Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Landlords, Turkey in Syria, Grenfell

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In 2018 I began the day on 14th April with a tour of some of the plushiest areas of London on a tour led by the Land Justice Network. Land ownership in Britain, both in urban and rural areas is among the most unequal across the world.

As I noted on My London Diary:

Unequal ownership of land is the basis of the class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

The Landlords’ Game

Much of the London Borough of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, and our tour stopped for informational speeches at various points in Mayfair and Park Lane, part of the Grosvenor Estate, now “an internationally diversified property group” founded in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor, whose family owned large areas in Cheshire, married the heiress of the manor of Ebury, which included much of what is now Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. Wikipedia has a long list of the other properties around the world the group now own, and the 7th Duke of Westminster and is family fortunes is estimated at £10.1 billion – now 30, he was until his recent birthday the world’s richest person under 30.

The tour ended in another of the huge London estates, the Cadogan estate owned by the Cadogan family, which Wikipedia states covers 93 acres of Kensington & Chelsea and came from the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane who had bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712 marrying the second Baron Cadogan. The family is said to be worth £6.7 billion.

I left the tour as it was coming to an end to walk back to Belgrave Square, named after one of the Cheshire villages owned by the Grosvenor family, where Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain were protesting outside the Turkish Embassy against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad. Their criticisms of Turkey go back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they see the Palestinian struggle for freedom as a part of the fight for an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East.

But it was the 14th of the month and I was on my way to the monthly protests calling for justice over the fire which killed over 70 people at Grenfell tower. These protests have been silent marches, but the first event on this day at Kensington Town Hall was far from silent as bikers from the Ace Café including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Café on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then to Kensington Town Hall roared past the waiting marchers.

Coming up to four years later, we have still to see any justice over Grenfell, where the failures of the Kensington & Chelsea Council to have any real regard for the safety of residents, and by those who recommended unsafe materials and carried out the improper installation, those who gave false safety certificates, the politicians who decided essential safety measures were ‘red tape’ that should be cut, the Mayor who cut the fire service and others have not yet led to any prosecutions.

So far the prolonged enquiry has simply tried to shift blame onto the fire service, with unfair criticism of their incredible efforts to save victims and seems more and more to be a way to ensure that most of those who should bear responsibility escape scot-free. I’m not convinced that these silent walks are the best way to bring pressure to get some action – but at least on this day the bikers made some noise.

I went with the marchers for a short distance as they silently made their way back towards Grenfell, and then left. It had been a long day and I had much work to do to at home, filing my pictures of the events.

Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


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

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


UK Uncut Party against Freud

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Protesters meet at Kings Cross Station

Not Sigmund, but his great-grandson, a millionaire merchant banker responsible for government welfare reforms. The ideas behind many of the changes in the benefits systems which are having such disastrous effects on the lives of many and particularly those with disabilities, impoverishing many, driving some to suicide and driving the enormous growth in the need for food banks come largely from the work of one man, David Freud, now Lord Freud. A modern-day Scrooge promoting Victorian ideas, the man who launched a thousand foodbanks. Rather more, over 2000 by 2021.

They came with a notice of eviction for Lord Freud

Freud went into journalism after his PPE degree at Oxford, working for 8 years at the Financial Times before becoming a merchant banker. It was Tony Blair who, impressed by his work raising finance for Eurotunnel and EuroDisney brought him into politics in 2006, asking him to produced a report on the UK’s welfare-to-work system. His 2007 report called for the involvement of private companies paid by results to get people, particularly single parents and those suffering from long-term illness and disabilities back into work and for a single benefit to replace the various benefits for working age people, combining Housing Benefit, Job Seekers allowance etc.

UK Uncut had brought a removal van and cardboard boxes, but…

His ideas were taken up enthusiastically by New Labour and incorporated into a White Paper in 2008, by which time Freud was an adviser to Gordon Brown’s government, but in 2009 he became a member of the Conservative Party, who made him a Lord and a shadow minister under David Cameron, becoming in the 2010 Coalition government Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Police prevented the protesters reaching the house

There he began a programme against people on incapacity benefits, lone parents and the self-employed whose earnings were low, who he said were enjoying a lifestyle of living off benefits. After the 2015 election he was promoted to Minister of State at the DWP and given the job of expanding the Universal Credit scheme, retiring at the end of 2016.

