Posts Tagged ‘die-in’

Armistice Day Protests 2006

Saturday, November 11th, 2023

Armistice Day Protests – Today I hope to be photographing a huge protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and peace in the Middle East as it makes its way from Hyde Park to the US Embassy. It’s an event some Tory politicians have tried to arouse controversy around, aided by some of the media in their lies. Armistice Day has always been an occasion for protests for peace and making it out as some huge national celebration we all share in is untrue as this post shows.

Armistice Day Protests

Both the BBC and the Tories seized on the fact that some people at a protest in London shouted ‘Jihad!’ but lie in saying it was an offshoot from the huge march taking place in London calling for peace and justice for Palestine.

It’s a lie that the BBC continues to let them promulgate without question, although their journalists must surely know that this was at an entirely separate protest organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, an Islamic fundamentalist political organisation dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, whose lead banner at their protest read “Muslim Armies! Rescue the People of Palestine!”.

Armistice Day Protests

I’ve photographed many protests by Hizb ut-Tahrir in London since I first came across them in 2004 and they are very different and entirley separate from those organised by mainstream Muslim organisations, Stop The War, CND and the others now leading the protests by hundreds of thousands across the country calling for an end to the killing of civilians – whether Palestinian or Israelis – in Palestine and Israel. Most are particularly enraged by the killing of so many children in Gaza by air strikes which Israel claims are targeted, but are targeted on places where many people live and so die in them.

I think most of us who march – and the many more who support the marches but are unable to attend – want peace and the justice that can only come if there is a thriving country where Palestinians can live normal lives in peace and not under military rule and an apartheid regime.

Armistice Day Protests

Probably that can only come about with a two-state solution and a massive world aid programme to restore the incredible damage in Gaza as well as establishing rational borders for Palestine with the removal of many of the illegal settlements.

I grew up in a largely working class area on the outskirts of London in the 1950s, and then I think it was true that virtually the whole of the country paused to celebrate and commemorate the armistice, joining in with the minute’s silence in schools, shops, works and offices and traffic on the roads coming to a halt.

Armistice Day Protests

But even then relatively few joined in the military style parades on Remembrance Sunday, with most of my friend’s parents who had fought in WW2 having had more than enough of that kind of thing. My attendance was compulsory as a Wolf Cub and Boy Scout but I resented it and my freezing legs as cold November winds blew up my shorts – and the derision from friends who weren’t members. And by the time I was a Senior Scout we collectively refused to take part.

The idea that Armistice Day is not a suitable day for a peaceful protest calling for an end to the fighting and peace in the Middle East seems to me to be beyond absurd – yet again is taken seriously and promoted by the BBC. Armistice Day has I think always seen protests for peace – and November 11th 2006 was no exception.

On that day I began on Park Lane, where there was a brief ceremony in front of the sculpture commemorating animals who died in war in the central area there at 11 am. There were only a small group there, wearing poppies they described as purple, though to me they seemed more lilac or mauve. In 2018, the Peace Pledge Union sold 122,385 white poppies: more than any year since white poppies were first worn in 1933, and many keep their white poppies to wear in following years, as unlike the red poppies their sale is not intended to raise funds but they are simply worn as a symbol of remembrance and peace.

I moved on to Grosvenor Square and the US Embassy where School Students Against The War had scheduled a ‘die-in’. Unfortunately only around 20 had turned up for it – probably now many work on Saturdays or prefer to enjoy a lie-in at home.

Another short walk took me to Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street, where a protest was taking place as a part of the fourth International Week of Action against the Apartheid Wall in Palestine.

Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism who had organised this event also hold regular vigils outside M&S every Thursday evening, calling for a boycott of the company as part of a wider Boycott Israel campaign. M&S sell goods including those coming illegally from the occupied territories of Palestine and give financial and moral support to Israel.

School Students Against The War came from the US Embassy to join them and staged their die-in on the wide pavement in front of M&S. This certainly generated a great deal of attention and they made some short speeches to the the crowds milling past M&S before marching off down Oxford Street with their megaphones and banner. They staged a second ‘die-in’ further down the street, again attracting the attention of shoppers, although perhaps surprisingly, not the police none of whom seemed to be around.

I went on to Trafalgar Square where I hoped to photograph the fountains filled with red poppies, but I arrived a little late to find a man in waders fishing them out with a shrimp net. It was bizarre if not surreal, although not quite what I’d been hoping for.

My main event of the day was taking place on Whitehall, at the Cenotaph. Not the military parade ‘at the eleventh hour‘ which I had refused to cover, but a commemoration by some of the families of servicemen killed in Iraq.

Led by a piper they marched solemnly to stand in front of it, while they came up to read out the names of the 121 dead British servicemen killed in the Iraq war. A small selection of names of Iraqi civilians killed was also read out. It’s difficult to estimate the exact number who have died, and more deaths have occured since 2006. The US Brown University Watson Institute now states “we know that between 280,771-315,190 have died from direct war related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through March 2023.”

A deputation then took a letter in to Downing Street for Prime Minister Tony Blair who had misled parliament and ignored the largest protest ever seen in the UK to take the country into a misguided invasion together with the USA.

