Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Young Mums Party in Protest

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

One of the more encouraging series of protests it has been my privilege to photograph over recent years has been that begun by young single mothers who when threatened with eviction from their hostel in Stratford with Newham Council intending to disperse them into private rented accomodation often hundreds of miles away from their friends and families stood up and fought for their rights.

The mothers and their supporters met on a street corner close to East Thames Housing

The campaign by the mums from Focus E15 gained a great deal of publicity and support for their cause, and some of them became rather unlikely celebrities, speaking at conferences and other events and appearing in theatre performances. And they were largely successful both in getting the council to rehouse them locally, and also in bringing some of the worst aspects of housing policies, both national and by local authorities to the attention of a wider public. They even got me on stage in 2017.

And made their way into the foyer of East Thames Housing

Their campaign widened to a more general campaign over housing problems, particularly in the London Borough of Newham, but also becoming involved in other campaigns across London and elsewhere. Newham is a borough with huge housing problems, but also one that the local Labour Party has managed to make much worse, with policies that have deliberately left good quality council housing empty for years despite one of the longest housing waiting lists in the country.

They pose for a photograph for the local newspaper

Part of the problem with Newham lies in the creation of a directly elected mayor in 2002, the first such mayor in England. This put more power into the hands of the mayor, Robin Wales, and a small cabal of right-wing Labour members, who pursued policies to increase the economic prosperity of the area with little regard for the poorer members of the community, encouraging businesses and bringing wealthier people into the area into new private developments. Focus E15 accused Robin Wales of being a kind of reverse Robin Hood, robbing the poor to give to the rich through his policies which they labelled as ‘social cleansing’.

And then occupy the East Thames show flat for a party

Focus E15 confronted Wales on a number of occasions, and he reacted angrily at times – and later was forced to apologise. Earlier he had been involved in another fight against local residents when he wanted to replace Queen’s Market with a new development including a 31 storey tower; it was seen as so bad that even then London Mayor Boris Johnson stopped it going ahead. And under Wales, the council made some disastrous investments which have lumbered the council with huge interest payments. Newham is essentially a one-party state, but by 2016 many in the local Labour party had become disillusioned with him and wanted change. Wales managed to rig a vote to prevent other candidates standing for Mayor in 2018, but this was overturned after an outcry in the party, and in 2018 Rokhsana Fiaz was elected as mayor. Wales went off to work for the influential right-wing free-market think tank Policy Exchange.

the air is filled with hearts, stars and other shapes

I’m proud to have done a little to promote the campaigns of Focus E15 through photographing some of their events – though I”ve been unable to do so over the past year. They continued to hold a regular weekly outdoor street stall on Stratford Broadway and socially distanced protests through 2020 and hope to do so this year, despite the increased restrictions. You can read about them on their web site, where they make clear that despite the new mayor in Newham little has changed:

The struggle must go on and Focus E15 campaign enters 2021 determined to continue to build a housing movement, challenge the Labour council, give solidarity to all those fighting for housing justice, and…. Educate! Agitate! Organise! so that we expose this ruthless capitalist system and begin to work in unity together for a better future for everyone.

Focus E15 web site
An East Thames officer comes to discuss their sitation with them

The pictures here are from a protest seven years ago today, on Fri 17 Jan 2014, and I hope illustrate something of why I found them so interesting to photograph. They went into the offices of the housing association that ran the Focus E15 hostel and held a party inside the show flat there. They had good reasons to be angry and protest, and were fearless and imaginative in how made their views clear – and provided great opportunites for photography. Many protests are rather dour occasions which are hard to make interesting though our pictures, but their protests were always lively and never run-of-the-mill.

He gets some tough questioning – and states that although it’s up to the council to rehouse them, East Thames will not evict them.

At the protest they did get an assurance that they would not be evicited, though it was clear than there was a lack of trust from the mothers in this statement. I left them still partying to file my story, and after a while they also left and went to protest at the nearby council housing offices.

More at Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


16th January 2013

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Probably the best way to describe my work on Wednesday 16th January would be varied, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to photographing protests on the streets of London. I was never quite sure what I would find or what would happen, and every protest brought its own problems in terms of photography, and also sometimes in how to write about them.

I started the day with Pussy Riot, or rather with protesters in solidarity with them on an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, attending a court hearing today over her plea for her sentence to be suspended so she can raise her son until he is 14. She was one of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral in February, and was sent to a prison camp in Siberia for two years.

