Posts Tagged ‘fossil fuels’

Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals – on Monday 4th May 2015 Occupy Democracy were on the fourth day of their ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!”

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy had come to Parliament Square in defiance of the law criminalising the use of tarpaulins, tents and other protection in the square, and were making six key demands:

• reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
• major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
• a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
• the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
• that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
• a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy.

Occupy Festival of Democracy
Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

On Monday 4th they began a rally and meditation at the foot of the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedience, calling for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime. Donnachadh McCarthy laid out a large blue banner with the message ‘Criminalise Fossil Fuel Exploration‘ and a mock tombstone with the inscription ‘RIP – 300,000 Dying from Climate Crisis Every Year Said Kofi Annan UN Gen Soc‘.

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

People then brought tarpaulins to sit on around these on the paved area in front of Ghandi’s statue and began a series of short speeches, meditation and songs about climate change and fossil fuel use.

They took a small blue tarp to the statue of Gandhi and wrapped it carefully around him. After a short pause two of the GLC’s private security heritage wardens who had been watching the event with a few police officers came up and removed the blue tarpaulin. A replacement was brought up and carefully held by two of the protesters without touching the statue (much) and the meditation continued.

There was another minor intervention by the heritage wardens who objected to burning incense sticks being placed in the flower beds. The protesters removed them and instead held them.

Donnachadh McCarthy then produced a blue folding tent and erected it, announcing that he was going to defy the ban on tents and inviting others who wished to join him.

People climbed in and after posing for a photograph with the tent the protest continues, with Donnachadh joining them inside as police approached. The police warned those inside the tent they were committing an offence and warned them they could be arrested – and then walked away.

Some minutes later, at exactly 2pm a larger group of police returned and surrounded the tent.

They gave those inside a final chance to leave without being arrested. Three people remained inside the tent, holding each other tight.

Finally they were arrested, handcuffed and taken away to waiting police vans. The whole police operation seemed a massive waste of public money enforcing a ridiculous law. The real criminals are not a few protesters with tents and tarpaulins in public squares, but those who sit in boardrooms and continue promote and produce fossil fuels which are driving us towards extinction, plotting actions to derail attempts to make the changes the planet needs in order to increase their profits.

More pictures at Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals.


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Scientists Demand Politicians Listen, Family Justice & Chechnya

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Scientists Demand Politicians Listen, Family Justice & Chechnya – Five years ago on Saturday 22nd April 2017, thousands of scientists marched from outside the Science Museum to a rally at Parliament to demand policies based on proven research rather than fake news and fake science. Elsewhere in London people called for urgent reform of our secretive Family Courts and against the torture and killing of gay men in Chechnya.

Scientists Demand Politicians Listen, Family Justice & Chechnya

Scientists march for Science – Kensington

Scientists Demand Politicians Listen, Family Justice & Chechnya

I began my working day on Exhibition Road outsed the Science Museum where a large crowd of people was gathering, many wearing white lab coats, to clebrate the vital role of science in our lives and to demand that the UK and other governments stop listening to fake news and fake science and base policies on proven research.

Scientists Demand Politicians Listen, Family Justice & Chechnya

They saw a particularly dangerous situation in the USA, where President Trump was promoting climate denial and other policies in the face of the well-established science and giant US companies particularly the fossil fuel producers have been spending unimaginable sums over the years to promote biased research and lobby to produce doubt over established facts – just as the tobacco lobby did to undermine the science behind the cancer risks of smoking.

‘The New Greenwashing’, an article just published by Nick Dowson’s article in the May-June 2022 issue of New Internationalist spells out the 6 ‘Tricks’ that Big Oil has used to prevent any meaningful action to make the drastic reductions needed in fossil fuel use and ensure that they continue to make massive profits from oil and gas as we move closer and closer to extinction.

They “Distract, delay and obfuscate” by setting distant targets and coming up with vague ideas like ‘net zero’ when what is needed is an end to fossil fuels, “Sell false solutions” such as carbon credits, carbon offsets, ecosystem services, “Greenwash gas” as being natural and clean, “Peddle futuristic-sounding fictions” particularly around hydrogen use, “Divert subsidies from renewables to unproven technologies” in particular carbon capture and storage and “Individualise, demobilise” making us feel it is our personal responsibility through gadgets such as the carbon footprint calculator invented by BP rather than a problem caused by their activities

Here in the UK Brexit is threatening our international cooperation in science and the BBC uses the excuse of impartiality to give equal billing to accepted and tested science and fake science often presented by non-scientists.

