Act Up invade NHS to demand PrEP
Skipton House, Elephant, London. Tue 29 Mar 2016
Act Up in the foyer of the NHS HQ at Skipton House
call for PrEP now for those at risk from HIV!
Campaigners from Act Up London protested at the London offices of NHS
boss Simon Stevens, briefly occupying its foyer, after a statement from NHS
England delayed adoption of PrEP, a pre-emptive treatment against AIDS, for
at least 2 years.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involves people at high risk of aids. The
combination of two HIV medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine), sold under
the name Truvada®, if taken daily by non-HIV infected people whose sexual
activity or injection drug use involves those already infected, provides a
high level of protection against infection. Its use has been approved in the
US and is covered by many medical insurance schemes there and a medical assistance
program by the manufacturers Gilead which provides free PrEP to people with
limited income and no insurance.
But on 21 March the NHS issued a statement effectively delaying making PrEP
available on the NHS for at least two years while they carry out wholly unnecessary
further pilot studies. The treatment is known to be effective and to have
no life-threatening side effects. It has already been proven elsewhere. The
campaigners say this is because of pressure from big Pharma - the drug companies
who fear its use will cut their big profits from HIV/AIDS drugs. This appears
to be confirmed by a paragraph in the statement:
Including PrEP for consideration in competition with specialised commissioning
treatments as part of the annual CPAG prioritisation process could present
risk of legal challenge from proponents of other ‘candidate’
treatments and interventions that could be displaced by PrEP if NHS England
were to commission it.
These legal fears are exactly the kind of thing that would be reinforced
if trade treaties like TTIP were to be signed, when any government action
that could reduce the projected profits of a company could lead to litigation
in a para-legal tribunal.
The situation also points out one of the crazier aspects of NHS drug policies
and their implementation. Truvada® costs something in the region of £450
for a month's supply, but the same combination is available as a generic,
Tenvir-EM, made by Indian multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company
Cipla, for around £45 a month if ordered on the Internet. In bulk the
price would be considerably lower.
The NHS decision to kick into the long grass an effective treatment that
could be made available at low cost and save lives comes at a time when there
is a serious HIV epidemic. HIV/AIDS no longer hits the headlines, which is
in part the reason for this 'silent epidemic'. PrEP is a vital way to combat
it and the campaigners are angry that the NHS is not making it readily available.
Basingstoke Canal Walk
Brookwood to Ash Vale, Surrey. Mon 28 Mar 2016
One of many small lakes in the woods beside the canal
The weather forecast was full of dire warnings as storm Katy smashed
its way across the South-East, bringing down trees, blocking roads and rail
and bringing local flooding, and it looked as if we might have to cancel our
planned walk, with warnings being issued that people should only travel if
But we looked up the actual forecast for the area, and it didn't seem that
bad, with things expected to clear up by noon and only to worsen again around
7pm. We checked on trains, and despite warnings, most seemed to be running,
so we set off intending to go to Ash Vale. But having found that two earlier
trains between Ascot and Aldershot had been cancelled, we decided instead
to start our walk at the Brookwood end. The trains were running, though by
a terrible piece of timetabling, the train we wanted at Weybridge is timed
to leave a minute before our service from Staines arrives, giving you 29 minutes
to spend waiting for the connection.
It's actually all the fault of Brooklands College that the train goes to
Weybridge rather than Woking or Guildford which would be more sensible destinations,
but their powerful lobbying got the route changed.
There are probably two particularly good seasons of year to walk the Basingstoke
Canal, which is largely surrounded by trees. There will be a splendid display
of colour in autumn, but in winter you have more light and can occasionally
see a little further, though not a great deal, as much of the canal is in
a cutting - which gave Deepcut its name.
It isn't the quietest of walks either. Trains thunder to and from the Southwest
on the main line a few yards away, while sounds of army life interrupt the
remaining stillness. Of course they weren't firing at us from Bisley, Pirbright
or Deepcut, and the shouted commands of the parade ground didn't apply, but
hearing a military band practice the same three bars 53 times, even from a
distance can be just a little wearing.
It would be more wearing, at least on the first half of our walk in a boat,
as we passed 14 locks making our way up a slight incline. For this first mile
or two there were paths on both sides, though perhaps the actual towpath is
safer than the track along the edge of the military-owned woods, though some
joggers and even a few mountain bikers preferred the slightly rougher terrain.
Further on the canal spills out into natural 'flashes', filling small valleys,
and even if possible the route would become tediously long.
It was a pleasant walk. The weather held off, and most of the time it was
calm and sunny. We stopped for a drink at a cafe in Frimley Lodge Park and
called in at the Canal Visitor centre to look at their display, before arriving
at Ash Vale station 2 minutes before our train home.
Five minutes later the sky went black, there was thunder and torrential rain
was flowing in a river down the window.
The Basingstoke Canal was never a great commercial success though parts occasionally
thrived for short times. It was probably doomed from inception and was latterly
kept going largely by the efforts of one family, the Harmsworths. It's also
an interesting story about conservation and post-industrial revival, though
tunnel collapse and bats in what remains as well as development over the canal
bed mean the final 5 miles to Basingstoke can never be restored, and a shortage
of water limits navigation.
Staines & Ashford Walk
Staines, Middlesex. Sun 27 Mar 2016
Interesting weather and light and the remains of a
hedge - and a row of former police houses
We'd had a torrential but short shower in the morning while we were celebrating
Easter, eaten some of our Easter Eggs and had lunch and the sun was shining.
So we decided to go on a short walk but couldn't decide where. Trains were
still staging their Easter madness so we decided to stay close to home.
Shortwood Common is between Staines and Ashford, and was split into two when
the first section of the Staines bypass was built around 1959, a few years
before the main section which needed the Runnymede bridge which opened in
1961 - and was joined by a second bridge for the M25 around 1983.
We took the byway from Birch Green and then a grassy (and slightly muddy)
track at a diagonal across the common to meet the path running by the aqueduct
at the gate out of Shortwood Common. When we walked this way last summer there
had been a number of people living in tents and vans fairly well hidden by
bushes and trees but there was no sign of anyone there now - perhaps because
the council have put a locked gate on the byway.
The path leads through another piece of empty land - which includes a small
community orchard (though it appears to be a sworn secret among members of
Egham and Staines Conservation Volunteers) to the River Ash which ducks under
the aqueduct and then the bypass, though we had to walk through what used
to be a council estate before Thatcher organised her boot sale to meet the
river again as it crosses Woodthorpe Rd.
We walked up to the footpath that goes up past Bronzefield prison and on
a footbridge over the railway, carrying on past a long fishing lake, and on
the other side the gravel workings of Hengrove Farm, now largely filled in,
and back to the other part of Shortwood Common before returning home.
