Posts Tagged ‘austerity’

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – 2012

Friday, May 10th, 2024

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – Thursday 10th May 2012 saw two rather different marches by workers taking place in London, with a large protest by police and a day of public sector strikes with trade unionists marching to a rally. I also visited the Parliament Square Peace Campaign.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Other groups including Occupy and Right To Protest and others joined in call for justice in the policing of protest.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union but can join the Police Federation, a staff association that can represent and support their interests. Although it cannot call for strike action it can organise demonstrations such as this one, attended by off-duty police and some family members.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

It was an impressively large march, but rather dull as it marched past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St, most wearing black caps. The Police Federation had provided 16,000 black caps to represent the number of warranted officers expected to be lost over the next four years due to the cut in the police budget of 20-30%.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

My pictures concentrate too much on the relatively few officers from some areas who had come with placards. Most simply marched and mainly in silence. A few carried carried small posters with the names of officers who had been unable to attend due to being at work – and there were some police who were policing the police protest, on rather better behaviour than at some other protests.

Some people also came to protest against the police, with the Space Hijackers setting up a ‘professional protest stall‘ at the side of the march offering advice on making placards and chanting. Most of the police marchers were amused by their chants such as ‘One Solution – Institution’ and some of the mock placards, although there were a few jeers.

Those Police policing the protest were less amused, and threatened the Space Hijackers with arrest unless they removed one of their placards with the well-known acronym ACAB. They also stood in front to try and hide them and other protesters including those with a ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ who were shouting slogans against police violence and over deaths in custody for which there is seldom if any justice.

Some from Occupy London had come with plastic police helmets to join in the march, saying they were not against the police but called for a force that worked for the 99% rather than the 1%, or as one long-winded placard put it, “A fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!”

Others taking part on the march included Ian Puddick who got intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses. He marched with a sign ‘Police Corruption‘ and unfortunately there is still a great deal of that as well as racism in forces around the country.

More on My London Diary at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor.


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March

Unite, PCS and UCU were holding a one day strike against public sector cuts in pensions, jobs and services. Many had been up in the early hours picketing at their workplaces long before I arrived in London, but there were still pickets in place when I visited Tate Britain and walked past the House of Commons on my way to a rally outside St Thomas’ Hospital on the opposite bank of the Thames.

I arrived late for the rally there and people were just getting ready to march to a larger rally at Methodist Central Hall.

Workers are incensed by increases in their pension contributions and plans to increase them further. They are also worried by the increasing state retirement age which also applies to their pensions. Now in 2024 it is 66 and will increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. A further rise to 68 is planned and the date for that is likely to be brought forward – as the rise to 67 was.

As they marched, people were chanting “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late“. Pensioners also feel they are being cheated by the government’s decision to index them to the CPI inflation rather than the higher RPI inflation figures, which will mean them receiving some 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

I left the marchers as they went into the rally at Central Hall and returned to photograph the police march and visit the peace camp in Parliament Square.

More pictures at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square

I went to talk with Barbara Tucker who was continuing the Parliament Square Peace Campaign begun by Brian Haw on the 2nd June 2001. The protest, continued by her and other supporters was about to reach a total of 4000 days of 24 hour protest in the square, with others in the group maintaining the presence on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight.

They had then continued for almost 11 years despite constant harassment years by police, who have been pressured by politicians – as well as passing two Acts of Parliament intended to end the protest.

As I wrote in 2012:

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. This was apparently one of two visits over the weekend by police and council in which they illegally removed property from the site.

4000 Days in Parliament Square.

Despite an increase in harassment as a great attempt was made to clean up the capital for the Olympics, the peace protest continued in the square for another year, with Barbara Tucker starting a hunger strike in January 2013. Eventually she became too ill to continue and the protest came to an end in May 2013.


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Against Worldwide Government Corruption – Free Asange – 2014

Friday, March 1st, 2024

Against Worldwide Government Corruption – Saturday 1st March 2014, ten years ago, saw a small but lively protest “organised, attended and led by people who are appalled at the present state of the UK and the world, and who are convinced that a better world is possible if we got rid of the greedy and corrupt who currently are in change – the party politicians and their governments, the bankers and the corporations, the warmongers and the spies.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

Of course the world is dominated by the rich and powerful and the organisations they have set up and the laws they have established to maintain there domination, though these at least in some places also offer some protection for the poor and powerless. But I don’t really believe that protests like this offer any real hope of changing the situation.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

But they perhaps do show us that another world is possible one with “justice and a fairer society, one that doesn’t oppress the poor and disabled, that doesn’t spy on everyone and doesn’t use the media and the whole cultural apparatus as a way of keeping blind to what is really happening.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

It’s the kind of spirit that led to the emergence of the Labour Party and inspired many of its leaders even into my youth – and was in part rekindled by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, propelled into the leadership of the Labour Party in 2015 by huge support from the ordinary membership. But Labour had long lost its way, its organisation and many MPs sponsored and supported by companies and wealthy individuals inherently opposed to its ideals and dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo.

