Gurkhas demand fair pensions on 200th

Westminster, London. Thu 30 Apr 2015

Gurkhas march across Bridge St on their way to Downing St calling for fair pensions for older ex-soldiers
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As Gurkhas were parading marking 200 years of service to Britain, many retired Gurkha soliders and their dependents came to London to demand proper UK military pensions for those who retired before 1997.

Earlier protests by Gurkhas gained national publicity, thanks partly to support from Joanna Lumley, and those who retired after the Gurkha HQ moved out of Hong Kong to England in 1997 were awarded decent pensions. Gurkha ex-soldiers also have the right to come and live in the UK and to bring their families here.

Many older ex-Gurkhas who taken up their right to live here, and have settled mainly around the Aldershot area are however living in extreme poverty, often existing on small payments from a Nepalese charity. They get no pension for less than 15 years service, and otherwise are paid at only one third of UK rates.

Several hundred Gurkhas and their dependents attended a protest rally in Old Palace Yard, after which they marched to deliver a letter to Downing St.
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Peace Picket in Parliament Square

Parliament Square, London. Thu 30 Apr 2015

Maria Gallastegui and a fellow protester at the back of one of the displays in Parliament Square
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Careful observance of the law has enabled the Peace Picket under Maria Gallastegui to erect two small structures on the pavement and remain in Parliament Square since April 19th (except for ANZAC and Marathon days) promoting "Human Rights by uniting ordinary people, and empowering them to stand together for peace".

For the ANZAC commemoration, Gallastegui reached an agreement with the police and Westminster Council that the two structures, deliberately made very thin so they cannot be used for sleeping or cause an obstruction, would be removed by the council and brought back on the day following the two weekend events, and they were returned as promised.

The Peace Picket began with a protest by the Syria Peace and Justice Campaign highlighting the Syrian refugee crisis and human rights related concerns. People from the Peace Picket and other campaigns, including the London Guantanamo campaign and protesters in solidarity with migrants migrants fleeing war and conflict across the Mediterranean and facing drowning have also joined in the protest here.
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'7 Days to Save our NHS' on Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge, London. Thu 30 Apr 2015

Posing with the banner on Westminster Bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament
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Protesters from the '7 Days to Save our NHS' campaign took a banner onto Westminster Bridge for photographs with the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop. They urge people to vote on May 7 to rescue the NHS from privatisation and cuts.

A further NHS protest including staff from St Thomas's Hospital at the south end of the bridge was due to take place later in the day, and some of those at this event were staying on to take part, but I had to leave before it began.
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'7 Days to Save our NHS' Campaign launch

Ministry of Health, London. Thu 30 Apr 2015

Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer for the NHS and co-founder of 999 Call for the NHS speaking
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NHS campaigners, including People's Vote for the NHS, launched a campaign at the Ministry of Health urging everyone who has a vote to use it to save the NHS on May 7.

A number of protesters were bandaged and their faces daubed with fake blood for the protest, and some came with genuine visible injuries, and there were also several disabled protesters. There was a die-in on the pavement in front of the ministry and afterwards campaigners handed in a petition against closure of maternity and A&E at Ealing.
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Buckingham Palace Class War Manifesto Launch

Buckingham Palace London. Wed 29 Apr 2015

Class War candidate for Westminster Adam Clifford in front of Buckingham palace, watched by armed police
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Class War went to Buckingham Palace with Westminster candidate Adam Clifford to try to canvas the 31 voters registered there. Their manifesto launch in front of the locked gates, including the promise to abolish the monarchy, was filmed by BBC News.

The manifesto was a simple one, with only five points:

Double Dole,
Double Pension,
Double Other Benefits,
50% Mansion Tax,
Abolish the Monarchy,
Abolish all Public Schools
.

Class War became a registered political party and invited friends to stand for seats, ending up with seven actual candidates in the general election, three in the Greater London area, Adam Clifford in Westminster, John Bigger in South Croydon, and Lisa McKenzie in standing against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford. None expected to get many votes, but it was an opportunity to generate some interest in working class attitudes and issues. And Class War and its candidates and policies certainly attracted far more media attention than the various small left wing groups who stood candidates.

There were 31 voters registered at the address eligible to vote in the Westminster seat, but despite his democratic right as a candidate to canvass their votes, local candidate Adam was kept firmly outside those tall locked gates.
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Hotel Workers Rise Up on Workers Memorial Day

Hilton London Metropole, London. Tue 28 Apr 2015

A modern luxury hotel with a world-wide reputation, but outsourced workers are shabbily treated by agencies
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Unite Hotel Workers branch protested at Hilton London Metropole against the exploitation of workers, mainly migrants, in portering and household services. Workers at luxury hotels are employed by agencies on minimum wage, zero hours contracts and denied basic rights.

Several workers spoke at the protest, complaining of heavy workloads and abusive treatment by management, who fail to treat them as human beings, saying "We Are Not Machines".

Among the speakers was former room attendant Barbara Pokryszka who explained the exploitation of workers in luxury hotels, outsourced to contractors who pay minimum wage and impose abysmal conditions.
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Holloway protest for Yarl's Wood protester Anna

Holloway Prison, London. Tue 28 Apr 2015

Protesters call for the release of Anna, sent to Holloway after protesting against brutality in Yarl's Wood
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Anna and Lillija were held in solitary after brutal repression of a protest against the deportation of a torture victim from Yarl's Wood. Neither has been charged; Lillija was freed but Anna sent to Holloway and a protest called for her to be freed.

The two women were both involved in the exposure of of the Guards at Yarl's Wood by Channel 4 News, which led to his suspension. Anna was one of a group of women who were defending the torture victim when 30 guards rushed into the room and assaulted them. The women were all put into the 'Kingfisher' isolation unit at Yarl's Wood, and both Anna and Lillija were threatened with prison. Lillija was later released, and although Anna was not charged with anything, she was taken to Holloway prison.

