Shaker Aamer - 'Bring him back Now'!

Downing St, London. Wed 30 Sep 2015

Joy Hurcombe of Save Shaker Aamer campaign welcomes news of his release but says Bring Him Back Now!
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Campaigners at Downing St celebrated that Londoner Shaker Aamer is at long last to be freed from Guantanamo after 14 years of illegal imprisonment and called for him to be immediately brought back and reunited with his family in London.

Speakers, including Joy Hurcombe of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Lindsey German of Stop the War and others who have long campaigned for his release while welcoming the news and hoping that he would soon be back here warned that we needed to keep up the pressure to ensure that he is released without further delay.

Shaker has been cleared for release twice before, in 2007 and 2009, but this time President Obama has actually given the 30 days notice required to the Congress of his release.

We were warned too that there would be some calling for him to be taken into custody or put under severe restrictions on his return, and that protests might be needed to ensure he could go home to his family as soon as medically possible - he is currently physically and mentally in poor condition.

Already we have seen rumours being spread by some right-wing organisations such as the Henry Jackson Society that he was working for Al Queda or a military combatant rather than working for a Muslim charity. These lies seem to be based on confessions extracted under extreme torture from a fellow prisoner in Bagram and spreading them is intended to compromise the damning evidence Shaker can give about the involvement of both US and UK authorities in the torture of prisoners at Bagram and in Guantanamo.
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Repeal Nigeria's anti-LGBTI laws

Nigerian High Commission, London. Wed 30 Sep 2015

Aderonke Apata knocks at the door with the petition but they do not answer
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A rally at the High Commission put pressure on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to uphold LGBTI human rights and attempted to hand in petitions with 65,000 signatures urging the repeal of all Nigeria’s anti-LGBT laws but the doors were locked.

The rally was organised by Nigerian lesbian activist Aderonke Apata and the African Rainbow Family supported by African LGBTI organisation Out and Proud Diamond Group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, with Peter Tatchell coming to join the protest.

Although at the start of the rally the High Commission door had been open with people taking deliveries in and out, by the time the protesters tried to deliver the petition it was locked. The tried two other doors down the side street and were refused entry at both. They came back to the front door, and when I left were planning to leave the petition on the doorstep.
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Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival

Sipson, London. Sat 26 Sep 2015

Local resident Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion points at the Heathrow plan
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Grow Heathrow celebrated another year's harvest at the occupied nursery site with 'music, pumpkins and pizza' as well as an open 'No Third Runway!' discussion. The case over their eviction was recently adjourned until Summer 2016.

The discussion was already underway when I arrived and I joined it and was able to ask several questions and make some comments as well as taking pictures. With John Stewart and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid taking part it was an interesting discussion. Whatever decision the current government take over the curiously defective considerations of the Davies committee (and I think we may well see some very long grass coming into play) it seems to me unlikely that Heathrow expansion will be deliverable.

Afterwards I took another walk around the site to see what had changed since my last visit, and watched a charcoal making enthusiast at work. He showed me the device that enables him to run his car on charcoal, partly combusting it to produce carbon monoxide, but I can't see it catching on, though it was apparently not uncommon in Nordic countries during the Second World War.
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Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest

Westminster, London. Sat 26 Sep 2015

Supporters carry a large banner with hand prints in protest against DWP cutting Access to Work scheme
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Deaf and disabled people and supporters protested the cutting of the DWP's Access to Work scheme which enables them to work on an equal basis to non-disabled people. They want to work and have careers, but say the Government won't let them.

After meeting in Old Palace Yard, the protesters marched to a rally at Downing St, taking a route past the DWP. I left them as they arrived at Downing St to go to another event.
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Ahwazi protest at British Iranian AGM

NIOC House, London. Fri 25 Sep 2015

A protester stamps on a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a gesture of contempt
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Awhwazi Arabs from the Hashem Shabani Action Group picketed the AGM of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce in protest against the oppressive Iranian regime that has occupied their homeland and is destroying their culture.

This was an entirely peaceful protest, but the police watched carefully and moved the protesters away from the steps onto the pavement. On two previous occasions the group have rushed inside the building during protests.

The protest took place as the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce held its Annual General Meeting attended by dignitaries and VIPs including leading bankers, industrialists and politicians. The elites of both Iran and the UK profit at the expense of the oppressed in Iran, including the Ahwazi people.

