Posts Tagged ‘downing st’

Independent Living Ends, Robin Hood Gardens

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

Independent Living Ends, Robin Hood Gardens. On Tuesday 30th June 2015 I joined disabled people at Downing St marking the ending of the Independent Living Fund before going to Robin Hood Gardens, a brutalist estate in Poplar doomed for demolition.


DPAC’s ILF Closing Ceremony – Downing St to Old Palace Yard

Disabled people and supporters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, met outside Downing St to bring a petition with over 25,000 signatures calling for a continuation of this essential support for the disabled.

Sophie Partridge, disabled Actor, Writer & Workshop artist

The Independent Living Fund which was coming to an end on that day had given them to money to employ support to enable them to live with dignity and for many to continue in work and make a contribution to society. Without it they fear they will simply be shut away and left to rot, many fearing they will now be left for many hours at a time in incontinence pads.

Paula Peters

Outside the gates of Downing Street they wrote slogans on incontinence pads; Paula Peters of DPAC had a message for Iain Duncan Smith, then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions responsible for the ending of support, ‘I want dignity – I want to be treated as a human – You wear one of these I. D. S. They are awful’.

A campaigner dressed as Brittania was among those who had come to hand in the petition which had gained support from a video by the stars of Coronation Street and the Graeae Theatre Company’s 2014 UK Tour of The Threepenny Opera. One of those stars spoke in front of the gates of Downing Street.

John Kelly as Schimmel leads the march

From Downing Street the campaigners marched the quarter mile or so to Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament, led by John Kelly as Schimmel, the equine star and proud battle horse of the Threepenny Opera.

Here they were joined by others including Labour MP John McDonnell who spoke at the rally marking the end of the Independent Living Fund, at the end of which a wreath with the message’s ‘RIP ILF’ was laid.

DPAC’s ILF Closing Ceremony


Robin Hood Gardens – Poplar

Two walls of flats protect an inner garden area

The ILF protest had ended a little before 1pm and it was a fine day and I decided to take another visit to Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, where demolition had begun after the refusal to list the site. Listing had been recommended for listing by the advisory committee of English Heritage in 2009, but the then Minister of Culture Andy Burnham had issued a certificate of immunity against listing which expired in 2014.

These are large and desirable properties, but often have been used to house difficult residents

A further attempt was then made to have the site listed, supported by almost every well-known British architect, but Historic England, now responsible for listing buildings rejected this.

A wall at left screens the estate and there is a lower service and parking area

An open letter signed by many leading architects including Richard Rogers made clear the value of the site, and I quoted from this in My London Diary.

The buildings, which offer generously sized flats that could be refurbished, are of outstanding architectural quality and significant historic interest, and public appreciation and understanding of the value of Modernist architecture has grown over the past five years, making the case for listing stronger than ever.”

The end of the ‘street in the sky’

The refusal to list on both occasions was clearly a political one, almost certainly driven by the huge profits demolition and rebuilding on the site would make for the developers.

As with the award-winning Heygate Estate in Southwark, and the fine Central Hill Estate at Gypsy Hill, Lambeth, the local council, Tower Hamlets, was keen to get rid of the estate and had carried out what I described as “a well funded campaign of vilification“, seeing it “only as a large area with potential for redevelopment at a higher density“, working with “developers who see any area of social housing in London as rich pickings for redevelopment and sale to the rich.”

A large enclosed playground at the south end of the site

By the end of June 2015 most of the west block seemed empty and boarded up and I was unable to gain entry. But I could roam the large garden in the centre of the estate, now let to grow wild, and went inside the still occupied east block, going up to the highest public level, a ‘street in the sky’ built rather less wide than the architects had originally intended, overlooking the Blackwall Tunnel approach. From there I took a number of pictures of the views from the block looking towards the east.

The south end of Robin Hood Gardens was on Poplar High St

As on a couple of previous visits I talked briefly with some of the residents who all told me they were pleased to be living in the block and sad they would have to leave – though some did complain about the lifts (I think only one of the two at the entrance I went in was working.)

Knocking down buildings like these which are structurally in good condition is inexcusable in terms of the huge carbon footprint involved in their construction, demolition and rebuilding. The estate could and should have been refurbished at relatively low cost and would have continued to provide good quality homes for many years. Its replacements – the west section already built – are of lower quality and will almost certainly not last as long as this could have done. The advantage of their roughly three times higher density is at the expense of possible amenity.

As well as walking in and around the estate I also took some pictures of it from the surrounding area, and some other pictures you can see on My London Diary, including a few when I stopped at Canning Town station and took a few pictures of people on the new footbridge across Bow Creek.

