Posts Tagged ‘arrests’

Freedom and the Law

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Freedom is something we almost universally value, but which is often hijacked by various groups, particularly on the extreme right to support particular causes which have little real connection with our undamental rights. Freedom is certainly not the freedom to do what we like regardless of the effect it has on others.

Freedom is not the right to own and carry guns or other weapons. It isn’t the right to spread disease we may have by not taking sensible precautions such as wearing a face mask in crowded places. It isn’t the right to increase the risk of others getting lung cancer or to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Arguably the most important of our freedoms is the right to hold and express political and religious ideas and to express these. But that is not absolute, and rightly there are laws against hate speech and incitement to others to commit criminal actions or threaten the lives of others.

Back in 2005, the Labour government brought in a law to criminalise protest in Parliament Square. It was clearly a law which imposed unnecessary restrictions on our freedom and one which was brought in for a trivial reason, to end the embarrassment to the Labour ministers of one man, Brian Haw, continuing to protest, particularly over Iraq war and its disastrous consequences. That Tony Blair was annoyed by a regular reminder of his lies was not a suitable basis for legislation.

A regular series of harassment by police and others – almost certainly at the urging of the Home Secretary – had failed to shift this persistent protester, and civil servants were ordered to add a section to the bill which became the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to make his protest illegal. In the event the act failed to apply to his protest and I wondered if this was a little deliberate subversion by at least one of those responsible for its drafting rather than simple incompetence. Because his protest had begun well before the SOCA law came in on 7th April 2005, it was apparently not covered by it. As I commented, “rather a lot of egg on government faces there.” This initial ruling by the High Court of Justice was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal and these sections of the law were replace by other restictive laws in 2011.

On Sunday 7th August 2005, protesters came to Parliament Square to deliberately disobey the law, and the police came, some rather reluctantly, under orders to arrest them. The protestors argued that protest is a human right and cannot be restricted by law in a free society.

Brian Haw was there, but protesting legally as it appeared that the act didn’t include him. He held up a placard with the words from a speech in Boston by US Scretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”
interleaved with his own comments on Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Belmarsh and the Iraq war and more.

The police swooped on a few of those with posters or placards and arrested them, leading them away but their heart was clearly not in it and the great majority of the protesters were untouched, though
they were warned that their protest was illegal. As I commented: ” I saw five people arrested for simply peacefully holding banners supporting the right to protest. It happened on the square opposite our Houses of Parliament, and it made me feel ashamed to be British.”

When the protest in Parliament Square ended, protesters were invited to take part in another illegal protest inside the one km restricted zone around Parliament, but on Westminster Bridge. Again taking their lead from Boston, though this time from 1773, and tipping tea into the water, campaigners calling for a low-level tax on foreign currency exchange transactions, as proposed by Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin in 1978. This would deter speculation on currency movements, giving governments greater control over their fiscal and monetary policies, and reducing the power of speculators to affect the markets.

The connection between the tea bags torn to tip tea into the Thames, produced by large multi-national companies who are among the currency speculators, and the Tobin Tax, seemed a little weak – as doubtless was the brew in the river – though it did all alliterate nicely for the Westminster Tea Party – Time for Tobin Tax.

We are now seeing a law going through Parliament which will even further restrict our right to protest, increasing discriminatory policing, criminalising some traditional ways of life and seriously restricting and controlling protests in a huge shift further towards a police state. Unfortunately a large Conservative majority makes it seem inevitable that our freedoms will be significantly reduced.

More on My London Diary for August 2005.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Eight Years Ago… 1 June 2013

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Eight years ago I was standing in a crowd of around a thousand Turkish people close to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, where they had gathered to march to the Turkish Embassy to show solidarity with the growing protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and across Turkey against the Erdogan regime which has been called the ‘Turkish Spring’. It was a vibrant crowd, including a number of groups of football fans. I left as the march was about to start, and heard later than numbers had grown to around 4,000 by the time they reached the Embassy.

I was off to a protest march from Tate Britain to Parliament against the cull of badgers which began in the two pilot areas of Somerset and Gloucestershire on that day. The protesters say that the cull flies in the face of most scientific opinion and that it will involve considerable animal cruelty as those carrying out the shooting are largely untrained and many badgers will be only wounded and will then suffer a lingering death. Among those who travelled to London for the protest were many who will try to physically prevent the cull being carried out.

