Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Housing & Mental Health

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Sometimes luck smiles on you a little, though often only if you are awake and keeping your wits about you.  I’d seen the adverts on the side of a bus for the London Property Show and was ready when it drove slowly behind the protesters, but it was a fleeting opportunity and there were no second chances. But while for the rich ‘Your Dream Home Awaits You’, for most Londoners, housing is a nightmare, and for too many becomes, as the poster below says, ‘A Mental Health Issue.’

London property prices are now simply beyond the reach of most Londoners, partly because property here has become an investment opportunity for the wealthy around the world, particularly in the Far East.  Developers advertise properties in Singapore and elsewhere, suggesting that prices will increase at rates much higher than bank interest rates or most investment bonds, and their predictions have proved correct over the years.

Market rents for even relatively small flats in less popular areas of the city are now too expensive for most,  and while they used to be advertised with their monthly rates (pcm), increasingly in the agent’s windows the figures are weekly, with little below £400 a week. A worker doing 40 hours a week on the legal minimum wage that the government now refers to as the living wage of £7.20 per hour (starvation wage would be a more accurate term) would make £288 per week before deductions, and even those fortunate enough to get the real London Living Wage of £9.75 per hour would find it entirely swallowed up.

There is still some lower cost social housing, though the current government policies seem aimed at getting rid of it, either by bringing up rent levels to the market rent, or at least to 80% of that,  which is ridiculously called an “affordable” rent – still usually well above the weekly earnings on that so-called ‘living wage’. There is of course housing benefit – though generally that is capped well below market rents in London, and its main effect has been to push up rents and put money into the pockets of the landlords.

London urgently needs more social housing – and that should really be council housing, which Margaret Thatcher put a stop to councils providing – while forcing them to sell off existing stock at knock-down prices to the sitting tenants. Just one of many policies that have earned her the eternal hate of a large section of the community. Relatively few came out to dance when she died, but many, many more celebrated in the privacy of their homes, pubs and clubs. And as they say to those who want to set up some monument to her, she already has one in the thousands of food banks around the country.

The protest by Focus E15 housing campaigners and mental health activists was in Stratford, the centre of the London Borough of Newham, which has one of the largest housing problems in the country, one of the longest waiting lists for council housing, the great majority of whom will never get it, and is currently in the middle of a huge building site, with tall blocks of apartments going up. But few if any of these huge schemes will offer accommodation at prices locals can afford – over a third earn below the London Living Wage.

Newham puts many into temporary accommodation, often of a very poor standard, dangerous and infested with vermin, provided by companies that fail to repair or maintain them properly and a long way from friends and jobs. They try to force those with urgent housing needs that they have a statutory obligation to rehouse to move to towns and cities in distant parts of the country, breaking the links they have to family, services and schooling. And scandalously they have been trying to empty and sell off one of their best loved council estates close to the centre of Stratford, the Carpenters Estate, where people have been moved out of hundreds of good quality homes, some now vacant for well over ten years.

A 1 bed flat to be completed here in Spring 2017 was recently on offer at a bargain £420,000 – the market price was £470,000

Newham is a one-party state, with 60 Labour councilors and an elected Labour Mayor, Sir Robin Wales (who campaigners refer to as ‘Robin the Poor‘, though financially he has done pretty well out of the job he has held since 2002. Recently Private Eye revealed the ballot rigging in Newham that made him the only Labour candidate for the 2018 elections. Party members voted 424 members to 351 in favour of other members being allowed to stand, but then affiliated groups were allowed to vote and their votes overturned the local party decision.

Its long past time that Labour Party members in Newham began to take a good look at how their borough is being run, and to get back to asserting the values that the party traditionally stood for. But the chances of any real change in policy seem low at the moment. It’s boroughs like this that are far more in need of investigation than the neighbouring Tower Hamlets, where the Mayor Lutfur Rahman was deposed. Had he, like Robin Wales have been Scottish rather than Bangladeshi he would still be Mayour – and still doing a rather better job for his residents.