Among those taking part in what was an extremely moving ceremony were Rose Gentle of Military Families Against The War, and others who have lost sons or partners in Iraq, including Ann Lawrence, Roger Bacon, Natasha Mclellan, Maureen Bacon as well as Lance Corporal George Solomou, from the London Regiment of the Territorial Army who refused to go to fight in Iraq. Families of some serving soldiers also took part.

Also there and supporting the event among others were Kate Hudson of CND, Yvonne Ridley and Lindsey German of Respect and Stop The War, fashion designer Katherine Hamnett, and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

This was an event that attracted considerable media attention; there is a delicate balance between intruding on private grief, but those there had chosen to make their grief public, and we had to record it for them.

More Pictures on My London Dairy – Scroll down the page there for links.

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Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths

Thursday, October 12th, 2023

Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths: Protests in London on Thursday 12th October 2017.

Roadblocks against Air Pollution – Trafalgar Square

Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths

On the day the the London Assembly were discussing the problem of air pollution in London, campaign group ‘Stop Killing Londoners’ carried out a series of short protests holding up traffic in London to draw attention to the problem. They had begun the day by a briefly blocking Tower Bridge, close to City Hall, in the morning rush hour, too early for me to easily cover. Many had criticised the group for these protests which hold up traffic, but it proved effective for getting some media coverage for the issue, when almost all protests go unreported.

Their message was simple. The early deaths each year of almost 10,000 Londoners due to air pollution is a health emergency and the politicians need to prioritise the lives of Londoners over the special interests of the car and oil companies.

As well as early deaths, air pollution is also the cause of health problems that make life miserably for many as well as being a drain on the resources of our health system. And road traffic is a major source of pollutants including nitrogen oxides and particulates that cause most of these health problems.

Roadblocks against Air Pollution

Prime Minister, Please Sentence – Downing St

Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths

As I rushed down Whitehall later I came across this long row of banners along the whole frontage of the protest pen opposite Downing Street. They relate to the case of John Marshall (no relative) a former nuclear engineer who alleges he is a victim of corporate greed which has ruined his career and his family since around 2010, naming Amec, Sellafield and others involved including Derek Twigg MP and calling for justice. Twigg has been Labour MP for Halton in Cheshire since 1997.

There had been an earlier protest with the same banners here a few months before but there was nobody present to ask more about the case when I made these pictures and it remains something of a mystery.

Prime Minister, Please Sentence

Cyclists Kensington Vigil & Die In – Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall

Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths

Campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists held a die-in vigil outside Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall in protest after a young 36 year old woman died at Chelsea Bridge last week when the driver of a heavy goods vehicle turned left crushing her, the second cyclist killed by a HGV in the borough this year.

Pollution, Corporate Greed & Cycle Deaths

The point out that Kensington & Chelsea is one of the worst London boroughs in opposing plans for protected cycle lanes, bus-stop cycle by-passes and 20mph speed limits. The borough had failed to build even a single metre of protected cycle lanes, and cyclists in the borough including children and pensioners have to share the roads with lorries, cars and buses.

Nicola Field

The protesters demanded that the borough end its opposition to safer cycling schemes and provide suitable infrastructure to make cycling safe in the area. They also called on TfL to redesign the Chelsea Bridge roundabout where 36 accidents had been reported in the previous year.

Many of the cyclists who die each year do so when lorries turn left at junctions with the driver unable to see a cyclists on the left of them who gets crushed under their heavy vehicle. The protest demanded that the Transport Minister legislate urgently to introduce the long-demanded regulations for safer HGV design which would eliminate the huge blind areas and get older unsafe vehicles off the road.

TfL had made plans to fine lorries and other vehicles which illegally drive into mandatory cycle lanes, but have been held up by doing so as the Transport Minister has not issued to order to allow them to do so. Protesters demaned this be issued immediately.

Victoria Lebrec

Among those who spoke at the event were Victoria Lebrec, a cyclist who had to have a leg amputated after a skip lorry failed to see her, Stop Killing Cyclists co-founder Nicola Field, other cyclists who had survived accidents and Cynthia Barlow OBE whose daughter was killed by a concrete lorry in 2000. She had become chair of the charity RoadPeace which empowers and support the families of those who are killed and injured on the roads and fights and fights to improve vehicle safety.

Cynthia Barlow OBE

Cycling instructor Philppa Robb said that Kensington & Chelsea has a good cycle training programme but the borough has totally failed to proved a safe infrastructure for cyclists and so few residents feel safe to use their bikes.

Philppa Robb

After the die-in Stop Killing Cyclists co-founders Donnachadh McCarthy spoke and Nicola Field read out one of the posters that someone had brought to the protest, “Why does Kensington & Chelsea give rebates to rich f**kers yet cheapskates vulnerable suckers? Safe Streets 4 All’

The council implemented a partially segregated cycle lane in Kensington High Street in 2020 but it was removed after vocal complaints from some motorists. In 2023 they consulted on proposals to restore the cycle lanes there and on Fulham Road and found a large majority were in favour of some restoration. However this was only for a dashed line advisory lane rather than one properly segregated from traffic, although this may later be upgraded.

More at Cyclists Kensington Vigil & Die In.

