Posts Tagged ‘Donnachadh McCarthy’

Stop Heathrow Expansion – Nov 2016

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post COP26 and the various official reports on the climate crisis it should now be clear to everyone that we need not to increase air traffic but to drastically reduce it if we are to succeed in limiting the global temperature rise even to the highly damaging level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But still those with large financial interests in aviation are wanting to continue with the expansion of aviation despite its contribution to ruining the world.

The environmental case against Heathrow expansion was clearly won when plans were dropped after years of campaigning against a third runway over the first decade of this century, but despite this our government was persuaded by the industry to change its policies and put the expansion back on the table.

The case against Heathrow is of course even stronger than the case against air travel and air freight generally because of the location of the airport in the west of London. It was always in the wrong place, too close to the city centre and on the wrong side, with prevailing winds meaning aircraft approached over the city and the pollution from them being blown into it. Possibly even those who planned it during WW2 realised this when they avoided any real public debate by pretending the airport was needed for military use.

John Stewart of HACAN

Back in the fifties when I grew up under the flightpath it was less of a nuisance as planes then were smaller and quieter, though we did on several occasions find small parts from them dropped in our garden but fortunately hitting nobody. But over the years noisier aircraft and more frequent landings have made things much worse – though fortunately I’ve moved to a quieter zone but still near Heathrow. The pollution is still with us, not just from the airport itself but also from the road traffic and congestion it generates in the motorways and roads around.

On Saturday 19th November I went to Richmond Green for a rally organised to support Zac Goldsmith who resigned to stand as an anti-Heathrow expansion candidate and supported by Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Teddington Action Group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN), Chiswick Against the Third Runway and others campaigning against the noise, pollution and catastrophic climate change the third runway and expansion of aviation would cause.

Harmondsworth campaigner Neil Keveren at Richmond

It was perhaps a strange decision by Goldsmith, as both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates who he was standing against were also strongly opposed to another Heathrow runway, and many locals, particularly members of the Lib-Dems and Green Party were still aggreived at Goldsmith having taken the seat in 2010 from one of the most active campaigners against Heathrow expansion, Susan Kramer. But Goldsmith had resigned as a matter of principle when the government reneged on earlier promises and approved construction of the third runway the month before this protest. Goldsmith lost the election by a fairly narrow margin to the Lib-Dem candidate. Both Kramer and Goldsmith now sit in the House of Lords.

On the Bath Road overlooking the airport at Sipson

It was a strange protest too, though many of the real Heathrow campaigners were there and some spoke, and I was harassed by a member of Goldsmith’s team who followed me around and tried to stand in my way while taking pictures, telling me it was a private meeting. Eventually I had to ask a police officer to speak to him and get him to stop.

Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion

I left as speakers from various West London boroughs where coming to the microphone to make clear their opposition to Heathow expansion to rush to another protest on the issue on the Bath Road overlooking the airport. This was a ‘family friendly’ rally taking place at the same time as a short distance away Rising Up activists were blocking the link from the M4 into the airport – and police stopped me from going to photograph them.

There was a large crowd of police at this peaceful and legal protest as well, although it seemed totally unnecessary; as I commented “it did seem a considerable waste of police resources, perhaps an attempt to intimidate the protesters. The police did behave in a friendly manner, though they did restrict the movement of protesters to an unnecessary extent.”

Environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy

I had already heard several of the speakers earlier at Richmond, though Goldsmith and his Conservative supporters had not travelled here but were presumably busy campaigning in Richmond.

Harmondsworth resident Neil Keveren of Stop Heathrow Expansion speaks at Heathrow

Here are the final three paragraphs of the acrount I wrote back then, still appropriate:

The main concerns of speakers were that expansion at Heathrow will cause the UK to break its own national laws to reduce emissions, as well as undermining the international climate commitments agreed in Paris, and that the new runway will devastate local communities with families losing their homes and many over a wider area suffering dangerous levels of air pollution. The construction of a new runway would create enormous problems across the area around the airport, and if completed would bring chaos to an already overstressed transport system in the whole region.

We need to totally rethink the aviation industry and evaluate the contribution it makes to our economy, and to remove its privileged status and subsidies which currently allow it to expand and pollute for the benefit of its shareholders and the convenience of rich frequent flyers. The industry greatly inflates the contribution it makes to the economy while refusing to acknowledge the many problems it creates.

Of course it isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. We don’t just need to stop airport expansion, but to reassess much of they way we live. We need System Change if we are to avoid the disastrous effects of Climate Change.