Listening to songs and speeches on the road outside the house

On Saturday 13th April 2013 I went with UK Uncut supporters who travelled from Kings Cross to hold a lively but peaceful protest in the road outside Lord Freud’s home in Darmouth Park, Highgate against the bedroom tax, another of his ideas to disadvantage the poor. At the same time protesters from DPAC (Disabled Persons Against Cuts) visited the home of Ian Duncan Smith and delivered an eviction notice there.

At the party there was street theatre, games, a quiz and speeches about the bedroom tax and other measures against those on low incomes and benefits that Freud was bringing in. The bedroom tax hits particular groups such as foster carers, disabled people and single parents many of whom will be unable to meet the extra rent and will face eviction, including many now in homes with special adaptions for their disabilities. In social housing there simply are not the smaller properties available that the act is designed to force people to move into.

People are also hard hit – particularly in London where rents are high – by the strict limit of the benefits cap. Other measures, including cuts in legal aid and council tax benefits and the end to disability living allowances will also cause real distress, and those benefits that remain are getting a real terms cut by below-inflation increases. Among those speaking at the event were Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and journalist Owen Jones.

Who wants to evict a Millionaire?


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

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


Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid!

Monday, April 12th, 2021

On a day when some of our Covid restrictions are being eased and when more people are apparently thinking about overseas holidays, it’s perhaps appropriate to think about the impact of flying on the future of our planet and the need to curb the exponential growth of air travel, particularly by the increasing number of ‘frequent flyers’. Personally I signed the Flight Free UK pledge not to fly in 2020 – and events later made that easy to keep – and I’ve signed up again for 2021.

Back in April 12th 2015 I spent a pleasant day in Harmondsworth, where a day of action was taking place against the revived plans for a third long runway for Heathrow Airport. A few years earlier I’d covered the local celebrations in neighbouring Sipson after building the third runway had been ruled out because of its environmental impact.

Of course nothing has changed to lessen that environmental impact, but years of continued lobbying on a grand scale, including setting up a fake PR organisation with spurious surveys – and a short-sighted and biased commission to expand aviation in the UK led the government to put the runway back on the table again, despite the growing awareness of the need to urgently tackle the environmental crisis which the planet is currently rushing headlong into.

Harmondsworth is one of the Middlesex villages surrounding what in pre-war days had been the village of Heath Row, full of orchards and market gardens, that I cycled around in my youth in the 1950s, when the airport was smaller and less obtrusive with many less flights and those mainly be smaller and quieter aircraft. Back then it was possible to enjoy the peace and quiet and largely rural nature of the area, even in those places such as Longford and Colnbrook directly under the flightpath. Although the Comet began to change things so far as noise was concerned it was only really around 1960 with the widespread use of the Boeing 707 that peace was definitively shattered.

Harmondsworth is still very much a village, a small place on the edge of the River Colne, with no through traffic in its centre which has a small village green, two pubs, a fine church and the Grade I listed Great Barn, the largest medieval barn in England to have survived largely and remarkably intact – and was recently saved from dereliction by a local campaign which led to its purchase and restoration by English Heritage in 2011.

It was good to be able to visit the barn again – volunteers now keep it open on selected days – and to be able to wander through what John Betjeman described as “The Cathedral of Middlesex”. Later the Datchet Border Morris performed in the barn, and also outside the pub and in the recreation ground where a tree was planted. The Morris dancers I think give a greater sense of its scale.

Local politicians including John McDonnell who has been the area’s MP since 1997, but also all but one of the candidates (except one) standing for the seat in the then forthcoming election came along to speak at the rally on the airport’s proposed new boundary, just a few yards south of the village green – and including most of the housing in the village.

The one missing candidate also supported the rally and opposed airport expansion but there had been a mix-up over dates which made him miss the event. As Labour, the UKIP, Green and Conservative candidates all spoke to oppose any airport expansion, as did several local residents, and campaigner John Stewart of HACAN, and the five polar bears who had recently protested inside one of the Heathrow terminals came along with their banner ‘Any New Runway Is Plane Stupid‘.

Heathrow Villages fight for survival


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

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


Tottenham, Hackney and The Times

Sunday, April 11th, 2021

I took the Underground to Seven Sisters, pausing while I waited for a bus to take a few pictures of the shops that would be lost with the redevelopment of the ‘Latin Village’ along with that thriving indoor market. For once I had a clear view from the bus and I took a few pictures as it made its way north to Tottenham job centre. I arrived earlier than expected and walked on the short distance to Tottenham’s new ground, officially opened the previous week, before walking back to photograph the protest I had come for.