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Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament – 2013

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament: On Thursday 12th September 2013 Campaign Against Arms Trade brought their protests against the DSEi arms fair then taking place in East London to Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

Their protest and die-in opposite Parliament was much more visible than those out in the fairly deserted streets of East London where the arms fair takes place at the ExCel Centre on the north side of the Royal Victoria Dock.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

There the protest is directed against those taking part in the arms fair, both the exhibitors who are coming to sell their deadly weapons and those arriving to view and buy them.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

They came to Westminster as MPs were arriving to take part in a debate on the role of United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI), including its controversial Defence & Security Organisation (DSO), the government’s arms sales promotion unit.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

The DSO sends out official invitations to the arms fair to 67 countries including many of the worlds most repressive regimes. Those on the invitation list included Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Libya, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Arms sold at the arms fair in East London would inevitably fuel the civil war taking place in Syria and other armed conflicts around the world. The was in Yemen began the year following this arms fair, and Saudi Arabia has used weapons bought in East London in its fight against the Houthis there.

Also taking part in the protest were a number of campaigners from Bahrain where weapons sold at DSEi in Newham have been used to repress internal dissent.

Among the MPs who visited the highly visual protest was Jeremy Corbyn who stopped to speak briefly on his way to take part in the Parliamentary debate. He praised the protesters for their protests today and for their continuing events to stop the DSEi arms fair.

More pictures at Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament.

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Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists

Friday, May 26th, 2023

Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists: Six years ago on Friday 26th May 2017 I phototographed a vigil outside the Red Cross HQ, the Fair Funding for All Schools’ ‘School Assembly Day’ in Walthamstow and a protest against the hege toll of deaths due to air pollution and lack of proper cycling infrastructure.

Red Cross act for Palestinian Hunger Strikers – Moorgate

Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists

Human rights group Inminds were holding a vigil at UK Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Moorgate, London, demanding the organisation end its complicity with Israel’s violation of the rights of Palestinian prisoners.

Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists

The vigil with flags, banners and some live music came as a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were on the 40th day of a hunger strike and Israel was making preparations to force-feed them.

Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists

Inminds also called on the ICRC to restore the twice-monthly family visits and uphold the Geneva Conventions relating to the treatment of prisoners. They chalked the outline on the pavement of one of the underground cells in which some Palestinian child prisoners have been held for many days in solitary confinement, adding a soft toy to the chalked outline of a child.

Red Cross, School Cuts and Dead Cyclists

Although quite a large proportion of those who saw the vigil read the display and came to sign the petition, the ICRC headquarters building is on a back street and not widely visible.

Red Cross act for Hunger Strikers

E17 Protest Against School Cuts – Walthamstow Town Square

Students, parents and teachers from 17 schools in London E17 marched to a rally in Walthamstow Town Square in protest against the cuts in school funding on Fair Funding for All Schools’ ‘School Assembly Day’.

City areas like Walthamstow will be disproportionately affected by the cuts and schools in the borough will lose over £25m from their annual budgets with the loss of around 672 teachers. On average schools will lose £672 per pupil, with some expecting cuts of over a thousand pounds per pupil.

I left the crowded square as people were listening to a long series of speeches from teachers, parents, educationalists, local politicians and education experts.

E17 Protest Against School Cuts

Cyclists Tory HQ die-in against traffic pollution – Westminster

Stop Killing Cyclists were holding a protest vigil and die in outside the Tory Party HQ a short distance from Parliament against the huge number of avoidable deaths from air pollution and the failure to encourage cycling since the Tories came to power in 2010. They had carried out a similar protest outside the Labour party HQ the previous week over their failure to take action when in power.

Statistics suggest that over the seven years of Tory government around 280,000 people have died prematurely due to the effects of air pollution, largely due to traffic on our streets. The campaigners called for a ban on diesel vehicles in city centres within 5 years, and on all fossil-fuel powered vehicles within 10 years, for all non-zero emission private cars to be banned from cities on days where pollution levels are predicted to rise above EU safety levels, and for regular car-free days in major cities following the example of Paris.

Cyclists particularly suffer from the effects of traffic pollution as they are exercising on city roads, breathing in the dust and fumes. As well as illegally high levels of gaseous pollution from exhausts, including nitrogen oxides, there are also dangerous levels of particulates from tyres and brakes. The carbon emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles also contribute massively to the global rise in temperature.

People also die early from a lack of exercise, and estimates suggest that proper provision for cycling in cities and elsewhere could have cut these deaths by 168,000 over the period of Tory rule. As well as deaths, more people cycling and cleaner air would also greatly reduce the stress on the NHS from respiratory and related illnesses. A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2016 estimated that currently treatment for transport pollution related conditions costs the NHS £20 billion a year, around a sixth of the total NHS budget.

Many people are put off from cycling as they do not feel safe in the heavy traffic on many city roads and the protest called for an increase in providing safe routes including separate protected cycle routes. The point out that Holland spend £24 per head on cycling, twelve times as much as the UK. The UN has called for an increase to spend 20% of the transport budget by 2025, which would be roughly £3 billion per year.

Spending on cycling infrastructure benefits everyone across the country whether or not they cycle, and would reduce pollution on city streets to greatly improve life for all who live and work here. It would particularly be of benefit for child health, giving them more exercise but also in reducing the dangerous effects of pollution. Children are less tall and pollution levels are higher the closer you are to road level.

