Posts Tagged ‘BDS’

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop – Six years ago, the 14th May 2016 was also a Saturday, and like today there was a protests for Nakba Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, but also several others on the streets of London which I covered.


Reclaim Holloway – Holloway Road

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that when the prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate then owned by HM Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold for private development.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

The Ministry of Justice sold the site to housing association Peabody for £81.5m in 2019 and their plans include 985 homes and offices, with 60% of so-called affordable housing as well as a women’s building with rehabilitation facilities reflecting the site’s history. The development stalled in February 2022 with Peabody saying they were unable to afford the money needed to fit out the women’s centre.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford Street

Protesters made their way along Oxford St from their regular Saturday picket outside Marks & Spencers, handing out leaflets and stopping outside various shops supporting the Israeli state for speeches against the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people and attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’ remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced out of their homes between December 1947 and January 1949 is commemorated annually on May 15th, but the protest was a day earlier when Oxford Street would be busier. The Palestinians were later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes or reclaiming their properties, with many still living in refugee camps.

The protesters included a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the protesters of anti-Semitism but the protest was clearly directed against unfair and illegal policies pursued by the Israeli government rather than being anti-Semitic. The counter-protesters tried unsuccessfully to provoke confrontation, standing in front of the marchers and police had at times to move them away.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day


Vegan Earthlings masked video protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large circle in Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end animal cruelty.

Vegan Earthlings masked video protest


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Another small group of protesters stood in front of the National Gallery held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

Refugees Welcome say protesters


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

Finally I was back on Oxford St where cleaners union United Voices of the World (UVW) was holding one of protests outside Topshop stores around the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living wage; one has now been sacked. Joining them in the protest were other groups including Class War, cleaners from CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The Oxford Street Topshop was heavily defended by police, as well as by illegal extra security guards wearing no ID. Several hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police blocked the entrance to the shop, though the protesters made no serious attempt to enter the building.

Jane Nicholl of Class War poses on a BMW as they block Oxford Circus

After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade, moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuaded them to move.

UVW’s Petros Elia argues with a police officer outside John Lewis

They moved off, but rather than going in the direction the police had urged them, marched west along Oxford St to John Lewis, where they protested outside the entrance, where cleaners have a longstanding dispute. The cleaners who work there are outsourced to a cleaning contractor who John Lewis allow to pay low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for these workers who keep its stores running.

There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police but I saw no arrests and soon the protesters marched away to the Marble Arch Topshop branch to continue their protest.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


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SOAS Shut Down 2015

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Students at SOAS, University of London, occupied the Brunei Suite on the Bloomsbury campus on October 6th 2015, after a leaked management document detailed £6.5m of cuts including the loss of 186 courses, roughly a third of the curriculum.

This leak came as the latest in a whole series of decisions by management which dismissed or ignored the views of both students and staff, and led to a unanimous vote of no confidence in the management two days later by the General Assembly of the SOAS Student Union.

As well as the course cuts and problems with switching courses and choosing tutorials, they complained that management had ignored an overwhelming vote in support of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign, ignored the opposition to the outsourcing of cleaners, security staff and other workers and failed to respond to the strike by Fractional workers (who are responsible for much of the teaching) for fair pay. The students said that management were failing to deal with the gender pay gap and that institutional racism is thriving in SOAS.

They called for a restructuring of the Executive Board and Board of Trustees to give students, academic staff and support staff authority over the running of our university, and suggested that a large proportion of the savings needed could be made by the Executive Board cutting their own inflated salaries rather than making staff redundant.

The entrance to the occupation after management locked the doors

The management responded with lies and by harassing the students, including by cutting off the power on 23rd October, and when many teaching and administrative staff refused to cross a picket line they locked the doors of the university. The entrance to the occupation became through the high ground floor windows.

Sandy Nicoll, Unison Branch Secretary

After a rally held on 27th October which I had missed they tried to intimidate the trade unions by suspending Unison Branch Secretary Sandy Nicoll, falsely claiming he had let students into the main building to protest outside the offices of recently appointed SOAS Director Baroness Amos.

The protest on Thursday 29th was held to call for the reinstatement of Nicoll, and there were messages of support for Sandy from colleges and trade unions around the country as well as a long series of speakers who came to give their support in person.

It was a well-attended and noisy protest with much banging on catering pots and pans with Nicoll getting a lengthy welcome before he could speak.

At the end of the rally there was music and dancing, with people taking part in the 'Strikey-Strikey', an adaption of the Hokey-Cokey:
You put your left arm in
Your left arm out
In, out, in, out
You shake it all about
You do the strikey-strikey
And you turn around
That's what it's all about
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Knees bent
Arms stretched
Ra-ra-ra...

