Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Mayfair Monopoly

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

We had come to Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair for the start of a Land Justice Network event, loosely based on the board game ‘Monopoly’, The Landlords’ Game, an illustrated tour of London’s wealthiest areas reminding us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

The unequal ownership of land, much deriving back to the Norman conquest and its aftermath is the basis of our class system and the inequalities which still persist which arise from it.

There is an excellent report of the event on the Land Justice Network web site (including one of my pictures) which also has links to the great map and guide for the walk by Nick Hayes which people at the left of the picture above are looking at, and those of you who missed the event can repeat it on your own if you wish.

Much of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, since 1677 when an area of swamp on the outskirts of the city came into the possession of the 21 year old Sir Thomas Grosvenor by his arranged marriage to the 12 year old Mary Davies (arranged marriages at an early age were not unusual then), who had inherited the land from her father. At the time it was hardly worth much, but eventually it became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia, and the backbone of the enormously wealthy Grosvenor Estates.

Although the land belongs to the Grosvenor estate, many of the buildings are owned by overseas companies, particularly those in tax havens – such as the British Virgin Island – outside whose offices we stopped for several speakers, including Christian Eriksson talked about his investigations for Private Eye tracking the massive increase in tax haven ownership of UK property by various dubious characters.

The tour included stops outside one large house empty for around 15 years, the London offices -‘Grouse House’- of Odey Asset management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose the RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds.

Then there was Foxtons, and along Park Lane to the Grosvenor Hotel, which hosts many of London’s most dubious events including awards for property developers, and into Hyde Park, the scene of many former battles over the public right of access, before walking along what was called London’s most expensive street, Grosvenor Crescent, where there is a statue of the first Marquis of Westminster (the family continued climbing, from Baronet to Baron to Earl to Marquis and finally Duke in 1874.)

I left the tour briefly to photograph another event, catching up with it again at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the second largest of the surviving aristocratic freehold estates in central London, owned by the Cadogan family, one of the richest families in the United Kingdom. The Cadogan estate began with another marriage, that of the second Baron Cadogan to Elizabeth Sloane, the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane, who had purchased the Manor of Chelsea in 1712.

More pictures at: The Landlords’ Game

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Friday the 13th

Friday, July 20th, 2018

I suppose on average the 13th of the month falls on a Friday once in seven months, and there is no real significance in this. This year, 2018, we had one in July (for Trump’s visit) but also there was one earlier in April, and slightly unusually for a Friday I photographed three events.

Inminds human rights group hold regular protests every couple of weeks, usually on a Friday against various aspects of the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians. They are at various locations, often outside companies who support the Israeli military or prison system in various ways, which provides some variety in the pictures on those occasions I go to photograph them. A constant feature is of course the Palestinian flag, rather a lot of them, including some on some very tall poles, which look good from a distance but are often difficult to photograph. Flags are often a problem too in seldom flying as the photographer would want, sometimes hanging limp, sometimes spelling out their message back to front.

As well as the flags, there is also some great Palestinian music which I never tire of hearing, extremely evocative. The speech about the reason for the protest of course differs depending on the location and the particular event, but many of the large banners they erect are the same, and it is sometimes difficult to produce different pictures.

Today it was Palestinian Prisoners Day and the protest highlighted the plight of the roughly 6,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli jails, around 350 of them children, and the protest was on the South Bank embankment in front of the Royal Festival Hall. And it was next to the downstream footbridge attached to the rail bridge into Charing Cross, which gave me a different perspective to play with.

It was also conveniently on my way across the bridge for the short walk to Downing St, where Stop the War had called a protest calling for Theresa May to stop her plans to take part in bombing Syria, together with French and US forces, following a possibly unreliable report of a chemical attack by Assad’s forces.

They were not the only groups there to protest, with a number of Syrian Assad Supporters, Veterans for Peace, and others who continued the protest after Stop The War, having had a few speeches from their members and taken a letter to Downing St (fortunately they went with an MP who was allowed in to deliver it, though they were not) in their highly controlled protest packed up and left. Things then got a little more interesting with people going on to Whitehall and blocking traffic, eventually being removed by police.

