students to pay them back for the
The IWGB has tried without success to negotiate with the University of London
and the outsourcing companies who refuse to recognise them as a union. They
officially recognise a large union which has few if any members in the three
halls and unsurprisingly shows little interest in negotiating any sensible
deal for members of another union.
The IWGB balloted its members and got almost unanimous support for a five
day strike. They are demanding:
1. No redundancies
2. Cofely and Aramark negotiate with the IWGB
3. All workers are transferred without losing their length of service
4. All workers are transferred without losing the London Living Wage or
the improved sick pay, holidays, and pensions
The picket, supported by a number of students from various London University
colleges and the University of London Union was in good spirits, with speeches,
music and dancing. While I was there three of the workers were presented with
City & Guilds certificate for Mathematics they had acheived on a WEA course
promoted by their union.
Protest Against Egypt Death Sentences
Marble Arch, London. Sun 8 Jun 2014
Muslim women wearing white capes with numbers in the
A protest against the 1,212 death sentences in Egypt was filmed with
around 150 people, many in Muslim dress, wearing white shirts with numbers
taped to them, making the R4BIA sign and staging a die-in on the day the new
Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was sworn in.
Sikhs march for Truth, Justice & Freedom
Hyde Park, London. Sun 8 Jun 2014
India's Hidden Genocide was one of many banners on the
Thousands marched on the 30th anniversary of the 1984 destruction at the
Golden Temple in Amritsar, calling for truth and justice about this and the
war by India against Sikhs since then in which many more have disappeared,
died, been raped. Many called for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan.
The march was organised by the Federation of Sikh Organisations and united
over 200 Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations. Although some come to remember
the event and those who were killed then and since, many of those at the event
come calling for justice, and for freedom, which was the main theme of the
Sikhs want freedom for the many Sikh political prisoners in India, and an
end to the death penalty and hanging; the want freedom of religion in practice
(as enshrined in Articel 25 of the 1949 Indian constitution) and greater control
over the resources of the Punjab, particularly water. For many the over-riding
freedom is freedom from India and the formation of an independent state of
This was a large march, with perhaps 10,000 people taking part. Before the
march there was a rally with many speakers in Hyde Park where I enjoyed the
free food for those who wanted it. Some of the speeches were in English, but
many in Punjabi, and as well as the many men there were a few women speakers.
At the end of the rally five Sikh Khalsa in saffron robes holding their Kirpan,
representing the Panj Pyare - the Five Beloved Ones - took to the stage and
there were prayers before they led the procession out of Hyde Park and down
Park Lane towards Trafalgar Square for another rally. I left the march as
the end of it walked past Marble Arch.
Support Detainees in Harmondsworth
Harmondsworth Detention Centre, London. Sat 7 Jun 2014
inside the detention centre show their appreciation for the support from the
protest. A close wired tall fence makes photography difficult.
Movement for Justice supporters came to Harmondsworth and the adjioining
Colnbrook detention centre and protested with prisoners inside the immigration
prison against the unjust 'Fast Track System' and mistreatment of detainees
by private security firms.
The protest was a little late in starting, and some people obviously had
problems getting to Harmondsworth on the western edge of London just across
the Bath Road from Heathrow Airport. One person who had no trouble finding
it was local MP John McDonnell who was given a great welcome by the
campaigners for his long support of asylum seekers. He pointed us towards
the two huge blocks of Colnbrook and Harmondsworth detention centres (they
are separated only by a roadway) and told us that when he had first become
MP for the area the immigration detention centre was only a small building
housing a dozen or so detainees. The last twenty or so years has seen a huge
increase in the number of people locked up for seeking asylum, many of whom
are eventually granted leave to remain, sometimes after very long periods
The protest today was called in support of the continuing struggles of the
detainees inside the centres for an end to physical abuse, and to an end to
punishment by solitary confinement in 'the block' for those detainees who
try to stand up for their rights. The detainees and those protesting on their
behalf also demand an end to the unfair 'Fast track' system which was set
up with the deliberate aim of deporting people before they had time to put
together the evidence that would enable them to properly present their case
The protesters demand that the system should be reversed, with the burden
of proof being on the Home Office to show that the asylum seeker should be
deported. They want all detention centres to be shut down, with no asylum
seeker or immigrants being detained and for a full public inquiry into the
sexual, physical and psychological abuse in Yarl's Wood, Harmondsworth and
all other detention centres, as well as insisting there should be an end to
punishments and other retaliation against detainees who organise and protest
After a brief rally on the main road in front of the two detention centres,
including McDonnell's speech, the protesters began to make a circuit on the
roadway which goes around the Harmondsworth centre, most of which is enclosed
behind tall fences. The stopped at places on the way where they knew that
those inside the prison would be able to see and hear them, making a lot of
noise chanting and shouting as well as with whistles and other noise-makers.
