Posts Tagged ‘firefighters’

Grenfell – 7 Years On

Friday, June 14th, 2024

Grenfell – 7 Years On: Seven years after the terrible fire that killed 72 people in Grenfell Tower and left many others traumatised we still have no justice. None of those whose deliberate actions and failures that set up this firetrap and made a disaster virtually inevitable has yet to be brought to court.

Grenfell - 7 Years On
Pictures here are from the first anniversary of the fire on Thursday 14th June 2018. You can see my account of this and more pictures on My London Diary.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

The inquiry dragged on and although it has ended taking evidence its final report has been delayed and delayed. Initially due in late 2023 it is now expected to be released in Autumn 2024, although that may well be delayed yet again.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

When it does come it will almost certainly be too little as well as far too late. Grenfell was a crime and the major criminals were obvious from the start. The inquiry – as it was always meant too – has tied the hands of the police in pursuing the criminals and bringing them to justice. It seems doubtful there will be many if any prosecutions and if they take place they are likely to be only for minor offences.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

I don’t think anything much of significance has emerged from the years of the inquiry that was not already evident in early reports on the fire – such as that published by Architects for Social Housing in July 2017, although we have some more detail. But the inquiry has mainly served as an opportunity for some involved to take part in buck-passing and blame others or to claim ignorance of the obvious.

And of course to generate considerable incomes for the lawyers, who have had a field day thanks to the excessive adversarial nature of the inquiry. The delays in publishing the report are all down to the inquiry having to consult with those who are named in it. We urgently need a streamlined process for such inquiries – and this should almost certainly involve prosecutions of the more obvious criminals before the inquiry begins.

But although the grass has grown longer, Grenfell Tower is still there as a reminder of the terrible events which began which shortly before 1am on Tuesday, 14 June 2017. Although by the first anniversary in 2018, from which the pictures here come, its scarred and blackened bulk had been hidden by white sheetong. But at the top was a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts‘.

As I wrote in 2018, “Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

I continued “The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Here are the details from the Grenfell United web site of the 7th Anniversary Silent Walk:

Join us at the Silent Walk on 14 June 2024 to mark 7 years since the Grenfell Tower Fire. We will gather at the Nottinghill Methodist Church from 6pm and the walk will begin at 6:30pm. There will be speeches and a call to justice at the end.

Please walk in silence with us to show those responsible we are not going anywhere until we see justice.

Grenfell United

You can see more from the first anniversary walk in 2018 at Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary Among those taking part were both then Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.


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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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Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – 2017

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – Thursday 14th December 2017 was six months on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and as on every 14th of the month since there was a silent walk to remember the victims and call for justice. But earlier in the evening I photographed two groups of workers striking for a living wage.


Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse – Hackney

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

On the day that the ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Last of the Jedi’ opened at Picturehouse Hackney, workers at the chain held a strike calling for them to be paid the London Living Wage. Workers and supporters demonstrated in solidarity on the pavement outside the cinema as it opened.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Picturehouse is a part of the multinational company Cineworld and has refused to recognise the trade union which the workers belong to, BECTU, instead claiming they are represented by a company run staff forum. As well as a fight for pay this is also for union recognition.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Members voted to dissolve the staff forum in 2019 and is no longer a recognised trade union. Although there have been some pay increases some workers around the start of this year were still only paid £9.80 an hour, over £2 short of the London Living Wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse


City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage – Gracechurch St, City

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

United Voices of the World union and supporters protested noisily outside the offices of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a large company in the heart of London’s financial district with a £2 million profit and a 32% increase in revenue this year.

The cleaners of their offices are not employed by LHH and the cleaning was outsourced to City Central Cleaning & Support Services Limited who had rejected their demand for a living wage and unlawfully threatened them with dismissal if they strike.

The cleaners were being paid the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, far less than the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour independently assessed as the minimum needed to live on in London.

After an hour of noisy protest by supporters outside the offices the cleaners were cheered as they went in to start their cleaning shift.

Following this protest, in late January 2018 LHH announced they would be re-tendering their cleaning contract to guarantee that within the month the cleaning staff are paid the London Living Wage of £10.20 per hour. It was the first victory of the year for the UVW.

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage


Grenfell Silent Walk – North Kensington

I was late arriving at Notting Hill Methodist and the silent march was starting early, with people already in line behind the banner on the road at the side of the church. It marked 6 months since the terrible fire, and six months in which nothing had been done to prosecute those who were clearly responsible for the conditions that led to the 72 deaths. Six years on nothing has changed.

