Posts Tagged ‘Class War’

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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We Need A New Party

Friday, April 29th, 2022

We Need A New Party: If you spend any time thinking about politics in the UK you are likely now to be feeling pretty depressed. We don’t really just need a new party, we need a new system and particularly a new system of voting. First past the post is long past its use-by date.

We Need A New Party
Class War arrive at Buckingham Palace for their 2015 manifesto launch

First past the post (FPTP) was designed to give stable government and also to provide a firm bond between the voters in their constituencies and parliament via their MP. But that is a bond which has in many areas been broken by the actions of the two main parties, particularly in the imposition of party candidates against local opinion. But FPTP has also led to the development of a political class whose experience, aims and interests are often very different to those of the people they supposedly represent.

We Need A New Party - Adam Clifford
Westminster candidate Adam Clifford speaks in front of Buckingham Palace gates

Our geographical constituencies also lead to inequalities in the representation of voters, some simply a matter of the ways that populations have grown up around centres of employment, but also the party influences on the drawing of boundaries.

We’ve also seen, particularly since the 1970s, a central government that has increasingly hobbled the activities of local government, with some disastrous effects, particularly over the provision of social housing. The abolition of the GLC was perhaps the most public expression of Westminster’s disdain. Devolution in recent years has done something to reverse this, though not in the English regions, and the introduction of directly elected mayors has largely been ineffectual (and sometimes poisonous.)

We Need A New Party - Ian Bone
Ian Bone of Class War

Attempts to form new parties to challenge the rule of Conservative and Labour have been largely unsuccessful, as although the Green Party may have achieved 2.7% of the vote in the 2019 it only ended up with one MP, rather than the 17 an equal election system would have given. There have been many proposals for a better voting system and some which better retain the link between the the elected representative and a local area. But perhaps we need to go further, taking steps that remove the idea of a political class. We should get the continuity of government that we need from a professional and non-political civil service, not from representatives who feel they have a right to continue in office year after year until they become senile.

Labour did offer the electorate a choice in both 2017 and 2019 – and came close to winning in 2017, defeated largely by the actions of party officials and right-wing Labour MPs. Since then the party has lost much of its membership income and has moved towards being a party financed by wealthy individuals, losing much of its connections with the grass roots. It seems to be aiming at becoming a Tory clone in order to win back voters who deserted it over Brexit in 2019.

Perhaps a new party will emerge from those Labour grass roots and others on the left for our next election, and there are some areas where it could become popular, particularly if Labour put up candidates in opposition to currently serving left Labour MPs as seems likely. But it seems unlikely to gain the kind of support that would allow it to challenge the system.

Possibly if Labour continue on their current dysfunctional path they will create a new ‘Livingstone moment’ by de-selecting their former leader. It might just shake him out of his life-long dedication to the party enough to stand under a new label, and given his popularity and record as a constituency MP he would almost certainly win. It could be the spark which ignites a new politics nationwide.

A new party won’t of course be Class War, who became a political party for the 2015 general election, standing in seven constituencies. As I wrote, “None expected to get many votes, but it was an opportunity to generate some interest in working class attitudes and issues. And Class War and its candidates and policies certainly attracted far more media attention than the various small left wing groups who stood candidates.”

Class War had a manifesto, with six simple points:

  • Double Dole,
  • Double Pension,
  • Double Other Benefits,
  • 50% Mansion Tax,
  • Abolish the Monarchy,
  • Abolish all Public Schools.

UK benefits are mean, and state pensions probably the lowest in Europe, so calling for massive rises makes a lot of sense. And if you want to tackle the class system in the UK then abolishing the monarchy and public schools is certainly a good start. The mansion tax may seem a little excessive, but what we really need is a land tax, though perhaps at a rather lower level. But somehow that didn’t come to mind when the manifesto was being written on the short walk from the pub to a Poor Doors protest.

Class War – and others including the Monster Raving Loony Party, Count Binface and Lord Buckethead – at least make our general elections more interesting, adding a little fun. And I sometimes think they would have made a better job – as Lord Buckethead claimed – at negotiating Brexit than Theresa May and particularly than Boris Johnson.

The manifesto launch took place at Buckingham Palace, where Westminster candidate Adam Clifford was refused entry to canvas the 31 voters registered there, and was filmed by a team from BBC News although I don’t know if any of it was ever broadcast. The event ended when police began to take rather too much interest in what was taking place.

