Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing

January 18th, 2022

Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing: 18/01/2014
Another busy day for protests in London seven years ago.

Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary
A large crowd protested on Kensington High Street opposite the private gated and guarded road containing the Israeli embassy five years marked 5 years after the end of the 2008/9 massacre in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which around 1,400 Palestinians were killed, many of them unarmed civilians.

Among those taking part were a number of Palestinians and Jews, who have been prominent in calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The protest was supported by many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al-Aqsa UK, Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine, War on Want, Unite the Union, Public and Commercial Services Union, Amos Trust and ICAHD UK.

Anonymous March For Freedom UK

Following their large protest on November 5th, Anonymous supporters arranged a another wide-ranging protest against privatisation, cuts, environmental and other issues, calling for the people to claim the country back from those who are destroying it.

This was rather smaller with perhaps a little over a hundred people, some wearing Anonymous masks meeting in Trafalgar Square and then marching down to Parliament, although as it was a Saturday there would be no politicians there.

Standing around the square were quite a number of police, including Police Liaison Officers in their blue bibs as well as a FIT team with a police photographer. But the police seemed much less confrontational than in November and actually helped them to march down Whitehall to Parliament – and when no one seemed then to have any idea what to do next actually made some sensible suggestions.

Eventually the police persuaded the protesters to move off the road and on to the pavement outside Parliament where they held a rally. There were a number of speeches than the protest rather ground to a halt, with some suggesting that they party in Parliament Square. I left at this point, walking past enough police vans to hold several times as many officers as protesters as I did so.

Peace vigil for Syria

In Trafalgar Square Syria Peace & Justice were holding a peace vigil ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks. They called for immediate humanitarian ceasefires and the release of all political prisoners and an inclusive Syrian-led peace process.

Unfortunately although the USA and western countries who had encouraged the Syrian rebels made supportive noises, they failed to come up with any real support. It was left to Russia who came to Assad’s aid and ensured the continuation of his regime, with some help from Turkey, who despite their membership of NATO colluded with both Assad and ISIS as well as Russia.

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing

Nearby in Villiers St, there were protesters outside the Gay Star Beach Party LGBT tourism promotion, which received money from the Israeli Tourism Board to encourage gay tourists to holiday in Tel Aviv.

The picket outside the event asked people to boycott Israel until ends human rights abuses and recognises the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and complies with international law, and handed out ‘No Pinkwash’ cards which they say persuaded a number of people not to attend the event. Very few appeared to actually attend the beach party.

They also highlighted Israel’s racist treatment of African people following the protests in Tel Aviv last week by 30,000 African asylum seekers and refugees. These demanded that all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centres be freed and that their rights as asylum seekers and refugees be recognised.

More on all four protests on My London Diary:

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing
Peace vigil for Syria
Anonymous March For Freedom UK
Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary


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Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014

January 17th, 2022

Focus E15 Mothers and children party in the show flat – 17th January 2014

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014
Housing remains one of London’s larger problems, with sky-high house prices and market rents. At the start of 2022 the average flat rent in London is over £360 per week – around £19,000 per year, while the average property price according to Zoopla is £681,427.

Housing has always been a problem in London, but in the 1950s, 60s and 70s things were beginning to improve, largely due to both Labour and Conservative councils building council houses and flats. By the 1960s over 500,000 new flats were added in London and nationally around a third of UK households lived in social housing.

The government’s minimum wage for 2022 will be £9.50 per hour from April – an on that rate you would need to work for around 38 hours a week just to pay for a flat – and of course would have no chance of ever buying a flat or house. Things have got considerably worse since 2010, and in boroughs like Newham average rents now are 65% of average wages.

The building programme slowed down in the 1970s as governments made it more difficult for councils to build, but the real watershed came with Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act which gave council tenants the right to buy their properties at between 33-50% of market value – and stopped councils from using the proceeds to built more properties.

Further housing acts under Thatcher led to the transfer of much social housing to housing associations, which were allowed to access private finance while councils were very much restricted in their borrowing. Housing associations continue to build some new properties, but the numbers are small in relation to demand, and much lower than those built by councils in the 1950s-70s. Official figures for 2019 show only 37,825 new homes built for letting at below market rents while over 1.1 million households are on housing waiting lists – around 30 times as many.

