Posts Tagged ‘DWP’

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


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Roma, Olympic Park and Mind – 2016

Tuesday, October 31st, 2023

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind: After a morning protest by Roma at the Czech Embassy in Kensington I took a walk around the Olympic Park in Stratford before joining the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) who were holding a Halloween Demo at the national office of Mind.


Roma protest Czech Murder – Czech embassy, Kensington

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Ladislav Balaz, Chair of the Roma Labour Group and Europe Roma Network and others had come to hand in a letter calling for the murder of a young Romani man by neo-Nazi skinheads in Žatec to be properly investigated.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

The man who had lived in the UK until a year ago was a second cousin of Balaz. He was set upon as he went to buy cigarettes at a pizzeria.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Most cases of murders of Roma in the Czech Republic are dismissed by police as accidents and they have already issued false stories about the victim, claiming he was mentally ill and attacked people. The Roma demand justice and equality for everyone in Czech Republic and the elimination of any double standards of justice. Several of the protesters made speeches in Czech as the letter was presented.

Roma protest Czech Murder


A Walk in the Olympic Park – Stratford

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

I had several hours between the protest outside the Czech Embassy and a protest in Stratford High Street and decided it was a good occasion to take another walk in the park at Stratford which had been the site of the 2012 London olympic games and to make some more panoramic images.

It was a year since I had been there, and four years since the Olympics and I had hoped to see the park in much better condition than I found it. Considerable progress had been made in the buildings which are shooting up around it and many of the ways into the park are still closed.

I walked around much of the southern area of the park and found it still “largely an arid and alienating space composed mainly of wide empty walkways rather than a park.”

I took rather a lot of pictures, both panoramic and more normal views before it was time to make my way back through the Westfield shopping centre into the centre of Stratford.

Many more pictures at A Walk in the Olympic Park.


Against Mind’s collusion with the DWP – Stratford

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive came out and spoke to the protesters

The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) came for a Halloween Demo at the national office of mental health charity Mind in Stratford.

They complain that Mind failed to mention the effects of welfare reform, sanctions, or benefit-related deaths in its latest five-year strategy and has dropped its support for the long-running court case aimed at forcing the government to make WCA safer for people with mental health conditions.

Mind’s policy and campaigns manager Tom Pollard had been seconded to work as a senior policy adviser to the DWP and was to start the following day and they demanded the resignation of Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer.

Farmer came out to meet the protesters on the pavement and told them that Mind was still working for people with mental health problems and not for the DWP, and that Pollard’s decision had been entirely a personal one in order to gain more insight into the workings of government rather than to assist them in the any discrimination against the disabled.

The protesters were unconvinced and after he had finished speaking several spoke about how local Mind groups were working against the interests of those with mental health problems. They claimed the local managers were often more interested in empire building than in the welfare of benefit claimants.

More pictures at Mind’s collusion with the DWP.


Access to Work & Harvest Festival – 2015

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Access to Work & Harvest Festival: On Saturday 26th September 2015 I was pulled in two directions, wanting to attend both a protest for disabled people in Westminster and the harvest festival at Grow Heathrow in Sipson on the western edge of London. In the end I managed to get to both, leaving the first early and arriving a little late at the second, going more or less to the end of the Piccadilly line at Heathrow Central and then catching a bus.


Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest – Westminster

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

The Access to Work scheme was set up in 1994 to provide disabled people with funding to pay for extra disability-related expenses which enable them to work, including travel, support workers and specialised equipment. It was a significant milestone in equality for the deaf and disabled in the UK, and at the end of the Labour government in 2010 was supporting almost 28,000 people. Under Tory cuts this number had been reduced by 15% to around 22,000 with many applications being refused by the DWP.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

In 2015 the government put a cap on the amount which could be claimed annually by those on the scheme of around £42,000, applying immediately to new claimants and in a couple of years to those already part of the scheme.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

According to the protesters the cuts would not only prevent many currently supported by the AtW scheme to be able to continue their jobs but would also would lose the government revenue as the current scheme brings in £1.48 for every pound invested.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

Many of those taking part in the protest were disabled people on the AtW scheme who fear they will be unable to continue in their careers if the cuts are implemented, including many deaf people. Many signed with their hands as I photographed them, and the hand, a symbol for British Sign Language was prominent on some of the banners and on at least one face.

