Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis. Saturday 21st March 2015 was another busy day for me in London, covering protests against the criminal activities of UK banks, a large march and rally against racism in the UK (and a few racists opposing this) and customers of John Lewis calling on the company to treat its cleaners fairly.


Great British Tax Robbery – HSBC, Regent St.

UK Uncut campaigners arrived at the HSBC Regent St branch dressed as detectives and robbers to highlight the bank’s crimes in causing the financial crash and tax dodging, which have led to drastic cuts in vital public services and welfare and attempt a ‘Citizen’s Arrest’.

UK Uncut had a clear message for both HSBC and the government, accusing them of being criminals:

The government told us they’d “protect the poorest and most vulnerable”. They said “those with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of the cuts”. And what have we seen? Dismantling the NHS and wrecking the welfare state. Cutting schools, youth clubs, sure start centres, domestic violence refuges and libraries. Slashing local council budgets. Attacking disabled people with inhumane ‘work capability assessments’ and cuts to vital benefits. Removing access to justice through legal aid cuts. Allowing the big six energy companies to push people into fuel poverty. Cutting jobs, wages and pensions. Selling off social housing and moving people away from their communities. Driving hundreds of thousands into food banks and making families choose between heating or eating

My London Diary, March 2015

The bank closed a few minutes before the protesters arrived and kept its doors shut as the protesters’ ‘forensic team’ chalked around ‘crime victims’ on the ground and put crime scene tape around the area, sealing off the door with a banner. There was a speech from a NHS campaigner from East London about the effects of the cuts on the NHS and ‘criminals’ with HSBC on their chests posed for pictures. After a few minutes the protest was ended as many of those taking part were, like me, joining the Anti-Racism protest.

Great British Tax Robbery


Stand Up to Racism March – BBC to Trafalgar Square

Thousands came to the Stand Up to Racism march from the BBC to Trafalgar Square to reject the scapegoating of immigrants, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and to celebrate the diversity of Britain, with the message ‘Migrants are Welcome Here!

The march began at the BBC, who campaigners accuse of having a policy of ignoring protests in the UK, especially those against government policies – such as the racist hounding of immigrants under their ‘hostile environment’.

Among those marching were DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts. Government policies have also targeted disabled people, cutting benefits and subjecting them to unfair ‘fitness to work’ tests which largely ignore medical evidence.

Stand Up to Racism March


Britain First Protests anti-Racist March – Piccadilly Circus

A small and rather sad extreme right-wing group stood on the steps around Eros waving flags and shouting insults at the anti-racist marchers as the thousands marched past. It was a reminder of the kind of bigotry the great majority were marching against.

Some of the marchers paused to shout back at them, while others followed the advice of the march stewards and ignored the small group. There were a few scuffles but generally police kept the two groups apart, though later I learnt that after I had gone past a group of anti-fascists had seized the Britain First banner.

Britain First Protests anti-Racist March


Stand Up to Racism Rally – Trafalgar Square

Lee Jasper holds up a large poster responding to Trevor Phillips saying he is not a criminal, murderer or thief

Several thousand who had marched to ‘Stand up to Racism’ through London stayed on to listen to speeches at a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Speakers included Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Zita Holbourne, Omer El Hamdoon, Lee Jasper and many others, whose photographs you can see on My London Diary.

Stand Up to Racism Rally


John Lewis customers support Living Wage – Oxford St

John Lewis is a company proud of its history and its reputation as a company based on its constitution as the UK’s largest employee owned business with both John Lewis and Waitrose owned in Trust by its 80,000 ‘partners’. They say everyone who works in its stores are not just employees, but a partners in the company, and in almost every year they enjoy a share in its profits.

Everyone who works there, except the cleaners who play a vital role in the proper running of the stores. John Lewis gets out of making them partners by using other companies to employ them and provide the cleaning as a service, choosing its cleaning company through competitive tendering. Cleaning companies cut wages and conditions of service such as sick pay, maternity pay, pensions, holiday pay to the bone – usually the absolute legal minimum – so they can put in low tenders and still make good profits. They exploit the workers – a largely migrant workforce with limited job opportunities – while John Lewis can claim it isn’t them who are doing so and try to maintain their reputation as a good employer.

