Posts Tagged ‘crime’

UVW at Wood St – 29 June 2016

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

The strike and protests organised by the United Voices of the World union against anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning who employed the cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices in the City of London, managed by CBRE and mainly let to Schroders and J P Morgan is a good example of one of the things the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is aiming to prevent.

The UVW use loud rallies and protests outside workplaces (and sometimes in their foyers) to shame employers who are exploiting low paid workers, many migrants, into talking to the union. These workers, often employed by small and intensely anti-union companies, are often on minimum legal rates of pay, well below the London Living Wage and usually on the statutory minimum (and minimal) conditions of service – and sometimes even have problems getting these.

Outsourcing of low paid work such as cleaning is widespread, and contractors get the contracts by cutting costs – such as wages and conditions of service – and also by using bullying management to over-work their employees. Often too they cut costs by ignoring safety issues and failing to supply protective clothing and other essential safety material.

The UVW strike at Wood St was the longest industrial dispute in the history of the City of London, and it continued after Thames Cleaning had agreed to pay the London Living Wage for some days until they also agreed to re-instate the two workers who had been sacked. These pictures come from a rally on day 22 of the 58 day strike.

The strike was only successful because of the continuing pressure provided by loud protests such as this one, which made the companies working in the offices very aware of what was happening and made them and the building owners put pressure on the contracting company to meet the union and agree to their demands. Protests such as these, by the UVW and other grass-roots unions including CAIWU, the IWGB and a few branches of major unions have been successful in getting many of London’s lowest paid workers a living wage.

The PCSC bill, if it becomes law, will make these activities illegal. Already under existing laws, the company was able to take legal action to try and get an injunction to stop the strike. Although this failed it did get strict conditions put on the UVW’s actions at Wood St, and landed the union with crippling legal costs. Fortunately many supporters came forward with donations.

I came to take pictures on a number of occasions during the strike, which you can find on My London Diary. These pictures are all from Day 22: UVW Wood St Strike continues.

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

Occupy Gandhi – 4 May 2015

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

All pictures from Occupy Ghandi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals, 4 May 2015

Successive UK governments have legislated in various ways to restrict the right to protest, particularly concentrating on the area of Westminster close to the Houses of Parliament, and the current Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill amends the “Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to expand the “controlled area” around Parliament where certain protest activities are prohibited” as well as creating a new prohibited activity of “obstructing access to the Parliamentary Estate”.

The 2011 Act (which was also amended by the Anti-Social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) replaced previous restrictions which had been brought in under SOCPA, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which the New Labour government had brought in as an attempt to stop the long-term protest in Parliament Square by Brian Haw who had set up his camp there on 2 June 2001 in protest against the effect of economic sanctions which were resulting in child deaths in Iraq.

Haw’s campaign widened into a more general protest against war and became the Parliament Square Peace Campaign, and he was joined by other long term protesters as well as receiving support from many others which enabled him to remain in the square. Various attempts to remove him legally failed and SOCPA was passed in an attempt to stop his protest. But poor drafting led to the eventual failure to achieve this, though Haw had to apply for permission which was granted subject to strict conditions – which he and his supporters failed to adhere to.

Police carried out a major raid in May 2006, removing most of the placards and other material and Haw was taken to court for breach of SOCPA. But after several hearings he was acquitted as the judge found the conditions lacked clarity and were not workable. He was assaulted on numerous occasions by police and by others believed to be working for the security services and arrested again on the day of the State Opening of Parliament for the Tory-LibDem coalition in 2010. But his protest was continued even after he left for cancer treatment in Berlin on New Years Day 2011, by his colleague Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005, and stayed in Parliament Square until 2013, despite being denied the use of tent, blankets and eventually even a chair and umbrella in 2012.

The whole grass area of Parliament Square was fenced off and the protest moved onto the pavement in 2011 after Boris Johnson gained a High Court injunction. Early in 2013 more protesters had arrived to support Tucker who had begun a hunger strike in December 2012. She left the square for urgent medical treatment and the Westminster Council removed the tents which supporters had brought there in March 2013, reopening the square for public use in May.

In October 2014, Occupy Democracy arrived to occupy Parliament Square “for 9 days in October, to broadcast and demand the solutions we already know exist, to inspire people to be the active citizens required to take back democracy from powerful economic interests.” They were met by police and private security ‘Heritage Wardens’ (outsourced by the GLA) and signs put up the previous day stating the grass was ‘closed for repair’, and there was considerable harassment with the police seizing anything they thought might be ‘camping equipment’ the occupied the square. The following day, much larger numbers of protesters turned up, including a number of MPs and some celebrities, and after trying hard to stop them, the police melted away and the camp was set up.

