Posts Tagged ‘cuts’

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

Sunday, May 22nd, 2022

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

I don’t think the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association organise many protests, but they did a good job on Wednesday 22nd May 2013, with a mock funeral and rally at Parliament against government proposals for justice on the cheap, restricting legal aid and ending the right of clients to chose their solicitor with work going to the cheapest bid.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

The introduction of price-competitive tendering (PCT) would have the effect of bankrupting smaller law firms, while opening up provision of legal aid to large non-legal companies, including Eddie Stobart and Tesco. It would also prevent those eligible for legal aid from being able to choose appropriate specialists in the legal area involved in their cases.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

It was a protest that brought together a wide range of organisations an interests, with many speakers from the legal professions, from political parties and some who had been involved in cases of injustice including Gerry Conlan from the Guildford 4, a member of the family of Jean Charles De Menzes, Susan Matthews, mother of Alfie Meadows and Breda Power, the daughter of Billy Power, one of the Birmingham 6. Solicitors who spoke included Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, and notable among the QCs, Helena Kennedy.

Clive Stafford Smith

Some, including those from Women Against Rape, Winvisble, Women of Colour in The Global Womens Strike and other groups had come because the proposed changes would have drastic effects on women involved in domestic violence and rape cases, and immigrants fighting for asylum.

Gerry Conlan – the Guildford 4 only got justice when they could get the right lawyers on legal aid

The event had begun with a funeral procession led by a marching jazz band with robed and wigged figures carrying the coffin of Legal Aid, followed by a woman dressed as the Scales of Justice. After the speeches there was a summary by leading barrister John Cooper QC and then the whole assembly delivered its verdict on the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Grayling, ‘guilty as charged’.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP

Not for nothing did Grayling become widely known as ‘Failing Grayling‘ for his was a consistent record of incompetency and blunders in various ministerial roles in both Coalition and Tory governments conveniently summarised in the i‘s article 10 disasters that have happened under his watch.

As well as the cuts to legal aid which led to many victims of domestic violence in the courts and family courts facing their abusers without a lawyer, Grayling’s attempt to end legal aid to those in prison was ruled unlawful in 2017. His introduction of high fees for employment tribunals in discrimination cases was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court – and the government had to refund £27 million. He made an agreement with Saudi Arabia for training in their jails which had to be dropped when other ministers pointed out their abysmal human rights record. Then there was the prison book ban, again found unlawful. And his 2014 overhauling and privatisation of Probation services was a disaster that forced its later reversal.

Emily Thornberry, MP

Grayling then moved to Transport, worsening the Southern Rail fiasco, costing us £2bn over Virgin East Coast, contributing to chaos over rail timetabling and awwarding a firm with no ferries a no-deal Brexit contract. And although the i article stopped at 10, Grayling didn’t.

More pictures at Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid


Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough – Downing St to Bank

The legal aid protest at Parliament meant I had missed the start of the three mile marathon by artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan on his knees pushing his Daddy’s Pig, accompanied by another protester pushing a fire engine, from Downing St to the Bank of England.

I met them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, where the two had taken a rest before starting off on the second half of their gruelling journey, accompanied by a group of supporters, some of whom were carrying pigs.

While the country suffers from the effects of the various cuts, bankers, private equity companies, oligarchs and other friends of the Tories were having a feeding frenzy, snouts in the trough as the government privatised much of the NHS and other services and the City of London entrenched its position as the money laundering capital of the world.

More pictures at Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough.


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Nakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

NakNakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils – Saturday 18th May 2013 was another busy day for protests in London and I covered a number of demonstrations.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created, Palestinians and their supporters protested outside parliament calling for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

There had been protests in Jerusalem earlier in the week on Nabka Day against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians. Many of those protesting in London from Jewish or Palestinian backgrounds and as usual these included a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who had walked down from North London; they see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism.

