G4S, NHS & Colombia

I’ve been away for a few days taking a holiday, and although I made a few posts while away, wasn’t able to keep up with my normal schedules. So it’s been a little longer than usual since my last post. I’m now back and working, and keeping rather busy – so many protests now in London. In the week I was away there were at least 20 I would have liked to have covered.

June too was a busy month, and although Thursdays are not usually very busy for me, on 5th June I went out with four events in my diary, spread across London, the first at the Excel Centre on Victoria Dock in Newham, East London. I arrived as the protesters were setting up on a paved area outside the centre where G4S were holding their AGM, and the protesters were hoping to lobby the shareholders coming for the meeting.

Quite a few of the protesters were familiar to me from a number of earlier protests outside the G4S offices on Victoria St, where there have been regular protests, but there were also some other groups involved, including  War on Want and Right to Remain as well as another group I’ve photographed at many events, Global Women’s Strike. G4S’s involvement in Israeli prisons where Palestinians are held without trial and tortured and here in the UK where they have run detention centres and done the dirty work for the UK Borders Agency – including killing Jimmy Mubenga while forcibly deporting him – have rightly enraged many.

You can see more pictures at GG4S AGM Protest Against Human Rights Abuses.

I didn’t stay very long although I knew that things might get more interesting later on inside the actual AGM because I knew that I had no chance of photographing inside there. I knew the security would be very tight – and in the event when shareholding protesters were physically ejected from the meeting they even managed to stop those who tried to take pictures on their phones.

I’d been a little worried before I arrived that there might be problems outside with security, as the whole area is I think part of one of London’s many areas open to the public which is actually a privately owned estate. But although there were a few minor words with the protesters who strayed outside the area that had been allotted to them, I had no problems at all in taking photographs.

Fortunately it was a direct journey on the Docklands Light Railway to Tower Gateway and then a ten minute walk to the St Katherine’s Dock Practice where the ‘Nye Bevan’ march to ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ was starting its tour of the surgeries in Tower Hamlets. The removal of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) for practices threatens the future of high quality health care in deprived areas – and is designed to put quality practices out of business, replacing them with surgeries on the cheap operated by large healthcare companies on the behalf of shareholders rather than patients.

The march stopped briefly at each surgery for short speeches and collected a few more people. The bright sun made for some very contrasty lighting in some pictures and I often didn’t use fill flash when I should. I was also getting uncomfortably hot marching around the city streets but stayed with it for around a third of its long route to a final rally.  You can see my pictures at Tower Hamlets – Save our Surgeries.  Possibly the surgeries will be able to hang on until after the election, when if Labour are elected there is some small chance that they might reverse some of the more blatant privatisation of the NHS as they have fewer vested interests in healthcare companies.

I left the march as I had planned at at a surgery close to Whitechapel station. I should have had plenty of time from there to take the Underground to either of the two remaining protests on my list. Both were in west London, at the Columbian and Egyptian embassies. But the NHS protest had taken a little longer than they had planned to get to Whitechapel, and I was running a little late on my schedule.

I knew I should go to the Egyptian embassy first, as the group at the Colombian Mines – World Environment Day protest would I knew be slow to start, but I chose this first as it was only a short walk from Knightsbridge station, while if I went to the Egyptian embassy I would have a longish walk there and back to the tube to go on to Knightsbridge. It was hot and I was tired and I took the easier route, and then went back to Hyde Park Corner station to walk to a protest against the Egyptian regime.

This final event in my diary for the day had been scheduled by the organisers to run from 4pm until 6pm. I arrived at 5pm, meeting a familiar face who had just arrived struggling with a large and heavy trade union banner and we were both disappointed to find around 20 protesters packing up and leaving an hour early. So I had nothing to photograph. Though by then I was hot and tired and wasn’t too upset to have a little less work to do when I finally got home. It did mean I got to bed before midnight.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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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