More pictures at Buck Palace Class War Manifesto Launch.


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Reclaim Brixton – Arches, Markets & More

Monday, April 25th, 2022

Reclaim Brixton – Arches, Markets & More – 25th April 2015

A day of events in central Brixton on Saturday 25th April 2015 celebrated its social & cultural diversity, increasingly under threat as increasing rents and property development are forcing out local businesses and residents.

Brixton boomed after the railways arrived here in the 1860s, the new transport links making it both a popular middle-class suburb and the major shopping centre of South London; it had the first purpose built department store in the UK, Bon Marché, opened in 1877 and continuing in business until 1975 and probably the first street market in the world to be lit by electricity in Electric Avenue. While the wealthier moved out in the first half of the twentieth century to leafier areas, the increasingly working-class population grew, as did the markets, cinemas, pubs and other facilities.

After the war Brixton became increasingly multiracial. Arrivals on the Windrush were given temporary housing in the Clapham South deep shelter, and found jobs from the nearby Brixton Labour Exchange and housing in rooms and flats in the area. Though many had intended to go back to the Caribbean, most remained here, bringing over family to joint them and over the years Brixton became a centre of the British African-Caribbean community. In 1981 locals rose up against heavy handed policing but the conclusions of the Scarman report were largely ignored and it was only after the death of Stephen Lawrence that the police were declared “institutionally racist.”

There was further unrest after the death of Wayne Douglas in police custody in 1995, and there was an increasing attempt by Lambeth Council to change the nature of the area seen by them as regeneration but by many in the area as gentrification.


Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

The railways run on viaducts through central Brixton, and the arches below them, particularly along Atlantic Road and Brixton Station Road have long provided low cost spaces for local businesses.

But Network Rail decided to increase the income from these spaces and the existing tenants were threatened with eviction and then a tripling of rent for the refurbished space. One of the businesses, fishmongers L S Mash & Sons, had been trading here since 1932 and others since shortly after the war.

The businesses closed for two hours on Saturday lunchtime, many hanging white sheets with messages across the frontage and others inviting graffiti artists to decorate the shutters. These businesses, the arcades and the market really are the heart of Brixton.

Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction


Take Back Brixton against gentrification

Brixton Black Revs (revolutionaries rather than reverends) had wanted to march peacefully through the gentrified ‘Brixton Village’, but police and security guards blocked their way into the arcade, and instead it became a very short march to take housing and other activists directly to the Reclaim Brixton gathering in Wind rush Square

Granville Arcade which links Coldharbour Lane, Atlantic Road and Popes Road was built in 1937 with over 100 shops in its covered avenues, and was named after its developer, P Granville-Grossman. The site had previously been the Lambeth Carlton Club, a large Georgian-style mansion buit in the 1870s and home to the Brixton Conservative Association.

It was renamed Brixton Village around 2005 and was saved from demolition by a powerful local campaign which resulted in it and Reliance Arcade, Market Row being given Grade II listing. The listing text makes much of the importance of the Afro-Caribbean nature of the markets, but although listing saved them from demolition it has not protected them from gentrification and the replacement of much of this character by trendy restaurants and boutiques.

Take Back Brixton against gentrification


Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton

The area in front of the Tate Library and Brixton Ritzy was renamed Windrush Square in 1998. It had long been a popular meeting place for locals and local events, but Lambeth Council with offices in the town hall opposite clearly saw that as something of a threat, and spent a large amount on turning it into a desolate, bleak and unwelcoming windswept area to discourage the informal gatherings that took place there.

Although today the area was reasonably crowded, there seemed to be nothing very organised happening. Unite Community had a microphone at one side and there were a speeches, but few seemed to be taking any notice of them. When I walked around there was a group playing classical music, another of African drummers, and the Revolutionary Communist Group had its own megaphone and speakers, while people were having a light-hearted limbo competition to a musical accompaniment from the Unite ‘stage’. And some of my friends had disappeared to a nearby pub.

Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton


London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton’ march

After an hour or two hanging around in Windrush Square, activists again took to the street for a lively march around Brixton.

Rather to my surprise, the march simply returned to Windrush Square. I hung around for a bit but everything seemed very peaceful and I mistakenly thought that perhaps nothing more would happen and decided to take a bus to begin my journey home.

Shortly after I left some people stormed and briefly occupied Lambeth Town Hall and a large window at Foxton’s estate agents was broken, and a few activists went into Brixton Village with banners.

