Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

UK Uncut Great British Street Party – 2012

Sunday, May 26th, 2024

UK Uncut Great British Street Party: Waterloo, Barnes & Putney

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

In 2012 public services were being destroyed by cuts made by the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats having gone into the coalition government with the Tories after the indecisive 2010 election. UK Uncut decided to hold street parties in protest on 26th May 2012 and to call for a better and different future..

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

In the 2010 election the Tories had won 306 seats and Labour 258, but with 57 seats the Liberal Democrats could have formed a coalition with either party to form a government. Although a coalition with Labour would only have included 315 MPs, less than half the total of 650, the differing positions of the 28 MPs outside of the main parties would have made this a working majority.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

Perhaps because they lied to him more effectively, Nick Clegg chose to form a coalition with the Tories. Probably the most important thing he hoped to gain from this was electoral reform – and the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum resulted in a resounding defeat for the alternative vote system – a modified form of ‘First Past The Post’. What Clegg didn’t get was what he wanted, a referendum on proportional representation.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

With an general election coming up on July 4th again under FPTP we can again see the urgent need for electoral reform. With FPTP we are more than likely simply to see Tweedledee replaced by Tweedledum rather than the more vital changes we need to deal with the urgent changes we need, particularly to deal effectively with the climate challenge, but also to move towards a more equal and united society.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

But for now at least we are stuck with FPTP. Possibly the rise of the Reform Party will present a real challenge to our current two party monopoly, and though I’m very much not a supporter of their policies this fragmentation would certainly improve matters. Just a shame that no similarly positive split on fundamental issues has occurred within the Labour Party which has managed to successfully marginalise its right wing – or expel them – without a similarly important alternative party emerging. Perhaps because of a much deeper loyalty on the left to the Labour movement.

Wherever we live I think the best response to the continuing use of FPTP is to vote anti-Tory – that is for the candidate with the greatest chance of defeating the Tory candidate rather than for any particular party. The best result I think we can hope for in July is one that requires a coalition of several parties to govern. Politics would then have to move into an area of cooperation and consultation rather than the adversarial nonsense which now dominates our politics.

Clegg sold the country down the river for false gold, and joined the Tories in implementing a vicious series of cuts to public benefits from central government in almost every aspect of our lives.

UK Uncut stated:

"The government is slashing our public services and making the most marginalised people in our society pay for an economic crisis they did nothing to cause. It doesn’t have to be this way. In 1948 the UK’s national debt was far larger than it is today, but instead of cutting services and hitting the poorest hardest the NHS and the Welfare State were born.

So forget the Queen’s Jubilee and join the only London street party worth going to this summer – UK Uncut’s Great London Street Party. Let’s celebrate the services that are being destroyed, take the fight to the streets and party for our future, a different future, a better future, that we can build together."
 

The London event was one of several street parties organised in towns and cities across the UK. In London 4 blocks, one highlighting the welfare cuts, another the NHS, a third the disproportionate effects the cuts were having on women and the last mourning the effects they are having on democracy itself, met and finally entrained at Waterloo Station, travelling either to Putney or Barnes.

The destination was kept secret, and after we left the trains we followed bloc leaders with coloured umbrellas, only finding when we were almost there that the party was to take place in the short Putney street where Nick Clegg has his London home. They were on holiday elsewhere.

Police tried to stop the protesters at various points, including on the final street, but eventually had to let the party go ahead. People taking part seemed to be careful not to cause any damage, though some were pushed into hedges by police. But the protesters kept up the party atmosphere despite considerable provocation.

Later I heard that when the party ended at 6pm and people were making their way peacefully to Putney station they were attacked by a group of police, who were perhaps frustrated by not being allowed to attack the party earlier in the day when the press was present in large numbers reporting on the event.

You can read more about the party and see many more pictures on My London Diary at UK Uncut Great British Street Party


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Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur 2008

Saturday, May 25th, 2024

Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur: On Sunday morning 25th May 2008 I made my way to Red Lion Square in Holborn to photograph the Pagain Pride public procession. Later I went to Downing Street were protesters were meeting to march to a rally at the Sudanese Embassy calling for Sudanese war criminals to be brought to justice.


Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash – Red Lion Square/Russell Square

Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur

Pagans – or rather neo-Pagans had come to Conway Hall in the corner of Red Lion Square for a day of celebration of the ancient Spring festival of Beltane, celebrating coming out of winter and the springing of the world into growth.

Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur

As well as their private celebrations inside the hall they were also taking part in a public procession, Pagan Pride, which goes the short distance to the fountain in Russell Square for a joyful celebration before returning to Conway Hall.

Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur

Nature and the cyclical nature of the seasons plays a central part in pagan beliefs and Godesses and Gods linked with nature play an important role in their ceremonies.

Pagan Pride & Justice for Darfur

As I commented in 2008 nature appeared “not to be too kind to them as the rain bucketed down as the participants were supposed to gather, with only a few braver members (and some with umbrellas) coming out of the hall, but fortunately for them and the photographers it soon eased off, finally almost stopping as the parade got under way.”

That circular fountain in the garden of Russell Square “could have been designed with them in mind, with a strongly phallic character in the water jets, which in normal use rise and fall, but were left to flow at full strength for most of the ceremony.” In 2008 it was open for everyone to play in but on more recent visits I have noticed it is now surrounded by a fence.

At first the group danced around the fountain in rings with hands joined, but then many of them started to run through the centre, many getting soaked.”

Even the drummers, who at first stood on the edge providing a rhythm for the dance, eventually ran though the jets, and finally the Green Man also did so.

By the time the parade left the square for its return to Conway Hall I’d had enough, and my feet and legs were soaked.

I left with a friend to go and have a cup of tea before going to Whitehall for a very different event.

More pictures at Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash.


Justice for Darfur – London Protest; Whitehall – Sudanese Embassy

Around 200 people, mainly from the Sudan, had gathered opposite Downing Street for a noisy protest before marching to a rally at the Sudanese Embassy opposite St James’s Palace in London.

The Justice for Darfur campaign was supported by around 30 organisations including the Aegis Trust, an international organization working to prevent genocide, Amnesty International and Darfur Union UK, who organised this event together with Aegis Students.

The campaign began when the Sudanese government refused to had over two men to the International Criminal Court. Sudan’s former Minister of the Interior Ahmad Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb were wanted on 51 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from persecution, rapes and murder of civilians in four West Darfur villages.

Haroun had even been promoted to be responsible for humanitarian affairs, and Kushayb, who had been in jail facing other charges when the ICC warrants were issued has been released.

In 2005 the UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes listed 52 people for investigation and placards named some of these calling for them to be brought to justice. They included Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, Saleh Gosh, head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service, Minister of the Federation Government Nafi Ali Nafi and former Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman.

Earlier that month there had been fresh reports of beatings, detentions and shooting of Darfuri civilians in Khartoum and Omdurman but little had appeared in the UK mainstream press and they had sent no photographers or reporters to the event. It was one of those protests that later one photographer told me his editor dismisses as “tribal matters“.

More pictures at Justice for Darfur.


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UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel – 2013

Friday, May 24th, 2024

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel – On Friday 24th May 2013 UK campaigners met those who had arrived by Eurostar at St Pancras to march to the Mayfair hotel where UEFA was holding its annual congress. They demanded it to kick out Israel and protested against the UEFA under-21 men’s football final being held in Israel in June 2013.

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel

The event was organised by the London-based Red Card Israeli Racism Campaign founded by members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and followed protests at UEFA’s Swiss offices following a letter signed by 52 leading players deploring Israel ’s attacks on Gaza.

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel

Previously the Red Card campaign had led protests over the detention of Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak detained without charge in 2009 while travelling from Gaza to a new club on the West Bank. He lost almost half his body mass in a 3 month hunger strike and was only finally released in July 2012 after appeals from the international professional footballers association FIFPro, Eric Cantona, Frédéric Kanouté and the presidents of EUFA and FIFA, as well as others from outside football.

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel

Israel’s participation in international football has long been controversial, and in 1974 they were expelled from the Asian Football Confederation of which they had been a founder member when several nations refused to play against them. They became a full member of UEFA in 1994. In February 2024 UEFA turned down demands from 12 Middle East Nations to suspend Israel from international competitions.

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel

International football is clearly a political football. And Israel’s team have clearly demonstrated their intention to use it as such when captain Eli Dasa held up a small sports shoe of a missing child hostage and talked about it ahead of a Euro 2024 qualifier against Switzerland.

The Palestinian Football Association called in April on FIFA/UEFA to suspend Israel from international competition and are asking other FAs to join them. FIFA is carrying out a legal assessment before it makes a decision on whether to agree to Palestine’s call to suspend the Israeli federation over the war in Gaza was repeated a few days ago at FIFA’s congress in Bangkok.

PFA president Jibril Rajoub was quoted by the BBC as saying “How much more must the Palestine football family suffer for FIFA to act with the same severity and urgency as it did in other cases?” and others have also accused FIFA and UEFA of double standards.