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


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End Traffic Violence – 2014

Monday, November 15th, 2021

A few weeks ago I came to the end of a walk with friends and we stood at a bus stop on the edge of the A3 in south-west London with a relentless flow of traffic moving past in all four lanes in both directions. We were a few yards away on a slip road, but the noise was making my head throb and I could smell and taste the pollution, though I hope the Covid mask I was wearing might filter out some of the particulates. It was a horrible reminder of the mad dedication to traffic which is killing so many of us, poisoning adults and particularly children and playing a significant role in killing the planet through the huge carbon emissions in manufacturing vehicles, building yet more roads and of course burning fossil fuels. Fortunately our bus came earlier than expected.

The switch to electric cars will help a little, and reduce some of the pollution, though not its possibly most dangerous aspect, the particulates that come mainly from rubber tyres and from brakes. And there is still a huge carbon footprint from their manufacture – roughly equivalent to running around 150,000 miles of burning petrol or diesel, and much of the electricity used to power them will come from power stations burning gas or forest-destroying wood.

We can only have a sustainable future if we wean ourselves as a species away from travel, and take what journeys are still necessary by ways that reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. Going on foot or by bicycle, using public transport and severely limiting the more polluting and high-carbon forms of transport. It means measures such as banning private cars in cities, giving priorities to buses, building more light rail and tram systems, ending subsidies to air travel, stopping new road-building and more. But also it means great changes in our way of life.

It’s something I realised over 50 years ago when I sold the only car I’d ever owned. Something I considered very carefully in choosing where to live and what jobs to take. And something which has constrained the holidays I’ve chosen to take and other aspects of my life, but not anything I really regret. I’ve only ever made three trips by air related to my work – where no real alternative was possible, and only taken two holidays which involved flights.

Of course there are some things and situations where cars are essential. It’s very hard to manage without one for those who live in more remote areas, and some need to. I’ve chosen always to live in towns or cities and have been healthy enough to be able to ride a bicycle or walk. In 2019, George Monbiot wrote for the Guardian a piece with the sub-head ‘Cars are ruining our lives. We should cut their use by 90% over the next 10 years’. Like other posts on his web site its worth reading and goes into much greater and well-argued detail than this piece.

Donnachadh McCarthy

On 15th November 2014 I photographed the ‘Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence’ organised by environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy and ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’. It made its way through the centre of London from Bedford Square going along Oxford St, with a bagpiper playing and a horse-drawn hearse carrying a coffin for a mock funeral ceremony at Marble Arch.

It made the point that while too many pedestrians and cyclists are still killed and maimed by cars and lorries on a road system largely engineered for the convenience of motorised transport, their numbers are dwarfed by the many thousands of premature deaths each year caused by the pollution from road traffic, with pollution levels in many places being well above legal limits. After the funeral, there was a die-in by cyclists more or less filling the hard standing at Marble Arch, and a trumpeter sounded the Last Post.

Here is a list of the demands made by the protesters:

  1. Stop the Killing of Children with a national, multi-billion pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones and abolish dangerous rat-runs.
  2. Stop the Killing of Pedestrians by a national programme to fund pedestrianisation of our city and town centres, including the nation’s high-street, Oxford Street.
  3. Stop the Killing of Pensioners from excessive speed with an enforced speed limit of 20 mph on all urban roads, 40 mph on rural roads/lanes and 60 mph on all other trunk roads.
  4. Stop the Killing of Cyclists, investing£15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
  5. Stop the Killing by HGVs by banning trucks with blind spots, making safety equipment mandatory and strictly enforcing current truck-safety regulations; currently around 30% are illegally dangerous.
  6. Stop the Killing without liability with a presumed civil liability law for vehicular traffic when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road-users, unless there is evidence blaming the victim.
  7. Stop the Killing from Lung, Heart and other Diseases caused by vehicular pollutants with mandatory for particulate filters that meet latest EU emission standards on all existing buses, lorries and taxis.
  8. Stop the Killing at Junctions with pedestrian crossing times long enough for elderly disabled to cross, filtered junction crossings by cyclists and strict legal priority for pedestrians and urgently provide physically protected left-hand turns for cyclists.
  9. Stop the Killing from Climate Crisis caused by CO2 emissions by insisting that all transport fuels are from truly environmentally-sustainable, renewable sources within 10 years.
  10. Focus on Life! with transport governance making safety and quality of life the top priority. Reform all council transport departments, the Department of Transport and Transport for London into Cycling, Walking and Transport Departments with formal pedestrian and cyclist representation.

Again you can read more detail and more evidence in Guardian posts by George Monbiot, available on his own web site such as Don’t Breathe.


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Occupy Gandhi – 4 May 2015

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals
Occupy Festival of Democracy