March for Homes: After the Rally
City Hall, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
Class war and others block Tooley St with their banners
The rally at City Hall was still continuing when a group of people began
to leave Potters Fields, including Class War with their banners along with
other activists. Accompanied by Rhythms of Revolution they moved out and blocked
Tooley St at the entrance to the fields.
Onviously there were going to be further protests somewhere, but nobody seemed
to know where they might be going. After hanging around for a few minutes
with them they seemed to be about to move off. I was cold, wet and tired,
and my cameras too, having been exposed to the weather for several hours were
becoming temperamental. More police had arrived, and taken over blocking the
road from the protesters who were moving east.
I decided I'd had enough and saw a bus in a distance that would start my
journey home and went to wait for it. The protesters went on for a short protest
at One Tower Bridge, a new development mainly for the over-rich next to Tower
Bridge and then for a long walk to the occupied Aylesbury Estate.
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
City Hall, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
show the Housing For All banner calling for a rent cap at the City Hall rally
As rallies go, it was large cold and wet. There were so many people trying
to get into the area that there was a long and very slow moving queue and
quite a few who had marched soon turned around and went home. Photography
was tricky, the rain continually leaving droplets of moisture on my lenses,
and the speakers were often difficult to see, often hidden by the crowd around
them (including a photographer who kept standing in front of them.) Many of
those present could not in any case get close enough to hear the speeches.
It was unkind weather and a bitter reminder of the desperate situation of
the increasing number of homeless on the streets across London. But they are
the extreme tip of the huge housing crisis in London, only indeed a fraction
of the homeless. Government figures grossly underplay the figures, reporting
in 2013 around 2,400 sleeping rough in England on any particular night, while
for London alone over 6,500 people are estimated to have slept rough at some
time in 2013/4, double the number from 5 years earlier. In the past four years
the number of young
people sleeping rough in London has more than doubled and 8% of 16-24 year
have experienced homelessness.
Local authorities have a duty to house some homeless people, but this excludes
most single people. Many councils are failing to meet their legal requirements
amd those who are offered help may be required to move to move hundreds of
miles from jobs and families into insecure private rented accomodation.
We simply are not building enough homes - less than half the number needed
to keep up with demand. Worse, many of those that are being built in London
are at rents that put them out of reach of most Londoners - with many being
sold to overseas investors wanting to cash in on increasing prices rather
than to actually occupy them. Most so-called 'affordable' housing is unaffordable
for most Londoners, and social housing is being cleared for new largely private
There are actually more than enough empty properties - both in London and
in the whole of the UK - to house the homeless. But most councils fail to
use even the limited powers they have to encourage owners to fill them, and
laws on squatting have been tightened up, with new powers being brought in
to use police under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
March for Homes: Poor Doors
Aldgate, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
Lisa in Women's Death Brigade red with a trident for
pictchfork and Class War banners in front of the 'rich door'
Class War left the East London March for Housing to protest briefly in
front of One Commercial St, where talks with the new owner that led them to
suspend their 20 weeks of protest against separate doors for rich and poor
residents in November have broken down.
As well as the three Class War banners there were a couple of smaller ones
with the messages 'Squat the Lot' and 'Occupy Every Building'. Police
watched as blue smoke poured from a flare on the ground and Lisa pranced around
in her red coat with a red trident - meant to be a pitchfork.
As the end of the march came to the road junction, Class War left One Commercial
St to rejoin it. Their regular protests were to restart there on the following
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
March for Homes banner with Focus E15's 'This Is The Beginning Of The End
Of The Housing Crisis
After over and hour of the rally outside St Leonard's Church, people lined
up for the East London March for Homes on Shoreditch High St in light rain,
and eventually with the March for Homes banner at the front ahead of those
from Focus E15, set off. By now it was surprisingly long.
The march went down Commercial St, and at the junction with Aldgate High
St, Class War with their several banners split away for a short protest at
One Commercial St. They then rejoined the rear of the march.
As the march approached the Tower, Russell Brand came up and joined it on
a bicycle. Going across Tower Bridge, Class War took up the lead with several
The march was met on the other side of Tower Bridge by the South London March
for Homes, a simiilar sized protest called by Defend Council Housing and South
London People's Assembly which had started at the Elephant, marching past
the former Heygate Estate. The two marches merged to walk on to Potters Fields
for the rally outside City Hall.
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally
St Leonards Church. Shoreditch, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
is like A.C.A.B. an oversimplication, but one that councils and major corporations
seem out to prove
Well over a thousand people gathered in and around St Leonard's Church
Shoreditch for a rally at the start of the March for Homes, called by Defend
Council Housing, South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers
Branch. The march had been split into two, an East London march starting from
Shoreditch and a South London one from the Elephant. The organisers estimate
that a total of 6000 took part, though not all made it all the way.
