Posts Tagged ‘Democracy Village’

Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists – My agenda for Wednesday 2nd June 2010 was a busy one, with protests about democracy in Parliament Square, London’s Black Taxis at Aldwych, a picket at BP’s St James’s Square HQ, trade unionists protesting at the Turkish Embassy and Zionists supporting the Israeli attack and killings on the Gaza aid flotilla.


Democracy Village Protest – Parliament Square

People had been camping in the Democracy Village in Parliament Square for just over a month and a few of them had come across the road with banners to protest. They held up banners, including a large one saying ‘We Respect The Soldiers We Do Not Support The War‘ and another ‘We Demand Peace In Afghanistan and No More War‘ and several made speeches with a megaphone. Another very artistically written notice on a large square of cloth on the pavement read ‘With Each Conscious Breath May You Know How Loved You Are in All Ways. You Are Divine. Let Your Light Shine’.

Democracy Village Protest


Brian Haw – Summons Marks 9 Years in Parliament Square

I went back to the other side of the road to talk with Brian Haw and Barbara Tucker who I had come to visit on the 9th anniversary of the start of Brian’s protest vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square. A week ago they had been arrested and held for 30 hours on the day of the state opening of Parliament before the court released them on bail.

The arrest had come after Brian objected to police searching his tent in the early morning without a warrant – the 13th or 14th illegal search they have made, all part of a continual campaign of harassment. As we were talking we became aware of three police a few yards away standing and watching us. They then came over and served Barbara Ticker with a summons for using a megaphone in Parliament Square.

Brian and Barbara asked why she was being singled out for attention as there were at that time others In the Democracy Village actually using a megaphone and she was not at the time doing so. The officers made no attempt to answer this question.

BrianHaw – Summons Marks 9 Years


Black Cabs Protest – Aldwych

I don’t use taxis in London – or at least very seldom. I can only remember two occasions in the last thirty or so years, both when others insisted I go with them. It’s a wasteful, outdated and overpriced system which is responsible for much of the congestion in London, both by cabs carrying only small numbers of people compared to other public transport and also by ‘cruising for hire’ with no passengers on board.

My account on My London Diary gives some of their grievances, some of which I have some sympathy with, and I agree the police should be enforcing the law (rather than harassing protesters) but the whole system needs to be updated, taking into account the general availability of smart-phones and improvements in satellite navigation systems which increasingly make the ‘knowledge’ redundant and can provide real-time congestion information.

I didn’t find it an easy protest to photograph, which I think shows in the results. Lots of taxis are frankly rather boring, and not that unusual in London, where I commented that “While standing at a bus stop a couple of weeks ago I counted over 30 empty taxis going past before my bus arrived, and I couldn’t help but think we could have a better public transport system without taxis.”

Black Cabs Protest


BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers – St James’s Square

BP have a long-running dispute with the workers on the Cusiana oilfield in the Casanare department of Colombia, and its one where they are playing dirty, with union members accusing BP of carrying out a campaign of misinformation about what is happening in the plant, and in particular of falsely claiming the support of government officials for their lies about the action.

More or less as this picket was taking place, armed commandos from the Colombian army leapt over a security grid at the plant and attacked the workers who were carrying out a peaceful occupation of the Cusiana CPF (Central Processing Facility) in Tauramena.

Previously BP had come to an out of court settlement on a UK High Court challenge over the pipeline from this oilfield to the coast, when farmers alleged that BP benefited from the actions of Colombian paramilitary forces who harassed and intimidated them in their protection of the pipeline. During the preparation of the case, of the lawyers for the farmers discovered she was on a death list and fled the country; she was granted political asylum in the UK.

The protest was organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign and was supported by the ICEM, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Worker’s Unions, based in Switzerland which represents more than 20 million workers around the world, uniting trade unions in its sector around the world.

BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers


Protest for Murad Akincilar Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Trade unionist Murad Akincilar was arrested on a spurious charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation while on an extended holiday in Turkey last September and was in prison in Istanbul. His treatment in prison has resulted in serious eye damage and partial blindness. He was known personally to some of the protesters as he studied for a Masters Degree at the LSE, but since 2001 he has lived in Switzerland and worked for Swiss trade union Unia which was leading the campaign for his release.

The protest opposite the Turkish Embassy was organised by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Gik-der, an organisation founded in north London in 1991 by migrants fleeing political and racial persecution in their home countries of Turkey and Kurdistan.

Protest for Murad Akincilar


Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity – Israeli Embassy, Kensington

The Zionist Federation together with members of the English Defence League demonstrated opposite the Israeli embassy in support of the Israeli Defence Force killings in the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla.

A smaller group of pro-Palestinian protesters had come to oppose them, although both the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition had decided not to support the counter-demonstration to avoid conflict.