Though better to photograph, this also threatened my schedule, as I was hoping to cover a small protest at the Ministry of Health by NHS staff from hospitals across London opposed to the proposed pay deal for all NHS staff other than doctors, dentists and very senior managers.

It would have been easy if the Dept of Health was still in Whitehall, in Richmond House where it had been since this was built in 1987, just a few yards from Downing St. But unfortunately it recently moved out to new offices in Victoria St around half a mile away, rather a long way to run carrying cameras and bag. I saw the protesters outside in the distance as I trotted down the street, but then looked again when closer and they had disappeared, having occupied the foyer.

Fortunately security had not locked the door, and I was able to follow them in to take a few pictures, but was rather out of breath and perhaps not at my best. After a few minutes they went outside and posed for some group photographs.

More on all three protests:

Palestinian Prisoners Day protest
Don’t Bomb Syria protests
Ditch the Deal say NHS Staff

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Photojournalism’s sexual harassment problem

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Some of the best photographers I know are women, and there are many women in photography whose work I admire. Probably a rather higher proportion than among male photographers, because in general it is tougher for women to have successful careers in photography. And when I had a job writing about photography and photographers I tried hard to give women their due, though in the past history of photography they are greatly outnumbered by men. But there are of course many worthy of mention, and I wrote at some length about as many as I could.

When I was teaching photography, almost all my best students were female, and I realised then the importance of female role models, making sure to include the work of women photographers in my teaching and to buy books featuring them for the college library – including Naomi Rosenblums 1994 ‘A History of Women Photographers’. Of course many I would have included in any case – such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Dorothea Lange, Jo Spence – but there were other less well known names.

A few years ago my union branch produced a t-shirt based on the experience of women photographers with the message “Yes I’m a woman – Yes it’s a big lens – Any other stupid comments?” but it was the public rather than photographers this was aimed at.

I’ve never been aware of sexual harassment of women photographers by other photographers and found the examples given in the CJR Special Report: Photojournalism’s moment of reckoning deeply disturbing. While it is no surprise that such people exist (and I’ve come across them elsewhere) what is shocking is the way that their behaviour has been tolerated and even excused by some of the best-known organisations in the business. As the report says “women photojournalists say publications, institutions, agencies, and industry leaders have turned a blind eye.” It’s disgusting to see the hypocrisy of “a field that claims to shine a light on abuses or wrongdoing in the world, while protecting predators in their own industry.”

While we all knew before the #MeToo movement that such practices were prevalent in the movie industry, where the casting couch was the route to many successes, some of us were naive enough to assume that photojournalism had higher standards. Apparently not. It seems our industry has to say #UsToo.

June 2018 – At last

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018


Huddersfield Royal Infirmary campaigners at the BBC – NHS at 70 – Free, for all, forever

I have at last finished updating My London Diary for June 2018. It’s been hard work for various reasons. Thirty three stories and around 1800 pictures represents quite a lot of time, travelling to and from events as well as being there to take the pictures. And on average it probably takes me another couple of hours to process and caption the images to upload to one of my agencies. Some stories require quite a bit of extra research, as well as more general research to keep up with events.

After I’ve sent off the pictures there are other things to do. Most I make available on Facebook for my friends and the public, particularly for those who took part in any events. Usually having created a Facebook album I then post links to the pictures on the event pages or other relevant places, as well as putting them on Twitter.

For the posts on My London Diary I then go through the pictures again, picking out more pictures that fill gaps in the story, showing different aspects or different people taking part and ‘develop’ those to add to the set I’s selected to go to an agency. Typically I’ll put a little over twice as many on my web site as I file, and these often include a number of the more interesting pictures which I’ve decided for various reasons aren’t suitable for the agency.