As a petition by some football fans calling on the English FA to support the suspension of Israel states: “It took FIFA/UEFA less than one week to ban Russia from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine. Apartheid South Africa was suspended from FIFA for ten years before being expelled in 1976 and was only permitted to re-join in 1992 as the apartheid regime was dismantling. In that same year, the Yugoslavia national team was suspended by FIFA from international competition as a part of UN-led sanctions against the former state during the Balkans war.

Palestinian footballer and former hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak

You can read an account of the May 2013 march and the static protest outside the hotel in Park Lane on My London Diary with many more pictures. One of the speakers at this was former hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak and he received a huge welcome and “the couple of hundred people present really sounded like a rather larger football crowd.”

UEFA gets a Red Card for Israel.


Don’t hang Prof Bhullar!

Also on Friday 24th May 2013 I photographed a protest by Sikhs at the Indian High Commission against the intended hanging of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who had then served 18 years on death row following his conviction for involvement in a car bomb in Delhi. His conviction was based on a confession based on torture in police custody. The Indian Supreme Court commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in March 2014. More on My London Dairy at Don’t hang Prof Bhullar!.


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Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine 2014

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine – Another disparate set of protests ten years ago on Friday 23rd May 2014 had me rushing around London to document them.


Obama keep your promises – Trafalgar Square

Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine

My working day began in Trafalgar Square where the London Guantánamo Campaign and others had come as a part of an international day of action coordinated by the US organisation Witness Against Torture, with protests in 40 cities in three continents calling on President Obama to make good the promise he had again made a year earlier to close Guantánamo.

Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine

The campaigners many dressed in black hoods and orange jumpsuits stood in a long line on the North Terrace holding posters. Some had brought a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, a London resident, still there, held without charge for 12 years despite having twice been cleared for release.

Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine

As spokesperson for he London Guantánamo Campaign Aisha Maniar stated:
In over five years as US president, Barack Obama has failed to deliver a change we can believe in on Guantánamo Bay. Twelve years of indefinite detention almost wholly without charge or trial for 154 prisoners has made the world an infinitely more insecure, dangerous, and lawless place… Obama’s words remain purely rhetorical. There is little intention to close Guantánamo Bay and the legal black hole it has created.”

Obama keep your promises


Defend University of London Garden Halls workers – Senate House

Obama, UoL, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine

At 1pm I was Senate House with members of the Independent Workers of Great Britain, the grass roots trade union to which many low paid workers at the University belong, as well as supporters from the Joint Shop Stewards Network and university students and staff. Both the UoL and the contractors Cofely and Aramark who they have outsourced the workers to refuse to recognise the IWGB, preferring the more compliant traditional unions. But most of the cleaners and others had left these after finding they were unwilling to stand up to the employers on their behalf and joined the IWGB.

London University announced the closure of three of its Central London halls of residence – the Garden Halls – without consultation with the IWGB and intended to make over 80 workers redundant at the end of June.

The IWGB had asked supporters to send letters to London University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Adrian Smith listing their demands that there should be no compulsory redunddancies and the the length of service of the workers be respected, as well as calling for meaningful consultation withe the IWGB and that workers transferred to other contracts should retain their pay, terms and conditions. They stated “the University bears responsibility for the treatment of these workers, regardless of the fact that their roles are contracted to private companies.”

Around 30 protesters were outside the main entrance to Senate House when I arrived and were drumming a very noisy demonstration while handing out leaflets and displaying banners.

Soon after they were joined by IWGB organiser Alberto Durango they left to walk around the outside of the building. Security had rushed to close the door on Montague Place but when the protesters reached Russell Square the doors to Stewart House, part of the University estate joined to Senate House they found an open door and around half of them walked in to protest noisily inside the building for a few minutes, still beating their drums before finding another exit into the Senate House car park.

Here the protest came to to an end with the IWGB’s usual message, ‘We’ll be back!’. The IWGB was balloting its members for strikes against both Cofely and Aramark.

More at Defend UoL Garden Halls workers.


Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings

I rushed to Parliament to meet Ethiopians protesting outside Parliament over the Ethiopian government’s killing of Oromo university students peacefully protesting the grabbing of Oromo land. The protest was coming to an end as I arrived but I was able to quickly take a few pictures

The protest was by supporters of the Oromo and Ogaden National Liberation Fronts founded shortly before the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie. Since then the military government, the Derg regime and the new Ethiopian state has continued the suppression of the Oromo, and initiated mass resettlements from Northern Ethiopia onto Oromo lands and moved millions of Oromo into camps run by the military.

The USA was found by BBC Newsnight and and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed in 2011 to have worked with the the Ethiopian government in an alliance “using billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression” with programmes of deliberate starvation of communities, and “of mass detentions, (and) the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings” against what they describe as terrorism.