Capita accused of racism

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

I’d got a message from the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union that they were going to stage a protest in the city against an employer who they said has sacked two African workers because they were African, and was given a time and place where they were meeting.

They hadn’t advertised the protest in advance, hoping to keep it secret, and I knew that they hoped to be able to rush into the entrance hall of some offices and protest inside, leaving after a short time to continue the protest outside.

The group of around a dozen cleaners gathered close to an underground station and when everyone had arrived walked together, stopping just a few yards before the offices to get out posters and other materials for the protest. I still didn’t know exactly where the offices were we were headed to, and was slightly taken by suprise when some of them rushed down a few steps and into a door, but managed to take a picture before following them inside.

The sacked cleaners had cleaned offices for Capita, who had offices on one or two floors of the building, but were employed by the contractor Mitie; there were three African workers at the site and Mitie had sacked two of them, and reduced the hours of the third. They were among the group of workers in the CAIWU who had put in a demand to be paid the London Living Wage.

Some of the cleaners, including those who worked in the building, stayed to protest on the pavement outside, but the group who went inside protested noisily, while people who worked inside came in and out for lunch. Betwwen bouts of noise, union organiser Alberto used a microphone and a sound system in a trolley to explain the reason for the protest, demanding the re-instatement of the sacked workers and the London Living Wage.

Several security men approached him, and one made an attempt to snatch the microphone away, but he shrugges them off and continued to speak. Eventually after a few minutes of protest, two of them managed to push him out through the door and the other protesters followed.

At a later date one of the security men came and asked me not to publish his photograph, as he was worried about the safety of his family in another country, and I have pixelated his face in these images. It isn’t something I normally do, but there were special circumstances in his case.

The protesters then made their way around to the rear entrance to the block which was now being used by more of the workers to go to lunch and continued to protest noisily and hand out fliers explaining the protest. After a few minutes they were joined by a police officer, who talked briefly with them and then stayed to wtach and ensure the protesters kept on the pavement but did not block it.

The officer came in useful a few minutes later, by which time the protesters had moved back to the front of the building. A man in a suit walking by suddenly got angry and tried to grab Alberto’s microphone, told me I should not be taking pictures and then grabbed one of the protesters by the shoulder.

If there is one way to make sure I take your picture, it is to tell me I can’t when I know have a perfect right and an interest in doing so, and of course I took his picture, and the police officer came over, asked the protesters what had happened and then took the man to one side and told him to leave the area – and warned him about his actions.

At the end of the lunchhour the protesters packed up and I went home. More pictures at Cleaners protest at Capita.



Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

CETA is the CETA Canada EU secret trade deal which has been negotiated for some years behind our backs, a companion to the slightly better-known TTIP deal between the US and the EU. While TTIP appears to have been stopped, thanks to several million signatures on a European petition (and now a President who thinks that any deals he hasn’t made are an attack on the USA), CETA looks increasingly likely to be finalised.

London Green MEP Jean Lambert

For once, Trump is at least in part right. TTIP and CETA are not made in the US’s interests, but neigther are they made to advantage the EU. THe interests they primarily serve are not those of any state but of the huge corporations, although the US’s position is more aligned with these compared to the EU.

These and similar treaties are aimed at marginalising state interests in favour of corporate intesters, and ending the ability of states to act in a way that disadvantages corporate profit. Democracy goes out of the window when treaties provide a mechanism for corporates to challenge government policies on the grounds that these may limit their right ot profit.

Free trade isn’t necessarily a good thing, and rather more important as the basis for gree trade is that trade should be fair, and in particular fair to those who actually produce the goods or services that are to be traded. Unfortunately this isn’t what trade agreements are about.