Things appeared to be drawing to a conclusion and I got ready to leave when things livened up a little with people setting off smoke flares as they paraded with banners in front of the occupied building to the music of a violin and drums.

The management finally backed down and reinstated Sandy Nicoll and eventually the occupation came to an end too, with management changing some of its plans but not meeting the main student demands. Dissent continued on campus and there was a further occupation in 2017. There have been some victories, and after a 12 year fight the cleaners became directly employed by SOAS at the end of August 2018.

More at SOAS Shut Down after Sandy suspended.


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Al-Quds Day Protests in London 2011

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

Here is a long post I wrote on My London Diary in 2011. I have made only minor changes, mainly adding more pictures. Otherwise it is as written.

Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, London. Sunday 21 Aug 2011

Muslim women show their support for Palestine
more pictures

Several thousand marched through London calling for freedom for Palestine in the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march. There were small counter-demonstrations by an Iranian opposition group and the EDL.

Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem and Al Quds Day was started by the late Imam Khomeini of Iran as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people and of opposition to the Israeli control of Jerusalem, as well as more widely “a day for the oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant.” It is on the last Friday of Ramadan which this year is 26 Aug, but the march in London took place on the Sunday before this. Most of those taking part were Muslim and were observing the Ramadan fast.

The march is organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an organisation that receives funding from the Iranian government. Despite this and the appalling human rights record of the Iranian Government the IHRC does carry out much worthwhile research and campaigning, including whole-hearted support of the Palestinian cause.

The proclamation of Al Quds day and its annual celebration have helped to revitalise worldwide interest in freedom for Palestine, and the even is supported by a number of mainstream UK campaigning organisations including the Stop the War Coalition and Ireland and Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaigns, as well as major Muslim groups including the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Council of Britain. Also backing it, and present on the march were several Jewish groups including Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and Neturei Karta UK as well as other groups supporting Palestine.

The marchers, many of whom had come in coaches from around the country, gathered on Portland Place from a little before 2pm, and many said prayers on the pavement before the march formed up.

Protesters opposite the Al Quds Day march with Free Iran flag and placards condeming Khamenei

Shortly after this, a small group of protesters against the Iranian regime began a protest against them immediately opposite on the other side of the road. As I walked across the road towards them a police officer stopped me and gave me a warning that some of them or their families might face prosecution if their photographs appeared in the press, and because of this I might not be welcome. I thanked him for the advice and continued across and it was clear that the protesters actually welcomed the attention of myself and the other press photographers present.

The two groups remained in position, chanting slogans at each other for the next hour or so, while the very much larger group on the Al Quds march waited for marchers whose coaches had been held up in traffic. Although many of the marchers carried placards with the message ‘We are all Hizbullah’ and there were chants of this along with ‘We are all Palestinians’, and their were graphic images of victims of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, the main emphasis was on the need to boycott Israel and companies that support Israel, among those mentioned being Marks and Spencer, Starbucks and Coca-Cola.

A huge cheer went up when the Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox Jews arrived, having walked from Stamford Hill. They carried placards which repeated their opposition to Zionism and support for the Palestinians, and when the march started they were more or less at the front, accompanied by several Muslim clerics. The marchers made clear that they were not anti-Jewish and welcomed the support of these and other Jewish groups present opposed to Zionism and the illegal actions of the Israeli forces.

It was an impressive march, with almost all of those taking part carrying banners, placards or small Palestinian flags. There were also several very large Palestinian flags, including a very long one carried horizontally.

The route went down Regent Street and through Piccadilly Circus to Haymarket and then on to Trafalgar Square. Several EDL supporters watched it as it came to the bottom of Haymarket and police questioned two of them briefly. As the march turned into the top of Trafalgar Square four more came to see it and I saw police briefly question two women, one of whom had stood raising a finger to the front of it. Apparently two others were also questioned briefly.


Police escort EDL from Trafalgar Square to the pen set aside for them
more pictures of the EDL

The police had provided a small pen for the EDL on the south side of Pall Mall at the mouth of Spring Gardens, where they were almost invisible to the marchers who were turning into Trafalgar Square. It seemed to them – and I could only agree – to have been an unacceptably distant location.

A few of the EDL were standing closer, quietly watching the march and one was taking photographs. The police appeared not to recognise them. Later a number of them walked into Trafalgar Square and walked quietly around, but other photographers reported a small incident where one man who police had previously asked to leave the area returned and was apparently arrested.

A few minutes later a small group of EDL appeared with an EDL flag on the North Terrace balcony. They were soon surrounded by police who escorted them back down to the pen amid their complaints that British people should be allowed to demonstrate on the British soil of Trafalgar Square and show their English flag there. In all there seemed to be around twenty EDL supporters present.

