March for Homes: After the Rally

City Hall, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015

Class war and others block Tooley St with their banners
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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.
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March for Homes: City Hall Rally

City Hall, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
People show the Housing For All banner calling for a rent cap at the City Hall rally
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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 olds
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 developments.

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.
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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'
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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 Thursday.
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March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall

London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
The March for Homes banner with Focus E15's 'This Is The Beginning Of The End Of The Housing Crisis
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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 banners.

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.
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March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally

St Leonards Church. Shoreditch, London. Sat 31 Jan 2015
'A.L.A.B.' is like A.C.A.B. an oversimplication, but one that councils and major corporations seem out to prove
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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.
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'Tin Pan Alley' 12 Bar club faces eviction

Denmark St, London. Thu 29 Jan 2015

Inside the 12 Bar club looking towards the street.

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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 day.
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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
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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 than ISS.

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.
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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
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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.
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No Fracking Anywhere!

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, Mon 26 Jan 2015

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas speaking at the rally
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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 Lancashire.

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 Westwood
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.
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Gambians protest brutal repression

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, Mon 26 Jan 2015
Some of the protesters against the brutal repession by Dictator Yahya Jammeh wore Gambian flags
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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.
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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
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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 police watched.

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 hours later.
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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 rally
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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.
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'Wrap Up Trident' surrounds Defence Ministry

Whitehall, London. Sat 24 Jan 2015
'Drop Stitches Not Bombs' and' Peace and Lov'e - the front of the CND scarf in front of the MOD
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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 up completely.

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.
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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

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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 there.
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West Hendon march for Social Housing

West Hendon, London. Thu 22 Jan 2015
A huge banner drop on the balcony of one of the blocks at West Hendon
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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 Town Hall.

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 outside.

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 Harp Reservoir.

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.
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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 the hotel

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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 (1853-1942).
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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
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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.
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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
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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 Kill?'

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.
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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
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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 parties.
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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
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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 immigration.

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.
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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
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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.
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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
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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 more happening.
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'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
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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 gave up.
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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
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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.
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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
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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 London Diary.

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.
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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
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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 2015.

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.
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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
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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 murder.

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 others.

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
A protester holds a message from John Lewis customer Una Kroll: ,'Outsourcing is a way of avoiding responsibility'
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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 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.
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Vigil for Leelah Alcorn

Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 3 Jan 2015

People light candles before the minute's silence

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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.
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New Year's Day Walk

Pangbourne, Berks. Thu 1 Jan 2015

A pond near Sulham when we had taken the wrong path
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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 have missed.

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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my london diary index
 

Jan 2015

March for Homes: After the Rally
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
March for Homes: Poor Doors
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally
'Tin Pan Alley' 12 Bar club faces eviction
SOAS Cleaners demand Dignity & Respect
Cleaners protest at Royal College of Surgeons
No Fracking Anywhere!
Gambians protest brutal repression
Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy
CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament
'Wrap Up Trident' surrounds Defence Ministry
Christian CND against Trident Replacement
West Hendon march for Social Housing
Class War visit 'Rich London'
City Island - Lower Lea Crossing
Stop Arming Israel picket HP at BETT
What Are You Afraid of Boys?
Irish Famine is no laughing matter
Carnival March to End Taiji Dolphin Massacre
Solidarity with German anti-Pegida
'Je Suis Charlie' rally
13th Year of Guantanamo Shame
Free Shawki Ahmed Omar
Cirque du Soleil - Say No To Apartheid!
Oh! Mother Against Knife Crime
Pay John Lewis Cleaners a Living Wage
Vigil for Leelah Alcorn
New Year's Day Walk

january
february
march
april
may
june
july
august
september
october
november
december

Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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High res images available for reproduction - for licences to reproduce images or buy prints or other questions and comments, contact me. Selected images are also available from Alamy and Photofusion

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