The march was supported by various housing groups - Focus E15 Mothers,
Digs – Hackney Renters, Tower Hamlets Renters, Generation Rent, Tower
Hamlets Federation Tenants and Residents Associations, New Era 4 All Campaign,
Radical Housing Network, Walworth East Area Housing Forum, Rodney Tenants
and Residents Association, Alvey Tenants and Residents Association, Aylesbury
Tenants First, 5% Campaign (Elephant Amenity Network), Southwark Defend Council
Housing, and National and London Barge Travellers, as well as
by MPs Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn
and London Assembly member and chair of the GLA Housing Committee Darren
Johnson. Also supporting were People's Assemblies from South
London, East London, North London, South East London, Wandsworth and
Hackney, BECTU and various trade union branches from
NUT, RMT, UCATT, Unite, Unison, NUS and trade councils and various
other organisations including Southwark Disabled People Against Cuts,
Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign, People’s Republic of Southwark,
Southwark Save Our Services, Southwark Pensioners Action Group, Movement Against
Xenophobia, Joint Council for The Welfare of Immigrants, Haldane Society of
Socialist Lawyers, Dulwich and West Norwood Labour Party, London Green Party,
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Lewisham People Before Profit and
Redwood Housing Coop. And doubtless a few others I've missed.
Among them were a large group who had marched from Bethnal Green, including
supporters of Class War, Focus E15 and other groups.
There was an open mike in front of the chuch, with speakers including Jasmine
Stone of Focus E15, Lindsey Garratt from New Era, Paul Turp,
vicar of St Leonards, Nick from Action East End, Paul Heron
of the Haldane Society of Socialist Laywyers, Max Levitas, a 100 year old
communist veteran of Cable St, a speaker from the 'Fred and John Towers' and
Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
The churchyard was crowded, making it difficult to move around, and outside
people were spilling from the pavement across and along the road.
'Tin Pan Alley' 12 Bar club faces eviction
Denmark St, London. Thu 29 Jan 2015
Inside the 12 Bar club looking towards the street.
Squatters in Denmark St's 12 Bar club aiming to stop it and all of London's
Tin Pan Alley musical heritage being replaced by luxury flats were today served
today with a possession order. #Bohemians4Soho called for a street festival
of resistance against their expected eviction tomorrow.
Yesterday I had met some of the squatters outside the Royal Courts of Justice
where they were waiting for the court case over their eviction to continue.
After I left an IPO (interim possession order) was granted and this was served
on the occupiers a little over an hour before I arrived to take pictures.
The order gives them 24 hrs to leave before they are committing a criminal
offence and they expected bailiffs and police to come at lunchtime the following
SOAS Cleaners demand Dignity & Respect
SOAS, London University.Thu 29 Jan 2015
Sandy Nicoll of SOAS Unison speaks holding a 'One Workplace
- One Workforce!' poster
Cleaners working at the University of London School of Oriental and African
Studies - SOAS - held a rally calling for improved conditions of service and
an end to being treated as a second-class workforce. Supported by students
and staff they continue their campaign to be employed by the University rather
SOAS has an international reputation for its teaching about politics around
the world and the detrimental effect of neoliberalism, but is failing to put
its progressive views into action in its own institution, where it allows
cleaners, who are mainly immigrants to the UK, to be exploited and abused
by cleaning contractor ISS. Although not employing them directly, SOAS still
owes these essential workers on its site its care and protection.
Sturggles over the past few years, in which the cleaners have been supported
by students, teaching and adminstrative staff have resulted in the cleaners
gaining better conditions of employment but they still suffer abuse and inferior
conditions to other workers at SOAS. They continue to campaign under the slogan
'One Workplace, One Workforce' to be directly employed at their place of work.
Cleaners protest at Royal College of Surgeons
Lincolns Inn Fields, London. Wed 28 Jan 2015
Unison organiser Ezekiel speaks and supporters wave
Unison flags outside the Royal College of Surgeons
Unison members who work as cleaners at the Royal College of Surgeons
buidling in Lincolns Inn Fields protested outside today for the third time
demanding a living wage, contractual sick pay and holidays and for employer
Ocean and the RCS to treat them with dignity and respect.
Despite the rain which came down heavily most of the time they were there,
and the gusty cold wind, the cleaners and their supporters from Unison branches
in other nearby locations including SOAS and Kings College kept up a spirited
protest, with Unison umbrellas adding their colour to the Unison flags.
No Fracking Anywhere!
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, Mon 26 Jan 2015
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas speaking at the rally
Campaigners including Bianca Jagger, Vivienne Westwood and Caroline Lucas
protested as MPs discussed fracking under homes without permission and government
tries to fast-track it, pressuring the county council to give approval in
Hundreds of campaigners had come from across the country on the day that
MPs were due to vote on a proposal to ban fracking and also later in the day
on the controversial proposal to allow fracking under people’s homes
without permission in the Government's Infrastructure Bill
The protest was also two days before Lancashire County Council were due to
decide on whether to give the go ahead for Cuadrilla to frack in Lancashire,
a decision that will set a precedent for the rest of the UK. Also joining
in with the protest were a small group from the PCS union, protesting against
the privatisation of the Highways Agency.
Among the speakers I photographer as well as Bianca Jagger, Vivienne
and Caroline Lucas MP were Vanessa Vine , the Founder of
Frack Free Sussex and BIFF! (Britain & Ireland Frack Free), Labour MP
Joan Walley, chair of parliament's Environmental Audit Committee
which that morning had come out against fracking, John Ashton,
the Former UK Government Special Representative for Climate Change, Hannah
Martin of Reclaim the Power, Norman Baker MP and Green Party
candidate and prominent anti-fracking campaigner Tina-Louise Rothery.
