Posts Tagged ‘education’

Cuts, Yemen, Shopping Problem & Police Violence

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Back in 2009 we had a Labour government, but public services were still under threat and public sector jobs being cut. The euphoria with which many had greeted the Labour victory in 1997 to the theme music of “Things Can Only Get Better” had long evaporated, thanks to the country being dragged against its will into a illegal war which had ended with Iraq in chaos and the failure to reverse or ameliorate disastrous privatisations and the attack on social housing.

New Labour had also proved themselves inept in the huge expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, PFI, which gave a continuing huge windfall to the private sector and left public bodies, particularly parts of the NHS, with huge debts. The financial crisis in which hit stock markets around the world in September and October 2008 was a final straw, and while the actions of prime minister Gordon Brown may have helped saved the banks this came at enormous cost.

Government cuts were felt keenly in North London, where there were massive job losses including those of 550 mainly support workers from London Metropolitan University, 500 civil servants from Archway tower and more at City University, where adult education is under threat. On Saturday 23 May, 2009 around 500 met in Higbbury Fields for a march to a rally at Archway to defend jobs, services and education Among the mainly trade union speakers at the rally was just one local MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

From the rally I took the Northern line to Charing Cross and walked down Whitehall to Downing St. Protesting on the pavement opposite were Yemenis from the Southern Democratic Assembly. Yemen has been a split country for years, with two civil wars in the 1980s as well as the current ongoing war. Southern Yemen and North Yemen had agreed in principle to unite in 1972, and did so in 1990, but the Southern Yemenis revolted in 1994, accusing the government of grabbing land and property and of human rights abuses. Their protest in 2009 was calling for an end to the repression and military occupation by the North and for the release of jailed Southern leaders. In 1994 and now, the situation is complicated both by religious differences – Sunni and Shia – and by the interventions of a wide range of foreign powers – with often some strange bedfellows. The current was is of course led by Saudi Arabia, whose see it as a fight against the regional Shia power, Iran.

Opposite, on the pavement in front of the security gates to Downing St, I photographed a performance by the Reverend Billy and his ‘Life After Shopping’ Gospel choir from New York who were in London on their 2009 UK Shopocalypse Tour. Clearly the police didn’t quite now how to handle the holy activists, and the officer who stopped the Reverend to question him failed to make much progress – other than being diagnosed by Billy as having a “shopping problem.”

Like me, the Rev Billy and his team from the Church of Life After Shopping were on their way to the National Demonstration against Police Violence in London organised by the United Campaign Against Police Violence, set up following the G20 demonstration in London in which Ian Tomlinson, a man not taking part in the demonstration, was assaulted by and killed by a police officer.

Prominent among those taking part were members of two families of men who were killed in Brixton Police Station, Ricky Bishop and Sean Rigg. Ricky Bishop, a 25 year old black man died after being detained and brought into the police station in 2001. Sean Rigg, also black – like the majority of those who have died in custody – was taken into Brixton police station in August 2008 and within hours this fit 40 year old was dead. Police issued a number of misleading statements – as they did around the death of Ian Tomlinson, and failed to make a timely investigation.

Gradually over the years, dedicated work, led by his sister Marcia led to an inquest verdict ‘that the police had used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” on Rigg, that officers failed to uphold his basic rights and that the failings of the police “more than minimally” contributed to his death’. Further pressure by the campaign resulted in an IPCC report and eventual request of three officers. The CPS decided to drop the all charges against two of them, while the third was charged with perjury, though only after the Rigg family had forced a review. Despite the officer accepting he had given false evidence, a jury acquitted him. Further pressure led to an independent review of the IPCC investigation which ‘concluded that the IPCC committed a series of major blunders and that there had been “inappropriate conduct” by the Police Federation of England and Wales.’ (More details on Wikipedia). There have been several thousand deaths in police custody, prisons or other secure institutions in the last 50 years but only one officer brought to justice for the killings – convicted of manslaughter in 1986.