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

The protest was a wide-ranging one, and on My London Diary I quoted at some length from the speech before the march by one of the organisers, Mitch Antony of Aspire Worldwide (Accountable System Project for International Redevelopment and Evolution.)
At the end of it he gave a long list of things the march was against:

We march against Global Government Corruption
We march against ideological austerity
We march against privatisation for profit
We march against the bedroom tax
We march against bankers bonuses
We march against the corrupt MPs
We march against state spying on the people
We march against state controlled media
We march against government misrepresentation
We march against warmongering
We march against global tyranny
We march against state sponsored terrorism
We march against the military industrial complex
We march against the militarisation of the police
We march against the suppression of alternative energies

Against Worldwide Government Corruption

The march got off to a poor start, as the advertised meeting point in Trafalgar Square was closed to the public that day, being got ready for a commercial event the following day. Not everybody who came found the new location – and there were aggrieved posts on Facebook from some who failed, though I think they cannot have tried very hard.

Police often find reasons to delay the start of marches, but these protesters were definitely not taking advice from them and set off on the dot at 2pm to march west to the Ecuadorian Embassy where Julian Assange was still confined despite being given political asylum.

On the way the several hundred marchers caused no problems and aroused some interest among those on the streets, mainly tourists. A misguided attempt by officers to stop the march on Piccadilly led to a sit down and was soon abandoned.

When they came to Harvey Nicholls in Knightsbridge some joined in the protest against the store by the Campaign Against the Fur Trade for a few minutes, and a crowd gathered around the main door shouting at this company that still deals in fur and fur-trimmed garments.

But soon people moved on to the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange was still trapped. Police filled the steps to the building, guarding the door and stopping anyone from entering.

There were far too many people to fit inside the small penned area for protesters on the pavement opposite the Embassy. The protest here in support of of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers and over the continued refusal to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador, continued for around an hour. Many of the protesters then saw the refusal as a personal vendetta against him by then home secretary Theresa May, but it is driven by a continual British failure to stand up to the USA.

Since then we have seen the continued persecution of Assange by successive Tory governments and his arrest and incarceration in the maximum security Belmarsh prison after a changed Ecuadorian government withdrew its protection. Attempts to extradite him to the US where he could be executed or given a 170 year prison sentence are continuing, and it seems likely he will die in prison either here or in the US for publishing material that made clear to the world the war crimes being committed by the US.

At the end of their protest in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy (it occupies only a few rooms on an upper floor of the building) marchers were leaving to go back to Westminster for another rally in Parliament Square, but I’d had enough and took the tube to make my way home.

More about the protest and many more pictures on My London Diary: Against Worldwide Government Corruption.


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Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – 2018

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – London hasn’t had a great deal of snow for some years, but when I got off the bus on Wednesday 28th February 2018 close to London University I found myself walking into a blizzard. There was a couple of inches of snow underfoot and the biting wind was driving dense snowflakes into my face making it both difficult to walk and hard to see where I was going.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

I slipped a few times and almost fell as I walked through Byng Place, only just managing to stop myself and my camera bag falling into the snow, and for the first 15 or 20 minutes after I reached the meeting point for the march it was difficult to take pictures, with snowflakes landing on the lens surface as soon as I took away the cloth I had stuffed against it inside the lens hood and raised the camera to my eye.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

Most of the pictures from the start of the protest were ruined by snow on the lens making some areas soft and diffuse. It might sometimes have been an arty effect but wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately after a while the snow died down and I was able to work more normally, though the occasional flake kept coming and there were a few thick flurries later on the march.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

The UCU was on the fifth day of a strike to try and get the universities to talk with them about pay and pensions. On this march to a rally in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, they were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions. And plenty of their students had come along to show their support.

Although students are now paying high fees for their university courses, the pay of university teachers has not benefited from this, and has not kept up with inflation. Much more teaching at universities is also being done by graduate students and others on part-time or often zero hours contracts.

What particularly inflamed the situation was the intention of the universities to end the long-established pension scheme, replacing it with one that would greatly reduce pensions, and their refusal to discuss this with their union, the UCU.

The 5 day strike was supported overwhelmingly by UCU members and had shut down 61 UK universities, despite draconian threats by the management at some of them such as Royal Holloway (RHUL). Pickets had stood in the freezing weather and few people had crossed the picket line.