Robin Hood Gardens


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People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Monday, June 20th, 2022

People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity – Saturday 20th June 2015 saw a massive march through London from Bank to Parliament Square in the People’s Assembly End Austerity march against the savage and destructive cuts to the NHS, the welfare state, education and public services.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

The march was supported by groups from across the centre and left, and my pictures show Clapton Ultras, CND, the Green Party, Labour MP Dianne Abbott, Focus E15, Left Unity, FRFI, People’s March for the NHS, Netpol, Socialist Worker, Global Women’s Strike, Union branches, and others on the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Class War was missing. They were calling for an end to A to B marches to rallies and called for direct action, diverting several hundred from the march to support a squatted pub at the Elephant & Castle which Foxtons want to open as an estate agent. Had I heard about it in time I might have followed, but instead I went to photograph a Class War group holding banners on a footway above the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

They showed several banners, including a new version of one that police had seized (and then lost) showing political leaders, as well as another that police were then charging Lisa McKenzie for displaying with rows of graveyard crosses extending to the far distance and the message ‘We have found new homes for the rich‘, along with the Lucy Parsons banner with her message ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.’

Two of Class War’s candidates from the previous month’s General Election were also there, Lisa and Adam Clifford, their Westminster candidate, today wearing a top with fake exposed breasts and holding a fairly lifelike looking baby.

Adam invites people to feel his breasts

The protest was massive, filling across the wide street and taking well over an hour to pass Class War, many raising fists and shouting in solidarity, clapping and otherwise showing approval, with just a few shaking their heads or trying hard to ignore it, though this was difficult, especially when they were letting off flares which sent blue smoke across the march. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this.

Global women’s strike

I went down to street level and took many more pictures of the marchers going past, some with Class War visible in the background.

RMT banner with John Reid (left) and Steve Hedley (centre right)

I watched as around 30 police gathered behind Class War and thought they were about to take action. But charging the group on a wall ten foot above the street would have been highly dangerous for both officers and protesters, and after some lengthy discussions between several senior officers the police rapidly moved away.

Class War discuss how to continue their day in the Olde London

Class War joined in at the end of the march before leaving it to search for a pub, but few City pubs open at the weekends when the area is largely deserted. Eventually the found the Olde London on Ludgate Hill, and went inside, with a large group of police waiting for them outside as they relaxed and then planned further action.

Police followed Class War at a discreet distance as they made their way towards Westminster, rushing forward and forming a line to protect the Savoy Hotel as Class War stopped to protest, blocking the entrance road for a few minutes.

Eventually there were some rather heated arguments as police threatened them with arrest and slowly forced them away. They grabbed one man who had tried to stop a taxi entering, and when a taxi driver got out of his cab and threatened to assault the protesters they seemed far more interested in protecting him from the protesters than in taking any action over his illegal threats.

A woman argues with Adam Clifford at Downing St

Eventually the protesters moved away and on to Whitehall, followed by several police vans. Here they met a sound system and stopped to dance in the road for a while before going on to protest outside the gates to Downing St – and to throw a smoke flare over them. Here there was more dancing and a few short speeches and some of the marchers who had made it to the rally in Parliament Square came back to join them. Eventually Class War rolled up their banners and went off to another pub, telling me they would continue their protests later – but I’d had enough and went home.

Much more on the day on My London diary:
End Austerity Now at Bank
Class War and End Austerity Now
Class War at the Savoy
Class War in Whitehall


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Cost of Living Protest – 2022

Monday, April 4th, 2022

Cost of Living Protest – 2022
Last Saturday, 2nd April 2022, I photographed a protest opposite Downing Street organised by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity and Stop the War Coalition. The People’s Assembly said on their web page:

Public outrage over the Cost of Living Crisis is growing fast and our response is gaining momentum. Right now is the time for us all to come together in unity and build our collective resistance.
Now is the time to get out onto the streets to send a clear message to the government that we refuse to pay for their crisis.

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity

Cost of Living Protest - 2022

The protest in London was one of 25 in cities around the country against the price increases and National Insurance contribution raise which will mean the largest fall in living standards since records began 80 years ago and a fall in real wages greater than ever in the past 200 years.

Cost of Living Protest - 2022

The Spring Statement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak made clear that it is the lower paid workers (and students), pensioners, those on benefits and the public sector workers in particular who will pay the price, while putting in place measures to protect big business and high earners.

Pay inequality in the UK – the ratio between what the average worker earns and the pay (including bonuses) of the bosses of leading companies – has risen spectacularly in recent years. Had the minimum wage kept up the the rise in what they are paid it would now be over £25 an hour – but went up on April 1st to £9.50 an hour for those aged 23 and over – with lower rates for younger workers.