The text that was filed with the pictures is a starting point for My London Diary, but often needs extra information. And since it is my own web site and meant to be a personal one, often it gives rather more of my opinions. Finally, although I designed the web site to be easy to update, adding the information also takes time, most of it in adding captions which as well as telling readers what the pictures are about are also vital in making them accessible through on-line searches.

June 2018

NHS at 70 – Free, for all, forever
Torture protest at US Embassy
Vauxhall & Nine Elms
Peckham & Deptford
Many Thousands March for a People’s Vote


Vote No to Disastrous Heathrow Expansion

White Pendragon letters refused
No Heathrow block Parliament Square
Stop Arming Saudi to bomb Yemen
Protesters Stand Up For The Elephant
Assange in Embassy for Six Years
Staines Walk
Justice for Grenfell Solidarity March
Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary


‘SOAS 9’ deported cleaners remembered

TGI Fridays demand Fair Tips & Fair Pay
Stop Brexit ‘Pies Not Lies’


Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day

Zionists protest against AlQuds Day
100 years of Votes for Women
End government killings in Nicaragua
Anti-fascists oppose Free Tommy protest


Free Tommy Robinson

Close all Slaughterhouses
Flypast for Queen’s Official Birthday
Colombian Carnival for Water, Life & Land
Die-in against Greenwich cycle deaths
University of London staff in-House now
Zionists defend Israel shooting protesters


Free Palestine, Stop Arming Israel

Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland Now


Sikhs remember the 1984 genocide

Anti-Knife UK protest

At the bottom of the page is a link to the pictures I occasionally take travelling around London, mainly from bus or train windows, and a few when I’m walking. I like to travel on the top deck of buses which gives a different angle from Google’s Streetview, and trains often provide a quite different view of the city.

London Images

As usual, comments are welcome here on any of these pictures and stories.

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Stop the Killing

Friday, July 13th, 2018

I spend a lot of time at events wondering what I should photograph. Of course there are people and situations that are visually attractive and it would generally not be sensible to miss these opportunities, but that isn’t enough. It can often even be quite misleading and unrepresentative of the event, though it’s often such images that get published, and what I think many photographers aim for to sell to newspapers.

Another type of image that seems often to get published are group photos, with large numbers of people holding a banner, taken frontally in the manner of team photographs – I often joke about putting someone in the middle holding the ball, though few find them funny. I suppose for small events these at least let you see how many were taking part, and local newspapers used to feel that showing more faces boosted sales, but when there is often a large group of photographers crowding to get around the centre spot I usually avoid it.

My motivation for photographing events is to tell the story. And for me that very seldom can be done in a single image but requires a series of images. Placards and banners are often very important in this, as to are gestures and expressions. At this protest, I tried to show something of the anger that people felt at the cold-blooded shooting of Palestinian protesters by Israeli snipers.

Things that are worth photographing aren’t always particularly photogenic, and it is often something of a challenge to make pictures that are visually attractive, clear and precise. I took a great many pictures, probably over a thousand, though at times there were very many of the same subject as I tried hard to ensure I had something close to what I wanted.

Photographing an event like this involves a huge number of decisions about where to be when and what to photograph – and on more technical matters such as focus, focal length and framing. I try to concentrate on these and take advantage of the automatic features of the camera to deal with as much as it can; though usually I like to chose where the focus is, I’m happy to let the camera actually auto-focus there, and to let auto-exposure get the exposure more or less correct.

This was a large protest, with several thousand packing mainly in to a fairly small space, making movement through the crowd a little difficult. There was a small press area in front of the stage, but I chose not to use it for photographing the speakers as it was too close to them looking up from below. But the crowd perhaps meant I stood in that one place rather longer than I would have liked.

I wondered briefly whether or not to photograph the counter-protest by half a dozen Zionists a few yards away, and decided to do so – and you can see a few at the link below. There were many, many more Jews in the protest ashamed of the actions of the Israeli snipers following their orders to kill and maim unarmed protesters at a distance, shooting many in the back as they ran away, using bullets designed to expand and inflict maximum damage to those they did not kill.

