Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Dec 4th 2010 in London

Saturday, December 4th, 2021

UK Uncut protest Topshop Tax Dodge

UK Uncut protested outside and briefly inside Topshop and other Oxford Street stores in Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, one of the major companies who together are alleged to dodge £12 billion per year in UK tax.

Eleven years on we still haven’t seen effective action by our government against the huge amount of tax evaded and avoided by the wealthy in the UK. Hardly surprising since many of those in government and their friends and supporters benefit greatly from these practices.

It was the threat by the EU to clamp down on some of these legal fiddles that was a major factor behind the huge funding and lies of the Brexit campaign, something that we are now paying the price for while the billionaires are doing very nicely thank you – and some profiteering hugely from the government’s Covid contracts for their mates.

It was the threats that a centre left government under Jeremy Corbyn might have made some slight changes that, along with his support for Palestinian rights, led to a hugely vitriolic campaign against him by the press and inside the Labour Party.

UK Uncut labelled Sir Philip Green, the boss of the Arcadia Group, which included include Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge Wallis and British Home Stores, as “Britain’s most notorious tax-avoider. While Green himself paid tax on his salary, the companies are owned by a holding company in the tax haven of Jersey, which is owned by his wife and immediate family who live in Monaco, and pay no tax. Arcadia are certainly not the only huge scale tax avoiders – and later the protesters also briefly visited Oxford St branches of two others, Boots and Vodafone.

They also point out that when Green awarded himself a huge dividend payout – £1.2 billion – in 2005, it went through various offshore accounts and tax dodges to his wife’s Monaco bank account. The loss in tax to the UK was £285 million.

We should have a tax system based on a simple principle. If people or companies make the money in the UK then you should pay tax on it in the UK, and any of the dodges now still used to avoid this should be illegal. At the moment the large accountancy firms are mainly used to aid the avoidance of tax, and they need to be completely re-purposed to with the role of ensuring the correct tax is paid.

Of course it won’t happen. It would destroy a huge part of the business of the City of London, currently the world capital of financial skullduggery and with a curiously intimate connection to our parliament. All we have seen over the 11 years since this protest are a few sweetheart deals with the tax office with some rather token repayments and things are unlikely to change.

More at March for Zero Carbon UK 2030.


March for Zero Carbon Britain 2030

Happening the same day was a march to Parliament by the Campaign Against Climate Change calling for urgent action over climate change including a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030. The march and rally was the seventh annual climate march organised by the CACC, which has spearheaded the campaign to get effective action to meet the climate challenge since its formation, aiming to put climate change at the top of our political agenda as the greatest threat that humanity faces.

While our government still seems shackled to business as usual and only making rather half-heated committments to tackling climate change with the necessary urgency, most of the rest of us are now convinced of the need for real action. From being regarded by many as cranks, CACC are now a small part of a huge mainstream.

Back in 2010 they were joined on the march largely by other relatively small campaigning groups, including Friends of the Eath, Greenpeace, the World Development Movement, the Climate Rush, the Green Party and many local groups, trade union branches etc. But as with most protests in Britain it was largely ignored by the media, dominated by a press owned by a handful of billionaires.

Things outside government were beginning to move back in 2010, particularly with the publication of an in-depth report compiled for the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), ‘Zero Carbon Britain 2030: A new energy strategy earlier in the year, but since then we have seen another largely wasted eleven years.

More at March for Zero Carbon UK 2030.


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Ten Years Ago – 3 Dec 2021

Friday, December 3rd, 2021

City Xmas Celebrations

I thought I’d see how the City of London was celebrating Christmas and took a few pictures of a real life Music Box in front of the Royal Exchange before going inside and being told I couldn’t take photographs. And although I’d been told there were free drinks I think they were only available for the kind of people who looked as if they would spend vast amounts on the luxury items being sold inside. I went out and walked towards St Paul’s Cathedral, pausing briefly to photograph a band and Santa who had come with a couple of reindeer who seemed rather small to me for his lengthy journey.