The speeches were continuing when I left to cover another event. More at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

On the opposite side of the River Thames thousands were gathering by the Royal Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, alarmed at the attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

Nine years later we are seeing the effect of these policies with ambulance services unable to cope with demand, lengthy delays in treating people in A&E, delays in diagnosing cancers leading to increased deaths and more. And although it was only a matter of time before we had a pandemic like Covid, and exercises had shown what needed to be done to prepare for this, the NHS had not been given the resources to prepare for this, leading to much higher death rates than some comparable countries.

Part of the problems of the NHS come from disastrous PFI agreements pushed through under the Labour government, landing NHS trusts with huge debts that will continue for many years. This forced NHS trusts into disastrous hospital closure plans, some of which were defeated by huge public campaigns. Many of those marching were those involved in these campaigns at Lewisham, Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London.

I left the march as it entered Whitehall for a rally there. More at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Other protesters outside the US Embassy included Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when they held him and was now being tortured by the Iraqis and also was on hunger strike. She has protested with her daughter Zeinab outside the US Embassy for a number of weekends and on this occasion was joined by a small group of Muslims who had come to protest against Guantanamo, appalled by the actions of the US waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Shawki Ahmed Omar is still held in Iraq; before he died in 2021 former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark recorded a video calling for his release which was posted to YouTube in with the comment by another US lawyer “This case is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.”

A few yards away, kept separate by police, a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.

More at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

I met thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK as they marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Although it was a large protest, with perhaps around 5,000 marchers I think it received absolutely no coverage in UK media, and I seemed to be the only non-Tamil photographer present. Tamils were rightly disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The march had started from Hyde Park, and I caught up with it on Piccadilly and went with it taking photographs to Waterloo Place where there was to be a rally. But it had been a long day for me and I left just before this started.

More at Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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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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Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party – London on Saturday February 16th 2013


Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK

The Alevi are Turkey’s largest religious minority, with between 10 and 20 million of them living in the country and worshipping in their own language. Their religion is Islamic but men and women worship together, and women are not required to cover their hair and poetry, music and dance are central to their worship. It is a distinct form of Muslim religion which is related to Shi’ism, which contrasts with the official Turkish Sunni practice.

It is a religion that cuts across Turkey’s ethnic groups, and although most Alevi are ethnic Turks about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds are also Alevi. They have been persecuted in Turkey for centuries, often attacked and sometimes killed, and are not allowed to build worship houses. While Christian and Jewish children are exempted from the compulsory Sunny Islam religious classes in Turkish schools, Alevi are not.

Their protest in Trafalgar Square called for democracy in Turkey and an end to discrimination and persecution, and an end to the compulsory religious education. They also called for the UK government to live up to its responsibilities for all immigrant communities whose views they say are ignored here, calling on immigrants to ‘Unite and Fight’ to get political representation that would demand equal treatment over health and education and fighting crime.

Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


Defend the Union Flag

The Defend the Union Flag protest was called by the ‘South-East Alliance’ a small extreme right anti-immigration group of former English Defence League, whose leader Paul Pitt was thrown out of the EDL in 2012 to support Loyalists in Belfast who were protesting against a decision that the Union Flag should only be flown on the City Hall there on 18 designated days.

The protest was supported by other extreme right groups, notably Britain First, whose leader Paul Golding and Northern Ireland organiser Jim Dowson also spoke at the rally.

It was an uncomfortable event to photograph, and I received a number of threats and warnings from some of those taking party who I recognised from earlier protests I’d covered by the BNP, March for the Flag, EDL and Britain First, though many mistake me for another photographer who worked for Searchlight. A few who knew me were more friendly and came to talk with me. Although I’ve always made clear that I have different views, I’ve also tried to report these events objectively as a journalist.

Defend the Union Flag


Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock

Back in 2013 we were also being faced with rising fuel bills, and Fuel Poverty Action had organised a national day of action. In London this began with a rally outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change on Whitehall and was then followed by a road block on Whitehall led by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network, DAN.

