Grenfell Tour

While the largest organised events taking place over the Grenfell fire disaster continue to be the monthly silent walks, many feel that these are letting those responsible off the hook. Although various political groups take part in the silent walks, some feel that the deliberate attempt to keep these non-political is counter-productive.

Of course there are more political events taking place, and several political groups are also highly involved in the work with the community, among those volunteering to offer support, as well as campaigning. People sometimes shout at those who take part in protests, telling them they should be doing something, not protesting but almost always many of those protesting are also people who are involved in positive actions in the community, while those shouting at them are far less likely to be doing anything but shout abuse.

The RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) is a relatively small group which has some members in the area and which has taken part in various political actions in the area and has run a weekly street stall to try and raise awareness of some of the issues. I think some of those involved either as members or friends of the RCG have also been volunteers working in the area.

The RCG has a long history of raising issues about housing in London, over benefit sanctions and other issues which affect those getting by on low incomes in the capital, as well as campaigning against racism and imperialism, and bringing out one of the more sensible and thoughtful of left-wing newspapers. They seem to me, as an outsider, as being rather less doctrinaire than most left groups, and one that is happy to work with others without trying to take them over.

That doesn’t mean I always agree with all they say or do. I wasn’t sure that a tour of the area visiting the home addresses of the few councillors from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who lived in the area was really a good idea, particularly when the main culprit was known to have moved out of his address several months earlier, and the property was now let to someone with no connection to the guilty council.

But councillors are of course responsible for their actions as we all are, and a brief protest by a relatively small group outside their homes was not going to present any risk to them or their families, while it might do a little to increase the pressure on the authorities – including the RBKC council – to listen to the community and take the actions they should be taking but seem rather reluctant to do.

The man bearing much of the responsibility for the disaster had moved out of his home just a few hundred yards from Grenfell Tower almost immediately after the news of his involvement broke, apparently staying with wealthy family and friends elsewhere in London. ‘Wanted’ posters showing his face were almost the only sight of him in the area since, though he had apparently managed to get to the council offices a couple of miles away without being seen.

His house was put into the hands of a letting agent and was now lived in by someone with no connection to the councillor (except for paying an high London rent to the agents which they presumably largely passed on to him.) The tenant came out to explain to the protesters, asking them to go away and I felt rather sorry for him and his family being disturbed.

At the second house the protest stopped outside, the Tory councillor had been taking his dog for a walk and arrived back to see the protest. I felt some admiration for him as he came out to argue with the protesters and try to defend himself against some of their claims, though rather less for his defence of the council, who appear clearly to have failed their residents, in making their housing unsafe by cost-cutting modifications and by refusing to take seriously their complaints and in what appears to have been a virtually complete failure to respond properly to the disaster.

He did tell the protesters that he personally had gone to Grenfell in the early hours of the morning to do what he could to help, and there were some hints in what he said that he agreed with some of their complaints against the council.

It was a long walk to where the next councillor lived – most councillors live in the leafier and more expensive areas of the borough, and this was an outlying part of it. The house appeared empty and the protest made a lot of noise in the street outside, bringing out another local resident to complain noisily about being disturbed. He seemed intent on making an ass of himself and it was noticeable that none of the neighbours came out in his support. Of course his presence prolonged the protest there and greatly increased the noise.

The protesters turned around to walk back towards Grenfell Tower and I left them to walk the short distance to Holland Park Avenue to catch a bus. I felt I’d taken enough pictures, and the batteries in my LED light unit had long ago run down enough to make it of little use.

The light has a decent light output when they are fully charged, though only really useful within perhaps 2-3 metres of the camera, but this does seem to drop off pretty rapidly, though the unit continues to give some light for an hour or two. Where possible I had been using available light – often at ISO 12,800 – but some areas were just too dark for this, particularly when people were moving and so a higher shutter speed – perhaps 1/100th – was needed.

More pictures: Protesters visit Grenfell councillors

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