Posts Tagged ‘Defend Council Housing’

Grenfell, Idlib, Sudan – 15 June 2019

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

Grenfell, Idlib, Sudan – 15 June 2019 – Another day I photographed several protests in Central London.


Grenfell Solidarity March – Westminster

The previous evening I’d photographed the silent march from close to Grenfell Tower remembering the victims of the disaster on the second anniversary of the disastrous fire which killed 72 and left survivors traumatised, and came up to London the following day, Saturday 15 June, for a rather noisier solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St, organised by Justice4Grenfell.

My journey up to London had been much slower than usual as there were engineering works on the railway and no trains from my station, and I decided to take a bus the five miles or so to my nearest Underground station for a train to London. On the way the bus passed a recently closed fire station, a reminder of the cuts made by Boris Johnson to the fire services which had contributed to the severity of the Grenfell disaster – though this fire station had been closed by Surrey County Council.

Banners from several branches of the Fire Brigade Union were prominent on the march, which was also supported by other trade unionists and housing activists, including the Construction Safety Campaign, the Housing For All campaign, Defend Council Housing and the Global Womens Strike, as well as others from the Grenfell community.

Yvette Williams demands Truth and Justice For Grenfell

From a rally opposite Downing Street the campaigners marched to the Home Office in Marsham St, now also home to he Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, for more speeches. The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is one of the richest bouroughs in the country, but it is dominated by Tory councillors representing the wealthy areas of the borough who seem to have little regard for poorer residents.

They signed off through their housing organisation the penny-pinching use of unsuitable highly flammable cladding, failed to properly oversee its installation, made other changes that threatened the safety of the residents and arranged for inadequate fire safety inspections, and dismissed the warnings of residents who they labelled as trouble-makers.

RBKC’s reaction after the fire was also severely lacking, and often showed little understanding or concern for the survivors, and their record over rehousing them was abysmal – and remains so now.

Among the speakers outside the Ministry of Housing were Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell and Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing. After the speeches the protesters marched back to Downing St where there was to be a further rally, but I left to go elsewhere.

Grenfell Solidarity March


‘We are the Love’ for Idlib – Parliament Square, London

The Black Eyed Peas song ‘Where’s the love?’ was the inspriation for a protest which was part of an international non partisan campaign to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. It called for an end to the violence in Idlib, the opening up a the supply of humanitarian aid to the people of the city and for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.

Campaigners stood in a line holding posters which spelt out the message ‘#we are the love’ but this was difficult to photograph, partly because of its length, but also because of the drummer and bagpiper marching in front of it. Bagpipes in my opinion are best heard from the opposite side of the glen and I didn’t stay long.

‘We are the Love’ for Idlib


Hands off Sudan march, Hyde Park Corner

I left Parliament Square to look for a protest march over the massacre of 124 peaceful protesters by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan.

They were marching from the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Belgrave Square, and going to protest at the Egyptian and Saudi embassies, as all three countries had been visited by Sudan’s ruling military council and they were thought to be opposing a democratic Sudan and the movement which had led to the removal of corrupt president al-Bashir in April 2019.

From the timings I had for the event I expected them to be at the Egyptian embassy in Mayfair, but when I rushed there from Parliament Square found only a small group of supporters waiting for the protest.

I didn’t know the exact route of the march, but walked back along what seemed to be the its most obvious path, and was very pleased when I got to Hyde Park Corner to see and hear them just emerging from Grosvenor Crescent around a hundred yards away.

They stopped on the pavement just before crossing the road there and there was a lot of loud chanting, mainly led by women at the front of the protests, before crossing the road towards Hyde Park. They stopped again there and there seemed to be some arguments between protests and there was much more loud shouting and chanting, none of which I could understand.

Fortunately many of the posters and placards were in English, and as well the many Sudanese there were also some supporters of English left groups marching with them.

Hands off Sudan march


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2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall

Monday, January 31st, 2022

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall. A year before the march Against the Housing and Planning Bill featured in yesterday’s post there was another march about housing at the end of January, the March For Homes.

Outside Shoreditch Church

The event called by Defend Council Housing, South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers Branch involved two separate marches, one coming from Shoreditch in north-east London and the other from the Elephant & Castle in south London converging on London’s City Hall close to Tower Bridge for a final rally.

Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St

I couldn’t be in two places at once and chose to go to Shoreditch, partly because I knew people from several groups I had photographed at a number of housing struggles would be marching from there. The event was certainly enlivened by the arrival of activists who had marched from Bethnal Green, including supporters of Class War, Focus E15 and other groups.

Many couldn’t get into the churchyard

The Shoreditch Rally was held in a crowded area in Shoreditch churchyard at the front of St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, the ancient parish church of Shoreditch, and I took the opportunity to go inside and have a look at the church before the rally. The list of speakers there showed the wide range of community support for fairer housing policies, including more social housing desperately needed in London and included Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, Lindsey Garratt from New Era, Paul Turp, vicar of St Leonards, Nick from Action East End, Paul Heron of the Haldane Society of Socialist Laywyers, Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St, a speaker from the ‘Fred and John Towers’ in Leytonstone and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets benefits from having been formed from some of the London Metropolitan Boroughs with the best records of social housing – such as Poplar, where in the 1920s councillors went to jail to retain more money for one of London’s poorest areas. Unfortunately Rahman, the borough’s first directly elected mayor was removed from office in April 2015 after he was found personally guilty of electoral fraud in his 2014 re-election. Many of the other charges made against him in the media were dismissed by police after investigation.

It was raining slightly as over a thousand marchers set off for City Hall behind the March For Homes banner.

As the march came to the junction with Aldgate High St, Class War split off for a short protest at One Commercial St, where they had held a lengthy series of weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against separate entrances for residents owning or leasing at market rates and the smaller section of social housing tenants who had to enter through a door down a side alley. Class War had suspended their 20 weeks of protest for talks with a new owner of the building a month or so earlier, but these had broken down without a satisfactory resolution and the protests there restarted the following week.

As the march approached the Tower of London it was met and joined by Russell Brand riding a bicycle,

and on Tower Bridge, Class War came up to lead the march.

I rushed ahead to meet the South London march as it turned into Tooley Street for the last few yards of its march.

The rally in front of City Hall was large, cold and wet. By now the rain was making it difficult to take photographs, with drops falling on the front of my lenses as I tried to take pictures, and my lenses beginning to steam up inside. But I persisted and did the best I could, though the rain-bedraggled speakers in particular were not looking their best.

The rally was still continuing when some of the activists, including Class War and the street band Rhythms of Revolution decided they needed to do something a little more than standing in the rain listening to speeches. They moved onto Tooley Street and blocked the road. More police arrived and blocked the road even more effectively as the activists moved eastwards to protest at One Tower Bridge, a new development mainly for the over-rich next to Tower Bridge and then left for a long walk to the occupied Aylesbury Estate. But I decided it was time to go home.

More on My London Diary:
March for Homes: After the Rally
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
March for Homes: Poor Doors
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally


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15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


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