Marcia Rigg whose brother Sean Rigg was killed in Brixton Police Station in 2008

London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton ‘march


Things in Brixton have got worse since 2015. In 2018 Hondo Enterprises owned by Texan property developer and part-time DJ Taylor McWilliams bought Brixton Market which includes the arcades and the following year announced plans for a 20 storey office block, which were approved by Lambeth Council in November 2020. Hondo now brand the whole market area as Brixton Village.

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


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Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop – Saturday 16th April 2016 was another busy day for me in London.


March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Gower St

The Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march demanding an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

The march was a large one, with the crowd filling across the street for around a quarter of a mile well before the start and at times it was slow to move through the crowd to get to a stage where there were a number of speeches, including from Ian Hodson, Baker’s union (BWAFU) General Secretary and Kate Hudson of CND before the march set off.

Eventually the march did set off, and I went with it taking pictures for some distance, working my way towards the back of the march before leaving to take the tube to Charing Cross to be in Whitehall before the start of the rally.

March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression – Parliament Square

I’d expected to find the next protest at Downing St, but there was no sign of it when I arrived, but I saw them marching a short distance away and ran and after and caught up with them shortly before they reached Parliament Square Ahwazi Arabs in London were demonstrating as they have done every April since 2005 in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in 2005 in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

Ahwaz is a mainly ethnically Arab province that was invaded by Iran in 1925 and ten years later incorporated into the state, given the name Khuzestan in 1936. Since then the state has persecuted the Ahwazi attempting to eliminate their culture and have brought in many Persian settlers. The motive for the conquest was undoubtedly the rich oil reserves which were for many years exploited by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which became BP in 1954.

There have been many anti-Iran protests and insurgency since 1925, and in April 2005 there were four days of widespread peaceful unrest put down by the Iranian military with at least 12-15 deaths and many injuries and arrests. A similar uprising at the time of the 2011 Arab spring was also brutally suppressed, and the repression of the entire community continues, with arbitrary arrests and executions.

Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression


Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally – Trafalgar Square

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square which was now packed with marchers from the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march demanding an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

Many of the marchers had placards and posters calling for Prime Minister David Cameron, ‘Dodgy Dave’ to resign, and there were a number of pigs heads referring to his initiation in a bizarre ritual at the notorious Oxford dining society, the Piers Gaveston, where, according his unauthorized biography by Michael Ashcroft, as the Daily Mail put it “the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.”

At the rally there was a long succession of speeches, including by then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite and others, some of whom I photographed. But more interesting is perhaps my picture of Danielle Tiplady, a leader of the Bursary or Bust campaign looking rather like one of the lions as she talks with Natalie Bennett.

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally


Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Trafalgar Square

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I drifted away from the rally as the speeches continued, it seemed forever, to the North Terrace from where I could hear music. There were some of the marchers preferred to dance to the ‘dig it sound system‘, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion“.

Not that the speeches that I heard were not interesting, but there were just too many different things covered by the People’s Assembly March, and while their causes were all legitimate and demonstrated the terrible suffering this immoral government for the wealthly was inflicting on the majority population, it had just gone on (like the government) far too long.

Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Palestine Prisoners Parade – Trafalgar Square

Also on the North Terrace were a group of people who had taken part in the People’s Assembly March dressed in clown outfits as the Palestine Prisoners Parade. They attracted attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

Those imprisoned in Israel include young children, often held for long stretches in solitary confinement, accused of throwing stones, as well as people who have objected when Israeli settlers have stolen fruit or land. Human rights organisations have protested about the imprisonment and treatment of many of them, and some have taken part in hunger strikes against their continued incarceration.

Palestine Prisoners Parade


UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand

As the rally was coming to a close the United Voices of the World hold a further protest against Topshop, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop.

UVW General Secretary Petros Elia

Class War had come to support the UVW, and when a large crowd of police came to try and move the protesters away there were arguments and quite a bit of pushing by police when people tried to prevent them filming protesters by holding up banners and placards. One man was pulled to one side by police who appeared to be about to arrest him; a crowd formed around him as he refused to answer police questions and eventually the officer concerned gave up.

There were a few short speeches including one by Susanna, one of the two cleaners victimised by Britannia and Topshop, who broke down in tears before continuing and ending her speech to loud applause. The protesters then decided it was time to march to another location.

UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand


UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest – Oxford St

The UVW marched to Oxford Street and tried to enter the Topshop close to Oxford Circus but were stopped by a large squad of police.