Cost of Living Protest - 2022

Food banks are now struggling to keep up with demand, and report that some people coming to them are turning down anything which requires heating up as they cannot afford gas or electricity. Advice workers say more and more people are coming to them who have to chose between heating and eating – and many can only eat basics on alternate days and are depriving themselves of food to feed their children.

Cost of Living Protest - 2022
London, UK. 2 Apr 2022

I listened to the UK’s leading money-saving expert saying he had run out of tips to help people cope – and most of the advice he and others have given on energy saving are things we have always done in our household.

My wife and I have relatively low outgoings, living in a house we own and choosing not to own a car. Over the years we’ve been able to invest large amounts in double-glazing and insulation – and a few solar panels to supply a little of our electricity needs. When we moved in 48 years ago to a small Victorian semi built for agricultural workers we replaced the draughty rattling windows and draught-proofed doors. We decided central heating would be wasteful, so our energy bills are relatively low. Even so, they have now roughly doubled from what they were a year ago, with more increases coming later in the year. But we will be able to get by even though our income is low. Others are much less fortunate.

Jeremy Corbyn - Cost of Living Protest - 2022
London, UK. 2 Apr 2022. Jeremy Corbyn.

And in particular the effects on disabled people are savage and shameful. Research shows they are five times as likely to be at risk of food insecurity and twice as likely to be living in cold homes as the non-disabled. And in a particularly targeted cruel and inhuman decision around 210,000 people on disability benefits have now been barred from claiming the Warm Home Discount payment despite the fact that they often have greater than normal needs for heating, hot water and energy to run specialist equipment.

More pictures from the event online at Downing Street Cost of Living Protest, London, 2 Apr 2022


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Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts

Friday, February 25th, 2022

Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts. Wednesday 25th February 2015 was a busy day for protests in London, and I photographed five events.


Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign protested for 4 hours at Parliament calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he had been held for over 13 years and regularly tortured. Of course I didn’t stay with them that long – there aren’t really that many ways to photograph a fairly small group in orange jumpsuits – but it meant they were still there when I arrived over three hours after their protest began.

Usually their protests are at lunchtime, but because they had stayed longer I was able to photograph their weekly protest at around 3.30pm on my way to an event outside Downing St. They continued these protests while parliament was sitting until Shaker was released towards the end of 2015.


Striking Firefighters block traffic

Firefighters came out of their rally in Central Hall and blocked the road in front of Parliament. I don’t think the police tried to move their fellow public servants, who had a large black balloon with the message ‘FBU – WE RESCUE PEOPLE, NOT BANKS! STOP THE CUTS’ as well as several banners.

After around ten minutes they marched down to Downing St, blocking much of Whitehall. In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with FBU leader Matt Wrack and promised to try to get someone to come out and talk with them.

They were still waiting when I left – and I think they would still be waiting now before anyone representing our Tory government came.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime

A short walk away in Caxton Street people were protesting outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in a nationwide day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox.

Although by law welfare claimants are allowed to have an adviser present with them at job centre interviews, when a claimant arrived together with Cox his interview was cancelled. And later that day police arrived at Cox’s home, arresting him and charging him with threatening behaviour.

When his case came to court in October the prosecution had to drop the main charges. A month after the first hearing Cox was found guilty of refusing to supply person details to the police and fined £200 and admonished on the charge of hindering the officers.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts

Despite earlier promises, Transport for London were planning to go ahead with a 50% cut in station staffing, closing ticket offices such as the well-used one at the busy Edgware Road station on the Bakerloo Line.

Things threatened to get nasty with some angry exchanges when police tried to move RMT members handing out leaflets to the public, but the RMT members insisted on their right to do so on the pavement outside the station entrance.


Lambeth against £90m cuts

Another tube journey changing at Oxford Circus from the Bakerloo to the Victoria Line took me south of the river to Brixton where a short distance from the station a lively rally was taking place on the street corner outside Lambeth Town Hall.

Around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents were there to tell councillors arriving for a council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts.

It was now around 6pm, and in late February the sun sets around 5.30, so it was getting rather dark. Although I had both flash and LED lighting, neither is much use for lighting larger groups of people, and even on the corner of two major roads the streetlighting a few yards back was pretty poor. Thankfully digital cameras are considerably better than film under such conditions and I was able to get good results at ISO 3200.


More on all these on My London Diary:

Lambeth against £90m cuts
RMT protest Underground Job Cuts
Welfare Advocacy not a Crime
Striking Firefighters block traffic
Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


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A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

A Threatened Hospital, Riverside Walk, Syria & Mali – pictures from nine years ago on February 15th 2013.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues

My work began at a lunchtime rally opposite Lewisham Hospital where the whole local community is fighting to save their hospital with both a legal challenge and further mass demonstrations including a ‘Born in Lewisham Hospital’ protest a few weeks later. Parts of the hospital across the main road are in the picture.