Cyclists Tory HQ die-in against pollution

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Die-In At The Elephant

Sunday, May 21st, 2023

Die-In At The Elephant: In the early evening of Wednesday 21st May 2014, several hundred cyclists came to the Elephant and Castle, one of South London’s major transport junctions, following the death 8 days earlier there of a cyclist, 47 year-old Abdelkhars Lahyani, killed when he was run over by a heavy goods vehicle. The HGV driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.

Die-In At The Elephant

Road design in London and elsewhere in the UK has always been about design for the movement of cars and lorries, with little regard given to the safe movement of cyclists and pedestrians, and campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy described this death as “a designed-in killing” rather than an accident.

Die-In At The Elephant

The traffic system at the Elephant & Castle, one of south London’s busiest and more complex junctions, had been redesigned a few years ago at a cost of £3 million, but the changes made had not made proper provision for cyclists.

Die-In At The Elephant
A cycle lane to nowhere – a dead end for cyclists

The junction is in the London Borough of Southwark, and their transport plan had argued against safe routes which would segregate cyclists from traffic. It stated that including them in traffic is useful to slow traffic flows; it may, but at the expense of regarding them as expendable, using vulnerable and unprotected human beings as some kind of traffic bollards.

Die-In At The Elephant

The protesters marked out in chalk a “bypass lane” across the wide area of pavement close to the Strata Building at the junction with Newington Butts where the killing had taken place which would provide a segregated safe route for cyclists.

Die-In At The Elephant

This chalked lane was soon filled with chalked messages about cycle safety and the protesters laid down their bikes on both sides of it before staging a die-in, leaving the lane with its chalking as a ‘sacred space’ in memory of the killed cyclist.

Afterwards there was a rally where the names of the 14 cyclists killed in London in 2013 and the six so far in 2014, after which poems by Seamus Heaney written about his feelings when his younger brother was killed in a road accident. Another speech was read out, written by a cyclist still in hospital with serious injuries after having been driven over by an HGV on a City road on the same day as Lahyani, and there were other speakers.

The final speech was by Donnachadh McCarthy, who set out very clearly the failures that were leading to the deaths of cyclists, and also thanked the police for their cooperation in the event. At the end of his speech he talked about the great advantages of cycling for personal health and for the environment: “Cycling is a gift: cleaner planet; safer lives.” But only if we make our cities safe to cycle in. As he pointed out as well as the roughly 60 cyclists and 300 pedestrians killed in London traffic accidents since the last election, an estimated 13,000 had died before their time because of traffic pollution.

My London Diary – May 2014

The junction in 2023 remains a dangerous place for cyclists, and no improvements appear to have been made here or elsewhere at the Elephant. It has bicycle symbols painted between the two lanes leading up to and advance waiting box at the traffic lights, though much of the paint had been worn by traffic when I last looked. Past the lights are some more road markings for bikes, but these can only be reached by cycling in the traffic.

More about the protest, speakers etc and many more photographs at Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant

C of E Praises Weapons of Mass Destruction

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023

C of E Praises Weapons of Mass Destruction

Westminster Abbey has been home to some pretty bizarre events over the last thousand years or so since the site first became home to a small monastery on Thorney Island around 960 AD, and another will be taking place this weekend.

C of E Praises Weapons of Mass Destruction

Possibly the most obscene and blasphemous service there took place on Friday 3rd May 2019, when a service was held there celebrating Britain’s weapons of mass destruction, giving thanks for 50 years of continuous nuclear threat by British submarines armed with nuclear missiles.

C of E Praises Weapons of Mass Destruction

As protesters across the road pointed out, Britain was currently wasting £205 billion on the replacement of Trident, around a quarter of a year’s total government spending on a weapons system which can never be used as it would be totally catastrophic for the world.

C of E Praises Weapons of Mass Destruction

The established church has of course a long record of taking the wrong side in history, supporting the rich and powerful, something Christianity inherited from older religions, which throughout history have been ways to subjugate the common people and keep them docile.

This weekend we see this again in action, with a ceremony taking place in which people around the country are to be invited to swear an oath of allegiance, though I think many will be swearing other things about this. It follows in a tradition established in 1066 when our Norman conquerors celebrated their victory with the first coronation there.

Reading the Bible and in particular the New Testament, supposedly the basis of Christianity, we find a very different religion, one in which swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and the love of power is seen as a sin. Certainly not one as the protesters pointed out one that would be thanksgiving for nuclear weapons.

CND and Christian CND protested opposite Westminster Abbey against the blasphemous and morally repugnant thanksgiving service celebrating Britain’s nuclear weapons. It was a much more Christian event than that taking place across the road, though the Christians there were joined by others including Buddhists.

Those present took part in a die-in after which there was a rally, but I left to go home, stopping briefly on my way to photograph a small group of Fridays For Future climate protesters in Parliament Square.

Fridays For Future climate protest
Die-In against Nuclear Weapons celebration

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Refugees, Animal Cruelty, Syria and International Times

Monday, January 16th, 2023

Saturday 16th January 2016 was a busy day for me, ending rather unusually with taking some photographs at a party which I also put on-line.