The move away from the pension scheme was largely driven by a small number of universities, particularly the Oxbridge colleges. Many of these are extremely wealthy, some owning huge areas of land including large parts of London and having vast reserves, not least in their wine cellars. A number of college principals had given their support to the union.

The dispute between the employers and the UCU continued for five years and was only ended in October 2023 when the employer body UUK made an offer of full restoration. This came after 69 days of strikes by the UCU and was a historic victory for UCU members and reversed further cuts made in 2022.

University teachers continue to fight for better pay, more appropriate workloads and job security. FE teachers, marching because of the loss of 15,000 jobs in the sector particularly as adult education has been savaged by austerity, and whose wages had been cut by 21% since 2009, continue to be treated unfairly.

I went into the rally in Central Hall largely to try to get warm after the freezing march, and was fortunate to arrive early enough to get inside – many of the marchers were left outside the the cold where the speakers went outside to speak after making their contributions in the hall.

The event was running late because of the larger than expected number of people on the march, and by the time the main speakers, John McDonnell and Frances O’Grady had performed I’d missed the time for another event I’d planned to cover, the handing in of some NHS petitions at the Department of Health. I But I was pleased to be able to stay longer in the warm.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs
HE and FE march for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

I left the Methodist Central Hall and walked down to the Home Office where an emergency protest was taking place to support the hunger strike and refusal to work by the 120 women and a few men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood.

They had begun their action a week earlier to demand the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights and end the separation of families, end indefinite detention with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end the re-detention of those released from detention.

Their statement also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for more than ten years and for the Home Office to stop deporting people before cases and appeals have been completed, as well as making full disclosure of all evidence to immigration tribunals.

They called for those in detention centres to be treated with dignity and respect and be given proper health care and an end to the detention of highly vulnerable people. They also want an end to employment in detention centres at ‘prison wages’ of £1 an hour.

Among the groups supporting the protest were the Movement for Justice, All African Women’s Group, Queer Strike and No Borders. Some of those taking part in the protest had previously served time in detention centres and knew first hand about the shameful way the UK treats them and some spoke at the event and several of those taking part in the hunger strike were able to speak to the protest from inside Yarls Wood by mobile phone.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies 2009

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies – Tuesday 24th February 2009 was a long and varied day for me and included some serious issues that are still at the forefront of current news as well as some lighter moments – and I ended the day enjoying a little unusual corporate hospitality with some free drinks for London bloggers.


Al-Haq Sue UK Government – Royal Courts of Justice

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

First came Palestine, with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq filing a claim for judicial review before the High Court of England and Wales challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s illegal activities in Palestine.

They were calling on our government – then New Labour under Gordon Brown – to publicly denounce Israel’s actions in Gaza and the continuing construction of the separation wall, to suspend arms related exports and all government, military, financial and ministerial assistance to Israel and to end UK companies exporting arms and military technology.

They also asked them to insist the EU suspends preferential trading with Israel until that country complies with its human rights obligations, and for the government to give the police any evidence of war crimes committed by any Israelis who intend to come to the UK.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

Of course the court refused Al-Haq’s case, declining to deal with the UK government’s compliance with its international legal obligations and stating that their claim would risk the UK’s diplomatic “engagement with peace efforts in the Middle East“, something which seemed at the time to be absolutely zero if not negative. They also refused Al-Haq any right to bring the claim because it was not a UK-based organisation and “no one in the United Kingdom has sought judicial review of United Kingdom foreign policy regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza“.

Al-Haq Sue UK Government


Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Race – Guildhall Yard

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

It was Shrove Tuesday and I couldn’t resist the Pancake Race organised by the Worshipful Company of Poulters, and held – with the permission of the Chief Commoner, in the Guildhall Yard.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

As I said, “It’s a shame that the Pancake Race is unlikely to feature in the London 2012 Olympics, because it’s perhaps the one sport in which Britain still leads the world, and we seem to have plenty of talent in training.

Poulters Pancake Race


Keep the Post Public – Parliament Square

Postal workers came out from a rally in Methodist Central Hall against government plans to privatise Royal Mail. The government argued they needed to do this to protect pensions and modernise the service.

Postal deliveries had been deliberately made uneconomic by earlier measures which have allowed private companies to cream off the easily delivered profitable parts of the service, while leaving the Royal Mail to continue the expensive universal delivery service – including the delivery of its competitors post at low regulated prices to more difficult destinations.