Police kept a close eye on the protesters and formed a line to protect Downing St, but otherwise acted reasonably until the protest held a solemn ceremony outside the police headquarters at New Scotland Yard on Victoria St, linking hands and holding a silence in memory of those who have died. This was rudely and provocatively interrupted by an woman officer sitting inside a police van blasting out a warning from her chief over the loudspeakers. Presumably as intended this produced an angry reaction from the crowd, and for a few seconds it seemed likely would provoke violence and lead to arrests, but those leading the event quietened the crowd and the ceremony continued, ending with the release of a large cloud of black balloons in memory of the dead.

Demonstration against Police Violence
Rev Billy Performs at Downing St
Southern Yemenis Demonstrate
March to Defend Jobs, Services & Education


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Saturday 16th April 2016

Friday, April 16th, 2021

There was a lot happening in London on Saturday 16th April 2016, and I managed to catch some of it. The largest march was organised by the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity. It demanded an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education.

It was a large march and by the time I arrived people were fairly tightly packed on around 500 metres of Gower St waiting for the march to start, and it took me some time to make my way through to the gazebo where speeches were being made before the start of the the march – though I found plenty to photograph as I moved through the crowd.

Finally I made my way to the front of the march and photographed some of the main banners lined up there, but police held up the start of the march and I had to leave before it moved off.

I was disappointed in Whitehall as there was no sign of an event I had been expecting to take place there – or perhaps I was too late. But in Parliament Square I met Ahwazi Arabs from the Ahwazi Arab People’s Democratic Popular Front and the Democratic Solidarity Party of Alahwaz who have demonstrated London in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran every April since 2005, on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

The Ahwaz region, an autonomous Arab state, was occupied by Iran in 1925 iand they incorporated it into the country in 1935 largely to allow the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP since 1954) to exploit its rich oil reserves. Since then Iran has pursued a campaign to eliminate Ahwazi culture and change the ethnic makeup of the region by encouraging Persian settlers. BP dominated Iranian oil until Iran nationalised it in 1951, and again became an important force there after the CIA (and MI6) engineered coup in 1953 and the company is still the major partner supplied by the National Iranian Oil Company.

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, by which time the Peoples Assembly marchers were arriving for a rally.

Things were visually rather more interesting on the North Terrace, where people were dancing to the ‘dig it sound system’, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion”.

And in one corner the Palestine Prisoners Parade were attracting attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many of them are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

As the rally came to an end the United Voices of the World trade union began a protest a short distance away on the Strand, supported by Class War and others, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop. The UVW say Brittania is systematically victimising, bullying and threatening cleaners and Topshop refuse to intervene.

The fairly small crowd held a noisy protest outside the shop entrance, with was blocked by security men, and a large group of police arrived and began to try to move the protesters, and began pushing them around. The protesters didn’t retaliate but simply moved back; some holding up placards in front of the police cameraman who was filming the event were threatened with arrest.

Eventually the protesters marched away, walking back along the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where they picked up a few more supporters and then on to Top Shop at Oxford Circus for another protest and stand-off with the police.

After a fairly short protest there the protesters marched on to John Lewis, where the UVW have a long-standing dispute calling for the cleaners to be treated equally with others who work there. As they approached the store some police became more violent and one woman was thrown bodily to the ground several yards away.

Other police and protesters went to help her and the protesters called for – and eventually got – an apology for the inappropriate use of force. Things calmed down and the protest continued, but as it moved off after several speeches with many leaving for home the police picked on two individuals and began searching them and threatening arrest and the situation became more tense, with police threatening both protesters and press.

More on My London Diary
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education

Ten Years Ago – 2011

Friday, January 29th, 2021

On Saturday 29th January 2011 several hundred people, “many of them Egyptians living in the UK from differing political & ideological backgrounds held a peaceful but noisy protest

to show our solidarity & support of our fellow Egyptians in our beloved country, who decided on making Tuesday 25/01/2011 a day of protests & demonstrations in Egypt against the unfair, tyrant, oppressive & corrupt Egyptian regime that has been ruling our country for decades.”

Protest flyer quoted on ‘My London Diary’

The ‘Arab Spring’ of protests had begun in Tunisia after street-trade Mohamed Bouazizi’s set himself on fire and died on 17 December 2010 leading to protests and the overthowing of the government on 14 January 2011. In January there were protests in Oman, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and in Egypt, where on 25 January thousands flocked to Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Hopes were then running high that the peaceful protests which had been met with suppression and brutality by the regime would succeed in achieving their “justified goal of a democratic, free & civil nation capable of ensuring a dignified, honourable & non-discriminatory life for all Egyptians.” But now we know that despite their early success things have not turned out well in the longer term.