The rally on the pavement was crowded and was supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum, Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group, Global Women’s Strike and others.

Cuts and price rises meant then that one in four families now has to choose between heating their homes adequately or eating properly. Many children now go to school hungry and even the wealthiest suburban areas now need to have churches and others setting up food banks for those unable to buy food.

The government had cut services and cut benefits as a part of their austerity programme. Their energy policy is largely dictated by the Big Six energy companies, who continue to increase their profits while the consumers of energy suffer and had largely ignored the pressing need to increase renewable energy and cut power generation for gas and coal that was powering global warming.

When DAN blocked the road, with some in wheelchairs chaining them together, the rally continued and police stood back and watched, diverting traffic away. After around 15 minutes they came to try and persuade them to leave the road. The arguments continued for around another 15 minutes, after which the protesters agreed they would leave in around a further 10 minutes. But I had to leave before they did so as I had a party to go to.

Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock


Reclaim Love Valentines Party

The 11th Reclaim Love free Valentine’s Party took place around Eros in Piccadilly Circus, aiming to spread peace and love around the world, and to reclaim love from its commercial exploitation.

I had been held up photographing the DAN roadblock and had missed the major part of the event when several hundred people held hands in a large circle around Eros, chanting together ‘May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace’. But it was good to meet up with some friends and take some pictures.

Venus Cumara, the originator of this annual event in 2003 told me this was this was the last she would organise and I made sure to get plenty of pictures of her. We occasionally talked about producing a book on the event together, but it hasn’t happened, though perhaps I might do so on my own one day.

As I wrote back in 2013:

There are really very few such spontaneous events in London like this, and this is unique in central London. I’ve photographed most of these events and I hope that they will continue with others taking over the running in future years.

Reclaim Love Valentines Party

You can read more about all four events and see many more pictures on My London Diary:
Reclaim Love Valentines Party
Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock
Defend the Union Flag
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


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Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing: 18/01/2014
Another busy day for protests in London seven years ago.

Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary
A large crowd protested on Kensington High Street opposite the private gated and guarded road containing the Israeli embassy five years marked 5 years after the end of the 2008/9 massacre in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which around 1,400 Palestinians were killed, many of them unarmed civilians.

Among those taking part were a number of Palestinians and Jews, who have been prominent in calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The protest was supported by many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al-Aqsa UK, Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine, War on Want, Unite the Union, Public and Commercial Services Union, Amos Trust and ICAHD UK.

Anonymous March For Freedom UK

Following their large protest on November 5th, Anonymous supporters arranged a another wide-ranging protest against privatisation, cuts, environmental and other issues, calling for the people to claim the country back from those who are destroying it.

This was rather smaller with perhaps a little over a hundred people, some wearing Anonymous masks meeting in Trafalgar Square and then marching down to Parliament, although as it was a Saturday there would be no politicians there.

Standing around the square were quite a number of police, including Police Liaison Officers in their blue bibs as well as a FIT team with a police photographer. But the police seemed much less confrontational than in November and actually helped them to march down Whitehall to Parliament – and when no one seemed then to have any idea what to do next actually made some sensible suggestions.

Eventually the police persuaded the protesters to move off the road and on to the pavement outside Parliament where they held a rally. There were a number of speeches than the protest rather ground to a halt, with some suggesting that they party in Parliament Square. I left at this point, walking past enough police vans to hold several times as many officers as protesters as I did so.

Peace vigil for Syria

In Trafalgar Square Syria Peace & Justice were holding a peace vigil ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks. They called for immediate humanitarian ceasefires and the release of all political prisoners and an inclusive Syrian-led peace process.

Unfortunately although the USA and western countries who had encouraged the Syrian rebels made supportive noises, they failed to come up with any real support. It was left to Russia who came to Assad’s aid and ensured the continuation of his regime, with some help from Turkey, who despite their membership of NATO colluded with both Assad and ISIS as well as Russia.