At the front were grieving relatives, some who had escaped from the flames and local clergy, and police and march stewards were ensuring that photographers and others kept a respectful distance.

When the march moved off it was led by a line of stewards. Many of the relatives held white roses and photographs of some of those who died and behind them were others carrying large green heart-shapes for Grenfell with single word messages such as ‘JUST US’ , ‘GRENFELL’ and ‘JUSTICE’.

Many taking part walked with green battery-powered candles and further back in the march there were many placards demanding the truth about Grenfell. One banner read ‘Fight For Justice’ and the community will not get it unless they keep on fighting. They have kept on fighting, but it seems less and less likely that the long-running inquiry will deliver any real justice.

Further back on the march were some more angry posters, including one which read ‘You can run BUT you can’t hide – Kensington & Chelsea Council ARE COMPLICIT IN MURDER’.

By Ladbroke Grove station firefighters were lined up as a guard of honour for the marchers, many of whom stopped to thank them for their bravery and persistence which saved many lives, some embracing them. I stayed on Ladbroke Grove to photograph as the rest of the march went past.

The march seemed much more moving than the service I’d watched on livestream earlier in the day. I was actually here with the several thousand on the march, and close to where the totally avoidable tragedy took place. There are many more pictures from the march on My London Diary at Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on.


Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood – 2018

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood. On the 14th of every month since the terrible fire on 14 June 2017 I remember Grenfell, though its something which has fallen out of the news. The Grenfell Inquiry dragged on – as it was meant to – until November 2022, and now its final report is not expected until some time in 2024. Such is the long grass which the UK excels in to protect the guilty, or at least the wealthy guilty who are an integral part of the establishment and corporate bodies.

Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood
Pictures are from South Norwood Stands With Grenfell march on November 14, 2018

It seems unlikely that there will ever be justice for the victims and their families or that any of the people or companies and other organisations responsible will ever be brought to trial. Probably at most there will be a few minor cases resulting in some fairly inconsequential fines.

Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood

Of course there have been some changes, with the similar cladding on some other towers being replaced by less flammable alternative, although there are still buildings with this dangerous cladding.

Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood

It didn’t take long for independent experts to produce extensive reports into the causes of the fire and publish these, and nothing that years of inquiry have produced adds much more than minor details and an increased list of those culpable. At one protest a few months after the fire we were told of a similar fire in Japan where those responsible were in court a matter of weeks after the disaster.

Grenfell Remembered in South Norwood

We also saw a concerted attempt in the first phase of the inquiry to push blame for the deaths onto the fire service, which was over-stressed due to cuts and which had been prevented from doing many of the things recommended in the report by a government programme of ‘reducing red tape’ in health and safety and building regulations which led those responsible only too literally get away with murder.

Jane Nicholl and Ian Bone

An earlier fire in Southwark had led to an inquest which had identified some of these problems and the coroner had made a number of recommendations, most of which had not been implemented.

What is clear is that on the night of the fire, firefighters had acted with incredible bravery despite lacking some essential equipment – such as the long ladders that had to be brought in from Surrey. And that as they were not aware of the conditions in this tower and some other blocks they had not realised until too late that the fire measures that should have contained the fire in the flat where it had started would not work.

A few weeks later there was a similar incident in a council block in East London which was contained and there was no loss of life. If Grenfell had been properly inspected and maintained the same would have been true, but it had been turned into a firebomb.

The march on Wednesday 14th November 2018 in South Norwood was prompted by a disgusting video being posted of a cardboard Grenfell tower being burnt by Conservative club members at a bonfire party in the area. It was a hateful video that shocked the nation by its callous treatment of a distaster that killed so many.

The South Norwood Tourist Board – and unofficial community group which has enriched the area by converting waste areas into public gardens and promoting local community events – organised a march to show solidarity with Grenfell, with several hundreds of local residents marching through the streets at the same time as the monthly silent march of remembrance in Notting Hill on the 14th of every month.

Those taking part included several former residents of Grenfell Tower and some who lost friends in the tragic fire, and several came with a Grenfell United banner to support South Norwood’s demonstration of solidarity. Leading members of the SNTB include Jane Nicholl and her partner Ian Bone of Class War. Ian had lived in Grenfell Tower when he first moved to London and it was from there that the first issued of Class War’s magazine were produced.

