Class War - Rich Door, Poor Door
1 Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Wed 30 Jul 2014
A woman from inside the rich door tries to pull it
shut as protesters hold it open
Class War, including three of their candidates for the 2015 General Election,
protested at 1 Commercial St in Aldgate against London's new appartment blocks
providing separate 'poor doors' for the affordable flats they have to include
to gain planning permission for the development. Class War characterise this
as 'social apartheid.'
The front entrance on Whitechapel High St (One Commercial St is the name
of the block) has a hotel-like reception desk, and is staffed. It leads to
the lifts for the expensive flats, many owned by overseas investors. Like
most such buildings, some of them are empty and seldom used, while others
are short term holiday lets.
There is apparently no internal connection between this part of the building
and that containing the social housing, which has been given a different name
and a separate door some way down the alley on the west side of the building.
Their door, the 'poor door' has a card entry system which leads to a bare
corridor with some mail boxes on one side.
The alley is dark at night, and even though today it was unusually clear
of rubbish, it smelt strongly of urine. Certainly a far less friendly place
than the well lit main street on which the 'rich door' opens. There seems
to me to be no reason why all those who live in the building cannot share
the same entrance even if their flats are on different floors or different
sides of the building, and certainly no reason at allto hide the poor door
down a mean alley like this.
The protesters arrived with a banner carrying a quotation from the radical
USlabour activist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) "We must devastate the
avenues where the wealthy live". The Class War posters - with their
skull and crossbones - had the message "We have found new homes for
the rich" and showed long rows of grave crosses stretching into
the distance, and they were stuck on the windows around the poor door using
Class War election stickers with their promise of a 50% mansion tax.
A few people were still entering and leaving the building, with the protesters
talking and shouting at them but not actually stopping them, and at one point
the protesters grabbed the door when it was open. There followed a brief tug
of war with several from inside the building, including one of the residents
as well as those from the 'concierge' attempting without success to close
it. The protesters made little attempt to enter the building but wanted those
inside to be able to hear the protest through the open door.
By the time a couple of police arrived and hurried into the building to talk
to the people inside around a quarter of an hour the protesters had stopped
holding the door. The police came out a few minutes later and tried with little
success to get the protesters to move further away from the door.
The protest continued until after an hour or so Class War decided they had
made their point and left, some for the pub. I went around the building to
find the poor door and photographed it and the alley it was in.
Aldgate & Spitalfields
London. Wed 30 Jul 2014
Off Toybee St in Spitalfields
I was early for the protest at One Commercial St, and took a short walk around
the area while I was waiting, going up Commercial St and then back down Toynbee
St. I was astonished at the amount of new buildings since I was last here
a few years back, and with a great deal of work currently going on. At night
all the red lights on the tops of the cranes make London look like a Christmas
It is of course a prime site just on the edge of the City of London, an easy
walk to the city, and with plenty of buses, underground stations and both
Liverpoor St and London Bridge stations not far away. London City Airport
is a short taxi ride too, or under half an hour by public transport, and Brick
Lane's curry houses just around the corner. Crossrail will cut journey times
to Canary Wharf to 4 minutes when the Whitechapel station opens in 2018.
The web site for One Commercial St (studios, apartments and penthouses specified
to exceptional levels, with exclusive services for residents - or rather those
residents allowed to use the rich door) suggests that the average rent in
the area is £1,935 pcm and investors can expect a 32% increase in property
value by the time Crossrail opens. It's all a part of the madness that means
London is being developed not for the people of London but for investors in
China, the oil states and elsewhere.
But there are still some rather run-down areas, doubtless soon to be demolished
and replaced by luxury investment flats, and most of the pictures I took were
of the graffiti and posters on these.
Denham & the Grand Union
Denham, Bucks, Mon 28 Jul 2014
Ben Nicholson (and his father) lived here according
to the plaque
You can't get more Home Counties twee than Denham. Rich commuters into Marylebone,
though more often these days on the M25 and M4, Denham Studios (long, long
closed, but Pinewood is just 4 miles down the road.) Big expensive houses,
golf clubs, manicured lawns. I didn't go there by choice, and we got stuck
on the M40 for around an hour and a half which completely messed up our plans
to eat a pub lunch. A torrential storm earlier in the day caused flooding
It spotted a little on us as we walked around. Out to the east walking though
the woods and across streams of the Colne to the canal things looked up a
bit, but it was soon back across the golf course to Denham. Then in the pub
I knocked over the best part of a pint of bitter over my trousers. It just
wasn't my day.