People were appalled by then Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s decision to accept the proposals for closure, and to ignore the mass protests by local residents. Not only are the proposals medically unsound and will lead to patient deaths, but they also represent short-term thinking that will result in a huge waste of public funds.

Lewisham was a sucessful and financially sound hospital and had received sensible public investment to provide up to date services, and the services to be cut will have to be set up again at other hospitals. Closing Lewisham would not only incur high costs, but would waste the previous investment in its facilities.

Closure was only considered because of huge debts inherited when it was merged into a group which had earlier made a disastrous PFI (private finance initiative) agreement to build a new hospital a few miles away. Both the hospital group and Jeremy Hunt had been shown to be telling lies about the scope and cost of the replacement A&E and maternity facilities which would be needed if Lewisham were closed.

The well-attended protest was organised by the Save the Lewisham Hospital campaign which was raising funds for a legal challenge as well as a new poster and leaflet campaign and the forthcoming mass demonstration. But this was not just a campaign for Lewisham, but one that is vital for the whole of the NHS. Behind the speakers was a banner for the South-East London ‘Save Our Local NHS Hospitals’ campaign quoting Nye Bevan: ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.‘ They certainly had the faith in Lewisham.

Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues


Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open

Here’s what I wrote back in 2013:

I had some time to spare between protests and it was a nice day, around 10 degrees warmer than we’d been having and sunny, so I decided to take a bus to North Greenwich and walk along the Thames Path, having heard that parts of it had re-opened. The weather changed a little and there were some dramatic skies.

There is still a section of the walk that is closed, a giant building site where Delta Wharf once was up to Drawdock Road, but on each side of this the walk is open. although the council sign on the footpath leading from Tunnel Avenue still indicates it is closed. At the river the path north is blocked, but you can walk south to Greenwich.

A panorama – the same path in opposite directions at both sides

At first the walk goes alongside a giant manmade landscape of sand and gravel, like some alien planet – and behind the conical hills the Dome and the gas holder, with occasional lighting towers and cranes add to the scene. Most of this is behind tall fences, but fortunately these have gaps between the posts allowing you to see and photograph. Years ago the path here went through a working container dock, the Victoria Deep Water Terminal, with yellow lines marking the route, though occasionally it was blocked by crane operations, and we waited rather than have heavy containers overhead. There are a couple of my pictures of this and others from the riverside path in the 1980s on my London’s Industrial Heritage site.

Beyond there the riverside path seems rather empty, with many structures having dissappeared, including the huge concrete silo I photographed. But something new has appeared, ‘guerilla knitting’ on some of the trees and posts along the path.

Many more pictures at Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open on My London Dairy


Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali

It was the 10th anniversary of the march by 2 million against the Iraq war, Stop the War organised a small protest at Downing St calling for a stop to Western intervention in Mali and Syria and against the possible attack on Iran.

Many on the left feel that the failure of that huge protest to actually prevent the UK taking part in the invasion of Iraq showed a failure in the leadership of Stop The War to make any quick and efffective action to follow it up. Stop The War have also failed to convince the public at large with their more recent campaigns against intervention in Libya and now against the support being given to the Free Syrians and the Mali government. As the upper picture shows there were some supporters of the Assad regime, from a small left group, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), taking part in the protest. Almost certainly the great majority of supporters of Stop The War while against UK military intervention would like to see more support being given in other ways to the Syrian rebels.

Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali


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Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat – 11th February 2017

Dubs Now – Shame on May

Five years ago, on Saturday 11th February 2017, a crowd of supporters of Citizens UK and Safe Passage joined Lord Alf Dubs at Downing St to take a petition to Theresa May urging her to reverse the decision to stop offering legal sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children.

The Tory government had been forced into an unusual humanitarian response when Parliment passed the Dubs amendment, and they were then given a list of over 800 eligible children – although there were known to be more whose details were not recorded. And because of Lord Dubs, around 300 have been allowed into the UK. But although twice that number remain in limbo, many in the Calais camps, Prime Minister Theresa May decided to end the scheme.

Lord Dubs speaks

Among those who spoke at the protest before an emergency petition with over 40,000 signatures was taken to Downing St were speakers from four London Labour councils who all said they had told the government they would take more children but their offers had not been taken up.

Dubs Now – Shame on May


Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists

Cyclists and supporters met in Trafalgar Square to march to the Treasury on the edge of Parliament Square to call for a significant increase in spending on infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on our streets.

