Posts Tagged ‘Brixton’

Xmas Protests – Low Wages, Evictions, John Lewis – 2014

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Three Xmas Protests – Low wages, Evictions, John Lewis – in Brixton, Mayfair and Oxford St on December 14th 2014.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage

Lambeth Living Wage campaigners, led by an impressive Santa, protested in and outside shops in the centre of Brixton, handing out flyers calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They urged shop workers to join a union and gave out forms.

While I was with them they visited department store Morleys, Subway and Poundland and they were going on to other stores in Brixton paying poverty wages. The protest was supported by Unite the Resistance, the Socialist Party, Unison (who provided the Santa costume), the Fast Food Rights Hungry for Justice campaign supported by the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union, BFWAWU, the National Shop Stewards Network and other groups.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’

Scrooge at Christmas 2014 was US property developers Westbrook Partners who were intending to evict the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate by Christmas so they can refurbish these low rent social properties and re-let them at market rents at roughly four times the current rents. Class War and friends protested at their Mayfair offices of in solidarity with the tenants.

Class War came with banners and posters and a Christmas Card which they presented to Westbrook with the message ‘Christmas Greetings! – but not for Rich Bastards’ and a pictures of wrapped gifts and the cover image from Ian Bone’s autobiography ‘BASH THE RICH’. It’s an interesting read and might make a friend a good Christmas Present, available from Freedom Press at a special discount.

This was one of a number of protests by the residents, Class War and other housing activists, with a video by Russell Brand going viral and a petition with 350,000 signatures that led to Hackney Council entering into talks with Westbrook and resulted in the estate being sold to the affordable housing group Dolphin Living.

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis

Many shoppers who can afford it go to John Lewis to buy Christmas presents, but members of te IWGB trade union and supporters including some John Lewis customers were there not to buy gifts but calling for the London Living Wage for cleaners there and an end to their treatment as second-class citizens. Many of the Christmas shoppers applauded their noisy protest.

I met the cleaners on the top floor of the store where they had gathered in the restaurant before getting out banners and flags and a megaphone, with IWGB organiser Alberto Durango used to inform customers why they were holding the protest.

The together with a group of John Lewis customers they slowly and loudly made their way around the top floor to the escalator, moving carefully through the gangways to avoid any damage.

They made their way down floor by floor, pausing on the balconies to display their banners.

John Lewis security staff and managers met the protesters and asked them to stop protesting and leave the store. They continued their way protesting until they reached the ground floor, where police stopped them from leaving. Here the situation became confused, with a great deal of unnecessary pushing by the police which blurred many of the pictures I made. The protesters were trying to get out, store security was pushing them out and the police were pushing them back. Eventually most of the protesters managed to get past the police and the protest continued on the pavement outside. The protest inside the store had been totally non-violent for a little over a quarter of an hour and had the police not decided to push the protesters back they would simply have walked out.

A police officer made an attempt to seize the amplifier the protesters were using, but they held onto it and eventually he gave up. At least one person was arrested and carried out of the store by police, though I think charges were later dropped.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


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A Mixed Day: 23 Nov 2019

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Brixton

Bon Marché, the first purpose-built department store in the UK closed in 1975

I can’t remember why I went to Brixton on Saturday morning two years ago, though there must have been some reason. My events diary has nothing relevant in it and neither the text or pictures in My London diary contain any clues as to why I should have decided to take a walk up Brixton Road. I suspect I may have had a tip-off about something which was supposed to be taking place outside Brixton Police Station which turned out to be inaccurate.

It isn’t unusual to arrive at the time and place I had been told something would happen to find I am the only person there. It’s rather better for those things with an events page on Facebook which tells you how many people have said they will be going, though these are often wildly inaccurate. After walking up and down the road I left for central London.

Carnaby Street Show

Three of my Notting Hill pictures in a Carnaby St shop window

I’m not quite clear either about my next movements, as I seem to have taken the tube to Charing Cross and looked for another event in Trafalgar Square, where again I clearly didn’t find what I was looking for and only made two pictures. I was on my way to Carnaby Street where I wanted to see how three of my pictures were being used in ‘A retrospective on the musical footprint of an iconic sneaker‘ in a window display and screens inside the shop.