I had expected rather more protesters than the small group I found there, as the case had attracted considerable publicity, but perhaps it was too early on a cold January morning to attract many. It isn’t either a very good place to protest, as the actual embassy is hidden away a few yards down a private road roughly opposite where protests (and photographer) are strictly forbidden. But I also left fairly promptly after the time set for the start of a protest, and numbers may have grown later.

Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


There were more people, including quite a few that I knew, at a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Many were disabled, with a few in wheelchairs, but more who have mental health conditions, along with a number of pensioners, trade unionists from the court branch of the PCS and other supporters and the protest was organised by disabled activist groups including DPAC and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Inside the court a tribunal was hearing a judicial review into Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act, not being accessible for those with mental health conditions, and several of those speaking at the rally had personal stories to tell of how they had suffered as a result.

Mental health conditions are often spasmodic, which may result in claimants on a good day not seeming very ill and on a bad day being unable to attend an assessment – which results in them being automatically judged fit for work. Few of those carrying out the tests had sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of mental health to be able to sensibly conduct the assessment, and medical records were often not taken into consideration.

It seems totally ridiculous for benefits which people need because of their medical conditions not to be assessed on the basis of reports by the doctors who have examined and know their patients, but we have a system that instead tries to deny benefits on the basis of often arbitrary ‘tests’ by unqualified staff.

Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments


Another protest was taking place outside the courts, which I hadn’t been aware of, and it had a very different atmosphere which I found rather chilling.

There was something very organised about it, with people dressed in red and all the placards carefully printed and it lacked the kind of spontaneity. Although it was a protest against the use of drugs to treat mental illness, some of those taking part gave the impression that they had been drugged.

Drugs are certainly misused in the treatment of people with mental health issues, though I think there are occasions when they are an important part in improving people’s health. And certainly they are over-used as a way to avoid treating the real causes of some people’s problems which come largely from poverty, lousy housing and terrible jobs. But there seemed to be something very wrong in some of the assertions that were being made.

I hadn’t heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, and was not really surprised when I looked it up on the web and found it described on Wikipedia as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists‘ established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

And as I wrote when I put these pictures on line:

it seems unfair to dismiss all of psychiatry as their banner did as ‘Junk Science and Dangerous Drugs‘ and I find it impossible from personal experience to deny the existence of medical conditions such as depression – or to dismiss the utility of some drugs in the treatment of mental conditions.

Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids

US Shame – Jan 11th

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Many commentators after the recent Trump-induced invasion of the US Capitol said that the 6th January 2021 (1/6/21) is a date that will go down in history as a day of shame for the US, comparing it to December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The latter was perhaps a little over the top, as that attack killed 2,403 US personnel, while the death toll after police let Trump supporters in to protest currently stands at five, three of these from health-related issues. But certainly it was a shameful day for US democracy – and a date that might well have been better compared to 1/11/02, 11th January 2002, the date when the first prisoners were held in illegal detention at Guantánamo Bay.

It was five years later than I first photographed a protest against this illegal detention, outside the US Embassy in London, still then in Grosvenor Square, where Amnesty International had brought over a hundred people dressed in orange jump suits to represent the detaines, forming them up into a large block in front of the embassy.

The following year on the sixth anniversary I photographed rather more demonstrations around London. Amnesty were back again outside the US Embassy, though the area in front of the embassy had been sealed off, presumably to prevent the protest taking place there. Instead it was on the street just to one side.

My next stop was the Regents Park Mosque, where I met a group of campaigners, some dressed in the now familiar orange jump suits, from the London Guantánamo Campaign and Cageprisoners who were handing out fliers calling for the closure of the Guantánamo prison camp at various sites around London all day. After giving them to people leaving the Mosque after Friday prayers I went with them to Paddington Green Police Station, where terrorist suspects were normally detained and questioned.

From there I returned to the US Embassy, where the pavement in front was now open again, and a small group from London Catholic Worker had come to hold a vigil. A man from the US Embassy came out and tried to get them to move away, but they stood their ground, lighting a circle of candles as it grew dark.

The final event of the day was a rally in Parliament Square, with speakers including former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg (above) and leading campaigners for the closure of this illegal prison which has cast huge shame on the claims of the USA to be a freedom-loving democracy which upholds international law. Of course those claims have long been known to be largely sham, with the USA backing many of the world’s most repressive regimes, taking part in shady affairs such as the Bay of Pigs attempted invasion, and sponsoring coups such as the 1973 Chilean coup d’état that deposed the Popular Unity government of President Salvador Allende on ‘9/11’ 1973.