That week five people were killed on London streets as a result of careless or dangerous driving – accidents are rare, but such deaths are made much more likely by a road system engineered around the needs of car and other vehicle drivers and cutting their journey times through the city. Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians have long been treated as secondary and chronically underfunded.

But these 5 killed, who were remembered in the protest and die-in are a small fraction of the numbers who die prematurely each week in London as a result of high and often illegal levels of air pollution – estimated at around 180 per week, as well as the much higher number of those whose lives are seriously affected by health problems – both figures including many who drive. Powerful lobbies for motorists and vehicle manufacturers have led to the domination of our cities by cars and lorries.

There are huge health benefits from cleaning the air by cutting down traffic and congestion, and also by encouraging healthy activities including walking and cycling. And the main factor discouraging people from taking to bikes for journeys to school, work and shopping etc is the danger from cars and lorries. Better public transport also helps, particularly in cutting pollution levels, and anything that cuts the use of petrol and diesel vehicles will reduce the major contribution this makes to global warming.

Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists


ANAL squat in Belgravia

My final event that day was a visit to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, a rather grand house short distance from Buckingham Palace (and more relevant to me, from Victoria Station.) Squatting collective the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL) had taken over this house on February 1st after having been evicted from the Belgrave Square house owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko which they occupied for a week.

I’d meant to go there a week earlier, but a domestic emergency had called me away earlier in the day from a protest at the US Embassy before a programme of workshops and seminars in the seven-storey squat had begun. There was nothing special happening on the afternoon I visited (though some things were happening in the evening) but I was welcomed by the occupiers, several of whom recognised me, and they were happy for me to wander around the building and take photographs.

Apart from being careful to respect the privacy of some of the occupiers who were sleeping or resting in a couple of the rooms I was able to go everywhere from the basement to the top floor, but the door leading onto the roof was locked, probably to stop any possible access from there by bailiffs. Like many other houses and hotels in the area it has a view into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, but I had to make do with the view from a rather dusty window, or the less interesting view from lower down where windows could be opened.

Few squats have blue plaques – this one for soldier and archaeologist Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, but more recently it has been in use for offices, business meetings and conferences. The squatters have tried hard to cause no serious damage and had last week turned out some people who had come to make a mess of the place.

There are around 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, many like this deliberately kept empty as investments, their value increasing year on year. The number is enough to enough to house the homeless many times over. ANAL say that properties like this should be used for short-term accommodation while they remain empty and they have opened it as a temporary homeless shelter for rough-sleepers.

It remained in use for almost month, with the squat finally evicted at 8am on 27th February. As I ended my post, “There clearly does need to be some way to bring empty properties back into use, and councils should have much greater powers than at present to do so. Until that happens, squatting seems to be the only possible solution.”

ANAL squat in Belgravia


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Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

Sunday, February 6th, 2022

Doctors and Blood Diamonds – 2016

There is no real connection I’m aware of between doctors and blood diamonds other than the fact I photographed both protests on 6th February 2016 – and I thought it made a nice headline.

Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest

My working day started on Old Bond Street in Mayfair, an area of London I generally try to avoid, packed with businesses which represent the true scum on the capitalist system and their customers largely representing those most successful at exploiting the system and the great majority of the population. While the City of London is still the world capital of dodgy financial management, Mayfair is where much of the more commercial aspects of our current system ply their trade.

There are no diamonds mined in Israel, but diamonds are Israel, largest manufacturing export – then at around $10 billion a year and contributing around $1 billion a year to Israeli military and security industries. In a direct connection the Steinmetz Diamonds Group which supplies companies including De Beers and Tiffany supports the Israeli Givati Brigade through the Steinmetz Foundation. One banner was a message from the Samouni family, 29 of whom were killed by the Givati Brigade in 2008 in cold blood.

A week before St Valentines Day, protesters stood outside diamond sellers including De Beers and Tiffanys with banners urging people not to buy engagement rings these shops that sell rings using diamonds from Israel’s Steinmetz Diamonds Group.


Junior Doctors Rally & March

I left for the short walk to Waterloo Place, where Junior Doctors and supporters were gathering for a rally against against the imposition of new contracts they say will destroy the NHS and make it unsafe for patients. Supporting them were many other medical professionals – consultants, GPs, nurses and others – who all saw the contract as a part of an attack on the NHS to move towards a privatised medical system.

Speaker after speaker – including Dame Vivienne Westwood, her son Ben, and Vanessa Redgrave as well as many medical professionals – stressed how Health Minister Jeremy Hunt Hunt was misleading the media and public about the need for changes in the contract, carefully selecting evidence that supports his case while ignoring the much wider evidence against it.