Stand With Hong Kong

After a brief look at the shopfront in Carnaby Street I hurried down to Parliament Square where protesters were gathering for a march to Downing St calling on the Prime Minister to act over China’s breaches of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They called attention to Hong Kong’s humanitarian crisis, widespread injustices and erosion of autonomy and called for the Hong Kong protesters 5 demands to be met.

Some carried yellow posters stating these demands: complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill; a retraction of characterising the protests as riots; withdrawal of prosecutions against protesters; an independent investigation into police brutality; the implementation of Dual Universal Suffrage.

Unfortunately even if Boris Johnson could be persuaded to lift a finger it would not attract the slightest notice from the Chinese authorities.

March Against Fur 2019

A short walk took me to Leicester Square, where several hundred were gathering for the annual march against fur, a tour of the West End and stores selling fur products, calling for an end not just to using fur in clothing but against all exploitation of animals of all species, whether for meat, dairy, wool, leather or other products.

Using fur in clothing has a very long history, but it is a practice that should now be in the past. We now have so many alternatives and there is abundant evidence of barbaric cruelty in the trapping and farming of animals for their fur. Most in the fashion industry and most shops have been persuaded by various campaigns over the years to abandon fur, but too many still sell clothes with fur trims or use animal skins or down fillings. There are long-running campaigns against stores such as Canada Goose.


More pictures and details in My London Diary

March Against Fur 2019
Carnaby Street Show
Stand With Hong Kong
Brixton


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7 Years Ago in London

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Seven years ago on Saturday 22 November 2014 I photographed four very different events.

Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court

Occupy Democracy activists had camped out overnight in front of the Supreme Court, watched by police who had fenced in almost all of the grassed areas in Parliament Square to prevent them being occupied. The activists were hoping to hold two days of workshops there, but things had not started when I left after taking pictures.

Justice for Shahzad & Shama

Pakistani Christians and others were protesting opposite Downing St calling for justice for the brutal murder in Pakistan of Shahzad Masih and Shahzad Masih , bonded labourers at a brick kiln, who were falsely accused of burning pages of the Quran, attacked by a Muslim mob, tortured and burnt alive.

There are around 4 million Christians in Pakistan, a little under 2% of the population and they face extreme persecution, with those who have converted from Islam at greatest danger. Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against in employment, where they largely do the lowest status jobs, and girls are at risk of abduction and rape, sometimes being forced to convert to Islam and marry their attackers. Christians are often accused of blasphemy, as in this case to settle civil disputes, with those accused being attacked or killed by Islamic extremist groups, whose criminal acts are largely ignored by the authorities.

Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax

Class War went to the £7m Fitzroy Square home of Griff Rhys Jones who said he would leave the country if Labour levied a mansion tax, telling him to “f**k off now”, offering to pay the fare. Class War’s manifesto for the 2015 general election includes a 50% mansion tax.

No one came to answer the door when they put their leaflet through and after a few minutes making their presence felt outside, the walked around to the south side of the square to protest outside the outside the home of Guy Ritchie, another millionaire objector to a mansion tax. They put a few stickers on other places around the square, including the Magistrates Association and the gates to the private garden in the centre of the square, returned for another short protest outside Griff Rhys Jones’s house before retiring to the pub. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them as I had another event to photograph in Brixton.

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop

Ricky Bishop, a fit young black man, died from unexplained injuries hours after being taken to Brixton Police Station on 22 Nov 2001. Family and supporters call it a modern day lynching and march annually to remember him and call for justice.

The marchers met up at Windrush Square and then marched slowly through the centre of Brixton to the police station, where a tree outside has been adopted as a remembrance tree for Ricky Bishop and the others killed there by police.

At the tree there were speeches, including a detailed and forceful presentation by Marcia Rigg of the battle she and others faced to get any proper investigation into the death there of her brother Sean Rigg in August 2008.

These two are not the only young black men to have died at the hands of Brixton police, but so far there has been no police officer bought to justice from the crimes they committed. The only real action by the police has been to remove all of the photographs and momentos placed by some of the families from the tree in front of the police station.


More on all of these on My London Diary:

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop
Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax
Justice for Shahzad & Shama
Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Global Climate Strike – 2019

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Two years ago, Friday 20 September 2019 saw Earth Day Global Climate Strike protests around the world inspired by Greta Thunberg. Many thousands came to the events in Central London, packing out quite a length of Millbank in the morning, but there were others around Westminster who didn’t quite get down to the rally, as well as local events in other parts of London.