I also left this protest before it was over, and went to Southwark Cathedral to attend a memorial service for an old friend who died recently. After this I returned to Westminster to photograph Nick Griffin and a small group of BNP protesters who intended to gain publicity by exploiting the killing of Lee Rigby by laying flowers at the Cenotaph. There were several times as many media as BNP around the statue in Old Palace Yard.

The BNP were prevented from reaching the Cenotaph by a large anti-fascist protest. They hung around for well over 3 hours protected by hundreds of police.

The police made several batches of arrests to fill a couple of double-decker buses they had brought along, but then appeared to decide it was impossible to arrest all of the several thousand anti-fascists who had turned up determined to stop the BNP.

When the BNP finally gave up and left, the anti-fascists began to disperse, with some marching up Whitehall and there were a few short speeches. Quite a few people had been let through the lines of the police and protesters to lay wreaths, but the organised exploitation of the Woolwich killing by the BNP had been prevented.

Anti-Fascists Stop BNP Wreath Laying
BNP Exploiting Woolwich Killing Stopped
Cull Politicians, Not Badgers
London Supports Turkish Spring

State Opening, Class War and Student Protests

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I usually make a point of keeping away from the big occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, but made an exception on Wednesday May 27th 2015, partly because I had been told that Class War were planning to come and protest, but mainly as there were other events I was intending to photograph later in the day.

Class War arrived too late to reach the centre of Parliament Square where they had hoped to display their banner and the area was already tightly sealed off by police. Police security for royal events is always very tight and as on this occasion often goes well beyond what is legal. So although they managed to briefly display their banner well before the Queen’s coach arrived they were quickly forced to take it down and pushed away. Around 50 police then followed the dozen or so as they made their way to a nearby pub and a few more supporters, and stood around for an hour or so looking as if arrests were imminent before most of them moved off, but police continued to follow the group until they left Westminster. Two other people who had been showing posters against austerity in Parliament Square were arrested despite their actions being perfectly within the law; they were released without charge a couple of hours late.

I walked from the pub up to Downing St, where a line of people from Compassion in Care where holding up posters and calling for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it a criminal offence to fail to act on the genuine concerns of a whistle-blower, and would make the state protect whistleblowers rather than them having to spend thousands of pounds on taking their cases for unfair dismissals to industrial tribunals. They say current law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. So far nothing has changed.

As I arrived in Trafalgar Square where people were gathering for a protest against education fees and cuts there was an angry scene when a squad of police surrounded and arrested a man, refusing to talk with any of those in the crowd around about their actions. Had they explained at the time that the man being arrested had been identified as someone who was wanted for an earlier unspecified offence and was being taken in for questioning, it would have defused the incident, but this was only revealed after the man – and one of the protesters who had questioned the police about their action – had been put into a police van a short distance away and driven off.

Back in Trafalgar Square there was music as we were waiting for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts protest to begin, provided by ‘Disco Boy’ Lee Marshall from Kent who had brought a mobile rig to Trafalgar Square. Apparently as well as running local discos he has a huge social media following.

Finally the NCAFC protest got under way, with a good crowd of mainly students in Trafalgar Square and speakers on the plinth of Nelson’s Column.

Class War came along (still followed by police) and there were cheers as they displayed their several banners; also taking the stage and marching with the students were the Hashem Shabani group of Ahwazi Arabs, who later held their own protest.

After the speeches in Trafalgar Square the NCAFC protesters set off to march to Parliament. Police tried to stop them with a line of officers and barriers at Downing St, but there were too few officers and many of the protesters walked around them and the barriers. Police apparently randomly picked on a few of the demonstrators and tackled them with unnecessary force making several arrests. The protesters continued marching around Westminster for some hours, but I left them at Parliament Square.

I finished my day’s work in Parliament Square with the Ahwazi Arabs who protested there against the continuing Iranian attacks on their heritage and identity since their homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oil was occupied by Iran in 1925. The occupation was important in protecting the interests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, effectively nationalised by the UK government in 1914 (later it became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then in 1954, BP) and even after the nationalisation of Iran’s oil, BP remained a leading player in the consortium marketing Iranian oil.

Police surround Berta Cáceres

Monday, April 19th, 2021

The pink yacht that Extinction Rebellion had brought to Oxford Circus was named after Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. On March 7th 2016 year I had photographed a vigil in her memory outside the Honduran Embassy in London. The leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) who had been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project in Río Blanco, funded by the World Bank and the Dutch government, she was murdered in her home on March 3. She had previously received death threats from the Honduran National Police.