Puppet monster Mr Frackhead also came to the rally, and Greenpeace
had brought their 'Frack-free Home' to take with their petition with
361,736 signatures to Parliament.
Gambians protest brutal repression
Old Palace Yard, Westminster, Mon 26 Jan 2015
of the protesters against the brutal repession by Dictator Yahya Jammeh wore
Gambians protested in London, Gambia, Senegal and the USA against the
arbitrary arrests, detentions, tortures and summary executions of those who
took part in the 30th Dec uprising against Dictator Yahya Jammeh and their
innocent family and friends.
Gambia’s Dictator, Yahya Jammeh has determined to 'set an example'
thorugh brutal repression and this has included many whoplayed no part in
or had any knowledge of the 30 December 2014 events.
As well as this protest outside the UK parliament, The Protest Gambia Movement,
Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA) and other Gambian civil society
groupings has organised demonstrations in The Gambia, Senegal and USA to express
their outrage and condemnation of the barbaric acts of villainy of the Gambian
Dictator, Yahya Jammeh and his government.
Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy
Parliament Square, London. Sat 24 Jan 2015
Occupy Democracy protesters listen to a speaker about
the UK's arms trade in Parliament Square
Several hundred supporters of Occupy Democracy walked on to the grass
of Parliament Square after the CND demonstration to hold discussions on foreign
relations and war as the GLA private security guards (Heritage wardens) and
This was the latest in a series of monthly events in which Occupy are asserting
the right to protest and challenging the attempt by London Mayor Boris Johnson
to prevent protests in Parliament Square.
I left shortly after the event started, tired after covering the earlier
protests. On my way out of the square I went to watch the rections of the
Mayor's privated security Heritage Wardens, who were obviously itching for
the protesters to be removed from the grass. They went over to request the
police to take action, but the police had a more pragmatic approach; they
lacked the officers to take effective action and apparently told the wardens
that the protesters would leave of their own accord, which they did a few
CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament
Old Palace Yard, London . Sat 24 Jan 2015
Lindsey German of Stop the War waits to speak at the
After encircling the Ministry of Defence and Parliamentary offices with
the peace scarf, several thousand CND supporters marched to a rally outside
parliament where speakers called for Trident to be scrapped and not replaced.
Among the speakers were Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Shahrar Ali,
the Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Kate Hudson and Bruce Kent of CND, Lindsey
German from Stop the War, Heather Wakefield of UNISON, the Rt Revd Alan Williams,
Bishop of Brentwood, Khalil Charles from the Muslim Association of Britain,
Ben Griffin, of Veterans for Peace, Rebecca Johnson, and Angie Zetter, who
thought up the idea of the peace scarf. It was a long rally, and came after
a long protest, and by the end many had drifted away to catch trains and coaches,
but there was still a large crowd at the end to join with Leon Rosselson in
singing a new song he had composed for the occasion.
'Wrap Up Trident' surrounds Defence Ministry
Whitehall, London. Sat 24 Jan 2015
Stitches Not Bombs' and' Peace and Lov'e - the front of the CND scarf in front
of the MOD
Several thousand CND supporters met at the Defence Ministry before surrounding
the block with a knitted peace scarf and moving off for a rally opposite the
Houses of Parliament calling for the scrapping of the UK's Trident missiles.
The scarf was the one knitted for the seven mile stretch between Britain's
nuclear arms factories at Burghfield and Aldermaston, where excellent organisation
ensured it ran from end to end, being rolled out and joined up over a couple
of hours by teams along the whole length of the route. Today's rather shorter
cirling of the block around the Ministry of Defence and the parlimentary offices
at Portcullis House was considerably more ad-hoc, with the leading edge of
the scarf being carried at the front of a march from the doors of the MOD
in Horseguards Avenue, down Whitehall, left into Bridge St and left again
up the Embankment and back to the MOD. While the leaders set off with the
scarf at a cracking pace, gaps soon developed further back as those adding
lengths from the many rolls of scarf were unable to keep up. So while there
was far more scarf than needed to wrap the whole block - and it went back
and forth on the river side of the ministry - it may never have entirely joined
After the wrapping people stood around, not quite sure what to do, but eventually
most of those taking part got the message to bring back the scarf to the starting
point, where the sections were rolled up again. The knitting (and crochet)
is not going to waste, but much of it will be turned into blankets for refugees,
with just a few of the more interesting lengths being retained, doubtless
for further protests and display.
Everyone then gathered for the march proper, though it was only for a very
short distance, from the MOD down to Old Palace Yard opposite parliament where
there was a rally.
Christian CND against Trident Replacement
St Martins-in-the-Fields to Whitehall, London. Sat 24 Jan 2015
The piece of scarf was long enough to go across the step and back to the middle
Christian CND held a service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar
Square before a rally on the steps while holding a long piece of the seven
mile knitted pink peace scarf which they then walked with to the main CND
protest against Trident replacement.