The Movement for Justice called an emergency protest outside the prison to demand Anna's release, and around 30 people, including a number who have themselves previously been held in Yarl's Wood or other immigration prisons came for a lively and noisy protest.

At one point a group of three prison employees came out to argue with the protesters, saying that the protest simply upset women being held inside. Some of the protesters were able to tell them from first hand experience how greatly they had welcomed knowing that there were people outside the prison who were aware of them and wanting to help, and the protest continued.
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Qatar Slave Labour deaths - World Cup 2022

Qatari Embassy, London. Tue 28 Apr 2015

A man from the Qatari Embassy refuses to take the letter from Gail Cartmail
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Trade unionists took a letter to the Qatari embassy on International Workers Memorial Day protesting the slaughter of migrant slave labour workers on World Cup building sites. At current death rates, over 4,000 migrant workers will die by 2022.

A Guardian report revealed that on average a Nepalese worker dies every two days, and including the deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers the death rate is most likely more than one every day. At least 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh died working in Qatar in 2012 and 2013.

So far work has only taken place on one of the 12 stadiums needed and 12 are to be constructed by 2022. Unless the Qatar government acts urgently the number of workers killed is likely to be much higher.

The huge death rate is due to appalling exploitation and abuse of the migrant workers. Amnesty International says many have their passports confiscated as soon as they enter the country and are made to work long hours with little pay and no days off, and they are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The ILO has urged Qatar to "ensure without delay, access to justice for migrant workers, so that they can effectively assert their rights [...] strengthening the complaints system and the labour inspection system".

The protesters began their protest on both sides of the doorway to the Qatar embassy, but were soon moved by police to the opposite side of the road. Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union, attempted to deliver a letter to the embassy, and a police officer went inside to ask if someone would come and accept it. After a lengthy wait, a man came to the door and refused, and the protesters then left it on the doorstep.
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London Black Revs 'Reclaim Brixton' march

Brixton, London Sat 25 Apr 2015

The march stopped for a short while outside Brixton Underground
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After an hour at the gathering in Wind rush Square for Reclaim Brixton, activists again took to the streets for a march up the main street and then back past the railway arches threatened with eviction.

It was a lively march but rather to my surprise simply returned to Wind rush Square, and nothing much appeared to be happening. I hung around Wind rush Square for a bit but everything seemed very peaceful and I mistakenly thought that perhaps nothing more would happen and decided to leave.

Shortly after I left some people stormed and briefly occupied Lambeth Town Hall and a large window at Foxton's estate agents was broken, and a few activists went into Brixton Village with banners.
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Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton

Brixton, London Sat 25 Apr 2015
People enjoying some music in a corner of Wind rush Square at Reclaim Brixton
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Wind rush Square at the centre of Brixton was filled with a crowded festival to reclaim its social & cultural diversity, threatened by increasing rents and property development that are forcing out local businesses and residents.

There was a Unite Community microphone at one side and some speeches, but most of the groups present there seemed to be doing their own thing in various parts of the square. When I walked around later there was a group playing classical music, another of African drummers, and the Revolutionary Communist Group had its own megaphone and speakers, while people were having a light-hearted limbo competition to a musical accompaniment from the Unite 'stage'.

But most were simply standing around and talking or sitting in groups, having picnics and enjoying a little afternoon sun in what Lambeth council a few years ago deliberately turned into a bleak and unwelcoming windswept area to discourage the informal gatherings that took place there.
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Take Back Brixton against gentrification

Brixton, London Sat 25 Apr 2015

B.A.G.A.G.E (Brixton Action Group Against Gentrification and Evictions) banner
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London Black Revs were prevented by police and security from a peaceful 'civil rights' style march through the gentrified 'Brixton Village', but instead led housing and other activists directly on a march from there to the Reclaim Brixton gathering in Wind rush Square.

There were extra security guards at all the entrances to the Brixton Village as I walked past, and behind them a number of police. A few protesters including people from a samba band had gathered by one of the gates, but there were not many present, so I walked back to Brixton Underground to see if there were any there,and found Class War were meeting there, and I talked with some of them for a few minutes before walking back to Brixton Village with them.

More protesters had now arrived and soon a march was forming up on Coldharbour Lane outside Brixton Village, including people from the Aylesbury Estate campaign, Southwark and Lambeth Housing Action and other local groups.

Others joined in as the march slowly moved off. Rather to my surprise it turned out to be a very short one, simply going down Coldharbour Lane and turning down Rushcroft St to go directly to Wind rush Square where the Reclaim Brixton rally was beginning. On the way, people accompanying the long black banner of B.A.G.A.G.E (Brixton Action Group Against Gentrification and Evictions) with its message 'Refuse to Move - Resist the Evictions - Support your Neighbours' let off several red flares.
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Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

Brixton, London Sat 25 Apr 2015

Cherry Groce and Sean Rigg on the mural which was expected to take several days to complete
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Businesses in central Brixton's many railway arches, threatened with tripled rents and evictions by Network Rail, closed for 2 hours across lunchtime in protest, and graffiti artists were invited to work on some of the arch shutters.

On Stella's Exclusive Hair & Beauty Salon an artist was working on a mural for the United Families and Friends campaign, celebrating Cherry Groce, Sean Rigg and
Ricky Bishop,all killed by Brixton police. All the shops on both sides of the arches were closed, and most had white sheets with the name of the business and a punning message about the evictions. Some of them have traded here for many years - Denmay Fabrics since 1948, and L S Mash and Sons have been fishmongers here since 1932. Their message to Network Rail - 'Don't rip the soul outta my place'.

As I photographed the shops, a small procession of exotically costumed figures carrying cardboard homes came past supporting their campaign, on its way to reclaim Brixton with the message 'Save the Community'.
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Aylesbury Estate Open Day

Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, London . Fri 24 Apr 2015

Aysen Dennis and Piers Corbyn at the street corner meeting on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark
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Residents of the Aylesbury Estate in South London invited visitors to the estate and into their homes in their fight against eviction and demolition. 73% voted to keep it a council estate and against 'regeneration' and social cleansing of the area.