The Met didn’t actually arrest the pink yacht, which had been at the centre of the circus since Monday, but on Friday 19th April 2019 surrounded it and arrested any of those who had been protecting it in the centre of the road junction who refused to move away, including a number who had been locked on to the boat.

A larger police cordon surrounded the whole of the road junction, and people inside it were instructed to leave or face arrest. XR’s ‘Red Rebel Brigade’ made their way around the outside of this cordon, while others sang and danced inside.

The numbers inside slowly fell as police allowed people to leave but stopped anyone – including a man who told them he was the owner of the yacht – from entering. He made an effort to persuade the crowd to break the cordon, but was held back by friends and the crowd followed the XR principle of non-violence against the police and sat still, watching as the police made arrests or slow drifting away to Marble Arch or other areas still occupied by protesters.

Slowly and deliberately the police cleared the protesters, carrying away many to the waiting police vans. I stayed for several hours taking pictures before deciding it was time to leave.

Earlier that day I had been at the Oxford Circus ‘Sea of Protest’ for the start of the day’s activities to show ‘Love For The Earth’ on the 5th day of the occupation, and had photographed Dame Emma Thompson arriving and speaking at the event.

She received a warm welcome from Extinction Rebellion supporters but some snide comments from the press about having come from the USA by plane to speak at the event. She could hardly have swum and although I’d rather we had a system that didn’t worship celebrities, given the world as it is, I welcome them using their fame to support the fight against global extinction and other essential causes.

I left a few minutes after she had finished speaking and was still being besieged by photographers and journalists, answering their questions from the deck of Berta Cáceres. There had been another event I’d wanted to photograph scheduled for Trafalgar Square, but no sign of it when I arrived, so I returned to Oxford Circus. In the short time I’d been away, Emma Thompson had left and police had moved in to surround the yacht and begin the process of clearing the junction. By the evening the yacht had been towed away.

Police clear XR from Oxford Circus
Emma Thompson speaks at XR


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


XR defies illegal police ban

Friday, October 16th, 2020

On 6th November 2019 the High Court ruled that the ban on all protests by Extinction Rebellion in London that the Metropolitan Police had imposed on 14 October 2019 after a week of protests in XR’s ‘Autumn Uprising’ was unlawful. It was a misuse of the Public Order Act which was intended to allow police to manage protests but not to ban them, and the ‘Autumn Uprising’ was not a ‘public assembly’ as defined by the Act.

As seems often to be the case, the police had deliberately misused the law – and presumably would have taken legal advice that would have told them so. Doubtless they acted under strong political pressure from the highest levels of our government, and this can be seen as yet another case where the government has been found to be deliberately breaking the law.

XR continued to protest calling for urgent action by the government over climate breakdown, species loss and the risk of social and ecological collapse leading to mass extinction, while the government continued to fail to make any response in the Queen’s Speech outlining their programme for the year on Monday 14th October.

There had been arrests by the police when protests took place against the ban on the 14th, and the following day I photographed police warning XR activists who were gathering for the ‘No Food No Future’ protest opposite the MI5 HQ on Millbank before leaving to photograph a protest against the ban led by the Green Party which was taking place in Trafalgar Square. As well as several Green MEPs and party co-leader Sian Berry, those speaking included XR’s Rupert Read and an Irish and German MEP, and around a hundred XR campaigners came to join them. There were no arrests while I was there.

XR’s main protest against the ban came on the Wednesday, also in Trafalgar Square. While the police had ruled that even two people standing anywhere in London advocating action on climate change was an illegal assembly, several thousands had come to protest. There were a long series of speeches before XR held a general meeting in the square.

Many, including George Monbiot, had come to the event with the deliberate intention of being arrested, and after police seemed reluctant to act in Trafalgar Square they went to sit down and block traffic in Whitehall, where police made arrests for breach of the illegal ban.

In the early evening, XR held another protest outside at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp HQ at London Bridge demanding that his papers tell the truth about the climate crisis. Rather to their surprise they found that this protest was legal as the area outside the offices is private land and the illegal ban only applied to public places.

The Murdoch press has a particularly bad record of climate denial, but most of our other media are also guilty. Most of our newspapers are owned by a handful of billionaires who also have interests in fossil fuels, and even the BBC has given completely undue prominence to unqualified climate deniers and politicians in a misguided interpretation of ‘balance’ rather than reporting the overwhelming evidence of experts.