The campaigners met in Old Palace Yard and then assembled to march through Parliament Square and a short distance up Victoria Street and then past the Department of Work and Pensions in Caxton House and on to a rally opposite Downing Street.

I left as the rally there was about to start to take the District line and then the Piccadilly to Heathrow Central from where I could catch a 111 bus to Sipson.

More at Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest.


Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival – Sipson

Grow Heathrow which had occupied an abandoned and overgrown nursery in Sipson in 2010 were holding a harvest festival to celebrate another year’s harvest there with ‘music, pumpkins and pizza’ as well as holding an open ‘No Third Runway!’ discussion. which I was keen to attend and take part in.

The discussion was already underway when I arrived a little out of breath after running the short distance from the bus stop, but I was able to ask several questions and make some comments as well as taking pictures. With John Stewart and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid taking part it was an interesting discussion, and if fairly small the group taking part was certainly a select one.

As I commented then, “Whatever decision the current government take over the curiously defective considerations of the Davies committee (and I think we may well see some very long grass coming into play) it seems to me unlikely that Heathrow expansion will be deliverable.”

The commision had been set up in order to approve Heathrow expansion and it became official government policy in October 2016. It was supported by a parliamentary vote in 2018, but an application for judicial review by environmental groups, the Mayor of London and local councils ruled the decision unlawful as it had failed to to the government’s commitments to combat climate change into account. The government accepted the court’s decision, but Heathrow appealed to the Supreme Court who overruled this decision.

Although this theoretically allowed the expansion to go ahead, it currently seems unlikely to do so, with increasing environmental concerns, changes in forecasts of future air traffic, increasing costs and also increasing capacity at other UK airports almost certainly make it no longer viable.

After the discussion I took the opportunity to walk around the site to see what had changed since my last visit, and take more pictures. The case for eviction of Grow Heathrow had been recently adjourned until Summer 2016. Half the site was lost by an eviction in early 2019 but the site was only finally evicted in March 2021.

More at Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival.


National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018
Campaigners spell out ‘stopuniversalcredit’ in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall; the ‘#’ was delaying security

Thursday 24th May 2018 was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions. The pictures come from these events.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Back in 2010 when the idea of Universal Credit was announced by Iain Duncan Smith it was true that the UK’s benefits system was something of a muddle, and the aim of producing a simpler system which brought six existing benefits together was probably laudable. But its implementation has been a disaster for many.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Those six benefits had each been introduced to deal with particular needs, and though not perfect they more or less worked. Trying to fit everything into a single system has proved to be far more difficult, and many of the decisions made about how the system might work failed to take into account the circumstances in which those on low incomes actually live and the lack of supporting resources the wealthier take for granted, such as friends and family with money and bank accounts with savings.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

When announced, Iain Duncan Smith promised it would make the social security system fairer to claimants and taxpayers, but as it came into being it became clear that the main objective was to cut the cost to taxpayers and to provide what is effectively a handout to companies and organisations which employ workers on low rates of pay.

The plans for introducing UC hugely underestimated the complexities of the system, particularly as it applies to the the most precarious of workers, many of whom are now employed on zero hours contracts with no guaranteed weekly hours of work. There were huge problems with computer systems partly because of the complexity but also because of a failure to understand the problems and to properly specify what was needed.

The real motivation behind UC was made clear in 2015 when George Osborne announced a future £3.2 billion a year cut to the overall Universal Credit budget, reducing work allowances and reducing and limiting the per-child element of support. These cuts were later partly reversed by Philip Hammond.