We started the day outside the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills in Victora St, a few hundred yards from Parliament, where protesters had erected a mock reading room. In the other EU countries MPs can read the secret agreements at the US Embassy, though they are not allowed to take in phones, cameras or iPads or to make any exact copies of the texts. But in the UK there is no such reading room, the government having agreed to set one up but it has failed to do so. Our government – and the others involved – want to keep these deals secret, and to approve them without subjecting them to any public scrutiny.

If we were allowed to see the details it is almost certain these deals would be rejected. SO the idea is to push them thorugh in secret, only revealing the details when they are signed and approved and it is too late – and one of the details is that it will then be imposible to withdraw. If they are completed while we are still in Europe, one of the details is that we will still be bound by them when we leave.

There were a few minor moments of friction when security at the BIS objected to the parotesters fixing anything to their building and refused to let them enter the building to deliver a letter to the minister – though a civil servant did come out, talk civilly with the protesters and accept it. But is was perhaps a little dissappointingly low key and rather small, though one of our MEPs, London Green MEP Jean Lambert, who I think had been able to view the agreed documents in Brussels (but not to copy them) did come along to speak.

After the protest at the BIS came a banner drop, one of my least favourite froms of protest. While it can be of interest when made from a particularly interesting or apt location, usually these are simply rather boring and offering few chances of an interesting picture.

This one was from Westminster Bridge and the idea was to photogaph it with the Houses of Parliament in the background to highlit the fact that ours is the only EU Parliament that will not be allowed to vote on either CETA or TTIP, as our government can apparently make treaties without needing the approval of Parliament.

I’ve written before about Banner Drops, and in particular about the problems of doing them on Westminster Bridge. This again demonstrated the problems – and showed that a merely big banner isn’t enough, you would need one that was truly huge for it to work well.

Since the day was mainly aimed at CETA, which is much closer to being approved, largly because very few people have heard of it, the logical place to end the day of protest was outside the Canadian High Commission at the west edge of Trafalgar Square.

Sewcurity there didn’t share that view and tried to get the protesters to move away, and made them remove any of the banners and posters from the walls or railings. But the pavement outside is the public highwy, and the protesters knew that their rights meant they could protest there, and they did so. Among those speaking was Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, and MEP Jean Lambert came to speak again.

The day was to continue with an evening meeting (where these two were among the speakers as well) but by now I’d had enough. And though meetings are vital in campaigns, they seldom have much to offer for photography.

BIS protest against CETA & TTIP
Banner Drop against CETA & TTIP
Canada House vigil condemns CETA


An Afternon in London

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The protest outside Holloway Prison overran its scheduled time, and was still continuing when I rushed off to catch a bus down to Oxford St, where ‘Victory to the Intifada!’, a campaigning group of the Revolutionary Communist Group and friends were mounting a ‘rolling picket’ along Oxford St to mark Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the roughly 80% of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949.

This was a peaceful protest, with music provided by a mobile sound system, banners and posters making its way along the pavement to protest for a few minutes outside various businesses with short speeches about the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and against current Israeli government supported attacks on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which attempt to brand any opposition to the actions of the Israeli government, its miilitary forces and companies that support Israel as anti-semitic.

Police tried hard to keep the small group of Zionists who waved Israeli flags from getting in the way or attacking the protesters, and their presence certainly made the protest considerably move visible.

The Zionists made no real attempt to present facts or information, but simply shouted that the facts and figures from well-verified international reports by UN and other agencies and by well-respected human rights organisations were lies and shouted insults at the protesters, who largely ignored them, refusing to sink to their level.

I left the protest outside Topshop (where I would return later in the day) and went to Trafalgar Square where I knew a group was holding a protest calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. It was rather smaller than I had hoped, but I took a few pictures, and also found a protest by Vegans taking place, wearing white masks and holding laptops and tablets showing the film ‘Earthlings’ about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc.

While I was taking pictures a farmer who was visiting London came up and tried to talk with them, saying how he cared for and looked after the animals he farmed, who made use of land that would otherwise not be productive, but there was no meeting of minds.