A police van arrived on the street corner a few minutes before the open day meeting was due to start, and remained there for some time, before deciding that a couple of officers on the street and three 'community wardens' were sufficient for this entirely peaceful event. Two security guards watched from a balcony above, and I went to talk to them. They told me that they had been informed by the SIA that they did not have to have their SIA licences visible, though clearly the Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires that they do so when in public. They showed me their licences when I asked them to do so, and I informed them they were committing a criminal offence that could lead to six months in prison they shrugged their shoulders.

This is a law that the police are obviously choosing not to enforce at the moment, and reflects the increasing political nature of policing at least in the Metropolitan Police area. I was considering making a complaint to the two officers who were watching the protesters, but was diverted as a group at the open day were leaving to visit one of the flats in the block - and a cup of tea was on offer.

The flats in these blocks were built to standards that are considerably higher than those in current buildings in terms of space, and with a care to design seldom found even in the most expensive of modern blocks. The blocks are structurally sound and could be brought up to date in these respects at relatively low cost. Given the quality of the accommodation and its location it is hardly surprising that a majority of residents wanted to remain living here when a poll was taken, and those here now still do. But there are large profits to be made from demolition and rebuilding for sale at London's current ridiculous prices.
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Ten Days of Rage for Ahwazi Intifada

British Iranian Chambers of Commerce, London. Fri 24 Apr 2015

Protesters enter NIOC House where the British Iranian Chambers of Commerce meeting was taking place

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A protest against Ajay Sharma, UK Chargé d' Affairs to Iran was one of a series marking the 10th anniversary of the bloody suppression of the peaceful uprising against forced displacement, discrimination and persecution of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran.

April 15 was the 10th anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada against forced displacement, discrimination and persecution of the indigenous Arabs of southwest Iran in 2005. It was met by the Iranian regime with extreme brutality and at least 130 unarmed Arab civilians were shot and killed in cold blood in the first few days of the civil unrest, and more than 2,000 put in prison. Judicial and extra-judicial killings continued in the following months and years.

The Al-Ahwazi region in the southwest of Iran was autonomous until 1925 when it was brought under central control under Shah Reza Khan, a colonel whose 1921 coup had been supported by Britain to protest the interests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company formed after the discovery of oil in the region in 1908 and to oppose Soviet Russian attempts to take over Iran, most of which was essentially controlled by British or Soviet forces.

Peaceful protests continue in Al-Ahwaz and are met by continued repression, particularly around the annual anniversary of the 2005 Intifada. This year the10th anniversary was marked in the UK by a series of events, including this one at NIOC House at its entrance in Tothill St, where people including leading government officials and possibly the minister concerned were to be addressed by Ajay Sharma, the UK's non-resident Chargé d' Affairs to Iran, on establishing permanent relations with the Iranian regime.

After protesting outside as a number of people entered, including some going to attend the meeting, the protesters decided to protest inside the foyer, leaving after around ten minutes to finish the protest outside. They then decided to go on to protest at the Iranian consulate in Kensington but I had to go elsewhere.
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Checkpoint Care at UCH

University College Hospital, London. Wed 22 Apr 2015

Border Control banner in front to the steps to UCH
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Docs Not Cops set up a mock border checkpoint at the entrance to University College Hospital protesting against plans to charge migrants for NHS treatment which will force doctors to check on the immigration status of those needing treatment. Many doctors object to being told they must become immigration police.
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Royal College of Art living wage protest

Royal College of Art, London. Wed 22 Apr 2015

A senior member of RCA staff pushes IWGB President Alberto Durango away from the door
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Cleaners protested noisily at the Royal College of Art over low pay of outsourced workers, demanding the London Living Wage now, not from September as the college has offered.

After protesting for around half an hour outside the main entrance, the IWGB cleaners marched around for a short protest at the back of the college, then moved around to the east side close to the Albert Hall, after which they left and moved across into Hyde Park, pretending the protest was over.

After a few minutes they then set off for a park gate to the west of the college, and approached it again keeping quiet. As they turned down into the mews leading to the main entrance, the IWGB president, Alberto Durango waved to the rest indicating they should run towards the entrance, around a corner a short distance ahead. But he arrived at the door too far ahead of the others and was easily stopped by the security guards. I arrived as the a senior member of staff was stopping another IWGB leader and ordering him not to trespass on the college, and then photographed him pushing Alberto away from the door where he was being blocked by three other men. He then slipped inside, but Alberto was prevented from following.

The IWGB members regrouped and walked away to join those still waiting for them in the park and everyone left.
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Earth Day protest at Drax AGM

Grocers' Hall, London. Wed 22 Apr 2015
A police officer talks to an Axe Drax protester dressed as a Green Man outside Grocers' Hall
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London Biomassive held an 'Axe Drax not forests' protest outside the Drax AGM on UN Earth Day, calling for the UK's largest coal fired power station to be closed. It is also the world's biggest biomass power station, getting subsidies for trashing forests and digging up communities.

The group were on the pavement outside the entrance to the Grocers' Hall opposite the Bank of England where the AGM was being held, handing out leaflets and lobbying the shareholders going in to the meeting. Although there were no road works actually taking place, half of the street had been coned out of use in anticipation of them, making it hard for the protest to take place without impeding passage along the pavement.

Some of the protesters suggested that police might temporarily move the cones to create a larger space, but the police felt unable to do so, and simply kept coming back and asking people to keep a route clear. They suggested people protest around the corner or anywhere else out of the way. After the meeting inside had started, the protesters agreed to move into the coned off area on the other side of the street to continue their protest with a rally.
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Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel

Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London. Tue 21 Apr 2015
Activists told developers to build social housing, not investment properties as the entered the hotel
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Housing activists jeered those attending the 2015 Property Awards, holding their own awards ceremony outside in protest at the record level of evictions, doubling of rough sleeping in London and the worst shortage of affordable housing in history.

