New Homes for the Rich

Class War’s Chingford candidate Lisa McKenzie holds a poster on the window of the Rich Door. D800E, ISO3200, 18mm (27mm), Flash, 1/40 f8

Class War’s protest on March 19th was livelier than usual, partly because the Texas millionaire owner of the block at One Commercial St was thought to be actually in the building, but also because there was a rather larger group present than most weeks. But perhaps the main reason was that there were no uniformed officers present for the first twenty minutes of the protest.

D700, ISO 3200, 16mm, 1/60 f4

The event was more congested than usual as both building works on the front of One Commercial St and pavement replacement works were taking up much of the usual space. It made it harder than usual to get in  the right place to take pictures.

Class War had prepared for Taylor McWilliams‘ presence, producing a ‘Wanted’ sticker with his picture calling for information on him: ‘Dirt? Gossip? Dodgy Deals? Sex? Drugs? Money?‘ They had also brought with them a number of copies of one of their best-known posters, based on a classic Class War magazine cover from over 30 years ago. An image of a giant cemetery with wooden crosses stretching to the horizon, it has the Class War logo and the message ‘We Have Found New Homes For The Rich.’

It may be an image in bad taste, but it is hard to see it as illegal, and I’ve previously photographed it at a number of public events where no action was taken. But one of the charges which police have now made against Lisa McKenzie is of displaying this poster ‘with intent to cause Taylor McWilliams harassment, alarm or distress contrary to Section 4A(1) and (5) of the Public Order Act 1986.‘ You can see from the pictures that the poster was not being displayed to those inside the building – presumably including McWilliams – but to the other protesters outside.

D800E ISO3200 18mm(27mm) Flash 1/40 f9

While clearly McKenzie was displaying the poster at the protest, another of the contentions in the charges is clearly false. She is charged with placing stickers on the building to the value of £50.00. From both from my photographs and my observation of her during the event I am clear that she put no stickers on the glass herself, but was simply holding the posters to the glass, with both hands occupied in doing so. It’s also evident that removing a sticker from the glass surface should take more than a minute’s work and perhaps a scraper and a damp cloth and would hardly justify a cost of 50p, let alone £50.

Of course I did see people put stickers on the glass and metal of the building, but McKenzie didn’t, and I was watching her closely because of her candidature in Chingford. Others were also as my pictures show displaying the poster, and certainly others were also saying similar things to her at the protest, but for some reason police only arrested and charged her.

Could it be because she was standing against a government minister in the coming general election? It seems clear that the arrest and charges against her are simply a matter of harassment – as was the arrest last November of another prominent Class War protester Jane Nicholl, and the seizing of the Class War banner with the accompanying arrest – which I understand has not yet been followed by any charge, although the police have not returned the banner.

D700 ISO3200 16mm 1/50 f4

McKenzie wasn’t arrested until two weeks later, but another protester was arrested after plastic road-works barriers were put across the main road. The arrest was made by two plain clothes officers who had earlier been standing around on the edge of the protest, too far away to see what was then going on.

D700 ISO3200 16mm 1/100 f5

The protest started ten minutes before sunset, and the light rapidly faded. But for virtually the whole hour of the protest I was photographing with the D700 without flash at ISO 3200 with the 16-35mm f4 lens wide open, and shutter speeds between 1/13 and 1/80th. Quite a few were a little blurred either due to camera shake or subject movement.  In some I added a little light with a Neewer CN-216 LED hand-held light source.

After taking a few frames with the D800E and 18-105mm without flash, I put the SB80 flash into the hot-shoe, still working at ISO3200 and using a shutter speed of 1/40th to get plenty of exposure by ambient light. Often using a slow shutter speed with flash on subjects where there is quite a lot of movement gives some interesting blur along with the sharp core image from the flash. The effect is sometimes rather hard to see in the web-size images.

D700 ISO3200 16mm 1/100 f4

Photographing the arrest was made a little tricky by the car headlights, which illuminated a rather narrow band of the subject and made some frames unusable with burnt out highlights. But I was able to burn in some where the exposure was not too extreme. And the flaming torches also pose some problems, which often call for some fairly extreme reduction of the highlights using the Lightroom slider or local adjustment.

You can see more pictures at Poor Doors blocks Rich Door.


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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