Although many detainees have been released – there was no evidence against the great majority who were simply foreigners who far various reasons in the wrong place at the wrong time, many held by militias and sold to the US who were offering considerable bounties – the camp remains open. President Trump in 2018 signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely, and currently 40 prisoners remain there, still subject to torture and degrading conditions. Guantánamo remains a shameful blot on the United States.

2007
Close guantanamo 5th anniversary demonstration

2008
Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally

There are reports on many later protests calling for the closure of Guantánamo on My London Diary.

Protests over Gaza massacre

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

3 Jan 2009

January 10th 2009 saw what was probably the largest protest ever in London against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, with a crowd of around 100,000 gathering in Hyde Park for a march past the Israeli embassy.

2 Jan 2009

The Israeli attacks on Gaza, known by Israel as Operation Cast Lead and called by others the Gaza Massacre had begun on 27th December 2008 with an air assault on Gaza’s densely populated cities, striking 160 targets, some linked to Hamas but also including police stations and some other civilian buildings. This first day of air strikes killed around 230 Palestinians and injured more than 700. Air attacks continued in the following weeks, with around a quarter of those killed being civilians.

Ultra-orthodox Jews protest against the Israeli attacks, 7 Jan 2009

Israeli ground forces had blockaded the Gaza strip since the start of the attacks and on the evening of January 3rd launched an attack. Fighting continued with many buildings being destroyed by bulldozers in case they contained booby traps. On January 15th the United Nations Relief and Works agency was shelled, destroying tons of food and fuel destined for refugees and Gaza’s second largest hospital also was hit. Many Hamas fighters were killed but others continued to fight in Gaza and to send sporadic rocket fire into Israel, though casualties from these were low, with a total of 3 civilians and one soldier killed and 182 wounded. A further nine Israel soldiers were killed in Gaza, four by Israeli fire. Around 1400 Palestinians were killed, around 2-300 of them Hamas fighters.

9 Jan 2009

Protests took place daily in London throughout this period, and, according to Wikipedia, there was Israel faced significant international pressure for a ceasefire, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor, access to the population of Gaza and the lifting of the blockade. From January 7th there were periods of ceasefire most days by both sides to allow humanitarian aid to be shipped in, violated on occasions by both sides. On the 17th January Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire, and the following day Hamas also announced a ceasefire.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain protest at Egyptian Embassy, 11 Jan 2009

I covered seven protests over the attack on Gaza in January 2009 and had a few problems at a couple of them when things became rather physical. On Saturday January 3rd, things got a little hectic in the road in front of the closed private street leading to the Israeli embassy, and I had to retreat a little to avoid objects being thrown at the police preventing protesters from reaching the barriers. The whole area became a little chaotic and I found myself in the middle of something like a huge rugby scrum as protesters tried to push past police. Although the protesters weren’t hostile to the press, there was a lot of pushing and grabbing at others for support and in the melee my trousers got a little torn and I lost a filled Compact Flash card which had been in one pocket with many of my pictures from earlier in the day.

Trafalgar Square, 17 Jan 2009

On the 10th, not far from the same place I was pushed and punched by Stop the War stewards as I tried to take photographs – some of them seem to have problems with the press. Other stewards who saw the assault came up to me and apologised for what had happened. And as usual at many protests I was often pushed and threatened with arrest by police on a number of occasions and prevented from getting on with my job. At times police do need to clear areas, but some officers seem to regard photographers simply as a nuisance, despite the agreements the press have with them which recognise the need for them to allow us to work.

Andrew Murray, Jeremy Corbyn, & Tony Benn at the BBC, 24 Jan 2009

Much more about the Jan 2009 Gaza protests:

Open the Gaza Border – Egyptian Embassy
Hands Off Gaza: Free Palestine
Daily Gaza protest at Israeli Embassy
Gaza Massacre – National March
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain Gaza march
Gaza: 1000 Dead and Nothing Said
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC

9 January 2016

Saturday, January 9th, 2021

Class War at White Cube Bermondsey

This was always the most depressing point of my year. Particularly back when I was still teaching full-time, getting up on cold dark mornings to go into work, at the start of the term which, particularly for those teaching classed facing exams in May and June, seemed to be longest and hardest slog of the year. We are actually just a few days past the latest sunrise of the year, (it is a whole 2 minutes earlier today) but its only really by the middle of the month it starts to be noticeable.