The stadium did seem quite impressive from the outside, though like many others I was less impressed to hear that the football club are keen to pay TfL to change the name of the railway station in White Hart Lane to ‘Tottenham Hotspur’. I’m pleased to see that it still has its old name now, 149 years after it opened with it. Spurs wanted the change because it would increase the chances of finding a sponsor for the new stadium, but there was considerable opposition. And while there is precedent – Gillespie Road on the Picadilly line was renamed Arsenal in 1932 – since that team has now moved from their old ground it perhaps wasn’t a good idea.

The protest outside the Tottenham Jobcentre Plus was organised by the North London Revolutionary Communist Group and others and was one of many that have been taking place regularly outside job centres calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped. UC was badly thought out but even more poorly implemented, both thanks to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016. Designed both to rationalise and cut benefits, it incorporates a delay typically of five weeks between the old benefits ceasing and UC being paid, leaving many with nothing to live on. Some minor improvements have been made, including the availability of loans, but those on benefits are not really in any position to repay loans. Together with a harsh benefits sanction regime which had meant some claimants have lost benefits for long periods for relatively trivial reasons – such as being a few minutes late for an appointment – or having an accident on the way to one, this has resulted in a huge growth in reliance on food banks and even some deaths due to starvation and being unable to heat homes. Many have been forced into huge rent arrears – and in 2018 one in 38 of new claimants became homeless because of evictions.

The campaigners were still handing out leaflets and talking to clients going into the job centre and leaving when I caught the bus to make my way down to Bethnal Green. The weather, with sun, blue sky and some clouds was perfect for continuing my project making panoramic images of the Regent’s Canal in preparation for a show to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its opening in 1820.

As well as pictures showing the canal I took a few more on my way to Bethnal Green, as well as walking around the area, then along the canal west to Broadway Market.

It was then time to get on a bus again, to make my way to the offices of News Corp at London Bridge, where Transmission, a group supporting the rights of trans people, were protesting outside the offices of The Times newspaper against their publication of transphobic articles.

They say the paper has published an unfair article by Lucy Bannerman against the Tavistock Centre and medical services for trans children and has earlier targeted the trans charity Mermaids and ostracised trans athletes for competing in sports.

More on My London Diary:
Times end transphobic articles
Regent’s Canal
Scrap Universal Credit Jobcentre protest
Tottenham and Spurs

Latin Village, Zuma, Boat Dwellers & Syria

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

A human chain surrounds the block containing the Latin Village at Seven Sisters

Four Years ago today on Saturday 8th April 2017 I was travelling around London photographing a very varied set of protests, ending the day at Seven Sisters where London’s most vibrant community market has been under threat since 2006.

The Latin Village or Seven Sisters Indoor Market a few yards from the Underground station exit on the High Rd is a vibrant place in an Edwardian building, Wards Furnishing Stores, a department store which closed in 1972. The ground and mezzanine floors of part of the site house around 60 independent businesses, mainly run by people of Latin American origin but with others from the Caribbean and Middle East and when open it is a vibrant area to walk around, full of music. Covid has of course meant its closure, and the building owners Transport for London in 2010 closed the mezzanine area as unsafe and banned the on-site cooking of food which had been such an important aspect of the market.

Haringey Council and developers Grainger PLC want to clear the site and replace it with a “mixed use development” which would include expensive flats and chain stores – and although it may include a small market it will lose the character of the Latin Village and almost certainly be at rents which would make any of the current businesses uneconomic. Protests against the plans are still continuing.

My work had begun outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, where a large group of South Africans were protesting in defence of South Africa’s democracy and calling for the removal of President Zuma.

Jacob Zuma had been president since 2009, and had a long history of legal challenges both before and during his presidency, particularly for racketeering and corruption, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Zuma Wikipedia states his time in office is estimated to have cost the South African economy around 83 million USD. Facing a vote of no confidence he finally resigned in February 2018, succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa, who has also been criticised for various financial irregularities and his call for action against striking miners which resulted in the Marikana Massacre in 2012 in which 34 miners were killed by South African police.

In 2012 the Canal & River Trust (CRT), a charity, took over the running of our canals and rivers from British Waterways and since then have begun a series of evictions of boat dwellers who do not have permanent moorings. The say that it is unlawful for the CRT to impose limitations on their right to live on boats unless they meet arbitrary limitations based on a minimum distance or movement or pattern of travel.