Finally it was time for the major event of my day, at Topshop in Oxford St, following the sacking of two cleaners from the United Voices of the World union after they protested for better pay and conditions. A long line of police stood in front of several of the entrances to the store, and there was a little pushing and shoving from both protesters, many of whom wore masks showing Topshop owner Philip Green, and police at the largely peaceful protest.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The protest received widespread support from various supporters of trade union rights, including the two in the picture above, Class War and many more. And after a noisy protest outside the Oxford Circus Topshop, Class War and others led the protesters onto the street to block the road at Oxford Circus.

More police poured in and started to threaten the protesters with arrest unless they moved, though by the time they arrived Class War were already moving on, leading the way to protest outside John Lewis, where cleaners have been protesting for years to be treated with dignity and respect by the management. They play an important role in the running of the store but say they are ‘treated like the dirt they clean’.

Here there was more pushing and shoving as police stopped the protesters from entering the store, and some angry arguments between UVW General Secreatary Petros Elia and the police about their handling of the protest.

The protesters moved off and marched down Oxford St to continue their protest outside the Marble Arch branch of Topshop.

Here the staff had locked the doors and shut the shop early as the protesters arrived. The protest continued noisily outside for a while, but seemed to be coming to an end. I was getting tired and hungry, having had a busy day and decided to leave for home.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


Tish Murtha

Monday, February 6th, 2017

I’m not a fan of the Metro, the free newspaper that litters our trains in the mornings. It’s useful if you have to wait for a train, to put underneath your bottom to sit on those cold metal benches, but otherwise I never bother to pick up a copy myself, and when occasionally I pick up a copy someone else has left on the train, a quick flick through confirms my belief that it isn’t worth reading. Which is what you expect given it comes from the same stable as the Daily Mail, a sorry excuse of a right wing newspaper.

But for once the Metro web site has published something worth reading – and my thanks to friends on Facebook for point out Ellen Scott‘s article Powerful photo series captures unemployed youths of Thatcher’s Britain, about the work of Trish Murtha (1956 – 2013), a photographer who lived the life she photographed in Newcastle’s west end.

Murtha first used a camera to frighten away men who would proposition her on the streets where she lived, taking it out and threatening to take their pictures – even if there was often no film in the camera, but soon got hooked on photography and aged 20 went to study at Newport’s School of Documentary Photography in 1976, returning to photograph in the community where she lived. Later she spent some time in London.

The Guardian published a piece written by her younger brother Glenn Murtha, in their That’s me in the picture‘ series in 2015, and you can find out more about her on Wikipedia, which also links to a number of sites with her work on them. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm just a day before what would have been her 57th birthday in 2013.

Her daughter Ella Murtha wants to make sure that her mother and her pictures are not forgotten, and manages an official Facebook page dedicated to her. She is planning to create a Kickstarter page shortly to fund the publication of a book of this series of pictures and her essay, Youth Unemployment. I’ll add details here when they become available.

My opinion about the Metro was confirmed by the two stories listed under the heading ‘MORE’ at the bottom of the piece which includes eighteen of Tish Murtha’s pictures.

MORE: Photo series celebrates hard-working cats on the job
MORE: Photographer captures the weird and wonderful things people have flushed down the toilet


Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I wasn’t sure about going to take pictures at Reclaim Holloway; I had several other things to cover later in the day and this was expected to be a relatively small event. Holloway is up in the north of London, and although its not a hugely long journey it would make my day a rather long one.

But in the end I decided it would be worth the effort, and part of the reason was that it was in the Islington North constituency of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and knowing that he is a good constituency MP there was a decent chance he might turn up.

I’ve photographed Corbyn many times over the years, supporting protests on a wide range of issued – often in the past few years along with John McDonnell, now his shadow chancellor. But since he won his remarkable victory  to become party leader by a substantial majority, he has become a hate figure for the British media and often is at the centre of an intense media scrum at events, and seldom has time for many of the smaller protests he used to come to.