St Pancras Die-In for Calais refugees

Refugees, Animal Cruelty, Syria and International Times

Saturday 16th January 2016 was an International Day of Action in solidarity with refugees and there were protests in Calais and Dunkirk as well as in many cities. The protests were held at short notice against the clearing the Calais refugee ‘Jungle’ and urged the UK government to give refugees at Calais safe passage into the UK to claim asylum.

Refugees, Animal Cruelty, Syria and International Times

Many of those in the camps have family and friends in the UK, which has failed to take a fair share of the migrants. Protesters included people from the London2Calais convoy as well as a Christian contingent with some bible-based placards.

Refugees, Animal Cruelty, Syria and International Times

After a brief speech on the wide pavement in front of Kings Cross station the protesters walked to the main entrance of St Pancras International where a large group of police prevented them from entering and they held a short rally.

The protesters then marched off down to Euston Road accompanied by a large group of police. While some continued to march along Euston Road many caught the police unaware by rushing down the steps into the underground entrance and along past the ticket offices before being stopped by more police at the underground entrance to the long shopping mall in St Pancras Station.

They held a protest there with several speakers calling for refugees at Calais and Dunkirk, who include many unaccompanied minors and others with relatives living in the UK, to be allowed to enter the UK and make asylum claims. Actup London then staged a die-in with others sitting down to join them for around ten minutes, ending with a final speech.

Apparently a few protesters had managed to get in and protest with fake body bags at the Eurostar entrance. The protesters had been careful throughout to leave a path for people catching trains to enter the station, but some had been held up by police who mistook them for protesters.

More at St Pancras Die-In for Calais refugees.

March against Taiji Dolphin Slaughter – Regent St

I was late and missed the start of the march against the annual inhumane slaughter of dolphins and small whales at Taiji in Japan. They had met in Cavendish Square but were marching down Regent St when I caught up with them on their way to the Japanese Embassy.

Although there were several hundred taking part, the marchers kept to the pavement rather than take to the road, which seemed rather strange and perhaps reduces their impact, though it did mean that shoppers who often appear to be sleepwalking did have to move out of the way.

Dominic Dyer of the Born Free Foundation, Care for the Wild and CEO of The Badger Trust led the march down the street. As usual many of the marchers had made their own posters and placards and some carried dolphins. This year many of the placards called for a boycott of the Tokyo Olympics for the shame that this inhumane slaughter brings to Japan.

I walked with the marchers taking pictures as far as Oxford Circus, waiting until all of them had passed on their way down Piccadilly to the Japanese Embassy and then left.

More pictures at March against Taiji Dolphin Slaughter.

Vegans ‘Awakening Compassion’ – Piccadilly Circus

Around the statue of Erost were a group of Vegans from ‘Awakening Compassion’, standing and holding posters with large photographs of animals we farm for food – chickens, cows, sheep, goats, pigs- with messages such as ‘I am an animal – Someone not something – I want to stay alive.

Although I’m opposed to the cruel treatment of animals, the animals in these pictures owe their existence to the farmers who over millennia have bred them and now raise them. If we gave up eating meat and dairy products our countryside would be a very different place. We should be eating less meat for various reasons, and I do often have meals without it and pay more for meat and eggs produced with less cruelty, but farm animals form a vital part of the ecosystem and I’d hate to lose them.

Vegans ‘Awakening Compassion’

Drop Food Not Bombs on Syria – Trafalgar Square

The message of the Syrians who had come to protest in Trafalgar Square was clear – Drop Food Not Bombs on Syria. Instead of spending billions on bombs and weapons they want the money to be spent on humanitarian aid for those under siege across Syria, including those in Madaya and the Yarmouk refugee camp.

Many wore or held the Free Syria flag with its green, black and white strips and three red stars, and various posters which made clear they condemnation of ISS, the Russian bombings and the Assad regime.

One poster read ‘Syrians started the Revolution – Assad started the war’ while others made clear what they were calling for; ‘Drop the Food, Not Bombs’ and ‘Medaya is Crying While the World is Denying’

More pictures: Drop Food Not Bombs on Syria

International Times new ‘Issue Zero’ – Mayfair Rooms, Fleet St

Hot from the press – but long sold out

Notorious London underground paper International Times, first published in 1966 and closed down in 1973 (with several re-incarnations and a web site since 2009) started again for its 50th anniversary with a launch party for the 36 page ‘Issue Zero’.

Among those writing for the new issue were stalwarts from its early days, including Heathcote Williams, and the issue was edited by Heathcote Ruthven with subediting by Emily McCarthy, Heather Williams, David Graeber and Heathcote Williams, design by Darren Cullen and art by Nick Victor and Claire Palmer.

Heathcote Williams

More about the issue and more pictures at International Times new ‘Issue Zero’.

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Cyclist Deaths and Militant Muslims – 2013

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

On Friday 29th November 2013 I went to two very different protests in London.

Islamists Protest Angolas Ban on Muslims – Angolan Embassy, Friday 29th November 2013

I’d had an interest in the rise of extremist Islamic movements in the UK since 2004, when I first photographed a march by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, and the activities of Anjem Choudary had attracted my attention for some years before this event in 2013. In 1996 he had been one of the founders of the Islamist al-Muhajiroun, an organisation which dissolved itself shortly before it was banned by the UK government as a terrorist organisation in 2010, going on to found a series of new organisations considered by many to be al-Muhajiroun under different names.