The school kids get it, but even two years later it is quite clear that our government really doesn’t, though is happy to pay lip-service. The world is going to change and unless we act urgently it will change very much for the worse so far as human life is concerned.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report released in August 2021 makes the severity of our position clear, and floods and fires this year in countries across the world have underlined the need for urgent action to change our way of life.

Yet a few days ago, the government yet again confirmed its support for airport expansion and another runway at Heathrow, and is still backing oil exploration in our coastal waters, as well as a new coal mine, still subsidising gas-fired power stations and encouraging wood-burning which is causing large-scale environmental devastation in forests as well as churning out carbon dioxide and still failing to put the investment needed into green policies and green jobs.

It’s hard to believe the stupidity of our government, something only increased by reshuffles, particular when they promote people who have obviously failed. But most governments around the world are driven by short-term political considerations and by the interests of the rich and powerful, and this latter is perhaps nowhere more paramount than in the UK, where as well as the interests of huge companies and their bosses we also have the interests of the establishment and Crown and the City of London.

Brixton

The late Duke of Westminster who died in 2016 once told a reporter from the Financial Times who asked what advice he would give to a young entrepreneur who wanted to succeed. His reply “Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror” is usually reported as being a joke, but certainly contains a great deal of truth. Britain is still very much owned and run for and by those who profited from that occupation, enacting laws which stole the land from the people. 955 years later we are still occupied.

After managing to extract myself from the crowded rally I went to pay brief visits to Climate Strike events elsewhere. The Elephant & Castle was a quick trip on the underground, and I photographed a march starting from there before jumping back on the tube to Brixton.

Children from Brixton primary schools were at a lunchtime rally in Windrush Square, and when that finished some were intending to travel into central London to join the main protest. I rushed away as the rally ended to get back too, and found a largish group of secondary school students joining activists who were already sitting down to block Whitehall. When they got up and began to march away, police stopped them – and after a while they came back and blocked Whitehall again. Eventually they got up and marched back towards Parliament Square.

Protests were still continuing with much of Westminster at a standstill when I left for an unrelated protest in Carnaby Street (yes it’s still there, though it really belongs to the Sixties) by pro-Palestine activists in front of the Puma store there. The say Puma whitewashes Israel’s war crimes by sponsoring the apartheid Israel Football Association which includes clubs from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, a war crime under international law.

Carnaby St Puma Boycott
Global Climate Strike Protest continues
Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike
Global Climate Strike Rally


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.


Afrikan Emancipation Day Call for Reparations

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

2014

Seven years ago on August 1st 2014, the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, I photographed Rastafarians meeting in Windrush Square for speeches and ceremonies before a march to Parliament demanding reparations for the descendants of those taken from Africa by the Atlantic Slave Trade.

2014

August 1 was chosen as the founding date for the UNIA and for the Madison Square meeting and this protest as it was the 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire.

2014

Since then, similar events have taken place each year in Brixton each Afrikan Emancipation Day – August 1st – with the event growing in support each year. Last year the organisers changed the format of the event, as the supporters of the event felt it was having little impact and their demand to the UK Government to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice (APPCITARJ) and to commit to holistic reparations taking into consideration various proposals for reparations in accordance with the United Nations Framework on a Right to a Remedy and Reparation was being ignored.

2014

The decided to hold a series of events in Brixton, blocking local roads to do so, an Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations Rebellion Groundings event. This gained far more attention in the media and the Stop The Maangamizi Campaign and the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee have decided to hold a similar rebellion on Sunday 1st August 2021.

2019

With some help from Extinction Rebellion who have supported previous events they intend to lock-down Brixton Road for the day, and to establish a series of ‘Grounding spaces’ for public action and learning on various aspects of the struggle under the general theme of ‘Uniting to Stop the Maangamizi for Our Very Survival: Planet Repairs Now’.

2019

Maangammizi is a Swahili word annihilation, used to describe the genocide and ecocide which has taken place over centuries and is still causing huge damage across the planet. Climate change disproportionately effects Africa and the Global South.

2019

The UK Government continues to turn a deaf ear to the demand for reparations, writing in response to a petition in 2018 “we do not believe reparations are the answer” and that they “should focus on challenges that face our countries in the 21st century” rather than historic events such as the Transatlantic slave trade. Unfortunately it hasn’t been doing well on those challenges as a recent deliberately misleading report on racial disparity and our current rise in average temperatures demonstrate.