And as usual at such protests there were the anti-Zionist Jews with their message “Judaism Demands FREEDOM for GAZA and ALL PALESTINE & forbids any Jewish State” .

Here I’ve only posted a small and fairly random selection of the images that I took – and written very little about the actual protest. You can read more and see an unusually large number – around a hundred – of the pictures I made (edited down from perhaps a thousand) on My London Diary at Great March of Return – Stop the Killing

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

CND At 60

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Sixty years ago I wasn’t really into politics, only just a teenager, and didn’t then share the views of my two elder and wiser brothers. I think I still saw war as rather like the school playground, where you had to stick up for yourself and fight (even if not very effectively.)  Jim was 13 years older than me, Alan just 4 years my elder and I think both spent that Easter weekend marching to Aldermaston, though I can’t recognise either of them in the film clips and photos of the event.  Three years later I remember them coming home after a protest organised by the Committee of 100, when thousands sat down in Whitehall; Jim had gone limp and been lifted off the street by police, and his spectacles were broken, but on that occasion there were no arrests.

Later I did join CND, and went to a number of their protests and marches in London, though I’ve never walked the full distance to or from Aldermaston. Back in 2004 I went to the rally in Trafalgar Square on Friday, but left the marchers in Kensington, joining them again for a few hours on the Sunday as they made their way from Maidenhead towards Reading before walking back to pick up my bike and cycle home. And then on Easter Monday an early morning train took me and Linda back to Reading in time to join the final day’s march to Aldermaston.

It was a privilege to be able to walk part of the way and talk with Pat Arrowsmith, and there were many old and some new friends on the march. Because I was going to have to walk at least 12 miles (and actually rather more) I didn’t take my normal camera bag, but just a small digital camera, the Canon Digital Ixus 400. It wasn’t a bad camera, but the pictures are not quite to my usual standard and only about 3.8Mp. Seeing the difference between this and the Nikons made me upgrade a couple of years later to a Fuji FinePix F31 6Mp camera.

I’ve been to Aldermaston a few times since then, but for the protests I’ve usually put my bike on the train to Reading and cycled the 12 miles from there.  Sometimes even lazier, just from Mortimer station and once from Aldermaston station, a mistake as the Atomic Weapons Establishment (Bomb Factory) is up a rather large hill.   There is a similar climb, Hermit’s Hill on the Reading Road at Burghfield, but after struggling up that a few times I now take a slight detour along Clayhill Rd, also as its name implies a hill, but less daunting and with less traffic. Coming back to Reading Hermit’s Hill is exhilarating, though highly dangerous given the potholed state of our roads , and I was lucky to survive on this occasion. Slow-moving cars did mean I had to brake a little, a waste of energy which always disappoints me.

Not only was it the 60th anniversary of CND, but there was also something else to celebrate – the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, finalised last year and signed by 122 nations, for which ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which CND is a part was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course the UK is not one of those 122 nations, although long ago British governments argued that although they were against unilateral nuclear disarmament, they favoured multilateral nuclear disarmament and would be ready to sign a treat if other nations did. It never was a serious promise – there are too many vested interests in warfare and military expenditure.

There was a great deal of grey hair on show, and a number of people who had marched in 1958, including Walter Wolfgang who spoke at the event. Veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent recalled how he had cursed it as a young cleric in Kensington as it blocked the road for several hours and disrupted the schedule of four weddings he was conducting, though it was soon after that he was converted to the cause.

More about the event and more pictures on My London Diary at CND at 60 at Aldermaston.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Bring Anna Home

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Though the Kurdish Defence Forces have proved remarkably effective in defeating Daesh (Islamic State) they are still relatively small and poorly equipped, and Turkey has a large army and air force, equipped with modern armaments, much of it sold them by the UK arms companies. Turkey is still seen by our government as a vital part of NATO, the southern part of its defence against Russia.

In reality the situation has now rather changed, with Turkey and Russia finding some common interests and both feeling aggreived against the major Western powers. Before the invasion of Afrin, top-ranking Turkish generals went to Russia and made sure that the Russians saw the importance of capturing Afrin in helping Assad to retain control of Syria.