Permanent moorings are expensive – perhaps £6,000 a year along with a licence cost of £1,000, so families who live on boats because they cannot afford houses are being priced out, with moorings going to the wealthy who often only use their boats for a few weeks each year, gentrifying the canal and destroying communities who live on boats. Boat dwellers came to Embankment Garden to picnic and hold a rally against the CRT. As well as opposing evictions they also called for proper maintenance of locks, bridges and waterway banks, more mooring rings, more water taps and more sanitary facilities.

Syrians gathered a Marble Arch for a march to Downing St calling on the UK government to support Syrians against the use of chemical weapons by President Assad’s forces in Syria.

They say that the attack four days earlier at Khan Sheikhoon near Idlib, like that on Ghouta three years previously, used Sarin nerve agent, this time killing over 100 and injuring over 400. Unfortunately our government, along with that of the US, has firmly set itself against any real action in Syria, despite encouraging the uprising against Assad, and is leaving it to Russia (and later Turkey) to ensure that the revolution fails.

More pictures from all these events on My London Diary:
Human Chain at Latin Village
Against Chemical Warfare in Syria
Boat dwellers fight evictions
Zuma Must Go


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

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


Deaths, Bedroom Tax & Feathers

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

After a day resting and recovering from our 3 day walk along the Thames Path in 2013 I was ready to go up to London again on Saturday 6th April.

Sikhs had come to London at Vaisahki for a protest against the “ongoing and, disturbing atrocities that are being committed in the Republic of India, that, infringe the basic human rights of the minority communities, which includes but is not limited to the Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Dalits (India’s untouchables).

In particular the Kesri Lehar (I Pledge Orange) campaign was protesting against the death penalty in India, with over 470 prisoners in Indian prisons on death row, though actual executions are rare. The House of Commons shortly before this protest had debated and agreed a backbench motion welcoming the Kesri Lehar petition and calling on India to abolish the death penalty.

One of those on death was Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced for his part in a suicide bomb attack which killed a former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh and 17 others in 1995. Sikhs say that Beant Singh was responsible for the extra-judicial killing of over 25,000 Sikh civilians in a brutal attempt to eliminate Sikhs calling for an independent state.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007 and was due to be hanged in 2012, but execution was stayed after some Sikh organisation appealed for clemency. But in 2013 there were renewed demands for his execution. This did not happen and in 2019 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Campaigners also called for the release of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who has been on death row in India for 18 years, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb in Delhi in 1993. They say there is no evidence to connect him with the attack. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in March 2014.

A rather smaller protest at Downing St had been organised by the Counihan-Sanchez Family Housing Campaign from Kilburn against the unfair Bedroom tax and benefit caps which are effecting so many people and called for the GLA to build more social housing. The family’s own problems with Brent Council have made them very aware of the huge problems faced by many others across London and elsewhere and how cuts and sanctions have had a cruel impact on so many.

Also at Downing St, members and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) were calling for the UK government to support an enquiry into Iraqi attacks on Camp Liberty in Baghdad where its members are held. They had been given refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein and gave up their arms when the US invaded Iraq in return for US protection. But the US hand over control of their camps to Iraq in 2009 and there have been a series of attacks on them by Iraqi security forces sympathetic to Iran, with over over 50 being killed, more than a thousand injured and many arrests.

Later in 2013 the United States organised a move of the roughly 3,000 members of the group to a new base in Albania, providing a $20 million donation to the UN refugee agency to resettle them. The USA has continued to support them as a government-in-exile for Iran and they are also apparently supported by them in covert operations continuing in Iran against the current Islamic regime. There are groups of the PMOI and supporting organisations in a number of European Countries and the UK as well as in the United States, though they are generally thought now to have little support in Iran.

It was good to leave what had been rather intense protests and go on to something in a much lighter mood in Trafalgar Square. I think the first International Pillow Fight Day was in March 2008, when I photographed it in Leicester Square. In 2013 the event, organised by the urban playground movement, was taking place in 90 cities across 30 countries.

The aim of the event is to get people away from “passive, non-social, branded consumption experiences like watching television” and to consciously reject “the blight on our cities caused by the endless creep of advertising into public space.” The organisers hope this will result in “a global community of participants, not consumers.