In early May there had been mass killing by the authourites of Oroam University students and civiliams protesting peacefully against illegal forcible evictions of Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands around Addis Ababa under the governments Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan which will give their land to government supporters or sell it to foreign investors.

Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings


Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails – G4S Victoria Street

It was a short walk to the London HQ of G4S where campaigners supported by the Islamic Human Rights Commission were protesting in solidarity with the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails demanding an end to Israels’s illegal policy of rolling Administrative Detention which can jail them for years without charge or trial.

The put up a stall and banners on the wide pavement outside the building and spoke to people passing, handing out leaflets. Some stopped to talk and mostly expressed surprise at what was happening in Israel, although one man stopped to argue, telling the protesters that no one was held unjustly in prison in Israel and there was no torture in Israel. He was clearly deluded.

The world’s largest security firm G4S provided security services for Israel’s prisons until December 2016 when pressure from this and many other protests led it to sell is Israeli subsidiary divesting from Israel’s military checkpoints and illegal settlements. After further protests the company to sell its decided to sell its remaining business in apartheid Israel in June 2023.

Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails


Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners – Holborn

Finally I joined Ukrainian Socialist Solidarity and IWGB trade unionists who protested outside the registered offices of London mining company Evraz who own mines in the city of Kryviy Rih in south-east Ukraine.

Kryviy Rih is the centre of the largest steel industry in Eastern Europe an has a population of around three-quarters of a million people. Miners there have protested as the unrest and devaluation in Ukraine has caused a rapid rise in the cost of living with a fall in real wages of around 30-50% and a rise of 20% they had been promised in April was not paid. In its place they were given an small “insulting” one-off handout.

The Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine has demanded an immediate doubling of the real wage “in the interests of preserving social peace in this country.” They say the main cause of the economic problems in Ukraine “is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine. In fact the oligarchs are almost completely exempt from taxes on their profits.” Evraz is owned by Russian Oligarchs Roman Abramov and Alexander Abramovitch who are based in the UK.

The protest took place after the Ukrainian union called upon the British public to picket the offices of EVRAZ plc and the offices of other Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs’ corporations in London and other cities in Europe.

But police attending the protest told the protesters these offices are cimply those of a firm providing accounting, tax, Human Resources and payroll services to various businesses and are not really a part of Evraz. Further protests were planned outside the Chelsea Football ground, also owned by Roman Abramovitch and for an EVRAZ Investor Day the following month which company chair Alexander Abramov is due to attend.

Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners


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End The Torture 2004

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Pictures from the End The Torture – Bring The Troops Home Now protest 20 years ago today on 22nd May 2004.

End The Torture - Bring The Troops Home Now

Back in May 2004 I was still taking pictures using the Nikon D100, the DSLR camera that really first made professional quality digital imaging available outside of highly paid professional photographers. I’d bought this 6.1Mp camera in 2002, but for the first year or more used it in tandem with film cameras, not least because at first I only had one Nikon-fitting lens, a 24-85mm, equivalent on the camera’s DX-format sensor to 36-128mm on full frame.

End The Torture - Bring The Troops Home Now

With film cameras I’d been used to a much wider range of focal lengths, from 15mm to 200mm and while I could do without the longer end, I still needed film for wider images. But by May 2004 I had some new lenses, a Sigma 12-24mm (18-36mm eqiv) and a Nikon telephoto zoom that stretched out to 210mm, equivalent at the long end to 315mm.

End The Torture - Bring The Troops Home Now

Both were fairly large and fairly heavy lenses, but together with the 24-85mm gave me a full range of focal lengths. Though with only a single D100 body I probably spent almost as much time changing lenses as taking pictures. None of them would have impressed the kind of photographers who like to spend their time photographing test charts or pixel peeping, but they were certainly adequate for normal photographic work.

End The Torture - Bring The Troops Home Now

The pictures from the Bring The Troops Home protest on 22nd May 2004 show I was determined to use the entire range of my new lenses, perhaps not always entirely appropriately. I think sometimes I zoomed out too far with the telephoto and occasionally would have been advised to use a rather less wide view with the Sigma. But others work well.

The protest was called at short notice by the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain to respond to the atrocities being committed in Iraq, following the publication of pictures showing abuse and torture of Iraqis by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Some pictures were first published by CBS in April 2004 but more came out in May.

The march organisers stated “The whole world is horrified at the terrible pictures of torture of Iraqi prisoners now emerging. They are the tip of an iceberg of abuse – dozens of civilians have died in custody of British and American troops in occupied Iraq. We are demanding the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and for the Iraqi people to be allowed to govern themselves.”