Syon, Isleworth & Mogden
Isleworth, Middlesex. Sat 26 Mar 2016
Duke of Northumberlands River at Mogden Sewage Works
Our walk continued. From Brentford we took the byway that leads through Syon
Park, past the garden centre and the entrance to Syon House to the riverside
I paddled and swum in the river here, when it was far less clean than now
and without any noticeable ill effects. I came to the Sea Scouts here too,
and it was here I bought my first pint of beer for 1s 5d, not at the well-known
London Apprentice (which was rather stricter on underage drinkers) but at
a smaller pub on Church St, which I think is now a private house. The London
Apprentice has lost most of its charm upmarket, and we didn't stop there.
We kept on the Thames Path into the centre of old Isleworth, turning off
to eat lunch on a seat in The Square (now Lower Square) in front of the old
Blue School building; it would have been nicer without the light drizzle.
The rest of our walk was alongside the Duke of Northumberland's river, the
'Isleworth Mill Stream' built to bring water to power his mills at Isleworth.
The Isleworth mill was said to be the largest in the country but little trace
of it, or of the brewery remain. This part was dug perhaps in the 15th century
when the land was part of Syon Abbey, and some of its water also went to the
ponds there, and took water from the River Crane at Whitton. Presumably the
flow from the Crane was found to be insufficient or unreliable, and in 1530
another part of the river was dug to bring water from the River Colne at Longford
(it now comes from closer to Harmondsworth) to supplement the Crane just north
of Baber Bridge in Feltham. The properties of Syon Abbey were confiscated
by Henry VIII and the estate was bought by the Duke of Northumberland around
Isleworth now boasts, or rather tries to hide, one of the largest sewage
works in the country at Mogden, with mind-boggling amounts of sewage being
stirred in its tanks and the pure effluent being discharged, not as I'd always
assumed as the Duke of N's river, but through its own pipe into the Thames
at Isleworth Ait. It only gets let out at high tide. Years ago, the culmination
of a tour around the works was when the tour guide would draw off a glass,
put it to his lips with the words 'your health, Ladies and Gentlemen' and
swallow half a pint, inviting others to partake. We didn't, and no doubt health
and safety now forbids such practice - if the threat of terrorism still allows
tours to take place. Estate agents call the area 'Ivybridge', which may sound
better - unless you are a local and remember the reputation gained by the
Ivybridge estate - but it doesn't take away the smell.
Twickenham is of course rugby, and the river runs past two large stadia before
the path ducks under the railway to reach Kneller Park. We had been walking
against the flow, and had now reached the point where the river diverged from
the River Crane, a disappointingly small flow over a weir which reaches the
Thames around 500 yards upstream of the Duke of Northumberland's River. From
there it was a short walk to Whitton station and the train home.
I also took a few panoramic images on this part of the walk, but since there
are so few I've mixed them in with the others.
Riverside Brentford Panoramas
Brentford, Middlesex. Sat 26 Mar 2016
Panorama: River Brent overflows from the Grand Union
Canal towards the Thames
Most of the pictures that I took in Brentford were taken with normal rectilinear
lenses, giving horizontal angles of view between 20 and 84 degrees. But parts
of the scene seemed to call for a greater angle of view, and I also made a
number of panoramic images. These have a horizontal angle of view of around
145 degrees and an aspect ration (width to height) of 1.9:1 rather than the
1.5:1 of the standard 35mm frame, closer to widescreen monitors. The image
above is from the same viewpoint as that below taken with a 20mm extreme wide-angle
lens and demonstrates the difference in views.
Many cameras and phones now have a 'panorama mode' which can produce images
with a similar horizontal angle of view, though normally with a lower vertical
angle of view. These images, produced by rotating the camera manually during
exposure produce a similar 'cylindrical' perspective to my pictures here,
with verticals remaining straight but some curvature in non-vertical straight
lines. Unlike those produced by 'panorama mode' these images are high quality
and can easily produce images 25 inches or more wide without any of the irregularities
normally found on close inspection of 'panorama mode' images.
Brentford, Middlesex. Sat 26 Mar 2016
The River Brent overflows from the Grand Union Canal
and on towards the Thames
Some of the older Brentford remains, while much has changed both since I
first knew it in the 1950s and since I revisited it 20 or 30 years ago. I'd
been meaning to revisit the town again for a while, and my chance came to
walk around with my elder son who was staying with us. I'd actually hoped
to do another walk, on the far side of London, but railway engineering works
put that out of the question and we settled instead on a walk around Brentford
We started at Kew Bridge, where a few years ago I came to photograph the
eco-village, now replaced by an ugly and oversized development that set the
scene for the first part of our walk along The Hollows. The moorings are still
there on the Thames, but on the other side of the path are large new blocks.
When I first knew Brentford, the journey to Kew passed through the centre
of a large and busy gas works, now long gone. If you were lucky you might
see a huge glowing wall of coke tumble down to the ground, though the smells
were often rather overpowering. Now even the smell - which lingered for many
years - seems to have gone, though the concrete posts of the large jetty remain,
now a mooring place for many large boats, some now derelict and one home to
some largish trees and dense bushes.
Just past the Waterman's Arts Centre we wandered down onto the muddy riverbed
to photograph the boatyards still operating on Lot's Ait, before returning
to go up Ealing Road and along Albany Rd for a brief look at late-Victorian
Brentford, returning to the High St via an alley to admire the former fire-station
before turning down Ferry Lane.
An old dock at its end is now Point Wharf, one of several marinas in Brentford,
and Ferry Wharf opposite now hosts a large wavy metal sculpture engraved with
thousands of fishes, as well as a few moored houseboats. We went on west along
the riverside and the bank of the Grand Union and the boatyards on an island
in the Brent to return to the High St.
Dock Road was just a few yards further along, taking us down to the waterside
again, over the Brent and Thames Lock. We continued to trespass briefly on
the Brentford Dock Estate to look at Brentford Marina, formerly Brentford
Dock, served by a Great Western Railway branch from Southall. The railway
line south of the High St is now the entrance road to the estate.
Crossing Thames Lock by the footbridge, we took the path across the River
Brent overflow weir to Johnson's Island and on to Catherine Wheel Road. I'd
meant to go down Brent Way, but missed the first part by going on to the High
St, rejoining it further along by the alley next to the Magpie & Crown
- Boar's Head Yard, which long ago was apparently the main route from the
High St to the river. At the 'railway' bridge (now carrying Augustus Close)
we turned left along the riverside path. I'd hoped to get a view of Workhouse
Dock on the left, but there are too many trees and bushes, even in winter.
We crossed the footbridge onto the dock estate again, before retracing our
steps and following the Thames path alongside the canal (and river) all the
way to Brentford Bridge.
