Grow Heathrow's 5th Birthday

Grow Heathrow, Sipson, London. Sat 28 Feb 2015

People get ready to eat the cakes at the end of the cake competition
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Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict nursery just north of Heathrow Airport as a symbol of community resistance to the economic, ecological and democratic crises celebrated 5 years with open workshops and a party.

When I arrived lunch was being cooked and people were being given escorted tours of the site. It was a couple of years since I had been there and there were a few changes. When the site was first occupied, few beleived it would last more than a few months, but the occupiers have managed to get the courts to consider various legal arguments and to stay in possession, taking over some adjoining derelict land as well as the original nursery site.

It is an impressive acheivement, although not always the tidiest of places there is a great deal of careful and thoughtful organisation. The occupiers have turned what was previously an eyesore and a dangerous site with considerable fly-tipping into a well-ordered and largely self-sufficient settlement, and one that offers various services to the surrounding community, many of whom have become involved.

The session I'd particularly wanted to attend started with local MP John McDonnell praising the work of Grow Heathrow during its five years on the site in Sipson, and talking about their contribution to the battle of local residents against the third runway - a battle which it looks as if it may need to be taken up by direct action again.

Following him, Tristram Stuart, one of the pioneers of the radical food movement with his 2009 book on food waste and the Feedback charity, spoke on how this is now an international issue, and the importance of stopping the movement being incorporated as corporate greenwash.

David Graeber, a professor of anthropology now at the LSE, took us through some ideas about democracy and how we need to find new ways to eliminate unnecessary control, with examples from the Spanish civil war and the current revolution in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), where the contstitution is based on the ideas of the late Murray Bookchin.

Finally Ewa Jasiewicz, well known as an activist in many areas including Palestine solidarity and fuel poverty, talked about her work as a union organiser with hotel workers, one of the most exploited areas of the workforce.

It was a stimulating event, and led to some interesting discussion although unfortunately it had started late and had to be cut short for the celebrations, which included speeches from local resident Tracy, John McDonnell again, a housing activist and also some news and a callout for Yorkley Court Community Farm, as well as a song about the battle against the expansion of Heathrow, before the judging of the cake contest. All the cakes were judged to be highly edible and once the judging was completed they disappeared very fast.
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People's Republic Of Aldgate Free Speech Fight

One Commercial St, London. Thur 26 Feb 2015
Poor Doors protest becomes one for freedom of expression when a police officer threatens arrest for banner
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There were more police than normal for the protest outside the 'rich' door of One Commercial St, and as soon as Class War unrolled their banners a police officer , Sergeant C, came to tell them that the 'Party Leaders' banner was offensive and they must remove it.

The protesters told the police that nobody had objected to it and so it was not an offence to display it, and it remained on display. The officer, together with a woman officer then began talking to people passing by and entering and leaving through the rich door. Eventually, after around ten minutes, they found two young men going into the rich door who were willing to be prompted to agree that they found it offensive, and came back to the protesters.

The protesters defended their right to free speech, but the officer made it clear that unless they put the banner away they would be arrested, and the protesters rolled it up and continued the protest. The banner in question is based on Class War's 2010 election posters of the political leaders. Police raided the home of a photographer living a mile or so away in 2010 forcing him to take down the posters from his window; he replaced them with the word 'wanker' replaced by 'onanist'. Later he received a letter from the police apologising for the action and stating that he had the right to display the original posters under the right to freedom of expression which is part of the Human Rights Act. Police also paid compensation for the raid on his home.

The same officer also warned Ian Bone that he would be arrested if he continued to use offensive language, in particular the 'f' word. Although Bone protested that this was now commonly heard in almost all situations, his contributions to the event after this were more muted than usual. Not so Martin Wright, who gave proceeded to give a spirited discourse on the words he found offensive such as 'poverty' and 'war' and various terms related to sex and bodily functions which were not. The police took no action.

Class War brought out a couple of posters with the message 'You are now entering The People's Republic of Aldgate' and they invited the police to leave, offering them safe conduct out of the PRA. The police failed to take up the offer.