Short speeches from several of those present stated that they were opposed to the Al Quds march because it supported Hizbullah, an illegal terrorist organisation, and restated their position that they were non-racist and not opposed to Muslims in general only to Muslim extremists. They insist that they are standing up for England and our English freedoms and have no problems with other people living here as long as they respect our way of life. There were a few moments when individuals started some of the chants which others object to, including ‘Muslim bombers off our streets’, but while I was there others present quickly told them to “shut it.”

The group continued to protest noisily but were too far away to be heard by the several thousand at the rally in Trafalgar Square.
more pictures

EDL pictures


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.


BDS and Gaza: London 2nd August 2014

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Wood Green

Many of the protests I photograph are in Westminster and concentrated around Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. There are obvious reasons for this, particularly during the week when Parliament is in session, though on Saturdays there are few people around other than tourists, with MPs back in their constituencies, government offices closed and the Prime Minister seldom if ever at home and these locations are purely symbolic.

Brixton

Trafalgar Square is a good site for large rallies, and often the end point for larger marches, though this century has seen the epicentre for protest move to Parliament Square, I think influenced by the permanent presence there for around ten years of Brian Haw’s Parliament Square Peace campaign. It can I think hold larger crowds than Trafalgar Square and Jeremy Corbyn drew them there on various occasions and issues, though of course Hyde Park is on a very much larger scale.

Brixton

But protests do take place elsewhere across London and over the years I’ve travelled to most London boroughs to cover them, thanks to London’s public transport system, which also brings me into the capital from my home on its western edge. On Saturday 2nd August there were two protests I wanted to cover, one in South London and the other at its northern end, connected both by the underground and in that they were both related to the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

I met with protesters outside Brixton Tube where they were gathering to march to the Sainsbury’s store half a mile to the south. I could have chosen several other locations in London and others around the country as this was a part of protests at a number of Sainsbury’s locations around the country because they sell products produced in illegal settlements inside the occupied Palestinian areas. I’d chosen Brixton partly because I expected there to be a slightly larger protest than some other locations, but also because it was beginning at a convenient place, two stops on the tube from Vauxhall where I could travel direct from my home.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest was a part of the ongoing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign, the protesters also wanted to show their anger and disgust at the horrific attack on Gaza then taking place, in which by this date over 1200 Palestinians, mainly innocent civilians including many children, had been killed by Israeli forces.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest – along with those at other Sainsbury’s branches – had been widely publicised in advance and both police and store staff were waiting for the protesters, and the few that managed to walk inside the shop were soon asked to leave. The manager came out to talk with the protesters, telling them they had to leave the ramp in front of the store, which prompted them to hold a sit-in.

I had to leave before the protest ended to get back to Brixton tube station and make my way up to Turnpike Lane station in Haringey, where a larger protest was gathering on Ducketts Common opposite the station for a rally and march to show their anger over the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the killing of civilians including many children. I arrived shortly before the march began.

Haringey

Haringey is one of London’s most ethnically diverse areas, with around 65% of the population in non-white-British ethnic groups. Many are of Cypriot or Turkish origin, including Kurds, but there are also large Black African and Black Caribbean populations. The crowd that came to the rally reflected this and the strong local trade union movement led by the Haringey Trades Council.

Haringey

As the march walked up through the Wood Green shopping centre one Jewish man came to shout his support for the Gaza invasion – and police stepped in to shield him from the marchers – who included many Jews, some of whom came to argue with him. But there were many others who stopped to applaud the march, which was greeted at one location on its route by a group of Turkish Popular Front members.

Haringey

The march was again fortunately a short one and ended around three-quarters of a mile with a rally opposite the Haringey Civic Centre on Wood Green High Road. After listening to a few of the speeches I only had a quarter of a mile to walk to Wood Green Station to start my journey home.

More at:

Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Sainsbury’s protest at illegal Israeli Goods


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.


Support of Palestinians – not Anti-Semitism

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Fortunately I am not a member of the Labour Party, so can speak freely about Israel and Palestine without fear of being expelled from the party. I’ve never actually been a member, though in my teenage years used to occasionally attend the meetings for young socialists at the local Cooperative hall, mainly I think because they would offer cigarettes around very freely. As a fresher I joined the Labour Students and attended meetings until they were closed down by the national party for being socialist. But by then I was involved with various other groups campaigning on various political issues but outside the party system. That remains the case and I’m still a member of groups including Friends of the Earth, CND and Global Justice Now.