Property developers are cashing in on the incredible rise in London housing prices by building luxury flats for investors, many of which are left unoccupied as they increase in value while London suffers from its worst housing crisis, as councils sell off social housing to developers. Over 50,000 families have had to move out of London while many more properties in the capital remain empty.

Housing in London has ceased to be something to meet human need, and instead is servicing greed and selfishness. Among those at the protest were residents from the Aylesbury estate and Sweets Way who are facing eviction because of the policy of social cleansing.

The protesters stood in front of the normal red-carpet entrance to the Grosvenor House Hotel, making those attending the conference walk around them as they shouted for a fair housing policy. Other attendees were directed by the hotel management to other doors, and protesters also gathered at these. Protesters also briefly occupied a neighbouring branch of estate agents Foxton, who have played a leading role in the gentrification of London.

Towards the end of the protest, most of those present moved to the rear entrance to the hotel, where those attending were by then being directed. There was a large crowd around the narrow entrance gate, and some of the property developers going in for the awards had to push their way through an increasingly angry crowd which was arguing with police. Shortly after I left one or two of the protesters were arrested and taken away.

Piers Corbyn from the Aylesbury Estate campaign made a speech where he stressed the importance of fighting for council housing rather than simply social housing. Increasingly the housing associations which normally provide social housing are behaving just like other private landlords and increasing rents close to the so-called market value which is unaffordable, as well as using the kind of short-term tenancies which give private sector tenants little or no security.
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Cyclists Die-in for Moira Gemmill

Lambeth Bridge, London. Mon 20 Apr 2015

Cyclists and their bicycles covered the roadway all around the roundabout where Moira Gemmill was killed
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Cyclists held a vigil and die-in for Moira Gemmill where she was the 5th London cyclist killed this year. Four were women and all were killed in the rush hour by trucks. Westminster rejected plans to make the Lambeth Bridge roundabout safer in 2012.

As well as the hundreds of cyclists who included many from bodies such as the event organisers, Stop Killing Cyclists as well as London Cycling Campaign, there were also many who had worked with Moira when she was
head of design at the V&A and other friends and relatives. Also present were people from Right to Ride who represent motorcyclists and the pedestrian lobby group Living Streets.

The event both commemorated the life of the highly successful and inspirational designer and called for a change in the management of our highways. As Mustafa Arif of the London Cycling Campaign put it. currently "roads are prioritised for efficient movement of motor vehicles rather than the safety of cyclists and pedestrians."

At the start of the event, Stop Killing Cyclists organiser Donnachadh McCarthy arrived with a long banner covered with red crosses representing cyclists killed by traffic, and it was laid on the pavement, with a small white 'ghost bicycle', flowers and candles and a small poster stating that Moira Gemmill was the 5th cyclist to be killed on London roads this year, four of them women, and all killed in the rush hour by trucks.

The speakers were introduced by Nicola Branch, another of the organisers Stop Killing Cyclists, who also spoke briefly about Moira Gemmill. Every death is a a great loss, but this one was gaining more publicity than most because of the high profile of its victim, riding to work at St James's Palace to work at the post she had been recently appointed to at the Royal Collection Trust.

Ted Brown, also from Stop Killing Cyclists, told us that this roundabout had been the site of a number of previous accidents which had led Transport for London to propose changes to the road layout, but that in 2012, Westminster Council had rejected the TfL proposals. Moira Gemmill had been a designer, and one of the things she had said to her former boss, Martin Roth, the director of the V&A, was that "Good design can change society."

Mustafa Arif said that efforts to get the roundabout redesigned had continued, with the London Cycling Campaign and others, including Dutch experts putting forward new proposals in 2013, but that no action had been taken. There was also a need to improve the design of lorries and to restrict the movement of lorries at busy periods.

Peter Hartley of Westminster Living Streets made a powerful condemnation of Westminster Council, stating that three people there in particular were responsible for Moira's death. He characterized them as the 'three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'. Sitting with his hands over his eyes was Martin Lowe, Westminster Council's Director of Transport, in charge of a department not fit for purpose and only concerned with getting traffic moving faster, while Councillor Heather Acton, the chair of the committee concerned with pedestrians and cyclists had been totally ineffectual in improving safety. The third monkey, keeping silent about the issues was Council Leader Philippa Roe.

Beth McKillop, the deputy director of the V&A talked movingly of her friend and former colleague who she said "loved cycling as she loved life" and had been an inspiration to all, making "a wonderful museum even more wonderful." She had "mad the V&A the most stylish and talked about museum in London."

The speeches ended with Tom Carney reading his poem about the tragedy, after which there was a short pause as police stopped all traffic on to the roundabout, and then the banner with its red crosses and the commemerative display with white bike, flowers and candles was moved onto the roadway. Soon the whole area around the roundabout was full of cyclists and bikes lying on the road observing some minutes of silence in memory of Moira Gemmill.
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Westfield 'Save our NHS' protest

Westfield, Shepherds Bush, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

The play outside Virgin in Westfield Shepherds Bush comes to an end

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Street theatre by protesters at Virgin inside London's Westfield centre illustrated the danger that TTIP poses to our NHS, allowing corporations to force the privatisation of all public services. Police and security stood back and watched.

Virgin Media uses the Virgin brand, but is not actually owned by Virgin, following various mergers and sales. In 2013 the company was bought by Liberty Media, making Richard Branson more the £200m, of which £135m was in shares in Liberty. The company pays Branson around £10m a year to use the Virgin name.