Later there was a moment of pure farce after an orange flare had been set off, when Sergeant C and another officer tried to put it out in a puddle. Unsurprisingly this had little effect. It was burning out fairly harmlessly in the puddle on the pavement, the red smoke mainly blowing along the pavement parallel to the road when the sergeant decided to pick it up and carry it to a bin at the side of the traffic lights. Red smoke continued to pour out of the bin, now being blown into the traffic, and some of the rubbish in the bin appeared to catch fire, though fortunately it went out.

Padraic then stepped forward to re-enact the scene of the officers trying to extinguish the flare in the puddle, and the protesters were soon in stitches, along with the security man, and some of the police were unable to hide their amusement too despite trying hard not to laugh (doubtless they will have got a telling off later back at the station.)
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Police prompted two rich residents to find the Class War 'Party Leaders' banner offensive, and threatened arrest if they kept it on display. It was rolled up and the protest continued with the area being declared 'The People's Republic of Aldgate'.

 

Lambeth against £90m cuts

Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, Lodnon. Wed 25 Feb 2015
A TUSC candidate talks to the people outside Lambeth Town Hall before the start of the council meeting
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Around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenant and other residents held a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall telling councillors arriving for a meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts.

The cuts will have greater impact on children, old people and the disable who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees oppose the cuts not only because they fear for their own jobs, but because they know those that keep in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.
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RMT protest Underground Job Cuts

Edgware Road (Bakerloo), London. Wed 25 Feb 2015

RMT members and supporters handed out fyers about the increased danger staff losses present to passengers and staff
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Around 20 RMT Members handed out flyers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station today against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and closure of the ticket office which they claim will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception form many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past. Most seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.
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Welfare Advocacy not a Crime

DWP, Westminster. Wed 25 Feb 2015.

Handing out leaflets about the right to provide advocacy for claimants at job centres
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In a national day of action, welfare activists protested at the Dept of Work & Pensions over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her jobcentre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled. Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.
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Striking Firefighters block traffic

Westminster, London. Wed 25 Feb 2015

A police officer comes to talk with Matt Wrack (centre) and other FBU leaders at the gates to Downing St
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After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

Outside Downing St, the noisy protest blocked Whitehall and the access into Downing St. A senior officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack's mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters who had told him they would not move until someone had come to talk to them about their pensions, and the promises they feel have been broken over this.

They were still there when I had to leave to photograph another protest. Around 45 minutes later I met them again. marching back from Downing St to Methodist Central Hall were they were expected to disperse.
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Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament

Parliament Square, London. Wed 25 Feb 2015
The campaign holds weekly protests opposite Parliament to remind government of the need for action
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The Free Shaker Aamer campaign protested for 4 hours at Parliament calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker's torture and imprisonment.
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Bracknell Forest

Bracknell, Berks. Mon 23 Feb 2015
Parts of the forest were pretty wet and some of the paths were muddy
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Just a short walk with some of my family in the Crown forest south of Bracknell - not really a lot to see. Then we went to a pub in Virginia Water for a meal and I didn't take any pictures of that. It wasn't anything special.
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Take Back Our World - Global Justice Now

Shoreditch, London. Sat 21 Feb

Peter Kennard holds up one of his best-known photomontages
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This was the launch of 'Global Justice Now', the renamed 'World Development Movement' which I've belonged to since it began in the mists of times and we ran a group in Manchester in the late 1960s.

A day conference at Rich Mix, close to the north end of Brick Lane had some well-known contributors, though unfortunately it wasn't possible to go to everything, as there were three sessions concurrently through the day. Among those speaking at those I attended were Paul Mason, David Graeber and Peter Kennard.

The final session in the early evening was a short walk away at Amnesty International. I hadn't gone to the event to take photographs, but I had taken a camera - the Fuji XT1 - and a couple of lenses, meaning to take a few pictures in the lunch break. But sitting in or near the front row, the 35mm f1.4 was able to give some reasonable images. There were several photographers moving around and photographing in most of the sessions, but I was there to listen, and just took a few pictures from where I was sitting. Which was rather too far away for the very crowded final session.
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Shoreditch & Brick Lane

Shoreditch, London. Sat 21 Feb 2015

'No More Hipsters' but the area has already been taken over
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A few pictures taken on my way to Rich Mix for the event there, and during a short visit later in the day to Brick Lane, which has changed beyond recognition since I photographed there around thirty years ago.
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Poor Doors to Rich Gardens

Aldgate to Tower Bridge, London. Thu 19 Feb 2015
Class Ware block both roadways on Tower Bridge with banners, flaming torches and flares
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Class War kept up protests over social apartheid in housing; from a 'poor doors' protest with banners and flaming torches at One Commercial St they marched to Tower Bridge, briefly blocking it before protesting against the 'rich gardens' at One Tower Bridge.