Turkey had also been a major financial supporter of the Islamic State, probably seeing them as an ally in their fight against the Kurds, but also profiting from the part they paid in smuggling out the oil whose revenues largely funded IS. Though it is unclear whether these profits went to the Turkish state or more directly to Erdogan and his family and friends. Through its contacts Turkey was able to mobilise large numbers of the defeated Islamists to join them in attacking the forces that had previously defeated them.

Once the US had abandoned the Kurds in Afrin, depriving them of air support or new weaponry, the eventual outcome of the fight for Afrin seemed inevitable – and eventually the Kurdish forces conceded this, making a rapid withdrawal not long after this protest. Though Turkey may find it rather harder to keep control of the area than to capture it, and its long-term future is still in doubt.

As well as Kurds, the protest was also supported by some left groups, many of whom with the Kurds see Afrin and Rojava of which it was a detached smaller part as showing a new vision for the future, a revolution for women and democratic autonomy and important in the fight against Islamist fascism. It is this that inspires men and women – like Anna Campbell – to go and fight with the YPG and the YPL in much the same way as in the 1930s many went to fight against Franco in Spain. The protest called for a cease-fire and for her body to be returned to her family in Sussex.

One marcher in particular seemed to me to embody the fighting spirit of the Kurds as she pushed her walking frame in front of her with a photograph of a child victim of war. I made a whole series of pictures of her before I had to leave the march and you can see several more of them, along with other pictures on My London Diary.

Defend Afrin – Bring Anna Home

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Land Day

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Land Day remembers the 1976 protests by Palestinians against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli state, and this year saw the start of a whole series of protests, the ‘Great March of Return‘ which was to continue until Nakba Day, the anniversary of the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages in 1948, on May 15th.

What shocked the world this year was not the protest by Palestinians, but the Israeli response, with snipers under orders to shoot the unarmed protesters, either to kill or to maim them with bullets which expand inside the body to maximise the damage. On this first day of carnage 17 Civilians were killed and over 750 seriously injured by live fire, with others injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Most of those who were shot were several hundred yards from the separation wall, and many were moving away, and shot from behind. Some had thrown stones and other missiles towards the wall or fence, but they were essentially unarmed and presented no real threat. This was the first of a whole series of protests at which such shootings took place, and among those killed here and on later occasions were journalists and medics treating casualties, who seem to have been deliberately targeted. Treating those already shot they were often static, sitting ducks.

The videos and pictures from Palestine horrified the public around the world and although some news organisations hardly showed them most of us saw them on social media. Some referred to them using terms such as “clashes”, suggesting some kin of equal contest between opposing forces, rather than describing them more accurately as what they were, a deliberate massacre.

Pressure had already been building in Israel for a law to outlaw photographing Israeli soldiers “for the sake of shaming them” after a video had shown an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had already been incapacitated. That the Israeli military rightly insisted on him being tried for manslaughter for and his conviction (with a light sentence of 18 months) enraged many on the Israeli right and AP reported on June 18th this year that a ministerial committee headed by Israel’s justice minister had approved the proposal for a bill that would make ‘anyone “who films, photographs or records soldiers while performing their duty, with the intent of undermining the morale of Israeli soldiers and residents” or anyone who disseminates such materials’ liable to five years in prison.’

I photographed two protests against the shootings on Saturday. The first had been planned before in support of the Land Day protests in Palestine by the Revolutionary Communist group which has for years protested against UK support for the Israeli state, and in particular about the support by British businesses, and is a part of the growing worldwide BDS movement calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. For many years they held regular protests outside Marks & Spencer‘s flagship store on Oxford Street, where they also began this protest, before moving on in a ‘rolling protest’ along Oxford St, holding short protests with an account of each company’s involvement with the Israeli state at Selfridges, which sells Israeli wines, Adidas which supports the Israel football team, Boots which sells cosmetics made in Israel and Carphone Warehouse, where I left them continuing east along Oxford St.