A process of 'Persianisation', a campaign of violent persecution, forced displacement and suppression of Ahwazi culture began around 1925, largely driven by the discovery of huge oil reserves on the Arab lands and their management by the UK government controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Continued after the Iranian revolution, it has resulted in their homeland, thought to have been the inspiration of the Biblical 'Garden of Eden' becoming a desolate wasteland, the poorest area of the Middle East.
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Hope at National Gallery on 100th strike day

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 24 Sep 2015
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka speaks at the rally outside the National Gallery
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Cautious hope about negotiations with the new gallery director was expressed by PCS leader Mark Serwotka and victimised union rep Candy Udwin at the large rally at the National Gallery marking 100 days of their strike against privatisation of staff.
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Four Seasons Occupy Staines Oast House

Staines, Middx. Tue 22 Sep 2015

Danny and others in the Oast House, a long disused listed adult education centre
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Former Adult Ed centre Staines Oast House has been occupied since 16th Sept as a community space. The occupiers, mainly evicted from the Runnymede Eco Village, are setting up workshops and hope to get it declared as an asset of community value.

Many local residents in Staines are upset that the Oast House which once ran many classes for local residents and their children has been empty and unused for some years. It was last used as a centre by Brooklands FE college, based in Weybridge, and is just a few yards from Staines station and high street. It has been locked up empty since around 2008, though had been run down since the 1990s.

The Oast House is a range of mid 19th century buildings that were part of Harris' brewery and were Grade II listed in 1982. The buildings belong to Surrey County Council and are almost certainly only standing now because of the listing.

I was welcomed inside and allowed to wander freely as well as talking to some of the residents. A large room on the first floor serves as a community space for meetings and they hope to organise various meetings,workshops, skill shares, film showings live music and other events.

Most of the interior appears to be in good condition and there is still a considerable amount of equipment from its former use, including a domestic science room and a fully equipped pottery space - and even some clay. Currently however there is no water supply inside the building, though the electrics are working, and it is difficult to use these facilities or the several kitchens and toilets in the building.

This weekend, the collective hopes to begin an urban garden outside the centre with help from a community initiative. They have set up a small library or book swap and hope to expand on this, and have a plan for a free cafe. I was offered tea or coffee and told to help myself to food, most of which is sourced free locally.

Police have called several times, arriving with dogs and tazers and been refused entrance. They appear worried by the fact that the building overlooks the police station and yard next door, and the local council have agreed they will block the windows on the outside on this side - as the windows to Station Path which runs along one side are already blocked. The occupiers have been warned by police that if they stray to this side of the building they face being arrested as terrorists.

The occupiers have begun a petition calling for the building to be "returned to its prior use as a fundamental, cohesive hub for the Staines Community." As a first stage they want it to be registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), and hope to present the petition to next weeks Surrey County Council quarterly meeting.

Many older Staines residents were disgusted when the council closed down its old Town Hall in Market Square which was in use as an arts and community centre and sold it for a nominal sum to become a pub. A building close by was presented as a community centre, but is really a part-replacement for the Old Peoples Day Centre which adjoined the Town Hall and has also been closed.

Many Staines residents feel hard done by over the loss of community facilities and would welcome facilities in Staines like those that have been retained in Sunbury, a wealthier part of the borough that has always seemed to Staines residents to be given favourable treatment by Spelthorne Council. The former AE centre is however owned by the Surrey County Council, who have always found it hard to find any interest in matters 'north' of the river since the local government reorganisation of the 1960s unwisely grafted this former part of Middlesex onto them.
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Focus E15: Anniversary of Carpenters Occupation

Carpenters Estate, Stratford, London. Sat 19 Sep 2015
Balloons are released to mark the evicted and homeless people all over London
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Two years after the Focus E15 campaing started and year since they occupied 4 flats on the Carpenters Estate which had laid empty since 2004 despite a huge housing shortage in the borough, Focus E15 held a rally outside the flats. 400 homes on the estate are still empty despite their action shaming Newham into letting a few properties.

Marchers streamed into the square at the end of the 'March Against Evictions' for a celebration of the occupation by Focus E15 a year ago. The block of four flats they occupied now has residents, but only 28 of around 400 empty properties have been re-let. Images of the Focus E15 Mums which had been pasted on this empty block with the message 'This home needs a family' in June 2014 were up again.

There were a few speeches and then a party began. Some people had climbed up to the roof of the shops with the 'These people need homes' banner, but it was time for me to go home, stopping briefly at the pub with Class War on the way.
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Class War Occupy Stratford Foxtons

Stratford, London. Sat 19 Sep 2015
Class War with their 'New Homes for the Rich' banner inside Foxtons
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As the Focus E15 'Housing for All' march passed Foxton's estate agency in Stratford, Class War rushed inside with their 'New Homes for the Rich' banner and briefly occupied it. They caused no damage and left shortly to continue the march.
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Focus E15: 'March Against Evictions'

Stratford, London. Sat 19 Sep 2015
Marchers at the front of the march around Stratford town centre
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After the rally in Stratford Park on the second anniversary of Focus E15, campaigners marched through Stratford in opposition to the local council's gentrification, demanding that local resources be used to house local people and an end to the policy of moving them out of London.