The transition from the legacy benefits to UC has been extremely hard for many, particularly as some have had a period of up to 13 weeks before receiving their first payment under UC. Food banks have been put under great strain because of this and benefit sanctions. 60% of tenants put onto UC have been forced into arrears on their rents and many have faced eviction.Some have become desperate enough to take their own lives.

Wikipedia quotes a report that in 2018 a million working “homeowners now getting tax credits will have less with the new system and lose on average £43 a week. 600,000 working single parents will lose on average £16 per week and roughly 750,000 households on disability benefits will lose on average £75 per week. Nearly 2 in 5 households receiving benefits will be on average worse off by £52 per week.”

Universal Credit has become a mess and various small changes the successive governments have been forced into making have hardly improved it. There are some measures which could be taken to improve the situation. Large increases in the minimum wage with the aim of moving to a situation where those in work would be adequately paid and not need UC would help. Changes in employment law including the replacement of zero hours contracts by a fair flexible contract system would also make a contribution. But almost certainly the best solution would be to move to a universal basic wage.

Thursday 24th May was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions.

More details on the protests on Thursday 24th May 2018 by campaigners at Tate Modern, the rally outside Parliament and march to protest outside the DWP on My London Diary.

Universal Credit rally & march
Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries – 2016

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

On Friday 4th March 2016, campaigners from the Mental Health Resistance Network and DPAC protested outside City Road Surgery where Remploy/Maximus job coaches will “create jobs by prescription.” They say disabled people will be bullied into unsuitable work and lose benefits through sanctions if they refuse – and protest ‘No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries‘.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

Particularly since the Tories came into power in 2010, disabled people have been systematically attacked with cuts in benefits and unfair tests of fitness for work which have led to many suicides.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

What should be a supportive system of Job Centres encouraging and helping people find work has increasingly become a vindictive system reducing the benefits to many for often ridiculous, trivial and arbitrary reasons and attempting to force people into unsuitable jobs. Benefit sanctions can leave people without the necessary means to stay alive for months or even years at a time.

In January 2022, people on Universal Credit, either unemployed or on low paid jobs were told they had only four weeks before they had to look for jobs outside the sectors they had previously worked in, and if job centre staff feel they had not tried hard enough or had turned down jobs, however unsuitable, they would have their benefits cut.

And a few days ago, the government announced an incentive scheme awarding £250 monthly prizes to the staff whose Job Centre forces the most claimants into work and forcing claimants who have been on the benefit for thirteen weeks a to attend a job centre every weekday for a fortnight for “intensive support”.

The government clearly believe that the only incentive is cash, while most of us want jobs that we feel are worth doing and have some interest as well as pay enough to live on. Even Job Centre staff are poorly paid and their union dismissed the prize scheme, calling instead for their poverty pay to be increased. But these staff are generally not evil people, and being made by the government to bully people rather than help them must be painful for many of them as well as their clients.

The protest was a creative and colourful piece of street theatre, if sometimes chaotic, with a man dressed as a doctor wearing an Iain Duncan Smith mask and a name label ‘Dr Iain Duncan Smith, Dept of Eugenics‘ handing out prescription forms for a ‘Mr A Scrounger, 17 Lazy House, Sink Estate, Tory Britain‘.

The forms prescribed ‘Endless Job Coaching in Surgery, Major benefits reduction and PRN (‘pro re nata’ – as needed) Regular Sanctions‘ on the basis ‘Continue until complete cure or death‘ from ‘Dr A Lackey, DWP Surgery, c/o Nudge Unit, Tory Headquarters‘.

Then Maximus ‘Job Coaches’ pounced on the patients to issue G4S or Ingeus Deloitte Ltd ‘work cures’ and red ‘Sanctioned’ notices. Perhaps appropriately one of those job coaches was in costume as a squirrel and had a placard reading ‘Nuts to IDS – Squirrels Fight Back’.