Police had asked Class War to pay for the march to be policed, but Class War told them firmly that the fewer police there were the better. The protest started as usual outside the rich door of One Commercial St. It was raining lightly and at first there were not many protesters, and is seemed likely the march might be called off. But a few more turned up and some were keen to march, so off it set, complete with flaming torches which ensured they would be seen in the dark.

There were a few minor arguments about the route to take, and the route took us down some seriously dark side streets but eventually local knowledge won out. Marching down the busy Highway without any police to control traffic was just a little fraught, but the protesters kept together and spread across the west-bound carriageway so no vehicles could pass, and ignored the hooting of those stuck behind them.

In the middle of Tower Bridge they took over both carriageways, bringing both the 'Lucy Parsons' and 'Party Leaders' banners beside each other. The flaming torches that had burnt out were recharged again with paraffin and a couple of orange flares set off.

On the south side, the protesters briefly took to the pavement before crossing Tower Bridge Road to the entrance to One Tower Bridge, moving on after a brief protest to finish at the entrance to the site on Queen Elizabeth St, where there were a few more speeches and chants facing the security and police waiting there. The developers have had to include some social housing at the rear of the site, which has communal gardens, and have now announced that access to these gardens will be restricted to the wealthy only.
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End Isolation Torture for Kevan

HM Prison Service, London. Mon 16 Feb 2015

Campaigners hand out flyers outside the prison service offices in Petty France, Westminster

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Kevan Thakrar was acquitted of attacking prison officers in 2010, and has since been kept in isolation as retribution. Campaigners at HM Prison Service demanded this end, and for an appeal of his wrongful conviction for murder under 'joint enterprise'.

Court rulings against prison officers are unusual and in this case have been responded to by the prison service vindictively. The evidence in court showed Kevan had acted in self-defence after months of racial, physical and psychological abuse.

The ancient law of 'joint enterprise' has been resurrected in recent years as a way to deal with gang crime, and there are many cases like Kevan's that have resulted in youths who took no part in a crime being sent to jail for lengthy terms - in his case for life with a minimum of 35 years in jail.

Kevan wasn't present when the murder for which he was convicted took place, and was actually found guilty on the basis of false statements that were retracted after the trial. Police threatened a witness who would have given Kevan an alibi to stop him testifying, and then arrested and charged him with assisting an offender, only dropping the charges after Kevan was found guilty.

One of those thought to taken part in the murder gave evidence against Kevan, and was given a suspiciously low sentence for serious drug crimes, possibly for his testimony, and there were other irregularities in his trials, two of which were abandoned because of jury bias.

Before his trial, Kevan was attacked by prison officers and attended court with serious injuries. Since being acquitted of attacking prison officers he has been held under 'close supervision', which involved being locked in his cell 23 hours a day.

Campaigners stood outside Clive House, the London HQ of HM Prison Service across lunchtime handing out flyers about his case and talking with some of those passing by or going in and out of the offices. The protesters included members of Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA), a grass roots campaign which includes many relatives of those imprisoned under 'joint enterprise', members of FRFI (Figth Racism! Fight Imperialism!) and of Payday Men's Network.
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Deport Altaf Hussain

Downing St, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015

The PTI protesters want the UK to expel Altaf Hussain. though many may feel he should be jailed here
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Imran Khan's PTI party protested at Downing St for the UK government to act against Altaf Hussain, founder of the rival MQM party, granted UK asylum in 1992. The say his speeches incite violence in Pakistan and he is implicated in various crimes both there and in London.

The PTI say Hussain and his party have an armed mafia wing in Karachi which indulges in extortion, blackmail and murder. They allege the MQM were behind the Baldia Town factory fire in which at least 258 workers died, the Karachi Massacre of May 2007, as well as the murder of PTI leader Zahra Shahid in her driveway in Karachi in 2013 and many other crimes. Hussain is under investigation in the UK for money laundering and was alleged to be involved in the murder of a leading MQM member also in exile, Dr Imran Farooq in London in September 2010.