For some years the cleaners have been protesting to get a living wage and also for John Lewis to recognise their responsibility as the actual company the cleaners are providing a service to. They want to be treated equally with the others who work in the stores, rather than the second-class employees they are now. The least John Lewis could do would be to insist on contractors paying the living wage and giving employees decent conditions of service as a condition of tender, but they had refused to take any responsibility.

Many customers of John Lewis – a very middle-class group – back the cleaners’ case for fair and equal treatment, and a few had come to hand out flyers and talk to shoppers to back their case in a very restrained protest. One of them told me it was the first time she had ever taken part in any protest. They were supported by a few members of the cleaners union, the IWGB, who had brought some of their posters.

John Lewis customers support Living Wage


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BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds. Six years ago today, on Sunday 6th March 2016, thousand of Kurds marched from the BBC to Trafalgar Square calling for an end to the silence from Turkey’s NATO allies and the western press over Turkey’s increasing war against Kurds since the political successes of the Kurdih political party and the formation of the popular progressive democracy of Rojava in Northern Syria.

Marchers sat down briefly at Piccadilly Circus

On My London Diary I posted a list of over 30 UK groups supporting in the protest including the National Union of Teachers, the PCS and RMT as well as other trade unionists and branches, the Stop The War Coalition, the Green Party, Unite Against Fascism, many left wing parties and political groups and of course Kurdish organisations.

The repression and marginalisation of Kurds by Turkey is as old as the Turkish state, formed in 1923. For many years the state even denied their existence, describing them as “mountain Turks”, and it outlawed their language and clamped down on their cultural events such their Nowruz New Year Festival and on the wearing of their traditional dress and Kurdish names. Even the words Kurds and Kurdistan were banned.

The crowd stretched some way past Broadcasting House

The 1990s and early 2000s saw some relaxation of the repression of their language and community celebrations, but it remains illegal to teach in Kurdish and there is still limited freedom of expression. In 1978 Kurds formed the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK, which launched a military freedom fight against Turkey in 1984. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in Nairobi in 1999 by Turkish agents assisted by the CIA and flown back for trial in Turkey. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penality and since then has been held in a Turkish high-security island prison.

Öcalan had argued for a political solution to the conflict since 1993 and even in prison remains the leader of the PKK. Subjected to long spells on isolation there have been periods where he has been allowed visits and has been in negotiations with the Turkish government. He has also written about the democratic confederalism which is at the heart of the constitution of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, widely known as Rojava, founded in 2012.

Rojava’s decentralised democratic form of government recognises and includes the various communities in the area – Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians and others as well as promoting the equality of women.

The main ground forces which have been effective against Daesh (ISIS) in the region are from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, men in the YPG and women in the YPJ, who with the help of US air support defeated the Islamic State in Northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG and YPJ as being a part of the PKK, regarded by them and many countries as a terrorist group and widely banned. Since 2016 it has used its overwhelming military power (supported by NATO and Russia) to try to crush the Kurds and to capture Rojava, occupying large areas. Together with Syrian allies (including some former ISIS fighters) they are carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, and have been engaged in a wide range of war crimes.

Peter Tatchell

As well as calling for an end to attacks by Turkey and for full and un-biased reporting of Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds the marchers want the UK to end its support for the Turkish aggression and also to repeal the ban on the PKK under the Terrorism Act 2000. It is banned in most other western countries including the EU, where several court verdicts have found its proscription to be illegal but it has remained.

The march sat down for a few minutes stopping traffic at Piccadilly Circus, then went on the a rally in Trafalgar Square, where I left them. There were no reports of the march on the BBC or in other UK mass-media, though I think it was covered by some foreign news services and our minuscule left-wing press.

More at Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds.


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Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007. On Saturday 24th February 15 years ago I spent a long afternoon photographing around 50,000 protesters marching through London calling for an end to Britain’s nuclear weapons and for our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

The march was organised by Stop The War, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative, and on My London Diary – back then still only in lower case – I made clear my support for the marchers:

i’ve for many years been opposed to the so-called independent british nuclear weapons. even at the height of the cold war they were never credible as an independent deterrent. if they have ever had any justification it was that they made the usa feel less guilty, although american guilt at its huge nuclear arsenal and at being the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons has always been an incredibly stunted growth.

i was also firmly against the invasion of iraq. it was always clear to those who didn’t want to be deluded that the so-called ‘intelligence’ on weapons of mass destruction was laughable. blair was either a liar or a fool as he misled a minority of the british people and a majority of their mps. or most probably both. (saddam may also have been deluded and certainly was an evil dictator, but we had long failed those who tried to oppose him.) the invasion was criminal, but the lack of planning for the occupation that inevitably followed even more so.