More about these protests and many more pictures on My London Diary:

XR demands Murdoch tell the truth
XR defies protest ban
Protest defends freedom of speech
XR No Food No Future protest


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


XR October 2019

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

A year ago in October I was having a busy few days covering Extinction Rebellion’s International Rebellion in London. The event had started early on the 7th October when XR supporters occupied eleven locations at government ministries, outside Downing St, on The Mall, and blocking both Westminster and Lambeth bridges, bringing traffic in that area of central London to a halt. Outside the actual areas blocked, traffic was also largely gridlocked over a much wider area.

For the next couple of days the only ways to get around in the area was by tube and on foot. Police were initially overwhelmed by the sheer number of campaigners and the area covered by the protests, and added to the chaos by themselves closing off some routes to traffic and pedestrians.

The protests of course got considerable coverage in the press and broadcasting media, mainly around the disruption the protest was causing with rather less attention to the reasons why XR felt their actions were necessary to try and get our government to take the actions we need to avoid disaster and possible extinction of human life.

Probably few who only followed the media reports would have become aware of XR’s three demands, that the government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, act to halt biodiversity loss, reduced emissions to net zero and create and set up a Citizens Assembly to ensure that proper action is taken. Our democracy is failing because politicians serve the sectional interests of the powerful few rather than the needs of us all.

I didn’t quite manage to get to all eleven of the occupied sites on Monday, though I did visist and photograph most of them. The highlight of the day for me was the wedding in the centre of Westminster Bridge between two campaigners, Tamsin and Melissa. I’d first photographed Tamsin when Climate Rush re-enacted the 1908 Suffragette storming of Parliament on its 100th anniversary and had got to know her better during later protests including those against the third runway at Heathrow, but hadn’t seen her for five years.

A year ago today, October 8th, was the second day of XR’s protests. By now the police were beginning to take back parts of the area, having made many arrests overnight.

I think many of the protesters were shocked as I was at the deliberate violence and destruction of property when occupied areas were trashed by police, and for some it perhaps made them question the XR policy of non-violence. Standing and shouting ‘Shame on You’ as police assaulted protesters and trashed tents and food stalls turned out not to be very effective.

The day turned out to be a long one for me, as after spending my time with XR I made my way to Camden for a protest by Architects for Social Housing (ASH) outside the champagne reception at the Royal Institute of British Architects awards ceremony for the Stirling Prize. Architects, like our politicians, are largely the servants of the rich and the awards reflect this. ASH were particularly angered by the new Neave Brown Award, supposedly honouring the recently deceased champion and architect of council housing at the Dunboyne Road Estate (formerly known as Fleet Road) and Alexandra Road Estate both in Camden, being awarded to a scheme for a commercial company owned by Norwich Council which demolished council housing to build properties which will not be offering secure council tenancies, with nothing to stop the company raising the service charges or converting the few social rent homes in it to so-called ‘affordable’ rents in the future.

The images here are a small and fairly random selection from the many that I took, and you can see more of them and read more about the protests on My London Diary:

Extinction Rebellion continues
XR Rebels marry on Westminster Bridge
Extinction Rebellion occupy Westminster

Stirling Prize for Architecture


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


XR Westminster

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

I don’t know who these two men were, striding purposefully with their document cases but I think they had emerged from a government ministry and they were probably making their way to another or possibly the Tory party HQ. It’s possibly quite unfair, but to me they seemed to epitomise the reason why we are in the situation we are in, a determination to carry on ‘business as usual‘ when it is quite clear that to survive we need drastic system change. We can’t trust men in suits.

XR were protesting across Westminster, and it was hard to keep up with what was happening at I think eleven locations, but I did quite a lot of walking around and taking pictures, with a pretty total shutdown of all the roads in the area. Police made movement a little more difficult by setting up some road blocks of their own, which seemed totally pointless but made my job more difficult when they wouldn’t even let me walk across Lambeth Bridge although I showed my press card.

They seemed also to be making the very occasional and almost totally random arrests, picking on small groups or individuals when hundreds were blocking roads. It seemed a simply pique at being unable to control the situation of mass peaceful civil disobedience.

Although it was taking place in London, the XR protest was not a London protest, with the huge bulk of the protesters having come into the city from small towns across the country. XR has been very successful at motivating a largely white mainly middle class and highly educated population but rather less so with the urban working class, and there were far fewer from London’s ethnic communities than at most London protests, and who are well represented in movements such as the Youth Climate Strike and of course anti-racist and anti-fascist protests.