After a brief confrontation outside the shop they marched on to another site where the UVW are in dispute, John Lewis, where they are also demanding a living wage for the cleaners.

The banners slowed the protesters down a little and the police were able to rush past them, and pushed them back with considerable force as they tried to move towards the store doors. Susanna, one of the Topshop 2, was violently thrown to the ground and was helped up by both other police and protesters, who demanded an apology – and rather to my surprise the officer in charge after some arguments got the officer concerned to come and make one.

After some minutes of protest blocking the road in front of Jown Lewis and the store entrnace the protesters decided to return to Topshop. As they did so the police seized and questioned a woman who was wearing a mask and a man in a hood and goggles which they made him removed, threatening him with arrest; reluctantly he did so. After they had released him I decided to leave the protest for home.

UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest


More pictures and text about all the protests on My London Diary:
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


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Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

Friday, April 15th, 2022

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths – four quite different protests on Wednesday 15th April 2015, seven years ago today.


Checkpoint Care – Docs Not Cops – Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

Docs Not Cops set up a mock border checkpoint at the entrance to the Royal London Hospital in a protest against plans to charge migrants for NHS treatment which will force doctors to check on the immigration status of those needing treatment. Hospital security staff came out and forced them to move off hospital owned land and the border, marked by shiny stainless steel posts, shifted a few yards away with the protest continuing there.

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

Most of those protesting were medical students or health service employees. The Royal London serves an area with a large immigrant population and health workers, including local GP Dr Anna Livingstone. Many of those entering and leaving the hospital both staff members and patients stopped to express support for the action.

Checkpoint Care – Docs Not Cops


Bring Back Our Girls – Nigerian Embassy, Northumberland Ave

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

The monthly protest outside the Nigerian Embassy was very polite and relatively quiet as men and women from the Nigerian Women In Diaspora Leadership Forum held up posters and photographs calling for the return of the over 200 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram – and they did it on the opposite side of the road from the Embassy rather than the wide pavement immediately in front of it.

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

They feel that the Nigerian government has done little to try to get the return of the girls who were abducted a year earlier and hopedd that the new Nigerian government would take a firmer line.

Bring Back Our Girls


Fast Food Rights at McDonald’s – Whitehall

Docs Not Cops, Nigerian Girls, Fast Food Workers & Homeless Deaths

Trade unionists protested outside McDonald’s in Whitehall in solidarity with US fast food workers on strike for higher pay, justice, dignity and respect. They also demanded union rights, a £10 minimum wage and an end to zero hours contracts for workers in UK fast food outlets.

Speakers at the protest included Ian Hodson, National President of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) who is one of the leaders of the Fast Food Rights campaign, and victimised National Gallery PCS rep Candy Udwin, one of the leaders of the strikes there against privatisation.

A manager from McDonald’s was clearly angry and came out to talk to police about the protest. They told him that people had a right to protest on the pavement.

Fast Food Rights at McDonald’s


No More Deaths on our Streets – Westminster

People from various groups, including those involved in day to day practical support of the homeless on the streets with food and shelter as well as charities, political groups and housing and homeless activists, squatters and more met at 6pm opposite Downing St to call for an end to homeless people dying on our streets. As one poster stated, ‘I want Change – ‘55% More Rough Sleepers since Cameron Became PM – Austerity is killing people paying debt of the 1%‘ The main banner stated ‘NO MORE DEATHS ON OUR STREETS‘.

Recent years had seen a dramatic rise in the number of homeless people on the streets of London in particular due to the removal of welfare support and increasing official persecution, with government cuts making it harder for local authorities to provide support.

Prominent among the groups taking part were supporters of Class War, including their parliamentary candidate for Westminster in the 2015 elections the following month, Adam Clifford.

After protesting for some time outside Downing St and going on to the road to block traffic, the protest moved on to Parliament Square, marching along the road and blocking traffic there before going into the back streets south of St James’s Park.

Adam Clifford

They seemed to be going around in a circle but finally decided they would head for Buckingham Palace. But by then I was getting tired and decided to go home.


More at:

No More Deaths on our Streets
Fast Food Rights at McDonald’s
Bring Back Our Girls
Checkpoint Care – Docs Not Cops


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Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell.
Protests in London on 14th April 2018 calling for Land Justice, against Turkey’s support of Assad in Syria and ten months after the Grenfell fire.


