Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Facebook Shame

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

I’ve written recently about Facebook’s censorship of posts and many of my friends who are on Facebook (and more who I don’t know but are ‘Facebook Friends’) seem regularly to disappear for a few days or even permanently having been banned from FB. (Though most of those who have been permanently removed seem to reappear in a few days under a slightly different name.

Often their ‘offences’ seem to have been trivial or non-existent, sometimes just sharing a link to an article in the mainstream press seems to be enough to generate a ban. At times FB’s arbiters seem excessively prudish, objecting to the kind of language that is commonplace in many groups in our society, or in their obsessive fear of women’s nipples.

FB’s censorship reached a shameful new low a few months ago, when they blocked people recording ‘Likes‘ on the site of Access Ability who have a Facebook help line to empower people with disabilities. When this was queried on a phone call, the site was told the action had been taken by FB because “some people find it disturbing to see pictures of disabled people“.

Together with a colleague I went to photograph a protest by disabled friends from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) outside Facebook’s London HQ against this discriminatory treatment by Facebook of disability-related pages, and you can see my pictures of their protest. During the protest they played a recording of the phone call which the above quote came from, and there were other similarly disturbing statements.

But what you can’t see pictures of is a meeting which I think took place between the protesters and a manager from Facebook about the ban. FB were clearly so ashamed about their behaviour that they were unwilling for this to be recorded. Their security manager came out and told DPAC that a manager would only come out and talk with them if the meeting was not photographed, videoed or recorded in any way.

My colleague had already left, deciding he had enough pictures of the protest for his newspaper which had asked him to cover it. I decided not to prejudice the outcome of the event for the protesters and felt that reporting the prohibition was a more powerful admission of FB’s guilty shame than any photographs of the meeting could be and left.

More pictures at Disabled protest against Facebook


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.

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.


Police clear Marble Arch roads

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

I lost count of the number of police vehicles that I saw as I walked along the centre of the northbound carriageway of Park Lane – and not all of them are in the picture. There were more in some of the other streets in the area too, and it was clear that this was an operation on a huge scale

Marble Arch is a key junction in London, with the Bayswater road, Edgware Road, Oxford St and Park Lane all feeding in and taking out traffic from the gyratory system around the arch. The whole area had been closed off by Extinction Rebellion on the morning of 15th March and remained closed over a week later on the 24th. I imagine there was a great deal of political pressure on the Met to clear it.

On the hard standing in front of the Arch, things seemed to be going on much as usual, though there were noticeably fewer tents and fewer people than when I visited the previous week.

But there was a crowd around a ring of police who had surrounded the group blocking the entrance to the system from Oxford St and were clearly intending to arrest them. This appeared to be the last of the road blocks still in place, with a few people still locked together. Police were trying to get those outside the cordon to move away, and were beginning to threaten them and me with arrest, but I managed to take a few pictures working between police legs.

I walked around the area for a few more minutes taking pictures, then began to walk towards Belgrave Square where I hoped to photograph protesters calling on Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide. As I walked down Park Lane I passed the samba band and others coming to Marble Arch around 45 minutes after me.

A few more pictures at Extinction Rebellion at Marble Arch.


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.

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.


XR continues

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Nine days after they brought central London to a halt, Extinction Rebellion were still around, although the ‘Garden Bridge’ and Oxford Circus had been cleared and the traffic was now flowing around Parliament Square where I arrived to photograph them again.

Clearly the numbers here were considerably down on last week, with only a few hundred on their way to lobby their MPs, and a general meeting was taking place in the square as I got there.

There wasn’t really a great deal to photograph, though I tried hard. There were a few people up in the trees in the corner of the square by the Supreme Court (I still think of it as Middlesex Guildhall) but these large London Planes have impressive leaf cover, and after a while I gave up trying to get a decent picture.

Then news came through that the police were beginning to clear the roads around the main Extinction Rebellion camp at Marble Arch, and a group prepared to get ready to march behind the samba band to support the rebels there, and I decided to go with them.