Stop Stealing Children
Downing St, London. Sat 26 Jul 2014
It was the end of a week-long vigil at Downing St by
Stolen Children of the UK
Stolen Children of the UK, an organisation which publicises the injustices
of forced adoptions carried out in secret by orders of the Family Courts on
the advice of social workers, held a week-long protest opposite Downing St
from 19th - 26th July.
They want an immediate and urgent independent inquiry into the Social Services
and the Child Stealing by the State and Forced Adoptions, claiming that their
children have been stolen from them for no good reason. The details of some
of the cases do seem alarming.
According to Kellie Cottam on the 'Forced
Adoption Exposed' web site, "Currently in the UK, a child is being
taken by the Local Authority every 20 minutes. Many of these cases are unlawful
and children are in fact being kidnapped. In some cases even abused and trafficked."
Two of her own children have been taken away, and she has denied a gagging
order by talking about her case.
There has been a huge rise in the number of children taken from parents in
recent years, prompted by cases such as that of 'Baby P' where social workers
were criticised for doing nothing. Now they seem to be 'covering their backs'
by action often on vague suspicion. Taking children away from parents should
be done only when necessary, not least because children in care are at high
risk of being abused.
Stop the Massacre in Gaza Rally
Parliament Square, London. Sat 26 Jul 2014
Author Michael Rosen was one of many speakers at the
Most of Parliament Square was fairly crowded for the rally at the end
of the march, and many excellent speeches calling for an end to the Israeli
massacre and invasion of Gaza and for a Free Palestine kept the large crowd
responsive despite the excessive heat.
Among those who spoke while I was there were author Michael Rosen,
London Green Party MEP Jean Lambert, 'Faithless' guitarist Dave
Randall who asked people to put One World's version of his Freedom for
Palestine back in the charts, Brian Eno, Jenny Tonge, now
life peer Baroness Tonge, Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity
Campaign, TUC Vice President Lesley Mercer, peace activist Bruce
Kent, Ola Ash of the Palestinian Forum in Britain who introduced
a speaker from the Palestinian Forum from Gaza, Diane Abbott MP,
Zita Holbourne of PCS and BARAC who read one of her poems, Glyn
Secker of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Sarah Colbourne
of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, John Rees of Stop the War, Ismail
Patel founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, a Muslim Association of Britain
speaker and comedian Jeremy Hardy.
End Gaza Invasion March to Parliament
Whitehall & Parliament Square, London. Sat 26 Jul 2014
Stop the War banner and PSC placards at the front of
the protest in Whitehall
I met up with the march again, having left it to photograph another event,
as it turned into Whitehall, and followed it down into Parliament Square.
Although the march halted briefly opposite Downing St, heavy stewarding made
it difficult to take photographs there.
As we moved into Parliament Square, one of the stewards who recognised me
told me to come inside the tightly stewarded box at the front of the march,
and I was able to photograph the front of the march going past Parliament.
Israeli Embassy rally - End Gaza Invasion
Kensington High St, London. Sat 26 Jul 2014
Many of the protesters had the colours of the Palestinian
flag on their faces - this was one of the more striking
Many thousands of protesters gathered for a rally as close as possible
to the Israeli embassy calling for an end to the the attacks on Gaza which
have now killed over a thousand Palestinians, mainly civilians.
I arrived early amd the pavements were already full of people who were spilling
out onto the street despite the traffic which was still passing and the efforts
of police to restrain them. There simply was not enough room, and police soon
had to stop traffic on this main route.
The main banners came out onto the street a hundred yards or so along the
route as the short rally, with speakers including Owen Jones and Walter Wolfgang
started, and people began to form up behind them. By the time the march started
the packed crowds filled the street across road and pavement for around 300
yards. I kept with the marchers close to the front for around half a mile,
and then turned round and walked through the march taking pictures. It gradually
tapered off as I got back to the start, but there were still others coming
to join it as I walked all the way to Kensington High St station.