After the service during which a length of the knitted scarf, including some
lengths produced by French peace groups was held across the front of the steps
of St Martins, people came down the steps and formed a procession. Led by
a man with a small banner and two Buddhist, the scarg was then taken onto
the North terrace and down the east steps into Trafalgar Square, walking through
there and across the traffic lights to Whitehall. Here they walked along the
pavement to Horseguards Avenue to join the main CND protest which was gathering
West Hendon march for Social Housing
West Hendon, London. Thu 22 Jan 2015
huge banner drop on the balcony of one of the blocks at West Hendon
People from the West Hendon estate fighting against the redevelopment
of their estate for sale to the rich and for all tenants to be rehoused in
social housing in the area marched from the estate to a meeting outside Hendon
I arrived just after the meeting about the so-called regeneration had finished,
with contributions from other housing campaigns including people from Focus
E15, New Era and elsewhere, and everyone had just finished posing for photographs
It was then time for hot soup in the community centre, which was very welcome
given the cold weather. After a short break, everyone marched around to the
other end of the estate where there was a giant banner being dropped from
the balcony of a block reading 'Public Housing Not Private Profit'. This was
adjoining the local York Memorial Park, , a recreational area in memory of
the residents of York Way killed in the Blitz and next to a building site,
Hendon Waterside, a highly controversial development on the edge of the Welsh
The waterside area is reserved for high cost private homes, with any social
housing well away nearer to the busy A5 road, and the estate has been highly
criticized for its effect on wildlife on the reservoir, a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI.) One of the Barnet Council's many broken promises
was that the York Memorial Park would not be redeveloped, but part has already
been taken over for building works.
The protest stopped at this point to listen for a short memorial service
for a Hendon war hero, Dorothy Lawrence the only female Sapper of WW1. After
being arrested while trying to cover the war as a journalist in 1915, she
decided to disguise herself as a soldier and with false papers became Private
Denis Smith of the Leicestershire Regiment, and was able to work for a short
while close to the front line as a sapper with a specialist mine-laying team
of the Royal Engineers. After around 10 days, suffering from ill-health and
fearing her discovery might incriminate men who had aided her in her deception,
she turned herself in to her commanding officer, and was arrested and interrogated
as a spy before being declared a prisoner of war. She was soon released, but
threatened with the official secrets 'Defence of the Realm Act' to prevent
her writing about her experiences, and was only able to publish her story,
in the book The Only English Woman Soldier, in 1919, after the end
of the war.
Her bravery and initiative apparently did little to further her career, and
by 1925 she was destitute and with mental health problems, possibly arising
from her sexual abuse as a young girl by her church guardian after the death
of her mother. She was committed to the Hanwell mental hospital and later
to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum where she remained until her death in 1964.
The group in West Hendon want to put a fitting memorial to her in the York
park in August 2015 on the centenary of her short military service.
From York Park the march set off again on the long walk, now in the dark,
to Hendon Town Hall, where the Public Inquiry into the West Hendon development
had just finished its third day. The protest had been fairly loud earlier
and on its way to the Town Hall, but was told it had to behave itself and
not engage in loud shouting on the area in front of the Town Hall.
There was then a rally with a number of speeches from people from West Hendon
and other campaigners, including Jasmine Stone from Focus E15. Some of the
other speakers had been at the enquiry and were able to tell the crowd what
had happened so far. I didn't quite manage to stay to the end of the rally
as I was cold and very tired and had to leave for home.
Class War visit 'Rich London'
The Ritz and Old Bond St, London. Thu 22 Jan 2015
Ritz security were very polite to Class War and watched the protest outside
A small group from Class War toured some of London's wealthiest streets
starting at the Ritz and posing with a banner "We must devastate the
avenues where the wealthy live" a quotation from US anarchist Lucy Parsons
City Island - Lower Lea Crossing
Lower Lea Crossing, London. Thu 22 Jan 2015
City Island is not an island, but in a bend of Bow Creek.
The new bridge to Canning Town station at right
Building work has now restarted on the former Pura Foods site in the
lower of the two great bends in Bow Creek, the tidal River Lea, at Canning
Town, a project which was abandoned after the site had been cleared and a
single building erected when the financial crisis hit in 2008. Now Ballymore's
non-island 'City Island' is shooting up fast.
I walked from Victoria Dock along the north side of the Lower Lea Crossing,
where there is just a very narrow strip of pavement behind the low barrier
at the edge of the road. Pedestrians and cyclists are meant to use the track
on the south side of the road. I've photographed here several times in the
past, taking panoramas from the elevated viewpoint.
I continued a short distance beyond the DLR viaduct which I had photographed
during its construction in 1982, then turned away to go to catch the DLR as
East India station.
Stop Arming Israel picket HP at BETT
ExCel Centre, London, Thu 22 Jan 2015
A Victory salute at the end of a speech against HP's
involvement in the Israeli military machine
Protesters at the Excel Centre where Hewlett Packard's Vice-President
for Worldwide Education, Gus Schmedien, was speaking at the BETT education
technology show, to ask 'What about the Palestinian Children You're Helping
HP sells equipment and provides services to both the Israeli prison system
and the Israeli military, keeping bother running. The protesters pointed out
the depth of this involvement and called on HP to stop supporting the killing,
torture and other illegal activities of the Israeli regime.