NHS Bursaries Rally & March

Usually we’ve put away the Christmas decorations, turned off the Christmas tree lights and put the tree outside, waiting for the energy to plant it in the garden. We’ve eaten the Christmas cakes (we usually have an iced fruit cake, stollen and Buche de Noel to get through, finished the meat, eaten the nuts and fruit, Bombay Mix and chocolates and are back on normal fare, with perhaps a dose of austerity to make up for the previous weeks of minor gluttony.

NHS Bursaries Rally & March

But this year has been different, with no family, friends and neighbours visiting to help us get through the Christmas bonus or see in the New Year. Everything has been flatter and less interesting, and I’m feeling bored. I exercise along routes I’ve cycled or walked close to home many times before, taking out my camera and making pictures largely out of habit rather than any great interest.

Ian Bone and Rita the Raven

Back in earlier years, protests and other events were getting back into swing at this time of year after something of a hiatus over Christmas and the New Year, when most of us were busy with other things. I live just too far from central London to be able to easily take part in the New Years Eve events, and though for some years I went up the following morning to photograph the New Year Parade, in recent years this became too organised to be really interesting.

Ian Bone takes a free kick

Saturday 9th January 2016 began for me with a rally and march against the axing of training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. As a part of their training they perform valuable work in hospitals, caring for patients, and the time involved means that unlike other students they are not able to get part-time work to support themselves.

Fire-eating outside the White Cube

The removal of the bursaries seems certain to result in much greater hardship and also in fewer students training as nurses – and we already have a shortage of nurses. It was a simple cost-cutting measure that only makes any sense as a part of the Tory plans to privatise our NHS by stealth, part of which involves putting greater pressure on the system so that more aspects of it can be put out to private tender. Many in government have interests in private health companies and favour a move away from the principles behind the NHS of a service based on clinical need free to all towards a US-style high-cost insurance-based system.

I left the march before it finished to join Class War outside the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey St, one of the areas of London where gentrification is most apparent.

December 9th 2015: Class War protest Gilbert & George at White Cube Bermondsey

I’d come the previous month to photograph Ian Bone of Class War and Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing holding a short protest outside the gallery over the appropriation of protest slogans by Gilbert and George in the show taking place there, and the gentrification of the area. I wrote then:

Bermondsey, once a working class industrial area on the edge of London’s docks with many small workshops in yards off of Bermondsey St producing hats, leather goods and a more recent arrival, the print trade, has changed dramatically. Run down when I first photographed there in the 1980s (and produced an industrial archaeology walk leaflet, West Bermondsey – The leather area) it is now full of restaurants, galleries, designer clothes and other businesses catering for London’s new gentrification, with offices, design studios and expensive flats now having replaced most of the workshops.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2015/12/dec.htm#banners

In front of the gallery is their large open yard, and Class War had decided that as this is an area where many still live in council estates with notices on the green spaces ‘No Ball Games’ that this would be an ideal place to hold a game of football as a protest against gentrification. And I’d been invited to come along and take pictures.

Although they hadn’t been invited, the police had clearly heard about the protest and had come along too, along with some security staff employed additionally by the gallery. A large sculpture at one side of the yard had also been wrapped up to protect it from damage (and artistically that seemed to me a great improvement.)

Jane Nicholl performs ‘The Finest f***ing Family in the Land

There was some opposition – and a hapless young police woman tried to tell the protesters that kicking a ball around was reckless behaviour – but the protest continued. Here is my description from My London Diary:

The protesters deliberately kicked the football at police and security, encouraging them to join in the game. Some of them did kick the ball back, while others simply stood and let a protester come to collect it, sometimes holding it but returning it when requested.

But the protest outside the ‘protest’ show (entitled ‘Banners‘) was not just football, but there was some spectacular fire breathing along with a premiere performance of Ray Jones‘s latest song, ‘any chance of a sub?’ dedicated to Damien Hirst and accompanied by the dancing Lucy Parsons banner ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live’. (Jones, together with Ian Bone were formerly part of the Welsh punk band “Page 3”.) ‘Sid Skill’ had brought along a fairly lifelike black model bird (a fiver on eBay) which inspired a histronic performance from Ian Bone, about how the security men guarding the White Cube had murdered the last raven from the Tower of London, and that London was now doomed. Doomed I say, doomed.