So it is not surprising that councils such as Newham have a huge housing problem, and the council says it has the highest levels of overcrowded housing in the country, one of the highest proportion of people living in insecure private rented homes and in houses of multiple occupation and the largest number of homeless people – including those in temporary accommodation.

Newham was one of the first councils to get an elected Mayor in 2002, and Robin Wales held that post until 2018 when he was deselected as candidate. Many blame him for the particular failures over housing in the borough and point to properties on the Carpenters Estate in particular, some of which have been deliberately left empty for around 15 years.

The first group to organise and call out the council on their failures over housing were young single mothers who were threatened with eviction after Newham Council removed funding from East Thames Housing Association’s Focus E15 Foyer in Stratford. Newham Council had tried to get them to move well away from London, in Hastings, Birmingham and elsewhere, away from friends, families, colleges, nurseries and support networks. These offers were for private rented accommodation, with little or no security of tenure and would leave them at the mercy of often unscrupulous or uncaring landlords.

For once the group stood together and determined – helped by friends – to fight the council, not just for their own cases, but also for others whom Newham is failing to provide accommodation. Though they attracted national publicity and won their fight to stay in the London they continue to hold a weekly protest and advice stall in central Stratford every Saturday – I visited it again in late 2021. Their fight exposed the failures of Robin Wales and was certainly one of the factors in his losing support in the borough.

You can read more about the protes when a group of the mothers with their children went into the East Thames offices and held a party in their show flat on on My London Diary in Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction. The East Thames staff who came to talk with them were generally sympathetic and attempted to reassure them but told them it was the responsibility of the council and not the housing association to rehouse them.


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Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad

January 16th, 2022

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad
January 16th 2013 was an unusually busy day for protests in London on a Wednesday, though not all were quite what they seemed.

My working day started a short walk from Notting Hill Gate station, where a small group of protesters had come to take part in an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, one of the three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral the previous February.

Alyokhina was sent to serve two years in a prison camp at Perm in Siberia, one of the Soviet Unions harshest areas and was appearing in court that day to plea for her sentence to be suspended so she could raise her son, born in 2008, until he is 14.

She was kept in prison until 13th December 2013 when she was released under an amnesty bill by the Russian Duma, and since has continued her political activism, suffering further arrests and assaults. Last year – 2021 – she served two 15 day prison sentences before being put on a year’s parole.

The protest on the main road close to the Russian Embassy which is hidden down a very private street was scheduled to last three hours, and had got off to a slow start, with some of those arriving deciding to go away for coffee and come back later. Numbers were expected to rise later, but I couldn’t wait as I was due at another protest at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

I arrived at the vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice to find there was also a second protest taking place. I had come to meet disabled protesters who were supporting a tribunal hearing of a judicial review of Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act as they are not accessible for those with mental health conditions.

Those taking part included members of the Mental Health Resistance Network, MHRN, Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, Winvisible, Greater London Pensioners Association and others, including members of the Counihan family and PCS members who work at the court.

Speakers at the rally reminded us of the special problems with the Work Capability Assessments for many with mental health conditions, as these are often spasmodic. On good days claimants may not seem very ill and seem fit for work, while on bad days they may be unable to attend an assessment and for this reason be automatically judged fit for work.

Their press release included the statement:
‘Dozens of disabled people are dying every week following assessment. Nearly 40% of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’… This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.’

Also protesting outside the courts were the ‘Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)’ who claimed that a child who has never been diagnosed with any mental illness was being dosed with a dangerous anti-psychotic drug prescribed by a psychiatrist. Wikimedia describes the group as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists’ and was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

The court backed them in the particular case concerned, though most of the information about it was confidential and the court decision may not have been confirmed by the family court.

Among those taking part in their protest was a man in a white coat at the protest holding pill bottles representing the drugs they described as redundant and unscientific and instead promoting the benefits of ASEA, which appears to be an unscientific scam, promoted by dubious means. Basically salt water, the web site ‘Science-Based Medicine’ concluded: “The only value of the product is the entertainment value that can be derived from reading the imaginative pseudoscientific explanations they have dreamed up to sell it.”