There were also some serious speeches, including from a local GP, Roy Bard of MHRN, Paula Peters of DPAC, and Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union who had come with a banner, drummers and plastic horns to add some noise to the protest.

At the end of the protest DPAC led a march down City Road, with police vainly trying to move them onto the pavement.

The march stopped at the busy Old Street roundabout where they held a noisy protest letting all around know why they were protesting for around 20 minutes blocking all traffic while police tried to move them away. Eventually after police began seriously to threaten arrests they decided it was time to end the protest and slowly moved off the street.

Much more on My London Diary at No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries. You can also see some pictures I took later that day at the launch of the re-born International Times at London is on Fire – IT is back.


PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners – On Wednesday 13th July 2016 I photographed two protests about the inadequate and badly run Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, a protest supporting a cross-party bill to save the NHS from privatisation, a party against replacing Trident and the longest running strike in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback at Vauxhall – Vauxhall

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The hardest part of photographing the protest at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre was actually finding the place, hidden away in a back street. This was one of around 20 protests around the country at the centres where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The assessments are almost solely designed to save money for the DWP, enabling them to ignore medical evidence of need and are carried out by people who are given a financial incentive to fail claimants. They often mean that genuine claimants lose essential benefits for months before they are restored on appeal. They have led to many becoming desperate, with some needing hospital treatment and a few have committed suicide after being failed.

PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood was later in the day presenting a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles.

People from various campaigns had come out to support the bill, which although it had no chance of progressing into law did lead to a greater awareness of the privatisation which is slowly but apparently inevitably putting our NHS into the hands of private, mainly American, health companies, and eroding its basic principles.

Among those who came out to speak was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott.

NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster

Campaigners from Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies along with ATOS responsible for carrying out the shoddy cash-saving PIP assessments.

In particular these assessments are unfair on many claimants whose conditions vary day to day including many with mental health issues. The assessments make no allowances for this and fail to take any account of the medical evidence in coming to their conclusions.

After protesting for some time on the very busy pavement where there were a number of speakers, Paula Peters of DPAC led the group out into the the middle of Victoria Street where they stood with banners and in wheelchairs blocking traffic.

They then marched the short distance to the DWP headquarters in Caxton St, holding a further protest with speakers in the road outside.

Finally they marched past the Houses of Parliament to College Green where the media had set up their ‘Westminster village’ crowded with cameras for Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Police stopped them as they tried to go onto the grass in front of the TV cameras, and for some time they stood along the side before finally ignoring the police and going on to the green. Where the TV crews ignored the protest.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Square

CND members and supporters were today lobbying MPs against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

In Parliament Square they had organised a ‘Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party’ and there were various Christian groups with placards placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement, with Buddhists from the Battersea Peace Pagoda adding their support.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St Cleaners – City of London

Finally I went to the heart of the CIty of London where a rally was taking place in support of cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE.

By 13th July this had already become the longest-running strike ever in the City of London and it continued into August. The UVW say:

As days became weeks, the inconvenience for white-collar workers at 100 Wood Street rightly turned into a major embarrassment for their employers, and especially for CBRE, the managers of the building. City of London police were called many times, security staff were intimidating, and the tenants were barely coping with a trickle of the former cleaning operation. Eventually, after a surprise flashmob in the CBRE’s lobby, and then a big march to mark the 50th consecutive day, the decision was taken after 61 days to raise all their pay to the London Living Wage!

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/100-wood-street/

Many more pictures at Solidarity for Wood St cleaners.


Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Friday, May 27th, 2022

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters – I had a long and busy day in Westminster on Wednesday 27th May 2015. It was the day of the Queen’s speech to parliament, reading out the intentions of the government’s coming session, and people and groups had come to the area to make their feelings about this clear.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

I usually avoid any occasions involving royalty who I think reflect the worst aspects of our class-based society. We got it right in 1649, when Charles I was found guilty of attempting to “uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people” and although the ‘Commonwealth’ wasn’t a great deal of fun the restoration of the monarchy was a a national tragedy even more retrograde than Brexit.