Virgin Care, according to The Observer, runs over 230 NHS and social care services and "recently won contracts worth £500m to provide 30 primary care services across England, including GP practices, GP out-of-hours services, walk-in centres, urgent care centres and minor injury units". By use of a complex structure of holding companies with links to other parts of the Virgin empire with its roots in the British Virgin Islands, the company is "unlikely to pay any tax in the UK in the foreseeable future." Certainly not with our current government.
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BP die-in against Climate Change

Shepherds Bush Green, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

Protesters calling for a fossil fuel free future begin the die-in at BP Shepherds Bush

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Protesters staged a 'die-in' at the BP garage at Shepherds bush over TTIP, which would force countries to use dirty fuels including coal, tar oil and arctic oil and seriously delay cutting carbon emissions and the move to renewable energy.
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KFC protest over TTIP

Shepherds Bush, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

Chicken dipping bucket line outside KFC warns TTIP would force UK to accept unsafe food practices
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Protesters in white coats formed a line outside KFC at Shepherds Bush dipping rubber chickens in buckets of chlorine and acid, illustrating that TTIP would force the UK to accept unsafe food practices (including GMO crops) allowed in the USA.
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Stop TTIP rally

Shepherds Bush Green, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

Dame Vivienne Westwood makes a second point

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Dame Vivienne Westwood and John Hilary of War on Want and other powerful speakers at a London rally warned against the threat that the TTIP treaty secretly negotiated by governments and corporations poses to democracy and all public services.
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Tweed Cycle Ride

Westminster, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

Cyclists ride into Parliament Square on assorted bicycles

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While I was with the football fans calling for government legislation to protect their game, the Tweed Cycle Ride stopped on the road opposite, and I went across to photograph it, running alongside as it made its way into Parliament Square.

The Tweed Run raises money for the London Cycling Campaign and is "a jaunty bike ride around London in our sartorial best". The vintage-themed ride stops for tea and a picnic and ends with "a bit of a jolly knees-up." Um...
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Football Action Network Manifesto

Westminster, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

Football fan with soccer ball and football manifesto

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The Football Action Network took copies of its manifesto to the Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem offices in Westminster. Its demands include a Football Reform Bill, a living wage for all staff, fair ticket prices, safe standing, and reforms to clubs & FA.

I caught up with them at the Lib-Dem offices in Great George St and talked with them and took some pictures and a copy of the manifesto.
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Centenary of Armenian Genocide

Piccadilly, London. Sat 18 Apr 2015

A woman paints an Armenian flag on a man's cheek

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Armenians marched through London on the 100th anniversary of start of the killing of 1.5m Armenians by Turkey between 1915 and 1923. Turkey still refuse to accept the mass killings as genocide and the UK has not recognised the Armenian genocide.

Hundreds of Armenians met for a procession through London, led by Armenian scouts - male and female - carrying flags and 3 wreaths. Many had large placards about the Armenian genocide. Armenians demand that Turkey and the UK government should recognise the mass killing as genocide and it should be included in the national curriculum.

Some carried a placard with a picture of Hrant Dink (1954-2007), described as 'The 1,500,001st Victim of The Armenian Genocide'. The former editor of the Istanbul Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, he was prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which makes it a crime to publicly denigrate the Turkish government, republic or nation. After having received many death threats he was assassinated by a 17 year old Turkish Nationalist in January 2007.

Because of other events I had to leave the meeting point shortly before the procession began, on its way to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph and a rally close to Downing St before marching on to the steps of St Paul's Cathedral where Canon Pastor Tricia Hillas was to address the marchers.
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Class War Poor Doors 28

One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 16 Apr 2015

Passers by stop to look at the protest and wonder what it is all about
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Class War's 28th weekly protest at One Commercial St over separate entrances for rich and poor residents was marked by a number of speeches against the increasing social apartheid in the UK. Two protesters were still blocking the door when I left.
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No More Deaths on our Streets

Westminster, London. Wed 15 Apr 2015

The march pauses briefly in front of the Houses of Parliament
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People worried by the growing number of homeless people living on the streets of the UK, the removal of welfare support and increasing official persecution marched around central London to show solidarity and raise the problem as an election issue.

Protesters from various groups, including those involved in day to day practical support of the homeless on the streets with food and shelter as well as charities, political groups and housing and homeless activists, squatter and more met at 6pm opposite Downing St.

After protesting on the pavement they moved on to the roadway for the march, taking over both carriageways and stopping all traffic on Whitehall for some minutes before marching off towards Parliament.

From Parliament Square they marched down toward the Justice ministry in Petty France, turning there towards St James' Park, but then turning again and going through the back streets to Storey's Gate. There they turned and went up Horse Guards Road having walked nearly in a circle for around half a mile extra to get there.

It wasn't clear if anyone at the front of the march knew where they were going or how to get there, but by this time I was tired of walking and left to go home. After I had left the march made its way to Buckingham Palace to protest outside.
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Fast Food Rights at McDonald's

Whitehall, London. Wed 15 Apr 2015

Baker's Union leader Ian Hodson at McDonalds demands union rights and an end to zero hours contracts
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Fast Food Rights protest at McDonald's in Whitehall in global solidarity with US fast food workers striking for higher pay, justice, dignity and respect. UK workers demand union rights, a £10 minimum wage and an end to zero hours contracts.

Among those taking part and speaking at the protest were Ian Hodson, National President of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) who is one of the leaders of the Fast Food Rights campaign, and victimised National Gallery PCS rep Candy Udwin, one of the leaders of the strikes there against privatisation.
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Bring Back Our Girls

Nigerian Embassy, London. Wed 15 Apr 2015

Nigerians protest opposite the Nigeria High Commission
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Men and women from the Nigerian Women In Diaspora Leadership Forum protested at the Nigerian embassy calling for the return of the over 200 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram. They hope the new Nigerian government will take a firmer line. They have held monthly protests there since the abduction a year ago.
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Checkpoint Care - Docs Not Cops

Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. Wed 15 Apr 2015

Docs Not Cops border post outside the Royal London Hospital
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Docs Not Cops set up a mock border checkpoint at the entrance to the Royal London Hospital in a protest against plans to charge migrants for NHS treatment which will force doctors to check on the immigration status of those needing treatment.

Security at the hospital came and made them move off the hospital owned area and they continued the protest on the border, marked by shiny stainless steel posts. Those taking part were mainly medical students or health service employees who object to being used to police immigration, and they were joined by local GP Dr Anna Livingstone.