City Xmas Celebrations


Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops

On the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral was a plain coffin with the message ‘25,700 EXCESS WINTER DEATHS’, a rather lower figure than that I photographed at last week’s Fuel Poverty Action protest – last winter the number was 63,000. Of course this can’t all be put down to 10 years of Tory austerity, and Covid will have played a part, though of course flu deaths were down.

Workshops are not generally the most exciting things to photograph, and I only took a few pictures. I left Occupy LSX shortly after they began a ‘Climate Walk of Shame’ around the offices of various climate change villians (‘unsavoury sites of climate criminality’) which began rather later than advertised to make my way to the Climate March (where they were also heading.)

Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops


Stand Up For Climate Justice

Ten years ago we had a chance to begin to disastrous climate change, but world leaders failed to lead. The protest was organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change and around a thousand people marched through London calling for Climate Justice, highlighting the fact the 7% of the world’s population cause 50% of the worlds emissions as the Durban climate talks take place. This was COP17 but by the time of COP26 in Glasgow little had changed.

Here’s a few paragraphs from the post I wrote then on My London Dairy:

The 17th UN climate change conference taking place in Durban is widely expected to lead to a breakdown in efforts to combat global climate change, as the US continues to block serious attempts to combat climate change. The continued refusal of the US to accept mandatory limits on carbon emissions seems likely to prevent any progress on global reductions in emissions, and seems certain to lead to catastrophic increases in global temperature. To put it bluntly, our planet is going to fry.

Currently predicted global temperature rises by the end of the century would lead to an environmental crisis that would be expected to lead to huge areas of the world becoming uninhabitable, and billions dying through flood, famine and and other catastrophes. Those who will die will largely be the poor who currently are responsible for only a small proportion of the emissions, while the rich and highly polluting are those who will survive.

There is no longer any serious scientific debate about the reality of climate change, just about the the exact magnitude of the effects and the timescales involved. But all informed opinion agrees that urgent action is needed. We need to make drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The most industrialised countries who have contributed most to the increase in CO2 levels over the past centuries have a particular moral obligation to make drastic cuts.

Deja-vu all over again! Though perhaps now I might have added something about Australia, China and India also heads firmly in the sand, and also about species extinction – including possibly ours.

Stand Up For Climate Justice


Congolese Election Protests Continue

Congolese continued their protests in London against the election fraud, rapes and massacres and called on the British government to withdraw its support from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities and voted out by the people.

Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging


London Wandering

As often while walking about London between the various events I photographed I took a few pictures, including some in the city centre, and others as I made my way to and from an evening event in North Acton where a photographer friend was appearing. I’ve always meant to take more photographs of London at night, but have never got around to more than the occasional picture like the one above.

And while I’ve taken many thousands of pictures along the River Thames from its source to the estuary, it’s always good to find something just a little different as in this study of bridges.

London Wandering


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Ten Years Ago – 30 Nov 2011

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Occupy protesters outrun police down Haymarket

Ten years ago today on Wednesday 30th November the TUC called a one day general strike over the government plans to cut public service pensions and their failure to enter any meaningful discussion with the trade unions on them.

The Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC, SERTUC, organised a march and rally in London, and at least 20,000 people came for a peaceful march through the capital. At the head of the march was TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady, along with leaders of several of the other unions and professional associations taking part in today’s strike by public sector workers.

Frances O’Grady, Dep Gen Sec of the TUC and NASUWT president John Rimmer and a French trade unionist

Along with many strikers, including many taking strike action and marching for the first time there were also others who came to join them, including students and groups including UK Uncut and activist groups such as the Education Activist Network and other student groups, and a number of people wearing ‘Anonymous’ Guy Fawkes ‘V for Vendetta’ masks.

Some of these people began walking ahead of the official march and police stretched a line of officers across Aldwych stopping both them and the march behind them, but eventually they let the march continue. Although the march was going to Parliament along the Embankment, police had closed off Whitehall and created more traffic chaos than the large march.