My London Diary – Feb 2007

My account also points out the ridiculously low estimate of the numbers taking part given by the police of 4,000 – though I think they were eventually forced to increase this somewhat – and gives my own method of assessing numbers on such large demonstrations as this. The marchers took 90 minutes to pass me as I photographed them in Park Lane. My usual rule of thumb was to double the police estimate, but on this occasion they surpassed themselves, being an order of magnitude out.

There certainly is always a policy by our establishment, backed up by the BBC and the press, except on rare occasions to minimise dissent, particularly left-wing dissent, in this country while often exaggerating any protests against left-wing governments abroad. It’s a bias which has been very obvious in the coverage of events in Latin-American countries such as Venezuela.

Tony Benn

The BBC and some of our newspapers have some excellent reporters and correspondents, and it is more in the selection of what they are asked to report on and the editing of their reports and the context in which they are placed that the bias occurs. Some things are just not ‘news’, while others, often trivial or flippant, get major attention.

Fortunately there are other sources with different biases, including the almost invisibly small left-wing press in the UK (the two daily papers – the Communist Morning Star and Workers Revolutionary Party’s The News Line together have a circulation probably well under 10,000), but more importantly large news organisations such as the Russian-funded RT International and the Qatari Al Jazeera English – the latter particularly interesting about current events in the Ukraine.

Every journalist has a point of view and while we may strive to be factual I don’t think there is such a thing as objectivity. Our reporting is always subjective, based on what we feel and what we think is of importance. Every photograph I take involves choice – and the rejection of other things I don’t photograph – even at times things I think would make eye-catching images but would misrepresent people or the event. Further choices come in the selection of which images to send to an agency, and also which I choose to put on My London Diary.

On this occasion I chose rather too many to put on-line, with 17 pages of pictures, though this reflects the typical internet speeds of 15 years ago, when pages with more than ten small images were too slow to load even though I compressed the images as lower quality jpegs than I would now. But the number of pictures also reflected my intention to tell the story of the event as fully as possible rather than creating a single image for the event that might appeal to a picture editor.

Julie Felix

Looking at the report now I feel there are rather too many images particularly of some of the well-known faces I photographed at the rally. Perhaps also I made too many of the marchers, some of which might be of far more interest to the people shown in them than the general public. But if people make an effort to make an interesting placard or banner I think it deserves a little recognition.

You can read more of my report of the event and see another 160 or so pictures on My London Diary, beginning on the February 2007 page, though you will need to scroll a long way down the page to reach this march and rally.


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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Nelson Mandela’s Birthday

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Back in 1988 on the 17th July, the day before Nelson Mandela’s Birthday on the 18th July, I joined thousands of marchers through London demanding he be freed from jail.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela Mandela was born on 18th July 1918, so this was his 70th birthday and he was still in jail, then held in Pollsmoor Prison, near Cape Town, having been removed with other senior ANC members from Robben Island to remove their influence on younger ANC members held there.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

He was well treated in Pollsmoor and international attempts to end apartheid was increasing, along with secret meetings with the South African Minister of Justice. President Botha had actually offered to release him, if he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon”, but Mandela had refused to leave while the African National Congress was still banned.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31

Mandela’s 70th birthday was celebrated around the world, with a televised tribute concert at Wembley Stadium attracting an estimated 200 million viewers.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

The march in London was a large one, and I wasn’t then a seasoned photographer of protests, though I had taken pictures at a number of smaller events.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-34

Because of the size of the event there were a number of feeder marches leading to a rally in Hyde Park. I joined the march coming from Camden and went with it to the rally, where I took some pictures in the crowd but didn’t attempt to cover the speakers, who included the Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

I took altogether only just over a hundred black and white pictures, of which I’ve now uploaded around a quarter to an album, Free Nelson Mandela – March and Rally – London 1988. You can also click on any of the images in this post to go to a larger version from where you can browse all the pictures that are online.