The authorities frown on it, possibly as a subversive activity but perhaps because it makes something of a mess, as pillows inevitably break and feathers fly, leaving the ground covered with them after the event. Or perhaps they are just killjoys. Royal Parks police had prevented a fight in Hyde Park earlier in the day but the Heritage Wardens were overwhelmed by the numbers who had come to Trafalgar Square and were unable to stop. A small group of Westminster Council workers were standing on one edge ready to clean up afterwards.

The feathers and dust do make these events something of a health hazard, and it would have made sense to wear a face mask – but back in 2013 these were only seen on Japanese tourists. Probably a once a year exposure to dust and feathers isn’t a huge risk, but this year they did rather get down my throat and I withdrew once the air was thick with them, deciding I’d taken enough pictures.

Feathers Fly in Trafalgar Square
PMOI Protest Iraqi killings
No to Bedroom Tax & Benefit Caps
Vaisakhi “Save a Live” Vigil

April 2nd 2015

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

April 2nd in 2015 was Maundy Thursday and a rather busy day for me, though only one of the events was related to Holy Week.

My working day started around noon outside the US Embassy, still then in Grosvenor Square, where the monthly protests by the London Guantánamo Campaign were continuing, handing out leaflets and talking with passers by calling for justice and freedom for the remaining 122 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

From there is was a short walk to a lunchtime protest by residents from Sweets Way in north London outside the offices of the estates owners who I described as “the tax-dodging equity investor owned company” Annington Homes, calling for an end to evictions and the right to return for all decanted residents.

I’d heard that the previous night activists from the Autonymous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians had entered Admiralty Arch through the roof and were occupying the building and went along to investigate, along with a couple of other journalists. We were offered entry if we brought tobacco or alcohol but felt it wise to refuse and left, having taken a few pictures of the banners and notices on the outside of the building.

I hadn’t wanted to spend too much time at the Admiralty Arch as I was on my way to a protest outside the offices of G4S on Victoria St calling for the release of the 300 Palestinian children then held in G4S secured Israeli jails to be released. In 2014 Israel held 1266 Palestinian children for interrogation; 75% of them were physically tortured and many sexually abused. One of the speakers was a woman who was forced to undress and stand naked in public by Israeli security on a visit to Israel to visit Palestinians in jail.

I left the protest to catch up with Catholic Workers on a Holy Week procession around the “geography of suffering” in London, stopping outside the offices of companies in the arms trade for prayers against the arms trade, war, torture, nuclear weapons, international debt, homelessness, immigration policy and climate change.

Next came a visit to the Meridien and Park Lane Hotels on Piccadilly in Mayfair where the Unite Hotel Workers Branch protested in solidarity with fellow workers for Sheraton hotels in Ethiopia and the Maldives who have been sacked for union organising.

And finally I made the trip to Aldgate East, where Class War were holding the 26th of their series of weekly protests against ‘Poor Doors’, the separate entrance down a side alley for social housing tenants at One Commercial St.

It had been getting increasingly difficult to keep up photographing these protests without taking the same pictures again and again, but this evening the police made my job easier first by putting on a little light entertainment as an officer tackled a smoke flare thrown onto the highway and later, considerably more seriously sending in a squad to snatch and arrest Lisa McKenzie, who was at the time standing as Class War candidate against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford – see the picture at the top of this post. Fortunately when the case came to court the police had no credible case against her and her barrister was not even required to speak in her defence – or call witnesses (much to my relief as I was one of them) – and the case was dismissed. Clearly the police had been leaned on – perhaps by IDS or his colleague the Home Secretary- to harass Lisa for her impertinent electoral challenge.

More on all of these events:

Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors
Shame on Sheraton – Hotel Workers
Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage
Free the Palestinian Children
Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L.
Sweets Way at Annington Homes
Shut Guantánamo!


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

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


April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments

Land Day Protests

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

On 30th April 1976, Palestinian residents in the town of Sakhnin held a march against the confiscation of Arab land close to the town as a part of the Israel’s policy of building Jewish settlements. It was one of a number of protests that day against the taking of land for settlements, including those in 5 other villages in Galilee.

Israeli police attacked the protesters in Sakhnin and shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel, injuring hundreds of others. Since then March 30th has been known as Land Day and commemorated as showing the collective steadfast Palestinian resistance to colonisation by Israel.