UK Uncut had come to support the march and were handing out cups of tea from a yard in front of some offices on the square in what they called a ‘solidaritea!!’ action to support the strike.

Later around a hundred protesters from Occupy London rushed into the building in which mining company Xstrata has its offices in a protest against Mick Davies, its CEO, who they say “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

They met at Picadilly Circus under the eyes of around a hundred police watching and photographing them from the steps around Eros, and after around half and hour in intermittent rain a small group rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with a banner reading ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’, but made no attempt to enter the store, which then quickly put down its metal shutters.

Protesters rush into Panto House

But this was just a diversion, and the rest of the group rushed down Haymarket behind a long banner reading ‘All Power to the 99%’ and then turned abruptly down Panton St and rushed into Panton House. The police had got rather left behind and were unable to stop them, and I followed in after some of the protesters, but got very out of breath rushing up the stairs.

A crowd of protesters make it hard to get up the stairs

I hadn’t picked up completely on what was happening, and failed to get up to the roof where a group of around 20 was continuing the protest against Mick Davies, CEO of mining Company Xstrata and the highest paid CEO in the UK. Police forced me and other protesters still on the stairs to go down and leave the building.

I was disappointed not to get onto the roof with other photographers, but rather pleased that, since it was impossible to take more pictures I could now go home. Those on the roof were kept there by police for rather a long time and those who had hung around on the street outside were also kettled.

See more on My London Diary:

Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed
TUC Nov 30 March


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Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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A Mixed Day: 23 Nov 2019

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Brixton

Bon Marché, the first purpose-built department store in the UK closed in 1975

I can’t remember why I went to Brixton on Saturday morning two years ago, though there must have been some reason. My events diary has nothing relevant in it and neither the text or pictures in My London diary contain any clues as to why I should have decided to take a walk up Brixton Road. I suspect I may have had a tip-off about something which was supposed to be taking place outside Brixton Police Station which turned out to be inaccurate.

It isn’t unusual to arrive at the time and place I had been told something would happen to find I am the only person there. It’s rather better for those things with an events page on Facebook which tells you how many people have said they will be going, though these are often wildly inaccurate. After walking up and down the road I left for central London.

Carnaby Street Show

Three of my Notting Hill pictures in a Carnaby St shop window

I’m not quite clear either about my next movements, as I seem to have taken the tube to Charing Cross and looked for another event in Trafalgar Square, where again I clearly didn’t find what I was looking for and only made two pictures. I was on my way to Carnaby Street where I wanted to see how three of my pictures were being used in ‘A retrospective on the musical footprint of an iconic sneaker‘ in a window display and screens inside the shop.

Stand With Hong Kong

After a brief look at the shopfront in Carnaby Street I hurried down to Parliament Square where protesters were gathering for a march to Downing St calling on the Prime Minister to act over China’s breaches of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They called attention to Hong Kong’s humanitarian crisis, widespread injustices and erosion of autonomy and called for the Hong Kong protesters 5 demands to be met.

Some carried yellow posters stating these demands: complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill; a retraction of characterising the protests as riots; withdrawal of prosecutions against protesters; an independent investigation into police brutality; the implementation of Dual Universal Suffrage.

Unfortunately even if Boris Johnson could be persuaded to lift a finger it would not attract the slightest notice from the Chinese authorities.

March Against Fur 2019

A short walk took me to Leicester Square, where several hundred were gathering for the annual march against fur, a tour of the West End and stores selling fur products, calling for an end not just to using fur in clothing but against all exploitation of animals of all species, whether for meat, dairy, wool, leather or other products.

Using fur in clothing has a very long history, but it is a practice that should now be in the past. We now have so many alternatives and there is abundant evidence of barbaric cruelty in the trapping and farming of animals for their fur. Most in the fashion industry and most shops have been persuaded by various campaigns over the years to abandon fur, but too many still sell clothes with fur trims or use animal skins or down fillings. There are long-running campaigns against stores such as Canada Goose.