Soon some of those on the protest were getting phone calls from people inside
both Colnbrook and Harmondsworth centres, saying they could see and hear the
protest and thanking the protesters for coming to give their support. From
some of the calls it was clear that protests were continuing inside the two
jails. We began to see hands at the windows, and faces and notices, though
it was hard to see these clearly through the tall fairly fine mesh fence.
The protesters continued to the north side of the immigration prison, where
a very long banner with the message 'Stop Racism - End Fast Track - End
Detention' was rolled out and held for those inside to see. Some stood
by the windows and waved; others held up their ID cards, and some messages
they had written calling for freedom.
There were another two short rallies with speeches, and some phone calls
from people inside the prison which were either repeated by those receiving
them to a microphone or, when possible, relayed by holding the megaphone to
the phone speaker.
The protesters stopped for a longer rally with more phone calls on the west
side of the building, where by standing well back it was possible to see a
few windows over the top of the fence. At the rally on this side there were
votes on the demands of the Movement for Justice - all of which were approved
unanimously, and then other forthcoming actions were outlined.
The protests then marched along to the end of the third side, but so many
phone calls were coming from people inside the building that they organisers
decided to go back the way they had come and give more of them a chance to
be heard. Unfortunately at that point I had to leave.
Colombian Mines - World Environment Day
Colombian Embassy, London. Thu 5 Jun 2014
Protesters against the environmental damage caused by
he vast La Colosa & Santurbán gold mines
Protesters at the Colombian embassy condemned the the vast La Colosa &
Santurbán gold mines which endanger water sources in the high mountain
regions and could wreck their fragile ecosystems. The mines have led to mass
protests in Colombian cities.
The placards, aimed at the staff of the embassy, were in Spanish, but their
message was clear - Water Yes, Gold No! (Agua Si, Oro No!) and some showed
the huge crowds who have protested in Colombia against the mega-mines.
The protesters issued a statement:
5 June is World Environment Day called by the United Nations.For the last
three years tens of thousands of people, led by the youth, have held Carnivals
for Life in Ibague, which is the nearest city to the La Colosa mine project.
This year there will be similar carnivals and events in other regions.
In Bucaramanga the whole city turned out in protests to the point of civilian
revolt to stop the Santurbán gold mine by Canadian company Greystar
La Colosa and Santurbán both pose a major threat to water sources,
especially in the high mountain ecozones known as páramos where plants
convert water from clouds into stream sources. Gold processing on an industrial
scale threatens water contamination on an industrial scale. Water is life.
We say no to gold, yes to life!
This was a peaceful protest opposite the embassy in Hans Place, at the rear
of Harrods, which has been the scene of many protests, particularly since
Julian Assange was given asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy which is in the
same building. It is hardly surprising that some of those who live in the
flats in front of which the protest was taking place are rather fed up with
the frequent disturbance, and a police officer who was keeping an eye on the
protest had to intervene when one of them began to shout aggressively at one
of the protesters. It is surely about time that the government stopped the
silly game and granted Assange the freedom to leave the country en route to
Tower Hamlets - Save our Surgeries
Tower Hamlets, London. Thu 5 Jun 2014
Staff from St Katherines Dock Practice on the march
Health professionals and local residents took part in a 'Nye Bevan' march
to 'Keep Our NHS Public' around the health practices in the borough threatened
by the withdrawal of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG)for deprived
MPIG was introduced in 2004 in recognition of the fact that in deprived areas
-both inner city and rural - people have higher health needs. The decision
to take this away will lead to the closure of surgeries that have responded
to those needs by employing staff to provide a good level of service.
The removal of MPIG is all part of the ongoing privatisation of the NHS and
will lead to surgeries being run on the cheap by large healthcare companies,
providing a low standard of service and diverting money from serving the needs
of people to providing profits for their shareholders. A number of leading
politicians have interests in these health businesses.
The march began at St Katherine's Dock Practice, close to St Katherine's
Dock and made its way from GP practice to GP practice across the borough ofTower
Hamlets, lead by a banner with a picture of Nye Bevan and his quotation "The
NHS will last while there are folk left with the faith to fight for it!"
The next stop was at Wapping Healthcare where the march stopped briefly and
there were some short speeches, and more marchers joined. There were simiilar
stops at City Wellbeing in Cannon St Rd and at Albion Health Centre in Whitechapel
Road, where I left the growing march, which had another eight practices to
visit on its way to a final rally at the Kingsley Hall in Bromley by Bow.