At the rally there was an impressive array of speakers including Tonny Benn, Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Lindsay German, Bruce Kent, Jeremy Corbyn, Jean Lambert and others from peace and Muslim movements and I photographed most of them on the march and as they spoke.

In Trafalgar Square the speakers were as usual on the raised area at the base of the column with a press area in front of that, and we are always looking up at the speakers. The longer lens let me get tightly framed head shots, but a few are perhaps too tight.

As well as speakers there were also theatrical reenactments of prisoner abuse by the ‘Theatre of War’ group with the march pausing briefly at various points for the three military personnel to abuse their roped and hooded victims. The also stood and performed on the plinth at the rally in Trafalgar Square.

Looking back at these pictures now I feel that perhaps because I had that long lens I concentrated more on the celebrities taking part in the event, and rather less than I would now on the bulk of protesters and their placards and banners. But I’m still pleased with a number of the images I made. Some I think could be improved by going back to the RAW files and reprocessing them in our now improved software to give them a little more contrast and clarity.

My London Diary has a little more about the protest and a much larger selection of the images I made at this event beginning some way down the May 2004 page. You can go directly to the pictures at END THE TORTURE – BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW.


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Free Palestine March & Rally 2005

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

Free Palestine March & Rally – May 21st 2005. George Galloway, then MP for Bethnal Green, was clearly the man of the hour at the rally in Trafalgar Square, fresh back from his hearing in front of a US Senate committee. As I commented in 2005, “the senators were clearly outclassed and outgunned as Galloway gave them a verbal ‘Glasgow kiss.’ It was an impressively sustained performance of concentrated power, a pit-bull seeing off a pack of ineffectual spaniels.”

Free Palestine March & Rally

The crowd gave him “a tumultous ovation when he arrived at the Trafalgar Square rally” at the end of the march, and his speech there did not diappoint them. I commented “he has built up a great rapport with the many muslims now living in this country, not least in his own Bethnal Green constituency, the youths from Bradford were excited when he promised to come and visit their city.” Of course many things have happened since then, but it wasn’t surprising to see him elected for Bradford West at the 2012 by-election or more recently when he won the seat at Rochdale this February.

Free Palestine March & Rally

Galloway was not the only powerful speaker at the rally, with putting in his usual performance as “probably the best living political speaker at least using the english language” and Jeremy Corbyn, still a much underrated speaker, also showing what he could do. And there were others too, including Paul Mackney of the higher education teachers’ union, NATFHE.

Free Palestine March & Rally

The march from Embankment to Trafalgar Square had been reasonably large but not huge, though more had arrived for the rally. Waiting at the side of the march as it reached the square was human rights activist Peter Tatchell with a group from Outrage!

Free Palestine March & Rally

They supported the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice, but demanded an end to the “so-called ‘honour’ killing of Palestinian women, and the arrest, jailing, torture and murder of lesbian and gay Palestinians by factions of the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority.”

Free Palestine March & Rally

At first police stopped the group from getting to the march and handing out leaflets, but after a complaint by Tatchell they were allow to do so. Some march stewards tried to stop people taking the leaflets, but many did so and expressed their support.

You can read more about the event on the second May page on My London Diary under the heading George’s Triumph and the pictures begin at the right of this page.


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Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka – 2013

Saturday, May 18th, 2024

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka: On Saturday 18th May 2013 I began work outside Parliament at a protest against Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, then went across the Thames to the Festival Hall for the start of a march to defend the NHS before going the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a ‘murder scene’ in solidarity with hunger strikers at Guantánamo. There I also photographed a woman protesting for the release of her husband arrested 9 years ago by US forces in Iraq. Finally I met a march by several thousands of Tamils calling for and end to the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. You will find much more detail (and many more pictures) on each of these protests at links below to My London Diary.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when Israel was created, Palestinians call for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Several hundred people came to the protest, including a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism, as well as many of Jewish or Palestinian origin. As well as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign the protest was also supported by many other groups – a long list on My London Diary – and speeches were continuing when I left for another event.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

More about the Nakba and the protest at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing.


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Thousands had gathered by the Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, including many groups opposed to hospital closures around London, trade unionists and others concerned the the government is ending the NHS.

An unprecedented coalition of Londoners, including medical staff, trade unions, health campaigners, patients and others have been alarmed at what they see as an attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

You can read more about the crisis in the NHS in 2013 in the post on My London Diary, but of course this has continued and is still making the news. Despite their protestations it seems clear that the Tories are trying hard to run down the NHS so that the population lose its trust and love for our universal free public – and would allow them to eventually replace it with US-style insurance based healthcare which would greatly increase costs and generate huge profits for private health companies.