Finally I went to Grosvenor Square for a protest outside the US Embassy where protesters, including members of ‘Veterans for Peace’, were holding a vigil in solidarity with Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, on day 963 of his pretrial detention while his defence argued in court for charges to be dismissed for lack of a ‘speedy trial.’

They stood holding placards in silence while the audio of a 45 minute video, ‘Collateral Murder’ allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was played on a PA system. The video clearly shows US forces committing war crimes and has become a symbol of the need for Wikileaks and ‘for courageous whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning.’

The protest was one of a series organised by WISE Up Action, a Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and after the vigil at the US Embassy many of those taking part were going to the daily vigil outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange was then inside having been granted asylum and under threat of arrest by British police should he leave. But it had been a long day and I decided it was time for me to leave for home before ‘Collateral Murder’ finished playing.

More at:
Stand with Brad at US Embassy
Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids
Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments
Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


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Church, Pyramid, Star of the East – More Limehouse

January 15th, 2022

St Anne's Church, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-32-positive_2400
St Anne’s Church, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-32

Church, Pyramid, Star of the East – More Limehouse
My walk around Limehouse came back to the area I think of as its heart, close to St Anne’s Church, one of the Queen Anne Churches built after the 1711 Act of Parliament and consecrated in 1730. St Anne’s is one of the six London churches by Nicholas Hawksmoor along with St Alfege’s Greenwich, St George’ Bloomsbury, Christ Church, Spitalfields, St George in the East Wapping andhis only church in the City of London, St Mary Woolnoth.


St Anne's Churchyard, St Anne's Passage, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-34-positive_2400
St Anne’s Churchyard, St Anne’s Passage, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-34

I turned my back on the church to photograph the entrance gate to the churchyard.

Limehouse Pyramid, St Anne's Church, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-36-positive_2400
Limehouse Pyramid, St Anne’s Church, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-36

The church has featured in many books and publications, including the work of psychogeographers and other more esoteric and mystical writers, and seems to have a special place in the works of believers in ley lines. I’ve not read or seen the film ‘Dark Lines Of London’, but a web page claims to give “Factual Information That Provides the Backdrop to the Story” and includes descriptions and photographs of 10 sites, all from centuries after that in which the story is set, along “a real ley line” one of which is this “Wisdom Of Solomon” Pyramid.

Princes Lodge, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-22-positive_2400
Princes Lodge, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-22

THE 4TH CONFERENCE of the Situationist International was held in London, at a secret address in the East End, 24-28 September 1960, seventeen months after the Munich Conference (April 1959). The situationists assembled in London were: Debord, Jacqueline de Jong, Jorn, Kotányi, Katja Lindell, Jörgen Nash, Prem, Sturm, Maurice Wyckaert and H.P. Zimmer. In fact, to ensure that the proceedings were kept well away from any contact with London journalists or artistic circles, the conference took place at the British Sailors Society hall in Limehouse, “an area famous for its criminals”.

Internationale Situationniste #5

Star of the East, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-23-positive_2400
Star of the East, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-23

Built in the early 19th century and Grade II listed the Star of the East was serving beer at least from 1845. More recently the building had deteriorated and closed as a pub around 2010, was reopened a couple of years later but closed again in 2016. The pub was then taken over and refurbished by the Old Spot Pub Co, who run around a dozen pubs re-opening again in 2019.

Star of the East, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-11-positive_2400
Star of the East, Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-11

You can read more about its recent transformation and see some photographs from London Pub Explorer. I’ve yet to return to see for myself. Back in 1988 part of the building was a separate restaurant, but I think the pub now occupies the whole building. The refurbishment appears to have kept at least some of the original interior features.

Three Colts Lane, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-14-positive_2400
Three Colt St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-14

Three Colt St, which has St Anne’s Church at its northern end is one of the oldest roads in the area, part of the route from Limehouse to Stepney and first recorded in 1362. In the Victorian era it was flanked by a number of shops and was something of a middle-class enclave surrounded on both sides by extreme poverty. Little remains from those times. The building here is the former London and Blackwall Railway station, probably dating from the opening of the railway in 1840. The station closed in 1926, but the line remained in use for goods traffic until the 1960s. When the line was reused for the Docklands Light Railway in 1987, Westferry station was built around 300 yards to the east.