Hussain has also recently issued threats against journalists who report against his party and made insulting remarks about the women and children activists of the PTI who took part in a 126 day sit in following a 'Freedom march' against what they sayis an illegitimate government.

George Galloway MP was going to speak at the rally, but after around an hour I got fed up with waiting for him and went home. He did eventually turn up some time after I had left.
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Let Greece Breathe!

Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015
A Greek woman waves a flag next to a Syriza poster of Alexis Tsipras at Let Greece Breathe rally
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A large crowd filled the space in front of the National Gallery for a rally in support of Syriza and the newly elected government. Speakers praised the Greek people's struggle against austerity and saw it as a model for the rest of Europe.
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Occupy Democracy return

Parliament Square, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015

The coffin 'UK Democracy R.I.P. Killed by Corporate Billionaires' police arrested with Donnachadh McCarthy
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Despite arrests by police under instructions from GLA private security 'wardens' after dark yesterday in which five people were arrested, Occupy Democracy talks and workshops continued during daylight at Parliament Square.

In the morning I was there when George Barda talked and introduced the 'Love Activists' who talked about the various activities and actions they hoped to carry out in the next few months. Danny recommended and read from 'Forest Gardening' by Robert Hart which he said had been a great influence on his views.

Police and GLA Security watched as the presentations and discussions took place on the paved area by Churchill's statue, but made no attempt to interfere. They prefer to take action when fewer press are around and it is dark.

There was another presentation by the 50:50 Parliament campaigners, with Frances Scott talking about the lack of representation of women in Parliament at Occupy Democracy in Parliament Square. They want equal numbers of men and women and argue this would lead to much better government.

Later in the afternoon I went back to Parliament Square where Occupy Democracy was continuing, By the side of the speaker was the cardboard coffin which was arrested together with Donnachadh McCarthy, slightly crushed but still with its message 'UK Democracy R.I.P. Killed by Corporate Billionaires.'
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Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros

Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 14 Feb 2015
People in the Reclaim Love Meditation Circle in Piccadilly Circys lift up their arms and chant the mantra
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Hundreds enjoyed Venus CuMara's 13th Reclaim Love Valentine Party at Eros in Piccadilly Circus with bands, dancing and a "Massive Healing Reclaim Love Meditation Circle beaming Love and Happiness and our Vision for world peace out into the cosmos".

As usual there was a great atmosphere as people came together to share in love and party together in opposition the the huge commercialisation of Valentine's Day and indeed of love itself. It is nothing to do with money, just about people.

Venus organised everyone into a large circle around the edge of the pavement surrounding Eros, getting them to link hands and chant repeatedly together "May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace". After which the music and dancing continued, along with hugging and other activities.
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Valentine Day - 13 years for Shaker Aamer

Westminster, London. Sat 14 Feb 2015
A person in an Obama mask has a message for the President, 'Free Shaker - Yes YOU Can'
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Protesters marched from Parliament Square to a rally opposite Downing St calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he arrived has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

He was taken to Guantanamo after being captured by Afghan militia while helping to build a school for an Islamic charity and was sold to US forces for £5,000. They held him in Bagram Air Base and tortured him together with MI5 officers. In February he was illegally rendered to Guantanamo, arriving there on Feb 14, 2002.

In Guantanamo he has been subjected to several hundred incidents of beating and torture, including one notorious occasion in June 2006 where he was taken to a special secret interrogation site; three men who were taken with him for similar treatment that day died from asphyxiation, but he survived similar treatment.

At first the UK government refused to take action on his behalf as although he has a British wife and family and permanent resident status here, he is not a UK citizen, but since 2007 they have made various requests for him to be freed. At the same time however, they have spent over a quarter of a million pounds in legal fees to prevent his legal team gaining access to evidence which might prove his innocence. Many feel that the UK and US intelligence agencies have prevented his release as the evidence he would give about their use of torture would be highly embarrassing.

The US having been unable to find any evidence they could use against him, cleared him for release in 2007 and again in 2009, but only for release to his native Saudi Arabia where his life would be in extreme danger. In Guantanamo, his health is in danger and the pressure for his release has been stepped up with a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, which joined with the Free Shaker Aamer Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign, Amnesty International and others for this event.