I spent some time watching the march go past, turning into Kensington Road on its way to Parliament Square, wondering what people who saw them going past would make of some of the slogans, such as like ‘Do I have large P-value? Cos I feel Insignificant‘ or ‘dT=α.ln(C1/C0)‘. Many scientists do seem to have a problem in communicating with the rest of us. Fortunately there were others easier to understand.

Scientists march for Science


Scientists Rally for Science -Parliament Square

I rejoined the scientists rather later than hoped after the rally in Parliament Square had begun, missing quite a few of the speeches.

Scientists Rally for Science


Reform Family Courts – Kensington Gardens,

When the scientists marched off from Kensington to Parliament I went in search of another group of protesters who had marched in the opposite direction, from Parliament Square to the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

The had come to protest against the injustices perpetrated by our secret Family Court system and police and social services, and several told horrific real stories of children being taken away from victims of domestic violence, mothers who had reported child abuse by partners or former partners, and other cases of what appeared to be miscarriages of justice. Among those taking part were some unable to speak because they had been gagged by court orders. One woman was being forced to live away from friends, job and family. Another told us how the battle to regain her daughter had taken 7 years and cost her £14,000.

One of the organisers explains why we cannot mention the name of the woman the protest was organised to support

The protest had been arranged, along with another taking place in Nottingham to support a woman currently involved in a family court case. But on the afternoon before this protest, a family court judge had ruled her name could not be mentioned. Although everyone at the protest knew it, we had to refer to her only as ‘S’ to avoid committing an offence and the protest had to be renamed as ‘Justice4S’.

Also present was Sir Benjamin Slade, the owner of two castles in Somerset who had hit news headlines earlier in the week by advertising for a young wife to serve his needs. He had fought the case for one of his former workers whose children had been taken away by social services for what appeared to be trivial reasons, getting a friend who was a major newspaper editor to run a campaign which eventually got them returned. He came to the protest together with a young woman whose case he was currently involved in who was being forced against her will to live in Torquay.

Reform Family Courts


LGBT rights abuses in Chechnya – Russian Embassy, Kensington

After rushing back by tube from Kensington Gardens to Westminster for the Scientists Rally, as soon as that ended I was back on the tube to the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy on Bayswater Road where people had brought pink flowers and wrote messages on pink triangles to leave outside the tall gates of the Consular department of the Russian Embassy in a vigil to show solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya.

The vigil was one of several taking place across the UK after over a hundred men, suspected by the authorities of being homosexual have been rounded up an put into camps and tortured, with three thought to have been killed. Those held include many well-known in the country, including TV personalities and religious figures. An Amnesty petition stated “The Chechen government won’t admit that gay men even exist in Chechnya, let alone that they ordered what the police call ‘preventive mopping up’ of people they deem undesirable”.

LGBT rights abuses in Chechnya


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Past Time To Act On Climate Change?

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Past Time To Act On Climate Change? Seven years ago on Saturday 7th March 2015, 20,000 or so protesters marched through London to remind government and the nation it was Time to Act on Climate Change. Seven years on, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released a week ago warns “that climate breakdown is happening faster than expected and that the window to take action is closing fast. The report is a call to governments and private sector players to take drastic action against climate change.”

It’s a report that has largely been lost to public sight, pushed together with the stories about Tory sleaze and lies out of the news by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, though it has even more far-reaching implications. Not that I want to in any way minimise Putin’s criminal action and its terrible consequences for the people of Ukraine, largely innocents caught up in a situation of others’ making.

Of course the invasion of Ukraine has now raised the spectre of a nuclear war, which would almost certainly lead to mass extinction rather more rapidly than climate change, but the very dramatic prospect fortunately makes this almost unthinkable. Were it to happen it would almost certainly be by accident, something we have come close to several times in the past. Even our maddest politicians realise there is nothing to be gained by mutually assured destruction, and there would be no profits in it for the oligarchs or billionaires.