Al Quds Day march for Jerusalem
BBC to US Embassy, London. Fri 25 Jul 2014
Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox Jews oppose Zionism
Today's Al Quds Day protest had an added intensity with the current attacks
on Gaza as people from the major cities of the UK came together on the last
Friday of Ramadan to call for justice for Palestine and an end to the Israeli
The annual march through London on Al Quds Day is organised the
the Al Quds Day Committee of the Islamic Human Rights Commission and
supported by many organisations involved with Palestine, including the Ahlulbayt
Islamic Mission, Friends of Al Aqsa, Friends of Lebanon, Innovative Minds,
Islamic Centre of England, Islamic Students Association, Jews for Boycotting
Israeli Goods, Lebanese Community UK, Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim
Council of Britain, Muslim Directory, Neturei Karta International, Scottish
PSC, Sons of Malcolm, Passion Islam, Stop the War Coalition and UKIM.
The celebration of Al Quds day on the last Friday of Ramadan was introduced
by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran 1979 and its observance has spread,
mainly in Arab and Muslim countries. Because the IHRC (and possibly some of
the other groups) receive funding from Iran and there are some images of Khomeni
and flags and placards supporting Hezbollah, the march has often attracted
opposition from Zionist, Iranian freedom, communist and royalist movements
and UK right wing fringe groups, but I saw no sign of this during today's
There were few Hezbollah flags this year, and I saw no evidence of anti-semitism.
There were many placards calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, and at least
one calling for Israelis to be tried as war criminals, and the Neturei Karta
Jews carried their usual placards against the Zionist state and condemming
the atrocities carried out in its name. But as one of the chants from the
marchers stated, 'Judaism Yes, Zionism No!'
I left the march as it turned off Regent St to go towards the US Embassy
for a rally there.
Alban Way to Hatfield Walk
St Albans to Hatfield. Wed 23 Jul 2014
Another walker seen from our walk
Another family walk. Fairly uneventful, mainly along the disused railway
line, the to a watermill on the River Lea and back into Hatfield on a very
Canning Town to North Woolwich
Canning Town, Silvertown & North Woolwich. Mon 21 Jul 2014
Thames Barrier and flats close to the Thames Barrier
Park from the DLR
Pictures from Canning Town station and from the Docklands Light Railway between
Canning Town and North Woolwich.
'The Future' at London City Airport
North Woolwich & Silvertown. Mon 21 Jul 2014
A security man looks on as protesters stand in front
of the airport entrance. Tamsin Omond at right
Local residents and other Londoners opposed to any expansion of London
City Airport stood as statues, some with ringed eyes, in silent protest in
front of the main entrance. The area around is densely populated and already
air pollution exceeds EU limits.
London City Airport on part of the former Royal Docks in Newham was given
the go-ahead in 1985 on the basis is would be a low traffic site providing
limited services between European capitals for business travellers from the
nearby Canary Wharf and the City of London using small, quiet aircraft specially
built for short take-off and landing. Even so it was opposed by the Greater
London Council but they were overuled by central government.
Over the years since then it has evolved into a major commercial airport,
its runway extended to allow use by larger and far more noisy aircraft, including
some scheduled trans-atlantic flights. From an initial 133,000 passengers
in 1988 it has grown to 25 times as many - over 3 million - in 2013. Flights
have now grown from a mere handful to over 200 per average day, almost 15
per hour in its allowed operation times. Since the airport has opened, much
new housing has been built in the area around and under its flight path, making
noise and other pollution a more important issue.
The airport has plans to more than double the passenger numbers to 8 million
per year by 2030, and have applied to Newham council for permission to expand.
Newham are expected to give their decision this month.
The airport is a significant source of air and noise pollution in the immediate
area, with local children already much more likely to suffer from asthma than
in other areas of London. The noise footprint extends over a huge area of
southeast London, and with the current 15 flights per hour is already causing
significant disruption of many activities. There are also safety risks inherent
in take-off and landing over heavily populated areas, and though we hope there
will be no disasters it seems foolish to take such risks.
The whole future of aviation in the London area is currently under review,
and it would seem ridiculous to jump the gun and give permission for expansion
at London City before the publication of the review findings. Unless the review
is severely compromised by industry lobbying it must surely come up with solutions
that involve a reduction in activity at both of London's inner airports -
Heathrow and London City, with perhaps some expansion elsewhere - including
if HS2 is completed airports outside the south-east.