Over the following three days there were a number of arrests and police moved protesters off the main grass areas, but the various workshops and activities continued until the whole square was cleared. There had been a number of battles between police and protesters over large squares of blue plastic tarpaulin they had used to sit on the wet grass and mud, and the Democracy Camp had gained the name ‘Tarpaulin Revolution’ (#tarpaulinrevolution).

On May Day 2015, Occupy Democracy returned for a 10 day ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!” just a few days before the general election. On Monday 4 May there was a rally and meditation by Occupy Democracy at the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedince, called for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime, and defied the ban on tarpaulin and tents in Parliament Square.

After short speeches there was a period of meditation, and the protesters wrapped a blue tarpaulin around the statue. Heritage wardens demanded its removal, and seized it when their request was ignored. Other protesters then stood with another blue tarpaulin, holding it around the statue but taking care not to touch it.

At the end of the mediation, Donnachadh McCarthy who had been leading it announced an act of civil disobedience and pulled a folding tent onto the tarpaulin on the pavement in front of him and erected it. Several people then came and sat inside it, and the protest continued. Police came and told them they were committing an offence and might be arrested if they failed to leave. Shortly after 20 police came and surrounded the tent and arrested those who refused to leave.

Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals
Occupy Festival of Democracy

May Day #KillTheBill

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

May Day 2000

Unfortunately May Day is not a public holiday in the UK, and when I was in full time teaching it was usually just a normal working day for me and I was unable to celebrate it except in those years where it fell at a weekend. Even when I cut my teaching to 30% for a few years, that 30% seemed always to include May Day, and it was only from 2003 that I began to attend May Day in London every year – until 2020, when it went online.

This year, when May Day is on a Saturday, the official May Day celebrations are also taking place online, but May 1st is now a nationwide day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 with which the government is attempting to severely limit the right to protest and in particular to criminalise “noisy” protests and prosecute people in the Gypsy and Roma communities. Noisy protests shaming businesses have been vital in recent years in gaining better wages and conditions for low paid workers particularly in the City of London.

The Bill will give the police much greater powers to place conditions on protest – and to make it a crime to break these conditions if they “ought to have known” they were in place but didn’t. They introduce a new offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which can lead to a sentence of up to ten years.

Police also gain greater powers to stop and search on the streets under a new Serious Violence Reduction Order, an arbitrary power that removes even the need for any suspicion and will doubtless lead to an even more racist implementation of stop and search, worse than the old ‘Sus’ law that led to the Brixton riots 40 years ago.

As a knee-jerk reaction to Black Lives Matter protests there is a new offence of causing damage to statues and memorials which could also lead to sentences of ten years, twice the maximum sentence for assault causing actual bodily harm.

The bill also seeks to create a wide “controlled area” around parliament where protests would not be allowed – and so MPs and ministers would no longer be made aware of any public opposition to their actions. Many see the bill as denying our right to freedom of assembly and association under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

A long list of organisations are coming to Trafalgar Square at noon today for a MayDay #KillTheBill protest (and to similar protests in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.) They include Sisters Uncut, Women’s Strike Assembly, Black Lives Matter UK, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Docs not Cops. With the current large Tory majority in the House of Commons the bill is likely to pass with only minor amendments, and the fight will move to the streets where with strong opposition much of the new law will be unenforceable.

Seconds later an officer knocked this man offering plants flying

Pictures are from 21 years ago, May Day 2000. There are some black and white pictures from the same day on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


What Future for Protest?

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Wednesday 19th March was a busy day in London as it was Budget Day and also the day of the Fracked Future Carnival which had been planned to take place outside a meeting of the Shale Gas Forum in Kensington, and later at the Territorial Army base on Old St where that meeting had moved to in order to avoid the protest. And there was also a a protest calling from the repeal of Uganda’s draconian anti-gay laws.

What all these protests had in common was that they would all have been illegal for various reasons had the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill been law. It will seriously restrict the right to hold protests, restrict their length and set noise limits and allow police to enforce restrictions even if protesters have not been told about them.

Public outcry followed the attack by police last Saturday on a peaceful vigil on Clapham Common – where the police had been ordered by the Home Secretary to take action (and she later expressed her concern when she saw the outrage it had caused.) Thousands went to protest the police actions the following day at New Scotland Yard, the Met Police HQ, and later in Parliament Square. And thousands turned up again to Parliament Square on Monday when the PCSC bill was being debated in Parliament.