I photographed at the Downing St rally, where the large inflatable figure of Shaker from the We Stand With Shaker campaign was standing at the side of the speakers, who included Joy Hurcombe of the Free Shaker Aamer Campaign, writer Victoria Brittain, Lindsey German of Stop the War, veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent of CND, Katie Taylor from Reprieve, Yvonne Ridley, Aisha Maniar from the London Guantánamo Campaign, Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker. Unfortunately I had to leave before the end and missed some other speakers.
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'Bad Boy Borises' in Global Divestment Day

London City Hall. Sat 14 Feb 2015

One of the Boris bloc at the rally in front of City Hall and Tower Bridge
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Protesters, including a 'Boris bloc' in Boris Johnson wigs, were at City Hall for Global Divestment Day, calling for the Mayor and London Assembly to end their pension fund investments in climate wrecking fossil fuels and lead a fossil-free London.

It was a nightmare vision as multiple Mayor Borises arrived, revelling in dirty fuel in front of Tower Bridge and City Hall at the protest. They were greeted by a choir singing some songs specially written for the occasion.

This was followed by speeches after which the protesters split into blocks, each gathering around a 3 meter tall letter which they eventually lifted up to spell out the message 'Divest London', calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels which are causing catastrophic climate change. One letter was held up by those representing faith groups, including a man and a woman dressed as bishops. Many churches have divested, and campaigners are pressing others including the Church of England to do so.
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Poor Doors Truce Over – It's War!

One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015

A Mr Greedy placard and two fingers for Taylor McWilliams
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Last November Class War halted the protests over separate doors for rich and poor at One Commercial St after new owner Taylor McWilliams promised to discuss the ending of separate entrances. But when talks to place last month, broke down in minutes when it became clear that he was only prepared to make cosmetic changes and not to end the segregated entrances.

The regular protests restarted today, though Class War had paid a brief visit during the March for Homes on Jan 31. There was a new 'Mr Greedy property developer bastard' placard too.

Building work is taking place in the side alley where the poor door is located, and may possibly end with it a little more attractive. There is also new lighting there, making it a little less risky for people coming home late at night, though for the moment you have to make a lengthy detour around the block to reach the poor door from the rear.
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Muslim Lives Matter - BBC protest

Broadcasting House, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015

Protesters with #Muslim Lives Matter placards opposite Broadcasting House
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An emergency protest at the BBC condemned the killing of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, and the failure to report adequately on this hate attack which they see as arising from systemic racism and Islamophobia in the media.
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Aylesbury rubble to Southwark Council

Southwark Council Offices, London. Tue 10 Feb 2015

Southwark residents dump waste from council demolition of Aylesbury Estate in doorway of council offices
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Residents dumped demolition waste at Southwark Council in a protest over the so-called regeneration of their Aylesbury Estate. Despite a poll that showed a large majority of residents wanted to stay there and were opposed to any demolition, the council is going ahead with a scheme to demolish the estate.

Activists, supported by residents, occupied part of a block on the estate just over a week ago. In response Southwark Council sent workers to smash up an adjoining empty block to prevent further occupation and later went to court to criminalise the protest occupation rather than rely on slower civil procedures.

Housing campaigners gathered outside the council offices in a protest over the council's action and their housing policy which involves demolishing social housing and building large numbers of flats to let at high market rents, or for sale to overseas property investors. Although the new schemes will include some 'affordable' housing, properties are likely to be at much higher rents than the current social housing for less spacious properties, and many existing tenants will not be eligible for rehousing. Those who have bought properties will receive compensation at rates below the cost of properties in the area and most will have no alternative but to move well away from central London.

When a bike arrived with a trailer full of black bags, the residents quickly picked these up and walked to the council entrance. One managed to get inside the foyer, and another in the area between the inner and outer doors, but most tipped the building rubble from the council's wrecking work onto the pavement just in front of the entrance.

Although police were lined up across the front of the offices, they seemed bemused by what was happening, though the two officers closest to me quickly grabbed a woman holding up a poster about the occupation, enabling me to take photographs and others to empty their sacks.