Later, there were two spoken word performances, one by Jane Nicholl of a traditional verse, ‘The Finest f***ing Family in the Land‘, performed with great gusto and with the small crowd joining in, and the second of a rather odd poem about a raven, sent in response to a tweet about Ian’s performance at the protest by Ray Jones, which he read to us all. And the Womens Death Squad led a rousing performance of their anthem, ‘ Bunch of C***s

Altogether it was a ‘happening’ with arguably rather more artistic credibility than the rather sterile work on display inside the gallery, and one that was appreciated by some members of the public even though it lacked the Art World’s financial imprimatur.

Eventually it was time to leave – and for Class War to continue their celebrations in a local pub … On the way a number of Class War Womens Death Squad stickers somehow found their way onto street furniture, walls and estate agents windows, to remind the gentrifiers that Class War will be back.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2016/01/jan.htm#whitecube

More on My London Diary
Class War Footy at White Cube
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Support of Palestinians – not Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Fortunately I am not a member of the Labour Party, so can speak freely about Israel and Palestine without fear of being expelled from the party. I’ve never actually been a member, though in my teenage years used to occasionally attend the meetings for young socialists at the local Cooperative hall, mainly I think because they would offer cigarettes around very freely. As a fresher I joined the Labour Students and attended meetings until they were closed down by the national party for being socialist. But by then I was involved with various other groups campaigning on various political issues but outside the party system. That remains the case and I’m still a member of groups including Friends of the Earth, CND and Global Justice Now.

The only political party I’ve ever actually joined was the Green Party, though I think back then it may still have been called the Ecology Party. After a year I didn’t renew my membership, partly because it seemed to be spending most of its time on internal feuding, but also because of the strange cranks it seemed to attract. Of course it also includes some of the most honest and sensible politicians around but our crazy electoral system means few of them getting elected. But most years Caroline Lucas would get my vote as politician of the year, and a few have made it as local politicians and also MEPs. Though sadly the latter opportunity is about to end.

Back in my student years and later, virtually everyone on the left including myself admired and supported Israel. It wasn’t just the Holocaust, but also their fight to free themselves from the British mandate and their determination to build a future. I think we remained largely ignorant about the 1948 ‘Nakba’ when around half of the Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Several of my friends went to volunteer in kibbutz and we envied them and thought seriously about doing the same to help build a socialist future.

Over the years we’ve learnt more about what actually happens in Israel and Palestine, and the government of Israel has become very much more right wing. While almost none deny the right of Israel to exist (and to that extent are Zionists), we all want a fair solution in the area which recognises the civil and human rights of Palestinians. The Balfour declaration as well as favouring the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people also insisted “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” and in 2017 the British government recognised the declaration should also have called for protection of the Palestinian Arabs’ political rights.

I’ve been labelled by a few militant ultra-right anti-Palestinians as an “anti-Semitic photographer” because I have photographed protests against human rights abuses by Israeli government forces – like these I photographed on 23rd December 2017 – and against laws that make people – including notably Nelson Mandela – describe Israel as an “apartheid state”. And also for photographing protests calling for support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” None of these things are anti-Semitic, though they are opposed to policies of the current government of Israel.

I’m fairly certain however that were I a member of the Labour Party I would now be suspended and expelled for my views – along with many of the leading Jewish (and non-Jewish) Labour activists who express any support for human and civil rights for Palestinians. But fortunately you can’t be expelled if you are not a member.

The protests on this date were prompted by two events. The Palestinian Forum in Britain protested outside the US Embassy after US President Trump’s announcement that the US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem, there was a regular protest calling for a boycott of goods from Israel outside Marks and Spencers on Oxford St and a protest in Trafalgar Square condemned the kidnap, beating up and arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi by Israeli soldiers – which was also condemned at the two earlier protests.

A few militant supporters of the Israeli oppression of Palestinians came to insult and shout down the event in Trafalgar Square, with one man making clearly racist comments about one of the protesters. A police officer eventually arrived and suggested firmly they go away, but took no action over the complaints of racist abuse made against one of them. The man in a hat in my picture above was found guilty of disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress for similar behaviour at a BDS protest the following year.

More at:
Free Ahed Tamimi
Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi
Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


British Museum and BP

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Five years ago today on 20th December 2015 I went into the British Museum with “actor-vists” from ‘BP or not BP‘ to photograph their ‘A Farewell to Neil MacGregor – Director of the British Museum‘ who had enjoyed a “cosy relationship” with the museum’s sponsor, BP.