Emmett St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-16-positive_2400
Emmett St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-16

Not only this building but the street that it was in have disappeared since I made this picture. Emmett St was at the end of Three Colt St, roughly where the Limehouse Link tunnel entrance is now. Construction of the tunnel began in November 1989 and the project was officially opened in May 1993, at £293,000,000 the most expensive per mile road scheme ever built in the UK, a huge public subsidy to the Canary Wharf redevelopment.

When Mucho Macho released ‘The Limehouse Link’ in 1998 it had one of my pictures wrapped around both the CD and the 12″ LP, where it looked rather more impressive. But this image was from Poplar – and this is the full image from the Urban Landscapes web site and doesn’t show the Limehouse Link at all.


Clicking on any of the black and white images above will take you to a larger version in my 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the album.


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Blessing the Thames & Southwark Walk

January 14th, 2022

The Bishop of Woolwich throws a wooden cross into the River Thames to bless the waters. 

Sunday 14th January 2007 was a pleasant day for me. The weather was good, a bright winter day and I was up in London to photograph a very positive event, the Blessing of the River Thames, with plenty of time too for me to wander around one of my favourite areas of the city, south of the river in Southwark.

In the first ten years of this millennium I photographed a wide range of religious events that take place on the streets of London, particularly by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. But there seem to be rather fewer Christian festivals that are celebrated in public, though I think there have been more in recent years, with more public events in particular each year on Good Friday.

The procession comes from Southwark Cathedral

But the Blessing of the Thames is a recent addition, begun in 2004 by Father Philip Warner when he was appointed to the City of London church of St Magnus The Martyr, inspired by similar ceremonies he had experienced in the Orthodox Church in Serbia.

And is met by those from St Magnus at the centre of the bridge

St Magnus The Martyr was Sir Christopher Wren’s most expensive parish church and the traveller’s route into the City of London across the medieval London Bridge, in use from 1209 to 1831 led directly through its entrance porch under its tower after the church was rebuilt around 1676. Until 1729 when Putney got a bridge it was the only way across the river except by boat downstream of Kingston Bridge.

The church is one of the most interesting in London and well worth a visit, and among its treasures includes a very large modern model of the Old London Bridge. This was completed by ex-policeman David T Aggett in 1987, a year after his heart transplant, and found a willing home here after the Museum of London turned it down. A member and past Steward of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, Aggett died a year ago at the age of 91.

You can find out more about the various editions of London Bridge from various bloggers including Laura Porter on Londontopia. Close to the south end of the bridge (which had a chapel on it dedicated to St Thomas which was the official start of pilgrimages to Canterbury) was the Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, until the dissolution in 1538 part of Southwark Priory and since 1905 Southwark Cathedral.

Processions from both churches met at the centre of the new London Bridge completed in 1972 for a brief service with prayers for all those who work on the river and in particular for those killed close to this point in the 1989 sinking of the marchioness close by, which climaxed with the Bishop of Woolwich throwing a wooden cross into the River Thames to bless the waters.

Ofra Zimballsta, Climbers, 1996-8, Borough High St

I’d come up earlier to take a walk around Southwark and Bermondsey and photograph some of the buildings, both old and new, in the area. Back in the 1990s when Desk Top Publishing was in its infancy I had written and published a walk leaflet (now a free download though a little out of date) on West Bermondsey which sold several hundred copies, and it was interesting to visit a part of this again.

#

When first produced, this walk was printed on a dot-matrix printer, though later copies were made on a black and white laser – an HP Laserjet 1100 still in use over 20 years later on my wife’s computer running Ubuntu.

I think I asked 20p for the leaflet, and using cheap third-party laser toners on cheap thin card it cost only a couple of pence to produce, though printing on dot-matrix was slow the laser speeded up things considerably – once the page was in printer memory it rattled off copies fairly quickly.