The protest continued outside for some time, with some short speeches about the action and occupation, and with flyers calling for the council to adopt a policy for housing rather than for social cleansing to staff leaving the offices at the end of their work, people passing by and those entering the offices who included councillors arriving for a meeting.
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Surround Harmondsworth 6

Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre, London. Sat 7 Feb 2015
Protesters say 'End Fast Track' and 'Shut Down All Detention Centres NOW'
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Well over a hundred Movement for Justice protesters at Harmondsworth called for an end to the detained fast track system (DFT) which has been declared illegal by the courts and and end to the scapegoating of immigrants; seeking asylum must not be treated as if it was a crime. They hope to get all immigration prisons like this one at Heathrow closed down.

The two immigration prisons at Harmondsworth, previously know as Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, separated from each other only by a private road leading to a BT depot, were recently put under a unified management provided by MITIE and renamed 'Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre'. But changing the name and transferring them to a different private company hasn't in any way improved how these centres operate, with detainees held inside them still being reported to be deprived of many of the rights they are supposed to have, and ill-treated.

This was the sixth in the most recent series of protests which started last year in support of mass hunger strikes inside immigration prisons across the country. The Movement for Justice point out their continuing protests and legal actions are having an effect:

Britain’s racist system of immigration detention has been thrown into crisis by the victories of the growing movement, led by the independent, collective organising of asylum seekers and refugees acting on Movement for Justice’s political perspective to win. In July 2014 the High Court declared the operation of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) system unlawful. By December the Court of Appeal had ruled it UNLAWFUL to keep asylum seekers on DFT if they are appealing against a refusal of their claim.

As Tony Gard of the Movement for Justice made clear, there is a need to build a movement not just to oppose this particular "black hole at the heart of British justice" but to unite the poor, those on benefits and others in demanding change.

Since MITIE took over the running of the prisons, the protesters have been limited to a small area at the front of the site, out of sight of the detainees, but the noisy protests, with chanting, whistling, blowing of horns and dancing as well as speeches can be heard by many inside these jails, letting them know they are not forgotten and that many outside still support them. Detainees have mobile phones and were able to be rung by the protesters and to tell them about what was happening to them inside the prison and the many problems they face.

Among the protesters who spoke were a number who have themselves been held in centres like this, as well as some living in the community still seeking asylum, unable to work and relying on the support of friends and concerned groups to stay alive, never knowing whether their next weekly or monthly reporting visit will end up with arrest and forcible detention. People had come from across the country to be at the protest and to try to get justice for those who have come here from desperate circumstances in their home countries.
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Burberry Cleaners Strike

Regent St, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015
The IWGB official picket outside Burberry in Regent St
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Striking IWGB workers and supporters protested outside Burberry on the wide pavement in Regent St for the London Living Wage, pay for covering absences, uniforms and proper equipment, as well as an end to bullying management by ISS.

Security & police watched the noisy and colourful protest and tried to interfere but the protesters stood up for their right to protest.
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Benefit Sanctions protest at Croydon Job Centre

Croydon Job Centre, Croydon, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015

Handing out flyers at the Jobcentre on Dingwall Rd, Croydon

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Protesters handed out leaflets about the unfair use of sanctions, which many staff there feel they are forced to make to keep their own jobs, often having to cut off benefits for trivial reasons, forcing more and more people to use food banks.

I arrived shortly after the protest began, as security staff from the job centre were insisting that the protesters stayed on the pavement rather than come onto the wide area of grass and driveways outside the job centre. The protesters set up their stall on the table and handed out flyers to people going past as well as to those entering or leaving the job centre.

Many of those who stopped to talk had stories about their own benefits having been stopped, unfair 'fitness to work' tests or other benefit issues. Unfit by design the system is also applied in an unfair manner. The protesters offered some advice as to the rights of claimants and how to appeal unfair decisions.

After around half an hour a manager came out from the job centre to talk to the protesters. He tried to defend the use of sanctions, saying that they were effective in getting people back into work and insisted that - despite much evidence to the contrary - they were applied fairly and according to strict rules. He denied that there were any of the targets that various whistle blowers have insisted exist to force employees to sanction more claimants. Obviously he was concerned by the effect the protests were having on job centre staff, as the protesters reminded them of the hardship and even suicides that sanctions have led to.

The argument was conducted in a very civilised manner but showed the manager was living in a world divorced from the realities where the great majority of those forced into using foodbanks are there because of sanctions and delays in the benefit system.