Well over 500 people from various groups came to the march, which made a circuit of Stratford town centre, past the bus station, the station and the Theatre then back down the Broadway, stopping briefly outside Foxtons, where Class War staged a brief protest (see above) and then going on to the LB Newham's Housing Office at Bridge House.

There they put up banners and posed for a photograph with some brief speeches about their interventions there which have prevented homless people from being sent to unsuitable private rented accomodation hundreds of miles away, getting them re-housed in London. Their actions have shown that if people get together and stand up for their rights, Newham housing can be made to carry out their statutory obligations in a reasonable manner.
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Focus E15: Rally before March

Stratford Park, London. Sat 19 Sep 2015

London has huge housing problems - the only solution is more social housing for those without high incomes
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Two years after Newham Council tried to evict young single mothers and disperse them in rented flats across England, the Focus E15 campaign held a rally to celebrate their succesful campaign and support others still being evicted and dispersed.

Their actions, with started to prevent Newham moving them to distant areas of the country away and have resulted in them being rehoused in London, soon developed into a much wider campaign for proper housing for the people of London who are facing being replaced by a new and wealthy population.

Private rents in London have soared, with a housing problem caused largely by the decline in social housing as homes lost to social housing under 'right to buy' not being replaced. Most housing associations seem to be increasingly catering for those able to afford the very high 'market' rents in London, perhaps £1500 pcm for a one bed flat, and private development building large towers to sell abroad as investments rather than to live in.

Low interest rates make investment in London housing, with its high annual increases in property prices attractive to those with large amounts of money to invest, and also enable those with incomes well above average to buy London properties, either to live in or to let. Low interest rates and high rents mean that most London tenants are paying well above the cost of the mortgages to the owners, so that they are subsidising the cost of buying the property.

As well as speeches from members of Focus E15 and the Revolutionary Communist Group that backs them, people from other London groups concerned with housing also spoke before the march. There were a huge number of groups supporting the march - Boleyn Dev 100, Revolutionary Communist Group, Newham Monitoring Project, Action East End, Streets Kitchen, Reclaim Hackney, Reclaim Tower Hamlets, Eviction Resistance Network, Left Unity, People Before Profit, Lewisham Housing Action Group, Grenfell Action Group, South Essex Heckler, Basildon and Southend Housing Action, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Clapton Ultras, (London) Radical Assembly, Disabled People Against Cuts, Movement for Justice, Freedom Without Fear Platform, The Trewps, United Voices of the World, Brick Lane Debates, Architects for Social Housing (ASH) Fuel Poverty Action, Camden Resists, Digs, The Fourth Wave: London Feminist Activists, Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth, National Bargee Traveller's Association, Sweets Way Resists, Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS), Our West Hendon, Newham Peoples Alliance, Anarchist Federation, Friends of the Joiners Arms, 999 Call For NHS, Class War, Tower Hamlets Green Party, Radical Housing Network, Sisters Uncut, Feminist Fightback - but fortunately not all of them spoke.
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Kurds say Stop arms sales to Turkey

Royal Victoria Dock, London. Tue 15 Sep 2015

Six Kurds in bloodstained white robes 'die-in' against the Murderous Turkish state opposite the DSEi arms fair
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Protests continued against the DSEi Arms Fair in East London. Kurdish Youth Organisation Ciwanen Azad UK and Stop the Arms Fair supporters protested, marching around the Royal Victoria Dock and staging a 'die-in' and rally opposite the Excel centre.

The Turkish government’s Defence and Aerospace Industry Exporter’s Association is an 'International Partner' of the DSEi Arms Fair, and sales of their weapons help fund the the vicious attacks on the Kurdish population in Turkey, such as the relentless assault the week before the protest by Turkish military and police on the town of Cizre which killed many people, including children. Attacks have increased since the pro-Kurdish HDP party passed the 10% threshold in the general elections in June, winning seats in the Turkish parliament.

They sale of weapons abroad also enables the Turkish arms industry to continue its development of new weapons, including new drones, new MPT rifles and the Altay battle tank which will be used to continue the massacre of Kurds.
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Wreath for Victims of the Arms Trade

Royal Victoria Dock, London. Tue 15 Sep 2015

Campaigners processed around Royal Victoria Dock and floated a wreath opposite the arms fair
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East London Against Arms Fairs organised a procession around the Royal Victoria Dock where the DSEi Arms Fair opened today, floating a wreath oppposite the fair and holding a silence for victims of the arms trade, ending with a Buddhist prayer.