ExCel security had set aside a pen for the use of the protesters, but they
decided to stay outside of this and to protest closer to the entrance to ExCel.
Many of the delegates going into BETT stopped to take leaflets, look at the
display and talk with the protesters, and some photographed themselves or
colleagues in front of the protest.
What Are You Afraid of Boys?
College Green, London, Mon 19 Jan 2015
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaks in front of
a poster showing her and Green MP Caroline Lucas
The Green Party launched a poster for their campaign to take part in
the party leaders' election debates as their membership surges above the Lib-Dems.
Natalie Bennett called Parliament an old boys network and asked 'What are
you afraid of boys?'
Despite their showing in the opinion polls, the broadcasters continue to
ignore the Green Party while promoting Nigel Farage and UKIP. Following a
widespread public outcry, David Cameron had supported the right of the Green
Party to be included - probably because he sees them as drawing votes from
Labour, and Tory blogger Guido Fawkes had a chicken running around the area
with a message for the Lib Dem and Labour leaders , 'Dont be a chicken'. After
further deliberation the broadcasters finally decided to include the Green
Party - along with the SNP and Plaid Cymru, neither of which are nationwide
Irish Famine is no laughing matter
Channel 4, Horseferry Rd, London. Sat 17 Jan 2015
The red poster 'Dearg le Fearg' means Red with Anger,
and 'Om Náire Orthu' is Shame on You
Around 50 people came to Channel 4 to protest against their aim to produce
a comedy series on the Irish famine, exploited in 1845-9 as a deliberate genocide,
wiping out a million Irish, and forcing more into poverty, starvation and
Among the speakers at the event were the organiser Austin Harney, Chair of
CRAIC, (Campaign for the Rights and Actions of Irish Communities), Pat Reynolds
of IBRG, (Irish in Britain Representation Group), Helen O’Connor of
the Socialist Party, Peter Middleton of the Wolfe Tone Society (Sinn Fein),
Zita Holbourne from BARAC, (Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts) and Irish
traveller Phien O'Reachtign of PAAD.
Carnival March to End Taiji Dolphin Massacre
Cavendish Square, London. Sat 17 Jan 2015
As well as brutally slaughtering dolphins, many are
captured and sold to be caged as attractions in aquariums
More than a thousand people, some dressed as dolphins and others carrying
them, in Cavendish Square for the carnival march against the annual slaughter
of dolphins in Taiji cove, Japan and the capture of dolphins to perform for
the public in aquaria.
They then marched through London to protest against the bloody annual dolphin
slaughter in Taiji cove, Japan and the cruelty of keeping captured dolphins
in visitor attractions. Perhaps surprisingly, although there were several
hundreds taking part, they marched along the pavement rather than on the road,
even though this was rather difficult as they made their way through the shoppers
on Oxford St.
I left the marchers as they left Oxford Circus,going down Regent St on their
way to Trafalgar Square.
Solidarity with German anti-Pegida
Belgrave Square, London. Mon 12 Jan 2015
Protesters supporting Pegida against the UAF vigil hold
up posters and flags in front of the German embassy
The UAF vigil at the German embassy in solidarity with German protests
against the right-wing, racist and Islamophobic 'Pegida' (Patriotic Europeans
Against the Islamisation of the Western World) movement was shouted at by
small group calling themselves 'UK Pegida' who appeared mainly to be from
the EDL, SEA and neo-Nazi groups.
Pegida is part of a growing movement across Europe of populist racist and
fascist groups which scapegoat Muslims and immigrants, blaming all social
problems on their presence in the countries. There have been mass rallies
in Dresden and other German cities in support of Pegida, which have been attended
by leading figures in the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and right
wingers from the CDU and CSU.
These large protests have led to a series of major anti-racist protests in
Germany, including some taking place on the same day as this solidarity event
at the German embassy in London.
It was raining, at times rather heavily, as the protest organised by Unite
Against Fascism got underway a little late in a pen on the opposite and rather
dark side of the street to one of the Embassy buildings in Belgrave Square.
First to speak was Weymann Bennett of UAF, and people listened quietly, holding
placards 'Solidarity with German anti-fascists' and 'Stand up to Islamophobia'.
A few had umbrellas, but most stood with the rain dripping down them. There
were further speeches from Abu Baker Deghayes, the brother of Omar Deghayes
who was held and tortured for five years in Guantanamo after he was mistaken
for a Chechen rebel. Two of his sons have been killed after joining the fight
for freedom against the Assad regime in Syria, and last May his Brighton home
was raided by police under terrorism laws, but no one was charged. He has
accused the media and the government of using the events in Syria to attack,
blame and arrest Muslims.
Police came over and told the organisers that they were shortly going to
take the small group of counter-protesters on a march past the German Embassy
past the UAF vigil. There seemed to be around 20 of them, mainly faces familiar
from earlier EDL, South East Alliance and other ultra-right events, but now
some were carrying French flags with anti-Islamic cartoons on them, as well
as others holding up these cartoons. There was also a German flag, a Union
flag and a St George flag.