The government picked up the responsibility for the pensions when the post was privatised and the privatised post office has been allowed to fail on its delivery obligations. We now get deliveries on perhaps 3 or 4 days a week rather than 6, few first class letters arrive on time, and the collection times for most pillar boxes are now much earlier in the day – now 9am rather than 4pm at our local box. While privatisation was supposed to result in more investment it largely seems to have resulted in large dividends and higher pay to managers and the Post Office is in a worse state than ever.

Keep the Post Public


London 2012 Olympic Site – Stratford

I had time for a brief visit to the publicly accessible areas in and around the Olympic site where a great deal of work was now taking place with the main stadium beginning to emerge.

There were some reports at the time that the landmark building Warton House, once owned by the Yardley company with its lavender mosaic on Stratford High Street was to be demolished, but fortunately these turned out to be exaggerated, with only a small part at the rear of the building being lost. But all the buildings on the main part of the site had gone. Some others south of the mainline railway were also being demolished for Crossrail.

Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans


March of the Corporate Undead – Oxford St

I made my way back to Oxford Circus for the ‘March of the Corporate Undead’, a Zombie Shopping Spree complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

Police watched in a suitably deadpan manner (I did see one or two occasionally smile) as the group assembled and applied large amounts of white makeup before making its way along the pavement of Oxford Street, to the astonishment (and often delight) of late shoppers and workers rushing home.

We stopped off at Stratford Place, opposite Bond Street Station to toss some fried bankers brains in the frying pans and then there was a pancake race, holding up a Rolls Royce that was prevented by the police from driving through while we were there.

The parade continued, stopping for a minute or two under the bright lights of Selfridges before continuing to Tyburn, or at least Marble Arch, with more zombies joining all the time.

Hanging the already dead banker seemed a great idea, but getting a rope up over the arch was tricky. Eventually a severed hand gave sufficient weight to enable a rope to be thrown over the ornamental iron-work and the banker was soon hoisted up to dangle over the continuing revels below.

March of the Corporate Undead

This was an anticapitalist event and in particular aimed against bankers and the huge amounts of cash given to them to in the aftermath of the 2007-8 financial crisis which was seen as rewarding the very people who had caused the mess the system was in. The mass of the population was having to suffer cuts in services under a severe austerity programme while bankers were still pigs in clover. The UK has become a very unequal society over the years since 1979 when Thatcher became Prime Minister. The the top 10% got 21% of the UK income, by 2010 it was around 32%.

I left to go to a meeting of London bloggers – and enjoy a few free drinks thanks to Bacardi. The blue and green Breezers seem to me just right for zombies, though I’m afraid after tasting one I went for the beer instead. But I think the zombies on Oxford Street were more alive than those in the corporate world.


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TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – 2011

Thursday, November 30th, 2023

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – On Wednesday 30th November 2011 public sector workers across the country held a one-day strike against government plans to cut public service pensions with pickets at thousands of workplaces and rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country as well as a South East TUC organised march in Central London which I photographed. Later in the afternoon I went with Occupy London protesters who occupied the offices of the highest paid CEO in the UK to protest against corporate greed.


TUC Nov 30 March – Lincolns Inn Fields to Westminster

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

It’s always hard to estimate the numbers on very large marches such as this one but it was very large and when I arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the large space already seemed pretty crowded an hour before the march was due to start. Many people gave up trying to get in waited to join the march on Kingsway.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

At the front of the march were Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, NASUWT president John Rimmer (below) and other trade unionists. Many other groups had come with banners.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

There were many placards suggesting ways to avoid the cuts, including by taxing the mega-rich and cutting the pointless and wasteful expenditure on Trident rather than job’s health and education.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed
Peter Tatchell

Some of the students on the march felt it was going to slow and began to march in front of the main banner.

Police stopped them and held up the whole of the march at Aldwych but then didn’t seem to know what to do. Eventually they just let things go ahead.

I took a lot of pictures of the Education Activist Network who were the liveliest part of the protest but there were plenty of others to photograph too with many interesting hand-made posters.

I stopped for quite a while to photograph marchers as they went past.

and they were still coming in large numbers an hour after the front of the march had passed me.

I was still on the Embankment with marchers when the rally had begun closer to Parliament and people were still rolling in. I think there were probably between 20 and 30,000 taking part, but it was hard to know and I think many who had been on picket lines early in the morning had left before the rally began. I left too to meet with people from Occupy London.

More pictures on My London Diary at TUC Nov 30 March.


Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed – Piccadilly Circus & Panton House

Occupy London had called people to meet at Piccadilly Circus at 3pm but had not indicated what would be happening next. I arrived to find around a hundred protesters there along with quite a few Greek football supporters and a large number of police standing around watching them.

We stood in the intermittent rain for around half an hour waiting for something to happen. At 3.30pm around 30 people rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ banner, but made no attempt to enter the store which quickly lowered its metal shutters.