It was also an event that interested me, as housing has long been a special interest – since I was a student activist back in the 1960s. The protesters want Holloway Prison, which is closing down, to be kept in the public domain and used for social housing and community services, rather than to be sold to developers for yet more expensive housing that few Londoners can afford.

And Corbyn did turn up, and there were only a couple of photographers present, though many people taking pictures of him with their phones, but it was all pretty civilised. He spoke briefly, giving his support to the campaign, posed behind the banner (after I had asked him, more for the campaign organisers than myself – it wasn’t my sort fof picture) and then cycled off to do what he needed to do as party leader, while the rest of us marched off to HM Prison for another rally.

Reclaim Holloway


Walking Backwards

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

One of the skills that every photographer who covers protests has to master is walking backwards, or rather more importantly, taking photographs while walking backwards.

Back when I learnt photography – and when I taught it – there was a considerable emphasis on avoiding camera shake when taking pictures.

We learnt and taught to stand  still, feet a foot or eighteen inches apart to make a solid platform (of course if you could lean against a post or wall, kneel or lie prone it was even better.) The camera should be held firmly in both hands, the left cradled under the lens, the right holding the body firmly with the first finger resting gently on the shutter release. Elbows should press in against the side of your chest, and it was vital to hold your breath and squeeze rather than jab at the button.

Of course, even this was only second-best, and ideally photographs should be made with the camera on a truly solid and weighty tripod. Of course in part this was a hangover from the days of large cameras and slow emulsions. Back in the 1890s when people started to make pictures without a tripod, exposures were often well under the 1/30th which makes hand-holding relatively easy with standard lenses.

I still sometimes see photographers trying to work this way – and some even at protests, but I’ve come to hate tripods (except for those few very special projects for which they are essential) and many, if not the majority of my pictures are taken while I’m walking, and often when I’m walking backwards, though sometimes I walk in the same direction as the people I”m photographing and twist around to work at an angle over my shoulder. It works for me better over the left than the right shoulder.

Walking backwards when taking pictures does need a little practice, but if you match your speed precisely and keep in step with those you are photographing you can get surprisingly sharp results at shutter speeds slow enough to give an attractive blurring to the background.

Though more normally I play safe by using ISOs that were unthinkable in the past. With both the D810 and D750 I’m now using there seems to be very little advantage in working below around ISO800, and results at much higher ISOs are still usable. In general I set the D750 with the wide-angle lens to ISO640, and the D810 with the 28-200mm at ISO800 and ISO auto allowing it to rise to ISO6400.

Nearly all the wide-angle pictures are sharp, and those with the longer lens usually suffer from focus problems rather than those caused by camera or subject movement.

One slightly limiting human design specification is the lack of eyes in the back of the head, and when walking backwards it is essential to take the occaisonal glimpse behing to check for curbs, lamposts and other obstacles. Falling over backwards is something of an occupational hazard, and could be dangerous, though the worst I’ve suffered has been the odd bruise.

But the march I covered on the 8th May was a break from all this, as the marchers were marching backwards from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall, though in easy stages with several  stops for speeches on the way.   And they really weren’t very good at it, proceeding very slowly and cautiously.

This march in reverse gear was to highlight the governments back-tracking over clean energy, with insulation grants being dropped and clean energy programmes being crippled while they back technololgies such as fracking and burning biomass which contribute to climate change as well as proposing massively polluting and unnecessary road and runway projects.

The event had started with some speeches including one from a woman whose house had been flooded. It brought back memories for me of watching the water come up to my own house a year or so earlier – though fortunately in our case it had stopped an inch or so short.

One of the others who spoke was Kye Gbangbola, whose son Zane had died in those same floods in February 2014 and had been left part paralysed. Despite a lengthy inquest since then it still seems not entirely proven that this was the effect of carbon monoxide rather than deadly hydrogen cyanide released by flooding from landfill.