Climate change doesn’t happen in a massive flash, but is relatively slow and insidious. Even in the richer countries we are just beginning to feel its effects, and some in the Global South have long been suffering extreme hardship. But unless we heed the report and take drastic action without delay it will be too late to stop; many systems are coming close to their tipping points, past which there is no chance of recovery.

Scientists have been warning about the dangers for many years. Even 50 years ago when I was a student I spoke about the need to change the way we used the Earth’s resources and move to renewable systems of energy and agriculture, as many aspects of our current way of life were unsustainable.

Over 50 years ago it was clear to me that we needed to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, not just because of the carbon emissions and other pollutants, but also because thinking in the longer term it seemed a waste to burn what was a limited resource and an important chemical resource for plastics and other materials. I sold the only car I’d owned in 1967 or 8, because we needed to move away from a society based around private cars. It was clear too that we needed to farm in ways that conserved the soil and that many modern agricultural practices destroyed it – my father had joined the Soil Association which was established in 1946.

But of course there were huge profits to be made from fossil fuels and other industries that were driving up global emissions – and huge campaigns of obfuscation and lobbying. Most politicians in most countries were doing very nicely out of exploiting our natural resources – and the workers, who needed to be kept happy by more and more consumer goods as well as a huge and almost universal media promoting consumerism. Bread and circuses is of course nothing new.

Countries around the world, whatever their politics, are almost entirely run by politicians who have prospered from ‘business as usual’, and usually business corruption which they have colluded in by allowing money laundering, allowing huge tax avoidance and evasion and more. They have now learnt to talk the talk about climate change, but, as Greta Thunberg pointed out, it has been all “blah, blah, blah”, promises but little or no action.

There were many different groups taking part in ‘Time To Act on Climate Change’, including the Campaign Against Climate Change who have organised regular protests in London since 2002, Friends of the Earth who I’ve supported since the 1970s, the Green Party, anti-fracking protesters including the fabulous ‘Nanas’ of Frack Free Lancashire, campaigners against Heathrow expansion – and I list a few more in Climate Change Rally, which also has pictures of some of the speakers.

At the end of the rally I went on to photograph a protest by ‘Art Not Oil’ who invaded the steps of Tate Britain with their ‘longship’ and ‘oil spills’ in a protest demanding the Tate give up taking sponsorship from BP, who used their support of the arts to give themselves a positive public image despite the pollution and climate change their activites cause. It’s time to end this ‘greenwashing’.

Viking longship invades Tate steps has a few pictures of the event. The Longship first sailed to the British Museum where BP had sponsored a show on the Vikings. As I commented, the plastic oil spills used by the protesters “are a lot easier to clean up than the real ones BP has created such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and which could be truly catastrophic in the Arctic.”

More on all these on My London Diary:
Viking longship invades Tate steps
Climate Change Rally
Time to Act on Climate Change


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BP Or Not BP?

Monday, December 20th, 2021

Since their birth as the Reclaim Shakespeare Company in 2012, BP Or Not BP? have carried out an incredible range of high-profile theatrical interventions which have received widepread media coverage against the abuse of our major cultural institutions by BP. One of the world’s major fossil fuel companies, BP uses its support of the arts to give it a respectable and worthy veneer while continuing to play its part in fuelling global warming and preventing real action against climate change.

According to the BP Or Not BP? website, the “have performed without permission at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the British Museum, the Edinburgh International Festival, the National Gallery, Cadogan Hall, the Royal Opera House, the Science Museum, the Roundhouse, the Noel Coward Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery and in Tate Britain.’

Some of these events have involved wide public participation, and have had considerable advance publicity andI’ve photographed a number of those that have taken place in London, but others have needed to be kept secret in advance, with only the players and a small number of trusted photographers and videographers being involved.

BP sponsored an exhibition on Mexico – the site of BP’s 2020 Deepwater Horizon disaster

On 20th December 2015, I was pleased to be asked to photograph a performance of a play depicting ‘BP executives’ giving a farewell party to departing Museum director ‘Neil MacGregor’ inside the British Museum’s Great Court as visitors and security stood and watched. The pictures here are a small reflection of those I took on that occasion.