I'd decided not to go further north than the bridge, but couldn't resist
a short detour to revisit some of the damage. The gauging lock still seems
intact, and the river and canal, but virtually all else is now rather poor
modern development. I soon turned back, and we took our lives into our hands
to recross the road - where there should be pedestrian crossing lights but
are none - and we walked past the former Brentford Town station (closed to
passenger traffic in 1942) and left Brentford on our way to Isleworth.
We stopped at a convenience store to buy some crisps to eat with our lunch,
and met behind the counter a man who has photographed Brentford for many years,
Satish C Dhir B. Sc., who brought out a very interesting folder of
his photographs and a few other historic images to show us - including many
of the scenes we had been photographing that morning.
Belgian flags for Brussels
Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 23 Mar 2016
Heritage Wardens (right) look at the projection of
the Belgian flags on the National Gallery
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square has two Belgian flags projected
on its frontage in sympathy with attacks in Brussels. Other buildings, including
the National Theatre were also lit in the colours of the Belgian Flag.
Hands Off Our Schools
Westminster, London. Wed 23 Mar 2016
Teachers shout their message to the Dept for Education
Teachers from the NUT and ATL march through Westminster to a rally against
government plans to convert all schools to academies. There is no evidence
that academies improve the educational results of children and the plans remove
all democratic controls from education as well as side-lining parents.
They say government should be addressing the real issues of teacher shortage,
lack of pupil places and chaos in the curriculum rather than creating more
The march gathered in front of Westminster Cathedral and then marched down
Victoria St, turning off to go past the Department for Education, where many
stopped to shout and to call for Nicky Morgan to resign.
The marchers then continued to a rally in the Emmanuel Hall on Marsham St,
but I left to go elsewhere.
DPAC's 'IDS Resignation Party'
Parliament Square, London. Sat 19 Mar 2016
partygoer with a heart-shaped balloon with the message 'Bye'
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) celebrate the resignation of Iain
Duncan Smith, one of the chief architects of the brutal Tory welfare policy
that has caused them so much suffering and harm, with a party in Parliament
Square. But they express little hope that his successor in office will ease
the persecution of the sick and disabled.
There were speeches from Paula Peters and Roger Lewis of
DPAC, who reminded us that although IDS had gone, his policies remain, and
his successor, Stephen Crabb, has shown himself to be bigoted and lacking
compassion and understanding of the needs of the poor and disabled.
But there was a certain feeling of relief that IDS had gone, and that perhaps
the many protests by DPAC had had some effect in putting the problems of the
disabled into the minds even of Conservative MPs, some of whom had finally
decided the disabled could take no more cuts.
So corks were popped - though Prosecco not champagne as reported by the newspapers
- and there was some reveling. The party was really only just beginning when
I had to leave.
Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day
Australia House, London. Sat 19 Mar 2016
Australians were protesting at home & at embassies
around the world against their racist immigration policy
Austrialian human rights protesters rallied at embassies around the world,
including the Australian High Commission in London to condemn the Australian
government's treatment of refugees.
Many who try to claim asylum in Australia are locked up and detained indefinitely
in contradiction to international law on remote Pacific Islands including
Manus and Nauru in detention camps run by Serco and will never be allowed
to resettle in Australia.
As in the UK camp at Yarl's Wood run by Serco, detainees have been sexually
abused, denied proper health treatment, and in at least one case, that of
a young man called Reza Berati, beaten to death by the prison guards.
Another detainee named by the protesters was Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian Kurd
whose asylum case was closed after he was involved in a brief scuffle. He
had been brutally tortured in Iran, including rape, and had suffered mental
health problems from this, leading to repeated suicide attempts. Despite pleas
from case managers, psychologists, detention centre operators and immigration
officers that he should be released, he was held in indefinite detention on
Christmas Island, where he had managed to flee to from Iran in October 2011.
In November 2015, he managed to escape from the detention centre; two days
later his body was found in bushland. The news led to a riot in the detention
The small group of Australians were joined by a few more from Movement for
Justice, which has held many protests at UK detention centres including Yarl's
Wood and Harmondsworth. Although UK media have failed to report on most of
these protests, a Sydney newspaper had arranged for a photographer to report
Refugees Welcome Rally
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 19 Mar 2016
Marcia Rigg was one of many speakers
Thousands who had marched through London stood in Trafalgar Square for
the 'Refugees Welcome Here' rally organised by Stand Up to Racism against
racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism.
They listened to speakers including Vanessa Redgrave and Jeremy Hardy, MP
Diane Abbott, MEPs Claude Moraes and Jean Lambert, journalist Journalist,
writer Michael Rosen, leading trade unionists Dave Ward CWU, Christine Blower
NUT, and Sally Hunt UCU, Marilyn Reed the mother of Sarah Reed, Stephanie
Lightfoot-Bennett and Marcia Rigg, Maz Saleem daughter of the Mohammed Saleem
who was killed in a racist attack, Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain
and a young refugee from Iraq. I left before the rally finished and missed
some of the speakers.
Stand Up to Racism - Refugees Welcome march
BBC to Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 19 Mar 2016
Jasper and Zita Holbourne at the front of the Black Lives Matter bloc on the
Thousands marched through London from the BBC in a national demonstration
organised by Stand Up to Racism against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism
and fascism and to say clearly that refugees are welcome here. The march started
at the BBC which many marching say needs a more positive attitude to refugees
and fails to report protests on this and other issues and ended in a rally
in Trafalgar Square, which is covered in a separate post above.
Prominent on the march was the 'Black Lives Matter' bloc, fronted by banners
for BARAC and BlakSox banners and led by Lee Jasper and Zita Holbourne, with
campaigners wearing red for the 'Justice for Sarah Reed' campaign, chanting
loudly "Say Her Name, Sarah Reed" and "Black Lives Matter".
But there were so many other groups and campaigns among the ten thousand or
so on the march that my pictures can only show a small number of them.
The march included groups working with with refugees trapped in the camps
in Calais and Dunkirk, and some of those had lines drawn across their lips;
some of the refugees on hunger strike there have sewn up their lips. Stories
from Calais and from Greece and central Europe, and in particular from the
drowning of those making their way across from Turkey to the Greek Islands
have moved the great majority of the British people to demand our government
take a much more positive and humanitarian approach to refugees - but have
so far been met with little evidence of compassion among our hard-hearted
Conservative government, despite thousands coming out onto the streets today
and at previous protests.
Of course there are racists and bigots who oppose Britain taking in any refugees,
and those who would want to abandon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
, which Britain played a major role in drawing up in 1947-8. Winston Churchill
- who many on the far right look on as a symbol of all things British - proposed
a European Charter of Human Rights in 1947 and we were the first country to
ratify it in 1951.