It took some time to get people organised to leave, and when they did, progress was slow. I walked with them until they were halfway up The Mall and then rushed away to get to Marble Arch. Normally I might have taken a bus, but bus services were still not moving up Park Lane as it was still blocked, so I hurried there on foot. The group led by the samba band only arrived after I had been taking pictures for some time and was leaving.

More at Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square


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.

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.


Assange

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Wikileaks has released an enormous amount of information which has enabled us to see more clearly how the world really works, rather than how those in power would like us to think it works, revealing many deceptions and cover-ups. That many of those have revealed the crimes of the US military and other agencies is perhaps hardly surprising given that the US is the dominant country in the world, and certainly one that has engaged most in so many dubious military and other interventions around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Latin America.

So of course the US is out to get Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and would like to lock him away for life (or in some way bring it to a premature end) and it is only surprising that they have not yet manage to do so. Perhaps one day Wikileaks will publish evidence of their planning against him.

What is shameful has been the willingness of othe Sweden and the UK to collude with the US over this, with court cases that resulted in Assange jumping bail and taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London – and then following a change of government to one more favourable to US interests (and the leaking not by Wikileaks and possibly by a US agency of material linking the Ecuadorean president with a corruption scandal) in his arrest there by UK police, and the treatment he has received in a British prison, serving 50 weeks for skipping bail and under threat of extradition to the US.

Wikipedia reports that in February 2016 the

” UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish Governments since 7 December 2010, including his time in prison, on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy. According to the group, Assange should be allowed to walk free and be given compensation.”

The article also quotes Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  who visited Assange in May 2019 and stated  “in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma” and later criticised Sweden, Ecuador, Britain and the US for their bias and abuse of their legal systems to “make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world.” 

Here in the UK, apart from the normal right-wing bias of most of our press, there has also been a campaign against him because of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him in Sweden, which have been widely misrepresented, including by some on the left who should know better.

I’ve hardly met the man, exchanging just a few words with him before he spoke in Trafalgar Square, and I didn’t warm to him, but still admire much of the work that he and Wikileaks have done and feel he has been very badly treated by the British government and establishment manipulation of our judicial system. So I was pleased to be able to photograph this protest in Parliament Square. And yes, we should free Assange and either allow him to stay here or travel to a country of his own choosing.

Free Julian Assange


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.

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.



Community Guidelines

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Around ten days ago for the first time I got a notification from Facebook that one of my pictures had been reported as being against ‘community standards’ and had been taken off-line.

It was a picture in an album of pictures from the June 2018 ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ protest in London, I think this image.

Certainly one of the pictures from when the protesters were gathering in Trafalgar Square before marching down to a rally in Whitehall. This picture was taken from the North Terrace overlooking the square, after which I walked down and took a few more from the edge of the crowd, as well as a few closer pictures.

You can see more of my coverage of the event at Free Tommy Robinson on My London Diary. After the pictures in Trafalgar Square I photographed the protesters as they walked down Whitehall towards the stage for the rally, and was in the crowd close to Downing St when I was attacked by two men who tried to pull my camera out of my hands.

I struggled, pulling away and twisting and moving away through the dense crowd and they followed, one continuing to grab my camera and pull it away, and the other grabbing my other camera which was on a strap at my right side, and at my camera bag on my left shoulder. Fortunately the straps held and though the bag was pulled off my shoulder I had my arm through the strap and was able to drag it behind me along the ground, moving closer to the police at Downing St and the march stewards.

I think a few of the other protesters in the crowd were also telling the pair of thugs to stop, though none actually came to my help. But when they saw the police looking at them they let go of me and my cameras and rushed away. I was shaken but not injured, and the cameras were OK, and managed to take a few more pictures before I decided I really needed to move somewhere safer and recover.

I suspect that what had triggered the complaint to Facebook about the picture – I think the first of the set – was nothing in the picture, but that in the captions I had written about this attack on me. I’ve always tried to report accurately on protests, including those by right-wing groups, both in text and pictures, and this is anathema to many on the right. Some of whom are thugs on-line too.