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More from Maida Vale, 1988

Saturday, December 11th, 2021

Warwick Farm Dairies, Elgin Ave, Shirland Rd, Maida Vale8, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-51-positive_2400
Warwick Farm Dairies, Elgin Ave, Shirland Rd, Maida Vale8, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-51

J Welford & Son’s Warwick Farm Dairies is still there on the corner of Elgin Avenue and Shirland Road, still looking much as it did when I took this photograph in July 1988, with I think the only noticeable change being in the name of the shop. Now it is over a hundred years since Welford’s became part of United Dairies and cows were kept in the large yard and its buildings behind, but there is still a cow’s head on the second storey of this corner building.

Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-53-positive_2400
Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-53

When walking around the streets with a camera around my neck I often was accosted by children clamouring for me to take their picture, and I never refused, though occasionally when I was running out of film I might only pretend to do so. Here the interest was perhaps as much in the BMX bikes and the sweater this young man was wearing as in him or the background.

Beachcroft House, Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-54-positive_2400
Beachcroft House, Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-54

Westminster Council demolished this care home on Shirland Road in January 2018, replacing the low building and garden with two large 5 storey blocks, one a replacement Beachcroft House care home opened in 2019 and run by Gold Care Homes and the other a block of 31 luxury flats, The Masefield, sold to finance the project.

Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-55-positive_2400
Shirland Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-55

Not one door but seven on the front of a former shop somewhere in the short row of five shops at 113-121 Shirland Rd. It rather amused me. Perhaps 30 years ago when I first needed a computer desk I spent some time looking at those available before deciding they looked small and rather flimsy and I could do a better job myself by cutting up an old door I’d replaced in the house, cutting off part horizontally to use as the desktop (its top surface covered by hardboard a previous resident had added) and the top section sawn vertically to give two side supports. A couple of lengths of 2×4″ hardwood provided some bracing close to floor level – and the footrest on which my feet are now resting as I write. It took me 10 minutes to measure and sketch the design and a morning to make and seems likely to last longer than me.

Delaware Mansions, Delaware Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-41-positive_2400
Delaware Mansions, Delaware Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-41

Delaware Mansions calls itself on its web site “The best mansion block in Maida Vale!2. Although Delaware Road was planned in 1875 by the developers of the Paddington Estate, the Paddington Trustees and the Church Commissioners as one of an alphabetical series of streets along with Ashworth, Biddulph and Castellain but the site was allotments until this block was built in 1903-1904 designed like many Maida Vale mansions by Boehmer and Gibbs. The road was only then properly made up.

The Church commisioners sold the entire Maida Vale Estate in 1981 with tenants being given a 20% discount on the market value and long leases. They sold the freehold to Fleksun in 1990.

BBC Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-44-positive_2400
BBC Maida Vale Studios, Delaware Rd, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-44

Although I’d often heard that a radio programme had been made in the BBC Maida Vale Studios I had no real idea where they were until I walked down Delaware Rd. They are opposite Delaware Mansions, whose web site tells me they were originally “the Maida Vale Skating Palace and Club, which opened in 1909 and had one of the largest and most elegant roller-skating risks in the world. It could accommodate hundreds of skaters and seated 2,620 people at any one time.” It was one of the first studios for the BBC and home to many famous programmes; in 2018 the BBC announced plans to close it.

Lauderdale Rd, Castellain Rd,Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-34-positive_2400
Lauderdale Rd, Castellain Rd,Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-34

This was obviously once a rather sporting area, as on the next street to the east, at the corner of Castellain Road and Lauderdale Road was the Tennis and Squash shop, though this was in 1988 the Maida Vale Driving School and has boards showing a varied selection of vehicles for sale in the window. Now it is a flower shop.

This is on the end of a row of shops, Lauderdale Parade. I’ve found no explanation for the rather curious motif on the end wall which has a lion’s head at its centre. Lauderdale Mansions in several blocks were the first mansion blocks to be built in Maida Vale in 1897. Actor Alec Guinness was born there in 1914.

Elgin Ave, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-36-positive_2400
Elgin Ave, Maida Vale, Westminster, 1988 88-7d-36

I can find little information about 203 Elgin Avenue, a large detached house on the corner of Biddulph Road. On the side of the house is the date AD 1890.