The group, who were surrounded by police officers, stopped at the embassy
doorway for a minute or two before police managed to get them to move on,
and shouted insults at the UAF across the road, who replied rather more loudly,
calling them racists, fascists and Nazis. The police then led them slowly
out of the square towards Victoria station.
I decided it was time for me to leave too - I was cold, wet and was having
problems with cameras and flash and it seemed unlikely there would be anything
'Je Suis Charlie' rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 11 Jan 2015
Nick Clegg and French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann gesticulate
at the Rally in Trafalgar Square
Nick Clegg and French Ambassador Sylvie Bermann were among the thousands
with 'Je suis Charlie' and other posters in the rally in solidarity with those
killed in the Paris shootings in Trafalgar Square.
I photographed them as they were leaving the event and making some rather
strange hand signals, which seemed to me typically Gallic; I'd just heard
a French woman congratulating Clegg on his French accent.
But I hadn't gone there to photograph these two, but the thousands of people,
many French but also plenty from the UK who were there to express their disgust
at the barbarity of the Paris attacks. Many of them had printed the 'Je suis
Charlie' signs, but others had made their own to express their views which
were sometimes more nuanced.
I'd arrived late and expected to miss the Ambassador and other celebrities,
but had hoped to see the projection of the French flag on the National Gallery
which I had been told would happen at 4pm. By the time I left around 20 minutes
later only one of the projectors appeared to be working, and that was showing
only a test pattern.
The 'fountains in the colours of the French Flag' were also somewhat disappointing
as this simply meant they changed from being coloured red, to colourless and
to blue. I tried hard to make all three colours visible at once, but soon
13th Year of Guantanamo Shame
US Embassy, London. Sun 11 Jan 2015
A protest on the 13th anniversary of the prison camp
called for Obama to close it and free Shaker Aamer
13 years after the Guantánamo Bay detention camp opened, with
148 prisoners still held without charge or trial, campaigners outside the
US Embassy asked President Barack Obama his own question, 'Is This Who We
Are?' and called for closure now.
There were speeches from solicitor Louise Christian who represented
a number of prisoners held in Guantanamo and Noa Kleinman of Amnesty
International UK, as well as former soldier Ben Griffin of Veterans
for Peace UK who threw some light on the British Army and Intelligence services
long record of torture at least in conflicts since the Second World War, including
in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and elsewhere. The only politician
asked to speak was London's Green MEP Jean Lambert who has long been
a supporter of the campaign.
But the main event of the afternoon was a two-part performance, 'Is
This Who We Are?' which used the text of various speeches by President
Obama about Guantanamo (including some from before his election as president)
read by actors with Obama masks hanging around their necks, along with a chorus
and some interviews. Unfortunately I missed the second part of this as I was
on my way to another event.
The protest took place a few days before David Cameron is due to hold talks
in the USA with Obama over security following the recent Paris attacks, and
the protesters hope that he will urge Obama to close Guantanamo and free Shaker
Aamer to return to his family in London. The presence of Guantanamo with its
trademark orange jumpsuits is one of the most potent factors leading to the
radicalisation of a small number of young Muslims who join with groups such
as IS and carry out terrorist attacks in the west.
Free Shawki Ahmed Omar
US Embassy, London. Sun 11 Jan 2015
The family of Shawki Ahmed Omar listen to speeches with
protesters from the London Guantanamo Campaign
Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye and her 9 year old daughter Zeinab continue their
regular protests at the US embassy over the imprisonment of Shawki Ahmed Omar,
who has dual Jordanian/US nationality. I first reported on them in April 2013,
where you can read more about the case on My
Shawki Omar and his wife were arrested and tortured after being held by the
US in Iraq; she was released but he was kept in jail and handed over to the
Iraq authorities when the US left in 2011. Now he has disappeared and the
US denies any knowledge of his whereabouts, although probably US intelligence
are still involved in his detention.
His daughter Zeinab was born shortly after his arrest and has never seen
her father, but comes regularly from Birmingham with her mother to protest
outside the US embassy. With them today was a brother who lives in Sweden,
and as well as holding their own protest they took part in the protest for
the 13th anniversary of the founding of the Guuantanamo Bay prison camp.
Cirque du Soleil - Say No To Apartheid!
Royal Albert Hall, London. Sat 10 Jan 2015
Picket calls on Cirque du Soleil to respect the Palestinian
call for a cultural boycott of Israel
Protesters picketed the Royal Albert Hall performance by Cirque du Soleil
calling on them to respect the call by Palestinians for a cultural boycott
of Israel and stand up against Israeli apartheid and oppression of Palestinians.
Cirque du Soleil, a contemporary circus based in Montreal, Quebec have an
estimated annual revenue of US $810 million and are performing for a season
at the Albert Hall in London.
In 2012 the Palestinian Circus School wrote to Cirque du Soleil asking it
to reconsider performing in Israel, "and join other artists from
around the world who have called on you to support human rights and the right
of all people to be free from military occupation." They ignored
this and other pleas from Palestinians and many others and went ahead with
their visit to Israel.