G4S AGM Protest Against Human Rights Abuses
Excel Centre, Victoria Dock, London. Thu 5 Jun 2014
Protesters outside the Excel Centre - G4S - Globalising
Protests took place at the G4S AGM over its involvement in the privatisation
of prisons, policing, education and other public services and human rights
abuses both in the UK and in Palestine where it helps to run the Israeli prison
Protesters included those from Boycott Israel Network, Boycott Workfare,
Campaign to Close Campsfield, Corporate Watch, Friends of Al Aqsa, Inminds.com,
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Right to
Remain, War on Want, Right to Remain, Global Women's Strike and other
As well as raising the issue of Israeli prisons and the many Palestinians
held without trial and tortured in them - including young children, there
were also those protesting about G4S's involvement in immigration detention
and in particular the killing by G4S security guards of Jimmy Mubenga during
an attempt to forcibly deport him.
The protesters sang and shouted as shareholders filed in to the Excel Centre
for the AGM, and handed out leaflets detailing some of the human rights abuses
that G4S has been responsible for or is complicit in. Some of the protesters
who had bought shares attended the AGM to ask questions, and there were apparently
some nasty scenes inside the meeting when some were forcibly ejected, but
security there prevented any photography.
Indian Gender/Caste Violence Victims
Indian High Commission, Aldwych, London. Wed 4 Jun 2014
Most of the protesters were Ravidassia, with a large
group from Bedford.
The Freedom Without Fear Platform protested at the Indian High Commission
demanding justice for Indian victims of caste and gender violence after the
gang-rape and lynching of two Dalit girls, the latest of many such violent
crimes against women.
I arrived a quarter of an hour before the protest was due to begin and the
pen provided by police for the protesters on the pavement outside the High
Commission was already full, mainly with people from several Ravidassia temples
across the country. More people were still arriving to join the protest when
I left an hour later.
The Freedom Without Fear Platform which had organised the event describes
itself as an "arena for Black, South Asian and 'Minority Ethnic' women
to lead discussions on the violence against women and girls" and it takes
its name from one of the slogans of the Indian anti-rape movement. Among the
many organisations supporting the protest were the Anti Caste Discriminiation
Alliance, CasteWatch UK, Central Valmik Sabha UK, FABOUK (The Federation
of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK), Imkaan (a UK-based,
black feminist organisation dedicated to addressing violence against women
and girls), Newham Asian Women's Project, Rape Crisis England & Wales,
Shri Guru Ravi Dass Mission International, South Asia Solidarity Group, Southall
Black Sisters, Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Voice of Dalit International, Global
Women's Strike and Women's Networking Hub.
The appalling gang-rape and lynching of two Dalit girls aged 14 and 15 in
Badaun, Uttar Pradesh on May 28th is only the latest in many incidents of
horrific murders and sexual assaults perpetrated on young Dalit women across
India. Less than 1% of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction,
and the many murders largely go unpunished. In many cases police have been
among the perpetrators, and have often refused to investigate or have even
threatened families who report the crimes.
Rapes and murders of Dalit women are often carried out in deliberate response
by wealthy upper caste communities when Dalit communities challenge oppression
and exploitation. Dalit women are seen by right-wing upper caste as without
value or even - as one of newly elected Narendra Modi’s allies, Baba
Ramdev made clear during the election campaign, as the sexual property of
the upper castes.
There have been growing protests in India over the past year against gender
violence, with large protests on the streets by Dalit, women's organisations
and students, and today's London protest was in solidarity with these.
A handful of women were allowed inside the High Commission to deliver the
letters for the Indian Prime Minister while the protest continued outside,
with speeches and chanting of slogans. The letters called on him to take action
to ensure the prosecution of all those involved in the rapes and murders,
and for those who were acquitted after convictions with eye-witness evidence
for massacres and mass rapes in Bathani Tola, Bathe and Bihar to be reconvicted.
They also called for the immediate removal of Sanjeev Baliyan, Ministuer of
State for Agriculture and Food Processing, who is accused opver the Muzaffarnagar
riots and of mass rapes of Muslim women.
India has laws against caste discrimination and the Atrocities Act was
specifically designed to be used in cases involving caste violence, and the
letters urged that this be used in all cases of caste/gender violence involving
As well as showing their solidarity with those protesting in India, a number
of the protesters also talked of the need to address caste discrimination
in the UK, where the government is dragging its feet on introducing measures
to include caste in the Equality Act because of lobbying upper caste
Hindu organisations with a strong influence on the Conservative Party, to
which many have made substantial donations.
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