The Landlords’ Game – Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

I photographed a tour of London’s wealthiest areas led by the Land Justice Network which reminded us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

This unequal ownership of land is the basis of our class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

The tour began in Mayfair, where the land is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with much more of the London borough, although the family’s Grosvenor Group Limited has diversified and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosvenor_Group according to Wikipedia also owns properties in other parts of Britain and Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Asia Pacific region and parts of Europe.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell
British Virgin Islands is an offshore tax haven where 23,000 properties in England and Wales are registered as a tax scam

From a rally at its meeting point in Brown Hart Gardens where there were songs and speeches by the Land Justice Network, the Landworkers Alliance, the tour including activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group marched to Grosvenor Square where we listed to a surprisingly lucid account of the anti-Vietnam war protest there on 27th October 1968. I think I was there too, but other than a vague recollection of wildly charging police horses and panic can remember little – and in those days I didn’t even have a camera that worked.

We moved off, stopping briefly at a house known to have been left empty for around 15 years, one of many such empty properties in a city with a huge housing shortage to call for councils to be able to levy truly punitive council tax or requisition long-term empty properties.

A short distance along the road we stopped at ‘Grouse House’ owned by Odey Asset Management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds for what is wrongly called sport.

There was a speech by Private Eye journalist Richard Brooks who with his colleague Christian Eriksson set about untangling the great offshore corporate web that covers the country – and you can download his report Tax Havens – Selling England By The Offshore Pound from the Private Eye web site.

Kat from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) also spoke, reminding us that the CIty of London is a huge3 tax haven and the money laundering capital of the world.

The tour continue to Park Lane, where there was a short protest outside estate agent Foxtons which sells and rents some of the most expensive property in London, and Class War were prominent in pointing out that both the Tory government and the Labour local authorities have relied on estate agents to direct their housing strategies.

The tour stopped again on Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel, the venue for the notorious annual Property Developers Awards before crossing into Hyde Park, open to the public since 1637, but where we were reminded of the battles to make many other parks public, and how now many have only been saved by the growth of groups of volunteer ‘Friends’. We also heard a plea for more free public toilets. Many were closed in the 1980s because of a ‘gay scare’ and others such as those at Hyde Park Corner now charge for use – 50p a visit here.

Across Knightsbridge we walked along one of the most expensive streets in Britain, Grosvenor Crescent to a statue of the first Marquess of Westminster on the corner of Belgrave Square, which has a plaque stating the family came here with William the Conqueror. He divided out the conquered land and many great estates date from then, though the Grosvenor Estate holdings in London came to them when 3rd Baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, the heiress to the 500 acre Manor of Ebury in 1677. He was 21 at the time, but she was only 12. The estate, then largely swamps later became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia.

A left the tour here for a few minutes to photograph the Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest outside the Turkish Embassy, but rejoined it later at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate which includes the wealthiest parts of Kensington & Chelsea. Much of the money which enabled Sir Hans Sloane to buy the Manor of Chelsea came from African slave labour on sugar estates in Jamaica. His daughter Elizabeth Sloane married Charles Cadogan in 1712.


Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey – Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, Sunni Muslims who call for the restoration of the Muslim caliphate which whose armies conquered much of the Middle East in 632-661CE, were protesting against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests and calling for Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who “are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime.”

Women were strictly segregated from men at the protest and some stewards were unhappy for me to photograph them.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state “whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine” and call on “Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE.”


Grenfell – 10 months on – Kensington Town Hall

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

A large crowd was assembling at Kensington Town Hall for the monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster. They hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

Five years later a public inquiry is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, and there have been no prosecutions of those responsible for approving and installing the highly dangerous cladding on the tower block, for cutting costs, for failing to install the cladding properly, for governments cutting out essential safety regulations which their friends in the building industry thought were ‘red tape’ hampering profits and it looks unlikely if there will ever be justice. Instead we have seen politicians trying to blame the residents for not leaving the building and almost entirely unjustified criticism of the fire service.

There were some speeches, poetry and music before the silent march began, and then a very noisy protest by bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

The long silent walk towards Grenfell Tower began immediately after the bikers left, and I followed it for a short distance before turning away and leaving to make my way home.