In 2007 there were few photographers at the Blessing of the River, but blogging was growing fast and more and more people were using camera phones. The following year I wasn’t able to get such good pictures as there were too many people jumping in front of me and obscuring my view. Photographers do sometimes get in each other’s way, but we do try to respect others, something which doesn’t even seem to occur to the newcomers.

But rather than go for a walk I did go with those celebrating the event and have lunch in the crypt of St Magnus, after which I took a few pictures inside the church, then rather thick with incense.

Scroll down the January 2007 page on My London Diary for more pictures of Blessing the Thames & Southwark Walk.


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Limehouse, Horses, Graffiti & Canal

January 13th, 2022
Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7n-23-positive_2400
Commercial Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7n-23

Limehouse, Horses, Graffiti & Canal

This terrace at 582-588 is still there, considerably restored, with the wrought iron railings now continuing in front of 588, but the two storey building beyond the traffic lights for Branch Road, here with a sign GEC Mowlem Railway Group and on its roof the former occupants, scrap metal firm 600 Group has been replaced by a tall I think 12 storey block, the Zenith building, one of the new buildings on Commercial Road with views over Limehouse Basin. Mowlem had presumably been there for the conversion of the old railway line along the viaduct next to the basin into the recently opened Docklands Light Railway.

Clemence St,  Limehouse,Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7n-11-positive_2400
Clemence St, Limehouse,Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7n-11

My notes say that this slender detached house with doorway and detailing that could have graced a rather grander residence was on Clemence Street, and I’ve no particular reason to doubt them, but it may have been in a neighbouring street. I didn’t hear any neighing from the two horses heads in the picture.

G Fawkes Is Innocent, Turners Rd, Limehouse,Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7n-12-positive_2400
G Fawkes Is Innocent, Turners Rd, Limehouse,Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7n-12

‘G.FAWKES IS. INNOCENT’ is I think a play on the iconic East End graffiti about George Davis, who was framed by Det Sgt Mathews for an armed robbery at the London Electricity Board’s offices in Ilford, Essex in 1974, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Eventually in 2011 he won his appeal against that verdict. He was imprisoned for other crimes, but never protested his innocence after being convicted. Guy Fawkes, often said to be the only person to enter Parliament with honest intentions was tortured terribly and fell from the scaffold on which he was to be hanged, breaking his neck and thus avoiding being hung, drawn and quartered but is celebrated by being burnt on bonfires every 5th November in an anti-Catholic celebration.

Rhodeswell Rd, Turners Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-61-positive_2400
Rhodeswell Rd, Turners Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-61

The same building as the picture above but showing its Rhodeswell Rd side and terraced houses down Turners Road. The terrace has surviced, but the building at the left and the empty site at right have both been replaced by new housing.

Turners Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-62-positive_2400
Turners Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-62

All of the houses on the north side of Turners Road here have been demolished and replaced by new housing. The terraced houses have equally small but much neater front gardens. No 43 here has the house name ‘City View’.

Copenhagen Place, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-56-positive_2400
Copenhagen Place, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-56

One of several small alleys leading off from Copenhagen Place which I think have disappeared, although there is a short cobbled section leading off to Carmine Wharf, and another yard – clearly not this one – at the rear of properties on Pixley St. But most of the area has been completely redeveloped since I made this picture.

Limehouse Cut, Burdett Rd, LImehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-7o-41-positive_2400
Limehouse Cut, Burdett Rd, LImehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-41

The Limehouse Cut is the oldest canal in London, first dug in 1770 but widened a few years later to allow barges to pass each other and travel in both directions. Later it was widened to the current width. It provided a route from the Lea Navigation to the River Thames avoiding the convoluted meandering of the tidal Bow Creek and initially had its own basin and entrance lock to the Thames in Limehouse, although the canal was still tidal, at the level of Bow Locks. In 1854 the basin was linked to the nearby Regents Canal Dock but after a legal dispute because bargees didn’t like the Regents Canal terms this was filled in a few years later and only restored in 1968, after which the lock and short length of the cut leader to the Thames were filled in.