I don’t want to photograph crowds of sycophantic flag wavers – including many tourists, nor the royals themselves, who many feel are an inbred group of parasites who rose to wealth and power through the theiving, skullduggery and aggression of their ancestors, maintaining their position through a biased military, political and legal system. Certainly we would be a better and healthier nation without them and the class system they help perpetuate.

Royal occasions also bring out the very worst in our police, and this was clearly on show in their actions against Class War and some others who had come to protest at the event. Rather than upholding the law they were making it up on the spot to avoid any possible embarrassment to the Queen, forcing people to move and making arrests without any lawful basis.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Class War had come with their controversial banner showing the political leaders and I managed to get a few images of them was they held it up for a few seconds on the Queen’s route well before she was due to arrive. But they were immediately forced to take it down and told they would be arrested if they continued to protest, with the threat that the banner would be taken from them.

It was a copy of the one that police had seized at a ‘Poor Doors’ protest a couple of months earlier and held in Bethnal Green police station (where they lost it rather than hand it back when they had to admit they had no legal basis to have taken it.) Banners aren’t cheap and Class War funds are limited to a few individuals digging in their pockets, so they rolled it up and moved away.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Police then arrested two men, one holding a video camera, and another holding under his arm a small poster with a message about austerity being stupid. As my caption states “They tell the police correctly that they have committed no offence, but the police decide to arrest them anyway. Just in case.” They were released without charge a couple of hours later.

As a large group of police were following and harassing them, Class War and friends decided to leave for a nearby pub. I followed them, along with a large squad of police, and talked with them as they stood outside quietly having a drink. On the other side of the road were around 50 police standing around watching them, including a squad of TSG, looking menacing for over an hour. I was later told police kept following some of Class War for the next six hours. It all seemed a huge waste of public money.

I’d stayed with Class War so long because it looked likely that the police were going to take action, perhaps make more arrests although no offence was being committed, but also to let the crowds and policing around the Queen’s route disperse, and then made my way up Parliament Street to Whitehall where Compassion in Care were campaigning for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it an offence not to act on the genuine concerns of a whistleblower and protect those revealing scandals in social care and other sectors.

This would replace the Public Interest Disclosure Act which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. Compassion in Care say that the reccomendations of the then recent Francis review “will do nothing to protect whistle-blowers or encourage anyone else to raise concerns. This is because his recommendations rely on employers and regulators – which include the very same people who have “got away with” cover-ups, ignoring concerns, and victimising whistle-blowers for many years.”

I walked on up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where people were beginning to gather for a National Campaign against Fees and Cuts rally. A group of police were gathered around a man and arresting him, but refusing to answer any questions from a concerned crowd around them as to what was happening. A small crowd followed the police as they took the man to a nearby police van, where a police officer assaulted a young bystander who was then also arrested. Finally as the van drove away, an officer told us that the man was wanted for an earlier offence and the arrest was in no way related to the protest that was gathering. If the police had made this clear from the start all this could have been avoided.

Back in Trafalgar Square a man appeared with a mobile disco and crew and people began to dance. This turned out to be Lee Marshall (aka Disco Boy) who describes himself as an “entertainer prankster DJ host”, and apparently has gained a huge social media following, with his video stunts watched by hundreds of thousands of people and had come to perform in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere in Westminster. He moved off as the rally began.

There was a short rally for the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) with various groups including Class War holding banners on the plinth of Nelson’s column before they set of for the march.

Also in Trafalgar Square were Ahwazi protesters from the Hashem Shabani Action Group whose homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oilfields, was occupied by Iran in 1925. Since then Iran has attempted to suppress their heritage and identity, in part by resettling non-Ahwazi Iranians in the area.