Police rushed across the street to surround them, but soon became clear that this had merely been a diversion, as others close to Eros unfolded their long main ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner and rushed down Haymarket with it catching the police by surprise and leaving them behind.

I was running ahead of them, taking pictures over my shoulder and managing to keep ahead, but the police were well behind as we reached Panton St.

Here the protesters set off a bright orange flare, turned down Panton Street and rushed into Panton House. I followed the group with the main banner inside, but stupidly stopped in the foyer to take pictures through the glass frontage of the flares outside.

I was a little behind as the protesters ran up the stairs and rather out of breath after running along the street. By the time I reached the third or fourth landing I had decided to give up and pressed the button for a lift. Police arrived just as the lift came and one officer grabbed me stopping me from getting in.

Police told us all to go downstairs, but around 20 of the protesters and a few press had reached the roof. I made my way down, though it was difficult as more police rushing up pushed those of us going down out of the way.

The police had now surrounded the entrance, preventing any more people entering, but were allowing us to go out. I was pleased to get out because the air inside had been thick with the orange smoke and I had been choking slightly, Smoke flares aren’t intended for indoor use.

A little back on Haymarket by the side of the building protesters outside were taking part in a mike chat group chant to inform passers-by what was going on. From this I learnt that Panton House contains the London offices of the mining company Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies they say is the highest paid CEO in the UK, and “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

Police began to surround them and I quickly moved away as they kettled the protesters, and also to get a better view of what was happening on the roof. TI had missed seeing the ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner being let down over Haymarket earlier but saw them trying to do so again but being dragged away from the edge. More police vans were now arriving and I decided there would be little else I could see and left.

More at Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed.


Anonymous March to Parliament – 2013

Sunday, November 5th, 2023

Anonymous March to Parliament – On Monday 5th of November 2012 around two thousand Anonymous supporters met in Trafalgar Square and marched to Parliament Square against austerity, the cuts and the increasing gap between rich and poor, warning the government they need to change.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

This was part of #Operation Vendetta, which they described as “a worldwide Anonymous operation of global strength and solidarity, a warning to all governments worldwide that if they keep trying to censor, cut, imprison, or silence the free world or the free internet they will not be our governments for much longer.”

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Wikipedia describes Anonymous as “a decentralized international activist and hacktivist collective and movement primarily known for its various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations and the Church of Scientology.” The article also quotes their common tag-line “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Anonymous supporters or ‘Anons’ remain anonymous by wearing masks styled on those in David Lloyd’s illustrations, based on those used in London in 1605 by Guy Fawkes, for Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta which features ‘V’, an anarchist revolutionary and superhero who dresses in a mask and cloak. In 2005 the story was made into a film and masks based on Lloyd’s drawings were mass-produced as merchandise for this, copyrighted by Warner Brothers who collect royalties on them, though there have been many pirated versions.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

The complex story, written when Thatcher was prime minister and set in the near future is set in a Britain after a nuclear war in which the UK suffered little direct damage as a Labour government had renounced nuclear weapons and closed US bases before it broke out. But in the post-war chaos corporations and fascists hadtaken power and established a totalitarian state. In the story which begins on Guy Fawkes Night in London in 1997, V engages in a number of attacks against the regime, including on 5th November 1998 blowing up the Post Office Tower and it ends following V’s death with a general insurrection in which Downing Street is blown up by an Underground train carrying V’s body.

Of course there is no Underground line below Downing Street although there are underground tunnels below much of Whitehall and elsewhere in London some of which are used by police and security services. They were built 100ft down for communications cables during World War 2 and the network was expanded during the Cold War Era.

Across the world Anonymous has carried out a number of sometimes successful cyber-operations as well as launching real-world protests, particularly against Scientology and child pornography sites.

This protest in London called for an end to cuts in education, health and welfare and the end of ‘austerity measures’ that target the poor and vulnerable, calling on the government to tackle the causes of the problems, including the banks and tax avoidance and evasion. They also want freedom for the Internet, with respect for the privacy of Internet users and the dropping of the Communications Data Bill.

They also demanded the release of Internet activists who they say are political prisoners, including Julian Assange then still holed up in a London embassy, Richard O’Dwyer wanted in the US for alleged copyright infringements, and the “PayPal 14, Jeremy Hammond, Topiary and the 4 anons of the UK that will stand trial on November 7th.”

Although the Anons had stressed this was to be an entirely peaceful event the police were taking few chances and were out in force, perhaps reacting more to the events in the novel than the actual event they were policing.