More pictures and details in My London Diary

March Against Fur 2019
Carnaby Street Show
Stand With Hong Kong
Brixton


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7 Years Ago in London

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Seven years ago on Saturday 22 November 2014 I photographed four very different events.

Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court

Occupy Democracy activists had camped out overnight in front of the Supreme Court, watched by police who had fenced in almost all of the grassed areas in Parliament Square to prevent them being occupied. The activists were hoping to hold two days of workshops there, but things had not started when I left after taking pictures.

Justice for Shahzad & Shama

Pakistani Christians and others were protesting opposite Downing St calling for justice for the brutal murder in Pakistan of Shahzad Masih and Shahzad Masih , bonded labourers at a brick kiln, who were falsely accused of burning pages of the Quran, attacked by a Muslim mob, tortured and burnt alive.

There are around 4 million Christians in Pakistan, a little under 2% of the population and they face extreme persecution, with those who have converted from Islam at greatest danger. Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against in employment, where they largely do the lowest status jobs, and girls are at risk of abduction and rape, sometimes being forced to convert to Islam and marry their attackers. Christians are often accused of blasphemy, as in this case to settle civil disputes, with those accused being attacked or killed by Islamic extremist groups, whose criminal acts are largely ignored by the authorities.

Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax

Class War went to the £7m Fitzroy Square home of Griff Rhys Jones who said he would leave the country if Labour levied a mansion tax, telling him to “f**k off now”, offering to pay the fare. Class War’s manifesto for the 2015 general election includes a 50% mansion tax.

No one came to answer the door when they put their leaflet through and after a few minutes making their presence felt outside, the walked around to the south side of the square to protest outside the outside the home of Guy Ritchie, another millionaire objector to a mansion tax. They put a few stickers on other places around the square, including the Magistrates Association and the gates to the private garden in the centre of the square, returned for another short protest outside Griff Rhys Jones’s house before retiring to the pub. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them as I had another event to photograph in Brixton.

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop

Ricky Bishop, a fit young black man, died from unexplained injuries hours after being taken to Brixton Police Station on 22 Nov 2001. Family and supporters call it a modern day lynching and march annually to remember him and call for justice.

The marchers met up at Windrush Square and then marched slowly through the centre of Brixton to the police station, where a tree outside has been adopted as a remembrance tree for Ricky Bishop and the others killed there by police.

At the tree there were speeches, including a detailed and forceful presentation by Marcia Rigg of the battle she and others faced to get any proper investigation into the death there of her brother Sean Rigg in August 2008.

These two are not the only young black men to have died at the hands of Brixton police, but so far there has been no police officer bought to justice from the crimes they committed. The only real action by the police has been to remove all of the photographs and momentos placed by some of the families from the tree in front of the police station.


More on all of these on My London Diary:

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop
Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax
Justice for Shahzad & Shama
Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court


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Stop Heathrow Expansion – Nov 2016

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post COP26 and the various official reports on the climate crisis it should now be clear to everyone that we need not to increase air traffic but to drastically reduce it if we are to succeed in limiting the global temperature rise even to the highly damaging level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But still those with large financial interests in aviation are wanting to continue with the expansion of aviation despite its contribution to ruining the world.

The environmental case against Heathrow expansion was clearly won when plans were dropped after years of campaigning against a third runway over the first decade of this century, but despite this our government was persuaded by the industry to change its policies and put the expansion back on the table.

The case against Heathrow is of course even stronger than the case against air travel and air freight generally because of the location of the airport in the west of London. It was always in the wrong place, too close to the city centre and on the wrong side, with prevailing winds meaning aircraft approached over the city and the pollution from them being blown into it. Possibly even those who planned it during WW2 realised this when they avoided any real public debate by pretending the airport was needed for military use.

John Stewart of HACAN

Back in the fifties when I grew up under the flightpath it was less of a nuisance as planes then were smaller and quieter, though we did on several occasions find small parts from them dropped in our garden but fortunately hitting nobody. But over the years noisier aircraft and more frequent landings have made things much worse – though fortunately I’ve moved to a quieter zone but still near Heathrow. The pollution is still with us, not just from the airport itself but also from the road traffic and congestion it generates in the motorways and roads around.