In 2014, the circus was also picketed in London over its planned performances
in Israel later that year, but these were then cancelled for security reasons
as Israel was engaged in its prolonged attack on Gaza. They now plan to perform
their 'Quidam' show for 11 performances at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena in July
The picket handed out leaflets to people going in to the hall and to those
walking past along Kensington Gore. I only arrived shortly before the picket
finished for the day, but they intend to return and leaflet at other performances
during the season.
Oh! Mother Against Knife Crime
Padbury Court, Bethnal Green, London. Sat 10 Jan 2015
Joel Adesina's mother marches behind the 'Enough is
Enough' Oh! Mother banner calling for end to killing
Nigerians from across the UK joined the Oh! Mother campaign against
knife crime, founded after Olamide Fasina was murdered in October in Thamesmead,
to march in Bethnal Green protesting the unprovoked stabbing to death of 15-year
old Joel Adesina.
Following the brutal murder of Olamide Ben Fashina by a gang of young men
in Thamesmead on October 14 last year, a group of Nigerians, coordinated by
Bridgette Peters, set up the campaigning organisation 'Oh! Mother' to campaign
against knife crime. They aim to persuade youths about the dangers of carrying
weapons and joining gangs, and help those already in them to leave, and also
to support parents, especially mothers and make them aware of the problems
and how they might take greater care of their children. Oh! Mother also aims
to support single mothers and to provide comfort for the families of the victims
of violent crimes.
Together with Youth Against Crime not Crime Against Youth, Oh Mother organised
the march and rally in Bethnal Green following the stabbing of Nigerian youth
Joel Adesina, a 15-year old keen footballer from Dagenham who was regarded
as a potential professional.
Today's march follows the stabbing death of 15-year-old Joel Adesina. Police
say that there was a fight between two groups late at night on Bethnal Green
Rd on December 5 and shortly afterwards Adesina was stabbed in the abdomen
in a narrow street, Padbury Court just to the north. An ambulance was called
but he died in hospital three hours later from a liver wound. Police have
arrested a number of people and have charged one man in connection with his
People, including Joel Adesina's mother, sister and other family members
and some from Olamide Fasina's family met at the corner of Padbury Court,
where a graffiti on a brick wall a few yards down the street with the message
'RIP Joel' marked where he was killed. I stood next to a TV reporter and took
pictures as Joel's mother and others went to the spot before rejoining the
Before the march there was a prayer from the pastor before people, mostly
Nigerians, formed up behind the Oh! Mother banner with its message 'Enough
is Enough', with Joel's mother at its centre, for a march down Gibraltar Walk
to Bethnal Green Road, along past a parade of shops and then up Brick Lane
and back along Padbury Court to the scene of his death.
After another prayer there were speeches from the organisers and leading
members of the Nigerian community in London, including a magistrate, about
the problems of gun and knife crime and what might be done to prevent it.
Then came some moving contributions from three young friends of Joel, and
from his sister speaking for the family.
Pay John Lewis Cleaners a Living Wage
Oxford St, London. Sat 3 Jan 2015
protester holds a message from John Lewis customer Una Kroll: ,'Outsourcing
is a way of avoiding responsibility'
Cleaners and customers protested outside the flagship Oxford St store
calling for them to live up to their ethical reputation and pay those who
keep the shop clean a living wage. The cleaners complain John Lewis treats
them as second class citizens.
Unlike their pre-Christmas protest, this had been widely advertised and notice
give to the police and the protest took place in Oxford St on the busy pavement
outside the store, with a line of police between the protesters and the doorway.
As well as protesting against their unfair treatment by John Lewis, the IWGB
cleaners were also protesting against the attacks by police on protesters
inside the store last month, where police assaulted many of the protesters
and others as they were trying to leave, stopping and arresting three of them.
Also present at the protest were a number of John Lewis customers, just a
few of the over 125,00 who have already signed a petition calling on the company
to live up to its ethical reputation and ensure that the cleaners are paid
a living wage.
John Lewis attempts to disclaim any responsibility for the cleaners who work
in their store by outsourcing their employment to a contractor, but the cleaners
still work there alongside the directly employed staff, who enjoy better conditions
of employment and a large annual bonus as "partners" in the business.
But the 127,865 people who have signed the petition, as well as the cleaners
and other trade unionists see this as a shallow attempt at deception. The
work done by the cleaners takes place in the store and is essential to its
running and should be properly recognised and paid.
The cleaners belong to the Cleaners And Facilities Branch of the IWGB (Independent
Workers Union of Great Britain), a registered trade union, and complain that
neither John Lewis nor the cleaning contractor recognise the IWGB, and that
they treat the cleaners as second class citizens.
The IWGB states:
- The London Living Wage is an hourly rate calculated according to the basic
cost of Living, currently £9.15/ hour.
- 650 companies, including KPMG, Nationwide & Tate and Lyle are committed
to the London Living Wage.
- John Lewis is the UK's leading retailer and last Christmas enjoyed the
highest Market profit in the retail sector. Directly employed staff received
a 14% bonus.