Sunken Cities – BP activities are causing sea level rise

You can read my account of the event at End BP’s British Museum Greenwash, along with a more detailed account of the proceedings including the full written script by BP or Not BP? on their web site. Although as I wrote, the actual performance contained considerable improvised embellishment.

In my account of the event, I included these paragraphs about the reasons behind the protest:

BP makes a relatively small contribution to the museums budget, a fraction of a percent, for which they get an engraved message on the wall of the rotunda in the Great Court and their logo prominently on the publicity for the museum’s major exhibitions, including Vikings, Ming, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, the Mexican Day of the Dead and Sunken Cities, the last two perhaps particularly unfortunate as BP has been given the largest corporate criminal fine in history of $18.7 billion for the underwater Deepwater Horizon oil spill which caused huge pollution of the ocean around the coast of Mexico.

The current 5-year sponsorship deal between BP and the British Museum ends shortly and the museum and its new director will soon have to decide whether to renew its with the oil giant. While a good deal for BP, the amount concerned is a relatively small contribution to the museum’s budget, and thanks to the activities of BP or Not BP and other climate activists results in a great deal of bad publicity for the museum; hopefully they will look for less toxic sponsors.

After the performance inside the museu, there was another on the steps outside

Unfortnately the British Museum hasn’t ended its deal but renewed it and is still taking dirty oil money from BP. In November 2021 over 90 leading members of the archaeology and museum community sent an open letter to the Museum trustees calling on them to end BP sponsorship which they describe as “a strategy of reputational management. BP is taking advantage of the British Museum’s status as a highly respected institution, and of the public’s love of museums and heritage, to associate its brand with values of high culture, art, education, sophistication, reason, and knowledge. These values have powerful significance and appeal within our society and, crucially, among our political and civic decision-makers.”

BP or not BP? might put it more succintly: “‘greenwashing’ their very dirty, oily, reputation”.


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Dirty Money Still Rules

Sunday, November 7th, 2021

Nine years ago on Wednesday 7th November 2012, the day that the election of Obama for a second term as President of the US was announced, the Campaign against Climate Change organised a series of protests in London urging him to stand up against the lobbying, dirty money and media lies funded by the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel companies.

Nine years later, after both the end of Obama’s presidency and four years of climate denier Trump, President Biden is still having problems in getting his plans to clean up the environment (and other policies) voted through because of opposition by a Senator who made a fortune from a coal brokerage business in which he owns more than a million dollars in shares and who receives more donations than any other senator from the coal, oil and gas industry.

Campaign Against Climate Change, March 2003

The Campaign against Climate Change was founded in 2001 as a response to President Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, and I think I first photographed one of their marches back in March 2002 when they pushed a bed with Bush in bed with the Esso tiger from Esso’s UK HQ to Westminster. It was a long walk and the wheels fell off the bed as it came to Westminster Bridge, but in 2012, after a static protest at the HQ of giant US private company Koch International they chose sturdier wheels in the form of an open-top bus.

Koch Industries is the US’s largest private company and made its fortune through developing improved processes of oil refining, and this remains a major part of its widespread activities. It is owned by the Koch Brothers, who ‘have been a major source for funding disinformation on climate change and in instigating the wave of populist anti-science, anti-regulatory, right-wing extremism associated with the “Tea Party”.’

Both in the US and the UK, governments are hugely influenced by the lobbying of big business, with many politicians accepting large payouts for services rendered, as well as a large PR and lobbying industry aimed at law makers and the media. The truly shameful think about the current case of Owen Paterson is not that he was paid paid £100,000 and broke the rules, but that their are rules that exist which he claims to have kept within to allow such paid lobbying by MPs.

Phil Thornhill at the front of the bus

Although the bus didn’t lose its wheels, it was desperately cold as it went through London on a cold, wet and windy November evening, with Phil Thornhill of the CCC leaning over the top with a large megaphone informing the public about the reason for the protest. It was also extremely bumpy, which together with the low light made photography rather difficult, and most of the time I was too busy holding tight to the rail across the top of the seats to take pictures.

Finally after its journey through the rush-hour streets the bus arrived at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square and we all alighted. At first police tried to push the protesters into a penned area in a dark corner of the square where it would be neither heard nor seen. The protesters sensibly refused and after some discussion were allowed to protest as usual in front of the locked front gates – protected outside by a thin line of police, and inside the tall fence by wandering armed officers.

