Posts Tagged ‘FRFI’

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014


Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday – Whitechapel

The National Health Service came into operation in the UK on 5th July 1948, established by a Labour government despite considerable opposition from the Conservative Party and some doctors’ organisations. In most recent years there have been protests marking the anniversary against the increasing privatisation of the system, large parts of which have now moved away from being provided by the NHS itself to being provided by private companies, motivated by profits rather than public service.

The opposition to Aneurin Bevan’s plans in the 1940s led to a number of compromises, but the NHS was launched with three basic principles – to meet the needs of everyone, to be free at the point of delivery, and to be based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay. Although those principles remain, there are some respects in which they are not entirely met.

Prescription charges – currently £9.35 per item – were introduced in England in 1952, removed from 1965-8 but then re-introduced, remaining free for under-16s and over 60s, with some other exceptions. And we pay too for NHS dentistry, and many people find it impossible to get dental treatment under the NHS as no practice in their area will take them on.

Access to GPs and other services at surgeries around the country is also much more difficult for many, and it can be difficult or impossible to get an appointment in a timely fashion. Many services dealing with relatively minor medical issues are no longer available, and people have either to pay for them or continue to suffer. Some of these problems have been exacerbated by the take-over of many surgeries by healthcare companies as a part of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Twenty years ago, when I had a hospital stay of several weeks, hospitals have been forced to put some essential services – such as cleaning – out to tender, resulting in two of the three hospitals I was in being in filthy conditions.

In 2014, cuts in funding were threatening the closure of surgeries in Tower Hamlets as they failed to pay for the extra needs faced in inner-city areas. Local hospitals were also threatened, particularly because of the huge debts from PFI contracts for the building an management of new hospitals. The deals with the private sector made under New Labour have left the NHS with impossible levels of debt – and the companies involved with high profits, continuing in some cases for another 20 or 30 years.

After a short rally with speakers including the local mayor and MP as well as health campaigners including local GPs, there was a march by several hundreds to a larger rally in Hackney. But I left the marchers shortly after it passed Whitechapel Station.

Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday


Focus E15 March for Decent Housing – East Ham

Earlier I had been to photograph a march through East Ham and Upton Park in a protest over the terrible state of housing in England, and in London in particular. The event had been organised by Focus E15 Mums with the support of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, but included many other protest groups from Hackney, from Brent and from South London on the march as well as groups including BARAC, TUSC and others.

They included a number of groups who had stood up and fought for their own housing against councils lacking in principles and compassion who had suggested they might move to privately rented accommodation in Birmingham, Hastings, Wales or further afield, but who had stood their ground and made some progress like the Focus E15 Mothers.

Many London councils are still involved with developers in demolishing social housing and replacing it with houses and flats mainly for high market rents or sale, with some “affordable” properties at rates few can afford, and with much lower numbers than before at social rents. Many former residents are forced to move to outer areas of London in what campaigners call ‘social cleansing’.

Families that councils are under a statutory duty to find homes for are often housed in single rooms or flats, sometimes infected by insects or with terrible damp, often far from their jobs or schools. Councils are under huge pressure and funding cuts sometimes make it impossible for them to find suitable properties, though often there are empty properties which could be used, particularly on estates such as the Caarpenters Estate in Stratford which Newham had been emptying since around 2004 in the hope of redeveloping.

Government policies and subsidies for housing have largely been a way of subsiding private landlords, and we need national and local governments – as I worte ” determined to act for the benefit of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing, removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give them decent security – and criminalising unfair evictions.” Housing really is a national emergency and needs emergency measaures.

Much of what is currently being built in London is sold to overseas buyers as investments and often left empty as its owners profit from the rapid rises in property values in London. We need to make this either illegal or to impose heavy duties on overseas owners including increased council taxes on empty properties.

The march attracted considerable attention on the streets of East London, and as I note several motorists stopped to put money in the collection buckets – something I’ve never seen happen before. I left the march as it reached East Ham Station to go to the NHS event.

Focus E15 March for Decent Housing


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Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists – My agenda for Wednesday 2nd June 2010 was a busy one, with protests about democracy in Parliament Square, London’s Black Taxis at Aldwych, a picket at BP’s St James’s Square HQ, trade unionists protesting at the Turkish Embassy and Zionists supporting the Israeli attack and killings on the Gaza aid flotilla.


Democracy Village Protest – Parliament Square

People had been camping in the Democracy Village in Parliament Square for just over a month and a few of them had come across the road with banners to protest. They held up banners, including a large one saying ‘We Respect The Soldiers We Do Not Support The War‘ and another ‘We Demand Peace In Afghanistan and No More War‘ and several made speeches with a megaphone. Another very artistically written notice on a large square of cloth on the pavement read ‘With Each Conscious Breath May You Know How Loved You Are in All Ways. You Are Divine. Let Your Light Shine’.

