Posts Tagged ‘blood diamonds’

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds – the three protests I photographed in London on Friday 1st August 2014 were all related to world trade – the Atlantic Slave Trade and current devastation caused by mining industry and the diamond trade that funds Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.


Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade – Windrush Square, Brixton

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

On August 1st 1834 the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act came into force, ending slavery across the British Empire. But although the slave owners received compensation of £20 millions the freed slaves got none. They were not even freed, but converted to ‘apprentices’ who were expected to continue to work without wages for up to six years until 1838 and were unable to own land.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The payment to the former slave owners was huge – around 40% of the National Budget of the UK, and the Treasury who took out a loan to enable them to pay it. British tax payers – including many descendants of former slaves – were still paying off the debt until 2015, as a rapidly deleted tweet from the UK Treasury confirmed in February 2018.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The Act abolishing slavery was designed largely to ensure that Britain’s hugely profitable sugar industry based on slavery continued after emancipation, and Britain also continued to import cotton grown by slavery in the southern states of the USA as well as sugar from slave plantations in Brazil and Cuba.

August 1st became widely celebrated as ‘Emancipation Day’ and it was the date chosen by Marcus Garvey to found the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914, and for a meeting six years later in Madison Square Gardens in New York attended by 25,000 of UNIA’s claimed membership of 4 million.

Demands for reparations to be made to the descendants of slaves have so far been met by only token measures, such as the renaming of streets and buildings and official apologies, with some legislation requiring companies to provide information about their involvement in the trade and insurance of slaves.

But since the 1990s there has been a growing movement demanding financial reparations both for slavery, particularly following the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations convened by the Organisation of African Unity and the Nigerian government and held in Abuja, Nigeria in 1993.

In the UK the movement was led by Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham until his death in 2000. Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 expressed “deep sorrow” for Britain’s role in the slave trade, saying it been “profoundly shameful”, though as Wikipedia notes this was criticised as lacking any measures of reparation. A further public apology for London’s role in the slave trade came from then London Mayor Ken Livingstone during the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the 1807 Slave Trade Act.

A case was for compensation was brought against Lloyds of London in 2004, but failed. The same year a Jamaican Rastafari call for European countries, particularly the UK to support the resettlement of 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa in a scheme costed at £72.5 billion was rejected. Other claims have been lodged by in 2007 by Guyana, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.

On 1st August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Garvey’s setting up of the UNIA. a large group of mainly people of African and Afro-Caribbean descent gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton for several hours of speeches, celebration, drumming and dancing before they were to march to Parliament to make their demand for reparations. The march has become an annual event in London, but I had to leave shortly before it began.

Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade


Vedanta told ‘end your killing’ – Lincoln Inn’s Fields

I joined the protest outside the building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where the FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company Vedanta Resources was holding its AGM. Here and at other protests in Zambia and Odisha and Delhi in India.

Vedanta is a huge company which protesters say is “guilty of thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and contentious companies in the world.

Their activities, particularly their attempt to destroy the sacred Nyamgiri mountain in India for its aluminium ore, have led to protests around the world, and an Indian Supreme Court decision that, at least for the moment have halted the mining there.

Another setback for Vedanta was the research by activist group Foil Vedanta into their subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, accused of poisoning thousands and causing ongoing birth deformities by major pollution spills in 2006 and 2010. The research showed the company which was claiming it was making a loss and so unable to pay its fines and tax bill was actually making around $500 million a year.

Labour MP John McDonnell was among those who had become a shareholder to attend the AGM

Vedanta’s problems being made public resulted in a dramatic crash in its share price and the previous December it dropped out of the FTSE100. Billionaire owner Anil Agarwal responded by buying large numbers of the shares and was now said to own over two thirds of the company. But there were other shareholders going into the AGM, including a few activists who had bought a share to entitle them to attend and ask questions.

The activities of these activists, both inside and outside the AGM every year, were eventually were an important part in the decision four years later by Agarwal to make Vedanta a private company.