The protesters met at the Royal Victoria DLR station and formed a procession led by a woman wearing white and carrying a white wreath with the message 'Remember Victims of the Arms Trade' followed by the East London Against Arms Fair (ELAAF) banner with its dove of peace. As well as locals from ELAAF, the protest was attended by two Buddhist monks and supporters and some from the Stop the Arms Fair coalitin who have been protesting at the East gate of the Arms Fair at ExCel over the last week.

When the slow procession came close to the end of the path opposite the arms fair, they stopped and placed the wreath on the water in the dock. Then there was a two minute silence in memory of those killed by the arms from deals made at the previous fairs and those who will die from the weapons being sold at this DSEi fair. This was followed by a period of prayer by Japanese Buddhist monk Reverend Gyoro Nagase, the guardian of the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.
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Refugees Welcome march reaches Parliament

Whitehall & Parliament Square, London. Sat 12 Sep 2015
The front of the march with the banner 'Refugees Welcome Here' reaches Parliament Square
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Parliament Square rapidly became blocked with people as the Refugees Welcome Here march surged in, and many left rather than stay for the rally as they could not get close enough to see or hear despite a powerful public address system.

Having stayed close to the start to photograph the body of the march, I took the tube from Green Park to Westminster and turned up Whitehall to meet the front of the march as it passed Downing St. I photographed a few of the marchers walking past Downing St, then ran to catch up with the leaders as they entered Parliament Square.

The front of the march was still protected by stewards, but fortunately I was able to go through and take pictures of the leading group holding the banner, many in the white 'I'm a Refugee' t-shirts, in front of the Houses of Parliament. I walked on with the marchers into Parliament Square, then made my way back through the crowd as it was streaming in from Parliament St.

I sat down on the wall close to the Churchill statue, realising I was rather tired and hungry. It was time to have my lunch and go home. Others could listen to the speeches and photograph the rally which was now taking place.
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Refugees are Welcome Here march

Piccadilly, London. Sat 12 Sep 2015

Sisters Uncut on the march with a poster 'No one is Illegal' and some others less polite
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More than 50,000 people of all ages from across the UK marched through London to show their support for refugees facing death and hardship and their disgust at the lack of compassion and inadequate response of the British government.

I photographer the front of the march as it set up at the southern end of Park Lane and went with it for the first couple of hundred yards into Piccadilly, where I stopped to photograph the rest of the march as it came past. Fairly densely packed and spreading across the whole of the roadway (and sometimes on to the pavement) it took exactly an hour to go past me.

Although my pictures concentrate on those who were carrying interesting placards or banners, there seemed to be a very wide range of people taking part. I heard many who said it was the first march they had taken part in - it was certainly much wider than most protests I've attended.
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Rally Says Refugees Welcome Here

Park Lane, London. Sat 12 Sep 2015
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP speaking
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Crowds stretched out across Park Lane as far as the eye could see for a rally before the Refugees Welcome Here national march over the many reports of refugees fleeing war and persecution, suffering or dying and the paltry Government response.

There were quite a few speeches from a stage at the front of the protesters before the march set off, with speakers including: Jean Lambert, MEP; Claude Moraes; Sabby Dhalu; Zita Holborne of BARAC; Maurice Wren from the Refugee Council; Kevin Courtney, NUT; Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP; Antonia Bright of Movement for Justice, Maimuna Jawo, Women for Refugee Women; Zrinka Bralo, Citizens UK; and Sam Fairbairn of People's Assembly Against Austerity.
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Victory Party for Jeremy Corbyn

Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London. Sat 12 Sep 2015

Corbyn's victory by a large margin was announced and everyone went mad
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Several hundred Corbyn supporters met at Speakers' Corner before the Refugees Welcome march to listen to the results of the Labour Leadership election. Tension built as the Deputy Leader results came and then erupted with Jeremy Corbyn's first round victory.

When the news of Corbyn's first round victory came through - and in particular the size of it, things went ecstatic, with much jumping up and down and attempts to open bottles of Prosecco. After a few seconds of civilised behaviour, there was a general stampede of the TV cameras and photographers which sent me, kneeling at the front of the pack, flying, scattering the contents of my camera bag on the grass. It took a little while to find everything, put it back in my bag and join in the scrum.
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UVW tell Estate Agent to Pay Up

Hunter Home Properties Ltd, Goodmayes. Fri 11 Sep 2015


Estate Agent Usman Bhatti grabs the plastic horn UVW Gen Sec Petross Elia is blowing in front of him
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Carlos gave his life savings of £6,500 to estate agent Usman Bhatti of Hunter Home Properties Ltd in Goodmayes as deposit and 2 months rent on an house for his family. But there was no house - the property he had been promised was already let, and according to some concerned had never been available for Bhatti to let. Carlos was made homeless and cannot get his money repaid.