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing

Nearby in Villiers St, there were protesters outside the Gay Star Beach Party LGBT tourism promotion, which received money from the Israeli Tourism Board to encourage gay tourists to holiday in Tel Aviv.

The picket outside the event asked people to boycott Israel until ends human rights abuses and recognises the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and complies with international law, and handed out ‘No Pinkwash’ cards which they say persuaded a number of people not to attend the event. Very few appeared to actually attend the beach party.

They also highlighted Israel’s racist treatment of African people following the protests in Tel Aviv last week by 30,000 African asylum seekers and refugees. These demanded that all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centres be freed and that their rights as asylum seekers and refugees be recognised.

More on all four protests on My London Diary:

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing
Peace vigil for Syria
Anonymous March For Freedom UK
Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary


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Visiting Starbucks

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I’ve been a coffee drinker most of my life, and there was a time long ago in my late teens when breakfast meant a large mug of black coffee, a cigarette and Miles Davis. And though I gave up smoking when I reached majority (which was 21 back then) I still have the black coffee though now with rather more carbohydrate in muesli and a slice of homemade brown bread. And since my wife and I have rather different musical tastes we listen to the news.

The coffee I drink now is a Fair Trade blend from Traidcraft – they have a range of ground coffees and most are good, though your taste may vary. With a small metal filter that sits on top of a mug its almost as quick as using instant coffee, though I usually have a cup of that (also fairly traded) when I finish writing these posts in the morning.

Journalist Polly Toynbee (right) was among the protesters

Back in the last century when I was making long walks around London, often in the suburbs, on the winter days I preferred I always took with me a Thermos of strong black coffee. Back then coffee shops were rare, and if you could find it, coffee bought on the streets unreliable. My top priority back then in choosing a camera bag was whether I could fit the flask in.

But since then I have occasionally bought a coffee (though it pains me to pay £3 for something I could make better at home for 30p), but have avoided Starbucks – because they don’t pay their taxes. Of course the are not unique in this, but they are one of the best known of tax avoiders, and had then paid no tax in the UK since 2009. So when I joined the longish queue inside the Conduit Street Starbucks on Saturday 8th December it was I think my first time, and I was rather hoping that the protest would begin before I reached the counter.

“As noon approached, there were more protesters and photographers standing around inside the store, as well as some seated drinking coffee. Around a minute after noon, one of the protesters got up and started the protest, reading out a lengthy document about Starbucks’ failure to pay tax, and how the amounts that companies including them were avoiding paying were around five times the total of the cuts in services so far made by the coalition government. She announced that they were setting up a crèche inside this branch to compensate for all those and other family services that the government had closed.”

“The protest continued with more speeches and some chanting of slogans calling on Starbucks to pay up. After around 10 minutes a police officer came into the branch and wrongly accused the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers, which they clearly had not. Nor had they been asked to leave by the store manager. But they were told this was a disorderly protest despite this, and threatened with arrest if they stayed, although at no point did he make clear under what law they might be arrested.”

“The protesters allege that Starbucks uses a whole number of tricks to avoid paying tax. One is to use a Starbucks company in a tax haven to lend them the money to fund their UK operations at a rate 4% above the LIBOR rate – the excessive interest costs the UK business but makes fat profits for them in the tax haven. Another is to buy their coffee beans at high prices from a subsidiary in Switzerland, which pays only 5% tax on them rather than the 24% they would pay in corporation tax in the UK. They also pay 6% of their total sales as a ‘royalty’ to their Dutch company – and they have a secret low rate tax deal with the government in the Netherlands.”

“Several of the speakers talked about the real hardships being faced particularly by women and the disabled in the UK because of the cuts in services. The losses in tax through tricks like those they say are used by Starbucks – Corporate Tax Avoidance – costs the UK £70 billion, which they compare to the benefit cuts of £15 billion.”

