Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

More from May Days: 2012

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

The 2012 march lived up to its billing in bringing together “trade unionists, workers from the many international communities in London, pensioners, anti-globalisation organisations, students, political bodies and many others ” to march through London, and was perhaps even more varied than in previous years.

There were the usual large groups of Turkish and Kurdish socialists and others from around the world, and on My London Diary I wrote:

Among the various key issues for workers raised by this year’s march were the attacks on pensions and other cuts, the closure of one third of Remploy factories with the loss of jobs by more than 1500 disabled people, and the workfare scheme which is being used to compel the unemployed to give free labour to companies or lose their job-seekers allowance, leading to less paid jobs being available.

London May Day March

At the back of the march were several hundred autonomous bloc protesters who stopped to protest on the Strand outside some of the shops using free labour or avoiding paying taxes, including branches of McDonalds, Greggs, Topshop and Pizza Hut. They had been accompanies and harassed on the march by a large group of police, and when they stopped to protest there were minor scuffles and several arrests. Occupy protesters put up several tents when the marchers reached Trafalgar Square, and were forced by police to remove them.

Samantha Rigg speaks about the killing by police of her brother Sean

Outside the IPCC offices on the Strand, Campaign 4 Justice and Merlin Emmanuel, Smiley Culture’s nephew had organised a rally against the corruption of the IPCC which was set up to replace the previous corrupt Police Complaints Authority. The IPCC is dominated by former police officers and they called for a citizen-led body that has proper powers and true independence from the police.

After the rally in Trafalgar Square, London Solidarity Federations and Occupy London led a crowd of several hundred to protest outside various branches of shops which were taking part in Workfare schemes. I joined them on Oxford St, where there were a series of minor skirmishes with police who tried to prevent them entering the shops. The protesters finally returned to Charing Cross police station and the Strand, and suddenly the police went off shift and disappeared.

The protesters held a discussion, undecided about how to proceed without their opposition, and some, led by Occupy London, decided to head for the City with the ‘Reclaim May Day‘ maypole, stopping on the way for a very short protest at the Royal Courts of Justice.

A van of City of London Police came to take a brief look at them before driving away, and they made their way to the Stock Exchange unescorted. After posing for pictures they then occupied the entrance to the closed Stock Exchange and were soon joined by a handful of police officers.

People were beginning to party in the square and it looked as if little was likely to happen, so I left for home. Eventually the protest here ended around 11pm.

Stock Exchange Occupied
May Day Workfare Protest
Abolish The Corrupt IPCC
London May Day March


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

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


More from May Days: 2011

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

May Day 2011 was a Sunday which helped swell the numbers gathering at Clerkenwell Green, though perhaps the trade union groups were rather less numerous than usual. But of course the usual communist and socialist groups were there, and the CPGB-ML with their large image of Stalin and a banner with a quote from him with letters picked out in yellow to spell ‘resist’ along with the word revolution.

A new group in this year’s march was ‘Justice for Domestic Workers‘ (J4DW), a self-help group for migrant domestic workers and part of the hotel, restaurant and catering branch of the Unite the union. They were using the event to launch a new petition urging the UK government to change its position and endorse the 2011 ILO convention on Domestic Workers. The UK joined the ILO in 1919, but since the Tories came to power in 2010 have only ratified conventions on Maritime Labour and Fishing.

There was a large group from the Latin American Workers’ Association, calling for justice for refugees and asylum seekers, with the message ‘No-One Is Illegal’ carried by two of their younger supporters.

As in previous years there was a very strong representation of nationalist communist groups from London’s Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities as well as a large group of Sri Lankan Tamils calling for the war criminals from Sri Lanka to be taken to the International Criminal Court and asking why the UN and NATO had not intervened when their community in Sri Lanka was facing massacre.

I followed the march a short distance, stopping to photograph until the end of the march had gone passed me, then decided to go home rather than continue to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

London May Day March


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

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


More from May Days: 2008

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Continuing my short series of posts about previous May Day celebrations in London that I photographed.