Barach Obama with David Koch on the top of the bus

Protests such as this of course had no effect on Obama’s business-friendly administration, while Trump made climate denial core policy of his tweets. But these and other protests did raise awareness of the catastrophe the world is facing. Many of us had been aware of the coming crisis for many years – at least since the 1980s, though there were warnings from some scientists years earlier, but the wider public, often misinformed by the media was largely ignorant.

Without protests such as this around the world, it seems unlikely that their would have been an agreement reached at COP 21 in Paris in 2015, and since then, helped by the publicity given to Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough, not to mention various extreme climate events around the world, there is now a wide consensus that something needs to be done, and done urgently. But thanks to the huge continued efforts of big business in fossil fuels the politicians are still locked into doing too little too late.

More pictures: Stop Fossil Fuel Dirty Money takeover of US.


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COP23 & Calais – 24th October 2017

Sunday, October 24th, 2021

Guardians of the Forest

Four years ago today we were waiting for the start of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, though for various reasons it didn’t get the same publicity as COP26 coming up shortly in Glasgow. There were certainly fewer hopes of anything positive emerging as it was the first such meeting since Donald Trump had stated he was going to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Those talks were unusual in that although held in Germany (who did most of the organising) they were actually the first hosted by a small-island developing state, with Fiji taking the Presidency.

As usual at such events, not a lot was achieved, with the US decision dominating much of the business in various ways. Syria announced that it would sign up to Paris during the event, leaving the US as the only country in the world saying it would not honour the agreement. And the US withdrawal made China a rather more important player.

Britain actually took part in the one major positive outcome, coming together with Canada to launch the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’, calling for the phasing out of coal in OEC and EU countries by 2030 and in the rest of the world before 2050. Unfortunately none of the major coal producing countries signed the pledge.

The Guardians of the Forest, indigenous leaders from Latin America, Indonesia and Africa, had stopped off in London on their way to Bonn and held a rally in Parliament Square to commemorate those who have lost their lives defending the forests against mining, the cutting down of forests for palm oil production and other crops and other threats to the forests and those who live in them.

Many companies listed on the London Stock Exchange are among those responsible for damage to the forests and the murder of indigenous people in search of profits, with whole tribes forcibly removed from their homes and their rights to the land they have lived in for many generations ignored.

Increasingly we are becoming aware of the importance of forests as sources of oxygen and in removing carbon dioxide and so combating global heating and the need for proper stewardship of these huge natural resources – rather than their destruction for short-term profit. Indigenous people have maintained them for hundreds or thousands of years in a renewable manner and their knowledge and continuing maintenance has a vital part to play in the fight against climate change.

Safe Passage

Earlier I’d photographed a rally by Safe Passage on the anniversary of the destruction of the Calais Jungle. Although around 750 child refugees had been brought here from France, they urged the government to provide safe and legal routes for the hundreds of refugees still living in Calais, many sleeping rough in terrible conditions.

Lord Alf Dubs

In particular they called on them to fill the remaining 280 places allocated under the Dubs law to children but not yet filled 18 months after Parliament passed the law. Many of those still in France are entitled to come here to be reunited with their family and they called on the Home Office to have an official in France to aid their transfers.

More at:
Guardians of the Forest – COP23
Safe Passage for the Children of Calais

Eight Years Ago… 27 July 2013

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday 27th July 2013 my working day began with the Rev Billy on a small green space on Victoria Street preparing the Stop Shopping Choir and volunteers for a “radicalized midsummer cloud forest dream” performance against the support given to fossil fuels and climate chaos by the banks and the City of London.

I’m not sure what staff and customers at the HSBC close to Victoria station made of the event, which pointed out that in the two previous years the top five UK banks raised £170 billion for fossil fuel companies, with HSBC in the lead. The Golden Toad costumes were for the Central American species forced into extinction by climate change in the 1980’s and recent weather events have now forced even the more sceptic to take the crisis seriously, even if so far to take little actual action.

After the performance in the bank, and as police began to arrive the group made their way to a wide area of pavement outside and staged another performance watched by pedestrians in the busy street close to the station, before leaving to celebrate in a nearby café.