It will of course be the poor and those who have to struggle most to make a living in our cities who will be the first to suffer as the effects of global heating kick in, just as it is the countries of the majority world who are now feeling it most severely. But perhaps it is hard to persuade people who are living in precarious situations of the efficacy of the kind of apolitical and non-violent approach that appeals to XR supporters.

More at Extinction Rebellion occupy Westminster.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Defending the Indefensible

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

It just hadn’t occurred to me that there would be protesters defending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, hereafter MbS, the man responsible for sending a team of assassins to kill and then dismember with bone saws the body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd 2018.

Of course their state-sponsored posters and placards – including two large electronic screens strapped to two men didn’t mention the killing, nor MbS’s other purges, including the 2017 arrest of business leaders and other prominent Saudi figures in what he called an anti-corruption campaign, the kidnapping of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in 2017 and more – including recent arrests of yet more leading Saudi figures who he sees as possible rivals.

So when I first walked up to their noisy protest I misunderstood their reason for being there. I couldn’t of course understand what they were shouting, and it was only after I read the posters that I realised they had come to support MbS and not to protest against a cruel dictator.

Of course some of them may have had good personal reasons for supporting MbS. Saudi businessmen operating in the UK may well be profiting from his economic reforms and support his Vision 2030 for a Saudi Arabia that in some respects will modernise, largely in the interests of business. Some of those taking part will be working for the Saudi government and companies such as Saudi Aramco, supposedly the most profitable company in the world, though this position is perhaps under threat by MbS’s current oil war with Russia. And some may have been paid for their evening’s work.

Certainly if you are a Saudi citizen and have any intention of returning to that country in the future, being seen as a supporter of MbS rather than an opponent will be vital for your health – as the brutal Khashoggi murder testifies. You need to be seen (and filmed) to be on the right side.


Justice for Jamal Khashoggi

On the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, a small group of protesters on the opposite side of the road stood in a quiet line in front of the Embassy garden holding posters, and later burning nightlights, in a silent vigil for the cruelly murdered journalist. It was a small but dignified and rather more impressive display than the PR event taking place opposite.


More on both events:
Saudis support killer Prince MBS
Justice For Jamal Khashoggi


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Clearing the ‘Sea of Protest’

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Police I think waited until the journalists covering Emma Thompson’s visit to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) ‘Sea of Protest’ around Berta Cáceres, the pink yacht at the centre of Oxford Circus before they closed in.

I’d left with the others, but came back 25 minutes later to find the yacht surrounded by a ring of police, with just those protesters locked on to the boat inside. And sitting on the ground around them was a large crowd of XR supporters, listening to singers and occasionally chanting slogans.

Soon more police arrived and set up a cordon around the whole of Oxford Circus, allowing people to leave but not to enter. There were some heated arguments and one protester tried to urge the crowd by now outside to push their way through the police line, but XR organisers urged them to respect the non-violent principles of Extinction Rebellion and not oppose the police physically, and no-one followed his lead.

Police came and began to persuade  those still sitting down in Oxford Circus to leave, telling them they would be arrested if they stayed, and numbers began to dwindle, although there were many who stayed, having come prepared to be arrested to make XR’s point.

As well as photographing this, I was taking pictures mainly between the legs of police officers, both the ring around the outside of the protest, particularly of the dance group dressed in red that were going around the outside of the cordon, and, through the legs of the much tighter cordon around the yacht, looking through to the protesters who were locked on.

I wasn’t sure how much of the police to include in the frame with these images, and took some with a minimal presence as in the picture above, but also wider views showing the line of police. And of course it was possible to zoom in and exclude the police altogether. But I felt it important to have both police and yacht in the image to locate it.

Eventually the specialist police team turned up to begin to release the protesters from the yacht and its undercarriage – though some were very easily removed, others needed cutting out, and it was a lengthy process. As they were removed they were arrested and rushed to waiting police vans.

Once the numbers sitting on the road had reduced to a more manageable number police began making arrests of them also, taking them away. I hung around and photographed a number of them being carried away, though it was hard to get clear pictures as there were often too many people – police, other photographers and protesters – in the way.

After I’d been there for around two and a half hours watching and photographing I decided I’d taken enough pictures and left. It was several hours later before the area was cleared and the yacht was towed away, having been there for around five days.

Many more pictures at Police clear XR from Oxford Circus.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.