On Saturday 19th November I went to Richmond Green for a rally organised to support Zac Goldsmith who resigned to stand as an anti-Heathrow expansion candidate and supported by Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Teddington Action Group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN), Chiswick Against the Third Runway and others campaigning against the noise, pollution and catastrophic climate change the third runway and expansion of aviation would cause.

Harmondsworth campaigner Neil Keveren at Richmond

It was perhaps a strange decision by Goldsmith, as both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates who he was standing against were also strongly opposed to another Heathrow runway, and many locals, particularly members of the Lib-Dems and Green Party were still aggreived at Goldsmith having taken the seat in 2010 from one of the most active campaigners against Heathrow expansion, Susan Kramer. But Goldsmith had resigned as a matter of principle when the government reneged on earlier promises and approved construction of the third runway the month before this protest. Goldsmith lost the election by a fairly narrow margin to the Lib-Dem candidate. Both Kramer and Goldsmith now sit in the House of Lords.

On the Bath Road overlooking the airport at Sipson

It was a strange protest too, though many of the real Heathrow campaigners were there and some spoke, and I was harassed by a member of Goldsmith’s team who followed me around and tried to stand in my way while taking pictures, telling me it was a private meeting. Eventually I had to ask a police officer to speak to him and get him to stop.

Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion

I left as speakers from various West London boroughs where coming to the microphone to make clear their opposition to Heathow expansion to rush to another protest on the issue on the Bath Road overlooking the airport. This was a ‘family friendly’ rally taking place at the same time as a short distance away Rising Up activists were blocking the link from the M4 into the airport – and police stopped me from going to photograph them.

There was a large crowd of police at this peaceful and legal protest as well, although it seemed totally unnecessary; as I commented “it did seem a considerable waste of police resources, perhaps an attempt to intimidate the protesters. The police did behave in a friendly manner, though they did restrict the movement of protesters to an unnecessary extent.”

Environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy

I had already heard several of the speakers earlier at Richmond, though Goldsmith and his Conservative supporters had not travelled here but were presumably busy campaigning in Richmond.

Harmondsworth resident Neil Keveren of Stop Heathrow Expansion speaks at Heathrow

Here are the final three paragraphs of the acrount I wrote back then, still appropriate:

The main concerns of speakers were that expansion at Heathrow will cause the UK to break its own national laws to reduce emissions, as well as undermining the international climate commitments agreed in Paris, and that the new runway will devastate local communities with families losing their homes and many over a wider area suffering dangerous levels of air pollution. The construction of a new runway would create enormous problems across the area around the airport, and if completed would bring chaos to an already overstressed transport system in the whole region.

We need to totally rethink the aviation industry and evaluate the contribution it makes to our economy, and to remove its privileged status and subsidies which currently allow it to expand and pollute for the benefit of its shareholders and the convenience of rich frequent flyers. The industry greatly inflates the contribution it makes to the economy while refusing to acknowledge the many problems it creates.

Of course it isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. We don’t just need to stop airport expansion, but to reassess much of they way we live. We need System Change if we are to avoid the disastrous effects of Climate Change.

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


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Five Bridges: XR – 17 Nov 2018

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

COP26 was in some respects a great disappointment, or rather would have been had we expected very much to arise out of it. But there were some advances, and just a slight glimmer of hope that it may prompt a little more progress in our efforts to save our future on the planet. But that it happened at all and in the way it did is very much down to the efforts of people on the street to raise awareness of the realities of climate change.

Without groups that have been campaigning for years we would have no hope at all, and whatever people think about some of the policies of Extinction Rebellion, it has been one of the more effective movements in bringing the message to the attention of the media, politicians and the public.