I left with the protesters after the police threats, when they continued to protest with a large and noisy crowd who had been unable to get inside, and walked the short distance to Vigo Street, where another protest was taking place inside and outside the Starbucks branch there, and I took more pictures through the large windows and on the street outside.

Later I went to another Starbucks protest at the Euston Road branch, a part of the UK Uncut Day of Action against Starbucks arranged by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). I found a small group of UK Uncut supporters at the meeting point but there was no sign of the LRC, and after 15 minutes the action began without them as a dozen or so people walked into the branch, took out a poster and began the action. By the time the LRC arrived the doors were locked and they protested outside. A couple of police officers then got out of their van on the opposite side of the road and walked across and were admitted into the coffee shop. There were a few minutes of polite and friendly conversation and the protesters then walked out to join those protesting outside.

The protesters point out that Costa Coffee who have a lower annual turnover than Starbucks in the UK were paying each year “several times per year what Starbucks are offering to cover several years of dubiously legal tax avoidance. Starbucks have avoided paying perhaps ten times what they are now offering.”

Now its time for a coffee.

More on My London Diary:

Starbucks Euston Road – LRC
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks


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Sparks and Students – 10 Years Ago

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Police surround a grass roots rally before the main Union rally by electricians at the Shard


Ten years ago today on 9th November 2011 my work began at The Shard next to London Bridge, where ‘sparks’ (electricians) were protesting over plans by 7 major employers to tear up national agreements and impose worse conditions and pay cuts of at least 26 %.

Electricians listen to Unite union speakers

Before the official rally by the Unite union where speakers included several of the union’s leading officials as well as General Secretary of Unite Len McCluskey there was a separate rally with grass roots speakers. Numbers grew as the official rally began and there were over a thousand when it set off to march to another rally at Blackfriars.

I left the march on Borough High St and headed north over the river to join a large march by student protesters against fees increases and cuts in services. Police had shut down most of central London before this started and there were no buses running and I had to walk around two miles to meet the marchers.

Students were angry about the cuts, particularly about the loss of the Educational Maintenace Allowances but the policing seemed completely excessive. I wrote: “There were perhaps 5000 students, but as the march approached me coming down Shaftesbury Avenue they were largely hidden by the police, with a row of mounted officers leading, followed by several further rows of police in front of the marchers. More police walked along each side of the march, and others stood on the pavement, with lines blocking side roads and others in the doorways of offices, banks and some shops.”

The mood of the marchers seemed to me to be rather cheerful and relaxed, and this was reflected in the humour in many of the posters. Although there were a number of provocative actions by police – including a snatch squad rushing in to grab several marchers – which injured me and some other marchers, as well as various occasions on which they slowed or halted the march, eventually bringing it to a complete stop and ‘kettling’ it in Holborn, which caused it to get a little heated.

Marchers chant “Free the Sparks”

The protesters had been angered to hear that six hundred electricians who had tried to cross the river after their rally in Blackfriars to join the student protest had been stopped at Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

The police seemed to get completely disorganised at this point and I was able to walk past a police line along with several hundred of the protesters while the officers grappled with a few holding them back before more police arrived. After waiting for some time in the hope that others would join them, they continued the march to its intended destination at the Moorgate building of London Metropolitan University where they danced to the sound of a bicycle-hauled sound system while I walked a little further to Finsbury Square where Occupy London had been camping since 21st October.

People in Finsbury Square were worried that the the 4000 police officers in London from the march would turn their attention to trying to evict them. I told them it was unlikely they would make an attempt with so many students on the street. Later I saw videos of students being kettled at Moorgate and individuals being attacked by snatch squads of plain clothes police who had posed as protesters but there was no action against Occupy London.

The huge policing of the two marches was clearly a reaction to the criticism of their failures at Millbank and Tottenham, but it came at a considerable cost, bringing movement in much of central London more or less to a halt for most of the day. Much of the City was still closed as I walked along Old Street with traffic outside the area moving at rather less than walking speed. Policing by consent has to involve letting peaceful protest continue and here was clearly an attempt to prevent it.