The students and some others at the NCAFC protest then set off to march down Whitehall, where police made an unsuccessful attempt to stop them, at Downing St, arresting several forcefully. There seemed to be little point as police numbers were clearly too few and many protesters were simply walking around them and the barriers as I did.

The Ahwazi protesters had marched with the students and they stopped in Parliament Square for a rally while the rest marched on peacefully around the area for some time stopping to protest outside the Dept of Work & Pensions and the Tory Party HQ before returning to protest noisily in front of Downing Street which was protected by mass ranks of police. They then marched on, I think intending to go towards Buckingham Palace, but I’d had enough walking around.

On the pavement opposite Downing St at the same time as the NCAFC march the People’s Assembly were holding a static ‘End Austerity Now’ protest. I listened to a few of the speeches and photographed them. But it had been a long and rather confusing day and it was time for home.

More on the events of the day on My London Diary
People’s Assembly ‘End Austerity Now’
Ahwazi Arabs protest Iran’s war
NCAFC March against ‘undemocracy’
NCAFC rally in Trafalgar Square
Disco Boy plays Trafalgar Square
Police arrest man in Trafalgar Square
‘I am Edna’ – protect whistle-blowers
Class War protest Queen’s speech


Junior Doctors, Ugandan Election, Benefit Sanctions

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

Junior Doctors, Ugandan Election, Benefit Sanctions. Three protests I photographed on Wednesday 9th March 2016

David Clapson, one of many victions of inhumane Tory policies

UCH rally for Junior Doctors Strike

Junior doctors were on a one day strike against the imposition of unfair contracts which they say are unsafe and they were joined by other trade unionists on the picket line at University College Hospital on Euston Road.

Later in the morning came the rally opposite the hospital I photographed when other health workers and NHS activists came to support them, and also to oppose the axing for NHS student bursaries and the creeping privatisation of the NHS.


Ugandans protest rigged Presidential Election

Elections had been held in Uganda in February 2016, and international observers reported widespread fraud and irregularities with opposition politicians being arrested, voters intimidated and many polling stations reporting results very different to the actual votes cast.

The protesters called on the UK not to recognise Museveni as the legitimate President of Uganda and for the immediate release of Dr Besigye and other political prisoners, as well as action against those responsible for torture.

The protesters, who included the African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and Peter Tatchell Foundation were clear that Museveni had lost the election to his challenger Besigye, and having held a high-spirited protest outside the Ugandan High Commission on the corner of Trafalgar Square marched down to deliver a letter to Downing St.


Unite against Benefit Sanctions

Demonstrations were taking place at over 70 job centres across the country against the use of benefit sanctions. Many claimants lose benefits for trivial reasons and for events beyond their control and are left without support. Some are sanctioned for arriving a few minutes late because of traffic congestion or for missing appointments they have not been informed about. I photographed a protest called by Unite Community members outside the ministry responsible for the policy, the DWP in Caxton St, Westminster.

Sanctions mean people lose benefits and are left destitute. Despite government denials at least 95 deaths are known to have resulted from these sanctions and without the efforts of the many food banks the figure would be much higher.

Some campaigners see the use of sanctions as a deliberate and successful attack on the unemployed and disabled by minister Iain Duncan Smith who is responsible for those working for the DWP being given incentives and targets for causing maximum misery and they label him ‘Minister for Euthanasia’.


David Clapson – Sanctioned to Death

Among those at the protest at Caxton House was Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died starving and destitute because he was penalised by the Job Centre for missing a meeting. She delivered a petition calling for an inquest into his death and an end to unfair benefit sanctions which leave claimants without support. Over 200,000 people have signed this and a related petition.