More at:
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


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Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei – On April 6th 2019 I photographed two protests in London both linked with the brutal excesses of Sharia law, in the Sudan and in Brunei.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Sudanese for Freedom, Peace and Justice – Sudan Embassy, St James’s

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Sudan became united under Egyptian conquest in the 19th century and then coming under British rule in the 1880s after the British occupied Egypt in the 1880s, though since 1899 its governance was nominally shared by Britain and Egypt. After the 1952 Egyptian revolution Britain was forced to end its shared sovereignty and Sudan became independent in 1956.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Independence led to a civil war which eventually resulted in the independence of South Sudan in 2011. There was a military coup in 1958, then a return to civilian rule from 1964-9 with another military coup in 1969 and yet another in 1985 that overthrew dictator Jaafar Nimeiri. But in 1989 came the military coup led by Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who became its dictator under various titles from 1989 until 2019 when the large-scale protests in Sudan which this London protest supported led to him being deposed by the military on 11th April. Later in the year power was transferred to a mixed civilian-military Sovereignty Council.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Under al-Bashir the country had been run under a severe implementation of Sharia law, with stoning, flogging, hanging and crucifixion. In 2020 Sudan ended the rule under Islamic law and agreed there should be no state religion. It abolished the apostasy law, public flogging and the alcohol ban for non-Muslims, and criminalised female genital mutilation with a punishment of up to 3 years in jail.

The protest was large and high energy, and called for an end to the violent and corrupt Sudanese regime and for president Omar al-Bashir to ‘Just Fall’ and stand trial by the ICC for genocide in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and South Blue Nile.

Sudanese for Freedom, Peace and Justice

Brunei Sultan gay sex stoning protest, Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane

I arrived rather late at the protest outside the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane, a short walk away (though I ran much of it) from St James’s to find a rather staid protest taking place against its multi-billionaire Sultan of Brunei who has announced death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex, adultery and blasphemy. The hotel was bought by him in 1985.

Although it was a colourful crowd, with a number of people in rainbow clothing and a few in drag, along with several well-known figures who spoke, including Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Emily Thornberry MP and Peter Tatchell, the protesters kept outside the hotel yard with police harassing them to keep the road clear despite there not being enough room on the pavements, and to allow cars and taxis to take and collect hotel guests to the main entrance.

It took Class War to liven up proceedings, pushing aside the barriers in front of the hotel entrance and running inside the hotel yard with their Women’s Death Brigade and Lucy Parsons banners, ignoring the attempts of security and police to stop them. They stood on the steps of the hotel entrance, stopping guests entering or leaving and after a short delay many of the other protesters joined them, bringing placards and rainbow flags.

The protesters ignored the hotel staff who told them to leave and the police who came and threatened them with arrest, and were still blocking the entrance when I left 50 minutes later.

Brunei Sultan gay sex stoning protest


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Class War Notting Hill Pub Stroll

Saturday, March 5th, 2022

Class War Notting Hill Pub Stroll. The peaceful pub crawl on Saturday 5th March 2016 by a small group of Class War supporters revisiting sites important in the early years of the movement attracted rather more police than participants; several venues closed for the event and Notting Hill Foxtons was fully boarded up.

The event had been widely publicised as ‘Historic – Riotous – Fun’ although it lived up to the first and last of these three words, it was never likely to be more than a little good humoured horseplay.

The event started with something of a whimper; unfortunately the Ground Floor Bar, formerly the Colville Hotel at 186 Portobello Road on the corner of Talbot Road which was the advertised starting point was unavailable as the whole pub had closed down shortly after the event was conceived and was boarded up awaiting sale. It did reopen briefly a few months later before becoming The Ginstitute.

Class War’s first conference was held in a private room at the Colville on 27th August 1983, shortly after the second Class War magazine had been published, and according to the speech Ian Bone made outside the closed pub it ended with a fight between Sean Mason and the landlord. In his entertaining memoir ‘Bash The Rich‘, still available, Bone writes “To be honest, I doubt if anyone who was there can really remember what the fuck happened” over the course of an 8 hour lock-in when even the landlord joined in the political arguments over “Stonehenge, IRA, sexual politics“, though he does give considerable detail.

Class War has been described as “fearless, hilarious and, for the rich and powerful of this benighted isle, absolutely terrifying” and this still appeared to be the case with their activities of a small handful of people in Notting Hill on this afternoon being closely watched and followed by a small team of police who appeared on every street corner. Class War found the second pub on the trail, ‘The Castle’ mysteriously ‘closed for maintenance’ as they arrived, though the staff were still working inside and it was open as usual later in the afternoon, with staff trying hard to scrape off an number of Class War stickers from its frontage.