Carlos and his union, United Voices of the World have been trying for several months to get his money back. At one point Mr Bhatti gave him a cheque for the amount, but the bank refused to pay as there were insufficient funds. Promises to pay were made but not kept, and after a while the calls they made to him were not answered. It became impossible to get him to talk.

Around a dozen members of the UVW went together with Carlos to the office which Hunter Home properties shares with other business, and confronted Usman Bhatti late on Friday afternoon. Only the nearest desk in the picture above is for his business. They went inside the office and made a lot of noise with drums and horns, bringing in their banner and placard.

After a while Mr Bhatti went into a room at the back of the office and Carlos and UVW General Secretary Petross Elia went to talk with him, while the protesters went out onto the pavement in front of the office and continued to make a lot of noise, attracting attention from nearby shops and offices and those walking past.

Eventually they came out and Petross reported that Mr Bhatti had promised to pay but said he needed two weeks to do so. They were not satisfied with the offer, and felt it unlikely that he was no more likely to keep this promise than his earlier promises.

Petross Elia and several others went back in to talk with Mr Bhatti again, blowing a plastic horn close to him. Mr Bhatti moved towards him, grabbing the horn and tried to pull it away from him, assaulting him, but the attempt failed as Petross pulled himself away. After a while they again went into the back office with Carlos and a man videoing the protest; I tried to follow with a man who said he was a friend of the landlord but was pushed back out by Mr Bhatti.

After a few minutes Carlos and Petros came out again and told us more about what had happened, and two police officers arrived. They talked to both the protesters and the people inside the office and there didn't seem to be any problems. The protest appeared to be at and end and I left. When I got home I heard that shortly after I left the police had arrested Petross and another of the protesters, and that Petross was being charged with assaulting Mr Bhatti. I was shocked, not least because I had seen the opposite happening.
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Refugees Welcome, Arms Dealers NOT

Excel London, Royal Victoria Dock. Fri 11 Sep 2015


The 'Alternative Border Farce' attempt to stop lorries bringing exhibits to the arms fair
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A rally outside Excel where the DSEi Arms Fair was being set up examined the injustice in allowing free movement of arms while resticting the movement of the refugees the use of arms creates.The protesters the formed themselves into an 'Alternative Border Farce' and held up lorries going to the arms fair.

When I arrived a rally was taking place next to the roadway. Police were making things unnecessarily difficult by continually harrassing people to stand on the pavement rather than the edge of the very wide and hardly used roadway which had plenty of room to allow part to be used. There seemed to be no reason for this other than to annoy protesters. Among the speakers were Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Simon from Occupy The Arms Fair, Rita Chadha of Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London, Cecil of Black Dissidents, Spike of Veterans for Peace and Arnold (from Sierra Leone) and Kiarash (from Iran) with their personal experiences of the problems faced by those seeking asylum in the UK. We also heard some reports from Calais relayed by phone.

The protesters then formed an 'Alternative Border Farce' and stood in the road in front of lorries attempting to go into the Arms Fair. Police warned them and asked them to get off the road, and then pushed them out of the way, occasionally rather more forcefully than seemed necessary.They managed to hold up several lorries for a few minutes, but eventually police were present in sufficient numbers to make sure the lorries got through. The last I watched was stopped for over 8 minutes and had in the end to be escorted through with a line of officers on each side.

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave, but at that point there had been no arrests.
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Assisted Suicide Debate lobbies

Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Fri 11 Sep 2015


A giant figure of a judge holding up a syringe brought by protesters against assisted suicide
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Not Dead Yet UK protested against the Assisted Suicide Bill and next to them in Old Palace Yard outside the Houses of Parliament the Campaign for Dignity in Dying supported it, calling for our broken law to be fixed.

Many disabled people who recently lost ILF support now feel threatened by the Bill and were there to support the Not Dead Yet campaign, while a few others had come to support Dignity in Dying.
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Shaker Aamer weekly vigils restart

Parliament Sq, London. Wed 9 Sep 2015

A protester in chains, orange jumpsuit and black hood holds up her fist
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The weekly vigils opposite the Houses of Parliament continue to remind MPs of Londoner Shaker Aamer still held, abused and tortured in Guantanamo after more than 13 years despite never facing any charges and having been twice cleared for release.
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Fight immigration detention MfJ tells MPs

Parliament Sq, London. Wed 9 Sep 2015

Many had been to protest at Yarl's Wood or Harmondsworth with MfJ
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Movement for Justice protested opposite Parliament calling on MPs to support the proposals of the detention inquiry. MfJ want an end to detention, fast track and immigration raids, the opening of the Calais border and an amnesty for migrants.