I went with the march across Waterloo Bridge and down Strand to Charing Cross, leaving it as it was waiting to enter Whitehall for a rally there.

More information and pictures at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

As I arrived there were 8 black-hooded ‘prisoners’ in orange suits lying on the pavement, the number of prisoners who have died there in suspicious circumstances who had previously taken part in sustained hunger strikes. At least seven of them had the cause of death reported as ‘suicide’.

Other protesters drew lines around the bodies on the ground and surrounded the area with ‘Crime Scene – Do Not Enter‘ incident tape. The bodies then stood up and there was a short enactment of forced feeding by a man wearing an Obama mask.

Others held placards and posters, some including quotations from Thomas Jefferson and other historic and prominent Americans, and there were speeches about the events in Guantanamo, where British resident Shaker Aamer was still held despite having been cleared for release. You can read more, including a statement by one of the organisers, on My London Diary.

As I left some of the poems written in Guantánamo by Shaker Aamer were being read.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Also protesting outside the embassy as she has for a number of weekends was Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when held by them, and his now being tortured by the Iraqis. He is also on hunger strike. His young daughter Zeinab came and spoke briefly to the Guantanamo protesters, telling them that she wanted her daddy to be released.

Later she was joined by a small group of Muslim men and boys who stood with her.

It was a busy day for protests at at the US Embassy were a small group of supporters of Syrian President Assad, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who had come to protest against western intervention in Syria.

More about these protests at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

Finally I rushed away to join thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK who were marching through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre. Many were dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka and some wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Tamils are disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place and is still continuing in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax. I noted on My London Diary that I could see no other non-Tamil photographers covering the event.

On My London Diary you can read a statement by the British Tamil Forum who had organised the march. I left as the rally in Waterloo Place was about to start, partly because I was tired but also because I thought few of the speeches would be in English.

Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – 2008

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – Back in 2008 I had rather more stamina than now and my day on Thursday 15 May 2008 included three protests and a walk around the outskirts of the closed Olympic site, ending with attending an exhibition opening in Brixton.


International Conscientious Objector’s Day – Tavistock Square

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

I’ve just checked on a web site which events are marked on 15th May, and although it lists nine, including National Nylon Stocking Day, it fails to mention the most important of all, that this is Nabka Day remembering the Palestinian Catastrophe, the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, belongings and homes following the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Long commemorated by supporters of Palestian rights, the commemoration of the 75th anniversary in 2023 was recognised by a UN General Assembly resolution. Today many are marking this around the world with events in many UK workplaces and Saturday 18th May there is a national march in London for Nabka 76 calling for and ent to the genocide in Gaza and for the UK to stop arming Israel.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Less well known (and also not mentioned on that web site), May 15th is International Conscientious Objector’s Day, first observed in 1982 as a European day and in 1985 adopted by War Resisters’ International. In London today (15 May 2024) there will be a ceremony in Tavistock Square as there was in 2008, though starting an hour later at 1pm.

In 1987 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recognised “the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right of freedom, thought, and religion“. However in many countries around the world this right is still denied.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Tavistock Square has a number of memorials including at the centre of the garden a statue of Mahatma Ghandi given to the city of London in 1967 by the Indian High Commissioner, and a cherry tree planted by the then mayor of Camden Millie Miller in 1967 to commemorate the victims of the Hiroshima bombing, as well as a memorial to the holocaust. On the railings of the square is a memorial plaque to those killed in the bus destroyed in the square by the London suicide bombing of 7 July, 2005.

At the north end of the garden, close to the cherry tree, is a large grey rough-hewn boulder of Cumbrian slate was unveiled in 1994 as a memorial to conscientious objectors by composer Sir Michael Tippett, himself a conscientious objector, and people gathered on the grass in front of this.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

After speeches and songs Bill Hetherington of the Peace Pledge Union read out the names and gave brief details of individual COs, past and present, from over 80 countries around the world, as a small representation of those who, as the words engraved on the memorial read, “…have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill.

As the names were read, those taking part brought up white carnations – a symbol of the peace movement – and laid them on the stone. Each had on it a label with the country and name of a CO. The inscription on the stone continues: “Their foresight and courage give us hope.”

On My London Diary at International Conscientious Objectors’ Day you can read more about the speakers and the event.


Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site

I had time before the next protest to go to Stratford and make my way around the southern edge of the Olympic site, now surrounded by a tall blue fence.

I went as far as the Lea Navigation where I photographed the notice closing the entrance to the Bow Back River channels which run through the site to navigation.