More at:
Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade
Afrikans demand reparations

Black Lives Matter – Brixton 9th July 2016

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Five years ago on July 5th 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man selling videos outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was shot and killed by police at close range. The incident was filmed by several bystanders and their mobile phone video clip shocked and enraged viewers around the world.

The following day, July 6th, 32-year-old Philando Castile was driving with his girlfriend in a suburb od St Paul, Minnesota, when police stopped the car and asked to see his driving licence. His girlfriend video the events which ended in Castile being shot five times at point-blank range, dying 20 minutes later. The officer who fired was later charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm but found not guilty by a jury.

These two cases provoked protests around the world, including this event in Brixton. Shootings of people by police remain common in the USA at around a thousand a year and Black people are around two and a half times as likely to be shot as White. These cases stood out both because the two men shot were not involved in any crime but also because there was clear evidence from the videos that there was no justification for the shootings. Later the families were to be awarded compensation running into millions of dollars in both cases.

Although policing in this country is generally not carried out at the point of a gun, with an average of around 3 people killed by police shooting a year, there have been many cases of deaths at the hands of police, again disproportionally affecting Black people. As I wrote in my account of the protest:

Brixton Police station has been the scene of a number of black deaths in custody, including that of Sean Rigg, Wayne Douglas and Ricky Bishop, and one of the organisers who spoke wore a t-shirt listing just a few of those who have been killed by police in the UK, with young black men in particular being far more likely to die after arrest – or to be shot rather than arrested. Last year police stripped the tree in front of the police station of its deaths in custody memorials on the day of the annual march in central London against deaths in custody.

My London Diary

The crowd that gathered in Windrush Square (aka Windswept Square after Lambeth Councils re-landscaping to make it deliberately less hospitable) was largely black, and the protest had been called by local black organisers. Most of those who spoke talked about their own experiences of police racism in the local community as well as the shootings that had provoked the protest.

So many people wanted to have their say that the event continued for several hours, eventually going on to march up the Brixton Road to Brixton Police Station and bringing traffic to a standstill for several hours.

But it had come at the end of a long day for me and I had gone home well before that. Earlier in the day I’d photographed protests against the nonsensical ‘Garden Bridge’ across the Thames and the demolition of council estates by Labour Councils, both in Waterloo, in Hackney against domestic violence, at Downing St against Brexit, the scapegoating of immigrants and Islamophobia and a Green Park Brexit picnic and I was exhausted. You can find more about the Black Lives Matter protest and these other events on My London Diary.

Brixton stands with Black victims
Green Park Brexit Picnic
Europe, Free Movement and Migrants
East End Sisters Uncut-Domestic Violence
Housing Protest at ‘Progress’ conference
Garden Bridge ‘Progress’ protest


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


Reclaim Brixton 2015

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Brixton has been in the news again recently, with various analyses published on the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton uprising (aka Brixton riots) which began on 10th April. Official reports put the 3 days of unrest which caused £7.5m of damage and left almost three hundred police (and an impossible to estimate number of the local community) injured down to poor housing, unemployment, and police harassment.

It was largely the actions of the police that led to the events. Their failure to effectively investigate the arson attack on a party in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981 scandalised much of the nation and the racist reaction of the mass media to a protest march about this raised tension, exacerbated by the police arrests of the march organisers who were charged with riot – and later acquitted. But the final straw was when police at the beginning of April began ‘Operation Swamp 81’ with large numbers of officers coming into Brixton and stopping an searching almost a thousand people – almost entirely African-Caribbean – under the ‘Sus law’, the 1824 Vagrancy Act which allowed police to stop and search anyone they believed was acting suspiciously.

Little changed after the official reports came out, and it was only 19 years later, following another scandalous police failure to properly investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 that the Macpherson report found that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Although some changes have been made, there are still plenty of signs that this continues to be deeply embedded in the ethos of the force.

The publication of ‘The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ on 31st March this year (2021) came at perhaps a particularly insensitive time for a report that is widely seen as a whitewash by a commission set up to reflect particular views. Set up in opposition to the protests by the Black Lives Matter movement over the death of George Floyd (and three weeks before the trial of his killer ended in three guilty verdicts) it evoked fury from many experts in the field as well as the millions who still experience discrimination.