Croydon, with its tall buildings, always seems to be something of a wind tunnel, and today there was a truly bitter wind sweeping down the open road - more open than normal as the area opposite the job centre is now a large building site for a luxury development of shops, offices and expensive flats. As I walked away, too cold to stay longer, I passed a glass door to a tall office block just along the road; fixed the glass said "Caution! Glass awaiting Manifestation". With the way the screws are tightening on the poor in our society it could just provoke one.
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Getting By - Lisa's Book Launch

Young Foundation, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015

Ken Loach , Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie, author of 'Getting By' talk at the book launch
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Lisa McKenzie's book 'Getting By' is the result of her years of study from the inside of the working class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for others who have researched this and similar areas.

Earlier studies had of course given a great deal of information about the lives of those in this and similar working class urban areas. The same location, St Ann's on the edge of central Nottingham, had been studied by Ken Coates and Richard Silburn in the late 1960s and published in their book Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen, published as a Penguin Special in 1970.

Like many similar areas of other cities, St Ann's was then undergoing a huge slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived there.

Similar things were happening in cities across the country, and I'd had some experience of them in Manchester, where the Hulme and parts of Moss Side that I'd walked through as a first year student were razed to the ground, and then replaced, largely with anonymous blocks - many of which have now been redeveloped yet again.

A few years later, living on the edge of the area in similar working-class Victorian housing I became involved in the area, both as a volunteer interviewer for the social science department on a project on racial attitudes between neighbours on the council estates (a follow-up in Manchester to the work of Rex and Moore in Sparkbrook published in their 1967 Race, Community and Conflict) and as a political activist in the Moss Side Housing Action Group, which attempted to organise local opinion and encourage it to participate in planning for the rebuilding of the area through 'Planning for Real' exercises, as well as taking part in the local elections.

MSHAG was possibly the first UK group to carry out such participatory planning exercises around 1968 (I think the idea came from Germany or Scandinavia) which became more common some 10 years later. Shortly afterwards there were kits available published by the University of Nottingham, perhaps based on the work of the St Ann's Tenants' and Residents' Association from Nottingham which was active at around the same time. MSHAG failed to change the council's plans at the time, but did unofficially involve some of the city's younger architects and planners and certainly influenced later redevelopment in Manchester and elsewhere.

My first major photographic project in Hull in the 1970s, centered around the mass redevelopments that were still happening there, repeating many of the mistakes that we had agitated against in Moss Side. Eventually it presented a wider view of a city in transition in the show and 27 years later the book 'Still Occupied - A view of Hull'.

The book launch took place very appropriately in the Young Foundation in Bethnal Green, established by Michael Young as the Institute for Community Studies in 1954 (it became the Young Foundation when it merged with the Mutual Aid Centre in 2005, three years after Young's death.) Young, together with Peter Willmott, published the seminal Family and Kinship in East London in 1957.

At the opening were quite a large cross-section of political activists involved in housing issues across London, some of whom spoke at the event, among them Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, and others from New Era and West Hendon. Also at the event was film director Ken Loach, whose Cathy Come Home (written by Jeremy Sandford) on homelessness made a huge impact in 1966 and in 2000 was voted the second best British TV programme ever made (after Fawlty Towers!)

Lisa, now research fellow at the LSE, intends to stand against Iain Duncan Smith in the May elections in his Chingford constituency as the candidate for the Class War party. It promises to be an interesting campaign.
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Aylesbury Estate Occupation

Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015

People gather outside the occupied block to go and leaflet the estate about a public meeting
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Protesters about the demolition of social housing and its replacement by private developments with little or no social housing on the Aylesbury Estate and elsewhere in London occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland Road after the March for Homes on Saturday.

I came to see them on Thursday, but was unable to climb up to the occupation on the first floor as even without a large camera bag I would have found the climb difficult. There is one open flat on the ground floor which I briefly looked inside, but it was extremely dark and nothing of interest was happening there, although another neighbourhood assembly was scheduled for a few hours later.

The occupiers have had a lot of support from residents almost all of whom want to stay on the Aylesbury estate. After the area was given regeneration status, a poll of the residents gave a large majority against the proposed redevelopment. The flats were well designed, built to Parker Morris standards of space and are mainly in good condition, though in need of some modernisation, but Southwark council wants to replace this and other estates, making deals with private developers, which will result in properties built to meaner standards of space, fitting more properties into the same area. Although the plans include some affordable housing, most schemes of this sort end up with much less than anticipated, and in any case so-called affordable rents are much higher than current rents and beyond the means of most current residents in the area.