I can’t now remember under what title Choudary had announced ‘DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN TYRANNY UPON MUSLIMS IN ANGOLA!’; another group he was associated with, Muslims Against Crusades, had been banned in November 2011, but I think many of those at this protest were the same individuals. The many posters they held named no organisation.

I’d gone to the Regents Park Mosque where a march had been announced to start to the Angolan Embassy, but as the crowds emerged after Friday prayers there was no sign of Choudary or his followers. Asking people there I learnt a small group had been present earlier but had left before the time announced and I gathered it had been made clear they were not welcome at the mosque.

I hurried down to the Angolan Embassy in Dorset Street, arriving to find a noisy demonstration taking place, but with no sign of Choudary. Another photographer told me I had missed them setting off firecrackers when they arrived. There were some loud chants echoing the message on the placards that ‘Muslims Will Destroy The Crusade & Implement ISLAM!’

As I wrote in the captions, “I came to the protest thinking for once that Amjem Choudary and his supporters had a just cause – Angola is clamping down on non-Christian religions including Islam. But it isn’t a ‘crusade’ but something that most Christians around the world and secularists would firmly oppose. But they would oppose it in the name of freedom. This was something rather different.

Finally Choudary himself arrived and began a lengthy speech. It was interesting and there was much that many including myself would agree with, as the Angolan regime has embarked on a purge of all non-Christian religions in the country. According to a report in The Guardian, there are only 83 approved religious organisations in Angola, every one of them Christian, and a statement from the Angolan embassy in the US claimed that they had ‘lots of religions’, citing “Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people.” In other words, freedom of religion – so long as it is Christian.

But what Choudary and his supporters advocate is not freedom of religion but the establishment of an Islamic Khilafah (caliphate), establishing Sharia law, where the only religion tolerated would be their extremist distortion of Islam. There was something new in his speech, when he talked about Islamic armies rising to “establish the Sharia” which at the time I thought was just wishful thinking on his part, but was in fact a chilling reality which became obvious as ISIS rose to occupy not Angola but a large territory in the Middle East around six months later.

Many of us were convinced in 2013 that Choudary was, if not an MI5 agent, at least protected by them and the police as a ‘honeypot’ for Islamic extremists, gathering them together to enable them to be readily recognised and kept under observation. It’s difficult to see otherwise why he had not been arrested for some of thee statements in his speeches at protests, careful though he was. But it was the rise of ISIS and his support expressed for Islamic State that led to his eventual arrest and sentencing in 2016 for five and a half years under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Islamists Protest Angolas Ban on Muslims

Cyclists ‘Die in’ at TfL HQ – Blackfriars Rd,
Friday 29th November 2013

Cyclists are the most vulnerable of road users, riding unprotected among cars and lorries whose drivers are cased in powerful and heavy metal shells. Pedestrians also lack any protection, but are usually provided with pavements which cyclists cannot legally use.

That of course is stating the obvious, but it’s an obvious that is almost always obscured by heated anti-cyclist opinions forcefully expressed, about cyclists who get in the way of motorists, or who ride aggressively on pavements, cross red lights and fail to wear cycle helmets etc.

I write as a cyclist and a pedestrian, and a former if reluctant driver. As the latest Highway Code makes even clearer, cyclists have a right to be on the road and are a part of traffic just as much as any car or lorry. And there are probably about as many bad cyclists as there are bad drivers, perhaps rather more given the number of people too young to get a driving licence who ride bikes.

We now have many shared paths for bicycles and pedestrians and accidents on them are rare, and very seldom cause significant injuries to either party, though the few that do get great publicity. Many of us also occasionally ride on pavements which are not officially shared, and do so with care for those on foot, in places where the roadway is dangerous and there is no separate provision for cyclists. I won’t get into cycle helmets in depth, but they provide little protection and may well decrease the safety of cyclists as well as making cycling a rather less convenient activity. And the emphasis on their use is simply trying to put the blame on the victims of road accidents rather than trying to make the roads safe.

There are many reasons why cycling should be encouraged and proper facilities provided. It improves the health of those who cycle and leads to a cut in expenditure on health services, is an almost non-polluting form of transport and much more efficient in the use of road space, reducing congestion for others, and a cheap solution particularly to many shorter distances in cities. Many cities have become better places to live by welcoming and providing proper provision for cycling.

The protest outside the London HQ of TfL demanded safer road provision for cyclists. It was organised after 14 cyclists had been killed in London over the previous years. For more than 50 years the design and provision of roads has been almost entirely based on increasing the flow of motorised vehicles, with other considerations being largely ignored. And faster traffic becomes more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists – congestion actually makes cycling in central London safer.

Even where TfL has begun to provide cycle ‘superhighways’, these have been badly designed at many junctions, and marked cycle paths are often used as parking places, forcing cyclists into the heavy traffic the path is meant to avoid. Some cycle lanes in my area are far too narrow and on uneven road edges making them dangerous to ride on even where they are not obstructed by parked vehicles, others have stop signs at every minor road or even injunctions to dismount.