A relative of Sandra Ruiz of Grenfell United died in Grenfell Tower

Some shops along the route were decorated in support of Grenfell, and after the final speeches there was very welcome free hot soup provided by the Portland Arms pub.


Firefighters and Nurses – 2015

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Key Workers were protesting in London on Wednesday 2nd December 2015, but their protests were ignored by government and then Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Since then we have seen that the warnings of the protesters were real and the consequences of Tory policies have led to disaster. It’s a failure of our system of government that allows dogmatism and class interests to pursue such irresponsible policies at both local and national level, and one hugely facilitated by a media largely controlled by a handful of billionaires.


Firefighters say cuts endanger London – City Hall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Firefighters and Nurses

Firefighters and supporters protested at City Hall against plans to get rid of 13 fire engines and slash 184 firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. These came on top of previous cuts and station closures which have already led to increases in the time taken for firefighters to arrive at fires which have lead to people who would otherwise have been rescued dying in fires.

Firefighters and Nurses
The People of Shoreditch Say… Bozo Don’t take or Fire Engine Away! – Bozo the Clown of County Hall’

Trade unionists and others came to support the firefighters and some spoke at the rally along with speakers from the FBU. It took only a little persuasion to get George Galloway to speak. Members of the London Assembly had put forward an alternative plan to make savings and avoid the loss of the fire engines but these were dismissed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Firefighters and Nurses
George Galloway came to show support

One of the consequences of the cuts to London’s fire services came sadly and disastrously with the loss of 72 lives at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. We found then that London simply didn’t have a single fire engine capable of dealing with a fire in the upper floors of the building. Fortunately Surrey, although it has far fewer high rise buildings had kept one which could be called in to help, or the death toll would have been even higher.

Firefighters say cuts endanger London


Save NHS Student Bursaries – Dept of Health, Whitehall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

George Osborne had decided to scrap NHS student bursaries from 2017. Nurses and other healthcare students have to spend around 50% or their time working in hospitals for the NHS during training and so are largely unable to take on part-time work as many other students do. They only payment they get for this work is through the bursaries.

It seems totally unfair to ask them to take out student loans and work for the NHS for nothing as well. And since many of the jobs they go into are not particularly well-paid, it makes little financial sense as many would probably never fully repay their loans.

Always plenty of money for our arms manufacturers

But what nurses said it would do was to lead to a reduction of students applying for healthcare courses, particularly the many single mothers and more matures students who are enabled to take the courses by the bursaries. And to take this action at a time when there was a critical shortage of medical staff was sheer lunacy.

Of course they were right. The situation in the NHS is even worse now partly due to this axing of bursaries. Of course there are other factors too – including a racist immigration policy which has been made much worse with Brexit. And the continually increasing privatisation taking place.

The NHS has so far suffered various areas of breakdown caused of exacerbated by various government policies – including some under New Labour who promoted disastrous PFI schemes that have brought some hospital trusts to financial ruin. Covid was another savage test and things look set to get far worse in the coming winter months. And given the years of below inflation pay offers its hardly suprising that nurses are now about to strike.

The problems with scrapping the student bursary were so intense that the government was forced to set up a new bursary scheme in 2020. But while the previous scheme had a maximum of £16,454 a year, with a minimum of £10,000, the new scheme was considerably less generous, at a standard £5000, with additions for shortage areas and childcare giving a maximum of £8000.

Save NHS Student Bursaries


Grenfell Silent March – 14 Nov 2017

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Grenfell Silent March - 14 Nov 2017

On the 14th of each month my thoughts turn at least for a short while to 14th June 2017 when a fire broke out in the 24 storey block in North Kensington. Instead of being confined to a single flat as the original design intended, flammable cladding wrongly applied on the outside of the building led to a rapid spread which engulfed the tower, killing 72 of those inside.

Grenfell Silent March - 14 Nov 2017
March organiser Zeyad Cred

The public inquiry into the tragedy ended a few days ago, with the lead counsel Richard Millett KC stating that the risks that led to the fire were well known by many of the organisations involved and should have been known by all. He said the inquiry should decide with confidence that all 72 deaths were avoidable, and criticised the many organisations which had been more concerned with trying to evade any legal responsibility for the fire and blame others rather than assist the inquiry.

Grenfell Silent March - 14 Nov 2017
Moyra Samuels, a teacher at a school close to Grenfell Tower and a leading member of Justice4Grenfell

The BBC report lists some of those responsible, with a diagram of the web of blame, including the companies who manufactured the cladding, those who designed their installation and fitted them, the fire safety consultants, the local council and the government who had set up a broken building safety system.