I left to go to Trafalgar Square where as a part of an international day of action the Bradley Manning Support Network held a vigil at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The ‘gay whistleblower’, now Chelsea Manning, was being celebrated in countries across the world for passing documents to WikiLeaks which exposed a great deal of illegal and immoral actions by the US and other governments and had recently been awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize and was then on trail in Fort Meade. She was later sentenced to 35 years in a maximum security jail, but this was commuted to around seven years by President Obama and she was released in 2017.

From there I made my way to the US Embassy, then still in Grosvenor Square, for a rally before the start of march organised by BARAC against Global Racism and Injustice in solidarity with families of Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Azelle Rodney, Jimmy Mubenga and many others, aimed a highlighting the reality of racism and demanding justice, both in the UK and US.

Although the march had been prompted by the acquittal in Florida of the murderer of Trayvon Martin which had led to a global outcry, the emphasis of the speeches at the Embassy was very much on events here in the UK. In his speech Lee Jasper of BARAC after mentioning the Martin case went on to say:

“We march to support the call from the Lawrence family for a full and independent judicial led public inquiry into the allegations that the Metropolitan Police sought to smear both the family and supporters through a covert police surveillance unit.”

“We march for Jimmy Mubenga, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell, Smiley Culture and Azelle Rodney. We march for justice and equality in the 50th anniversary year of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1968 March on Washington. The truth is that his dream is a threadbare vision here in the UK where racism is on the rise amplified by austerity.”

My London Diary

After an hour or so of speeches the marchers left to march to a further rally at Downing St, but I left them as they went down Oxford St.

Against Global Racism and Injustice
Free Bradley Manning Vigil
Rev Billy at HSBC


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Clean Air – 1990 cyclists and 2019 XR East London

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Cyclists protest, Whitehall, Westminster, 1990, 90-11c-14
‘Let London Breathe’ – Cyclists ride down Whitehall to a Trafalgar Square rally – November 1990

Back in 1990, I rode with hundreds of cyclists from the London Cycling Campaign and others protesting about the terrible air quality in London from Battersea Park to a well-attended rally in Trafalgar Square. Following the rally, some MPs raised the issue in Parliament.

XR East London marches for clean air – 12 July 2019

Almost 30 years on there has not been a great deal of progress – and the statistics now show almost 10,000 excess deaths per year in the city due to air pollution, and untold misery from various respiratory conditions, some crippling. In 2019 XR East London met at Bethnal Green on Friday 12 July to march to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Much of the pollution comes from road traffic, and the already announced end to the sale of new trucks, vans and any other combustion-powered vehicle from 2030 onwards will do a little to improve air quality, but existing petrol and diesel vehicles will continue to be used for many years, though we may see more stringent ultra-low emission zones to restrict their use in cities.

But although the switch to electric will cut down pollutants such as nitrogen oxides as well as reducing climate changing carbon dioxide, it will still leave other harmful substances such as particulates from tyres and brakes in the air. And the carbon footprint is only lowered so long as the electricity used to charge those car batteries comes from truly renewable generation.

Cleaner air in cities also needs us to move away from the car to more eco-friendly means of transport – such as public transport and bicycles. Even electric scooters and electric bikes also have a part to play.

Better public transport means more trains, light rail, trams and buses. The simplest and most cost-effective solutions are probably more dedicated bus lanes and bus-only routes, and giving buses greater priority in traffic. Many years ago I cycled in French cities where buses had priority and motorists (and cyclists) had to give way whenever they wanted to pull out from a stop, and changes like this to our Highway Code and traffic rules would make a difference.

In 1990 cyclists were calling for 1000 miles of dedicated cycle routes through London. We do now have some ‘cycle superhighways’ and ‘quietways’, although many of these – we are now supposed to call them ‘cycleways’ – still involve sharing with often dangerous traffic. Progress is still slow, and there is bitter opposition from some interest groups, particularly black cab drivers.

We need too an overhaul of London’s taxi system, with rules still made in the days of horse-drawn Hackney cabs. I’ve often stood at bus stops in the City waiting for my bus, held up by traffic while 20 or 30 or more black cabs drive by, the great majority of them empty. A move away from ‘ply for hire’ to smartphone based systems summoning a cab from a nearby taxi rank would hugely cut both congestion and pollution in the centre of London.