Of course I requested a review of the removal – as the notification from Facebook had told me I could, and only 70 minutes later got a message thanking me for asking for review and informing me they had decided the image did not breach community standards and was back on line. Good to see the review system can work – but surely the system should look at complaints and see if there is any basis for them before taking action.

I mention this because I’ve just read a post by Jörg M Colberg on his Conscientious blog, Your Post Goes Against Our Community Guidelines: An Algorithmic Rewriting of History about the rather more serious censorship of his and other posts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Like me he contested the removal of a picture he posted – one from the Abu Ghraib archives – and his post was also restored. In the post he points out the problems and dangers of internet censorship:

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a government that’s censoring photographs or the algorithms of a US corporation — censorship is censorship, and these kinds of developments do not bode well for us.

and gives a number of pertinent links, including one to his own earlier post Your Post Has Been Deleted – Censorship on Instagram which is also well worth reading.

I think there should be some control over content on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, to remove clearly illegal content. Things like hate speech, terrorist propaganda, threats of violence etc. It’s perhaps difficult to see how this could be applied in content that is shown in many different legislations, but that is a problem for those who profit from these platforms to resolve, and might involve serious changes in the services and their profitablity. But because it’s difficult doesn’t absolve them from their responsibilities, though it may demand different models.


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.


Clearing the ‘Sea of Protest’

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Police I think waited until the journalists covering Emma Thompson’s visit to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) ‘Sea of Protest’ around Berta Cáceres, the pink yacht at the centre of Oxford Circus before they closed in.

I’d left with the others, but came back 25 minutes later to find the yacht surrounded by a ring of police, with just those protesters locked on to the boat inside. And sitting on the ground around them was a large crowd of XR supporters, listening to singers and occasionally chanting slogans.

Soon more police arrived and set up a cordon around the whole of Oxford Circus, allowing people to leave but not to enter. There were some heated arguments and one protester tried to urge the crowd by now outside to push their way through the police line, but XR organisers urged them to respect the non-violent principles of Extinction Rebellion and not oppose the police physically, and no-one followed his lead.

Police came and began to persuade  those still sitting down in Oxford Circus to leave, telling them they would be arrested if they stayed, and numbers began to dwindle, although there were many who stayed, having come prepared to be arrested to make XR’s point.

As well as photographing this, I was taking pictures mainly between the legs of police officers, both the ring around the outside of the protest, particularly of the dance group dressed in red that were going around the outside of the cordon, and, through the legs of the much tighter cordon around the yacht, looking through to the protesters who were locked on.

I wasn’t sure how much of the police to include in the frame with these images, and took some with a minimal presence as in the picture above, but also wider views showing the line of police. And of course it was possible to zoom in and exclude the police altogether. But I felt it important to have both police and yacht in the image to locate it.

Eventually the specialist police team turned up to begin to release the protesters from the yacht and its undercarriage – though some were very easily removed, others needed cutting out, and it was a lengthy process. As they were removed they were arrested and rushed to waiting police vans.

Once the numbers sitting on the road had reduced to a more manageable number police began making arrests of them also, taking them away. I hung around and photographed a number of them being carried away, though it was hard to get clear pictures as there were often too many people – police, other photographers and protesters – in the way.

After I’d been there for around two and a half hours watching and photographing I decided I’d taken enough pictures and left. It was several hours later before the area was cleared and the yacht was towed away, having been there for around five days.

Many more pictures at Police clear XR from Oxford Circus.


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.

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.


XR and Emma Thompson

Monday, August 12th, 2019

I don’t go out of my way to photograph celebrities. Often another photographer will point out someone to me and they are people I’ve never heard of, and certainly wouldn’t recognise. One of the delights of not owning a television is that it keeps your mind clear of such clutter, though it has occasionally meant I’ve missed taking pictures that would have sold well.