On My London Diary you can read the list of eight demands the protest made to improve safety and get more people using bikes. As well as spending more money on cycling infrastructure they included a ban on vehicles whose drivers are unable to see adjacent road users. Most deaths of cyclists are caused by drivers who turn left at junctions unaware that there is a someone on a bike in their path.

After a short introduction to the event there was a long silent vigil while a cellist played solemn music, and those who had brought candles came and lit them around a bicycle. Then there was a speech reminding us that Amsterdam had become a much more pleasant city with high bicycle use following a series of protests in the 1970s had prompted the city into action – with die-ins such as that which followed. Police at the scene estimated a thousand bicycles and cyclists took part, though organisers thought it was double this. The BBC reported it as ‘hundreds’ in a typical media response to cyclists and protests. Then the rally continued, with more speeches and the reading out of the names of cyclists killed on the streets.

More at Cyclists ‘Die in’ at TfL HQ.

Cyclists’ Die-In And A Visit To The Oral Squat

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

On Wednesday 8th November 2017 I spent the evening in Islington.

Vigil for Islington cyclist killed by HGV – Islington Town Hall, Wed 8 Nov 2017

On May 2nd 2017, City trader Jerome Roussel was cycling to work along Pentonville Road when he collided with a heavy goods vehicle which had stopped in the cycle lane. He was seriously injured and died in hospital on June 25th, seven weeks later.

Police say that the cyclist had told them he had put his head down and had failed to see that the lorry had pulled in ahead of him and he crashed into the back of it.

Cycling around parts of London there are many streets with ‘cycle lanes’ marked at the edges of the roads but often obstructed by parked vehicles. The driver in this case had only just pulled into it, intending to turn into a side street, but for many others the cycle lane is a convenient parking place, perhaps for a few minutes while they visit a shop, or for much longer.

These roads have cycle lanes because there is enough faster moving traffic on them to make them dangerous for cyclists. But cars and lorries parked on them mean that cyclists have to move out into this traffic. We need a law which makes it an offence to park on cycles lanes – and for it to be enforced.

Islington Labour – For the few who drive

Better still we need far more physically separated cycle lanes, though where these exist there are also sometimes cars parked on them, rendering them unusable, and sometimes road surfaces so poorly maintained that they are uncomfortable to ride on and even at times dangerous. Even small potholes that a car would cruise over can send the unwary cyclist flying.

As I wrote back in 2017, “Islington has not built a single protected cycle route in over 20 years and Transport Minister Jessye Norman has so far failed to sign the the commencement order to allow TfL to fine HGVs and traffic that drive into mandatory cycle lanes, such as the one on Pentonville Road where Jerome Roussel was killed. Islington, responsible for 95% of the roads in its area has reserves of £277 million (and growing) and campaigners say it should spend some of this on making its streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”

I don’t cycle in Islington, but although the council on its web site states it is “on a mission to improve cycling in Islington” I get the impression that relatively little has changed since Roussel’s death on a cycle lane in 2017. At the 2022 elections the London Cycling Campaign was calling on Islington Council to provide protected cycle routes on all busy roads by 2026, for low traffic neighbourhoods to cover the borough by 2024, to provide sustainable freight hubs, to set more ambitious targets for sustainable transport and provide secure cycle parking.

Cyclists gathered on the pavement outside Islington Town Hall and listened to a number of speeches before police stopped traffic and the campaigners held a 5 minute silent die-in on the road in memory of Jerome Roussel, after which there were more speeches and a final address by Donnachadh McCarthy.

More at Vigil for Islington cyclist killed by HGV.

ORAL squat empty NatWest Bank – Upper St, Islington, Wed 8 Nov 2017

As I walked back from Islington Town Hall to the Underground station with another photographer we met activists who knew us outside the squatted former NatWest Bank on Upper St and stopped to talk.

Inside things are a little messy, but there is no real damage

This had been squatted around a week earlier by the Order of Rampaging Anarchist Lunatics (ORAL) and they were using it as a centre to provide tea, coffee, clothing and shelter for the street homeless of the area.

The building was well lit and warm – the squatters are paying for electricity

We were invited inside for a tour of the squat and to take photographs. The squatters were expecting to be evicted in the near future, and actually were a few days later, after which they published a ‘final communique’ on their Facebook page. You can read this in full on My London Diary, but here is the first paragraph:

Several years ago, what began as a ridiculous idea to form a satirical nation of squatters evolved into one of the most infamous land pirate crews known around the world. Originally coined the Autonomous National of Anarchist Libertarians [ANAL] we’ve penetrated deep into London, forming a property portfolio that undoubtedly far exceeds any other crew; Having taken roughly 60 buildings in zone 1 over a period of around 4 years. Most notably Admiralty Arch.

My London Diary

Their communique goes on to say that they felt their activities had acheived nothing and that they would be forming a new group focused on “setting the example of how to evolve society & humanity” though “construction & creation” and would shortly be opening “a new community hub”.

My assessment was rather more positive, in that they and other activists had drawn attention to the scandal of so many empty properties while we have a housing crisis. Thanks to the Tory programme of austerity we had seen a huge increase in the number of homeless people and there should be legal ways to bring these properties into use. The current situation remains shameful in what is still one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

ORAL Squat empty NatWest Bank.