The Castle was once Portobello Road’s the Warwick Castle, but it was sadly gutted some years back, gentrified and is now called simply ‘The Castle’. You can read about its heyday in the book by book ‘3000 Hangovers Later’ by Ray ‘Roughler’ Jones, another Class War stalwart who briefly joined the event later.

It was at the Warwick Castle that Ian Bone saw Joe Strummer of The Clash drinking, came up on the spot with the idea of a ‘Rock Against the Rich’ tour, and found the man to be enthusiastic for it – prepared not only to take part, but put money into it. Class War recorded the event by putting up a number of ‘Blue Plaques’ to Strummer and to Rock against the Rich – actually ‘Blue Plates’, paper plates fixed to the windows and walls with Class War stickers.

The Duke of Wellington had remained open, though perhaps with rather more bouncers than usual on the door, but they let us in and Class War settled down for a pint or two, with several more joining the group, including Lisa McKenzie who made a dramatic entry, throwing off her coat to reveal her ‘Class War Womens Death Brigade’ t-shirt. This used to be the main H H Finch’s bar on the Portobello Rd but was subjected to an entire refurbishment after being taken over by Young’s in 1991, now catering to the tourist trade.

Class War after a few expensive pints were led out again by Rita the Raven down Portobello Road where they danced briefly outside at the record stall before settling in the only remaining real pub in the area, the Earl of Lonsdale, a Sam Smith’s pub that was once Henekey’s. Sam Smith’s in many of their pubs have gone to a great deal of trouble to keep or recreate the character of a real British pub, and then their bitter was reasonably cheap (for London) as was the chips and other food.

Class War had published a route with timings for the afternoon but of course were running well behind. Despite this some supporters managed to find them and join in, though others I met at another event the following day had tried but failed. Most of us made it out of the pub to walk down to George Orwell’s former house – a venue that had gone viral with a faked image on social media showing a photoshopped CCTV camera next to its blue plaque. Here Lisa McKenzie gave a speech praising George Orwell, a scholarship boy at Eton, for recognising the nature of the war by the elites against the working classes.

Next came a visit to the Notting Hill branch of Foxton’s, securely boarded up for the day, outside which Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing spoke about the housing crisis and the role of estate agents in gentrification and the Foxtons sign gained a few stickers.

After he had been speaking for around ten minutes a number of police vans and motorcycles drew up noisily to reinforce the small group of officers who had been watching all afternoon from a polite distance of a few yards, and Class War quickly melted away into a nearby pub and I went with them.

An hour later, after the unexpected bonus of seeing a Class War make-up demonstration for a comrade it seemed unlikely that they would complete their tour with visits to the homes of Tory Chancellor George Osborne and his father and the Daily Mail, and I left for home.


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Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg. Three years ago on Tuesday 26th February I spent the morning photographing several protests against outsourcing, had a rather late pub lunch, then went to North Woolwich for a short walk before rushing back to meet Class War who were protesting outside a Palladium show by Jacob Rees-Mogg.


Rally for an end to Outsourcing

A legal challenge was taking place at the High Court on this day to extend the employment rights of the 3.3 million workers whose jobs are outsourced from the companies where they work to contracting companies which then sell them back to their place of employment at cut rates.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

The contractors do this by cutting wages, trimming things such as pensions, maternity pay and holiday pay to the bare legal minimum, increasing workload and reducing hours of work and often bullying managers. Outsourced workers generally have little job security and are often denied necessary safety equipment and not given proper safety training.

Workers, mainly migrants who work for the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London were taking part in a one day strike in a coordinated action by the UVW and IWGB trade unions and the BEIS PCS branch to demand an end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes. They had started their march at 8.00am at the University of London and after a rally outside the High Court had marched to Parliament Square where I met them at 11am.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing


Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

From Parliament Square the marchers went on to hold a further rally outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Victoria St. Those striking at the BEIS included catering and security staff who are members of the PCS and are demanding the London Living Wage as well as end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes.

The PCS strikers led a lively rally with plenty of singing, dancing and shouting of slogans expressing their demands, which was followed by several speeches, including from Labour MP Chris Williamson, who brought messages of support from Labour shadow cabinet members and promises that a Labour government would end outsourcing.

Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS


Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

The marchers continued the short walk to the Ministry of Justice in Petty France, where low paid workers belonging to the United Voices of the World union at the Ministry of Justice have been campaigning for some time to get the London Living wage, but the Justice Minister has refused to talk with them. Many wore t-shirts calling it the Ministry of Injustice.