Many of those who live on the estate are on short tenancies which do not qualify them for rehousing and will have to find private rented accommodation elsewhere, and those who have acquired their flats are offered compensation at a fraction of the cost of any similar accommodation in the area and will have to move much further from the centre of London.

Close to central London and with good transport links, areas like this are prime sites for developers, but the developments that will result will have little housing that ordinary Londoners can afford. The estate which was started in 1963 is one of the largest public housing estates in Europe, with 2,700 dwellings in

I went out with some of the volunteers who had come to distribute flyers for a public meeting in the flats across the estate. They split into pairs and I went with those who were putting them in the letterboxes of the flats on the top floor of what is I think the longest single block on the whole estate, Wendover. Its flats number 1-471 and from the top floor there are extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built.

At one point we came across a notice on a door 'Danger - Do Not Use - Unsafe' but it looked perfectly safe and we went through it, to find a broken window through which were were able to get a clear view.
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Around the Elephant

Elephant & Castle, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015

The Underground substation -a memorial to Michael Faraday- in the Elephant and Castle roundabout at dusk
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On the way to the Aylesbury Estate and after leaving it I walked through the Elephant making some panoramas and a few other pictures. On the way there was some winter sunshine, and as I returned the light was fading fast.
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No Privatisation At National Gallery

Trafalgar Square and DCMS, Whitehall, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
PCS try to deliver their petition to the National Gallery, but no one from management would come to take it
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The National Gallery has told 400 of its 600 staff they are to be taken over by a private company. These staff are responsible for the security of the paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.

A private company CIS has already been brought in to “temporarily” take over the services in a third of the gallery at the additional cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.

It is also a scandal that the National Gallery is the only major museum or gallery that does not pay the London Living Wage. Privatisation threatens the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on poverty pay.

PCS members out on a five day strike against the privatisation were incensed when management suspended one of the union's senior reps and member of the negotiating team at the ACAS talks, Candy Udwin, accusing her of breaching commercial confidentiality. They called it a "disproportionate act of unfathomable bad faith" and demanded her re-instatement.

Nobody came to answer the door when they knocked to deliver their petition with around 40,000 signatures against privatisation, so a group went inside the Sainsbury Wing to deliver it. Security there tried to get them to leave, promising they would try to get a member of the management team to come down and receive it. After some discussion and arguments the PCS members left and rejoined those outside to ask union members if they should leave it with the Head of Security who had promised to personally hand it to management who would not come down. This was agreed and the petition was handed over.

The strikers and their supporters then marched through Trafalgar Square and Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. Three people were allowed to take it inside for a short meeting while the protest continued outside, with Jeremy Corbyn MP joining it and speaking. Graham Eve, the PCS branch organiser for the National Gallery then came out from the DCMS to give a report on what had happened at the meeting and the protest then ended.
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Close Guantanamo - 8 Years of protest

US Embassy, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015

Protesters get ready for the start of the monthly protest at the Embassy
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The London Guantánamo Campaign held its usual monthly protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. These have now kept these up for 8 years, calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including Londoner Shaker Aamer.
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my london diary index
 

Feb 2015

Grow Heathrow's 5th Birthday
People's Republic Of Aldgate Free Speech Fight
Lambeth against £90m cuts
RMT protest Underground Job Cuts
Welfare Advocacy not a Crime
Striking Firefighters block traffic
Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament
Bracknell Forest
Take Back Our World - Global Justice Now
Shoreditch & Brick Lane
Poor Doors to Rich Gardens
End Isolation Torture for Kevan
Deport Altaf Hussain
Let Greece Breathe!
Occupy Democracy return
Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros
Valentine Day - 13 years for Shaker Aamer
'BadBoy Borises' in Global Divestment Day
Poor Doors Truce Over - It's War!
Muslim Lives Matter - BBC protest
Aylesbury rubble to Southwark Council
Surround Harmondsworth 6
Burberry Cleaners Strike
Sanctions protest at Croydon Job Centre
Getting By - Lisa's Book Launch
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Around the Elephant
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Close Guantanamo - 8 Years of protest

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

Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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All pictures Copyright © Peter Marshall 2015, all rights reserved.
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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