The protest was organised by local residents together with 'The Future',
a campaigning citizen's resistance set up to fight climate change and ecological
devastation by non-violent protest to force politicians to take action rather
than let themselves be bought by corporate interests. Their symbol, the circle
around the eye, is to show that the people are watching those with power -
and in this case " we will judge them if they choose the toxicity of
London City Airport over the health of local people and of London."
Ritzy workers strike for Living Wage
Windrush Square, Brixton, London. Sun 20 Jul 2014
Torrential rain soaked the banner but not the spirits
of the workers on the picket line
Despite a tremendous rain-storm, the Ritzy workers, some soaked to the
skin, kept standing behind their long banner across the whole wide frontage
of the cinema. Some had umbrellas, others did not, but it was the kind of
rain that made umbrellas next to useless. Taking photographs under my own
umbrella, and mainly standing under the large tree in the square I like the
protesters was soon soaked to the skin. The umbrella kept off most of the
rain, but enough came through to soak my clothes and my feet were squelching
in my shoes.
Eventually the rain eased off, and after around an hour it stopped, and a
musician got out his oil drums to add a truly Brixton sound to the protest,
and there was soon a fair-sized crowd listening and watching, and a few people
dancing in front of the banner.
There was one unpleasant incident when one of the protesters who went into
the cinema was assaulted by security staff, but otherwise spirits were high
despite the rain. It had been very hot, and some were pleased to be cooled
down by it. A few early arrivals for the live-streaming had decided not to
cross the picket line when I had to leave shortly before the live-streaming
was due to begin, and I think some others must have either arrived a couple
of hours early or decided against attending.
The workers are determined to win the living wage - you really cannot live
in London on what the Ritzy are currently paying. The Ritzy is the busiest
and most succesful art-house cinema in the the UK and can afford to treat
its workers decently, but perhaps fear it will set a precedent for other workers
in the Cineworld empire - including those at Curzon Cinemas in central London
who are also campaigning for a living wage. The London Living Wage was set
at £8.80/hr for the year beginning November 2013; already around 200
major employers in London have adopted it as a minimum wage and the Mayor
hopes it will be paid by all employers in the city by 2020.
Currently staff are paid only £7.24/hr and negotations with the employer
have failed. The workers say 'Living Staff - Living Wage.'
Festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St Peter's Church, Clerkenwell, London. Sun 20 Jul 2014
Roman soldiers and Christ carrying his cross in the
procession around the area
The procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the first Roman Catholic
event on English streets for 349 years when it was allowed by Queen Victoria
in 1883, took place in Clerkenwell today from St Peter's Italian church founded
151 years ago.
The 1883 procession required special permission from the police, granted
by Queen Victoria in 1883, when the Clerkenwell area in which St Peter's Church
is was known as 'Little Italy', home to many refugees and immigrants from
Italy. They needed a Catholic Church in which they could worship in their
own language, and on the 16 April 1863, St Peter's Italian Church was consecrated.
The annual festival is one of London's oldest and most colourful religious
festivals, with the various statues from the church being carried around the
local area and the clergy and congregation following behind them. Nowadays
Italians have moved out to many other areas of the country, and groups from
Italian associations across the South East as well as Birmingham come back
to join in the procession.
As well as the procession around the surrounding area, there is also a festival
or Sagra which starts around lunchtime in Warner St at the bottom of the hill
below the church, with stalls selling Italian food and drink - pizza, bread,
wine, ice cream and more - and various cultural artefacts as well as music
and dancing, with almost everyon speaking Italian, The Sagra continues after
the procession, and generally gets a little livlier, but this year I had to
rush off, and the festivities were probably rather dampened by the rain which
began soon after I left.
The procession changes a little from year to year - and of course there are
new first communicants and the others taking part are a year older too. This
year was I think the first I've attended when there were no white doves released
- always in the past something of a challenge I've enjoyed trying to photograph.
Police & Gaza Protesters
Kensington High St, London. Sat 19 Jul 2014
Police stop protesters going home from 'End Gaza Killing
Although the march and rally close to the Israeli embassy had been entirely
peaceful, police appeared to be trying to make trouble as some of us left,
intervening heavy-handely in a minor argument between a protester and a shop-worker
who had shouted in support of the Israeli attack.