Protests such as these – even in the absence of Covid – would be clearly illegal under PCSC – and police could shut down even a single person coming to protest. Only protests that are well-behaved, entirely ineffectual and preferably out of sight are likely to be legal.

On March 19th 2014 I began my day at Battersea Bridge, marching across it with designer Vivienne Westwood and around a hundred supporters, mainly her students to the protest against fracking.

Although the Shale Gas Forum had made a last minute change of plans, moving their meeting to a secret location, the rally outside the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Cadogan Place went ahead as planned -as agreed with the police. There would have been much tighter restrictions under PCSC, and the police could have limited numbers and prevented the use of the public address system.

After several speeches the organises cut the rally short and told those at the protest to take the tube to Old Street station from where they would march to the ‘secret location’, which turned out to be the Territorial Army Centre in the Honourable Artillery Company’s grounds between Bunhill Row and Old St.

We arrived there and the protesters made a great deal of noise outside the gates in Bunhill Row, and then walked through Bunhill Fields to protest outside the Old St Gates.

From Old St I took the tube to Charing Cross and walked the short distance to Trafalgar Square, where the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and Peter Tatchell Foundation were filling the relatively narrow pavement outside Uganda House with a great deal of loud chanting, drumming and dancing calling for an end to anti-gay laws in Uganda.

Later I joined Budget Day protesters around Parliament, and later at a rally called by the People’s Assembly opposite Downing St

Many more pictures on My London Diary:
People’s Assembly Budget Day Protest
Protest over Uganda Gay Hate Laws
Fracked Future Carnival at Shale Gas Forum
Fracked Future Carnival in Knightsbridge
Climate Revolution March to Fracked Future Carnival


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Walk for Grenfell

Monday, December 14th, 2020

Every 14th of each month, my thoughts return to the terrible tragic events of 14th June 2017. It’s now three and a half years ago, and still none of those responsible for some of the worst crimes in our history which led up to the fire has been brought to justice, and with an inquiry that has seemed to be largely concerned with diverting blame it seems less and less likely that any of the criminals will ever be prosecuted and jailed.

I wrote the piece below back in November 2017, but it was never published, so here it is now, exactly as written.


The fire at Grenfell Tower shocked us all.  There was a huge immediate media response, and I felt that there was little point in my going there and adding to this, yet another photographer.  I felt my presence would do nothing to help the people and might well aggravate their distress.

As more emerged about what had led up to the disaster I felt an increasing anger. Although the council hadn’t actually lit a match, they had clearly created a situation in which what should have been a small and insignificant fire could lead to a major catastrophe by a serious of failures and deliberate acts that each increased the risks to those living in the block, compounded by a government who had seen vital safety legislation as red tape and successive administrations that had failed to set proper standards and to properly enforce those that existed.

Then came Kensington and Chelsea Council’s almost complete failure to properly respond to the disaster, a lack of urgency and lack of competence. Part of their failure that led to the deaths was a failure to listen to the community who had pointed out some of the major problems and they still are not listening – and the official inquiry appears to be taking the same route, making many feel it will be just an empty exercise.

Over the months since the fire I realised how many people I knew were in some way involved, some as volunteers, doing the work that councils and other bodies should have done, others in other ways. I still didn’t feel I could commit myself to Grenfell in a way that was truly meaningful, but did feel able to at least do a little on the issues, including covering the monthly ‘Silent Walk for Grenfell’.

I’m wasn’t sure what I felt about the silent walk. Obviously it is important to keep the community together and to keep the memory of Grenfell, but perhaps something more is needed than a event that takes place largely out of sight in the area around the tower, emerging only briefly into the stronger light of Ladbroke Grove.  And a few months later, in February, the walk organisers perhaps agreed, moving the start point to the council offices and beginning the walk along High Street Kensington.

But perhaps it still needs to be more. Their seems to be a great emphasis on the walk not being political – though a number of political groups were taking part. But to be effective I think it has to become much more political and rather more active. Otherwise – as appears to be happening now – Grenfell will soon be largely forgotten, with few if any prosecutions of the guilty parties, little tightening of the regulations, most of the Government promises being history and the safety of other largely working-class communities around the country still at risk. I still hope for something rather more powerful on the anniversary of this terrible event.

Silent Walk for Grenfell Tower

The event was still something of the media circus I had felt it best to stay away from rather than add to, with photographers and TV and video. Most of the march was through dimly lit streets, on the limits of photographic possibility without using my LED light (or flash), with a few areas of strong an contrasty light at crossings. Things got rather easier on Ladbroke Grove and I stayed there until the end of the march passed into the gloom before taking the train home from there rather than go on to the end.

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

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