Later there were speeches from others as the march halted first at the Old War Office, where speakers included Dame Vivienne Westwood, and opposite Downing St, where Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid talked about the lack of any real need or public good of airport expansion and the catastrophic effect it would have on climate change, as well as the increased deaths through air pollution, and called for the huge subsidies that aviation enjoys to be removed.

Finally outside the Dept of Health there were speechs and street theatre, which again looked at the huge subsidies the governemnt gives to the oil industry while at the same time it is cutting green initiatives. The protest had been intended to end in Parliament Square, but time had run out, probably because non-photographers are so slow at walking backwards.

More pictures at Going Backwards on Climate Change

Yet more May Day!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

And then I changed my mind” was the sentence I left off my previous piece on May Day 2016 (and have now added). It was May Day, and though I was tired and hungry I knew that things were going to get interesting.

The party, F**k Parade 4, sound system at eleven and coloured smoke flaring, set off down Leman St, led by the Class War banner with a man wearing a pigs head and with me hurrying backwards in front.

After going under the railway bridge they turned left into Cable St and massed outside the Jack the Ripper premises, perhaps London’s sleaziest tourist attraction, where I’d previously photographed Class War and feminist groups at several protests and vigils. A line of police guarding its front looked quite worried as Class War brought their banner to stand in front of them, but soon the air was too full of red smoke to see much, and I was finding breathing unpleasant.

You need to be a little distance away from the smoke both to breathe well and to get good images. When you are actually in it things get difficult to see and the camera metering becomes unreliable. Fortunately the marchers soon moved off, and it became clear they were heading for Tower Bridge.

And I wasn’t disappointed as having blocked the bridge there were then more flares and also fire-breathing.

It’s technically pretty impossible to get good pictures when a huge cloud of fire explodes into the air, the extreme brightness of the flame compared with the ambient light is beyond the capabilities of film or sensor. And it certainly is more than the automatic exposure can do to get the best balance. Parts of the flame are white, burnt out where the light intensity has overexposed the sensor, with no detail that can be recovered in post-processing.

I think I should have taken the pictures here using manual exposure, but I actually made them using ‘P’ setting, as things were just happening too fast to think much about the technical stuff.  The camera – D700 – has underexposed by around a stop so far as the general scene is concerned, plus the 0.3 stops under I normally have set. Working around dusk at ISO 3200 this gave an exposure of 1/500th f11, enough to more or less stop action and give plenty of depth of field. Ideally I think I should have underexposed perhaps another stop or two, perhaps using the same aperture and speed but working at a lower ISO. This would have given me a little more highlight detail and made post-processing easier – considerable work was needed on these pictures.

I don’t think the metering really reacted much to the fire, as the exposure remained pretty much the same across a series of frames with different amounts of flame. In the second image you can see (at least on a larger image) the rain of drops of unburnt paraffin which was falling on me.

After the marchers left the bridge I followed them on to Tooley St before deciding the time had come when I could no longer ignore the messages of my body, and I left to go home. I was sorry to do so, as I guessed from previous conversations that they would be heading towards the long tunnel that takes Bermondsey St under the railway lines from London Bridge, where both the sound and the visual effect would be great.

F**k Parade 4: Ripper & Tower Bridge


More May Day

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

May Day partying outside the ‘Rich Door’ at One Commercial St – F**k Parade 4

I left while the talking was still going on in Trafalgar Square and the audience was getting thinner and thinner to make my way to the East End. The first event there was a May Day Rally & Gonosangeet organised by the Bangladeshi Workers Council together with Red London, trade unionists, labour movement, political and community activists. I had to leave early while the speeches were still taking place, but I understand there was to be music later.

They did have a rather nice banner, and among the speeches was an interesting historical one by East End activist and historian David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, and I think there was to be music later.