Fossil-fuel companies make their profits largely through the combustion of the hydrocarbons they produce in the engines of cars, lorries and aeroplanes and the boilers used to generate electricity and heat buildings and other processes which turn the carbon in these fuels into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the main cause of the global warming which is currently threatening the future of human life.

As well as that, the prospecting and exploitation of oil resources, now more and more taking place in environmentally fragile areas such as the Arctic, together with spillages, some inevitable but others demonstrating a remarkable lack of care are causing terrible damage to our environment. And of course most of what doesn’t get burned is made into plastics and we are now becoming aware of the huge amounts of this that ends up in the marine environment with disastrous consequences.

While continuing to fuel the global crisis, companies such as BP have invested heavily in promoting themselves as good guys, publicising the relatively small investments they have been making in renewable energies and other green areas. It’s a short-sighted policy as their long-term future – and ours – depends on a complete move away from carbon fuels, but one which keeps current investors rich at the cost of the rest of us.

Almost certainly the most cost-effective part of the ‘green-washing’ of BP’s ecologically disastrous activities has been their sponsorship of many of our major cultural institutions including the British Museum, something which the cultural activists of ‘BP or not BP’ have highlighted in a number of artistic interventions. I was pleased to be able to photograph their play depicting ‘BP executives’ giving a farewell party to departing Museum director ‘Neil MacGregor’ inside the British Museum’s Great Court.

Although BP’s contribution is only a fraction of the museum’s budget, they get an engraved message on the wall of the rotunda in the Great Court and their logo prominently on the publicity for the museum’s major exhibitions which have included Vikings, Ming, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, the Mexican Day of the Dead and Sunken Cities. As BP or Not BP point out, the last two are particularly unfortunate as BP has been given the largest corporate criminal fine in history of $18.7 billion for the underwater Deepwater Horizon oil spill which caused huge pollution of the ocean around the coast of Mexico.

My write-up on My London Diary gives a fairly full account of what happened with a lot more pictures. Many museum staff are unhappy about taking cash from BP and welcome the publicity protests like this give. The protesters assured the museum security that they would cause no damage and leave without any trouble after the relatively short performance which continued without any interruption and entertained a number of the visitors to the museum.

You can also read a fuller account, with some of my pictures and including the full text of the play on the on the BP or not BP website.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Eight events

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I find that I was wrong to suggest in an earlier post that covering seven events on Human Rights Day was a personal record, as on Saturday 17th December 2011 I managed to photograph eight protests.

It was a big day for UK Uncut, protesting about the failure of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to get major companies operating in the UK to make proper contributions to our tax revenue. If HMRC had got them to pay up, there would be no need for the massive cuts in public services that were being imposed by the government after the financial crisis. UK Uncut claim that corporate tax doging costs the UK £25 billion a year, four times the amount of the cuts.

Their protest began with UK Uncut’s Santa and two helpers calling at the Westminster offices of the head of UK tax collection with a present, a card and a sack of barbecue charcoal. Dave Hartnett, the man in charge of HMRC had recently let Vodaphone who owed £6 billion pay only around a fifth of what they owed, losing taxpayers £4.75 billion as well as giving an £8 million handout to Goldman Sachs. Mr Hartnett was about to retire with a massive pension despite a series of blunders which cost us a fortune.

As I wrote:

The UK seems to be loophole central for the rich, not just for taxes but also for the kind of fraudulent unregulated creation of imaginary money that has sustained and grown the City since the ‘big bang’ and lies at the epicentre of our current world financial crisis. Doubtless it is too much to hope that Mr Hartnett will be called to account for his relatively small part in this process, but as a taxpayer it pains me to think of him retiring and enjoying an excessive civil service pension for his misdeeds.

A rather larger group of protesters met on Oxford St to protest outside Topshop against the failure of the Arcadia group to pay UK tax on its UK earnings. Sir Philip Green, who took huge amounts of money out of the group eventually leading this year to its collapse with a vast hole in its pension fund, runs a vast empire that includes Topshop, BHS and Dorothy Perkins, but exploits a loophole in that the business is owned by his Monaco-based wife who does not have to pay income tax.

Police had come out in large numbers to protect Topshop, although the protest was expected to be (and was) entirely peaceful. They obstructed the press who were attempting to report on the event, lying to us that we would be allowed to re-enter the store to cover the protest inside, and then aggressively moved on the protesters claiming with little justification that they were causing an obstruction; as I commented, it was clearly a large block of police that were obstructing the pavement and not the protesters.