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Funeral for Cyclists, Against Islamophobia, Iranian Repression

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

London, Saturday 13th October 2018

National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist

I’ve been a cyclist since my sixth birthday, when my parents bought me a second-hand two wheeler to replace the trikes I’d been on since before I could walk. By the end of the day I could ride it, if rather unsteadily, along the pavement of our street.

The bicycle gave kids like me a new freedom, and within a couple of years I was riding miles either on my own or with a couple of mates to play both in local parks and green spaces and further afield. We cycled away from our dusty streets into the countryside, often going along some of the busiest roads in the country, the A30, A4 and A3 out west from our grey suburbs.

We didn’t think much about safety back then, and though traffic was heavy, vehicles were smaller and speeds were lower. Drivers were I think more considerate back then, and almost all will have been cyclists before getting behind the wheel. So I survived, though there were a few close shaves, later mainly thanks to teenage stupidity.

Over seventy years later I still ride a bike, though with rather larger wheels, and usually just to the local shops, but I feel less safe on the roads. I’ve been knocked off it a couple of times in the past twenty years or so, both times by drivers who were extremely apologetic and confessed they hadn’t seen me as they drove out onto a main road or came up behind me on a roundabout. I was lucky and only sustained minor cuts and bruises and the motorists paid for the repairs to my bike.

During the first Covid lockdown the roads were almost empty and I went out each weekday morning for a ten-mile ride to keep fit. But then traffic began to come back and the fumes and too many close passes put me off the roads again.

In the past few years we seem to have come out of the long era where cyclists were almost completely disregarded in terms of traffic planning (and pedestrians too) but still we are largely failing to get the kind of separate provision to make cycling more safe that we see in some European countries.

Some councils are still dementedly anti-cyclist, and too many drivers see cyclists as an impediment to their progress rather than as fellow road-users. Some still accelerate past me then cut in across me to turn left at junctions, some pass where there is clearly not enough room to do so safely and some even shout insults as the drive past.

Cycling is good for individual health and for the health system as a whole, though less than it should be because of the pollution from traffic. By reducing car journeys it is good for the environment too, and good for motorists as people switching to bikes cuts congestion in cities. As a country we should be spending far more to encourage it and make it safer. In particular that means more separate provision – fears over safety when bikes are on busy roads is one of the main things that stops many getting on bike, but also driver education and improvements in vehicle and road design.

Among those at the protest were a number of families whose members had been killed on our roads, including some from Tony Spink’s family. He was killed cycling through Wakefield city centre by a lorry driver who didn’t stop, dragging him under his lorry as he hung onto the windscreen wipers and thumped on the side of the truck. His mangled bike was pulled from the lorry by the driver at a layby and then dumped in bushes miles away. The driver was jailed for two years. This was an extreme case but the sentence seemed risibly short, as are many of the sentences given to drivers who kill both cyclists and pedestrians.

Protests by Stop Killing Cyclists such as this National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist have publicised the problem and the organisation lobbies for £3 billion a year to be invested in a national protected cycling network and for urgent action to reduce the toxic air pollution from diesel and petrol vehicles which kills tens of thousands of people every year, and disables hundreds of thousands.

Several hundred protesters on bicycles met in Lincolns Inn Fields before riding in a funeral procession behind a horse-drawn hearse to Westminster where instead of following the route the police wanted across Westminster Bridge they turned into Parliament Square and staged a 10 minute die-in before proceeding to a rally in Smith Square.

National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist

Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA – Parliament St

I left the National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist as it went on to Smith Square and walked up Parliament Street to a rally opposing the racist, Islamophobic Democratic Football Lads Alliance who were ending their march with a rally at Downing St.

Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism had organise a rally here, but the DFLA marchers had not arrived at the expected time. Far fewer than expected had turned up for their march, and it had been blocked for some time by more militant anti-fascist protesters on the route.

Some of the DFLA had given up and gone to pubs along the route, but a few had walked across St James’s Park to Parliament Square from where they shouted for a while at the SUTR/UAF protest as police stopped them from getting closer, and after a while persuaded them to move away. The number who finally arrived for their rally was rather small and it didn’t seem worthwhile to take a long walk around the police barricade to try to photograph them.

Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA

Ahwazi protest Iranian repression – Parliament Square

Instead I went back to Parliament Square where I met Ahwazi protesters marching into the square carrying Ahwaz independence flags. They protested noisily facing the Houses of Parliament calling for Iran to end the repression of their people and to get out of their land.

Al Ahwaz, the oil-rich northern side of the Persian Gulf was under British control until 1925, with the population enjoying considerable autonomy as Arabistan. The emirate was dissolved by the Persian regime following a rebellion in 1924 and the area occupied by Persian troops, and a process of ‘Persianisation’ imposed on the area, attempting to destroy its Arab culture. They renamed the area Khuzestan.

Discrimination against the Ahwazi increased under the Islamic Regime, impoverishing the area which contains much of Iran’s natural resources and there has been widespread civil unrest since 2015, with massive protests in April 2018 on the anniversary of the 2011 Ahwaz Day of Rage, itself an anniversary of the 2005 unrest. In September 2018 militants from the
Ahwaz National Resistance attacked an Iranian Revolutionary Guard parade in the city of Ahvaz, killing 25 soldiers and civilians.

Ahwazi protest Iranian repression

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