A small number - perhaps 15-20 - of members of the far-right group 'Britain
First' in their para-military uniforms, guarded by perhaps a hundred police,
around the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus shouted insults and made gestures
from a distance at the thousands of marchers. Most of the marchers chose to
ignore them, marching past, others shouted back as they went past. But others
stopped and attempted to confront them, but at least while I was present,
police prevented them from getting close.
Although it's important to confront racists and fascists, on occasions like
this where their presence was so small and insignificant, it does result in
them getting far more publicity than they deserve. I hope my pictures give
some idea of their nature and show how small their protest was despite the
relatively massive opposition it provoked.
Halt mass deportation flights to Nigeria
Nigerian High Commission, London. Wed 17 Mar 2016
Tony Gard argues with a Nigerian Minister for Community
Relations about the charter flights
Movement for Justice protest at the Nigerian High Commission delivering
a letter to a calling on the Nigerian government to stop the UK's mass deportation
charter flights from the UK and to set up a full and open public inquiry into
their effects on the UK Nigerian community. Many forcibly deported have been
long term UK residents with family here and some have outstanding legal cases
or are seriously ill.
Currently a group is in The Verne prison in Portland for a flight booked
for March 22nd and others in Yarl's Wood and elsewhere are likely to be taken
to join them.
After a lively protest outside the High Commission, a minister from he High
Commission came out to accept the letter about the flights. He argued briefly
with Tony Gard, saying that those being deported were only those whose legal
processes in the UK had been exhausted and had no right to stay in the UK;
when he was told this was definitely not the case he asked that MfJ provide
evidence to the High Commission. He stated that Nigeria was not able to refuse
the flights, although several other countries had done so, and the Nigerian
government could refuse permission for the flights to land at the military
airport near Lagos that they use.
Despite his denials he promised that the letter from MfJ would be forwarded
to the Nigerian government.
The protesters then made contact with several people being held inside Yarl's
Wood, relaying their comments to the group by holding a mobile phone they
were connected to close to the microphone of the megaphone. The sound quality
was poor and I had problems in hearing what they were saying. But clearly
they were extremely angry at the shameful way they were being treated.
SOAS Cleaners Sense Victory
SOAS Steps, London. Tue 16 Mar 2016
The celebration outside SOAS ends with hugs
Students, cleaners and staff celebrated at the School of Oriental and African
Studies (SOAS) as talks continue which seem likely to end the 10 year battle
to bring cleaning staff 'in-house' rather than employed under poor conditions
by contracting companies.
Unison cleaners and the SOAS community have fought against an intransigent
management for 10 years; recently an APSE report confirmed an earlier study
that the move would be cost neutral. The Justice 4 Cleaners (J4C) campaign
has brought together the cleaners, teaching and administrative staff, students
and alumni fighting together against a small management clique through protests
and direct action including a lengthy occupation of part of SOAS.
The cleaners, who were recruited into the SOAS Unison branch led by Sandy
Nicoll, have received support from trade unionists and others on the left
from around London, including cleaners in other unions such as the IWGB, as
well as from staff and students at other colleges.
Outsourcing is seldom if ever a good solution for cleaning, always bringing
in poor conditions and bad management as well as low wages to cut costs, and
leads to a lowering of standards. Most of the cleaners at SOAS are Spanish-speaking,
and the situation was worsened some years ago when SOAS management brought
in the cleaners to an early morning meeting with Home Office Border Police,
resulting in several cleaners being found to be improperly documented, leading
to their deportation.
The long campaign with the slogan 'One Workplace, One Workforce' has been
an inspiration to other groups of outsourced workers, and with the APSE report
completely undermining the case of those few in SOAS management who have resolutely
opposed bringing the cleaners in-house, Unison seem confident that a settlement
will at least be reached.
The mood was thus one of celebration more than protest, although some were
expressing a little caution, and there was a very clear warning to SOAS Registrar
Laura Gibbs and the others that there would be a powerful response if a satisfactory
conclusion was not reached, which was reinforced by the setting off of coloured
smoke flares along the top of the steps - and when the smoke cleared, there
was a large bright blue 'J4C' left on them.
Update: SOAS management announced a couple of weeks later
that they had rejected the proposals to bring the cleaners in-house. The struggle
by cleaners, staff and students will continue with renewed vigour.
Houses of Parliament Budget Day
Houses of Parliament, Tue 16 Mar 2016
Burghers of Calais and Victoria Tower
I went to walk around by the Houses of Parliament on my way to an event elsewhere
in the hope that there might be something happening there or at Downing St
for the budget, but found almost nobody around, apart from Kaya Mar, with
a painting for budget day, and a few statues.
Kill the Housing & Planning Bill
London, Sun 13 Mar 2016
Class War and other housing activists came with a list
of London Estates socially cleansed by Labour Councils
Thousands marched through London to a rally in Parliament Square against
the Housing and Planning Bill which will make the current housing crisis much
worse. It aims to destroy council housing by forcing councils to sell off
homes, and will condemn millions to a lifetime of insecure and expensive private
renting, benefiting only landlords, developers and the rich members and friends
of the Tory party. Housing activists on the march also protested against the
social cleansing of council estates by London Labour councils.
London's housing problems are critical and are growing fast. In part it's
the pressure of a growing population with people moving to London because
of the jobs here, but there are massive factors that are making things impossible.
One is the growth of London housing as an investment opportunity, both for
buy-to-let landlords - something which low interest rates in recent years
has made much more attractive - and for the wealthy of the world who are snapping
up the forest of tall blocks of high price flats off-plan, simply as an investment
as prices rise fast. Some may occasionally come and take a holiday in them,
or rent them to others, but many simply remain empty, growing in price, particularly
benefiting close to expensive infrastructure projects such as Crossrail -
which the investors have paid nothing towards.
The other is policies by successive governments and their implementation
by local authorities and housing associations. Thatcher with 'right to buy'
successfully scuppered council housing, and further reforms passed much of
it to housing agencies, many of which are now simply commercial developers.
But New Labour added to the problems, particularly in London, with their plans
Possibly there were good intentions behind this, but the consequences, particularly
since the recession, have been dire. London's Labour boroughs have much to
be ashamed of, with their terrible treatment of residents on estates such
as the Carpenters in Stratford and the Heygate at the Elephant (and now the
neighbouring Aylesbury) reaching almost incredible levels of dishonesty and
The current housing bill is intended to deliver to coup de grâce to
what remains of council housing in case anything is left after 'regeneration'
takes its toll. And even those guilty Labour boroughs are opposed to it. Though
probably those marching with Labour banners were mainly not the councillors
responsible, it was hardly surprising that the presence of Labour banners
from those areas wasn't welcomed by those who have been actively involved
as housing activists - and that groups such as Class War decided to inject
their own views and a little agitprop into what would otherwise have been
a somewhat boring and largely unnoticed march.