Later in the day I went to the emergency protest called after the news of the shooting of protesters. The Israeli embassy is a few yards down an exclusive private road where photography and protests are not allowed, and the ban is strictly enforced by the police, with protesters being kept on the main road outside. The Russian Embassy for similar reasons is based at the other end of the same street.

This larger protest (and it was still growing as I had to leave) was attended by a wider range of people, including a number of Palestinians and Jews and most of those from the earlier protest. Most were those already involved in the campaign for human rights and freedom for Palestine, but there were others who had simply been horrified by the reports and felt they had to do something.

I also felt I had to do something more than simply take photographs, and later sent off a further donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians, a charity which provides medical services for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and in the camps in Lebanon – and who are in desperate need of funds to treat those maimed by the Israeli snipers. Thanks to an emergency appeal they have recently been able to deliver limb reconstruction equipment to Gaza. Please consider giving if you are not already a donor. And Gift Aid means it is one of the few ways that our government will help Palestinians.

Land Day protest against Israeli state

Against Israeli Land Day massacre

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Yarl’s Wood 13

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

This was I think my 12th visit to Yarl’s Wood, but the 13th major protest there organised by the small left-wing political group Movement For Justice.

The protests they have organised here and elsewhere have done much to bring our terrible racist immigration detention system to public attention, and have given many detainees the courage to fight against the system, knowing they are not forgotten and that others outside know what is happening and support them.  MfJ bring a powerful public address system to their protests, and those who speak are mainly former detainees – and they also give people inside a voice over mobile phone link-ups.

So though the story told by a former active member of how she had been treated appalled me (though I realised I was only hearing it from one side) my overwhelming thought was that it was important that, whatever else, the campaign to close down these shameful prisons should go on.  The story didn’t actually surprise me – and some of what were presented as revelations were common knowledge, though some of the more personal aspects seem disgraceful. But much of it was exactly what might be expected of small left wing groups.

I’m not a member and would not consider joining such a group, or larger groups such as the SWP (which have also had their share of not dissimilar controversies.) I’ve always thought of myself as part of a much broader left movement, willing to support various campaigns I sympathise with, while still maintaining a professional distance and adhering to documentary and journalistic standards of integrity.

Perhaps some good has come out of the controversy, in that other groups have now also taken up the organising of protests against Yarl’s Wood, which before had been largely left to the MfJ. So far they seem to be on a much smaller scale but hopefully a larger movement will eventually grow. At the March protest they worked separately but alongside the MfJ, but since there has been at least one separate event. MfJ’s next protest there is on July 21st.

The most important of the other organisations is I think ‘Detained Voices‘ which publishes the messages of the women inside the prison. After the March 24 protest one of them began her comment with “We want to thank all the protesters who were here today, and I hope we made our presence felt even though we are oppressed.”

I tried hard to take pictures of the women inside Yarl’s Wood (and there are a few men too in the family units. Only a small proportion of them are able to reach the windows visible from the field where the protests take place, though others in the prison will hear the protests.  Outside we can hear them shouting through the narrow gaps the windows open and see them waving and holding up signs.

Photographing the women at the windows presents several problems. Obviously you need a long lens, and something a little longer than I have would help. Most of these were taken with a Nikon 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.0-5.6, but working in DX mode which effectively makes it a 105-450mm, and most are at the 300mm end. Even then the windows only occupy about a third of the width of the frame, and some images are fairly severely cropped.  Obviously you need a fast shutter speed to avoid shake, and typically these were taken at 1/500s or faster. The aperture also matters, although there is little depth in the subject, but stopping down a stop from maximum aperture to f8 certainly helps to tighten the lens performance. To get those kind of exposure values I needed to work at around ISO 1000, not a problem with the NIkon D750, where this is hard to tell from base ISO.

A faster lens would help here, as you have to take almost all pictures through a mesh fence, and a wider aperture would put this more out of focus and so less noticeable. But a significantly faster 300mm would be large, heavy and expensive. The fence is also a rather better target for autofocus than the windows, and almost all these pictures were taken using manual focus.