The event itself as might have been expected was chaotic, and the movement from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square was more a drift than a march. Police reacted angrily after the protests simply walked around a line of police trying to stop them were simply walked around and one officer clearly lost his temper at the insistent taunting and photographing by the activists, but police and other protesters soon calmed things down.

Banners were raised along the fence outside the Houses of Parliament, and one young woman removed her shirt to pose in her bra. The ‘heritage wardens’ tried to stop people using fire poi in the square but soon had to give up as more and more began to perform. Police tried without much success to clear the roads to keep traffic moving around the square, and a ‘Transport for London’ lorry managed to effectively block a junction to hold up the bus I was on for over 10 minutes after I had decided to go home. The protest apparently continued for several hours after I’d left.

More on My London Diary at Anonymous March to Parliament.


Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

Friday, October 20th, 2023

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats: Saturday 20th October 2012was a busy day for protests in London with a huge TUC march against austerity with various groups on its fringes and other smaller protests around.


Against Austerity For Climate Justice! – St Paul’s Cathedral

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The climate block of the TUC ‘A Future That Works’ march held a rally on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral before marching to join the main TUC march.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The block was joined people from Occupy London and UK Uncut who made up a ‘No cuts, no tax-dodging’ block.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The main banner called for a ‘Massive Shift’ to invest in jobs and renewable energy and there were other banners, flags and placards with the Uncut logo calling for an end to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

I left them as they began to make their way to join the main TUC march, hurrying to Downing Street for an unconnected protest.

More pictures: Against Austerity For Climate Justice!


Edequal Stands with Malala – Downing St

Members of the Edequal Foundation, an educational charity founded by Shahzad Ali and based in north London which supports teachers and students demonstrated in a show of support for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban because of her campaigning for education for women.

She began her campaign in 2009 by writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC about life under Taliban control and was later filmed by the New York Times. She became well-known for these and other interviews and in 2011 was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Rev Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.


Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban while returning by bus from an exam on 9th October 2012 and this made her the centre of international attention and support. After treatment in Pakistan she was transferred to hospital in Birmingham and after recovering settled there continuing her campaigning. She has since received other awards, becoming the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17.

Edequal Stands with Malala


A Future That Works TUC March – Westminster

The TUC march for ‘A Future That Works’ against austerity was impressively large with a reported 150,000 people taking part.

I’d gone to photograph the marchers going past Parliament and up Whitehall to Traflagar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I’d begun taking pictures about half an hour after the front of the march had passed, and two hours later people were still passing me in a dense mass, waving flags and carrying banners.

Most had come with trade union groups and there were many fine union banners, but there were also others taking part. Police generally stood well back and the march with just a few trade union stewards proceeded peacefully along the route.

Quite a few stopped for some minutes outside Downing Street to shout noisily in the direction of No 10, though I think Prime Minister David Cameron was miles away. Certainly the march had no effect on his policies.

There were a few police here and at other key points, but one group on the march got special attention, with a line of officers in blue caps walking in line on each side of around 200 black-clad anarchists. Earlier I had seen one small group of anarchists being chased by a police FIT team who called in other police to surround them while they attempted to take their photographs.

Many more pictures at A Future That Works TUC March.


Against Workfare and Tax Cheats – Oxford St

Boycott Workfare were “a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare.” They say that “Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.”

Their campaign was supported by a wide range of organisations including a number of trade union branches and several hundred people turned up on Oxford Street for their protest, including a number dressed in black and masked with scarves or wearing ‘Anonymous’ masks.

They marched to protest at shops and businesses in the area which are taking part in workfare schemes which many of those unemployed had to work without pay or lose their benefits. Many of the shops closed as the protest went part and the protesters briefly occupied others.

Although this had been planned as a ‘a fun and family-friendly action’ and was led by a samba band, while it started peacefully a number of scuffles broke out when police tried to stop or arrest those taking part, and by the time it ended many on both sides were clearly angry.

There was a nasty moment after the protesters had crowded inside a hotel which uses people on workfare on Great Marlborough Street. They made some noise but there was no damage and they would almost certainly have moved on after a few minutes as there were other places to visit. Police entered and tried to forcibly push the protesters out, while police outside were preventing them from leaving. I fortunately avoided injury when pushed down the stairs by police.

From there they returned to Oxford Street and tried to rush into a number of shops known to be using workfare and some also known to be avoiding payment of huge amounts of UK tax. Some got their shutters down and police managed to get to others and block the entrance before the protesters arrived – doing the protesters job for them in closing the shop.

The Salvation Army, one of a number of charities involved in the scheme got a kid glove treatment – with just two protesters standing in the doorway and making short speeches before the protest moved on.