Democracy Village Protest


Brian Haw – Summons Marks 9 Years in Parliament Square

I went back to the other side of the road to talk with Brian Haw and Barbara Tucker who I had come to visit on the 9th anniversary of the start of Brian’s protest vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square. A week ago they had been arrested and held for 30 hours on the day of the state opening of Parliament before the court released them on bail.

The arrest had come after Brian objected to police searching his tent in the early morning without a warrant – the 13th or 14th illegal search they have made, all part of a continual campaign of harassment. As we were talking we became aware of three police a few yards away standing and watching us. They then came over and served Barbara Ticker with a summons for using a megaphone in Parliament Square.

Brian and Barbara asked why she was being singled out for attention as there were at that time others In the Democracy Village actually using a megaphone and she was not at the time doing so. The officers made no attempt to answer this question.

BrianHaw – Summons Marks 9 Years


Black Cabs Protest – Aldwych

I don’t use taxis in London – or at least very seldom. I can only remember two occasions in the last thirty or so years, both when others insisted I go with them. It’s a wasteful, outdated and overpriced system which is responsible for much of the congestion in London, both by cabs carrying only small numbers of people compared to other public transport and also by ‘cruising for hire’ with no passengers on board.

My account on My London Diary gives some of their grievances, some of which I have some sympathy with, and I agree the police should be enforcing the law (rather than harassing protesters) but the whole system needs to be updated, taking into account the general availability of smart-phones and improvements in satellite navigation systems which increasingly make the ‘knowledge’ redundant and can provide real-time congestion information.

I didn’t find it an easy protest to photograph, which I think shows in the results. Lots of taxis are frankly rather boring, and not that unusual in London, where I commented that “While standing at a bus stop a couple of weeks ago I counted over 30 empty taxis going past before my bus arrived, and I couldn’t help but think we could have a better public transport system without taxis.”

Black Cabs Protest


BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers – St James’s Square

BP have a long-running dispute with the workers on the Cusiana oilfield in the Casanare department of Colombia, and its one where they are playing dirty, with union members accusing BP of carrying out a campaign of misinformation about what is happening in the plant, and in particular of falsely claiming the support of government officials for their lies about the action.

More or less as this picket was taking place, armed commandos from the Colombian army leapt over a security grid at the plant and attacked the workers who were carrying out a peaceful occupation of the Cusiana CPF (Central Processing Facility) in Tauramena.

Previously BP had come to an out of court settlement on a UK High Court challenge over the pipeline from this oilfield to the coast, when farmers alleged that BP benefited from the actions of Colombian paramilitary forces who harassed and intimidated them in their protection of the pipeline. During the preparation of the case, of the lawyers for the farmers discovered she was on a death list and fled the country; she was granted political asylum in the UK.

The protest was organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign and was supported by the ICEM, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Worker’s Unions, based in Switzerland which represents more than 20 million workers around the world, uniting trade unions in its sector around the world.

BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers


Protest for Murad Akincilar Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Trade unionist Murad Akincilar was arrested on a spurious charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation while on an extended holiday in Turkey last September and was in prison in Istanbul. His treatment in prison has resulted in serious eye damage and partial blindness. He was known personally to some of the protesters as he studied for a Masters Degree at the LSE, but since 2001 he has lived in Switzerland and worked for Swiss trade union Unia which was leading the campaign for his release.

The protest opposite the Turkish Embassy was organised by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Gik-der, an organisation founded in north London in 1991 by migrants fleeing political and racial persecution in their home countries of Turkey and Kurdistan.

Protest for Murad Akincilar


Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity – Israeli Embassy, Kensington

The Zionist Federation together with members of the English Defence League demonstrated opposite the Israeli embassy in support of the Israeli Defence Force killings in the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla.

A smaller group of pro-Palestinian protesters had come to oppose them, although both the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition had decided not to support the counter-demonstration to avoid conflict.

Although official Zionist sources had expressed some regret at the violence and loss of life, the mood of the supporters here appeared to be one of a gloating triumphalism that seemed entirely inappropriate to the situation. I was “sickened when at one point a large group of the demonstrators began chanting ‘dead Palestinian scum’ ” and appalled to find this was “a demonstration jointly with the Zionist Federation and the English Defence League, some of whose members many of us have seen and heard chanting racist slogans on our streets. It seems unbelievable that a Jewish organisation should align itself – even if unofficially – with people like this.”

Attempts to justify the summary execution of one of the victims by shots to the head at close range by the existence of so-called weapons on the ships seemed insulting – almost all those shown in the photographs are “exactly the kind of tools that would be expected to be found on any ship in its galley and for general maintenance, as well as items being taken for building work in Gaza. The possible exceptions are a few canisters of pepper spray, some catapults and what looks like some kind of ceremonial knife.”