Vedanta told ‘end your killing’


Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds – De Beers, Piccadilly

Finally I made my way to Piccadilly where pro-Palestinian campaigners were protesting in front of De Beers jewellery shop, calling on people to boycott diamonds cut and polished in Israel.

Although there are no diamonds mined in Israel, according to Wikipedia, almost a quarter of Israel’s total exports come from the sales of diamonds cut and polished in the country and they account for almost one eighth of the total world production.

Israel claims that all these diamonds are covered by the ‘Kimberley Process’ which aims to prevent diamonds mined in conflict areas and sold to finance war and insurgency coming to the market. But campaigners say that this defines blood diamonds too narrowly, enabling Israel’s diamond-cutting industry to avoid attention, and the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, among others, has called for diamonds processed in Israel to be considered conflict diamonds.”

Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds


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Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

Sunday, February 6th, 2022

Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

There is no real connection I’m aware of between doctors and blood diamonds other than the fact I photographed both protests on 6th February 2016 – and I thought it made a nice headline.

Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest

My working day started on Old Bond Street in Mayfair, an area of London I generally try to avoid, packed with businesses which represent the true scum on the capitalist system and their customers largely representing those most successful at exploiting the system and the great majority of the population. While the City of London is still the world capital of dodgy financial management, Mayfair is where much of the more commercial aspects of our current system ply their trade.

There are no diamonds mined in Israel, but diamonds are Israel, largest manufacturing export – then at around $10 billion a year and contributing around $1 billion a year to Israeli military and security industries. In a direct connection the Steinmetz Diamonds Group which supplies companies including De Beers and Tiffany supports the Israeli Givati Brigade through the Steinmetz Foundation. One banner was a message from the Samouni family, 29 of whom were killed by the Givati Brigade in 2008 in cold blood.

A week before St Valentines Day, protesters stood outside diamond sellers including De Beers and Tiffanys with banners urging people not to buy engagement rings these shops that sell rings using diamonds from Israel’s Steinmetz Diamonds Group.


Junior Doctors Rally & March

I left for the short walk to Waterloo Place, where Junior Doctors and supporters were gathering for a rally against against the imposition of new contracts they say will destroy the NHS and make it unsafe for patients. Supporting them were many other medical professionals – consultants, GPs, nurses and others – who all saw the contract as a part of an attack on the NHS to move towards a privatised medical system.

Speaker after speaker – including Dame Vivienne Westwood, her son Ben, and Vanessa Redgrave as well as many medical professionals – stressed how Health Minister Jeremy Hunt Hunt was misleading the media and public about the need for changes in the contract, carefully selecting evidence that supports his case while ignoring the much wider evidence against it.

Dame Vivienne Westwood and Vanessa Redgrave at the rally

Among the many placards were those naming doctors who had already left the NHS to work abroad, with the message ‘You’ve driven me out Jeremy… Stop bleeding the NHS dry’. Others named junior doctors supporting of the protest who were unable to attend the protest because they were working in what is already a 24 hour 7 day profession.

The protesters marched to Downing St where they sat down blocking the road wearing surgical masks while a deputation went into Downing St to deliver a message to the prime minister; they emerged a few minutes later to announce that the people inside No 10 had refused to accept any message from them.

We have seen in the current pandemic how this and other changes made in recent years have put the NHS under severe strain. As I wrote in 2016:

Of course it isn’t just junior doctors; new income rules for immigrant workers are likely to lead to up to 30,000 nurses being deported, and the cutting of bursaries for nurses and now proposed for all other medical courses will have disastrous effects. Add to this the effects of PFI which is bankrupting hospitals leading to privatisations and its hard not to see the end of the NHS as we have known it as inevitable.

It’s almost certainly too late to save the NHS in its current incarnation. The only solution is the kind of radical change that happened before under Nye Bevan and others to create a new NHS. But for that we would need a new revitalised Labour party in power – or a people’s revolution. Don’t hold your breath – and don’t get old or ill.


More on both protests on My London Diary
Junior Doctors Rally & March
Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest


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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.


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