More at XR East London marches for clean air. You can click on the black and white image above to go to the album with more pictures from the 1990 cyclists protest.


As always I was travelling around London on public transport (I sometimes bring up a folding bike on the train) and as the march neared its end I boarded a bus in the opposite direction back to Bethnal Green where I took the tube back to Holborn, then took the short walk to the University of London’s Senate House, where exploited outsourced workers were holding a noisy protest after the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson had failed to reply to a request to meet them and discuss their grievances. You can see more about this at IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor.


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.


Occupy Gandhi – 4 May 2015

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals
Occupy Festival of Democracy

Armenian Genocide, TTIP, Football and Cyclists in Tweed

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

On Saturday 18th April 2015, Armenians marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in which 1.5 million were killed between 1915 and 1923. Turkey still refuse to accept the mass killings as genocide and the UK has not recognised the killing of this huge number of Armenians as genocide. The term was first published in 1943 by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in his book ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe‘. After he had read about the killing of Armenians in Turkey and found that there was no law under which Talat Pasha, the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire could be charged he invented and defined the term ‘genocide.

I left shortly before their march began to catch up with the Football Action Network who were taking copies of their manifesto to the Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem offices in Westminster. They were moving fast and there was no sign of them at Labour HQ; I ran on to the Tory HQ to find they had left, and finally caught up with them at the Lib Demo offices near Parliament Square. There I found supporters with scarves from Bolton, Luton Town and Dulwich Hamlet from Football Beyond Borders holding a couple of banners and passports with their demands, including a Football Reform Bill, a living wage for all staff, fair ticket prices, safe standing, and reforms to clubs & the Football Association.

The next even came to me, as a group of cyclists on the Tweed Cycle Ride stopped at the traffic lights on the road opposite, and I ran to meet them, then ran along with them through Parliament Square when the lights changed to green. he Tweed Run raises money for the London Cycling Campaign and describes itself as “a jaunty bike ride around London in our sartorial best“. The vintage-themed ride stops for tea and a picnic and ends with “a bit of a jolly knees-up.” Not really my kind of thing.

I caught the tube to Shepherds Bush and a rally on the Green against TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being secretly negotiated by governments and corporations which poses a threat to democracy and all public services. The huge public outcry across the EU against this and in particular the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) already incorporated in some other treaties which allows companies to sue countries for ‘discriminatory practices’ including efforts to combat global heating is possibly why these talks were eventually abandoned in 2016, though our EU referendum may also have helped. After speeches the rally split into groups for discussion.

After the rally, white-coated War on Want campaigners moved across the road to a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken for a performance with buckets and rubber chickens protesting against TTIP which would force us to admit US agricultural products produced by practices considered unsafe here – such as chlorine-dipped chickens, hormone stuffed beef etc. The need for these methods is driven by US intensive farming methods which have lower standards for safety and animal welfare than are acceptable here – and although TTIP ended without a treaty, our post-Brexit trade agreement with the US seems almost certain to include similar hazards.

Next I moved with protesters to the BP garage on the opposite side of Shepherds Bush Green, where activists staged a die-in as TTIP would force countries to use dirty fuels including coal, tar oil and arctic oil and seriously delay cutting carbon emissions and the move to renewable energy.

Finally, a group of protesters walked into the Westfield centre to stage a street theatre performance outside Virgin Media to illustrate the danger that TTIP poses to our NHS, allowing corporations to force the privatisation of all public services. Like other large shopping centres Westfield is a private place where protests and photography are not permitted, but police and security stood back and watched the event, and though security attempted to stop some videographers I kept a lower profile and was not approached.

Virgin Media is actually no longer a part of the Virgin empire, though it still pays Branson to use the name. Virgin Care now runs a large part of the NHS which is rapidly being privatised by the Conservative government. According to The Observer, because of a complex structure of holding companies with links to other parts of the Virgin empire with its roots in the British Virgin Islands, the company is “unlikely to pay any tax in the UK in the foreseeable future.”

Westfield ‘Save our NHS’ protest
BP die-in against Climate Change
KFC protest over TTIP
Stop TTIP rally
Tweed Cycle Ride
Football Action Network Manifesto
Centenary of Armenian Genocide