Police behaved rather better when the protest moved on to Vodaphone, making no attempt to stop the protest on the pavement outside the shop, while forming a line to prevent more than a few early arrivals to get inside the shop.

The protesters made effective use of a ‘Human Microphone’ to shout out in unison a series of short statements about the reason for the protest; they stated that when they first protested about Vodaphone they were told the £6 billion of tax dodged was “an urban myth”, but they had now been told it may have been £8 billion. The protest continued with them singing a number of Christmas carols specially adapted for the event, including:

Away in a mansion
On my four poster bed
You lie outside freezing
While I'm resting my head

The stars in the bright sky
They sparkle like jewels
The ones that I paid for
By robbing you fools

and as I left had begun dancing on the pavement.

I left for Downing St, where Syrian Kurds were calling for an end to the massacres being carried out in Syria by the Assad regime forces – and on that day alone at least 32 civilians including two children were killed.

Kurds form almost a fifth of the Syrian population, and during the continuing civil war in the country have formed an autonomous region in the north of the country which became called Rojava. At the protest they were arguing for Syria after the war to become a federation, with considerable autonomy continuing for regions such as this, though many Kurds also support the formation of a separate nation of Kurdistan, including the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. Since the end of 2011 the situation has moved on with Turkey invading and occupying some of the Kurdish areas of Syria and the support of Russia for Assad which makes his eventual victory seem inevitable and the future looks even bleaker for the Kurds.

Also protesting opposite Downing St were a group of Congolese, continuing the protests in London against the election fraud, rapes and massacres and calling on the British government to withdraw its support from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities and voted out by the people.

The continuing problems in the Congo region are the terrible consequence of the western exploitation of the area’s mineral resources such as Coltan – needed for mobile phones, the computers and other electronic devices on which our lives and the media now depend. But those media “have so far taken relatively little interest in the desperate situation of the people in the Congo. They seem to be being sacrificed while the vast natural resources of their country are being largely stolen by underhand deals which enrich a few in their and neighbouring countries while the industrialised world turns an almost totally blind eye to the violence and injustice.”

The protest outside the US Embassy celebrated the withdrawal of US troops, but also demanded that mercenaries still in Iraq should also be expelled, and the war criminals prosecuted. Iraqis also want an end to the looting and pillaging of Iraq’s natural resources and an end to government sponsored executions there. They were joined by Syrian supported of the Assad regime want the US to stop their attempts to interfere with events in Syria through UN resolutions and other means.

The BBC came in for criticism from the Iraqis as “a Patronizing Media Channel, With Racist Undertones, towards Arabs & Islam” and being “Deceptive and Inaccurate” and they asked “Why does it not report on the wide spread asset looting and corruption taking place in Iraq?”

Also outside the US Embassy was a vigil on the 24th birthday of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning whose pre-trail hearing was taking place. The protesters who included members of Veterans for Peace and Payday Men’s Network called him an American Peace Hero for leaking evidence of US war crimes.

It was beginning to get dark by the time I reached the Egyptian embassy where Egyptians had come to protest after the military attacks on protesters in Cairo, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 500.

It was a protest that was slow to start – and when I arrived on time I found only one person there. I waited, feeling increasingly frustrated as the light was disappearing rather faster than protesters were arriving. Half an hour later around 25 people had come and more were arriving and I took my pictures and left.

Egyptians Protest At Embassy
Bradley Manning Birthday Demo
Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US
Congolese Protests Continue
Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop
UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Walk for Grenfell

Monday, December 14th, 2020

Every 14th of each month, my thoughts return to the terrible tragic events of 14th June 2017. It’s now three and a half years ago, and still none of those responsible for some of the worst crimes in our history which led up to the fire has been brought to justice, and with an inquiry that has seemed to be largely concerned with diverting blame it seems less and less likely that any of the criminals will ever be prosecuted and jailed.

I wrote the piece below back in November 2017, but it was never published, so here it is now, exactly as written.


The fire at Grenfell Tower shocked us all.  There was a huge immediate media response, and I felt that there was little point in my going there and adding to this, yet another photographer.  I felt my presence would do nothing to help the people and might well aggravate their distress.