Last's Wharf, Burdett Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-42-positive_2400
Last’s Wharf, Burdett Rd, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7o-42

310 Burdett Road is now the Royal Mail Delivery Office in Docklands, on the large site of Last’s Wharf leading down to the Limehouse Cut. The picture of the Cut from the Burdett Road Bridge above is looking roughly west, and the different constructions of the bank of the canal remains recognisable but nothing else in the picture from 1988 remains.

My walk will continue in a later post.


Clicking on any of the images will take you to a larger version in the album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the other pictures, though in a different order to this post which has them in the order I made them.


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Freedom To Protest Under Threat

January 12th, 2022

Back in 2008, people were protesting against the severe restrictions against our freedom to protest, that had been brought in by the Labour government under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. As well as greatly widening the powers to arrest people and widening the scope of harassment, the act had criminalised trespass at certain protected sites and severely limited the holding of protests in a wide designated area of up to one kilometre from any point in Parliament Square.

CSG border post “To the left you have lost your freedom to protest

This latter provision was particularly aimed at Brian Haw and his Parliament Square Peace Campaign, but also prevented many other protests, and led to a number of arrests of campaigners. Parliament Square in particular had become the main focus of protests against the government and may government ministries were also inside the prohibited area.

There was wide disquiet about the effect of SOCPA on protest, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown had begun a public consultation with the Home Office on October 2007 issuing a document ‘Managing Protest’ which many felt threatened further threats to freedom of assembly throughout the UK.

The provisions regarding protests in the area around Parliament were replaced in 2011 by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which gave police more draconian powers to restrict certain prohibited activities in and around Parliament Square – and have been used to seize tents, umbrellas, tarpaulins, sleeping bags and other equipment in the area.

Brian Haw complains that a police officer pushed his camera into his face and caused this injury

The Freedom to Protest is under even greater threat now, with the current passage through Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which a select committee has said “would curb non-violent protest in a way that is inconsistent with our human rights” and has led to many ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. Also disturbing is the reaction of many Tory politicians to the jury verdict in the Colston statue trial, which apears to be threatening state control of our legal system.

On Saturday 12th January 2008, I covered protests in Trafalgar Square and in front of Downing St upholding the freedom to protest. Earlier I had covered Hizb ut Tahrir marching to the Saudi Embassy against Bush’s Middle East tour and a small group of rich young people outside the National Gallery on the last day of the Siena exhibition protesting against the expansion of Siena airport which would bring more less well-heeled tourists into the area.

Although I’m very much against any expansion of air travel – the planet simply can’t afford it, I found it hard to take this particular protest too seriously – it seemed to be rather more about protecting privilege than opposing environmental crime.

And while I had gone to Downing St mainly for the Freedom to Protest demonstration, while there I photographed another protest calling on an end to the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza. This included a number of British Jews, including those calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Also present opposite Downing St were another large group of Kenyans, protesting against the re-election of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. A US commissioned exit poll suggested opposition leader Raila Odinga had won by a 6% margin and there was widespread international agreement that the election was rigged.

More on My London Diary:
Hizb ut Tahrir against Bush tour
Siena Airport Protest
CSG Border Post
Freedom to Protest – Downing St
End Gaza Seige
Kenyans Protest Election Fraud


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Guantanamo – America’s Shameful Prison

January 11th, 2022

Amnesty International protesters close to the US Embassy

January 11th was for quite a few years a busy day for protests; it marked the anniversary of the setting up by the United States of a military prison as a torture camp at the disputed US Guantanamo Bay naval camp on the island of Cuba.

Prisoners’ had taken turns in the cage overnight

Set up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack as a part of George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’, the camp and the activities which took place there destroyed any final vestige of higher moral ground America could lay claim to in its role of world policeman, something that its various largely clandestine involvements in various South American American coups and activities in the Middle East and elsewhere had already largely laid waste.

Guantanamo is still there, still open, though the great majority of the 779 men brought there have been released. Most were totally innocent, victims of a US policy of offering $5,000 rewards for the capture of ‘terrorists’ to Pakistani and Afghan groups, who took the money for turning in anyone they felt would get them the money.