Many of those at today's protests had been to Harmondsworth and Yarl's Wood to protest with MfJ against immigration detention, and in particular the 'fast track' system designed to remove migrants and asylum seekers before they have a proper chance to prove their right to be here - which UK courts have said is illegal. Some were people who had been held, often far many months in these immigration prisons. Unlike criminals we put into jail, those held in them have no means of knowing when they will be let out, and constantly face the risk of being forcibly deported to a country where their lives are at risk.

While I was at the protest only one MP came across from Parliament to speak to the protesters, Angela Rayner, Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne.
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Support for Israel & Netanyahu

Downing St, London. Wed 9 Sep 2015

A woman wears dark glasses with the Israeli flag at the protest
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Several hundred people turned up at Downing St to oppose a larger pro-Palestine protest against the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and in support of last year's attack on Gaza in which over 2000 men, women and children were killed by Israeli forces. They included many Jews and Christian supporters of Israel, and many carried Israel flags.

A small group of the protesters came to challenge the pro-Palestinians in the centre of the road, where, watched by police, various media interviews and sometimes heated discussions took place. Things were slightly less restrained when some of the protesters met on the pavement outside Downing St and there were several arrests of protesters from both sides.

Pictures are mixed with those of protest below as the two protests also mixed.
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Netanyahu visit protest - Free Palestine

Downing St, London. Wed 9 Sep 2015

Police try to keep protesters off the road and traffic flowing in Whitehall
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Police struggled to contain over a thousand people protesting the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who they say should be arrested for war crimes in the attack on Gaza last year. There were scuffles with supporters of Israel and several arrests.

There were too many protesters to easily fit inside the area allocated to them by police, and many chose to stand instead on the large central area between the two carriageways, despite police attempts to clear the area. Many walked across the light controlled crossing and back as the lights changed. It seemed to me that the police were putting protesters at risk given the number present by keeping the traffic flowing in both directions on Whitehall, and that traffic should have been diverted.

Eventually a large crowd of protesters crossed to the pavement in front of the gates to Downing St. Police managed to clear them away from in front of the gates to leave an entrance clear. Pro-Israeli protesters soon came to form a group facing them across the clear roadway, with police keeping the two sides apart as they shouted insults at each other.

Pictures are mixed with those of protest above as the two protests also mixed.
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DSEi: Put Down the Sword at West Gate

Excel London, Royal Victoria Dock. Tue 8 Sep 2015

A lorry waits to go into the Excel estate while protesters block the entrance
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As I left after police had cleared the road into the east gate of Excel, news came that protesters had gone to block the east gate, and I took the DLR to Royal Victoria Dock station.

Close to the station I found a small group of the protesters with the 'Put Down the Sword' banner standing in front of both the entrance to the Excel estate, with another small group across the exit. A large lorry was stopped in front of the entrance and a few police were talking with the protesters.

After a couple of minutes the driver got out of the lorry and pleaded with the protesters to let him through, as he was not connected with the arms fair but was delivering food to the restaurants on the site. He told them he had a busy schedule, with family problems as well as deliveries, and brought out some paperwork to show what his lorry was carrying.

After around 15 minutes discussion the protesters eventually let him drive through but continued to block the entrance to other more obviously military traffic, and to briefly stop and talk with those driving out of the site.

Two Excel security guards turned up and told the protesters that they were on private land and asked them to move. There was then some discussion as the police and protesters had thought the protest was on the public highway and the protesters refused to move. But a few minutes later another van full of police arrived, and after some further warnings, the protesters who refused to move were pushed and carried to the centre of the roundabout and half an hour after I arrived lorries were able to enter again.
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DSEi: Catholic Workers Funeral

Excel London, Royal Victoria Dock. Tue 8 Sep 2015

Police carry the mock coffin off the road at the end of the protest, while a protester holds a placard on the road
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At noon a mock funeral procession by Catholic Workers made its way towards the road into the DSEi arms fair and held a service beside it. They then carried the coffin onto the road and threw fake blood around it, blocking lorries for almost an hour, remembering the victims of the arms trade.

A lorry carrying a military vehicle for the arms fair arrived while the road was being blocked and was stopped and then chased down the road as it reversed away. The protesters remained on the road and began to sing Taize songs against the Tanks. Eventually police came in force and moved the coffin and protesters off the road and traffic into Excel resumed. Several of the protesters went limp and police dragged them rather more carefully than usual on to the pavement.
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DSEi: Pax Christi Vigil

Excel London, Royal Victoria Dock. Tue 8 Sep 2015

Faith groups hold a peace vigil led by Pax Christi close to the east entrance to Excel
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Faith groups opposed to the arms fair were blocking the road to the east entrance of Excel London where preparations were taking place for the DSEi arms fair when I arrived. Shortly after, police warned them that they were committing an offence and after a few minutes moved those still on the road carefully to the pavement.