I photographed them after they had photographed me

As usual the London May Day committee had organised a march from Clerkenwell Square and my day started with police photographing me as I arrived to photograph the event. As I commented:

It’s hard to see any real point in this other than a kind of mild intimidation of journalists and difficult not to regard it as an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press. Definitely a distortion of the role of the police in a free society, it is also one that distracts them from the vital tasks they have at the present time.

TUC May Day March

Numbers on the march were lower than in previous years, perhaps because it was also a day when elections were taking place in London, and the weather probably didn’t help. But there were those with trade union banners, including the sacked Gate Gourmet workers. As usual there were large groups of marchers from the Turkish and Kurdish communities, and I particularly liked the picture at the top of this post, but there are many more of them on My London Diary.

Many accounts of May Day write about its origins with the The Second International calling for a commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs as an international workers day, but seldom mention its special significance for the Turkish groups:

For Turkish groups, the day also commemorates the 1977 Taksim Square massacre, when around 40 people in a crowd of around half a million celebrating May Day were killed and around 200 injured by firing from the Hotel International. None of those responsible has been brought to justice but both Turkish secret police and CIA have been implicated. At least at the moment our own police are only using cameras.

As the marchers left Clerkenwell on their way to Trafalgar Square I made my way to one of my least favourite areas of London, Mayfair, where the Space Hijackers had announced a celebration, a recreation of the Mayfayres which gave the area its name and were banned in  1708 because of their boisterous disorder.

Camilla and Boris took turns in the stocks

They had made their plans after Police Commander Bob Broadhurst had attempted to justify the very different policing of pro-Tibet and pro-Chinese protesters during the Olympic Torch debacle in London by claiming the pro-China group were not restricted because they were celebrating rather than protesting. As I commented in 2008 on My London Diary:

As their various events over the years have shown, the Space Hijackers do a rather ace job of celebrating, although they haven’t always had the same cooperation from the police as those upholding human rights abuse by China – or even football supporters. For this year’s May Fayre, police even supplied a comprehensive photographic service, although the price (I believe £10) of obtaining your pictures from them by a Freedom of Information request seems rather high, especially considering the poor quality of results I’ve seen. As I think my pictures demonstrate, it’s often better to use a wide-angle rather than the extreme telephoto “peeping toms” favoured by police photographers.

They were also seen searching a few people, possibly to enforce the fancy dress code, but otherwise just seemed to be standing around the area – particularly across the access roads – and carrying out a useful role in preventing traffic from disrupting the festivities while letting those on foot walk in and out as they wished.


It was a fun event, and even some of the police appeared to enjoy it (and the overtime they were getting for watching what was an entirely peaceful and well-organised event – even if they maypole dancing could have done with more practice) though as in the morning we were all getting extensively and obtrusively photographed. I’ve often wondered what they do with all these images, but they are rather secretive and embarrassed about them. Despite having photographed me many times on numerous occasions, on the only time I bothered to make a Freedom of Information request and paid my £10 they were unable to find a single picture.

Mayfair Mayfayre – Space Hijackers
TUC May Day March


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

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



More from May Days: 2009

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Another year, another May Day. 2009 was just a little different with more happening at Clerkenwell Green than usual, though some things remained the same. Although in my very early years Stalin was known through our press as ‘Uncle Joe’ and it was certainly the case that it was the Russian Army that played the major role in the defeat of Hitler, it does seem to me somehow obscene to be continuing a cult of his personality with what we now know about him.

As always the Turkish and Kurdish community were out in force – here the KGÖ (Komünist Gençlik Örgütü), the youth wing of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (Turkey) MLKP.

Unusually there was a maypole, brought and erected by Chris Knight and others from G20 Meltdown, and a few people tried to dance around it.

There were the usual collection of trade union banners, with pride of place going to a couple carried by Ford workers following the Visteon dispute, as well as various other left-wing groups from the UK and abroad.

As in previous years the rally at Trafalgar Square failed to acknowledge the predominant presence of various minority communities on the march and was dominated by speakers from the large unions and Labour party. The star of the event was undoubtedly Tony Benn. At his left a Tamil holds a placard with a picture of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who was killed in an ambush by Sri Lankan government forces only a few days later on May 18.