But a rather more active event was due to start, with F**k Parade 4, the fourth in a series of anti-capitalist street parties organised by anarchists in East London returning to its origin at One Commercial St, the venue for over 30 protests by Class War against social apartheid in housing, and where last year’s May Day event was the first of this series of roving music and dancing protests.

I met up with a few of them sitting outside a nearby pub, wiaing for the cycle-hauled sound system to arrive, and then walked down with them to ‘Poor Doors’, where the party was already starting to become lively.

Everyone was in party mood, and even the large number of police who were standing around seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Soon the party-goers decided to move off, and with a few smoke flares and lost of red flags the went south.

But I’d been on my feet and taking pictures for too long, and decided it was time to go home. There were plenty of other photographers on hand to take pictures. But then I changed my mind….


May Day

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

Media present in force this year as Jeremy Corbyn was speaking at Clerkenwell Green

One of quite a few things that I’ve long held against the Labour Party (despite voting for them in many elections) is their failure when in power to make May Day a public holiday. Instead we have an ‘Early May bank holiday’, which in 2017 will happen to be on May 1st. In 2016 it was on a Sunday, so at least most workers could celebrate it, though the great majority probably followed their usual Sunday routines, more likely to involve collapsing on a sofa with the Sunday papers than going on a political march.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady speaking

The May Day tradition as International Workers’ Day, according to Wikipedia dates from a Second International resolution of 1891 and was strengthened in 1904 by a resolution calling for energetic demonstrations for the eight hour day, class demands and universal peace, with workers stopping work wherever it was possible without injury to them. Unfortunately when I was still in full-time paid employment, work continued except on those days when May Day fell at a weekend. According to the organisers of the London march, it has been celebrated in London since the 1880s.

Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Community Assocation

May Day in London, though supported by the trade unions, has been largely kept alive by organisations of immigrant workers, particularly from London’s Turkish and Kurdish communities along more recently with the more sporadic activities of various anti-capitalist groups.

If I could be bothered I would try to correct the Wikipedia article which states “May Day activities (from 1978) are on the first Monday of the month.” In general nothing much happens then – and the May Day events in London that it mentions took place on 1 May 2000 – which happened to be a Monday so was also a bank holiday, and I was there when the windows were smashed at McDonald’s, leaving as I saw the riot police rushing in. Now I would stay to take more pictures, but then for various reasons I was less willing to take risks and left as I saw the glass being broken and riot police rushing in.

The march from Clerkenwell Green, organised by the London May Day Organising Committee, is officially supported by a wide range of organisations – listed in 2010 as :

GLATUC, S&ERTUC, UNITE London & Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London & South East Region, ASLEF, RMT, MU London, FBU London & Southern Regions, GMB London & Southern Regions, UNISON Greater London Region, Globalise Resistance, Pensioners organisations and organisations representing Turkish, Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, West Indian, Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish and Nigerian migrant workers & communities, plus many other trade union & community organisations.

More people climb on to the plinth with their banners. They think the steward is unhinged and unfraternal and tell him so in several languages

The arrival of the march in Trafalgar Square led to a fight between stewards, photographers and the more militant marchers to try and keep the plinth around Nelson’s column clear. I wasn’t happy about being told I couldn’t photograph from there and by the total lack of fraternal solidarity shown by the stewards to their fellow trade unionists trying to do their job.

The march is followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square, which those various trade union organisations seem determined to keep as dull as possible. Most of the community groups soon drift away, and are followed by most trade unionists who are feeling thirsty after the march.

Fortunately the start of the event was enlivened a little by members of various communities taking little notice of the stewards, and in particular by the arrival of Ahwazi protesters who set off a number of smoke flares, as had some of the Turkish protesters when they entered the square.

Many more pictures and some text at:

May Day at Clerkenwell Green
May Day March
May Day Rally
Ahwazi Protest at May Day Rally