At Marble Arch the protester turned around to march back up towards Oxford Circus, and police tried to put a cordon across the street to stop them. But the gaps between officers were too large and most protesters simply walked through the gaps when officers grabbed one of two of them. Some of the police clearly lost their tempers and many protesters were shouting at them to calm down.

One officer who had tackled a protester was apparently injured and a group of police grabbed a protester and pushed him roughly down on the pavement in front of a shop. As I reported:

While several police forcefully pushed him to the ground, others stood around them. They seemed to see their main purpose as preventing photographers and others from seeing what was happening, with one woman officer in particular following my every move to block my view, while I could hear the protester on the ground shouting that he was not resisting and asking why they kept on hurting him. From the brief glimpses I got as police attempted to prevent me seeing what was happening they appeared to be using entirely unnecessary force.

The protest was continuing but I’d seen enough and taken as many pictures as I could over the day and it was time to go home.

More at Against Workfare and Tax Cheats.

NHS – Free, For All, Forever?

Friday, June 30th, 2023

NHS – Free, For All, Forever?. Five years ago on Saturday 30th June thousands marched through London to celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service, which began on 5th July 1948. In a few days we will celebrate the 75 anniversary. The pictures here are from that march.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

A few days ago the Kings Fund published their report comparing the NHS to health care systems of other countries. It made depressing reading, but its findings were already well-known – and the result of government policies over the years.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Conservatives were opposed to the setting up of the NHS and voted against it on numerous occasions when Aneurin Bevan was campaigning for its setting up and taking the bill through parliament. Bevan established the three basic ideas, that it should benefit everyone, that healthcare would be free and that care would be provided on the basis of need rather than ability to pay.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Many doctors and dentists were opposed to the new system, which they saw as a threat to their lucrative private practices and this led to a number of compromises which have had serious consequences over the years.

NHS - Free, For All, Forever?

Dentistry has never really been made properly a part of our health care system and now large areas of the country have few if any dentists who will take on NHS patients. Private medicine has continued and grown parasitically on the NHS – who train those working in it, while it now gets paid by the NHS to provide many of the simpler aspects of treatment while leaving the heavy lifting to our public service.

Both Conservative and Labour governments since its formation have made changes which have diluted Bevan’s principles. Contracting out of various services began under the Tories, sometimes resulting in disastrous lowering of standards. Proper cleaning services etc are essential in hospitals.

New Labour brought in Private Finance Initiative projects (they borrowed the idea from the Tories) which have led to huge ongoing debts for some NHS trusts – and closures of some vitally needed hospital departments to meet these.

Since the Coalition and then the Tories came back into power there has been a huge increase in the creeping privatisation of the NHS, with Andrew Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act forcing the NHS into a market-based model based on competitive tendering, which even his successor as Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt has described parts of as ‘frankly, completely ridiculous’. So much so that even the Tories have no had to row back a little.

The King’s Fund report makes clear that “The UK has below-average health spending per person compared to peer countries” and it “lags behind other countries in its capital investment, and has substantially fewer key physical resources than many of its peers, including CT and MRI scanners and hospital beds.”

Successive governments have prevented the training in the UK from expanding the numbers of university places for medical training, and a few years ago the Tories removed the bursaries available for nurses. Since the start of the NHS this had been a failure, and as the report states there are now “strikingly low levels of key clinical staff, including doctors and nurses” and the NHS is “heavily reliant on foreign-trained staff.” Only in recent days have we seen an effort by government to put forward plans to address the issue – and almost certainly one that is inadequate.

There is also the question of pay, brought to the fore in recent months by strikes by nurses and doctors. The government’s response has mainly been to refuse to enter into meaningful talks and mutter about the impossible demands being made.

Of course nobody expects junior doctors to get a 35% rise, but all that it would take to resolve the dispute is a much lower figure, combined with a commitment to make a small above inflation increase in a number of following years to reduce the gap that has opened up.

You can read more about the march and rally and some of the issues in my post on My London Diary from June 2018, which also includes some information about the interests or many MPs and peers in private healthcare and connections to those wanting to see the NHS abolished. It may be ‘OUR NHS’ but many of those who have power to determine its future want it to belong to them.

And of course, many more pictures at NHS at 70 – Free, for all, forever.


Hardest Hit March Against Cuts – 2011

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts: On Wednesday 11th March 2011 around 10,000 people, many in wheelchairs came to march in London calling for an end to harassment and benefit cuts for the disabled.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The Hardest Hit march was supported by a huge range of charities and organisations representing and supporting the physically and mentally disabled, including major unions such as PCS, UCU and Unite.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The protest came a year after the formation of the coalition government led by David Cameron with Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg as his deputy, with real power staying with the Tory majority and is now widely seen as a disaster for the Lib-Dems. Under Chancellor George Osborne the coalition plunged the country into the start of ten years of austerity, with particularly swingeing cuts to local government services as well as a drastic attack on all those claiming benefits.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

The cuts disproportionately affected the poor and the disabled while the wealthiest in our society were hardly if at all affected. In 2018 the UN special rapporter on extreme poverty concluded his visit to the UK by reminding us that ‘Poverty is a political choice‘ and that ‘Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so’.