But of course I do have some idea of who Emma Thompson is and what she looks like, though I hadn’t known she would be arriving to speak at Oxford Circus before I got there on April 19th and a colleague shared this information. I’d gone to Oxford Circus simply to photograph the XR occupation of the area around the large pink yacht, the Berta Cáceres, and the other sites still blocked by the protests,

I saw her arrive before most of the other photographers and was able to take a few pictures before she was surrounded by a crowd of people with cameras, including one of her showing off her ‘There is no planet B’  bag.

Soon other photographers realised she had arrived, but there wasn’t room for them where I was between her and the boat, so there was a ring of photographers all pointing there lenses at her back while I was taking her picture with a member of the crew. I realised she was going to have to wait and then climb up the ladder onto the boat after the singer currently performing came down and moved to where I thought I would be best placed for more pictures – a few of which you can see on My London Diary.

Of course I moved into the crowd in front of the boat as she spoke, to take more pictures of her, but mainly of the people listening. After she had spoken to the crowd, she did speak to a couple of TV crews from the back of the boat and I did take a few more pictures, but I was more interested in the pep[;e who were surrounding the Berta Cáceres, some locked on, to protect the boat from being moved.

I then made the mistake of leaving Oxford Circus to look at something happening elsewhere, but after a brief look I came back to find that police had moved in and began the long process of clearing the road junction. More about that in a later post.

More pictures at Emma Thompson speaks at XR


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.

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.


Shutdown Knife Crime

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Operation Shutdown is a campaign to end the deaths from knife and gun crime on our streets, which have been rising over the last few years. Most of those in the campaign are people who have suffered the pain of losing a relative – brother, son, nephew, uncle – or friend to knife crime.

The great majority of the victims are young men, in their teens or twenties, and although many are black what they virtually all have in common is that they come from working class families mainly living in deprived areas.

Almost certainly the biggest driver behind the increase in deaths has been austerity, with the huge cuts this has forced councils to make in youth services and other vital support for families. Some of the violence on the streets is certainly gang-related, often concerned with drugs, but those killed are often people on the periphery or innocent bystanders.

It would be impossible not to empathise with the suffering of mothers, fathers and other relatives as they talk about their loss, but I don’t always feel that some of the measures they suggest would do anything to curb the growth of knife crime. I have very little faith in their idea that the government’s emergency committee COBRA considering the problem would have any real impact, and it could well worsen the situation.

Of course there are things that they call for that would help. Restoring the cuts in vital community services is an obvious need, and reversing the cuts in police numbers could help too, though perhaps only if this led to more sensitive and informed community policing.

We need also to look at ways to reduce the power and influence of gangs, which would almost certainly include an evidence-led reform of our laws about drugs, something which succesive governments have resisted.

After a rally opposive Downing St, Operation Shutdown marched to Westminster Bridge, where they presented wreaths to a police officer and hold a silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, killed outside Parliament by terrorists before going on to block the bridge and hold a further rally.

More at Knife crime Operation Shutdown


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.

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.


End rewarding Drax for pollution

Friday, August 9th, 2019

I’ve never felt bad about having a bonfire in the garden. We generate a lot of small branches from various shrubs and trees that have to be regularly cut back, and it’s material that mostly won’t compost. And although we have several large compost bins, we’ve found from experience that they don’t get hot enough to destroy a few really tough and troublesome weeds, So these often get put on the bonfire too, though we could pay for the council to collect them as garden waste.

All this carbon release is of short-term carbon, mostly this year’s carbon, and there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by our gardening.

And of course the bonfire produces carbon dioxide, but firstly it is only a fraction of the carbon dioxide which has been turned into wood and leaf in our garden, with the rest remaining locked in as our bushes and trees grow bushier and taller, or being eaten (and thus released) as fruit and vegetables. More too gets back in to the atmosphere from the green waste that does go into our compost bins.

Of course there are other pollutants from our very occasional garden bonfires, including particulates and doubtless toxic chemicals. But I am fairly sure that the amounts of these are relatively small and will add little to those already in our air here from the nearby roads, motorways and Heathrow.