Even in the unfortunately toned down words of the COP26 final resolution, the message from the banner in the assembly at the top of this post is now clear: ‘FOSSIL FUEL ERA OVER’ though it still remains to be seen if it can be brought to an end fast enough for us to survive.

On Saturday 17th November 2018, Extinction Rebellion rebels managed to block five of the bridges in central London: Lambeth, Westminster, Waterloo, Blackfriars and Southwark. It was an ambitious project that brought much of London’s traffic to a standstill and gauranteed extensive media coverage. You can march 50,000 through London and it won’t merit a mention on the BBC unless windows are broken or police injured – but this was something that could not be ignored, and despite the interests of the billionaire media owners, at least some journalists began asking the right questions and writing the right answers.

I tried to photograph events on as many of the bridges as possible, though with no buses able to run in central London this involved rather a lot of walking. In the end I failed to make it to Lambeth Bridge, where some of the more robust actions by police against the protesters took place.

Here’s my description of XR from one of the three posts I made about them that day:

Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent rebellion against the British government for its criminal inaction in the face of the climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse which is currently on course to make human life extinct. They demand the government tell the truth about the climate emergency, reverse their inconsistent policies and work to communicate and educate everyone, that they bring in legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and reduce our consumption of all resources, with a national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes and create a real democracy.

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2018/11/nov.htm#westminster

More protests will be needed around the world to make politicians do what needs to be done – and I was photographing Extinction Rebellion in London last Saturday when they protested in the annual Lord Mayor’s Show.


My day was made busier as there was another unrelated event taking place that I also wanted to photograph, a Unity against Fascism and Racism march from the BBC to a rally in Whitehall calling for unity against the rising threat of Islamophobia and Antisemitism by far-right groups in the UK, with a level of support for fascism not seen since the 1930s. I missed the start but spent around half an hour taking pictures as it came down Regent St.


More on all these and more pictures on My London Diary:

Extinction Rebellion Bridge blockade starts
Extinction Rebellion: Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo
Extinction Rebellion form Citizens’ Assembly

Unity Against Fascism and Racism


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Discriminatory Welfare Reforms 2016

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard speaking

Five years ago it was a cold, wet and windy night on Wednesday 16th December as I tried to photograph a protest in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament by Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle as inside Tory MPs were voting for the Welfare Reform and Act 2016 which abolished the work-related activity component of the Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants from April 2017.

Candle tribute to DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly

ESA is a benefit for those who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to work. To claim it people have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment, which either find them fit for work and so not eligible, decides they should go into a group which has to undertake ‘work-related activity’ which might at some later date make them capable of work or puts them into a support group where they are not required to undertake such activities.

Equivalent measures were also introduced for those who have been transferred to Universal Credit, and mean that those who have to undergo work-related activities will get roughly £30 a week less, a huge proportion of their benefits which would go down from £102 to £73 per week. The government claimed that this will “remove the financial incentives that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work” and when proposed said it would save £640 million a year by 2020-21.

Andy Greene of DPAC chaired the event

The House of Lords amended the bill to remove the cut, but the amendment was overturned by the Tory majority in the House of Commons.

Green Party co-Leader Jonathan Bartley

The protest came after the report of a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) inquiry had published a report condemning the ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights’ which had resulted from the UK government welfare reforms.

Claire Glasman of WinVisible speaking

The event also included a vigil with candles and a silence in memory of one of the co-founders of DPAC, Debbie Jolly who had died the previous week. The group was founded to campaign against the unfair Work Capability Assessments in 2010. Unsound in their nature the tests were conducted by largely unqualified staff working with incentives and targets to fail claimanst by commercial companies including Atos.

John McDonnell MP with Rebecca Long-Bailey holding an umbrella

There was a long list of speakers including SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDOnnell, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Claire Glasman of WinVisible and John McArdle of Black Triangle and I tried hard to take photographs and keep my cameras and flash unit and LED light as dry as possible. The LED light was really not powerful enough except at very close distances and there was very little ambient light in the area. I was having problems taking pictures and these were not helped when at a critical point the six AA batteries fell out of the LED unit as I had forgotten to fix the back in place, and rolled across the pavement and into the crowd listening to the speeches. Fortunately those around me picked them up and handed them back to me.