Hardest Hit March Against Cuts - 2011

For the disabled and those on benefits there were cuts and freezes and the situation was made worse by the ignorance and incompetence of Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2010 to 2016.

It was under Labour in October 2008 that Work Capability Assessments were introduced but the numbers made before 2010 were relatively small and they were used for new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants and a small number of ESA reassessments. It was only in Spring 2011 under the coalition government that a programme began to move those on existing benefits onto ESA using the WCA tests administered by Atos began.

Already by 2011 there had been serious criticisms both of the unsatisfactory nature of the tests and of the failures by Atos to administer them correctly, and this protest march called both for an end to the cuts in benefits for the disabled and “and in particular for an end to the discredited and iniquitous testing regime administered by Atos Healthcare, which has replaced proper medical tests by a computer-based system that often ignores the actual needs of those being assessed, and has as unacceptably high error rate, with a majority of appeals against its assessments succeeding.

The Braille spells out SHAFTED

Despite the huge body of evidence and the many deaths the system caused, only minor changes were made and it was not until 2014 that the contract with Atos was ended, only for them to be replaced by Maximus who carried on the same way. Atos, now renamed IAS, remains now a part of the assessment system for ESA, Universal Credit and PIP along with Maximus and Capita.

Both New Labour and the Coalition made cuts in many positive projects and organisations set up to help the disabled. One of these was Remploy, whose last state-run sheltered factory set up to employ disabled labour closed in 2013 with the loss of over 1700 jobs. It is now a part of Maximus.

This protest got more media attention than most, largely because of the presence among those leading the march of Sally Bercow, the wife of the then Speaker of the Commons, and actress and activist Jane Asher, president of three of the organisations involved, Arthritis Care, National Autistic Society and Parkinson’s UK. It was followed by a mass lobby of MPs.

Since then there have been many more protests against the unfair treatment of the disabled as various benefits have been scrapped and Universal Credit has led to further problems, but nothing on this scale. Disabled people have not only suffered most they have also become some of the more active protesters, particularly led by groups that were on this march including Disable People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Winvisible, Black Triangle and others.

This ‘Hardest Hit’ march came during a ‘National Week of Action Against Atos Origin‘ organised by disability activists, claimant groups and anti-cuts campaigners and two days earlier they had protested outside the offices of Atos Healthcare in London. You can see more on My London Diary in Disabled Protest Calls Atos Killers.

More at Hardest Hit March Against Cuts.


Streets Kitchen March with Homeless – 2016

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Streets Kitchen is a UK & Ireland grassroots group working to help the homeless community, providing daily outreaches with food, clothing and information. In London they are active in Camden, Hackney, Kilburn, Clapham, Haringey and elsewhere – and new volunteers and donations are welcome. You can see a short video about their work made by Liberty on YouTube.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

On Friday 15th April 2016 Streets Kitchen oranised a rally and march around central London in solidarity with London’s growing homeless community. A giant banner called for ‘No More Deaths On Our Streets’. They brought tents, sleeping bags and food intending to join the Kill the Housing Bill sleepout in Southwark and collected donations.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I met them at a rally on the pavement opposite Downing Street, with speakers who described the effects of government policies on increasing homelessness but also pointed out the role of London Labour Councils including Southwark and Newham who have turned people out of council estates in order to ‘regenerate’ them largely for the benefit of private tenants paying much higher rents, as well working with private developers to enable them to evade their responsibilities to build social housing.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

They move on to Whitehall, blocking the traffic and then marching to Trafalgar Square where they held a brief protest before marching up Charing Cross Road to Oxford Street.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

The march continued along Oxford St to Oxford Circus, where they set off flares and blocked the junction for a few minutes.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

Their next stop was at the BBC, where a line of police blocked the entrance, and they then moved off up Portland Place. They were still marching further away from the final destination, Southwark Council’s offices on Tooley St, south of the river close to Tower Bridge, and it was getting rather dark to take pictures.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I decided I’d had enough and left them for my journey to a warm and comfortable home. We don’t live in luxury but too many in our society don’t have a home to go to, a shameful situation in one of the richest countries in the world – and a country where there are more empty homes than homeless people. Housing is a human right, and one which too many are denied.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

More at Streets Kitchen March with Homeless.