But burning wood to produce electricity at Drax is a quite different matter. One obvious difference is that of scale: Last year Drax burnt 7.2 million tonnes of wood pellets, equivalent to at least twice that amount of green wood, and more than the UK’s total annual wood production, and released 13.02 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (in addition to another  4.36 million tonnes from coal and other fossil fuels.)

The wood burnt at Drax is ‘old’, having grown over many years, and even with the most sustainable forest planting to replace it will take more than 50 years. The majority of it comes as pellets from the USA, mostly produced from hardwood from the clear-cutting of biodiverse forest ecosystems, and the major producer, Enviva has been subject to heavy criticism both for its destruction of these swamp and wetland forests, and for locating its highly polluting pellet plants in areas of social deprivation already exposed to high levels of industrial pollution.

Drax’s carbon-producing wood burning is only financially viable because it gets huge subsidies. In 2018 these amounted to £789.2 million, This money comes from our energy bills which carry a surcharge, intended for promoting renewable electricity. It should not be used to promote highly polluting and essentially non-renewable wood burning. The subsidies are greater than the company’s annual profits and without them wood-burning would not be viable.

Drax also gets subsidies from the government for burning coal, though on a rather smaller scale, but also impossible to justify. For 2019/20 this is  £22 million, and similar subsidies are expected until 2025. It is also expected to be subsidised for burning gas, and wants to greatly expand its generation from gas.

These huge subsidies to Drax for its contribution to global warming come at at time when our government has slashed subsidies for truly renewable energy production from onshore wind and solar power as well as those for energy efficiency and conservation.

More about the protest outside Drax’s AGM in the City of London, and later outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution in two posts on My London Diary:
Drax wood burning must end
Drax Protest at BEIS


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.

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.


Anniversaries

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

We celebrate many anniversaries, and forget others. Some are personal and others more universal, but you can be sure that any day of the year is being commorated somewhere by someone. This post will go online on August 8th, the 74th anniversary of the dropping of the second atomic bomb, at Nagasaki, two days after the more widely remembered bomb at Hiroshima.

On 6th August this year – as on many past years – I went to a Hiroshima Day commemoration in London, and of course photographed it. It will be a few weeks before I put the pictures on My London Diary, though they went to Alamy and Facebook on the day. The first time I put pictures on-line from one of these annual events was in 2004 but that was perhaps simply because it was the first I attended with a digital camera.

The Nikon D100 was primitive by today’s standards, producing small files, only 6.1Mp on its APS-C sensor, and with a small and rather dim optical viewfinder, but the images – still on line on My London Diary – disappoint largely because of the indifferent raw processing software – and possibly my lack of skill in its use, as you can see from the rather murky examples here.

Under favorable conditions the D100 was capable of producing excellent images – and one image from it of a very different occasion was on exhibition for some years as a 2.3 metre wide print, but it was a pig to use. But I really should hunt out those old RAW files, stored on CDs which are still readable (and possibly also on old hard disks which can also still be read) and make some new conversions.

Of course the conditions in Tavistock Square are usually challenging. It almost always seems to be a sunny day, with the sun coming from the wrong direction for most photographs, and being filtered through the leaves of trees, one the Hiroshima Cherry Tree, grown from a seed from Hiroshima and planted in Tavistock Square in 1967 by the then Camden Mayor Millie Miller, whose son Bernard was one of the speakers this year. In his speech about many remarkable women involved in peace commemorations he did tell us who the other tree commemorated, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten her name.

The association of the Mayors of Camden with the event continues, and almost every commemoration has been opened with a speech from the Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) who has then gone on to lay a wreath at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree. The only exceptions have been the fortunately rare Conservative mayors of the London borough who declined to take part, presumably not wanting to be in any way associated with peace.

Hiroshima Day in Tavistock Square back in 2004 was something of a historic event in itself, compered by Jeremy Corbyn, with speakers including Tony Wedgewood Benn and with former Labour leader Michael Foot attending. Moredecai Vananu had been invited but was not allowed to leave Israel.