Dame Vivienne Westwood and Vanessa Redgrave at the rally

Among the many placards were those naming doctors who had already left the NHS to work abroad, with the message ‘You’ve driven me out Jeremy… Stop bleeding the NHS dry’. Others named junior doctors supporting of the protest who were unable to attend the protest because they were working in what is already a 24 hour 7 day profession.

The protesters marched to Downing St where they sat down blocking the road wearing surgical masks while a deputation went into Downing St to deliver a message to the prime minister; they emerged a few minutes later to announce that the people inside No 10 had refused to accept any message from them.

We have seen in the current pandemic how this and other changes made in recent years have put the NHS under severe strain. As I wrote in 2016:

Of course it isn’t just junior doctors; new income rules for immigrant workers are likely to lead to up to 30,000 nurses being deported, and the cutting of bursaries for nurses and now proposed for all other medical courses will have disastrous effects. Add to this the effects of PFI which is bankrupting hospitals leading to privatisations and its hard not to see the end of the NHS as we have known it as inevitable.

It’s almost certainly too late to save the NHS in its current incarnation. The only solution is the kind of radical change that happened before under Nye Bevan and others to create a new NHS. But for that we would need a new revitalised Labour party in power – or a people’s revolution. Don’t hold your breath – and don’t get old or ill.


More on both protests on My London Diary
Junior Doctors Rally & March
Valentines Israeli Blood Diamonds protest


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March Against Housing & Planning Bill

Sunday, January 30th, 2022

The March Against Housing & Planning Bill on January 30th 2016 was organised by activists from South London, particulary from the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

These include many who are fighting against the demolition of social housing that is taking place across London, including in Lambeth and Southwark. Council tenants and leaseholders on council estates are fighting to save their homes – and fighting against Lambeth and Southwark councils who together with private developers and estate agent advisers are bent on demolishing the estates and replacing them with new estates which are largely for private rent or sale at London’s inflated market prices.

Southwark Council in particular carried out an expenisive PR exercise to demonise the Heygate Estate at the Elephant & Castle, having failed to carry out necessary maintenance and flooded the estate with people with various social problems over a number of years. The whole disastrous history has been documented in depth on the Southwark 35% site. A prize-winning estate with 1,214 homes built in 1974 to provide social housing for around 3,000 people was deliberately run-down and demolished. It’s replacement, Elephant Park has less than 100 social housing units. Many of its new flats are simply investments for overseas owners.

Southwark sold the Heygate to developers for one third of its previous valuation, and spent more on the scheme than it received. A study by Global architect firm Gensler concluded that the £35m spent by Southwark in rehousing the estate residents was exactly the same as it would have cost to refurbish the estate up to modern standards – and would have avoided the huge carbon footprint of demolishing and rebuilding.

A well as Heygate, Southwark Council’s main target has been the Aylesbury Estate, where Tony Blair chose to launch the Labour regeneration policy which has enabled corrupt councils to destroy much of what remained of social housing. For many council officers and some councillors it has enabled them to move into highly paid jobs with developers as a reward for their services. Lambeth has also been pursuing similar policies (along with other boroughs in London) and in particular with the Central Hill estate close to Crystal Palace.

An angry heckler – their argument continued after the speech by Livingstone

The protest against the Housing & Planning Bill in 2016 was also attended by people from both Lambeth and Southwark Council, and when Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Housing Richard Livingstone stepped up to the microphone to speak at the rally before the march some trouble was inevitable. Among those loudly heckling him was another of the speakers, Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing.

Class War have also been active in support of social housing in South London in particular and livened up the march by dancing along the street with banners singing the ‘Lambeth Walk’. One banner carried the words of a leading US Anarchist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” and another had a field of crosses with the message “We have found new homes for the rich“.

Class War supporters rushed across the street for a short impromtu protest in front of a large branch of one of the leading estate agents driving the gentrification of London and advising councils and government on housing policies, but soon rejoined the main march of around 2,000 people heading for Westminster Bridge and Downing St.

At Downing St there was another protest outside the gates. Police had formed a line across Whitehall and directed the march to the opposite side of the street opposite Downing St. The march followed them across but then many simply walked back across the street to mass in front of the gates for a rally led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! who have been active in supporting the Focus E15 Mothers in their campaign against the housing failures of Newham Council.

More on My London Diary at Housing and Planning Bill March


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United Friends & Families March

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

Today at noon in London, the the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody, is holding its annual march from Trafalgar Square along Whitehall to a rally opposite Downing St as it has on the last Saturday in October since 1999. In 2010 the march was also on 30th October and I published a lengthy post about it with many photographs on My London Diary. Here is the text in full (with some minor corrections) and a few of the pictures.