Students March Against Cuts & Fees
Sparks At The Shard

Legal Aid & Illegal Confinement

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday October 5th 2013 I turned up outside the Old Bailey to cover a protest against the governments proposals to demolish a vital part of our justice system, Legal Aid. The proposals will mean that justice becomes largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Of course our system of law in the UK is one which has as its base the protection of the wealthy and the establishment and in particular the rights of property owners, dating back to the ideas of private ownership of land introudced and used for its appropropriation by our Norman conquerers, but legal aid has provided a small and important gesture towards equality. The rich and powerful can still use the law to protect their interests, with injunctions and threats of libel and other actions. They can still call upon the police to protect their property and rely on our secret services to work for their interests.

Lee Jasper

The protest came after the government had been consulting on the changes to the legal aid system which proposed making it more restrictive and also cutting the fees to solicitors and barristers. Our combative in nature system of law is complex, time-consuming and allows those who can pay large fees to prolong litigation and have a better chance of success, with costs in some cases being in £millions. It’s a system that favours not the establishment of truth, but those who can employ the most persuasive liars.

From the Old Bailey the march made its way to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, where I rushed ahead to find DPAC (Disabled Activists Agains Cuts) already making their way onto the pedestrian crossing to block the road. “They stopped on it and began to padlock together to form a block. The far half of the crossing was blocked by a line of figures dressed in gold, one holding the (plastic) Sword of Justice, and another her Scales.”

Police came and asked them politely to move but they didn’t respond. The marchers arrived for a noisy protest and then a mock trial of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. A number of witnesses were called, some giving testimony of how without Legal Aid they would have been unable to fight their cases, and others reading written testimony from others, and then there was more chanting and drumming as well as poetry and some legal advice before the inevitable guilty verdict.

Police had been getting more impatient and insistent about the protesters leaving the road. They don’t like to arrest people in wheelchairs, partly because it looks bad in the photographs and videos, partly because of the difficulty of providing suitable transport, but also because like the rest of us (except possibly Tory ministers) they have a human sympathy with the disabled. “The DPAC activists in wheelchairs who were still blocking the road consulted with each other and decided it was time to leave, and that they would have a final five minutes of protest and then all leave together.”

I left for Parliament Square where a peaceful vigil was marking a year since British poet Talha Ahsan was extradited to the US. Those taking part, including his brother Hamsa and other family members said that his long-term solitary confinement comes under the UN definition of torture and call for him to be returned home and unjust US-UK extradition laws repealed.

As I wrote:
“Talha Ahsan, an award-winning British Muslim poet and translator has been detained for over seven years without trial and was extradited to the USA on 5th October 2012 with his co-defendant Babar Ahmad. Although he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the Home Secretary Theresa May refused to prevent his extradition, unlike that of Gary McKinnon, raising suspicions that this relected an anti-Muslim predjudice.”

Talha is a UK citizen and his supporters say that he should have been tried in the UK. Eventually in the US he accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to one of the several charges and was sentenced. The time he had already served meant he was then free and was returned to the UK. His six years before extradition in detention without trial or charge here remains among the longest in British legal history.

More at:

Bring Talha Ahsan Home
UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid

NHS Birthday March – July 5th 2011

Monday, July 5th, 2021

The UK’s National Health Service began on 5 July 1948, 73 years ago today. Earlier in 1946 doctors had voted 10:1 against, but compromises were made to bring more of them on side. It had taken the Labour government a fierce battle to get the proposals through parliament, with the Conservative Party under Winston Churchill voting against its formation 21 times when the bill was being passed.

Churchill followed the example of a former chair of the British Medical Association and compared its formation to Nazism, calling it the “first step to turn Britain into a National Socialist economy.”

