Friday Protests

I’ve had a few busy days and not had time to write on this blog, partly with several events to photograph, but also with other things to do and to worry about, but also with trying to get my main web site, My London Diary, a little more up-to-date with events. A diary should really be something you write up at the time, not as I’ve been doing recently around a month later. But should you click on the link above today when I post this, you should find that it only a day or two adrift – and later today it should include some of the latest pictures I’ve taken from Saturday.

Yesterday, Sunday, as I came around in bed the curtains were open and I could see snow falling, and when an hour or two later, having posted my daily picture of Hull I turned to post this onto Facebook I was greeted by picture after picture (mainly by rather bad picture after picture) showing people’s back gardens and streets with a little snow on them. I’d been wondering whether to go and photograph a couple of things in London, but decided not to; although I could have coped with the snow, our transport system would probably be on the blink. Later several of the things I’d had in mind were cancelled due to the weather, and there were reports of transport chaos. And more bad snow pictures.

It wasn’t much of a snowfall where I live (and today it has all disappeared and we are getting cold rain with the odd snowflake mixed in) and I decided not to bother to try and take photographs of it. We had snow rather better in the past, with weeks in the 70s and 80s where it lay inches deep – and drifts of a foot or more, with many suburban roads only passable with difficulty on foot and some closed to traffic for several days, and I felt I’d already served my share of snow pictures.

Today it feels quite good to look back to when days were longer and warmer around the end of May, and another Friday where I was busy, starting with a very similar event. Human rights group Inminds holds regular fortnightly protests about Palestine, usually on a Friday afternoon, drawing attention to the human rights abuses by Israel against the Palestinians, and calling for freedom for Palestine and for a boycott of Israel, and when I’m free and in London I try to cover these events, although often my visits to them are rather brief. The protest on this occasion was outside the Moorgate offices of the UK Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross, demanding it end complicity with Israel’s violation of the rights of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were then taking part in a hunger strike.

It was easier to photograph than most of their protests, partly because it was a new location, but also because there were specific posters for the event, and unlike some other of their protests there was little traffic and few pedestrians to get in my way as I was taking pictures; it was almost a private event, so photographs, mine and also those that Inminds itself take – had an added importance as the only way it reached the public.

There are accusations made that some of those who belong to Inminds are antisemitic, but protests such as this are clearly against particular illegal activities of the Israeli state and part of their campaign against the occupation of Palestine. I’m clear that it is possible to support the Palestinian cause without being antisemitic, though it isn’t possible to do so without being accused by some of antisemitism. I’m also clear that I’m not a member of Inminds, but a journalist who reports on some of their protests – as I do on protests by many other groups.

From Moorgate my next stop was Walthamstow Central, where parents and children were marching after school to a rally against education cuts. Photographing children has become difficult now, and photographers are always under suspicion if they point a camera at a child for whatever reason, and I did feel a little difficult doing so. In the past there were so many great photographs of children and I think it is a shame that we are now so inhibited about taking pictures of them. Of course there are terrible abuses of children and it’s right to do all we can to prevent the activities of abusers, but there is no real connection between those abuses and people taking pictures on the streets.

If taking photographs will not generally harm children, the changes in funding for schools certainly will, and that effect will be greatest in city areas such as London E17, where Waltham Forest schools were to lose over £25m from their annual budgets – £672 per pupil on average, with some schools losing over £1000 per pupil. It means fewer teachers – coincidentally also around 672 fewer in Waltham Forest, and at a time when numbers in schools are increasing. As a retired member of the NUT as well as a current member of the NUJ I have a particular concern.

I listened to a few of the speeches, but then had to leave, traveling back to the centre of London with the Victoria line taking me direct to Westminster. I’d missed the pre-election protest by Stop Killing Cyclists a few days earlier outside the Labour HQ, but this evening it was the turn of the Tories in Matthew Parker St, a short walk from Parliament.

There I photographed another child, wearing a face mask sitting beside his father who was lying ‘dead’ on the ground outside as a part of a protest against traffic and air pollution both killing cyclists in London. Not just cyclists of course, traffic and pollution both kill pedestrians and drivers too, but cyclists face a particular risk when riding amongst faster moving and much more massive vehicles, and breathing their fumes on the road.

Later enough of the cyclists lay down to fill the frame of my fish-eye lens – and the house in the centre behind them is the Tory HQ.  Money spent on making safe protected cycle paths encourages many more to use their bikes to get around the city, reducing transport pollution which currently results in over 9,000 premature deaths a year in London as well as much suffering from illness, and more people getting on their bikes also means more people getting a little exercise to improve their healths.  More people cycling also cuts traffic congestion – with an increase in road space considerably greater than the loss caused by building protected cycle routes. In fact the only downside is that it leads to greater traffic speeds and so greater impact damage when vehicles hit people, something that needs to be mitigated by greater use and enforcement of 20mph zones.

But policies are generally driven not by facts, not be research, not by safety but by lobbying of politicians and the prejudices of the press, also  firmly guided by the saloon bar ‘common sense’ (not that we still have saloon bars – but we still have the attitudes.) Neither of the main parties had a sensible road traffic policy and was willing to spend the amounts needed to encourage cycling by making it safer.

Red Cross act for Hunger Strikers
E17 Protest Against School Cuts
Cyclists Tory HQ die-in against pollution


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

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