The only political party I’ve ever actually joined was the Green Party, though I think back then it may still have been called the Ecology Party. After a year I didn’t renew my membership, partly because it seemed to be spending most of its time on internal feuding, but also because of the strange cranks it seemed to attract. Of course it also includes some of the most honest and sensible politicians around but our crazy electoral system means few of them getting elected. But most years Caroline Lucas would get my vote as politician of the year, and a few have made it as local politicians and also MEPs. Though sadly the latter opportunity is about to end.

Back in my student years and later, virtually everyone on the left including myself admired and supported Israel. It wasn’t just the Holocaust, but also their fight to free themselves from the British mandate and their determination to build a future. I think we remained largely ignorant about the 1948 ‘Nakba’ when around half of the Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Several of my friends went to volunteer in kibbutz and we envied them and thought seriously about doing the same to help build a socialist future.

Over the years we’ve learnt more about what actually happens in Israel and Palestine, and the government of Israel has become very much more right wing. While almost none deny the right of Israel to exist (and to that extent are Zionists), we all want a fair solution in the area which recognises the civil and human rights of Palestinians. The Balfour declaration as well as favouring the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people also insisted “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” and in 2017 the British government recognised the declaration should also have called for protection of the Palestinian Arabs’ political rights.

I’ve been labelled by a few militant ultra-right anti-Palestinians as an “anti-Semitic photographer” because I have photographed protests against human rights abuses by Israeli government forces – like these I photographed on 23rd December 2017 – and against laws that make people – including notably Nelson Mandela – describe Israel as an “apartheid state”. And also for photographing protests calling for support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.” None of these things are anti-Semitic, though they are opposed to policies of the current government of Israel.

I’m fairly certain however that were I a member of the Labour Party I would now be suspended and expelled for my views – along with many of the leading Jewish (and non-Jewish) Labour activists who express any support for human and civil rights for Palestinians. But fortunately you can’t be expelled if you are not a member.

The protests on this date were prompted by two events. The Palestinian Forum in Britain protested outside the US Embassy after US President Trump’s announcement that the US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem, there was a regular protest calling for a boycott of goods from Israel outside Marks and Spencers on Oxford St and a protest in Trafalgar Square condemned the kidnap, beating up and arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi by Israeli soldiers – which was also condemned at the two earlier protests.

A few militant supporters of the Israeli oppression of Palestinians came to insult and shout down the event in Trafalgar Square, with one man making clearly racist comments about one of the protesters. A police officer eventually arrived and suggested firmly they go away, but took no action over the complaints of racist abuse made against one of them. The man in a hat in my picture above was found guilty of disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress for similar behaviour at a BDS protest the following year.

More at:
Free Ahed Tamimi
Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi
Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine


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.


Anglo American

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

I’d gone to the QEII Centre in Westminster to photograph one protest outside the AGM of London-listed mining company Anglo American, and found that there were two taking place and sharing the space not entirely happily.

I’d known well in advance that the London Mining Network were going to be there and hold a vigil because of the “unimaginable damage to communities and the planet” caused by Anglo American “through its disregard for human rights, the environmental devastation caused by its projects, and its neo-colonial policies in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, South Africa and elsewhere.”

Protesting together with them were people representing groups in some of those countries, particularly Colombia, as well as Medact, health professionals for a safer, fairer & better world, many of whom volunteer to work abroad including in areas affected by the activities of Anglo American. And among the protesters were several who had bought a single share so as to be entitled to go into the AGM and question the activities of the company in the meeting.

But there is no booking system for protests – and for static protests there is even no requirement to inform the police, though this is necessary for marches to be legal. And another group had come and set up before them on the spot they had hoped to occupy.

As it says in the search description for their web site, “Anglo American is a globally diversified mining business. Our portfolio spans diamonds (De Beers), platinum, copper, iron ore and manganese, metallurgical …” (the rest of their activities are masked by the character limit, so you can finish the sentence how you like.)

De Beers is the worlds leading diamond company. Inminds came to demand that they end their trade in Israeli blood diamonds, saying the Kimberley Process, meant to prevent the trade in diamonds that fund human rights violations is purposely neutered. De Beers supplies diamonds to Israel where they are cut and polished and produce around about $1 billion annually to bankroll the Israeli military and security industries and its horrendous human right abuses against Palestinians.

Inminds say that in 2015 Israel managed to block a proposal by the World Diamond Council that would have extended the definition of conflict diamonds “to include countries who flout human rights laws not just in mining areas but also in diamond trading centers“. 

The London Mining Network held their protest a few yards away, and not as they had intended at one of the entrances where shareholders might walk to the AGM. Although the two protests remained separate, some of those attending spent time supporting both. I’ve photographed both groups before and probably should have reported the two protests separately, but I hope the captions to my images filed made the position clear – as I think it is on My London Diary in Protests at Anglo-American mining AGM.


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.

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