Earlier there had been heated arguments on the march against the participation by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a Sinhalese communist and Marxist–Leninist party which is a part of the government oppressing and fighting the Tamils.

More at May Day March & Rally


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

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


May Day

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Today’s May Day will be very different, with no march in London, no meeting in Trafalgar Square and none of the other activities we have seen in recent years. There will be online events, but it really isn’t the same. And I think I will take few if any pictures.

Until 2000, I was working on May Day most years and missed the May Day celebrations, except, when as in 1999 they fell on a weekend. In 2000 things were a little different, and while doubtless the usual trade union celebrations went on, rather more of us gathered in Parliament Square on May Day, a Monday, for an anti-capitalist protest, indulging in a little guerilla gardening. It wasn’t as the BBC and newspapers recorded a riot, but a good-natured protest with people having fun and a little minor law-breaking and only became nasty when the police charged in after windows were broken at a McDonald’s. I went home as I didn’t want to be kettled.

It was 2003 before I returned to photograph May Day events, and I wrote:

may day has perhaps settled into a rather predictable event now. the socialist left – and what is left seems to be a few unions and a number of ethnic communist party groups – march from clerkenwell to trafalgar square, while anti-capitalist protestors do not a lot around town.

My London Diary

and the few images I put on line reflect this. My coverage the following year, 2004, was a little more upbeat, perhaps because I met up again with the Bristol Radical Cheerleaders who certainly livened things up, but also because I was getting better at using a digital camera. But most of my coverage then was still in black and white and I still haven’t added the pictures I said would follow.

I photographed May Day and the march again in 2005, but the highlight of the day was provided by the Space Hijackers who had challenged our 600 odd MPs to an Anarchist Cricket match to be held in Parliament Square.

I wasn’t surprised when no members of the opposing team actually turned up, but their absence didn’t detract from the event.

2006 was perhaps my busiest May Day ever, beginning with the launch of the London Citizens Workers’ Association at Westminster Cathedral, then photographing the London May Day March, which included a strong autonomous anti-capitalist bloc.

Among the speakers at Trafalgar Square, though not on the main platform was Ian Bone of Class War, once labelled the most dangerous man in England, and even at this event attracting considerable police attention.

I went on from Trafalgar Square to the Bank of England where the Space Hijackers were holding their Police Victory Party. Unlike at their cricket match there was a large attendance by the opposition, though they didn’t really join in the party organised for them.

Long Live May Day!


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

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


XR Defy Police Ban

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

XR’s response to the illegal police ban on protests came the following day, when protesters crowded into Trafalgar Square to defend civil liberties and the right to protest.

Extinction Rebellion had called the protest after London Police ruled that even two people standing anywhere in London advocating action on climate change is an illegal assembly, and Monday’s Queen’s speech lacked any response to the Climate & Ecological Emergency.

Trafalgar Square soon became very full, and too crowded to be able to move around to take photographs. Fortunately I’d realised this was happening and had moved to a position on the steps only a few yards away from the microphone before the speeches began. But there were people sitting and standing in my line of sight, and I had to stretch and contort myself to get a clear view – and was almost certainly getting in the line of sight of others to do so.

And there were a whole string of speakers ready to speak out in defence of the right to protest – and put themselves at risk of arrest for doing so, along with the several thousand other protesters. Police did issue a number of warnings to people, but I saw no arrests actually in Trafalgar Square. Among the speakers was George Monbiot, and I’ve just found out that my spell checker decided he should be called George Moonlit when I wrote the account for October’s My London Diary (now corrected.)

I photographed most of the speakers, and XR’s red-robed mimes, who made their way through the crowd and came and stood rather conveniently behind me, but I was in pain from having to squat in an odd position to get my pictures and had to move back shortly before the protest ended and sit down for a rest.

George Monbiot had come to the protest determined to be arrested and carrying a notice announcing his deliberate breach of the Section 14 order, and invited people to join him and sit down in Whitehall after the protest. Quite a few went with him and police made a number of arrests,including him and a Green Party mayor who had come in his full regalia.

It was a long protest and I took many pictures – you can see more of them and read more about the protest at XR defies protest ban.