2002

Palestinians in London hold protests on Land Day calling for freedom, justice and equality for all Palestinians, usually on Land Day itself or close to it. Often these protests have also been linked with other events taking place in Palestine and sometimes those elsewhere. Back in 2002, Palestinians took part in the CND and Stop the War demonstration against the invasion of Iraq and a US military ‘Star Wars’ programme

A protester calls for the release of the many political prisoners held in Israel’s jails

Land Day in 2018 came at the start of a six week period of regular peaceful protests demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes and villages, ‘The Great March of Return’, and the world was horrified as videos showed Israel Defence Force snipers in position on the wall firing on unarmed protesters several hundred yards using live ammunition – and Israeli citizens who had came to watch the slaughter. On Land Day itself 17 Civilians were killed in the massacre and over 750 seriously injured by live fire, with others injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.

As well as some protests on Land Day itself, this prompted a larger emergency protest close to the Israeli embassy condemning the cold-blooded shooting by the Israeli army of peaceful protesters near the separation wall in Gaza on the following day.

A larger protest took place on the first anniversary of the 2018 massacre and the continuing shootings during the six weeks of the Great Return March, in which Israeli soldiers killed over 250 unarmed protesters and severely injured thousands.

This man was shouting repeatedly ‘There are no Palestinians in Gaza!’

As often at protests calling for justice in Palestine a small group of Zionists came to shout insults and mock the Palestinians and their demands for freedom.

They were always outnumbered by Jewish campaigners who came in support of the Palestinian cause, and the protests are often joined by a small but very photogenic group of ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who reject Zionism and walk down from Stamford Hill to show their support for the Palestinian cause.

On My London Diary for 2018 and 2019:
Against Israeli Land Day massacre 2018
Land Day protest against Israeli state 2018
Freedom, justice & equality for Palestinians 2019


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Hunger, Housing and Injustice

Monday, March 29th, 2021

My work on Saturday 29th March 2019 began in north London at Bruce Castle Park in Tottenham, where the indefatigable Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty had organised a march demanding living incomes and decent truly affordable homes, calling for an end to the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, hunger and cold homes.

The Reverend Paul Nicolson who died peacefully on Thursday 5th March 2020 aged 87 had long campaigned on these issues, and had commissioned the work on poverty that helped groups such as London Citizens and Unison to persuade the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone to introduce the London Living Wage.

His Christian principles led Nicolson to found the Zacchaeus Trust, an anti-poverty charity providing frontline services on Social Security benefits, housing and homelessness as well as the campaigning organisation TAP, and he supported and spoke at many protests calling for justice for disabled and others on low wages and often inadequate benefits.

I left the march as it passed Tottenham Police Station on its way to a rally at Tottenham Green to make my way to Kilburn, where the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community were holding a protest in Kilburn Square over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

Children played a large part in the protest and were having fun, but also making a serious point, with placards “Going to school hungry is not fair!” As I pointed out in my rather long article on the protest:

Children going to school hungry is a direct result of government policy and its inhumane (they call it ‘tough’ to make it sound positive) sanctions policy. What we need is not this kind of vindictive approach but more jobs and an end to poverty wages. And it would be far more productive to attack the huge sums involved in tax evasion and tightening up the rules on tax avoidance than the relatively small amounts of benefit fraud or the largely mythical workshy.

The journey from Kilburn to Parliament Square was fortunately a simple one on the tube and I arrived as students and staff from Oasis Academy Hadley came from Enfield to protest against the planned deportation of one of their students, 19-year-old Yashika Bageerathi. She had come to the UK with her family in 2011 to escape a dangerous situation in Mauritius and was in the final year of her A level course, in which she was expected to get high grades.

The Home Office decided that since she was 19 she could be deported without her family, and had already detained her in Yarl’s Wood ten days earlier. Two deportation attempts failed when both British Airways and Air Mauritius refused to fly her to Mauritius, possibly because of the huge public campaign to allow her to stay and complete her exams.

It was impossible to see why Home Office minister Theresa May was so keen on this deportation – other than wanting to seem to have a tough policy on immigration, and as I wrote, morally their position seemed indefensible. But deport her they finally did.

Despite spells in Yarl’s Wood which disrupted here education and the deportation which took place six weeks before her A Level exams, she was able to take the exams and passed with straight A grades. She then issued a statement thanking everyone – both in the UK and on her return in Mauritius for their support, and clearly stating “I have no desire for a life in the public eye any longer” and that she wished to begin a new chapter in her life.

More at:
Fellow Students Fight for Yashika
Kilburn Uniform Day
Mothers march for justice