More recently is has been condemned in remarkably forthright terms by the independent experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council who state “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent” and call on the British government to categorically reject its findings.

Brixton has changed since 1981 and some of those changes are very much for the worse for the local population. There were further riots, and there have been deaths at the hands of police – such as those of Ricky Bishop in 2001 and Sean Rigg in 2008 – but the main threat facing the local communities is gentrification as Brixton is changing from a working class area home particularly to migrant communities to a trendy up-market suburb. Its a change which is in part inspired by the vibrant communities which it is displacing, but also driven by the excellent transport links the area enjoys.

25 April 2015 saw Reclaim Brixton, a day long protest against gentrification which saw several thousands gathering at various events in what is still so far as I’m aware the largest protest of its kind. One major blow to local people has been the decision by Network Rail, backed by Lambeth Council to redevelop the railway arches in the centre of the town, home for many years to some of Brixton’s best loved – and cheapest – businesses. The current tenants, one of which came here in 1932 – are being evicted and after renovation the rents will be triple and their places largely taken by the same chains and franchises that we see in so many other high streets.

Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window at Foxton’s estate agents, going into Brixton Village with their banners and briefly occupying Lambeth Town Hall.

More at:
London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton ‘march
Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton
Take Back Brixton against gentrification
Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

Extinction Rebellion and more

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Extinction Rebellion (XR) began 11 days of protest which initially brought most of central London traffic to a halt on Monday 15th April 2019. They didn’t manage to keep up the protest until “the government takes necessary action on the global climate and ecological emergency” as we have yet to see that two years later, but they did considerably raise public and media awareness about the severity of the problem the world faces.

Unfortunately there seems to be little chance that effective action will be taken in time to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2015 as they demanded, though perhaps the half-hearted measures that will come out of the delayed climate summit later this year will do just a little to slow the rate our our planet’s decline, possibly enough to see my life out, though I worry about the future of my children and despair for that of my grandsons and daughters.

XR have now very much lost the initiative, mainly I think because of internal dissensions, perhaps inevitable because of some of the rather odd characters that they attracted. But some of their ideas, particularly over the police and arrests cut them off from many on the left who attacked them as a movement funded by shady capitalists and led by wacky idealists, more a Glastonbury festival than a political movement. Much of the criticism was ill-founded but not all.

The major effect they had on our government was for them to put pressure on the police to get rid of these pesky protesters – first by more arrests and prosecutions and now by the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill to give the police greater powers to control all protests.

Early on the Monday morning, XR protesters set up camp at a number of key locations in London in a well-planned exercise. I turned up rather later to take photographs, first at Waterloo Bridge, which XR had turned into a ‘garden bridge’, blocking all traffic and bringing flowers and trees. There had been arrests earlier, but police had been unable to stop the protesters and the bridge – despite many further arrests – remained closed for over a week.

Because of the XR actions traffic all around the centre of London was at a halt, with buses not moving. Fortunately the tube was unaffected and took me to Oxford Circus, which now had a large pink yacht at its centre, named after the Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres, assassinated for her activism in 2016. It was here that I met the dance troupe dressed in red that were such a visible presence in XR protests.

XR were not the only environmental game in town, and I took the Underground to St Paul’s Cathedral for a protest organised by the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, Earth Strike and London Students for Climate Justice. I arrived when there protest was due to start, but there were only a few of them present. I hung around for half an hour or so, and then gave up and left. Later I saw the accounts of their protest which did eventually attract a small crowd and was sorry I’d missed the action.

But there was rather more happening at Marble Arch, one of London’s main gyratory systems, where XR had blocked Oxford St, Park Lane, Edgware Road and a couple of other routes and had set up a stage, workshops and a tent village as well as the road blocks.

But XR had also planned an event for Parliament Square, where the roads around were blocked for a New Orleans funeral procession with jazz band to make its way around the square.

The funeral was perhaps also designed as a diversion for some more direct action, which I again missed at the Shell Centre on the South Bank. A small group of activists daubed slogans across the front of the building and two occupied the glass porch over the door. The activists had deliberately broken the glass in one of the doors, with the intention that this would result in a trial before a jury rather than by magistrates, enabling them to present the reasons for their action, and three had been arrested and taken away by the time I arrived, but the two were still up on the porch and others holding banners on the street in front.