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

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

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Police impose unlawful ban

Friday, April 17th, 2020
Police remove a man who sat down on the crossing

After a week of protests by Extinction Rebellion in London, the police and their political masters decided they had had enough, and announced a London-wide ban on protests by XR across London, invoking Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.

A man shows his passport at the police checkpoint on Lambeth Bridge

XR immediately accused the police of abusing the law and denying freedom of speech and questioned the legality of the police ban, beginning a legal challenge. Firstly that Section 14 was intended to allow police to manage protest and not to ban it and secondly that it could not be applied to XR’s ‘Autumn Rebellion’ as this was not a ‘public assembly’ in the terms laid down in the Act.

Police escort a JCB on its way to destroy the XR camp at Vauxhall

The order was imposed on 14 October, but the law works relatively slowly and it was only on 6 November that the High Court made an unequivocal judgement that the Met had acted unlawfully.

A police officer watches as Sian Berry speaks and MEPs Gina Dowding & Molly Scott Cato hold posters

Lord Justice Sedley observed:

“In a free society all must be able to hold and articulate views, especially views with which many disagree. Free speech is a hollow concept if one is only able to express “approved” or majoritarian views. It is the intolerant, the instinctively authoritarian, who shout down or worse suppress views with which they disagree”

It appears to have become standard procedure for police to make up and enforce their own versions of the law and to make arrests, often with no real possibility of any charge ever being brought. Sometimes their intent is clearly to impose bail conditions to restrict people’s activity for prolonged periods of time, and at times it simply seems a form of harassment, holding people for perhaps ten or twelve hours before releasing them in the middle of the night miles from their homes often without proper clothing and their possessions retained as ‘evidence’.

I hope the hundreds of protesters arrested for breach of this unlawful ban are pursuing their claims for false imprisonment, which could cost the Met millions, though of course that only means us taxpayers picking up the bill for the Bill.

XR protesters came to defy the ban on protests

After a slow start to the XR ‘No Food No Future‘ protest outside MI5 on Millbank where police restricted the movements of many not involved in the protest as well as searching activists and making an arrest I left to photograph a protest by politicians, mainly from the Green Party against the unreasonable ban on protest and freedom of speech. Although there were several hundred people in the square defying the ban, police made no arrests, perhaps because of the involvement of a number of MEPs and other politicians.

Protest defends freedom of speech
XR No Food No Future protest


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

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


Enforced Disappearance

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

A post by Shahidul Alam, The journalist who got too close, reminded me of the dangers faced by journalists and photographers in some countries of the world, and in Bangladesh in particular, where extra-judicial killings and ‘disappearances’ are now common, despite government protestations there that they show ‘zero tolerance’ to extra-judicial killings, or torture and death in custody.

Alam writes:

On March 10, 2020, the Bangladesh police registered a case against photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol and 31 others under the country’s draconian Digital Security Act for publishing ‘false, offensive and defamatory’ information on Facebook. He has not been seen since.

You can read more about his case at Amnesty International who have released a video showing CCTV footage of unidentified men interfering with his motorbike outside the offices of his Bangla daily Dainik Pokkhokal for which he was both editor and photojournalist shortly before he left the office and rode away on the evening of 10 March 2020. He has not been seen since. Police filed a new case against him three hours after he was last seen.

You can see a few photographs by Shafiqul Islam Kajol on the Majority World agency web site. His disappearance took place after he and 31 others were accused of publishing “false, offensive and defamatory” information on Facebook. He had been publishing about sex scandals by members of the ruling party. He had previously been badly injured in several attacks when covering their political rallies.


NHS Fundraising Sale

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

I don’t normally publish press releases, but here an exception:

James Hyman Gallery announces the launch of a special fundraising sale.

All profits will go to support the National Health Service.I know that at this time of international crisis, the last thing on people’s minds is looking at art, let alone buying it. In my case, one of my daughter’s has coronavirus (thankfully mildly) and we are under quarantine and waiting to see if we also catch it. All being well my wife, Claire, will return to her job as a surgeon in a major NHS hospital next week.