The hospital serves an area with a very large population of migrants and UK born members of ethnic communities. It is hard to see how doctors could carry out checks unless all UK residents were forced to have and use ID cards - questioning people about their immigration status would offend many and most of us carry no documents which would prove our right to free treatment.

Some of the protesters wore grey reflective jerkins with a symbol representing an ID card, while others wore surgical scrubs and stickers with a logo showing a stethoscope and handcuffs. A number of people going in and out of the hospital, including a number of staff members stopped to talk and express support for the protest, though one person stopped to argue that migrants should have to pay.
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Vote Out Trident

Ministry of Defence, London. Mon 13 Apr 2015

Listening to speeches at the CND rally
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CND partied with live music, rap and speeches at the MoD in solidarity with the successful blockade of the Faslane Trident base today. They ask everyone to query election candidates over Trident and not to vote for anyone opposed to its scrapping.

As well as speeches from Bruce Kent, Victoria Brittain, Lindsey German of Stop the War, CND's Kate Hudson, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sam Fairbairn from Peoples Assembly, Heather Wakefield of Unison and John Hilary of War on Want, there were performances by Potent Whisper, Beans on Toast, Drew McConnell and Zefur Wolves.
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Heathrow Villages fight for survival

Harmondsworth, Middx. Sun 12 Apr 2015

A Plane Stupid polar bear with protesters on what would be the new Heathrow boundary in the village centre
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[Images taken in the remarkable Great Barn, an English Heritage property, are taken solely for personal use and not available for reproduction.]

A open day around Harmondsworth village green launched a renewed fight against the expansion of Heathrow which threatens to swallow up much of the area, showing again the local determination to protect its historic community against a third runway.

The pearl of the area is certainly the magnificent Grade 1 listed Great Barn, built in 1426 and described by Sir John Betjeman as 'the Cathedral of Middlesex' and is the largest surviving example all-timber barn. In agricultural use until the 1980s, in 2006 it was bought by a Gibralter-based company who let it deteriorate. It was said to have been offered to the local authority (LB Hillingdon) for a pound, but they turned it down. Local pressure, led by local MP John McDonnell after the owners failed to carry out necessary emergency repairs persuaded English Heritage to take it over (at a cost of £20,000) in 2012, since when they have done an excellent job in restoration.

I last went inside the barn in 2003, when it was open for the end of a march to Harmondsworth from Sipson against a third runway at Heathrow, one of the early events in a successful campaign that ended the plans for a third runway, convincing all political parties that expansion at Heathrow was politically impossible.

It now seems likely that the Davis Commission, charged with finding a solution to expanding airport provision in the South-East may again come up with the suggestion of a third runway at Heathrow. Some consider the commission was set up with this outcome in mind, and Heathrow has certainly spent a considerably amount lobbying for it, including setting up a heavily funded PR organisation called 'Back Heathrow' to come up with spurious survey results suggesting local backing for expansion.

Of course Heathrow is a major local employer, but it will remain so without any expansion. Although the estimates of air traffic growth which form the basis of the case for new runways are almost certainly well overstated, Heathrow will remain a major airport and source of employment without any expansion.

Heathrow should have been replaced by a more suitably sited London Airport at least 40 years ago. Various opportunities have been missed to do so, and instead the airport has been allowed to grow, with a fourth terminal and then T5, each expansion being promised in turn as the final growth. It now covers a huge area, and were it to be redeveloped, whatever replaced it might well generate more employment, as well as much-needed housing.

The launch event with placards and a huge mural was attended by all of the general election candidates for the area except Lib-Dem candidate Satnam Kaur Khalsa, who like the others is against Heathrow expansion, but was not present after an e-mail mix-up by the organisers. Clifford Dixon (UKIP), Pearl Lewis (Conservative), John McDonnell (Labour) and Alick Munro (Green) all came, spoke briefly and signed the mural. Also present with local residents were campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and five 'Plane Stupid' polar bears, who a few weeks ago held a protest against a new runway in one of the Heathrow terminals with their banner 'Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid'.

I'd started the day in the Great Barn, where the Datchet Border Morris were dancing, Apart from this and the church, there are perhaps around 20 historic buildings of local interest around the village, and many more in the wider area of Harmondsworth which used to include Sipson, Longford and Heathrow.

I had time for a quick lunch in the garden of the Five Bells, looking out on the small village green, hurrying to finish as the Morris Men were performing outside the other village pub, the Crown. I took some more pictures of them and the paid a brief visit to the Parish Church, a distinctive building part dating from the 12th century, with the first church on the site being built in 1067.
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End Immigration Detention

Harmondsworth, London. Sat 11 Apr 2015
The protesters get ready to march the short distance from the Bath Road to the front of the prison block
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A large and noisy protest at Harmondsworth by Movement for Justice let detainees there and by phone across the UK immigration system hear the call for an end to unjust, racist and abusive detention system, illegal fast tracking, and the scapegoating of immigrants.

The protesters met at the entrance to the site on the A4 Bath Rd/Colnbrook bypass immediately to the north of Heathrow. Since Mitie's 'care+custody' took over the running of both Harmondsworth and the neighbouring Colnbrook detention centres as Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre at the start of the year they have only been allowed access to a small area in front of the Harmondsworth administration block for the protests, and a team of security guards has been brought in on each occasion to assist police at the protests.

The new name makes clear the government's intention - to remove immigrants - rather than as previously to hold them where it was thought necessary while their cases were being assessed. But these are prisons, with those inside being unable to leave; they have a few privileges denied those in normal jails, including the use of mobile phones, but some disadvantages, including that they are all on indefinite sentences at the whim of government and subject to a constant threat they will be forcibly bundled onto a plane and taken back to the country from which they have fled, often at fear of their lives. These prisons are also run by staff who often lack the basic training, supervision and accountability of normal jails.