Most of those who spoke at the rally in Lincolns Inn Fields before the march
were housing activists, a notable exception being Diane Abbott MP, who brought
the news that Jeremy Corbyn was unable to make it following a minor injury.
The rally went smoothly and at the end the crowd filed out quietly for the
There was much criticism from some of those taking part that the organisers
had agreed with the police to take a route south of the river to avoid the
more crowded parts of the centre, particularly crowded around the Trafalgar
Square area with those celebrating St Patrick's Day. It wasn't an ideal route,
but it may not have been possible to agree a better one.
On Waterloo Bridge, police led the march down the south-bound carriageway,
leaving traffic flowing down the north-bound side on the west of the bridge.
It was no great surprise that the more anarchist groups present decided to
move to that side of the road, with Class War to the fore. To their surprise
they found among the vehicles they had stopped a mini from Foxtons, which
they briefly surrounded, though it got no worse treatment than the odd Class
They rushed along the wrong side of the road ignoring police orders to get
back with the rest of the protest, almost getting to the front of the march
as they reached the Waterloo I-Max roundabout where they stopped with their
banners facing the side of the march, looking out for Labour party banners
and shouting their opinions on Labour's guilt when they saw them. One poster
that they and other groups was carrying listed some of the better-known London
council estates socially cleansed (or now being so) by Labour councils - and
it is a long and shameful and probably incomplete list:
Aberfeldy, Acorn, Aylesbury, Balfron tower, Bridge House, Broadwater Farm
Burdett, Carpenters, Central Hill,Clapton Park, Colville, Cressingham Gardens,
Elmington, Excalibur, Ferrier, Frampton Park, Gascoine, Heygate, Holly Street,
Kidbrook, Kingsland & Haggerston, Love Lane, Marian, Mascalls, Nightingale,
North Peckham, Ocean, Peckham Park Road, Pepys, Ravensbury, Robin Hood,
Silwood, Spa, Thamesmead, Tower Court, Tweed House, West Kilburn, Whiston
Road, Woodberry Down.
After some time there, Class War moved on along the wrong side of York Rd,
rather impeded by cars going the other way, stopping to protest briefly outside
the development taking place on much of the Shell Centre site .Moving on they
staged a further short protest outside an estate agents in part of the former
City Hall before going on to join the sit down by housing activists who had
been carrying housing 'shields' at the front of the march and Sisters Uncut
in the middle of Waterloo Bridge.
I lost touch with them for a while, but caught up again as they watched the
rally taking place in Victoria Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament but
I think they arrived too late to protest there against Labour speakers (and
I missed photographing John McDonnell.) They left from there to stage a further
protest, I think outside a Foxtons in Holborn, but I'd been on my feet long
enough and decided to go home instead.
Shut Down Yarl's Wood
Yarl's Wood, Bedford. Sat 12 Mar 2016
People climb up to put balloons on the fence where the immigration prisoners
can see them
Movement for Justice organised the largest yet protest outside the immigration
detention centre at Yarl's Wood with well over a thousand people from around
the country waving and shouting support to the women asylum seekers held indefinitely
inside, who responded enthusiastically by shouting and waving back from the
prison blocks behind the high fence, hindered by windows that hardly open.
The day began badly for me, with the Thameslink train I had intended to catch
being delayed by a signalling blackout in south London; fortunately I had
gone to St Pancras rather than my normal route via West Hampstead and was
able to catch a much later but faster Midland train to get to Bedford in plenty
of time. But it took a long time for the coach from the station to load up,and
then the driver got lost on the way, so I arrived at Twinwoods Business Park
rather later than I'd hoped.
By the time I got there, there was a very large crowd - and a long line of
coaches that had brought them there, and it was soon time to start the march
to Yarl's Wood. It soon became clear as we walked along the side of a couple
of large fields that the rain a few days earlier had fallen heavily here,
and we were walking through extremely sticky mud.
Although it was a dry, sunny afternoon the mud was even worse than the last
protest here, but at least there were none of the torrential showers. But
it was hard to keep my feet as I photographed down by the fence, and I think
my pictures suffered, particularly because it made it very slow to move around.
So I missed much of the action when various people at different times let
I'd taken my longest lens to photograph people inside Yarl's Wood in the
windows, but most were impossible to see because of the reflections.
Despite the extra numbers, the protest seemed a little quieter than the previous
ones, and there was less action to photograph. I'd already begun on the long
walk back to the coach when the people stages a rainbow letting off of flares,
and took a few pictures. If the ground had been dry I would have run towards
it, but it was far too wet and slippery for me to try; instead I tried to
change to my longer lens. But perhaps because I was cold and tired this took
rather longer than usual and by the time it was in place the flares had died
It wasn't one of my better days, though the journey home went smoothly.
David Clapson - Sanctioned to Death
DWP, Caxton House, London. Wed 9 Mar 2016
David Clapson's sister Gill Thompson delivers her petition
to the DWP
Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who
died starving and destitute because he was penalised by the Job Centre for
missing a meeting, protested outside the DWP headquarters, handing in a petition.
Hers and another petition with over 200,000 signatures between them are calling
for an inquest into his death and an end to unfair benefit sanctions that
leave claimants without support.
Unite against Benefit Sanctions
DWP, Caxton House, London. Wed 9 Mar 2016
Didi Rossi from Global Women's Strike accuses the
Tories of deliberately targeting and killing the poor
Unite Community members hold a protest outside the DWP headquarters in
Westminster as a part of their National Day of Action against Benefit Sanctions.
There were other protests at job centres in over 70 towns and cities. People
often lose benefit for trivial reasons and for events beyond their control
and are left without support.
Despite government denials, at least 95 deaths are known to have been as
a result of sanctions which leave people destitute and starving. Some, like
David Clapson, have actually starved to death while
others have been so desperate that they have killed themselves. Without the
efforts of the many food banks the figure would be much higher.
Didi Rossi of Global Women's Strike gave an angry response to the suggestion
by a Unite speaker that the government's policies had failed. She claimed
they were in fact being extremely successful in their attacks on the unemployed
and disabled, and she contended that the deaths were the clear intention behind
the policies of Iain Duncan Smith.
Those working for the DWP being given incentives and targets for causing
maximum misery leading others to describe IDS as the 'Minister for Euthanasia'.
As a poster states:
More than 80 people a month are dying shortly after being declared "fit
More than 2,500 sick and disabled benefit claimants have died after being
found 'fit for work' in just 2 years.
Over half of them were appealing the decision to strip them of their benefits
at the time of their death.