- But John Lewis has contracted out its cleaning services. Its cleaners
receive less than the living wage and are not entitled to the bonus payment
paid to directly employed staff.
- There is no reason for cleaners at John Lewis, a hugely profitable company,
to be treated like second class citizens.
The protest was led by IWGB General Secretary Alberto Durango and
President Jason Moyer-Lee. There were short speeches of support by
others including Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones,
(Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb) and Mick Dooley of London TUSC, as
well as a great deal of noisy shouting and blowing of horns. Many of those
passing took a flyer about the protest and expressed their support. During
the protest people held up some of the comments written by John Lewis customers
who had signed the protest, expressing their disgust at the failure by John
Lewis to treat its workers properly and including some who stated they were
boycotting John Lewis until they paid the living wage, and some of these were
read out by the protesters.
After around an hour and a quarter of protest, the event ended with a tour
around the outside of the store which occupies a whole block on the north
side of Oxford St. The protesters stopped briefly at each of the doors of
the shop but made no attempt to actually go inside even when they arrived
just before the police and in-store security.
Vigil for Leelah Alcorn
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 3 Jan 2015
People light candles before the minute's silence
A candlelit vigil took place in Trafalgar Square for transgender teen
girl Leelah Alcorn, who threw herself under a truck after her Christian parents
forced her into 'conversion therapy', calling on this medically unsound and
dangerous practice to be banned and for her grave to bear her chosen name.
17-year-old Leelah Alcorn from Kings Mill, Ohio, USA, wrote a poignant suicide
note on her Tumblr blog where she blamed her Christian parents for refusing
to acknowledge her gender and forbidding her from transitioning before walking
to her death in front of an oncoming lorry.
Her devout Christian parents had forced her to undergo 'Conversion Therapy'
which attempts to change sexual orientation through counselling. This practice
has no basis in medical science and has a high risk of suicide, leading to
its banning in two US states. Some of the speakers at the event expressed
their anger about this practice and called for it to be banned, and for those
who carry it out to be prosecuted.
In the note which she posted publicly shortly before her suicide, Leelah
Alcorn wrote of having felt since she was four "like a girl trapped
in a boy’s body" and her relief when she found out about the
possibility of transgender transitions, and her feeling of hopelessness when
she realised that her parents "would never come around"
to her transition.
She wrote: "The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender
people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid
feelings and human rights."
"Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better.
My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number
of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look
at that number and say 'that’s f**ked up' and fix it. Fix society."
Her supporters are also appalled at the thought that she will be buried with
a gravestone carrying not her chosen name of Leelah but the name she was given
at birth, Joshua.
People gathered in front of the National Gallery in light rain, with many
holding umbrellas as well as candles. After a number of short speeches, including
several from people who had themselves transitioned, everyone was invited
to light a candle for a two minute silence in memory of Leelah.
New Year's Day Walk
Pangbourne, Berks. Thu 1 Jan 2015
A pond near Sulham when we had taken the wrong path
I went for a walk with my wife and son, starting and finishing at Pangbourne
Station. They had planned a route from a rather old book of 'tea shop walks'
but the teashop was shut on New Year's Day. I wasn't that bothered, as tea
shops are not really my kind of thing. For me a good walk ends in a pub, and
if there isn't a pub let's get home before my legs stiffen too much. Linda
takes a flask of tea with here anyway.
We got off to a bad start, with our train arriving in Reading rather late.
We should have had twelve minutes to change but it got stuck just outside
reading. 'Swans on the line' seemed a silly reason to stop, as they would
surely have hopped out the way sharpish if the train had simply proceeded
at walking pace towards them. 29 minutes to wait in Reading Station for the
next service to Pangbourne.
We wasted more time in Pangbourne as they went to find the tea shop to ascertain
whether it would be open. It wasn't. Finally we could start the walk. The
first 3 miles or so we'd done before, though in the opposite direction, along
the Thames Path to Mapledurham Lock. Wind in the Willows country - although
Grahame wrote the book a few miles downriver in Cookham, he later moved to
Pangbourne, and scenes from around there were the basis for the best-known
illustrations of the book.
From there (after sitting to eat our sandwiches on a cold and draughty seat)
we walked away from the river, through the fringes of Purley to Long Lane
and Sulham Hill. Here we followed a direction to go through a gate onto a
footpath from the car park, but unfortunately chose the wrong car park. Half
a mile on, when the directions made no sense, we wandered lost for a while
before consulting map and compass and realising we were going in entirely
the wrong direction. But it had taken us past a couple of ponds which yielded
perhaps the most interesting pictures of they day, which otherwise we would
Soon we were back on route, and on leaving the woods on a very muddy path
to Tidmarsh and the River Pang, surprisingly guarded (or at least at some
time in the war) by several pill-boxes. A short walk along the main road and
another footpath took us to the River Pang and a path beside it led back to
Pangbourne, which we just reached as darkness really fell. My companions insisted
on missing the next train back to Reading to go and look at the Whitchurch
bridge again, so we had another wait on a station platform. The train to Reading
came and ran more or less to time, giving us another wait of 25 minutes for
our connection at Reading. But at least our trains were running, unlike so
many around the country, which seemed to be in almost continual chaos.
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