Another Stop Killing Londoners

Rising Up’s Stop Killing Londoners group (SKL) continued its series of protests against the dangerous level of air pollution in London by a couple of brief road-blocks on one of inner London’s busiest roads the Marylebone Rd, beginning with one at the Baker St junction as many workers were making their way into the station on a Friday evening.

SKL protests are designed to get as much publicity as possible while causing only minimal inconvenience to the public – who like them are at great risk of lung conditions and early deaths because of excessive pollution levels in London air, especially around busy roads such as this. Those taking part include people who had campaigned for years to try and get some action over air pollution, but with very little effect, and they feel that protests such as this will embarrass London’s mayor into taking action – both through coverage in press, radio and TV and in particular if they get arrested and taken to court.

Actions were timed for the early evening partly because there is more traffic on the roads at the rush hour, but also for the very practical reason that most of those taking part are at work during the day time. Later SKL also organised a number of early morning protests before going to work, and I was unable to cover these because of the problems of getting up and travelling in to London in the early morning.

The kind of short hold-ups that SKL protests involve are not unusual on London streets. Any minor accident will cause longer stoppages and road works or building work often lead to much longer queues.  Both through posters and over the PA system they try to let motorists know that they will not be held up for more than a few minutes, but despite this a few drivers get very irate. One on this occasion even tried to use his white van to push the protesters out of the way, and when it became clear this was not going to work threw water from a bottle over them  – and over me as I took his picture.

I usually try not to involve bystanders in my pictures and to concentrate on those taking part in the protest, but once this guy had tried to drive through the protesters (and me) I decided he was fair game. I rather liked the image with reflections through the van window, though perhaps it is too fussy and too arty for editorial use. It did take a lot of work in Lightroom to bring out the different areas of the picture and even out the lighting, and some have thought this was a multiple exposure. It is a single exposure with my camera close to the van window, using the view inside the cab, the reflection in the window and the view through the cab and the front and opposite side window.

As often when unexpected things happen I was a little caught out when he started throwing water at the protesters, with a shutter speed that was more suited to the relatively static protest than action, and quite a few pictures were rather too blurred. And it isn’t easy to keep your camera steady when things start to get thrown at you.  So I only got the picture of him point the bottle at me and instinctively ducked out of the way.

Stop Killing Londoners road block


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