Class War, London Fourth Wave Feminists and many more including local residents and Tower Hamlets council were all appalled when the shop that had been given planning permission to open as a museum celebrating the women of London (and for which a number of people had given services without charge in aid of a good cause) turned instead to be a tacky tourist attraction romanticizing London’s most celebrated killer of women, Montague Druitt, whose body was fished out of the Thames on December 31, 1888, better known as ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Since there could be no trial, although police at the time were apparently convinced enough to abandon their inquiries, an industry has grown up around various theories as to the murderer’s true identity with almost every prominent Victorian male being put under the spotlight.
One American crime novelist who believes artist Walter Sickert was the man responsible even went to the extremes of spending £2 million buying 32 of his paintings – and attracted the opprobrium of the art world by destroying one of them – in her unsuccessful efforts to find any evidence that would impress even the most gullible juror. But efforts such as hers have certainly stoked interest in the case.
The man hoping to make money out of the prurient interest in this series of horrific crimes against innocent women by promoting speculation as a tourist attraction is Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, and although he has been present during some previous protests, this time he only appeared on the mask worn by one of the women, leaving two female staff to run the shop.
Rip Down the Ripper Facade! came after Tower Hamlets Council refused planning permission for its facade and shutter, and since it was still unchanged, Class War’s fearless Womens Death Brigade came along with the tools to take it down – or at least an inflatable hammer. Their other armaments were stickers, which were soon liberally covering the windows.
The feminists came armed with posters and wearing cat masks, and some hooded characters in black arrive with a smoking red flare, which rather got in the eyes of police and this photographer.
I like to work as close as possible to those I’m photographing, usually working around the wider end of a 16-35mm zoom. But when smoke fills the air, it also obstructs the light as well as your lungs, and you really need to move back.
The worst damage that the facade actually suffered at this protest was when an egg or two was thrown at its sign – and again I got just a little splattered as it splashed off. Mostly the protest remained good natured, though with a lot of noisy theatre. Stickers generally peel off without damage, and egg can be washed off.
Despite that, two people were arrested and charged with criminal damage, though I have no idea what this damage was. The charges against one of them have been dropped, but the second prosecution is continuing. The ‘museum’ appealed the planning decision – and lost. They are to be allowed to keep a small hanging sign, but have already had to take down the illegal signage and have until 31 May to remove the unauthorised shop front and roller shutter.
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