My day had not quite finished as I made a small diversion on my way home to visit Brixton, where staff, families and children from children’s centres were protesting against plans by Lambeth Council to close five centres and make drastic cuts at seven others. The council had recently spent £68 million on refurbishing the Town Hall and building a new Civic Centre.

Save Lambeth Children’s Centres
Extinction Rebellion at Shell
Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession
Extinction Rebellion Marble Arch
Anti-capitalist environmental action
Extinction Rebellion Sea at Oxford Circus
Extinction Rebellion Garden Bridge


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.


Gentrification is Class War: 4 Feb 2018

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Back when I began taking pictures of London in the 1970s London still had many largely working class areas, many the kind of places where some photographer friends would raise an eyebrow when I said I had been taking pictures there, or even send me dire warnings about the dangers of walking the streets there with a camera around my neck.

They were areas where people in the basic jobs that keep the city running could afford to live – both those whose families had moved to these areas several generations back and those including migrants and refugees who had come more recently. Some were certainly beginning to see a new more affluent population moving in, and many of my pictures featured skips in front of housing that was being renovated, both by developers who were buying up many older properties and young professional couples who were often ‘knocking through’, and pub conversations began to be riddled with terms such as ‘RSJ’.

Since then more and more areas across London have been subject to ‘gentrification’, their character being changed and new businesses coming in to cater for the new wealthier population, while increasingly the low-income inhabitants are forced out to cheaper areas further from central London as house prices and flat rents soar – and as council estates are demolished and replaced by higher density largely private flats at high market rents.

This process of ‘social cleansing’ has been taking place across London, and has been accelerated by many Labour councils since Tony Blair began New Labour’s regeneration programme with a press photo-opportunity on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark in his first speech as Prime Minister in 1977.

Many of the shops that I photographed back in the 70s and 80s, small local shops – corner stores, cobblers, hairdressers, greengrocers, butchers, etc – and other small local businesses have now disappeared, their premises now often estate agents, and cafés have changed their nature from ‘greasy spoons’ where you could get a filling cheap lunch to serving coffee and cakes, vegetarian food or rather more expensive restaurants catering for the new and wealthier clientèle. Of course tastes generally have changed and so have shopping habits, and some of the new is certainly welcome. But so much of those shops and pubs that were a part of these neighbourhoods have been lost.

Brixton perhaps stood out against gentrification longer than most – with the reputation it had from the disturbances in 1981, 1985 and 1995 deterring many newcomers. All took place following heavy-handed police action; Operation Swamp 81, when over 900 people were stopped and searched in 5 days, with 82 arrested, the shooting of Cherry Groce in 1985, and the death in police custody of Wayne Douglas in 1995. But many young people were attracted to the area by the vibrant atmosphere and Caribbean culture, by music venues, the Roxy, markets, food and pubs, and with its good transport links and closeness to central London it has attracted many young professionals in more recent years.

Railway lines run through the centre of Brixton, and the arches underneath them have been an important part of its life, providing low cost premises for businesses and, particularly in Atlantic Road and Brixton Market Road, for shops. They provided what has been called “the heart of Brixton”. But as I wrote in my text for Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action on Sunday 4th February 2018:

Network Rail have colluded with Lambeth Council to get rid of something that gave Brixton its unique character and replace it by trendier shops catering for the new wealthy young population – part of Lambeth Labour’s programme of social cleansing which includes demolishing council estates and replacing them with high cost private accommodation (with a token amount of so-called affordable properties.) The Council ignored the public outcry and large demonstrations to keep the arches.

The plans were accompanied by a great deal of lies and mismanagement by Network Rail and work was supposed to be completed by 2016 but is only scheduled to start tomorrow, and the Save Brixton Arches campaign are calling for it to be abandoned as the plans for the work fail to include proper fire safety precautions and will severely restrict access by emergency services to local businesses and the railway and station.

Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action

Despite the campaign both by the traders and many of the local population the refurbishment of the arches went ahead, though over a year later many had not been re-let. Allies and Morrison, the architecture and urban planning practice which recommended the scheme in 2013 has been involved in many contentious ‘regeneration’ schemes with developers and councils across London which opponents describe as social cleansing. Local Labour MP Helen Hayes was a senior partner in this firm until she left shortly before being elected in 2015, although she has denied any involvement in this particular scheme.

More at Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary 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.