From the Greenway I could see huge piles of earth which are having to be processed because of their contamination from years of industrial production on the site. The site area was more or less unrecognisable although the City Mill River still flowed through it. It was a dismal day, with light rain or drizzle and everything looked bleak.

More pictures Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site.


Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON

Justice for Cleaners brought together London’s largely migrant cleaners in a campaign for a living wage, sick pay, holidays, trade union rights and respect and was backed by major unions including Unite (and the TGWU which had then recently merged with Amicus to form Unite.)

On May 15th 2008 they had planned a protest outside the RBS offices in Bishopsgate, where cleaners were employed by Pall Mall, but negotiations had led to some success and the demonstration had been switched to AON in Devonshire Square, EC2, a short walk away.

AON, based in Chicago, is one of the world’s leading companies in insurance, with a first quarter net income for 2008 recently announced as $218 million. The cleaners at its City of London offices take home less than it takes to live on in London.

Their offices are on private property where I’d previously been prevented from taking pictures by security officers, and the protest took place in front of the gates on the street.

Noisy public protests such as these are effective because they draw attention to the shameful way these workers are treated even though they work to clean the offices of prestigious companies – which is why the Tories brought in highly restrictive laws in an attempt to stop them.

Watching them through the gates were a number of security men as well as City of London police. Workers in Devonshire Square were walking post the protesters and those inside the offices will have been able to hear the protest which took place with a lot of whistle blowing, shouting and a powerful megaphone used to express the cleaners’ demands.

Although Unite were supporting the cleaners here, migrant workers in London soon largely lost confidence in them and other major unions, who they felt were at times making deals with management that were not truly reflecting their interests, particularly in some workplaces where they seemed to be more interested in preserving wage differentials than getting good deals for the poorest workers. The cleaners – and many other low paid workers – are now largely represented by grass roots unions such as United Voices of the World.

Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON


Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation – US Embassy

Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation protested at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square calling for an end of actions against the Iraqi people and the withdrawal of US forces.

They handed in a letter condemning the continuing US occupation which had caused an “unimaginable level of death and destruction to the people and country in the past five years” and noting the similarity between US actions and the Israeli repression of Palestinians, with the building of concrete walls to divide Baghdad into what Pentagon sources have described as “30 killing zones“.

Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation


Photofusion opening – Changing Spaces

On my way home I took a few pictures of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair before going to Brixton to view the opening of the ‘Changing Places‘ show.

This picture wasn’t posed – I just walked up to look at the photograph by Simon Rowe and saw the young woman standing there with her head at a very similar angle. You can see a few more picture from the opening on My London Diary.


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Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – 2016

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – I celebrated 14th May 2016 with a busy day of protests around London.


Reclaim Holloway

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop
Jeremy Corbyn

Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network marched from rally on Holloway Road demanding that when Holloway prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

The prison is in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency and the then Labour leader turned up on his bike to speak before the march to give his support.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

There was a long rally outside the prison with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

Islington Council wanted to see the site used for social housing and in 2022 gave https://www.ahmm.co.uk/projects/masterplanning/holloway/ planning permission for a development by Peabody, who bought the site in 2019 with help from the GLA, and London Square for 985 new homes. 60% of these will be affordable, including 415 for social rent, together with a 1.4-acre public park, a Women’s Building, and new commercial spaces.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford St

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

A rolling protest outside shops which support the Israeli state made its way along Oxford St from Marks and Spencers, with speakers detailing the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It came on the day before Nabka Day, the anniversary of the ‘day of the catastrophe’ which commemorates when around 80% of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property.

The protesters included both Palestinians and Jews opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. They were met by a small group of people holding Israeli flags who stood in their way and shouted insults, accusing them of anti-Semitism.

The organisers were clear that the protest was not anti-Semitic but against Zionism and some actions of the Israeli government. Both police and protesters tried hard to avoid confrontation with those who had clearly come to disrupt and provoke.

Many UK businesses play an important part in supporting the Israeli government by selling Israeli goods and those produced in the occupied territories and in other ways, and their were brief speeches as the protest halted outside some of them detailing some of these links.

More on My London Diary at 68th Anniversary Nabka Day.

This Saturday, 18th May 2024, you can join the march in London, starting at the BBC on the 76th anniversary of the Nabka calling for an end to the current genocide in Gaza.


Vegan Earthlings Masked Video Protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans in white masks from London Vegan Actions were standing in a large circle on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, some holding laptops or tables showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. Although bright sun made the laptop screens almost impossible to see and the sound outdoors was largely inaudible the large circle of people standing in white masks did attract attention.

More pictures Vegan Earthlings masked video protest.