Unfortunately, NHS Hospital staff, on the front line in the treatment of patients with Covid-19, are still working without the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), and there remains a shortage of testing kits and ventilators.

As everyone pulls together I have been thinking what I can do as an art dealer. I feel very helpless. What I have done is put together a selection of works by some of the major photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and will donate all profits to the National Health Service.

It would be wonderful if you could take a look and let me know if anything is of interest to you.

http://www.jameshymangallery.com/exhibitions/2682/press/special-fundraising-sale-for-the-national-health-service

Although some of the pictures are at least of some interest to me, the prices are a little out of my league. But wealthier readers of this blog (if there are any) might be interested. Regular readers will also know that I think the fetishisation of of the photographic print rather misses the point of our medium and its infinite possibility of reproduction.

As I’ve pointed out here before, if you want an Atget to hang on your wall you can have one at little or no cost, and it will quite likely be a rather better print than you can buy from an art dealer. The one hanging in my front room certainly is. And I’ve certainly printed better Walker Evans prints than were made of his work back in the 1930s.

But this is a generous response to the crisis, and I hope it that some will buy and enjoy these pictures, mainly but not all photographs, quite a few of which are images I’ve not seen before.

At least one other dealer has made a similar response, with New York based dealer and gallery owner Hans P Kraus Jr putting up a sale of prints by Early British Photographers, with 10% of the sales revenue going to support New York healthcare workers. The works for sale include some by Talbot himself, as well as Hill & Adamson, Anna Atkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, Roger Fenton and others. The print which attracts me most is a later reproduction of Hill & Adamson’s ‘The Bird Cage (the Misses Watson)’, a carbon print made by Jessie Bertram in 1916.

Both these sales were featured in posts by Michael Pritchard in the blog on the British photographic history web site.


Solidarity with Rojava

Monday, April 6th, 2020

While we may feel cooped up in isolation in the UK, and are mourning the deaths of several thousand from COVID-19, the situation for many around the world is far worse. Particularly at risk are the people of Rojava in North-East Syria, mainly Kurds, at risk both from Turkish invasion forces and from the virus.

Kurds are the largest minority community in Turkey as well as being widespread across the northern parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. They were promised an independent state at the end of the First World War, but that promise was denied when the boundaries of modern Turkey were defined in 1923.

Since 1923 Turkey has attempted a programme to eliminate Kurdish culture and identity, at times with massive military campaigns as well as repressive legislation. The Kurds, around 20% of the population, have fought back the opposition led since the 1980s by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK led by Abdullah Öcalan who has been in jail in Turkey since 1999.

In recent years Turkey has been aggressively attacking Kurds outside Turkey and in early 2018 they invaded Afrin canton in northern Syria, part of the territory where Kurds with other minority ethnic groups had established a de-facto autonomous region of Rojava, with a constitution based on decentralisation, gender equality, direct democracy and guaranteeing ethnic minority rights and religious freedom.

Kurdish forces in the People’s Protection Units, the men of the YPG and the women of the YPJ, were the most effective force in fighting the ISIS in Syria, with the help of US air support. But Turkey is second only the the US in military strength in NATO, and has benefited greatly from NATO support and arms supply, and were able to take Afrin from these lightly armed Kurdish forces. Many Kurds were forced out of the area, which had been overwhelmingly Kurdish and they are now a relatively small minority.

President Trump’s announcement of a US withdrawal from Syria gave Turkey’s President Erdogan a green light to continue his country’s invasion of Rojava, and left the Kurds there no alternative but to call on the Syrian government for support, a move which in the longer term seems likely to end their autonomy.

Turkey is now using the coronavirus to threaten Kurds in Turkish prisons for political reasons – including many journalists, excluding them from its plans to release them with other prisoners because of the pandemic. They are also refusing to refer prisoners with COVID-19 symptoms for medical treatment.

For the 4 million inhabitants of North and East Syria, including 600,000 refugees the situation is also dire. The World Health Organisation refuses to support the area directly and little comes to them through the Assad regime. There are no WHO test kits or test machines and only 35 intensive care beds and 40 ventilators.

More pictures from October’s protest: Solidarity with Rojava – Kurdish Syria


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

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