As more emerged about what had led up to the disaster I felt an increasing anger. Although the council hadn’t actually lit a match, they had clearly created a situation in which what should have been a small and insignificant fire could lead to a major catastrophe by a serious of failures and deliberate acts that each increased the risks to those living in the block, compounded by a government who had seen vital safety legislation as red tape and successive administrations that had failed to set proper standards and to properly enforce those that existed.

Then came Kensington and Chelsea Council’s almost complete failure to properly respond to the disaster, a lack of urgency and lack of competence. Part of their failure that led to the deaths was a failure to listen to the community who had pointed out some of the major problems and they still are not listening – and the official inquiry appears to be taking the same route, making many feel it will be just an empty exercise.

Over the months since the fire I realised how many people I knew were in some way involved, some as volunteers, doing the work that councils and other bodies should have done, others in other ways. I still didn’t feel I could commit myself to Grenfell in a way that was truly meaningful, but did feel able to at least do a little on the issues, including covering the monthly ‘Silent Walk for Grenfell’.

I’m wasn’t sure what I felt about the silent walk. Obviously it is important to keep the community together and to keep the memory of Grenfell, but perhaps something more is needed than a event that takes place largely out of sight in the area around the tower, emerging only briefly into the stronger light of Ladbroke Grove.  And a few months later, in February, the walk organisers perhaps agreed, moving the start point to the council offices and beginning the walk along High Street Kensington.

But perhaps it still needs to be more. Their seems to be a great emphasis on the walk not being political – though a number of political groups were taking part. But to be effective I think it has to become much more political and rather more active. Otherwise – as appears to be happening now – Grenfell will soon be largely forgotten, with few if any prosecutions of the guilty parties, little tightening of the regulations, most of the Government promises being history and the safety of other largely working-class communities around the country still at risk. I still hope for something rather more powerful on the anniversary of this terrible event.

Silent Walk for Grenfell Tower

The event was still something of the media circus I had felt it best to stay away from rather than add to, with photographers and TV and video. Most of the march was through dimly lit streets, on the limits of photographic possibility without using my LED light (or flash), with a few areas of strong an contrasty light at crossings. Things got rather easier on Ladbroke Grove and I stayed there until the end of the march passed into the gloom before taking the train home from there rather than go on to the end.

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13 December 2014

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I started work on December 13th 2014 in Brixton, where a well-dressed Santa was with other Lambeth Living Wage protesters including National Shop Stewards Network chair Rob Williams, calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They entered a number of shops on the main shopping street where workers are only paid the minimum wage, spreading their message through a megaphone and placards and handing out leaflets and union membership forms to shop workers.

They left when asked to do so by security staff and continued along the street to the next shop on ‘Santa’s Naughty List’.
‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


The Victoria line from Brixton tube took me to Green Park and I made my way to join the ‘Advance to Mayfair’ protest organised by Class War at the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners. The protest was in solidarity with the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate who Westbrook are intended to evict before Christmas.

There had been some disagreements expressed on social media before the protest and the organiser was ill and unable to publicise the event over the previous few days and the protest was rather smaller than anticipated. The police had however come out in force for what was a small and well-behaved protest in which after some speeches, Class War delivered a Christmas card to Westbrook – and someone came out from their office to accept it.

This and other protests by and in support of the residents and the publicity they generated in the media worked, and a few days later Westbrook sold their interest in the New Era estate to the Dolphin Square Foundation and the New Era tenants were saved from eviction.
Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


My final destination for the day was the flagship John Lewis Store in Oxford St, not for some Christmas shopping, but to meet with members of the IWGB and John Lewis customers who were campaigning for equality for the cleaners. Cleaners who work in the store receive less than the living wage, and are not entitled to the considerable bonus payments that other staff who work in John Lewis receive as ‘partners’ in the business. John Lewis outsources the cleaning to cleaning contractors to avoid having to give them decent wages and conditions while retaining its reputation as a decent employer.

We met up in the café on the fifth floor of the store, and after unrolling there banners there was a brief speech about the unfair treatment of the cleaners from Alberto Durango before the protesters marched around the top floor to the escalator blowing vuvuzelas. They made their way slowly around to the down escalator on each floor, pausing to hang their banners over the balcony and continuing the noisy protest.

By the time they arrived at the ground floor, police had arrived and were confusing the issue, with some trying to stop the protesters leaving the store and others trying to force them out. Most of the protesters were trying to leave and like me had to push our way past police to get onto the pavement where the protest continued. Police made one or two arrests, though I think all were released without charge as John Lewis would not welcome the publicity a court appearance would provide.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.