A second group came to join the protest outside the Egyptian Embassy, but Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain who were calling in on their way to protest outside the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane against “two years Fascist Rule” by the Hasina Government in Bangladesh were told very firmly that the embassy protest – like the Egyptian revolution – was to be entirely non-sectarian and that they were not welcome, and had to protest a hundred yards or so down the street. Theirs, unlike that at the embassy, was a strictly segegrated protest, with the women kept at a distance and few even holding flags.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir is an Islamist group calling for the establishment of a Muslim caliphate, and in 2012, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which shares similar aims won elections to become the largest group in the Egyptian parliament and their candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected as president. The following year there were protests against Morsi who after widepread unrest was deposed by a military coup in July 2013, led by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi who became president. He remains in charge of an authoritarian miltary regime using “imprisonment, torture, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, forced disappearances and sexual violence against its critics” and running rigged elections.

A rather larger protest was taking place further east in London with thousands of students, teachers, parents and others marching peacefully in the latest demonstration to defend education and the public sector. The demonstration, backed by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts was one of two national marches today, with another taking place in Manchester.

The protest was carefully policed following some incidents, particularly at the Conservative HQ on Millbank at a previous march in November 2010, but the police appeared for once to be trying to avoid provocation, and their were few incidents on the actual march, though I think later a smaller group of protesters went on to protest on Oxford St where there were some clashes with police and most of the fairly small number of arrests were made.

As always with such a large protest with around 5-10,000 people stretched out over half a mile or more of streets, its hard to know when and where any incidents are likely to occur, though some are more predictable. Obviously there were going to be some fireworks at Downing St – and in particular on this event the lighting of quite a few smoke flares, so I was there when this took place.

But I’ve also always wanted to document events as a whole, rather than concentrate on the more photogenic and controversial aspects. So I often – if not usually – find myself for much of the time away from most of the other photographers covering protests for the press, though still trying to cover the key aspects.

In November I’d missed much of the action outside the Tory HQ, arriving rather late on, but this time I’d anticipated correctly that the police would be making sure that it was very well protected against any possible trouble. As in November I spent quite a lot of time photographing protesters as they went through Parliament Square, and by the time the last of them arrived at the end of the march at Tate Britain the rally there had ended. It was a convenient location for me, just a short walk across Vauxhall Bridge to catch my train home.

More at:
No Fees, No Cuts! Student March
Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution
Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


Youth Strike for Climate

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Youth Strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s protests, has injected a remarkable energy into the campaigning against what seems the inevitable climate disaster we are heading towards.

Most of those taking part in the protests on Fridays in London are taking time off from school to do so, sometimes with approval and even encouragement from teachers, but often despite threats and sanctions. Along with them are some students from FE and HE, but it does seem to be school students who are leading these protests.

And while schools may not approve, I think that many of the posters and placards show that the campaign is stimulating a great deal of activity in art departments across the area.

Of course as they say, it is their future which is at stake, their future lives that are at risk, while most politicians and those in charge of financial institutions and businesses in the rich world are likely to die before the worst effects of climate change begin to bite. Schoolkids don’t have a vote and feel that those who do are not thinking about the future of the young, and generally I think they are right.

Of course we are a part of the rich on this planet (despite homelessness and the other avoidable aspects of our increasing inequality); people in parts of the majority world are already in some places dying because of the effects of global heating, while here in the richer countries we are still ruled by smug wealth keeping getting richer with business as usual, and climate deniers who reject the science.

Theirs is a generation already feeling cheated by Brexit (whether we get either the current bad deal or a no deal) and by government cuts and longer term policies that have removed funding from education.

Protests like this one, and those by Extinction Rebellion, do have some effect in raising awareness and combating the lies still too frequent in the media. More people are beginning to think about how their own personal choices – over food, holiday travel and more – effect the environment but there still needs to be far more, not just at the personal level but also a giant cultural shift as well as political actions both here and across the world. We need as some of the posters and placards state, ‘System Change not Climate Change.’

More about the actual protest at Youth Strike for Climate.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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