Benefit sanctions are just another way of attacking those who are out of
work; cutting the benefits of those who have no income is an inhumane and
indefensible policy that can only lead to incredible hardship - and logically
Ugandans protest rigged Presidential Election
Uganda High Commission, London. Wed 9 Mar 2016
A woman holds up a picture of Kizza Besigye,defeated
in last month's rigged Presidential election
Protesters outside the Ugandan Embassy in Trafalgar Square after last
month's rigged Ugandan elections. They want an independent audit of the results
and urge the UK not to recognise Museveni as the legitimate President of Uganda
and for the immediate release of Dr Besigye and other political prisoners,
as well as action against those responsible for torture.
The protest was jointly organised by the Uganda Diaspora P10 UK, FDC UK Chapter
supported African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and Peter Tatchell Foundation.
International observers widely report that the election, which was declared
as having been won by Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, with 61% of the
votes against 36% by challenger Besigye involved widespread fraud and irregularities,
with many voters being unable to vote and the declared results from many polling
stations being very different from the actual votes. During the campaign opposition
politicians were repeatedly arrested and voters were intimidated.
I arrived as an hour or so of protest in Trafalgar Square was winding down
and and shortly afterwards marched down with the protesters to Downing St
where they were to deliver a letter calling on "the United Kingdom Prime
Minister and the international community not to recognise Mr Museveni as the
legitimate President of Uganda and to expedite a forensic independent audit
of the election results by international experts, to call for the immediate
and unconditional release of Dr Besigye and other political prisoners, to
freeze assets for all those that are masterminding torture of innocent Ugandans,
issue travel bans and above all investigate and prosecute the following in
the International courts of law: Mr Yoweri Museveni, Miss Kasule Lumumba,
General Kale Kayihura, General Katumba Wamala, Felix Kaweesa among others."
UCH rally for Junior Doctors Strike
Euston Rd, London.Wed 9 Mar 2016
A woman in an 'NHS Solidarity Selfie frame' in the crowd
at the rally
Trade unionists and others at a rally with NHS health workers outside
University College Hospital, joining the Junior Doctors picket line on their
strike day. Leading trade unionists came to speak in support of the doctors
and the campaigns to save the NHS from privatisation.
The rally was led by Janet Maiden and among the speakers were CWU London
Region Secretary Ian Murphy, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt, BFAWU National
President Ian Hodson, RMT National President Sean Hoyle, ASLEF, District Organiser
Finn Brennan, Sarah Tomlinson from the NUT, National Gallery PCS Rep Candy
Udwin, the UCH BMA Rep Sophie, and Jenny from the campaign to save NHS student
Set Her Free - International Women's Day
Home Office, London. Tue 8 Mar 2016
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was among those applauding
loudly at the end of Gaggle's performance
Women for Refugee Women held an event outside the Home Office calling
for an end to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, the closure of immigration
prisons such as Yarl's Wood and an end to the detention of pregnant women.
When I arrived the feminist contemporary choir Gaggle was performing with
a great deal of energy to an appreciative crowd. The group of around 20 women,
based in Hackney, have described themselves as 'London's only sci-fi riot
choir' and the' weird, alternative all-female choir'.
Next came Labour MP for Edmonton and shadow equality minister Kate Osamor
also got a great welcome, both for her own championing of refugees and that
of her North London colleague Jeremy Corbyn. Following her was another and
more controversial Labour Cooperative MP, Stella Creasy from Walthamstow,
an area with a very diverse population that has successfully defended itself
against the EDL.
Lips Choir from Islington who describe themselves as 'London's favourite
women's pop choir' then sang and encouraged others to join in with some success
Standing near to me in the almost entirely female audience was Green Party
Leader Natalie Bennett, who was the next speaker and again got a very positive
reception. I've met her at many protests involving refugee and immigrant women,
and the Green Party has had much more positive policies on asylum and immigration
than the main parties who often seem afraid to really speak out on these matters
- and sometimes seem keener to outflank each other with yet harsher restrictions.
While the London Klezmer Quartet were playing I saw an 88 bus approaching
in the distance and rushed across the road to catch it and take me to the
station for the journey home. The event was set to continue for another couple
IWGB Women's Day protest over sacked cleaner
Bloomberg, London. Tue 8 Mar 2016
IWGB walk around with posters and banners blowing horns
in front of the Bloomberg offices
IWGB union members protest noisily outside Bloomberg's London offices
with an International Women's Day banner calling for re-instatement of cleaner
and union rep Hanna Abebe, sacked without disciplinary procedures following
her miscarriage at work caused by too heavy work.
The union say that because her employer Compass provide no occupational sick
pay she had to return to work before she had recovered and was then sacked
for her trade union activities. The union says they will continue protests
until she is reinstated.
The group of union members, led by IWGB President Alberto Durango protested
outside the main entrance to the Bloomberg offices in Finsbury Square, making
a great deal of noise blowing plastic horns, shouting slogans against Compass
and Bloomberg, and making use of a powerful megaphone. At times they walked
around in a circle in front of the doors. Everyone inside must surely have
been aware of the protest and many leaving or entering covered their ears
against the noise; I was very pleased to have been given a pair of ear plugs,
though the noise was still loud.
Vigil for murdered Berta Cáceres
Honduran Embassy, London. Mon 7 Mar 2016
stood all around the table with flowers, corn and candles surrounding a picture
of Berta Cáceres
People met outside the Honduras Embassy to remember and demand justice
for environmental activist Berta Cáceres, leader of the Civic Council
of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) who was murdered
in her home on March 3.
Cáceres was last year's winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize
for her work against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project in Río Blanco,
funded by the World Bank and the Dutch government and had previously been
subject to death threats from the Honduran National Police and judicial harassment.
People brought photographs, placards, banners, flowers, candles, plants and
corn in honour to Berta to the event organised by CAWN- Central America
Women's Network, and there were chants in English and Spanish 'Berta
Vive, La lucha sigue!', 'Berta Lives, the fight continues!' and others. Unfortunately
a strong and gusty wind prevented the candles staying lit for more than a
second or two and attempts to light them were soon abandoned.
Several of those present had met or worked with her, and one woman made a
speech about her life and work, and another read the text of an open letter
to the Honduran president from over 50 international organisations calling
for an international investigation into her death and urgent action to protect
Gustavo Castro Soto, the sole witness to the murder, who was intercepted at
the airport after having giving depositions and being told he could leave
to return to his home in Mexico.
Two of the the protesters were invited in to the Honduran Embassy for a lengthy
talk with the Charge d' Affaires (as the Ambassador was away) who expressed
concern over the murder. Campaigners doubt that the government is really committed
to ending violence against the opposition in their country.