Behind the marchers the burnt out shell of Grenfell

A report from Sky, Grenfell survivors insulted as long-running inquiry comes to close, looks at the effects on some of the residents and their views and including that of barrister for the bereaved and survivors Imran Khan KC, who points out that 85% of those who died were from minority ethnic communities and raises the question of the “institutional or structural or systemic racism” that lay behind the treatment of the tower before the tragedy and of the survivors.

Grenfell United issued a long statement via Twitter in response to the closing statements from the inquiry. In it they point out that none of the recommendations of the first phase of the inquiry has yet been implemented. They say that the government had ignored previous warnings about the dangers caused by deregulation and that Government Ministers were still advocating for deregulation.

They criticise the London Fire Brigade also because the critical recommendations from the Lakanal House fire in 2009 were then incompletely put in place – and they should have lifted the ‘stay put’ advice once it was clear the fire was uncontrollable.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea they say “treated us like second class citizens. They refused to invest in Grenfell Tower for 30 years, and when they did they wrapped it in petrol.” The also blame them for colluding with their landlord who bullied them, “ignored our fire safety concerns and treated our lives like a game of monopoly.

Their statement also describes briefly the failures of Kingspan, Arconic and Celotex and points out that as yet there have been no consequences. They say the justice system protects the powerful and prevents justice. “From Aberfan, to Hillsborough, justice has been denied and Grenfell is no different.

They hope the final inquiry report will bring real change and that the Metropolitan Police and CPS will bring “the necessary criminal charges … and prove to us that there is not a two tier justice system.”

On Tuesday 14th of November 2017 I joined the large crowd which met at Notting Hill Methodist Church for the monthly slow and silent walk to demand justice and remember those killed in the tragic fire. At the front of the march were large green hearts calling for Truth, Unity and Justice and many others carried placards calling for justice and truth.

Matt Wrack

Among those marching were a group of firefighters including FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, and more firefighters stood by the side of the road beside there fire engine close to Ladbroke Grove station. Whatever the criticism of the fire brigade, the firefighters who came to Grenfell showed great bravery and worked to exhaustion to rescue many of the survivors unable to make their way out unaided.

The march went on to the Maxilla Centre, but that was a occasion for the local community and not for the press, and I stayed on Ladbroke Grove taking pictures until the end of the procession had passed me, then made my way home.

More at Silent Walk for Grenfell Tower.


Boycott HP and Bonfire Night Poor Doors

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

On Wednesday 5th November 2014 I photographed a protest by pro-Palestinian campaigners against Hewlett-Packard before going on to the weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protest by Class War in Aldgate, which had a special ‘Bonfire Night’ theme.


Boycott Hewlett-Packard – Sustainable Brands – Lancaster London Hotel, Wed 5 Nov 2014

Hewlett-Packard were the sponsors of a ‘Sustainable Brands’ conference at the Lancaster London Hotel close to Lancaster Gate Underground station and were claiming to create “a better future for everyone.”

Campaigners for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails came to protest outside the hotel becuase HP runs the Israeli prison system as well as providing IT support for the Israeli forces which recently killed many Palestinians including 521 Palestinian children in their recent attack on Gaza.

As well as adults many young Palestinian boys are locked up for long periods in Israeli jails, often kept in solitary confinement in small cells and tortured. Palestinians are often imprisoned in ‘administrative confinement’ without any proper charges or trial, released at the end of a year in jail and immediately re-arrested.

The protesters stood on the pavement outside the hotel handing out leaflets to people entering or leaving the hotel or walking past on the street. There were also several speeches about HP’s deep involvement in Israeli war crimes and persecution of Palestinians, and people were urged to boycott the company’s products and services.

Boycott Hewlett Packard – Sustainable Brands


Poor Doors Guy Fawkes burn Boris One Commercial St, Aldgate, Wed 5 Nov 2014

I met some of Class War in a nearby pub before the protest where they showed me a Boris Johnson stick puppet with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a large amount of cash fanned out in the other, as well as their guy BJ dressed in a suit and tie with a Boris mask and a mop for fairly realistic hair.

We walked with the short distance along Aldgate High Street to the tall block of flats at One Commercial Street with its separate door for the social housing tenants in the building with a drunkenly staggering BJ helped to hold Class War’s Women’s Death Brigade banner for a few yards. He was then carried the rest of the distance with orange smoke billowing from a flare in his top pocket.