I took the short walk up Biddulph Road and into Paddington Recreation Ground, where I photographed a few people cycling around the paved track (not online) and probably visited the public toilets before returning to Elgin Ave, photographing the side of this house again.

This seems a good place to finish this post – more from Maida Vale in a later post.


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End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! 2016

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Five years ago the People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism organised a march through London as a response to the referendum campaign conducted by many Brexit campaigners on an anti-immigration platform which had provoked an upsurge in racism and hate attacks on Black and particularly Muslim people online and on the streets of Britain.

The marchers met outside the BBC, as I wrote ” in the forlorn hope that they might for once cover a protest in Britain properly” but of course they ignored the thousands on their doorstep. Probably they were too busy giving Nigel Farage a quite disproportionate amount of publicity and air-time, along with the Labour plotters against Jeremy Corbyn – who sent a message of support to the marchers and like them showing solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers.

This banner and the placards for me summed up the message of the march, a demand for ‘Hope Not Hate’ and for people of all backgrounds to join hands in love and respect and say ‘No Racism’. We’ve recently seen a huge backlash against racist remarks against footballers in the English team showing that people across the country oppose racism, whether from the far right or Tory ministers and MPs who denigrate footballers who ‘Take the Knee’.

Later I managed to get to Parliament Square for the rally at the end of the march with speakers from many organisations, including an asylum seeker as well as politicians and activists. It was a sunny day and there was a warm and pleasant atmosphere in the large crowd listening and applauding the speakers.

I’d waited on Regent St as the march set off for some time until the last of the several thousand marchers had passed me, then hurried off to the HQ Offices of CBRE in Henrietta Place, where cleaners from the strike at 100 Wood St, managed by CBRE, had broken away from the march to stage a flash mob, along with supporters including United Voices of the World General Secretary Petros Elia and Bakers Union (BFAWU) National President Ian Hodson.

I’d arrived too late to go with them into the foyer, whose large glass doors were firmly locked when I arrived, but after a few minutes photographing through glass the doors were opened I was able to take a few more pictures as they got ready to leave. They went on to rejoin the march, but I went off to look for the English Defence League whose protest had been called to oppose that by the People’s Assembly.

I don’t like photographing extreme right-wing groups such as the EDL. It gives them publicity, which they don’t deserve as it exaggerates their importance. Generally their protests are small and their extremism represents a very small fringe of our society, though racist attitudes unfortunately are much more widespread. But rather more directly they are generally not nice people to be near. They shout and scream messages of hate, often in vile language, and routinely threaten me as I take photographs. I’ve been spat at and even, fortunately not often, grabbed, pushed and punched.

While with most protests I can move freely through the event, at these I need to keep a safe distance away. I’m usually glad that police are present, and without them I would be assaulted and my equipment smashed, but police sometimes make any photography virtually impossible. While I’d managed to cover the march I could only see brief glimpses of the rally which followed through several lines of police with several hundred of them surrounding perhaps a hundred protesters. I gave up then and took the tube to cover the anti-racist rally.

EDL march and rally
Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ
End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!


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.


Human Rights Day

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Today, 10th December is UN Human Rights Day. I think the 10th December 2016 may have set a personal record in that I covered seven events, although one was only a fleeting meeting with a Rhino as I passed through Parliament Square. But five were human rights protests.

My work began in Old Palace Yard, in front of the House of Lords and around the rather ugly statue of George V. On 10th December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and since then the day has been celebrated in countries around the world as Human Rights Day.

The UK was one of the countries that played a large part in both the establishment of the UN, whose first General Assembly was held in the early months of 1946 just a few hundred yards away in Methodist Central Hall, and in the UDHR, which “proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being”.

But our current government finds some of its provisions inconvenient and one of the driving forces of Brexit is that it will provide the opportunity to weaken compliance with the UDHR, threatening our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Supporters of the UK remaining in Europe were protesting in silent chains in towns and cities across the country and several hundred had come to do so in the centre of London. I didn’t find it easy to produce interesting pictures of what was a rather static event.
Silent Chain for Europe


As I walked across the front of Parliament towards Westminster tube station I came across two people in rather impressive rhinoceros costumes who were being photographed in front of the House of Commons, and paused briefly to take a couple of pictures.