Bunhill Fields Under Threat
Bunhill Fields, London. Sun 6 Mar 2016
The non-conformist burial ground of Bunhill Fields
belongs to the City of London
A small group met at Bunhill Fields in response to
a petition against a development immediately on the north-east boundary
which will result in this small and important site being overshadowed by a
large and inappropriate development. If the building of these 10 and 11 storey
skyscrapers is allowed to go ahead it will be followed by others that will
completely alter the nature of the site, depriving it of light and altering
Bunhill Fields is perhaps best-known as the burial place of William Blake,
Daniel Defoe, Isaac Watts, George Fox and John Bunyan, as well as other well-known
non-conformists including Susannah Wesley. The cemetery, which has a public
path through its centre, is opposite Wesley's Chapel on the City Road, with
the path leading through to Bunhill Row.
The site is a Grade 1 cultural heritage site owned by the City of London
and enjoyed by many office workers in the area as a quiet space. You used
to be able to wander freely on the paths around the graves, but now most of
of these are fenced off for conservation reasons and public access is restricted
to the main path through the centre and a central area with the monuments
to Blake, Defoe and Bunyan and a grassed open space which was I think cleared
by German bombing.
The development has been described as one of 'Boris's vanity projects' and
the petition is to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities, asking
him to overrule the decision to approve it. It is also possible that there
may be a legal challenge over the 'right to light' under common law.
Break the Silence! Turkey's War on Kurds
BBC to Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 6 Mar 2016
Kurds sit-down at Piccadilly Circus against Turkey's
war on Kurds and the lack of reporting or response
Thousands of Kurds and supporters march in solidarity with the Kurdish
people calling for an end to the silence from Turkey's NATO allies and the
western press over Turkish war waged against Kurds since the success of the
Kurdish political party and the formation of the popular progressive democracy
of Rojava in Syria. They also call for the UK to decriminalise the PKK Kurdish
liberation Movement here.
This protest was called by Stop the War on the Kurds and supported
by: Peace in Kurdistan, Kurdistan National Congress (KNC), Scottish Solidarity
with Kurdistan, Day Mer, GIK-DER/RWCA, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Public
and Commercial Services Union (PCS), National Union of Rail, Maritime and
Transport Workers Union (RMT), Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA),
Trade Union Congress – International Section, Greater London Association
of Trade Union Councils (GLATUC), Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC),
National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), Unite Housing Branch, Unison Islington,
Stop the War Coalition, People’s Assembly, Unite Against Fascism (UAF),
Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, Plan C, Revolutionary Communist
Group, Left Unity, Green Party, Kurdish Community Centre, Halkevi, Roj Women’s
Assembly, Kurdish Students Union, Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), Anti-Fascist
Network (AFN), National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), Party of Free
Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), Democratic Union Initiative & PYD and other
It began outside the BBC, who have appeared to be blind to what is going
on inside Turkey as well as to protests in London and the UK generally. I
(and Google) cannot find any mention of this protest on the BBC web site,
and certainly didn't hear it on the news.
From the BBC, the large and colourful march with perhaps 5,000 or more people
made its way down Regent St and Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus where the
marchers sat down briefly to block the road before continuing on to a rally
at Trafalgar Square, where I left them.
Class War's Notting Hill Pub Stroll
Notting Hill, London. Sat 5 Mar 2016
Ian Bone talks about how he set up the Rock Against
the Rich tour with Joe Strummer here
Class War made a well-publicised 'Historic - Riotous - Fun' and peaceful
pub crawl in Notting Hill led by Rita the Raven, visiting several sites important
in the early years of the the movement, including the Colville (now closed)
where the first conference ended in a fight with the landlord, the Warwick
Arms where Joe Strummer agreed to head a 'Rock against the Rich' tour in 1988
and others, some now hugely gentrified. Police followed the group, and several
of the venues on the route closed for the day, with Notting Hill Foxtons being
fully boarded up.
The plan had been to meet up in a bar which used to be the Colville
Hotel and more recently the Ground Floor Bar, on the corner of Talbot
Rd and Portobello Rd, but that closed down in January when the plans were
made, and people arrived to find the building boarded up. This was a genuine
closure and the lease has been advertised for sale. The listing doesn't mention
the historical significance of the venue; Class War's first conference was
held in a private room at the Colville, and according to Ian Bone's speech
outside it ended with a fight between Sean Mason and the landlord.
As the pub was closed, Class War didn't wait there too long, though there
were a few cans to drink, moving on to the next pub on the route after around
15 minutes. The following day I met three people who told me that they had
arrived late and had been unable to find Class War, although the route had
been published on Facebook.
The next stop was at the site of the Warwick Castle, once Portobello's
finest pub (and the subject of the book '3000 Hangovers Later' by
Ray 'Roughler' Jones, who paid a brief visit to the event at a later
stop.) The pub was sadly gutted some years back, gentrified and is now called
simply 'The Castle'. It was here that Ian Bone (as he recounted
outside the establishment mysteriously 'closed for maintenance' at
just the time Class War said they would call - it opened again later in the
afternoon) saw Joe Strummer of the Clash drinking, came
up on the spot with the idea of a 'Rock Against the Rich' tour, and
found the man to be enthusiastic for it - prepared not only to take part,
but put money into it.
Here Class War put up a number of 'Blue Plaques' to Strummer and to Rock
against the Rich - actually 'Blue Plates', paper plates fixed to the windows
and walls with Class War stickers - which later in the afternoon staff from
the establishment were trying hard to scrape off, after having taken down
their closed for maintenance signs and opened up.
At least the Duke of Wellington was still open, though perhaps with
rather more bouncers than usual on the door, but they let us in and Class
War settled down for a pint or two, with several more joining the group, including
Lisa McKenzie who made a dramatic entry, throwing off her coat to
reveal her 'Class War Womens Death Brigade' t-shirt. This used to
be the main H H Finch's bar on the Portobello Rd but was subjected
to an entire refurbishment after being taken over by Young's in 1991, now
catering to the tourist trade. It is comfortable enough, but no longer anything
like a real British pub, though the £12 baked beans on toast that shocked
everyone turned out to be just an effect of a badly laid out menu, though
it still seemed rather expensive for their version of a full English. Beer
at Young's pubs is of course always too expensive.
Next, Class War followed Rita down Portobello Rd and danced briefly outside
at the record stall before settling in the only remaining real pub in the
area, the Earl of Lonsdale, a Sam Smith's pub that was once
Henekey's. I don't remember it from back in the old days, but the
brewery (as elsewhere) seems to have gone to a great deal of trouble to keep
or recreate the character of a real British pub (though the staff are rather
more friendly than many old-time landlords.) The bitter is decent and cheap;
the chips were pretty good too, and the rest of the food was cheap, looked
edible and came in decent helpings on plates.
By now Class War were running well behind their published timetable, but
some late-comers managed to find and join them for the walk down to George
Orwell's former house -the one with the blue plaque that someone has
faked a picture with a large CCTV camera in front of. In reality it only really
has a couple of very discrete small cameras on the wall to the side, probably
so that those living there can see who is at their door. What those inside
made of a visitation by Rita Raven and Class War is hard to imagine, but perhaps
they may have enjoyed a speech praising George Orwell for recognising the
nature of the war by the elites against the working classes by Lisa McKenzie.