End Gaza Killing Now
Downing St to Israeli Embassy, London. Sat 19 Jul 2014
of the marchers stop off to visit the lions in Trafalgar Square on their way
to the Israeli Embassy
Horrified by the hundreds of men, women and children killed by Israeli
forces in Gaza, thousand marched to the Israeli embassy calling for an immediate
end to the invasion and the crippling siege of Gaza and peace with freedom
Whitehall was crowded as people gathered for the march, and it was difficult
to get close to the small stage opposite Downing St as the organisers had
made no arrangements for the press there. Among the speakers were Chris
Nineham, Maryam Abu Daya, Dianne Abbott MP, Jocelyn Hurndall, Omar al-Hamdoun,
Ben White, Garth Hewitt, Rushanara Ali MP and Andy Slaughter MP.
Once the march formed up there was a large block of stewards at the front
keeping photographers away from those holding the main banner, again making
photography difficult. I soon gave up working at the front and began to photograph
the rest of the march, stopping in Trafalgar Square until the last marchers
had arrived there 45 minutes after the front of the march. People were spread
out across the road and fairly densely packed, far too many to make more than
a very rough estimate of numbers, at perhaps 15 - 20,000.
I'd hoped to be able to get to Hyde Park Corner by tube before the front
of the march arrived, but they were walking too fast, so I rushed back down
to the tube to take me to the destination, in Kensington High St close to
the Israeli Embassy. This was a slow journey by tube - it would probably have
been faster to walk that mile and a half, but more tiring. Police were only
just stopping traffic along the road for the rally as I arrived, though several
thousand marchers had beaten me there.
It soon got very crowded as more marchers arrived, and there was only a very
small space around the speakers for the press, so it was crowded and difficult
to photograph them. At the start I tried working from within the crowd, but
it soon got just too packed.
There was a whole long list of speakers here too, many of whose names I've
forgotten, but including Baroness Jenny Tonge, Kate Hudson, Andrew Murray,
George Galloway MP, Zita Holbourne and a young Palestinian woman who
told us something of what had happened to her own family who were given 90
seconds warning before their home in Gaza was destroyed in perhaps the most
moving of the speeches.
Around Lyme Regis, 11-17 Jul 2014
The end of the Cobb at Lyme Regis
Most years we go on a holiday with old friends from the Ashram Community,
booking a holiday home which can hold around 20 of us, taking turns to cook
a main meal on one evening of the stay. This year we stayed at Rousdon, just
over three miles west of Lyme Regis, on the bus route along by the coast.
The first bus to Lyme Regis was at 10.59 and the last came back at 16.59 and
the village shop had recently closed, so it was a little in the middle of
We spent much of the time walking in groups of various sizes, but did use
the buses, and there were quite a few people with cars, so we got around quite
a bit. It wasn't the best area for walking, although the coast path should
be spectacular, it was closed in places due to landslips, and there is "no
permitted access" to the path or the coast between Lyme Regis and Axmouth
- something which seems to me inexplicable in an area like this. Of course
we trespassed, but we should not have had to.
As well as walking along a part of the Jurassic coast path, we also went
to Lyme Regis, walked around the 'Golden Cap', visited various churches, including
a Baptist chapel which is a National Trust property, walked to Seaton and
Public Service Workers Strike for Fair Pay Now!
BBC to Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 10 Jul 2014
the front of the crowd during the rally in Trafalgar Square
Thousands of teachers, civil servants, firefighters and others in the
public services marched to a Trafalgar Square rally demanding fair pay and
conditions and to be allowed to provide public services to meet public needs
rather than private profit.
Among the unions supporting the strike were the PCS, the NUT, Unison, GMB,
FBU, Unite and NIPSA, the probation services union.
The march started outside the BBC, certainly a reminder to our public broadcasting
service that - even if they chose to play it down and often not report on
it at all - there is consderable opposition to the coalition government's
austerity programme and the hardships that this is producing.