Although the protest was kept to a small area at the front of one of the two groups of buildings, it could be heard throughout both sites, as phone calls from those inside confirmed. Their calls welcomed the protests, as often those inside feel they have been forgotten by everyone.

Many of those who attend the protests have themselves suffered from imprisonment in this or other detention centres, often for long periods, after escaping from beatings, rape and torture in their home countries, and several spoke about their experiences in the system here. Some made clear that they had been seen as troublemakers because they stood up for their rights, and they stressed that those who failed to do so, whatever the strength of their cases, were likely to face deportation.

Just as those inside could hear us, both directly and over their phones, those of us outside also heard from some of those inside, with some mobile phones being held to the microphone and their messages being relayed to the whole group.

After a couple of hours of lively protest, with dancing, shouting, drumming, whistles and a number of speeches I was tired although the protesters still had plenty of life in them. I walked to the bus stop and waited, hearing the noise of the protest from several hundred yards away. As I got on the bus 10 minutes later, the group emerged from the site onto the Bath Rd, heading for the public footpath that leads beside the Colnbrook site to take their protest closer to those held in that prison.
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Illegal Security blocks St James occupation

St James's Square, London. Thu 9 Apr 2015

Occupiers complain to a police officer about the illegal blocking of the door by LAPA security employees
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Men wearing black 'Security' jackets but with no visible ID prevented people entering or leaving the occupied political space in St James's Sq until around 8pm when apparently police confirmed that as the occupiers had told them they were acting illegally and they left.

The space was occupied by Squatters and Homeless Autonomy and Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians on 6th April. The security personnel arrived early in the morning of 9th April and entered the building illegally. The occupiers persuaded them to leave but they remained blocking both Pall Mall at St James's Square entrances to the occupied political space and stopping people from entering.

The support from Class War, some of whom I traveled with from their weekly, proved its worth in eventually bringing the blockade to an end, and by the time the security firm bosses pulled their men away and admitted defeat, some of the security guards, who seemed mainly Central European migrants, were clearly worried by what they had been told about their legal position.

At least some of the men standing and forcefully pushing back anyone who tried to enter the property and clearly committing assault had licences issued by the SIA (Security Industry Authority) but were keeping these hidden in contravention of the licence conditions which state that 'front line staff' (those working with the public) must "Wear the licence where it can be seen at all times when engaging in designated licensable activity unless you have reported it lost or stolen". Several did briefly show their licence to a police officer when asked (as also required by the Act of Parliament), and one man who was wearing his hidden on his sleeve showed his inadvertently when threatening a protester.

As Class War protesters were telling them, "contravening licence conditions is a criminal offence under Section 9 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, the maximum penalty for which is six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000."

Preventing entry of persons to their abode is also a criminal act - even when that abode is a squat, as too is not allowing them to leave. On Pall Mall the security personnel were on the public highway, and also committing an offence by blocking the doorway there.

Although there were legal observers already in St James's Square and inside the occupied space, it seemed to be the intervention of Class War that prompted the police into action and finally led to the ending of the illegal action by security.

The officer who arrived failed to persuade the security to display their licences, and went away to consult his sergeant over the legality of stopping people enter their temporary home, taking the phone number of the security company. Shortly afterwards they got a call from the police and decided to call off their employees.
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Class War keeps up Poor Door protests

One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 9 Apr 2015

Proud to be Working Class

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Class War's 27th weekly protest outside One Commercial St against separate entrances to the block for rich and poor residents was uneventful, and Class War supporters left early to support the occupied political space in Pall Mall.

The event seemed seriously over manned by the police, with eight officers standing in a line in front of the 'rich door' when the protesters arrived and there were several more in the vicinity. As in several previous weeks, the door appeared not to be in use, either because of the extensive building works being carried out at the front of the building or for the protest.

Despite the protestations of the building's owner, Taylor MacWilliams, there is no physical barrier that would prevent the social housing residents and their visitors entering by the front entrance - as I found when I made the journey myself when given a tour of parts of the building by one of the owners of a flat on the 'rich' side. It would seem that there are also internal links to at least one of the businesses that operate at street level and that these are now being used by the wealthy residents.

Class War had received a request for assistance from the occupiers of offices taken over as a political space in Pall Mall, with a more prominent entrance in St James's Square, and cut short the One Commercial St protest in order to travel there, inviting me to go along with them.
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Walking the Darent Way

Eynsford to Dartford, Kent. Mon 5 April 2015

Graffiti and River Darent, near Dartford
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On Bank Holiday Monday I walked with Linda and our elder son from Eynsford to Dartford, mainly along the Darent Valley Path. They had previously walked the southern end of the path to Eynsford which has a station on the line to Sevenoaks. It took us four trains to get there, but was a reasonably smooth and fast journey - we had chosen the walk in part to avoid the many line closures around London and the South-east over Easter.

The walk is fairly well documented on various web sites, and I don't need to add to them. It's also fairly well waymarked, although the route appears to have changed over the years and both the OS map we were using and one on the route were misleading. Fortunately I'd been to Dartford before as it isn't too easy to find a pedestrian route to the station from where we entered Dartford town centre. The southern part of the walk which I didn't do is probably more picturesque, going through Lulling ton and Shore ham, but the northern section does have some industrial archaeology and a few oddities to recommend it. I'll put a few comments with the pictures.

It was a pleasant day, and the walk was only just a little too far for my ancient and suffering legs, which took a few days to recover after it.
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Good Friday in Staines

Staines, Middx. Fri 3 Apr 2015

The Romans were back in Staines, keeping an eye on the Nazarenes
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Last year for the first time, a Staines Passion play was performed on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Day - Holy Saturday- and this year there was to be another performance. I photographed the performance last year, but this year was not going to be able to. But as in previous years, there was going to be a Good Friday march through the centre of the town to a service in the Two Rivers Shopping center, as a part of which there was going to be a short performance by some of the main actors.