There was more orange smoke as he stood on the pavement in front of the posh foyer to the private flats, with Class War holding banners around and a line of eight police officers guarding the entrance.

The protest began with speeches and sparklers and suddenly Boris began to go up in flames, thanks to a carefully applied sparkler, providing some welcome warmth on the cold night, burning fiercely for a few minutes before collapsing to a small burning heap on the wide pavement.

People were standing well back and there was clearly no danger, though a police officer did walk in to remove a bottle that had been placed close to the flames, presumably thinking it might explode due to the heat.

As the flames began to die down, Class War moved in and began to dance with their banners around the flames, and the samba band began to play.

There were more speeches and chants and eventually a fire engine, called by the police, drew up. At first the firefighters looked at the small fire, laughed and walked away. But police insisted they deal with the fire. It took one bucket of water.

The firefighters walked away and police moved to surround Jane Nicholl and arrest her for having set light to the guy with her sparkler.

Protesters surrounded the police shouting for them to release her, but eventually they managed to take her and put her in the back of a van, which was surrounded by people and unable to move for several minutes until more police arrived, the blue flashing lights of their vehicles making photography difficult.

Police grabbed another of the protesters who had I think been more vocal than most, handcuffed him and led him away to another van; this seemed a fairly random arrest and I think he was released without charge, as often happens after arrests at protests, with police misusing their power of arrest as a short period of administrative detention. People now were just standing around with a large crowd of police and it seemed clear the protest was over for the night and I left for home.

The police persisted with the prosecution of Jane Nicholl, and the case dragged on for six months before the case came to court. In court the CPS barrister had to ask for the charge to be altered as he conceded it was not an offence to burn an effigy of Boris Johnson and after the police CCTV had been shown tried to change the charge again. Defence barrister Ian Brownhill pointed out it was unfair for the prosecution to keep changing the goalposts and that the police watching the the fire were grinning and did not seem endangered as the prosecution alleged. The judge refused a further change of the charge and the prosecution dropped the case.

This was one of several expensive and time-consuming failed prosecutions of Class War protesters, which make it clear that police are misusing the law in order to intimidate and try to stop lawful protest – and that they are aided in this by the Crown Prosecution Service, almost certainly as a result of political pressure from some members of the government.

Poor Doors Guy Fawkes burn Boris

Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice -Five years today on from the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, still none of those whose criminal acts led to it has been brought to justice. The inquiry stutters on, filling in some of the details but pushing hopes of any action further and further into the long grass. So far its only result has been to unfairly pillory the London Fire Brigade who faced an unprecedented situation for which they were ill-equipped with heroism.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

On the first anniversary of the disaster I went to the Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary that began close to the tower and joined the marchers, taking photographs but also expressing my own shock and sympathy for the victims and disgust at the failure of the local and national government and our legal system both in making the fire almost inevitable and in failing to support the victims.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

I’m sorry I’m not able to attend today’s march in North Kensington, but some months ago I agreed to give a talk tonight, failing at the time to recognise the significance of the date. So I’ll wear my green scarf on Zoom as I talk about rather happier things. But little has changed over the years and what I wrote back in 2018 still holds true, with little real changes and rather than repeat myself I’ll quote it here.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The blackened and scarred bulk of Grenfell Tower has now been hidden by white sheeting, at its top a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts’. Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

“The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The blackened and scarred bulk of Grenfell Tower has now been hidden by white sheeting, at its top a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts’. Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson (as London Mayor) had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“Firefighters lined both sides of Ladbroke Grove as a guard of honour for the march and were kissed and hugged by many. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and local Labour MP Emma Dent Coad and some Labour London Assembly members were among those who took part in the silent walk, which ended in a local park. I left the march before it arrived there as it had been made clear the press were not welcome there.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“People stop to shake hands and thank the fire-fighters. Some embrace them. While some papers and middle-class commentators try to shift blame onto the firefighters, the community has
no doubt that they are heroes who did far more than could be expected, some going back five times into the burning building. They didn’t clad it with highly combustible material, ignore obvious safety issues pointed out by residents, engage ‘experts’ to avoid proper fire inspections.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice
Jeremy Corbyn and local MP Emma Dent Coad wait their turn to shake the hands of the firefighters

You can read my fuller account of the walk on June 14th, 2018 with many more pictures and captions on My London Diary at Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

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


15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


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.