The crisis was caused by the banks and by the speculative activities of the
ultra-wealthy but is being paid for by the great bulk of the poor and ordinary
workers. While they are suffereing from the effects of welfare cuts and wage
freezes, government has given massive financial support to the banks, and
the wealthy have quickly recovered and are surging ahead, widening the gap
between rich and poor.
As Mark Serwotka of PCS put it: "Whether it’s local
government or civil service pay, firefighter pensions or teachers’ workloads
– the underlying problem is the same: public sector workers are being
made to carry the can for the economic crisis."
"Due to pay and pension cuts, some of our members have seen real
terms losses in their income of 20% since 2010."
This was a large march, and it took around 50 minutes to go across Oxford
Circus on its way to Trafalgar Square, and there were other marches in Manchester,
Birmingham, Liverpool, Bournemouth and Brighton. Altogether around 2 million
workers took part in the one day strike, though rather fewer marched, perhaps
around 15,000 in London.
Argentina don't pay the Vultures
Elliot Associates, London. Wed 9 Jul 2014
'Vulture Funds; Claws off Argentina' Jubilee Debt Campaigners
at Elliot Associates
The future of Argentina lies in the balance following a US court decision
that it must pay $1.3 bn to US vulture funds who bought up its debts cheaply.
Protesters in London on Argentinean Independence Day urged it to refuse to
US hedge funds bought up debts owed by the government of Argentina when it
was clear that these were not going to be repaid in full, paying only a few
cents for every dollar owed. They then refused to negotiate with Argentina
over repayment at a low rate, and went to the US courts to get an order from
them that stops Argentina making payments at a lower rate to others - holding
over 90% of the debts - who had come to agreements with Argentina and insisting
on repayment to the speculators in full.
It isn't clear why the US court thought this was a reasonable case, and why
they should back speculators in this way which will damage the interests of
the other lenders. Argentine officials say they judge failed to understand
the case. Argentina can't afford to pay, and to do so would be disastrous
not just for Argentina but possibly for the whole world financial system.
Courts need to protect countries and other bodies from speculators, not act
in their interests.
Protesters from the Jubilee Debt Campaign went to protest at the UK office
of one of the vulture funds, Elliot Associates in Mayfair to urge Argentina
not to pay. The protest started at a block of offices just off St James Square,
and had been going for a few minutes when one of the reception staff came
out and told the protesters that Elliot Associates, although still officially
listed at that address had actually moved elsewhere a week or two ago, and
gave their new address. The protesters were not sure whether to believe this
or not, so one of them set off to investigate while the protest continued.
Shortly she phoned back to confirm they were now in some new offices just
off Oxford St.
A few people had to leave early, but the rest of the protesters decided to
walk to the new offices, stopping briefly on the way outside the Argentine
Embassy for a photocall. The protest then continued for around 15 minutes
in the new location.
[Argentina did refuse to pay at the end of July, and argue that the US court
ruling is an attack on Argentine sovereignty. They hope to evade the ruling
by a new Argentine law and bond swap which will remove any jurisdiction over
the debt form the US courts. The fight against the vultures is continuing.
The world can't afford to lose.]
Court vigil for WCA Judicial Review
Royal Courts of Justice, London. Tue 8 Jul 2014
Protesters including Claire Glasman (seated) and Paula
Peters (right) outside the court
Disabled rights supporters held a lunchtime vigil at the Royal Courts
of Justice as the judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment, previously
found by the court to discriminate against mental health claimants, was in
its second day.
Many of those who came to the vigil which was organised by Disabled
People Against Cuts (DPAC) in partnership with the Mental Health
Resistance Network were disabled. As well as several in wheelchairs and
another with a long white cane, there were others whose disabilities are less
obvious. John McDonnell MP came to show his support but did not speak.
One of the women who spoke told of her annual difficulties with the Work
Capability Assessment (WCA) when every year she was refused Employment
and Support Allowance (ESA), and had to appeal against this, and every
year her appeal on the grounds of mental health was upheld. But when she attended
her latest assessment after having just fractured her ankles she was surprised
to be immediately put in the support group. Why, she asked, just because my
mental health problems are not obviously visible should she "every
12 months have to put up with the same bloody palaver?" Of course,
many people with quite visible problems also get refused, but as the previous
court had determined, those with mental health problems face additional discrimination.