The protesters pose another problem. They have come to shout and wave banners and placards at the women inside the prison, and in doing so often make it difficult to get a clear view of the women at the windows. It’s also difficult to get good images that show both the protesters on the rise and the women at the windows because you see the protesters from the back when trying to do so.

And of course I also want to photograph the protesters as well as the prisoners. You can see some of the results on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood.  And a couple of days earlier I had photographed a protest in solidarity with their hunger strike by people outside the Home Office: Support for Yarls Wood strikers.

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Against Racism

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Writing today with the temperature around 30 degrees in the shade, my shirt sticking to my body and wondering if it is worth leaving the keyboard for a while and get another glass of ice-cold water it’s had to remember just how cold it was back in March. The several thousand who turned up to march on UN Anti Racism Day ignored apocalyptic weather forecasts, an amber weather warning, a temperature around zero with the occasional snowflake and a chilling east wind. And we froze.

Portland Place, outside Broadcasting House has become a popular starting point for many protests. Partly to point out what seems to many campaigners to be a peculiar reluctance on the part of the BBC to report protests in the UK, particularly those that might embarrass the government. And a protest against racism should embarrass the current government, with its ‘hostile environment’ towards refugees and other migrants and clearly discriminatory policies in other areas, Though to be fair it doesn’t only discriminate on grounds of race, but is has an equal opportunities discrimination policy that also extends to class, disability, women, etc.

Britain has changed enormously in my lifetime, and the arrival of many workers from the Commonwealth in particular has greatly enriched us, both by doing many of the vital low paid jobs we all depend on  but also because of the cultural enrichment provided by their differing traditions. Many when they came in the past were citizens with the right to settle here, but increasingly racist immigration acts have changed that, reaching the state where the Home Office under Theresa May has been caught carrying out illegal deportations and destroying records that give some the right to remain.

The Windrush generation – and there children – are only the tip of an ugly iceberg, with many thousands being affected. But government racism has also extended to more traditional groups who have lived in this country far longer, travellers and Roma. Much of their harassment comes from local government, often failing to meet the limited responsibilities they have to provide sites, and employing licensed thugs to turn travellers off land – including at times land the travellers actually own.

Some areas of discrimination have changed for the better. Catholics and non-conformists are now seldom subject to discrimination on the grounds of their religion at least in mainland UK. And Jews too now escape official disbarment, though some Tories and extreme right neo-Nazi inspired groups still keep up the anti-semitic hate, though many have now transferred they evil bile towards Muslims. And while caste discrimination is illegal in India (although it flourishes under the current right-wing Hindu regime), here in the UK wealthy Tory-supporting Hindus have so far blocked attempts to make it illegal here.

Many wars around the world remain racial wars, including that between Turkey and the Kurds, with Turkey doing its best at least throughout the last century to eliminate the Kurdish people and culture. On the protest Kurds were calling for an end to the attacks by Turkey and Islamic militants fighting on their behalf to take control of Afrin, with the aim of removing the majority Kurdish population.

Militarily the Turkish army is far superior, thanks largely to its NATO friends including the UK who have helped make it the strongest force in the area, and with the aid of its former ISIS and Al Qaeda allies victory in the area seemed inevitable, though it may only be the start of a prolonged guerilla struggle.

As the Kurds arrived opposite Downing St, a misguided police office removed the cones and tape across the middle of Whitehall that had guided the marchers away from Downing St, and it was taken as a signal for them to make a rush towards its gates. These were of course well-protected, with barriers and police offices – and behind them several armed police, but the situation certainly became chaotic.

Eventually police and march stewards brought them under some sort of control, with some moving on to the stage on which a rally had already begun, but others simply standing around in the middle of Whitehall. It was still biting cold, and the majority of marchers quickly drifted away to make their journeys home. I held out for the first four or five speakers, but then joined them. It was far too cold to stand around.

March Against Racism

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