In October 2021, there were still 39 men held at Guantanamo, including ten who had long been cleared for release. Very few of those held over the years have faced trails trials and very few were involved in any acts of terrorism. Bush and Obama acted slowly but together released well over 700 of the prisoners, but Trump only released one, effectively stopping the process.

Protests continue in the UK, but on a much smaller scale, particularly since the last British resident, Shaker Aamer was released without charge or trial after 13 years of imprisonment and torture in 2015.

In 2008 Amnesty International organised a large protest in Grosvenor Square, a few yards from the US Embassy, though the street in front of the embassy had been closed to prevent protests there. They brought with them two cages, similar to those in which the prisoners were imprisoned outdoors at Guantanamo, with a large group of people wearing the orange jumpsuits which they are made to wear there. Protesters dressed as guards in military style uniforms harassed the ‘prisoners’ interrogating them and threatening them with violence and with aggressive-looking dogs.

From Grosvenor Square I went up to the Regents Park Mosque, where activists from Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign, some also in those orange jumpsuits and one manacled hand and foot. There they were handing out leaflets to those attending Friday Prayers.

Later I went with them to Paddington Green Police station, where terrorist suspects are detained and questioned in this country. They were going on to continue to protest in Parliament Square, but I returned first to the US Embassy, where the London Catholic Worker Community was holding a two hour vigil closed to the corner of the Embassy, holding placards and lighting candles for those still held and several who had died there. Several were alleged to have committed suicide, but later evidence emerged strongly suggesting they had died during torture.

The final event of the day was a rally in Parliament Square organised by Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign with a number of speakers including Victoria Brittain, former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, laywers including Gareth Peirce, Bruce Kent, Yvonne Ridley and Jean Lambert MEP.

It was dark, cold and wet, but those present were cheered by the announcement at the end of the rally that Scotland Yard were investigating allegations of 14 criminal offences committed by Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith and others which resulted in the deaths of Iraqi citizens during the armed invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Unfortunately and predictably these investigations came to nothing, and though the Chilcot report was damning in parts, Blair not only got off scot-free but this New Year was awarded a knighthood. A few days ago one of several petitions to have his “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” rescinded reached over a million signatures. Mine was one of them.

Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally


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Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea

January 10th, 2022

Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea
Perhaps the only thing these three parts of London really have in common was that I photographed in them in the last few days of July 1988. The first two were on a family visit to the railway museum then at North Woolwich station, largely for the benefit on my two sons, then aged 12 and 9, and both with a real interest in railways and had decide on this as a birthday outing for the elder. I think we probably had a few of their friends with us, some in the second picture below.

Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34-positive_2400
Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34

North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35-positive_2400
North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35

And once we were in North Woolwich it would have been a shame to miss the free ride across the River Thames on the Woolwich Ferry. One of their favourite books when younger had been Alfie and the Ferryboat, by Charles Keeping, published in 1968 Keeping, born close the the Thames in Lambeth tells the story of a small boy from Woolwich crossing the river on the ferryboat to ‘the other side of the world’ in search of his old sailor friend Bunty and his dog.

Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24-positive_2400
Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24

Keeping was a superb and innovative illustrator and the book is perhaps his best work. Copies of it are now hard to find and rather expensive.

Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12-positive_2400
Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12

The ferry that Alfie took was one of the same that we took, which were introduced in 1963 – the John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman, double-ended ships with powerful diesel engines which were replaced in 2018 after 55 years on the run.

I only made twelve black and white pictures on this trip, along with three in colour, probably too occupied with herding 12 year-old boys than photography, and getting them all back to a birthday tea on the other side of London.

Moorings, River Thames,Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14-positive_2400
Moorings, River Thames, Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14

Days are long in July, and four days later I began taking pictures on Battersea Brdige and then a short walk in Chelsea.

Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02-positive_2400
Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02

Probably I had looked at pictures I had taken earlier in the year and decided there were some I would like to retake, or perhaps found some things I had missed. I spent a lot of time on researching the areas I was photographing, which was much harder before the days of the world wide web – and many of the books I had to rely on were years out of date, often pre-war or even older.

Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62-positive_2400
Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62

I think I may not have got a picture – or not one I liked of this memorial to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), an Anglo-Irish doctor and collector who travelled widely to France and the Caribbean, where he supposedly invented drinking chocolate as well as giving a harrowing account of the sadistic punishments inflicted on slaves and married the wealthy widow of one of the larger slave owners.

Her money from slavery and his income from a doctor and investments in property and slave trading companies enabled him to build up a collection of 71,000 items which he left to the British Nation. These provided the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum.

Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55-positive_2400
Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55

But after taking around thirty pictures the next (not on-line) shows a view from the back of two women on a station escalator, with the next frame on the Commercial Road in Limehouse. I think I will have taken the Underground from Sloane Square to Tower Hill and walked to Tower Gateway for the DLR which had opened in 1987 to Limehouse. But pictures from my longer walk from there will be in a further post.


Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the rest of the album.


Why we are short of Nurses

January 9th, 2022

Why we are short of Nurses
On January 9th 2016 I took the pictures shown here of a rally and march against the axing of bursaries for student nurses and midwives. The current huge surge in hospitalisation of Covid victims as Omicron rages through the nation has highlighted the huge shortage of qualified medical people in the NHS at all levels.

For years, but increasingly since the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010, there have been huge shortages, with the NHS having to recruit from overseas – including from many poorer countries which are even more short of staff than the UK.

We have of course been bringing in nurses and doctors from abroad for many years – at least from the 1950s – rather than training enough from our own population. It has never been that there were not enough young people who want to be nurses and doctors – and in my years as a teacher I taught quite a few suitable young men and women who were well qualified but failed to gain admission to medical schools where there were perhaps 12 applicants for every place.

Hospitals have also become hugely reliant on agency nurses rather than directly employed staff, partly because of relatively low pay, but also because of a lack of self-defeating lack of flexibility by underfunded NHS hospitals which actually results in increased costs.

But for training nurses, the Tory government really messed things up in 2016 by removing the training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. Unlike other students they perform essential work for the NHS in hospitals caring for patients as an integral part of their courses, which makes it virtually impossible for them to undertake other part-time employment during their studies.

And in 2017 things got even worse and nursing students have had to pay tuition fees in the same way as other university students, leaving them with large loans to pay off when they complete their courses and go into employment.

Len McClusky, General Secretary of Unite next to a Unison banner

In 2020 the Royal College of Nursing published a report Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply which makes the point that at the start of the pandemic there were almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, and called on government to develop a fully funded workforce strategy and aim for “an oversupply of nurses given years of underinvestment and the growing needs of our population.

The report notes that following the removal of the bursary there was a 31% drop in applicants for nursing courses, and over 4% fewer being accepted. Where we needed and increase in numbers being trained due to the shortage, government policies directly produced a decrease.

The RCN called on the government to abolish the tuition fees for nursing courses and reimburse the fees for those students affected by the removal of the bursary. And although the welcomed the decision to bring back an annual maintenance grant of £5000 for nursing students (£8,000 for some difficult to recruit specialities) from September 2020 they asked for that to be increased to a level that reflects the actual cost.

Of course the pandemic has made things worse. Some have died from Covid, partly as a result of the failure to provide effective protective clothing – and those contracts given to Tory mates with no experience in the field while some established companies failed to get orders. Many among those who recovered from Covid continue to suffer its after-effects – ‘long-Covid’. Others have simply been exhausted by overwork – and this is “a workforce that felt undervalued, unrewarded and where one in three were nearing retirement age.”

Brexit too has taken its toll, both with nurses from European countries leaving the UK and the failure of our government to respect the early promises it made to EU citizens working in the UK has not helped. Brexit and the continuing squabbles by the government over the treaty it signed is also a deterrent to people to now come and work here.

The shortage of nurses – and other medical staff – is a direct result of government policies. Not just the Tories but also of Labour under Blair and Brown, and is a part of the slow sabotaging of the NHS as a part of a policy of creeping privatisation that has been underway since at least the Thatcher years, though vastly accelerated since 2010. Unfortunately it isn’t as one placard states that the Tories are short-sighted, but that they are playing a long game to undermine our National Health Service.

More pictures on My London Diary:
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


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