10,000 Disabled Dead

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

On 28th September 2013, disabled activists and supporters came to Parliament Square for ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’, a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 who died shortly after the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

The figure of 10,000 is the number who died in the 3 months following the degrading Atos-administered tests used by the government intended to assess the needs of people receiving benefits related to disability and ill health. The campaigners are not claiming that the test itself killed people, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests administered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

At the event we heard moving personal testimonies by disabled people and a mother of three disabled children, with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions, both failing to understand the needs of the disabled and not treating them with dignity and humanity, and of deliberately discriminatory policies, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence.

Parliament Square was covered with 10,000 while flowers, one for each of the dead, and there was 2 minutes of silent remembrance for those who have suffered and died.

The silence was followed by four prayers facing the four sides of the square; prayers facing Westminster Abbey for the families of those who have suffered and disabled people still suffereing or despairing; facing the Supreme Court calling for justice and compassion for those without resources and power and for an end to discrimination and violence against the disabled; towards the Treasury calling on those in national and local government who decide on the use of resources to take into account the effect on people of what they do; and finally towards Parliament, calling for a new deal for disabled people and to put right the evident wrongs in the current system.

Unfortunately the prayers were not heard by those in power. The government’s response? They stopped issuing the figures on which this event was based.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


ATOS Olympics 2012

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Protesters outside the DWP where DPAC activists have occupied the lobby.

2012 was of course the year that London suffered the Olympics, which had been creating problems in East London since London was awarded the games in 2005. I’d photographed a number of event related to the games, both protests against it and others using it as a theme, as well as taking pictures around its perimeter and views into the site on Stratford Marsh, an area I’d photographed since the 1980s and which features strongly in my 2011 book ‘Before the Olympics‘.

With the games came the Paralympics, held a few days after the end of the main event on 29 August to 9 September 2012. Although these games were generally held to be a great success, and to have considerably raised the profile of disabled sport, there was criticism from many disabled groups about IT company Atos being the technology provider and sponsor of the games.

Atos Olympic medals and Atos Olympic flame

Atos was responsible for the work capability assessments for the Dept of Work & Pensions, and had clearly been both incompetent and discriminatory in this, finding many disabled people incorrectly fit for work to meet targets designed to cut the cost of benefits. Many who appealed the decisions were found to have been incorrectly assessed, but often shortly after this were called for another assessment and again wrongly found fit. It drove some disabled people to suicide.

Some disabled athletes obscured the Atos logo on their passes in protest, while activist groups led by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised a week of action against Atos to coincide with the Paralympics, beginning with a spoof Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games in front of Tower Bridge.

DPAC made it clear that this is not a protest against sports or those taking part in the Paralympics, but against the government and Atos:

"We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.

Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’."
Tara Flood celebrates her second gold medal

One of those taking part in the opening ceremony was Tara Flood a Paralympic swimmer who won a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic games as well as 2 silver and 4 bronzes there and in the two other games she took part in. Along with two activists in wheelchairs she got on the podium and was awarded another gold medal and the others silver and bronze.

Paralympian gold medal winner Tara Flood is stripped of her gold medal and blue badge

Then along came an ATOS doctor who administered a fitness for work test, first on Tara. She was found fit to work and the gold medal was cut off and her disabled parking card taken away; the others were also found fit to work, losing their medals and benefits too.

The ATOS Games continued, and on Wednesday 29th I photographed DPAC deliver a coffin to the ATOS offices in Triton Square. Friday 31 saw them again outside the ATOS offices for the Closing Atos Ceremony which included the Atos Miracle Cure, making disabled people fit for work.

As the closing ceremony was coming to an end there was a special announcement that there would be another action elsewhere and eventually we learnt that some disabled activists had entered and occupied the lobby of the DWP.

I jumped on a bus, but should have taken the underground as the traffic was heavy in places, but I still got there before the main crowd who had travelled from the protest at the Atos offices. Police would not let them join the 20 or so who were inside so they protested on the pavement in front of the building. There were speeches and then a lot of minor scuffles when police tried to push the protesters back and I had to leave before the protest ended.

More on My London Diary:
DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions
Closing Atos Ceremony
Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims
Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.