Although official Zionist sources had expressed some regret at the violence and loss of life, the mood of the supporters here appeared to be one of a gloating triumphalism that seemed entirely inappropriate to the situation. I was “sickened when at one point a large group of the demonstrators began chanting ‘dead Palestinian scum’ ” and appalled to find this was “a demonstration jointly with the Zionist Federation and the English Defence League, some of whose members many of us have seen and heard chanting racist slogans on our streets. It seems unbelievable that a Jewish organisation should align itself – even if unofficially – with people like this.”

Attempts to justify the summary execution of one of the victims by shots to the head at close range by the existence of so-called weapons on the ships seemed insulting – almost all those shown in the photographs are “exactly the kind of tools that would be expected to be found on any ship in its galley and for general maintenance, as well as items being taken for building work in Gaza. The possible exceptions are a few canisters of pepper spray, some catapults and what looks like some kind of ceremonial knife.”

I’m very much in favour of peace in Palestine and Israel, but like many I feel “the actions of the state of Israel in their attacks on Gaza, their disruption of everyday life for the Palestinians and the blockade is making the possibility of peace much more distant… Like other conflicts, resolution depends on winning hearts and minds and this can’t be done with tanks and bulldozers.”

Police had to step in at the end of the protest when four press photographers were surrounded and chased by a an angry group of threatening Zionist demonstrators but all I suffered were a few threats and hostile gestures.

Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity


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Election Day 2010

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Thursday 6th May was also an election day in 2010 with a UK general election that saw Labour losing over 90 seats to end with 48 fewer MPs than the Conservatives. But back then we still had a Lib-Dem party with 57 MPs who, after five days of horse-trading agreed to form a coalition government with the Tories – a decision that condemned them to oblivion, losing all but 8 seats in the 2015 election.

I spent most of election day – after voting in the early morning – in and around Parliament Square, where there was also considerably politics taking place. Three distinct group were camping in the square.

Brian Haw

Brian Haw and the Parliament Square peace campaign had been there for 3260 days since 2nd June 2001 and was still there despite an Act of Parliament designed to remove him, attacks by individuals with connections to the police and security services, illegal police raids, provocations, assaults and arrests by police officers and more.

Barbara Tucker

A year earlier Haw had dissociated his Parliament Square Peace Campaign (PSPC) from the ‘Peace Strike’ protest in the adjoining area of the square led by Maria Gallestegui “by mutual consent”, wanting to end any confusion between the two campaigns. The Peace Strike had not been harassed by police to the same extent and was allowed a greater physical presence in the square, and were regarded by some, probably incorrectly, as being partners with the establishment to discredit the PSPC.

Since May Day the square had also been home to ‘Occupy Democracy’ who saw themselves as supporting the PSPC by their presence. But the PSPC suspected some of them too of being agent provocateurs in police pay to provide a pretext for more draconian police action against them. Certainly some of these more temporary occupiers were breaking the rules against drinking alcohol in Parliament Square, despite the Democracy Camp notices banning this.

In my account I wrote:

“At one point the dispute between the camp and the PSPC deteriorated with a man on the camp’s sound system making what were possibly intended as humorous put-downs of Barbara Tucker who was then attacking the Tory Party for the backing it receives from the oil giants. Clearly some of the campers were distressed by this and he was asked to desist, and some of those present tried to calm the situation.
But generally the camp’s activities were more positive, and while I was there considerable work was taking place making banners and placards, as well as people discussing and dancing.”

Election Day in Parliament Square

Shortly before I left around 6pm, people from Democracy Village walked with placards to College Green where the TV media have their tents and cameras to cover political events and had been conducting interviews about the election. There had been little if any media coverage of Democracy Village or the peace campaigns and they wanted to make a point of this. But most of the media simply ignored the protesters, and eventually police came to talk with them and they returned to Parliament Square.

Protests in the UK are almost never seen by the mass media as news – unless police are injured or property destroyed and they can run negative stories. Occasionally if a celebrity takes part they may get a mention, or some particularly quirky and preferably non-political event captures their whimsy. But political protests are largely only news if they take place overseas against regimes which our government disapproves of.

The government that resulted from the election was led by a party that got just under a third of the votes and once again demonstrated the iniquities of our first past the post electoral system. A year later we had a referendum on an alternative voting system, but this was largely scuppered by Conservative opposition and a lack of real support from Labour.

The 2010 election had left the Tories holding the whip hand in the coalition, and they certainly made use of it, both through imposing drastic and ill-considered cuts on public and in particular local authority expenditure and in attacks on protests such as those in Parliament Square. The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill takes these attacks on human and civil rights, the right to protest, migrants and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people to new levels, incompatible with any free society.

Election Day in Parliament Square


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