Other speakers included Clare Glasman from Winvisible and Danny
Shine who added a little somewhat black humour to the event, as well
as Roy Bard from the Mental Health Resistance Network and
others from Fight Racism Fight Imperialism. It was the MHRN which
had helped the two anonymous complainants to take the case that they were
being discriminated against under the Equality Act to court. The court agreed,
and when the DWP appealed they lost their appeal and were told they had to
take remedial action to make their procedures comply with the law.
According to the protesters, within hours of the appeal having been lost,
the DWP sent out a message to the assessment centres, telling them it was
'business as usual' and they should continue to act illegally. Certainly
nothing appears to have changed in the WCA procedures since the court verdict.
The most moving part of the event came when Paula Peters of DPAC
asked for a minute of silence to remember those who have died, committing
suicide as a result of having benefits removed, including 18 of her personal
friends. Paula had brought two placards to wear, one with the message 'Dr
Paul Litchfield you deny WCA harms. Claimants have died.' and the other
'Keep Calm and Resist Iain Duncan-Smith.' Other posters on the fence
outside the court listed just a few of the names of those whose inquests have
recorded benefit cuts as at least a partial reason for their deaths.
The tests used in the WCA were apparently bought from the USA, where they
were developed by an insurance company who had them designed to try and wriggle
out of making payments on their policies wherever possible.
The court hearings, where the DWP is outlining the 'reasonable adjustments'
it proposes to make to meet the demands of the Equality Act, continue until
tomorrow, and some of those at the protest were returning to the public gallery
to hear the proceedings after the vigil.
Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday
Whitechapel, London. Sat 5 Jul 2014
Listening to speeches at the rally in Altab Ali Park
before the march
On the 66th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, the Save our Surgeries
campaign against health cuts in Tower Hamlets marched to Hackney in a show
of opposition to health cuts, surgery closures and NHS privatisation.
Changes in the funding of NHS surgeries which fail to take into account
the extra needs of inner-city areas such as Tower Hamlets are expected to
lead to the closure of some surgeries in the borough as well as in other deprived
areas of the city. Tower Hamlets has already been badly hit by NHS cuts, particularly
because of the huge debt from the PFI contract for the new Royal London Hospital
in Whitechapel. Always problematic, the failure of inexperienced civil servants
to negotiate sensible deals with the private sector during the new Labour
administration has saddled the NHS with an impossible debt, while the current
government is busily privatising areas to provide profits for its friends.
Among the speakers in a brief rally before the march started were the Mayor
of Tower Hamlets Luftur Rahman who was welcomed enthusiastically by many on
his way through the crowd. There was also a warm welcome for Labour MP for
Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali. Other speakers included health campaigners
Dr Anna Livingstone, Dr Jackie Applebee, Dr Naomi Beer and Myra Garrett and
Sheila McGregor of the NUT.
After the speeches the crowd of several hundreds set off down the Whitechapel
Road on its way to London Fields where it was to be met by other protesters
for a longer rally. But I had to leave the march at Whitechapel station.
Focus E15 March for Decent Housing
East Ham, London. Sat 5 Jul 2014
Focus E15 Mums led the march with the message 'Social
Housing not Social Cleansing!'
Focus E15 Mums led a march through East Ham to demand secure housing,
free from the threats of eviction, soaring private rents, rogue landlords,
letting agents illegally discriminating, insecure tenancies and unfair bedroom
tax and benefit cap.
Well over a hundred people formed up behind banners to march through East
Ham and Upton Park in a protest over the terrible state of housing in England,
and in London in particular. There were protest groups from Hackney, from
Brent and from South London on the march as well as groups including BARAC,
TUSC and others. A few had come from outside the capital to join the protest.
The protest was organised by Focus E15 Mums with the support of Fight Racism
Some, like the Counihans who founded the Housing for All campaign and the
Focus E15 Mums had been involved in fights for their own housing against councils
lacking in principles and compassion who had suggested they might move to
Birmingham, Hastings, Wales or further afield, but who had stood their ground
and made some progress. But councils across London are still involved in a
policy of 'social cleansing', moving the poor who can no longer afford escalating
market rents out of London. Some of those on the march had earlier this week
managed to prevent an eviction that was taking place in Queens Park.