During the rally outside the building some of the UVW workers who had already been on strike for 24 hours went back into the ministry to resume work, to cheers and hugs from those on the street outside. The rally ended with music and dancing on the pavement, and I left for a rather late pub lunch in Holborn.

Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


North Woolwich

I’d been intending to walk a short section of the Capital Ring, mainly beside the River Thames, for some months as it had been quite a few years since I’d last been there and wanted to see how it had changed. I had an afternoon with nothing else I needed to photograph and although the sunny weather with clear blue skies was not ideal it seemed a good opportunity.

Panoramic photographs almost always have large expanses of sky, and on days like this it tends lack interest, as well as often giving unnatural looking variations in tone when getting closer to the sun. Getting to North Woolwich should have been simple and reasonably fast, but unfortunately there was trouble on the DLR and I had to make a less direct route, so had to rather rush on the walk and leave it half-finished. It was a few months later before I found time to go back and complete it.

North Woolwich


Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

I find it hard to understand why anyone should want to come and listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg, let alone pay £38 for a ticket to do so at the London Palladium.

So too did Class War, and with Jane Nicholl dressed as a nun, Mother Hysteria, and Adam Clifford as Jacob Rees Mogg they loudly asked why people had come to listen to him “spout homophobic, transphobic, racist, pro-hunting, misogynist, classist, privileged” nonsense.

Their show on the street outside was almost certainly a better show than anything that would take place later inside the venue, and all for free. Police spent a considerable amount of public money on harassing them, and provided their own rather hilarious input by searching Mother Hysteria and threatening to arrest her for carrying offensive weapons after some novelty stink bombs were found in her handbag. When I left the officer who had stopped and searched her had already spent 20 minutes trying to write her notice of stop and search, probably at a loss trying to find some way to put it that doesn’t make it sound incredibly stupid.

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show


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Class War & The Shard – 2018

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

Class War & The Shard – 2018.

Ian Bone raises a fist as he comes out of the Royal Courts of Justice

February 8th 2018 was a good day for Class War, beginning with a visit to the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where thanks to barrister Ian Brownhill they emerged triumphant after stopping an attempt by lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50million pound apartments in The Shard.

Lawyers for the Qataris had tried to get an injunction against protests by Bone and “persons unknown” and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner, and the case had attracted considerable publicity in the media including an article by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian and another in Le Monde and many more.

Brownhill offered to conduct Bone’s defence pro-bono and contacted the Quatari’s solicitors who immediately offered to drop the case if Class War ‘would stop attacking the Shard’ whatever that meant. In the High Court the Qataris’ lawyers were forced to drop the attempt to ban protests and the demand for fees but Bone accepted a legal restriction on him going inside the Shard and its immediate vicinity.

The case also showed the police’s insecurity over Class War and documents presented in court on behalf of the Qataris clearly showed they had been given documents by the police including one with clearly defamatory false statements about another person associated with Class War who was not named in the injunction.

Another document presented was a surprising testimonial about Class War which made it sound a rather more impressive and powerful organisation than the small but influential irritant to the rich and unscrupulous it is. The police probably the source for this certainly seem to share the lawyers’ delusions of the organisations grandeur, with an unusually strong police presence outside the court and around a corner clearly outnumbering the Class War supporters.

So the protest that evening took place as Class War intended, pointing out that the ten £50m apartments in the Shard had remained empty since the building was completed. The protest stressed that these were just a small fraction of the plans to build another 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each across London, many replacing current social housing a time when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation.

As Class War stated, there are already a huge number of empty properties in London, many in large development of high priced flats which either remain unsold or are bought as investments and largely unoccupied. What the capital needs is not luxury flats but much more social housing – and to keep existing housing on council estates under threat of demolition.

The protest, as planned, was peaceful but very noisy, and again policed by a ridiculously large number of police and private security. Ian Bone’s poor health meant he was in any case unable to attend in person. The protesters were careful to remain outside the boundary of The Shard, marked with a metal line in the pavement, but police still tried to move them away to the other side of the road, making the patently spurious claim that they were causing an obstruction to commuters attempting to enter London Bridge station. The only real obstruction to commuters attempting to enter the station were the lines of police across their route.

More on My London Diary
Class War protest at Shard
Class War victory against Qatari Royals