United Friends & Families March

Trafalgar Square to Downing St, London. Saturday 30 Oct 2010

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, sister of Sean Rigg, killed by police in Brixton, tries to deliver a letter at Downing St
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The United Friends and Families of those who have died in suspicious circumstances in police custody, prisons and secure mental institutions marched slowly in silence down Whitehall to Downing St, where police refused to allow them to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

It’s impossible to be sure how many of the suspicious deaths in police custody, prisons and secure mental institutions (and there are around 200 a year) have been as a result of lack of care, the use of excessive force and brutality, but certainly the answer is far too many.


Since 1999, the ‘United Friends and Families’ of some of those who have died have held an annual slow silent funeral march from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Downing St. It attracted particular attention in 2008 when the mother and other family members of Jean Charles de Menezes were among those taking part. This year’s event was rather smaller, and received little attention from the mainstream media.

A number of family members spoke with great feeling opposite Downing St, and then the group, by now around a hundred strong, moved across the road to fix flowers to the gates and attempt to deliver a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. It seemed an unnecessary and pointless snub that the police refused to take the letter and that nobody from No 10 was apparently prepared to come and receive it.

Earlier there had been an argument with the police who had objected to the rally occupying one of the two southbound lanes of Whitehall, but was allowed to go ahead by the officer in charge after those present had refused to move. In previous years the police have usually seemed anxious to avoid confrontation, although in 2008 they insisted on searching all the bouquets before allowing them to be laid on the gates of Downing St.

Jason McPherson’s grandmother speaking opposite Downing St

Speakers at the rally opposite Downing St included Stephanie, the twin sister of Leon Patterson, Rupert Sylvester, the father of Roger Sylvester, Ricky Bishop’s sister Rhonda and mother Doreen, Samantha, sister of Jason McPherson and his grandmother, Susan Alexander, the mother of Azelle Rodney, and finally the two sisters of Sean Rigg.

What the families want is simple. Justice. And to know the truth about what happened. What emerged again and again was a shameful history of delay, evasion and covering up by the police, with the collusion of the IPCC, the Crown Prosecution Service and even at times judges, working together to ensure that justice fails to be done. The press have been fed lies – as in the de Menezes case, security cameras have suddenly been found not to have been working, CCTV tapes have been lost or doctored, officers involved have not been questioned until many months after the events, witness statements have been dismissed as ‘unreliable’. Deliberate delays are used as a tactic to prevent the truth coming out, and these also have allowed officers involved to collude in their cover-ups.

Overwhelmingly the victims in these cases are black, but one of the banners on the march reminded us that it affects the whole of our community, with a banner asking why 18 year old Sarah Campbell died in Styal Prison in 2003. Many of us present remembered and sadly miss her mother, Pauline Campbell; after her daughter’s tragic death she devoted herself single-mindedly to campaigning for justice, not just for Sarah but for other victims and to improve the system. Eventually she forced an admission from the authorities that their lack of care had caused Sarah’s death, but she became another victim of injustice when she committed suicide on her daughters grave.

Stephanie LightfootBennett, speaks about the police murder of her twin Leon Patterson

Leon Patterson was arrested in Stockport in 1992 and kept in a police cell for some days despite being in need of hospital treatment. He was found dead in his cell with a fractured skull and severe injuries, his blood covering the walls of the cell and his genitals mutilated, and in such a bad state that she failed to recognise him. The family challenged the initial inquest verdict which found his injuries to be self-inflicted, but there was no legal aid available for them. Fortunately the charity INQUEST supported them and a second inquest in April 1993 returned a verdict of unlawful killing, although this was quashed on appeal by the police on the grounds that the coroner had misdirected the jury on the law.

Roger Sylvester died in 1999 after being arrested by the Met. An inquest jury in October 2003 returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but the verdict was later quashed in the High Court, because the judge claimed the coroner’s summing up had confused the jury. The judge refused to order another inquest and said that no jury in a criminal case would be likely to convict any of the officers concerned of manslaughter.

Ricky Bishop was stopped, arrested and taken to Brixton police station on 22 Nov 2001, where he was assaulted and brutalised by police officers, leading to a heart attack. After that the police called a paramedic and he was taken to hospital and died. The family say that the police withheld vital evidence from the inquest and that the jury were not given a proper choice of verdicts at the inquest.

Samantha, sister of Jason McPherson

Jason McPherson died in hospital after being taken there from Notting Hill Police station after having been arrested on suspicion of drug offences on 18 Jan 2007. Police believed he had a wrap of cocaine in his mouth and had used considerable and arguably excessive force on his head and chest to try to get him to open his mouth. A jury at the inquest in January 2010 came to a unanimous ‘narrative verdict’, saying that the procedures were not properly implemented and that “it did not appear Jason was given the opportunity to remove the drugs voluntarily through talking down (tactical communication).”