Next came Foxtons at Notting Hill Gate, fully boarded up for the
advertised visit. Here Simon Elmer of ASH (Architects for Social
Housing) spoke about the housing crisis and the Foxtons sign gained a few
stickers. After around ten minutes police vans and motorcycles drew up noisily
to reinforce the small group of officers who had been watching all afternoon
from a polite distance of a few yards, and Class War quickly melted away into
a nearby pub.
An hour or so later they were still there - and I'd had the unexpected bonus
of seeing a Class War make-up demonstration. It seemed unlikely that they
would complete the tour to Osborne and Osborne's fathers' houses and the Daily
Mail (though we hoped this too was boarded up at least metaphorically in anticipation)
and I had a dinner to go home to and left.
London is on Fire - IT is back
Open School East, London. Fri 4 Mar 2016
Times Issue 1 - and editor Heathcote Ruthven at right with one of the sisters
from Radical Feminist Fridays who contributed an article on Manarchy
I didn't stay long at the party as I was in a hurry to get home and upload
my pictures from the protest earlier in the day, grabbing some food and leaving
before many of those who came to the launch had arrived. So the pictures,
almost all taken in a darkened hall (and it was darker than it looks in the
picture), don't really show much of it. But I did take a couple of pictures
outside, including the one above.
IT issue Zero came out in January and was interesting but the printing was
a little on the primitive side, but the first real issue is more impressive
with some intriguing content. Likely to sell
out fast and be appropriated by the capitalist maw as a collector's item
No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries
City Road and Old St Roundabout, London. Fri 4 Mar 2016
After the protest outside City Rd Surgery the protesters
went on to block the Old St roundabout
Campaigners from the Mental Health Resistance Network and DPAC protested
outside City Road Surgery where Remploy/Maximus job coaches will "create
jobs by prescription." They say disabled people will be bullied into
unsuitable work and lose benefits through sanctions. They went on to block
traffic on the busy Old St roundabout nearby.
City Road surgery is one of six GP practices in Islington, north London involves
in a year-long 'Working Better' pilot scheme that is placing welfare-to-work
advisors from Remploy, mainly owned by discredited US outsourcing company
Maximus, in surgeries under a scheme devised by the Islington Clinical Commissioning
Group but funded by the DWP.
Unemployed patients with long-term health conditions will be pressured to
take part in "intensive and personalised employment coaching" in
the surgery, which the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled
People Against Cuts (DPAC) say will destroy trust between doctors and patients.
They say that those with mental health conditions in particular will feel
it is not safe to seek treatment from GPs if they see job advisors are present.
Although the scheme is said to be voluntary, experience with job centres
makes claimants sure that even if it starts in this way, soon it will be made
mandatory, with any failure to take part in the scheme and the workfare placements
leading to them losing benefits through being sanctioned.
Some GPs are unhappy with the scheme too, and have also expressed concern
over changes in the administration of sick notes and in the sharing of patient
records which they see now being introduced by stealth, and without proper
safeguards as to who is allowed to access them.
The protest featured a man dressed as a doctor wearing an Iain Duncan Smith
mask and a name label Dr Iain Duncan Smith, Dept of Eugenics, who was handing
out prescription forms for a 'Mr A Scrounger, 17 Lazy House, Sink Estate,
Tory Britain', prescribing 'Endless Job Coaching in Surgery, Major benefits
reduction and PRN (as needed) Regular Sanctions' on the basis 'Continue until
complete cure or death' from 'Dr A Lackey, DWP Surgery, c/o Nudge Unit, Tory
Headquarters' after which Maximus 'Job Coaches' pounced on the patients to
issue G4S or Ingeus Deloitte 'work cures' and red 'Sanctioned' notices.
One of the Maximus Job coaches was also a squirrel, with a placard with the
message 'Nuts to IDS - Squirrels Fight Back', which was perhaps rather confusing.
Other groups at the event included Winvisible, Boycott Workfare and Unite
the Resistance and trade unionists from the RMT.
Speakers at the rally included Danielle, one of the organisers of the protests
against axing of NHS student bursaries, Roy Bard of MHRN, Paula Peters of
DPAC, a local GP who advised us to make clear to our GPs that we wanted to
opt out of the sharing of medical records, and Petros Elia, General Secretary
of the United Voices of the World trade union who had come with a banner,
drummers and plastic horns to add some noise to the protest.
After an hour or so, the rally outside the City Road surgeries ended with
two people taking in a message to the surgery and everyone prepared to march
to an unknown destination. Police tried without success to get the protesters
to march along the pavement rather than block traffic on the busy road, but
they were determined to make their point and refused, making their way to
the nearby Old Street roundabout, where they brought traffic to a standstill
for a little over 20 minutes before deciding to end their protest.
Shut Guantanamo, End Indefinite Detention
US Embassy, London. Thu 3 Mar 2016
Lighting candles outside the US Embassy
London Guantanamo Campaign protested over Obama's latest plans, supporting
the release of the 35 prisoners cleared for release and the speeding of periodic
review for others but demanding an end to military commissions and indefinite
detention of all remaining prisoners.
Obama came into office declaring he would close Guantanamo, and recently
released his latest plans. Although he has overseen the release of many and
there are now less than a hundred prisoners in the camp, the campaigners want
him to go further. They support his plans to speed up release of some of those
held, but demand that he rethink how to deal with those who remain.
The London Guantanamo Campaign state:
We support plans to release all prisoners cleared for release (35 of them)
as soon as possible, and the speeding up of the periodic reviews of prisoners
who have not been cleared (another potential 25 or so), but believe military
commissions MUST be scrapped and indefinite detention without charge at
Guantanamo for ALL prisoners must end. The prisoners the US claims pose
a threat to its security only pose a threat to the security of those individuals
who colluded in their torture and have fought tooth and nail to hide it
through the redaction of the 2014 Senate Report into CIA torture.
The London Guantanamo Campaign have been holding monthly protests outside
the US Embassy for over 8 years. They spread out banners, lit candles, held
posters and handed out leaflets for two hours. Armed police guarding the embassy
came out to talk briefly with them at the start and assured them that they
had no problems with the protest.
London, March 2016
Upstream from the Millennium Bridge in late afternoon
As usual some of the images I made while travelling around London, some
taken from buses or trains - and may show reflections form the windows and
As well as keeping an eye on some of the building work in Nine Elms and Vauxhall
as my trains come into Waterloo, there are also some taken in a spare hour
or so around the City Rd, of the evening views from the Millenium Bridge,
Holborn Circuse, Fetter Lane, Ludgate Circus, around Waterloo including St
Thomas's Hospital, Westminster Cathedral and a few more.
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