It was by then time for a peace vigil lead by Pax Christi with prayers of Repentance in which most of those present took part, standing in a large circle by the side of the road, with prayers and readings. Among those present were veteran peace activist Bruce Kent and Buddhist monk Rev S Nagase from the Battersea Peace Pagoda.
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Reinstate the Sotheby's 2 at car auction

Battersea Park, London. Mon 7 Sep 2015

A line of police stopped the protesters at the entrance to the site
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United Voices of the World protested noisily outside Sotheby's international car auction in Battersea Park, calling on them to reinstate the two cleaners sacked for taking part in a protest for proper sick pay, holiday pay and pensions.

The protesters, including supporters from Class War, SOAS Unison and Unite the Resistance as well as UVW members, met at Battersea Park station and walked together to the road along the south of the park, where they formed into a march behind the United Voices of the World banner and marched into Battersea Park.

It was some way through the park along the Carriage Drive to Battersea Evolution where the auction was being held. Apparently one car, a 1958 Ferrari, sold for £4.76m, though a 1965 Fiat 500 was possibly a bargain at £17,960 - it cost 475,000 lire when new, around £270.

The noisy protest could be heard inside the auction, although it was some distance away at the end of a long drive. Later the protesters marched back to the side entrance where they were rather closer, and were there stopped a few yards from the locked gate and continued the protest for the reinstatement of Barbara and Percy, cleaners at Sotheby's sacked for taking part in the protest outside the New Bond St auction house for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions.

One protester, the mother of UVW General Secretary Petross Elia, had managed to get inside the event, and came to the other side of the gates to greet the protesters, accompanied by security men and police.

I'd had a long day and left before the protest ended, missing a spectacular performance of fire breathing shortly afterwards.
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DSEi Arms Fair protest Israeli Arms Sales

Excel London,Royal Victoria Dock. Mon 7 Sep 2015

Protesters stopped a lorry going to the DSEi arms fair with a military vehicle for around 2 hours
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Campaigners stopped a lorry bringing a military vehicle to the DSEi arms fair, blocking the road for several hours in the first of six days of protest against the world's largest arms fair which today had the particular theme 'Stop Arming Israel'.

The protest was the first day of a week of action while the arms fair was being set up, with a different focus on each day - this was about arms sales to and by Israel, which are being used against the Palestinian people and in Syria. Israel makes and offers for sale weapons which have been 'battle-tested' in Gaza.

The protest was organised by the Stop The Arms Fair Coalition and Occupy Democracy and supported Campaign Against The Arms Trade and a broad coalition of protest groups.

The roundabout outside the eastern gate to the Excel Centre had been surrounded by stout fencing to prevent the protesters setting up a camp there. The Excel centre claimed to own the land, but later it was said to belong to Tower Hamlets Council who had not given permission for it to be fenced. Occupy Democracy instead camped on council-owned land a few yards away.

When I arrived they were setting up a couple of stalls, one to 'sell' mock Israeli arms - with arms dealers D. Eath and C. Arnage, who were later joined by two enthusiastic sales representatives apparently from a proudly Israeli firm 'Killing Machines Unlimited.'

The fence on the roundabout provided a good place to put up a huge banner with the message 'Stop Arming Israel', and when a large low-loader appeared coming up the road carrying a military vehicle, protesters rushed to block the road with smaller banners with the same message. When the vehicle was stopped, one protester wearing an orange jumpsuit and Tony Blair mask locked on to it, and others climbed up onto it, some with one of the banners. Police watched the protesters and sprang into action when one wrote across the front of the military vehicle the message 'Arms tested on children' with a white-board marker, arresting her for 'criminal damage', though the marker would wipe off the paintwork without trace.

After around 45 minutes, police came to warn the protesters that they might be arrested if they did not move from the vehicle, and after some minutes most - including the man who was locked on - moved away to stand on the roadway in front of it. When police began to start warning people they must move again, the protesters began a Dabke Arab folk dance workshop in front of the lorry. Eventually more police arrived, and around 2 hours after the lorry had been stopped, they came and forced the protesters off the road and escorted the lorry, with its rather bemused Hungarian driver, into the Excel centre.

At which point I left to travel to another protest.
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Stolen Children of the UK Vigil

Downing St, London. Sat 5 Sep 2015

Supporters of the vigil on its 49th day
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The vigil calls for an end to the taking at birth of children said to be at 'Risk of Future Emotional Harm' and their forced adoption at secret Family Courts whose gagging orders make it criminal for parents and siblings to talk about the cases.