What rather surprised me was the almost total lack of interest in them shown by the many tourists walking past. After all it isn’t every day you pass two rhinos on the street.
Save the Rhino


People from various campaigns had come to Broadcasting House to protest and hand in a letter about the BBC’s failure to report on political prisoners held unjustly in jails around the world. They accuse the BBC of an institutional policy of ignoring such cases, including a hundred Irish Republican prisoners, former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal held on Death Row in the USA for over 30 years, many Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey, the many hanged in Iran and other cases of illegal imprisonment around the world.
BBC censors prison struggles


From the BBC I made my way north to Mornington Crescent, where I met one of the four groups of Santacon; the north London group had met up in Camden and were coming down into Central London and soon stopped in a small park.

I found it a little disappointing – as I wrote then,

“this year the event did seem rather more organised and tame, lacking some of the anarchic charm and chaos that brought much of London’s traffic to a halt in previous years – or perhaps I just took these pictures earlier in the day before the Christmas spirits, wine and beer had really kicked in. “

London Santacon 2016

I think police had leaned rather heavily on the organisers and insisted that they move off the streets into areas such as this for much of the event. I didn’t stay with the Santas long because there were other Human Rights Day events to photograph.


I took the tube back to Westminster where I found Balochs protesting opposite Downing St, calling on Theresa May to speak up for the Baloch people and their freedom against the Pakistan regime which they claim has a policy of genocide against the Baloch people and has killed thousands of Baloch activists and abducted more than 25,000 of them.

They say those abducted are tortured and then killed, with their bodies being dumped in deserted areas. Balochistan was an autonomous kingdom on the border of Pakistan and Iran, and was merged with Pakistan in 1948, the year after Pakistan was created. Since then there have been various Baloch separatist movements which have been brutally repressed by both Pakistan and Iran.
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest.


I’d come to Whitehall to report on the Guantanamo Justice Campaign protest on UN Human Rights Day opposite Downing St calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

It wasn’t a well attended protest probably because there had been relatively little publicity, but also reflecting the problem of keeping up interest in long running issues such as this which no longer attract much if any attention from our news media. They will argue that it is no longer news, but that is only because they choose not to cover it, instead filling pages and programmes with empty speculation and inconsequential affairs of insignificant so-called celebrities rather than matters of importance.
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo


Another issue which has slipped almost completely off the news agenda is the plight of the Yazidi women and girls targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq. According to UN reports, more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held, the women subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery.

The visit to the UK by UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha for 16 days of action prompted little or no news coverage.
Save Yazidi women and girls


More about all these events and more pictures on My London Diary.

Save Yazidi women and girls
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest
London Santacon 2016
BBC censors prison struggles
Save the Rhino
Silent Chain for Europe


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.


1st December 2018

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Two years ago, the first day in December had been declared Stop Universal Credit day of action by Unite Community and small groups around the country were holding protests and handing out leaflets in busy town centres about the many failures and great hardship caused by this poorly though out and badly administered benefit. They called for an end to the long wait before claimants receive money, for applications to be allowed at job centres as well as online, for better help when the system fails people, for direct payments to landlords to avoid rent arrears and evictions and an end to benefit sanctions for all claimants.

Universal Credit was intended to simplify the benefits system, but it failed to take into account the huge range and complexity of situations ordinary people face, and assumed that claimants would have the same kind of support that the middle-class and wealthy take for granted from families, friends and resources. And its failures were compounded by making it a vehicle for cutting costs. As I commented in 2018:

“UC has created incredible hardship, pushing many into extreme poverty and destitution, making them reliant on food banks and street food distributions, greatly increasing the number of homeless and rough sleepers. Thanks to Tory policies, more than 120,000-plus homeless children in Britain will spend Christmas in hostels and B&Bs, many without the means or facilities to provide a Christmas meal.

Some have said that UC is a part of a “state euthanasia” system for the poor, with academic estimates that it and other benefit cuts and sanctions since the 2010 elections having caused 110,000 early deaths, including many suicides. A cross party committee has called for its rollout to be halted until improvements are made, but the government has dismissed virtually all criticism of the system, making only insignificant changes.”

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2018/12/dec.htm#universal

I took a detour on my journey into London to photograph the protest outside Camden Town station, where protesters were also pointing out that Universal Credit “hands more financial power to male claimants making it a misogynist’s dream, forcing women in violent relationships into greater dependency on their violent male partners.”