We need a government - national and local - determined to act for the benefit
of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing,
removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing
benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give
them decent security - and criminalising unfair evictions. Housing is becoming
a national emergency (though one that hits London far more severely than elsewhere)
and emergency measures are needed.
But governments continue to provide incentives for building of expensive
property for investment by overseas buyers - much of it not even lived in
- and huge numbers of homes in London are empty. We need a system that imposes
heavy taxes on empty properties and which makes council tax reflect property
values in high price areas such as London. Even more radical solutions may
be the only answer.
The people on the streets showed a great deal of support for the march. I
can't remember seeing motorists stop their cars to put money in the collection
buckets at a march before, but it happened several times in the first half
mile of the march. Unfortunately I had to leave to go to another event when
the march reached East Ham station, and so missed most of the march and the
rally at the end.
Independent Living Tea party
DWP, Westminster, London. Fri 4 Jul 2014
Sophie Partridge chaired the tea party and John Kelly sang
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) celebrated Independent Living Day
at a Tea Party at the Dept of Work & Pensions, calling for a stop to the
removal of support funding, education and transport that enables disabled
people to live in the community, then blocked Victoria St with their wheelchairs.
The party was on July 4th, American Independence Day, and the organisers
say: "The famous Boston teaparty led to a revolution against the
British government let’s see where our teaparty leads…."
Fifteen or so people in wheelchairs along with around as many walking but
with other disabilities along with carers and supporters filled the pavement
in front of the DWP in Caxton St, and at times made a considerable noise.
As well as their voices and a megaphone, some had brought whistles and other
musical instruments (and some less musical) to liven up the event. For those
with hearing difficulties there was a BSL signer.
But there were also sandwiches and cakes, because this was a tea party, though
one with a number of speeches, poems and song performances, making it an enjoyable
event although the cause is a desperate one. The Independent Living Fund supports
almost 18,000 people with severe difficulties and has enabled them to live
in the community and to make a contribution through their work and other activities,
taking their place in society as equals. It was at the heart of equality for
those with disabilities.
To quote DPAC, "there are many strands of Independent Living, and all
are under threat. Cuts to:
• Support funding - such Social Care, the ILF & Disabled Students
• Education - in areas like the wholesale destruction of SEN Statements
and the continued segregation of disabled children into 'special' schools;
• Transport - the withdrawal of Taxi-cards, freedom passes and the halting
of planned works to make infrastructure more accessible, amongst a host of
other cuts combine to make disabled people second-class citizens in society."
The government lost a court case over the closure of the ILF taken by five
people receiving it last year, but four months later decided to go ahead and
close it anyway in 2015. A month after this protest, DPAC announced they had
permission to go ahead with a further court case and a second trial is expected
in September or October.
The government say that money will be given to local authorities to meet
the needs of those who now receive ILF, but this money will not be ring-fenced
for this purpose, and given the pressure to cut budgets faced by councils
it seems unlikely that all will find its way to the disabled. Councils having
already had to make massive cuts are also unlikely to be able to find the
staff to properly implement fair schemes - and many directors of Adult Services
have said they will be unable to cope. The ILF is administered by an experienced
body with a very high (97%) satisfaction rating from those receiving it.
Getting rid of the ILF, a well organised and cost-effective scheme, is likely
to increase rather than decrease expenditure, as well as severely impacting
the quality of life of severely disabled people. Many are likely to have to
give up work and will no longer be able to live independently but will have
to go into residential care - at much greater cost.
After the tea party, around half of those taking part decided to take a token
direct action which would give them a much greater chance of publicity in
the media. They went back close to Westminster Abbey, where just six days
earlier they had attempted to set up a protest camp. This time they simply
blocked the busy Victoria St stopping their wheelchairs and holding banners
on the pedestrian crossing.
When traffic had been halted for a few minutes, a few police officers arrived.
They tried to persuade the protesters to move off the road, without success.
After around ten minutes they began to get rather firmer, eventually threatening
protesters with the possibility of arrest for obstructing the highway.
Before long there were around four times as many police as protesters and
when it began to look as if the police might carry out their threat of arrest,
the protesters who had been receiving a great deal of support from tourists
and others - even including some in the traffic being held up or diverted
away down Great Smith St - decided it was time to end the protest and wheeled
their chairs away.
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