The campaigners say that legislation meant to protect children has led to industrial scale removal of children from families, both as a profitable business for social services departments and also because social workers try to cover themselves against future allegations of having failed to take action. But children in care are more likely to suffer abuse than those left with their families and much more likely to suffer mental health problems.

Forced adoptions take place in secret hearings in Family Courts, with parents and siblings being prevented from talking about them or making contact with the adopted children.

Many of these arguments are contested, but the web site 'Child Protection Resource', set up to offer information and debate about child protection, although it debunks much of SCOTUK's claims and links to research which suggests that 80% of such applications for care orders were correct, goes on to state:

"But that of course does not mean the system is perfect. Far from it. If 80% of cases are ‘right’ we still have 20% which are not and that is worrying. There are also serious concerns that an ideological ‘push’ for adoption is masking proper consideration of statistical trends."

And if your case is one of those 20%, then things are 100% wrong for you, and like SCOTUK you will want urgent action taken.
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UAF oppose BNP anti-Immigration' protest

Lunar House, Croydon. Sat 5 Sep 2015
The UAF greatly outnumbered the BNP outside Lunar House
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Several hundred anti-Nazi Unite Against Fascism protesters faced just 20 people waving flags in a BNP national demonstration calling for an end to immigration. The UAF made clear that refugees were welcome here. Police kept the two groups apart.

Unite Against Fascism had asked supporters to arrive half an hour before the BNP were due to start, and there were approaching two hundred present for a short rally with speakers from the UAF including Sarah Cox from Brent & Harrow, Paula Peters from DPAC, PCS Vice President John McNally, and local trade unionists.

When around 15 BNP supporters arrived to join the two or three who had arrived earlier, the UAF turned around in their pen to faced them, across a gap of around 450 yards with a line of police at its centre and began a chant, led by the shouted word 'Refugees!' with the response 'Are Welcome Here!' One of the leaders of the BNP protest who I was told by one of the BNP protesters was Jez Turner of 'National Action' picked up a small megaphone and began to make his own responses to the chant, including "Sink their boats!"

The UAF kept up a loud barrage of chants and insults including 'Nazi Scum - Off our streets' and there were a series of more varied responses from the BNP, including 'You're all a bunch of zionists!', 'Enoch Powell was right', 'Oswald Mosley was right', 'You'd let all the bastards in wouldn't you', 'Immigrant lovers' and the names of the German death camps, 'Auschwitz', 'Treblinka', 'Belsen'... One of the women holding the banner 'Stop All Immigration' jumped up and down apparently in delight as these names were called out.

At one point Turner went around to the side of the protest away from the UAF facing the main road and made a fairly lengthy speech. It was hard to make out much of it above the noise kept up by the UAF, but he appeared to be saying that Britain, because it had people of many races was inevitably heading for a race war. A few of his supporters standing close to him could have heard what he was saying, although few appeared to be paying much attention.

As the protest came to an end the BNP lined up facing the road for a group photograph with their banners and flags. Two young men in hoodies who had joined them declined to be included. A few minutes later they went to taunt a group of the UAF supporters, one of whom is alleged to have slapped one of them. Police who were standing close by asked him if he wanted to prefer charges and when he said he did, led the protester away.
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my london diary index
 

Sep2015

Shaker Aamer - 'Bring him back Now'!
Repeal Nigeria's anti-LGBTI laws
Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival
Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest
Ahwazi protest at British Iranian AGM
Hope at National Gallery on 100th strike day
Four Seasons Occupy Staines Oast House
Focus E15: Anniversary of Carpenters Occupation
Class War Occupy Stratford Foxtons
Focus E15: 'March Against Evictions'
Focus E15: Rally before March
Kurds say Stop arms sales to Turkey
Wreath for Victims of the Arms Trade
Refugees Welcome march reaches Parliament
Refugees are welcome here march
Rally Says Refugees Welcome Here
Victory Party for Jeremy Corbyn
UVW tell Estate Agent to Pay Up
Refugees Welcome, Arms Dealers NOT
Assisted Suicide Debate lobbies
Shaker Aamer weekly vigils restart
Fight immigration detention MfJ tells MPs
Support for Israel & Netanyahu
Netanyahu visit protest - Free Palestine
DSEi: Put Down the Sword at West Gate
DSEi: Catholic Workers Funeral
DSEi: Pax Christi Vigil
Reinstate the Sotheby's 2 at car auction
DSEi Arms Fair protest Israeli Arms Sales
Stolen Children of the UK Vigil
UAF oppose BNP anti-Immigration protest

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may
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august
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