Posts Tagged ‘Bush’

Freedom To Protest Under Threat

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Back in 2008, people were protesting against the severe restrictions against our freedom to protest, that had been brought in by the Labour government under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. As well as greatly widening the powers to arrest people and widening the scope of harassment, the act had criminalised trespass at certain protected sites and severely limited the holding of protests in a wide designated area of up to one kilometre from any point in Parliament Square.

CSG border post “To the left you have lost your freedom to protest

This latter provision was particularly aimed at Brian Haw and his Parliament Square Peace Campaign, but also prevented many other protests, and led to a number of arrests of campaigners. Parliament Square in particular had become the main focus of protests against the government and may government ministries were also inside the prohibited area.

There was wide disquiet about the effect of SOCPA on protest, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown had begun a public consultation with the Home Office on October 2007 issuing a document ‘Managing Protest’ which many felt threatened further threats to freedom of assembly throughout the UK.

The provisions regarding protests in the area around Parliament were replaced in 2011 by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which gave police more draconian powers to restrict certain prohibited activities in and around Parliament Square – and have been used to seize tents, umbrellas, tarpaulins, sleeping bags and other equipment in the area.

Brian Haw complains that a police officer pushed his camera into his face and caused this injury

The Freedom to Protest is under even greater threat now, with the current passage through Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which a select committee has said “would curb non-violent protest in a way that is inconsistent with our human rights” and has led to many ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. Also disturbing is the reaction of many Tory politicians to the jury verdict in the Colston statue trial, which apears to be threatening state control of our legal system.

On Saturday 12th January 2008, I covered protests in Trafalgar Square and in front of Downing St upholding the freedom to protest. Earlier I had covered Hizb ut Tahrir marching to the Saudi Embassy against Bush’s Middle East tour and a small group of rich young people outside the National Gallery on the last day of the Siena exhibition protesting against the expansion of Siena airport which would bring more less well-heeled tourists into the area.

Although I’m very much against any expansion of air travel – the planet simply can’t afford it, I found it hard to take this particular protest too seriously – it seemed to be rather more about protecting privilege than opposing environmental crime.

And while I had gone to Downing St mainly for the Freedom to Protest demonstration, while there I photographed another protest calling on an end to the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza. This included a number of British Jews, including those calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Also present opposite Downing St were another large group of Kenyans, protesting against the re-election of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. A US commissioned exit poll suggested opposition leader Raila Odinga had won by a 6% margin and there was widespread international agreement that the election was rigged.

More on My London Diary:
Hizb ut Tahrir against Bush tour
Siena Airport Protest
CSG Border Post
Freedom to Protest – Downing St
End Gaza Seige
Kenyans Protest Election Fraud


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Dirty Money Still Rules

Sunday, November 7th, 2021

Nine years ago on Wednesday 7th November 2012, the day that the election of Obama for a second term as President of the US was announced, the Campaign against Climate Change organised a series of protests in London urging him to stand up against the lobbying, dirty money and media lies funded by the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel companies.

Nine years later, after both the end of Obama’s presidency and four years of climate denier Trump, President Biden is still having problems in getting his plans to clean up the environment (and other policies) voted through because of opposition by a Senator who made a fortune from a coal brokerage business in which he owns more than a million dollars in shares and who receives more donations than any other senator from the coal, oil and gas industry.

Campaign Against Climate Change, March 2003

The Campaign against Climate Change was founded in 2001 as a response to President Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, and I think I first photographed one of their marches back in March 2002 when they pushed a bed with Bush in bed with the Esso tiger from Esso’s UK HQ to Westminster. It was a long walk and the wheels fell off the bed as it came to Westminster Bridge, but in 2012, after a static protest at the HQ of giant US private company Koch International they chose sturdier wheels in the form of an open-top bus.

Koch Industries is the US’s largest private company and made its fortune through developing improved processes of oil refining, and this remains a major part of its widespread activities. It is owned by the Koch Brothers, who ‘have been a major source for funding disinformation on climate change and in instigating the wave of populist anti-science, anti-regulatory, right-wing extremism associated with the “Tea Party”.’

Both in the US and the UK, governments are hugely influenced by the lobbying of big business, with many politicians accepting large payouts for services rendered, as well as a large PR and lobbying industry aimed at law makers and the media. The truly shameful think about the current case of Owen Paterson is not that he was paid paid £100,000 and broke the rules, but that their are rules that exist which he claims to have kept within to allow such paid lobbying by MPs.

Phil Thornhill at the front of the bus

Although the bus didn’t lose its wheels, it was desperately cold as it went through London on a cold, wet and windy November evening, with Phil Thornhill of the CCC leaning over the top with a large megaphone informing the public about the reason for the protest. It was also extremely bumpy, which together with the low light made photography rather difficult, and most of the time I was too busy holding tight to the rail across the top of the seats to take pictures.

Finally after its journey through the rush-hour streets the bus arrived at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square and we all alighted. At first police tried to push the protesters into a penned area in a dark corner of the square where it would be neither heard nor seen. The protesters sensibly refused and after some discussion were allowed to protest as usual in front of the locked front gates – protected outside by a thin line of police, and inside the tall fence by wandering armed officers.

Barach Obama with David Koch on the top of the bus

Protests such as this of course had no effect on Obama’s business-friendly administration, while Trump made climate denial core policy of his tweets. But these and other protests did raise awareness of the catastrophe the world is facing. Many of us had been aware of the coming crisis for many years – at least since the 1980s, though there were warnings from some scientists years earlier, but the wider public, often misinformed by the media was largely ignorant.

Without protests such as this around the world, it seems unlikely that their would have been an agreement reached at COP 21 in Paris in 2015, and since then, helped by the publicity given to Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough, not to mention various extreme climate events around the world, there is now a wide consensus that something needs to be done, and done urgently. But thanks to the huge continued efforts of big business in fossil fuels the politicians are still locked into doing too little too late.

More pictures: Stop Fossil Fuel Dirty Money takeover of US.


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