It was their often unprincipled opposition that lead Aneurin Bevan to make a famous speech two days before the NHS began that included the following:
That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

In recent years various Tory MPs have claimed that the Conservative Party should be credited for setting up the NHS, when in fact the party fought tooth and nail against it. They also claim that the NHS is ‘safe in their hands’ while increasingly selling off parts of it, largely to US based healthcare companies. Many MPs have financial interests in healthcare and their votes reflect this, in what seems a clear conflict of interest.

One of the compromises needed to get the bill through was that GP surgeries would remain private businesses that could be bought and sold. Doctors in general practice were to remain independent, with the NHS giving them contracts to provide healthcare. What is now happening is that GP surgeries are increasingly becoming owned by large healthcare companies who organise how they are run and employ doctors.

At the moment we still get to see the doctor for free, though it has become more and more difficult for many to do so, in part because of the systems set up by these healthcare companies. But we have now and then heard proposals for charges to be introduced. We do currently have to pay to see a dentist, and even with these charges it has become difficult for many to get dental treatment under the NHS. Many cannot afford the higher charges for private treatment and even the lower rates under the NHS are a huge problem for those on low pay who are not entitled to exemptions.

This year there were protests around the country last Saturday, a few days before the NHS’s 73rd anniversary. Ten years ago around a thousand people marched through central London on the actual 63rd anniversary of the foundation of the NHS in a protest to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation, ending with a rally outside the Houses of Parliament. The changes then being debated under Andrew Lansley’s bill made radical changes which brought in private companies to take over the straightforward and highly profitable areas of NHS services. Now a new bill is under consideration which will make for further back door privatisation of the NHS.

More at NHS 63rd Birthday.


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.


Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Broad Sanctuary, Westminster Abbey. 28th June 2014

The Independent Living Fund, ILF, was introduced in 1988 to provide financial support to disabled people with high support needs, including those with severe learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, and a variety of other conditions.

Around 18,000 people relied on the ILF, mainly using the average of £300 a week it provided to employ personal assistants or carers to enable them to live independently, enabling some to work and pursue careers. It was administered independently from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who provided the funding.

The ILF scheme was closed to new applicants in 2010 and the responsibility for providing support in England was passed to local authorities with the ILF ending on 30th June 2015.

There were various problems with the ILF, with regional variations, but the primary reason behind the changes was probably to cut costs. Although the government promised to provide funding to the local authorities for a transitional period, this was around 13% less than under the ILF, and the money, given to cash-strapped authorities already subject to swingeing cuts was not ring-fenced, and so likely to be appropriated for other purposes.

Local authorities were also not given any clear instructions or advice on how to proceed and there were great variations between local authorities in the support that was provided. A survey a year after the end of the scheme showed extreme differences, with some authorities providing similar levels of support to the ILF, but others operating at much reduced levels, creating the real hardship that protests such as this on Saturday 28th June 2014 campaigned against. The loss of ILF was indeed a disaster for many disabled people.

DPAC and others involved in the protest had managed to keep the details hidden from the police, perhaps because it is more difficult for able-bodied police working as undercover officers to infiltrate disabled groups. UK Uncut has provided a diversion with a protest outside Boots on Victoria St when DPAC and Occupy London supporters moved on to the green area in front of Westminster Abbey.

The protesters had hoped for some support from Westminster Abbey authorities as many Christians had called the government’s actions immoral. But they had picked the wrong place, and the Dean of Westminster refused even to talk to the protesters, calling on the police to get rid of them. Labour MP John McDonnell tried without success to phone the Dean who refused to take his call or to phone back.

The weather too was against the protesters, with rain falling steadily, and for once a police officer showed some quick thinking, moving to stand in the middle of the main tent the protesters were attempting to erect, without which there was simply not enough shelter for a lengthy occupation.

I was unsure whether I wanted to go inside the area or not when I arrived, and soon police were surrounding the fairly low wall stopping people from climbing over. But I was able to take pictures from outside and move around freely – and to go home when I decided there seemed to be little point in staying.

Occupy Westminster Abbey – save the ILF
UK Uncut ‘Boot Out Boots’