Azelle Rodney was killed by police in April 2005 after a car in which he was travelling was rammed and stopped by the Met in Barnet. Rodney was not armed, although the officer who fired the shots at close range was sure he was. Various misleading statements from police sources were widely published by the press. An inquiry into the case opened formally earlier this month and there is to be a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice starting next week.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, sister of Sean Rigg, who went into Brixton Police station in August 2008 a physically healthy man but was dead a short time later, killed by the actions of a small group of officers, led the procession down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square. She stood beside her sister, Samantha Rigg-David, the last of the families to speak, and then read the letter from the families to Prime Minister David Cameron. The inquest on Sean Rigg, adjourned in 2008, is not now expected until 2012.

The families then moved across the road to the gates to Downing Street, demanding that police open them so they could deliver their letter. Police refused, and a small group of armed police joined the armed officers already present. After considerable amount of angry shouting as the police continued to refuse to allow access or even to take in the letter – a few of the group were allowed to sellotape the flowers, a photo of Sean Rigg and the letter to the gates. The noisy demonstration at the gates was still continuing when I left.
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Brexit and More: 20th Oct 2018

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

Brexit isn’t the end of the world, but it is beginning to become very clear what a huge mistake it was, driven by a relatively few people who not only stood to make large profits but also were scared of losing the huge advantages they get from currently legal tax avoidance schemes which the EU were promising to clamp down.

The vote – a close one – shows how the handful of billionaires who control most of our media and set the agenda for the rest use their power to influence many voters in this country, making a mockery of the ideals behind our ideas of democracy. It also showed the stupidity of the then Conservative leader who was so sure of winning that he set up the vote on an important constitutional change in a way that would not have been allowed by the average tennis club, where important issues would need rather more than a simple majority.

Those behind the People’s Vote argued that so much evidence had come out since the referendum that it was necessary to get a new mandate from the people to leave the EU. It was an argument that although well-founded was not going to get any support from the then PM Theresa May who was by then running scared of the right-wing hard Brexiteers who eventually took over the party. And it was also to prove toxic to the Labour Party who were pushed into supporting it by Keir Starmer – when there was already no shortage of poison and dirty tricks – as a leaked report made clear – though we still await the report of the Forde Inquiry on this.

The current dispute over the agreement signed with the EU to resolve the problems of the Irish border shows how eager the Johnson government was to get a hard Brexit done, apparently signing up without reading the small print (or rather ignoring the advice of civil servants who had read it.) Although the EU seem to be making things as easy as possible for exports to flow freely it currently seems likely that the UK will continue to demand the impossible and trigger a complete breakdown and a massive and highly damaging trade war, probably not confined to Europe.

I photographed at the start of the huge People’s March, when people filled much of Park Lane and a large corner of Hyde Park, and watched as they streamed past me.

Movement for Justice came to the march and tried to join it near the front, and when they were refused went and stood on the road in front of the official banner – along with quite a few other protesters. They were calling for an end to the hostile environment and the scapegoating of immigrants and demanding an amnesty for all people already present in the country and the extension of freedom of movement to include the Commonwealth. They marched down Piccadilly ahead of the main march whose start was held up.

Later I rejoined the main march as it came down Whitehall for the rally in Parliament Square. There were so many people that they could not all get into the square and many came to a halt along Whitehall, while others were reported still to be at Green Park, just a short distance from the start of the march. People were dancing and partying on the route having given up the attempt to complete the march.

A couple of other protests were taking place around Whitehall. Opposite Downing St the
People’s Mujahedin of Iran were protesting against the repressive regime in Iran,. there and calling for an end to executions there Posters reminded us that the Iranian regime is the world record holder for executions and gibbets and three women held in a prison cell illustrated the reign of terror there.

At the Ministry of Defence Veterans United Against Suicide were calling for more to be done to help service men and veterans in the fight against their developing PTSD and eventually committing suicide. They appeared to be a small extreme right group exploiting the issue, with a large banner supporting the soldier discharged for standing with Tommy Robinson in a photo used to publicise his extreme right-wing views. While I took a few pictures a speaker was condemning one of the major forces charities, accusing it of fraud and failure to act over the mental health issues. Some of those present made clear that I was not welcome at the event and I decided not to stay.

More at:

People’s Vote March – End
Veterans United Against Suicide
People’s Mujahedin of Iran
MfJ at People’s Vote March
People’s Vote March – Start


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