The marchers gathered at the Methodist Church next to the area of grass by the river where the Staines Passion was to be performed, and led by the Salvation Army band and a volunteer pressed into carrying a large wooden cross.
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Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors

One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

The police take away Lisa McKenzie who is standing against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford
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Lisa McKenzie, standing for Class War against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford was arrested at tonight's Poor Doors protest. Police allege she fixed a poster on a wall at the protest two weeks ago, but photos only show her holding it against the glass.

The space outside the rich door was very restricted due to building work on One Commercial St and the renewal of paving outside, as well as a number of police officers standing outside the rich door. Class War began their protest across the road before moving across and then protesting on the corner of Commercial St a few yards from the rich door.

Before they moved across, a yellow smoke flare had been thrown onto Whitechapel High St, and there was some hilarity as a police officer came and strutted around it before finally picking it up and walking back and along the front of One Commercial St holding it. I followed him and watched as he took it down the side alley, finally depositing it close to the poor door as it was more or less burnt out.

The protest continued on the corner outside the betting shop, and the protesters recognised one of the women officers standing behind the women holding the Lucy Parsons banner (police are still hanging on to the 'Political leaders' one) as one of those present in plain clothes at the protest two weeks earlier. Lisa McKenzie, Class War's candidate for Chingford, pointed her out, and Ian Bone offered the officer the megaphone to speak about but she refused.

A minute or so later, a woman officer came up to Lisa and told her she was being arrested, accused of criminal damage. The officer said she had stuck a Class War sticker on the glass next to the rich door two weeks earlier on March 19th. A snatch squad surrounded her, and despite opposition from the protesters she was led away and put in a waiting police van to be taken to Bethnal Green police station.

My pictures from March 19 show that Lisa was using both hands to hold posters and did not have a free hand to apply a sticker - others were coming up behind her and putting up the stickers which held the posters. Had she put a sticker up I would have seen and photographed it. But even had the police arrested the right person, it is hard to see that an easily removed sticker represents criminal damage.

After she was driven away there were some angry arguments with police but the protest continued with several powerful speeches before finishing at the normal time.
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Shame on Sheraton - Hotel Workers

Mayfair, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

The Hotel Workers protested outside Le Meridien before going on to the Park Lane Hotel

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Members of the fast-growing Unite Hotel Workers Branch protested in solidarity with fellow workers for Sheraton hotels in Ethiopia and the Maldives who have been sacked for union organising protested outside two Sheraton hotels in Mayfair.
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Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage

Westminster, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

The procession on Buckingham Gate
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Catholic Workers came together for a walk and prayers around the "geography of suffering" in London halting outside the offices of companies in the arms trade for prayers against the arms trade, war, torture, nuclear weapons, international debt, homelessness, immigration policy and climate change.
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Free the Palestinian Children

G4S, Victoria St, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

A woman talks about G4S running Israeli security and her own demeaning treatment on visiting Palestine
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Protesters called for the 300 Palestinian children held in G4S secured Israeli jails to be released. Last year Israel held 1266 Palestinian children for interrogation; 75% of them are physically tortured and many sexually abused.
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Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L.

The Mall, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015
One of the protesters came out and put up notices around the building
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Activists from the Autonymous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians entered Admiralty Arch through the roof at night and were occupying the building. We were offered entry if we brought tobacco or alcohol but felt it wise to refuse and left.
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Sweets Way at Annington Homes

James St, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

Protesters with a banner outside the offices in Marylebone
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Residents protested across lunchtime at the offices of Annington Homes, the tax-dodging equity investor owned company which owns the Sweets Way estate in north London, calling for an end to evictions and the right to return for all decanted residents.

A police officer came to visit the security inside the building, and moved the protesters away from the door to the offices. Annington Homes is one of a number of tenants, with offices on the fifth floor.

Many of those passing by on the busy side street opposite St Christopher's Place and those entering and leaving the building took leaflets and some stopped to talk to the protesters, expressing support and often bringing up their own problems with housing in London. Towards the end of the protest a group of around a dozen people left together by a side entrance and were thought to be staff from Annington Homes.

You can read more about Annington Homes and their evictions at Sweets Way in north London in my post on last month's protest.
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Shut Guantánamo!

US Embassy, London. Thu 2 Apr 2015

Protesters outside the US Embassy, one wearing an Obama mask and carrying a quotation by him
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The London Guantánamo Campaign continued the monthly protests which it started over 8 years ago, handing out leaflets and talking with passers by calling for justice and freedom for the remaining 122 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.
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my london diary index
 

Apr 2015

Gurkhas demand fair pensions on 200th
Peace Picket in Parliament Square
NHS banner on Westminster Bridge
'7 Days to Save our NHS' Campaign launch
Buck Palace Class War Manifesto Launch
Hotel Workers - Workers Memorial Day
Free Yarl's Wood Anna from Holloway
Qatar Slave Labour deaths - World Cup 2022
London Black Revs 'Reclaim Brixton 'march
Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton
Take Back Brixton against gentrification
Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction
Aylesbury Estate Open Day
Ten Days of Rage for Ahwazi Intifada
Checkpoint Care at UCH
Royal College of Art living wage protest
Earth Day protest at Drax AGM
Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel
Cyclists Die-in for Moira Gemmill
Westfield 'Save our NHS' protest
BP die-in against Climate Change
KFC protest over TTIP
Stop TTIP rally
Tweed Cycle Ride
Football Action Network Manifesto
Centenary of Armenian Genocide
Class War Poor Doors 28
No More Deaths on our Streets
Fast Food Rights at McDonald's
Bring Back Our Girls
Checkpoint Care - Docs Not Cops
Vote Out Trident
Heathrow Villages fight for survival
End Immigration Detention
Illegal Security blocks St James occupation
Class War keeps up Poor Door protests
Walking the Darent Way
Good Friday in Staines
Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors
Shame on Sheraton - Hotel Workers
Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage
Free the Palestinian Children
Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L.
Sweets Way at Annington Homes
Shut Guantánamo!

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