The major protest taking place in London was a march and rally organised by the Campaign against Climate Change. Together for Climate Justice began with a rally outside the Polish Embassy, in advance of the following week’s UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Despite the impending global disaster, little real action is being taken by countries around the world and we still seem committed to a course leading inevitably to mass extinction. Behind the failure to act is the intensive lobbying of companies exploiting fossil fuels who have spent many billions in sowing doubt about the scientific consensus of global warming, and continue to produce vast quantities of coal and oil and explore for further resources, increasingly in the more ecologically sensitive areas of the Earth.

At the rally a wide range of speakers expressed their concerns that the talks in Poland are being sponsored by leading firms in Poland’s fossil fuel industry. And at the rally opposite Downing St where Frack Free United were to hand in their petition at the end of the march, a speaker from the Global South reminded us of the urgency of the situation; people there are already dying because of climate change.

Before the march we were all taught to say a few slogans in Polish, including ‘Razem dla klimatu‘ (Together for the Climate) which appeared on a number of placards, and the rather less pronounceable Polish for ‘Time to limit to 1.5’, as well as for ‘Climate, jobs, justice!’.


Finally I made my way to Broadcasting House, where The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others were calling on the BBC to withdraw from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Israel, to avoid being complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.

Campaigners say the contest ‘artwashes’ Israel’s human rights record, including the killing of at least 205 Palestinians by Israeli forces in the besieged Gaza Strip since protests began at the end of March, and the passing of the Jewish nation state law which formalises an apartheid system in Israeli law.

A small group of Zionists had come to oppose the protest, but made it clear that they did not want me to photograph them. Some lifted the Israeli flags they were holding to hide their faces when I pointed my camera in their direct or turned away.


More at:

BBC Boycott Eurovision Israel 2019
Together for Climate Justice
Stop Universal Credit day of action


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.


1988 Free Mandela march

Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66
Camden Town

Although I first took pictures at protests in the 1970s, I had been taking part in protests since the middle of the 1960s. But I was then a penniless student with no idea about how you could cut costs by developing and printing your own films; I did own a camera, a Halina 35X, but had dropped it in the lake at Versailles and it never worked reliably after that, delivering random but usually very slow shutter speeds from its rusty leaf shutter.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

Even after I had taken a short photographic course and got a job and could afford a new camera (a cheap Russian Zenith SLR) and had rigged up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen of our flat, I was still going on protests as a protester and took few if any photographs.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31
BBC

Of course there were fewer protests back in the 70s and 80s, or at least it was harder to find out about them in the days before the World Wide Web. There were of course huge events such as the Miners’ Strike, but unless you lived in the mining areas or could travel to them, which didn’t fit with my full-time job you read about most of these after the events were given newspaper coverage if at all. Many other protests related to strikes and union issues were simply impossible to know about unless they concerned your own union.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

My attendance at protests was largely limited to the big national demonstrations organised by groups I belonged to – such as CND and the Anti-Apartheid movement and a few others that were advertised in advance in the alternative press. Many protests were only advertised by fly-posting on walls mainly in the areas they were to take place in – and there were few if any such postings in the area where I lived.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

I began to be more a photographer of protests than an actual protester in the 1980s, particularly after a few of my photographs were accepted for an exhibition on protest (and I think one won a prize.) I began to realise that I could make a great contribution to the various causes with a camera than simply marching or attending rallies, and, a little later, began contributing my photographs to a picture library concerned with social issues, and later still providing my services directly to some protest groups.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988

As more and more people and groups went on-line things began to change. I found out about more and more protests, at first as groups set up web sites to promote their activities. I’d spend an evening or more a week going through a list of perhaps 20 or thirty different groups and using sites which listed bus and travel diversions and various search engines to find out about events and put them in my diary. Then Google arrived and made searching easier and finally Facebook and I had little time to photograph anything but protests.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-13

The Free Nelson Mandela march in London was on Saturday 17th July 1988, the day before his 70th birthday and two years before he was released from prison. I walked with the protesters taking pictures from Camden Town to Hyde Park, and took a few pictures in the crowds in Hyde Park, but none of the stage and speakers at the rally. You can see more of the pictures in the Flickr album uploaded a couple of days ago. Clicking on any of the pictures above will take you to the larger version in the album.


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.