This wasn’t an occasion for great pictures, but I was pleased to have been able to produce a reasonably decent set of images despite the weather and the lousy light.


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Occupy London, The Lord Mayor’s Show & More

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Ten years ago was a very busy day for me in London. Saturday 12th November was the day of the annual Lord Mayor’s Show, which I’d photographed occasionally in previous years, but probably would not have bothered with, but it was made far more interesting this year by the presence of the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

I went up quite early to photograph the camp where later in the day Occupy LSX were to hold there own alternative ‘Not the Lord Mayors Show’ festival of entertainment, and wandered around talking to people and taking a few pictures.

I also went to take photographs of some of those preparing to take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, and then took pictures as the parade began. As I commented, “I found the marching servicemen, military vehicles and weapons and military bands that are a major element of it disturbing. Of course the event as a whole reflects earlier times, with the city aldermen and liverymen in quaint costumes, but it would be appropriate for it to present a rather more civilised face to the world.

As in other years, the Lord Mayor’s coach stopped at St Pauls for him to be blessed by the Canon in Residence Rt Revd Michael Colclough. Occupy LSX asked the cathedral staff if the Canon would bless them too, and though the staff were very doubtful, the Canon came to talk with the people from Occupy and then blessed them too.

Entry to St Pauls, other than to take part in services usually involved paying a fee – back in 2011 it was £14.50 – but is free on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, and I took the opportunity to go in and up to the ‘Stone Gallery’ around the base of the dome (the higher ‘Golden Gallery’ was closed because of the crowds) and take some pictures there.

I took the District Line to Westminster for an advertised protest against Ethiopia’s war against Somalia, only to find there were only three men and a small boy at the advertised starting time, though they had a number of placards against what they describe as genocide and ‘Obama’s Proxy War’. They assured me more people would arrive and that the protest would continue for five or six hours, but when I came back again two house later there was no sign of it.

I returned to the City, where some protesters were setting off from the OccupyLSX camp at St Paul’s Cathedral for a ‘tour of shame’, visiting the offices of 3 arms dealers, Qinetiq, BAE and Rolls Royce, who went with David Cameron to Egypt in February to sell arms to the Egyptian army. This was a part of the International Day to Defend the Egyptian Revolution which had toppled the Mubarek regime, but the army had taken charge and there had been more than 12,000 trials in military courts, without the ability to call witnesses or access to lawyers in a programme of repression against the people. They called on the UK government to end support for the Egyptian military and stop selling them arms which might be used in further massacres such as that in Maspero a month earlier when soldiers opened fire killing 27 Coptic Christians and injuring over 300.

I left the marchers at Ludgate Circus and walked back to see what was happening with Occupy SLX at St Paul’s, then took the District Line again to Westminster to see if the Somali protest had grown. There was no sign of it, but I found another protest just leaving Old Palace Yard for a rally outside Westminster Abbey. This was the ‘500 Crosses for Life’ prayer procession, organised by EuroProLife UK, a “European ecumenical initiative” based in Germany with the full title “European Voice of the Unborn Children: Protect Our Life”, and there were several hundred people carrying white crosses.

They had walked from Westminster Cathedral to a rally here and a speaker at the rally was describing and applauding protests outside clinics in Germany where abortions take place. I found this disturbing – and commented on My London Diary “People have a right to their views on abortion, and to hold peaceful protests such as this and of course to pray about the matter. But isn’t harassing women who go to clinics at what is almost certainly for them a very stressful time morally offensive, a demonstration of an un-Christian lack of love as well as a statement of lack of faith in the power of prayer?”

More on all these at:
Anti-Abortion Prayer Protest
Day to Defend the Egyptian Revolution
Somalis Protest Obama’s War
London From St Paul’s
Lord Mayor’s Show
Lord Mayor’s Show – Occupy London


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