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Also protesting in front of the National Gallery were a small group holding posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons‘.

More pictures Refugees Welcome say protesters.


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

After Topshop suspended two cleaners who were members of the United Voices of the World trade union for protesting for a living wage and sacked one of them protests were taking place outside their stores around the country.

The UVW were supported by others at the London protest which began outside Topshop on Oxford Street by others including trade unionists from the CAIWU and Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Class War.

A large crowd of police and extra illegal security guards wearing no ID blocked the entrance to the shop stopping both protesters and customers from entering. The several hundred protesters held up placards and banners and protested noisily but made no serious attempt to go in to the store.

A man wears a mask of Topshop owner Phillip Green

Some protesters, led by the Class War ‘Womens Death Brigade’ moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes before the whole group of protesters marched to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuade them to move.

They stopped outside John Lewis, another major store in a long-running dispute with the union as it allowed its cleaning contractor to pay its cleaners low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for workers who keep its stores running.

The protest there was again noisy and there were some heated verbal exchanges between protesters and police, but I saw no arrests. After a few minutes the protesters marched off to continue their protest outside another Oxford Street Topshop branch close to Marble Arch.

More at Topshop protest after cleaners sacked.


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Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison – 2017

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison: Saturday 13th May 2017 was the 11th protest outside Yarl’s Wood in the Movement for Justice campaign to shut down this and other immigration detention centres.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

For once the weather was fine and there was little or no mud in the field facing the prison. And for some reason – perhaps the windows had been cleaned – we could see the detainees more clearly than on some previous occasions. And I seem to have written rather more clearly than on some occasions about the day – so here I’ll just reproduce the text from My London Diary, with a few of the pictures.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

I’d caught the train from St Pancras to Bedford as usual, but instead of waiting for the MfJ bus had brought my Brompton, so could just jump on it and cycle towards Yarlswood. It was a ride of around 6 miles, mainly along side roads or on cycle paths beside busier roads, and it was a pleasant enough ride, though Yarl’s Wood is on a former airfield on a plateau rather higher than the city, and so it was uphill quite a lot of the way. And the climb up from the nearest village, Milton Ernest, was rather long and steep, though at least I didn’t have to bother about traffic, as the police had closed the road. But I was a little out of breath and tired as I arrived.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

But Yarl’s Wood really is in the middle of nowhere, making those inside feel very isolated, and visits to them by anyone without a car are tedious and expensive for those on low income. So events like this are important in reminding those inside that they have not been forgotten.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

There were several hundreds of people already at the roadside – and a long row of coaches that had brought them there, and there were speeches and chanting while they waited for others to arrive.

Most of the detainees are women, but there are men in a family section of the prison

From the road there is still a long walk along field edges following a public footpath, around three-quarters of a mile. Parts of this were heavy going on the Brompton, not designed for off-road use, and I did have to walk part of the way, as well as occasionally stopping to photograph the marchers, now around a thousand strong.

When the protesters arrived at the field in front of the tall fence around the centre, they were welcomed by shouts and waving from those imprisoned inside who held up messages calling for justice in the narrow slits the windows open. Only those who could get to the upper windows on the block facing the fence could see the protest, but others inside could certainly hear it.

There were speeches from former detainees, including several women who had been held at Yarl’s Wood, including Mabel Gawanas who was recently released a few days short of 3 years inside, and other former immigration detainees. People kicked on the fence to make a terrific racket and held up banners, posters and placards to show the detainees in what the protesters describe as as ‘racist, sexist hell-hole’ they have not been forgotten. Some inside spoke to the protest by mobile phone.

Some of the protesters climbed ladders to hold banners and placards above the first solid 10 feet of the 20 foot fence, while others had long poles or lit flares to make the protest more visible. A few yards back from the fence where the ground slopes up we could see those at the windows and photograph them through the mesh fence, though it wasn’t easy.

I left as the protest began to draw to a close, cycling back along the footpath to the road and then enjoying the long downhill stretch to the village and the main road. But I had to pay for this, as a short uphill modern stretch of road off stretched me almost to exhaustion. 40 metres doesn’t sound a lot, but feels in on a bike. And while the road up from Milton Ernest does the climb at a fairly sensible rate, Oakley Hill up from the A6 is at least twice as steep. I should have got off and walked, but pride doesn’t allow it unless it becomes really impossible. For some reason my three-speed gear had decided to be a two speed gear, but probably it wouldn’t have helped here as I think it was only the top gear I was missing – and I needed something considerably lower. But after than it was downhill most of the way to Bedford and a train probably an hour earlier than had I been on the bus.

More pictures at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison,


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