I’m very much in favour of peace in Palestine and Israel, but like many I feel “the actions of the state of Israel in their attacks on Gaza, their disruption of everyday life for the Palestinians and the blockade is making the possibility of peace much more distant… Like other conflicts, resolution depends on winning hearts and minds and this can’t be done with tanks and bulldozers.”

Police had to step in at the end of the protest when four press photographers were surrounded and chased by a an angry group of threatening Zionist demonstrators but all I suffered were a few threats and hostile gestures.

Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity


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March Against Housing & Planning Bill

Sunday, January 30th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on My London Diary at Housing and Planning Bill March


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November 2014

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

I had a busy week at the end of November 2014, with protests on Monday, Tuesday, two on Wednesday and three on Friday. Fortunately there was only one event I felt I needed to cover on the Saturday and I took the Sunday off; I think there were some things happening but I needed another day of rest.

2020 is rather different. The only real event in my diary is a visit to the health centre for my regular six-monthly diabetic review, though there are a couple of virtual events. Back in 2014 I got plenty of exercise covering events, but this week I’ll be going out for my now usual 10 mile bike rides most mornings. Otherwise I’ll be stuck in front of a computer writing things like this or digitising, editing and contextualising pictures I made in the 1980s, sometimes a tricky process. Back then we didn’t have metadata or geolocation and I wasn’t always good at record keeping. And when I start falling asleep at the keyboard I’ll probably watch a film.

Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith and Caroline Lucas hold a banner

Monday’s protest, on 24th November 2014, We Stand With Shaker, was in Old Palace Yard, Westminster in front of the Houses of Parliament. Present were two of my favourite MPs, Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, as well as civil rights activist including Peter Tatchell and Clive Stafford Smith, my favourite comedian Jeremy Hardy and of course people from both the We Stand With Shaker campaign and the ‘Free Shaker Aamer Campaign’ whose regular protests I’ve often photographed.

Jeremy Hardy, Peter Tatchell and John McDonnell

Attracting a little more media attention (though not much) was music legend Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter, who had become involved in the campaign after hearing that Shaker Aamer recited some of his lyrics in his Guatanamo prison cell to help him keep sane in long spells of solitary confinement.


And there was Shaker Aamer. Not the man himself, still held in Guantanamo seven years after being cleared for release, but a giant inflatable figure of him for people to be photographed with holding the message ‘I stand with Shaker.‘ Someone took my picture too, but I don’t think it was ever seen again. You can see more at We Stand With Shaker. Thanks to the long campaign, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held in Guantanamo was finally released on 30 October 2015.


Protesters meet in front of Newham Council’s Housing Office

I caught the train rather earlier than I liked on a cold Tuesday morning to travel across London to Stratford where I met with a small group of protesters from the housing protest group Focus E15 and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) to support a young mother and her child. Newham council had a statutory obligation to rehouse Candice and her child, but were trying to do so by sending her over 200 miles from the borough and her community to private rented accommodation in Liverpool.

Candice is allowed into the offices for her interview

The group accompanied her to the Housing Office to support her claim to be rehoused locally. Candice wanted two of them to go in with her as support in her meeting with the officials to discuss her case, but they were refused entry by council staff. Something of a ruckus with security staff on the door eventually led to the two, Jasmine and Sam, being pushed past them along with one other protester, but the rest of the group were kept outside, along with myself and two videographers.

Security stop Jasmine and Sam from going in to advise Candice

It was difficult to take photographs, though I made a few through the windows and doors despite the security staff attempting to block the view of what was happening inside.

Sam and Jasmine argue with a council official to be allowed to support Candice

I was also restricted by wanting to respect the privacy of other clients inside the office. The police arrived and went inside – and I think told the council officials to It wasn’t easy to know what was happening inside, though Sam did occasionally come to a window to try and tell us what was going on.

Sam tries to speak through a window to let those outside know what is happening

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Sam and Stan at the door to the meeting – with Jasmine sitting inside

The meeting with a housing officer was taking place inside, and through a window when Sam held the door open I could see Jasmine’s back as she sat giving her support and advice.

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Eventually one of the protesters negotiated with security to allow clients to enter by a rear door which they would not protest outside but would direct the clients too. The protesters were rather more concerned than council staff at allowing them access.

There was a bitter wind and it was wet outside, and after the meeting had been going on inside for over an hour I was shivering, despite being warmly dressed. I would have liked to have photographed the group coming out and sharing the news that Candice would be rehoused in the borough at Canning Town but decided I had to leave. By the time I was home and writing up the story I’d got the news on the group’s Facebook page.

More pictures at Focus E15 Support Homeless Mother


My week in November 2014 continues in another post…