Posts Tagged ‘Greenpeace’

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

Friday, May 19th, 2023

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts – Thursday 19th May 2016 – Seven years ago today.

Greenpeace ‘Sinking Cities’ banners at BM/BP show – British Museum

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

There are some protests which are advertised well in advance and other actions which are kept highly secret with only a small group taking part being in the know. And the action on the opening day of the BP sposored exhibition Sinking Cities at the British Museum was definitely one of the latter.

I heard about it only as I was on my way up to London for another event close by, and detoured slightly to cover it. I live on the edge of London, just inside the M25 and can’t usually respond to ‘breaking news’ as it takes me too long to get there.

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

Clearly the BP sponsorship of ‘Sinking Cities’ was going to be controversial as there has been a long campaign, particularly by ‘BP or Not BP’ to get the British Museum to end the deal which has allowed BP to ‘greenwash’ their polluting and climate destroying activities, which have significantly contributed to global warming and so to recent floods in cities across the globe.

Greenpeace had come with very professionally produced large banners for ‘Sinking Cities’, naming some of the places which have been flooded recently by global warming induced climate change and had managed to come inside and hang this down the columns across the front of the museum’s Main entrance. At first glance they really looked as if they were a part of the Museum’s own publicity.

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

It really was impressive, and the Museum had been caught on the hop, reacting in panic they closed the whole museum for the day, dissapointing many who had come. This seemed unnecessary as the museum could simply have closed this front entrance to deal with the climbers and remove the banners. The climbers on the columns were obviously experienced and operating safely and apparently without damage to the museum structure.

It served as rather a good advertising stunt for the show, but of course was rather embarrassing for the sponsors BP which is why the Museum felt it necessary to remove them. Most other major arts organisations in London including the Tate Museums, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery had dropped BP as a sponsor following pressure by protests such as these and pressure from artists, musicians and staff who work in them.

‘Sinking Cities’ banners at BM/BP show

No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts – Tottenham Court Rd

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

I had come to London that morning as delegates at the TUC disabled workers conference led by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible (Women with visible and invisible disabilities) were to hold a lunchtime protest which I had been invited to photograph.

They came out and marched, led by people in wheelchairs from Congress House to Tottenham Court Road calling for an end to government benefit cuts which have led to the deaths of many disabled people – including 2 DPAC members the previous day.

Two long banners gave the message ‘NO MORE DEATHS FROM BENEFIT CUTS’ and on arriving at Tottenham Court Road they held these across the road stopping traffic in both directions.

Another banner was full of the names of some of those known to have died because of sanctions and cuts in benefits, among them David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died penniless, alone and starving after being sanctioned. He didn’t even have enough money to keep the refrigerator to store his insulin running.

Another banner asked the question ‘IS THIS HOW 2 TREAT Disabled People?’. The protesters held a short and noisy rally, getting considerably support from many around including many workers also on their lunch breaks. There were a few short speeches before it was time for the protesters to march back for the afternoon session at Congress House, with a police officer arriving just as they were about to leave. As usual he is confused to find that no-one is in charge.

When the Tories got into power, at first in coalition in 2010, they determined they would save money by cutting benefits thinking the disabled would be an easy target. Groups such as DPAC and the others at this event have shown them how wrong they were. These people rely on benefits to live and to have a decent life and have organised and reacted to try to retain them against the government’s attacks.

More at No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts.

March of the Beekeepers 2013

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

March of the Beekeepers 26th April 2013: Where would we be without Bees? Personally as I’ve written before I wouldn’t be here at all. I owe my own very existence to them, as when my father as a young man decided to become a beekeeper he went to a class at the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers Association in Twickenham, given by a professional beekeeper, Alf. Fred and Alf became friends, and both had sisters (my father five of them, but Alf only one.) And so I grew up with an Uncle Alf, my mother’s brother and his wife Mabel was one of Dad’s sisters.

March of the Beekeepers

Alf and Dad were both beekeepers with prize certificates for honey etc to prove it. In our house, honey came in 28lb tins which I’d spent hours in a room sealed against bees sweating turning the handle of an extractor, and there were hives at the bottom of the garden against the factory wall, often surrounded by the sharp metal curls of swarf which came over, more dangerous than the bee stings.

March of the Beekeepers

My father had hives in several other gardens in the area, and looked after bees for at least one nearby middle-class resident, and for some years the hives at the Twickenham apiary, a job he took over from Alf. I think most of dad’s bees came from swarms which the police would regularly call and ask him to deal with – and he would get on his bike with a box to bring them back. He was something of a jack of all trades, growing vegetables to feed us and doing odd painting, decorating, plumbing and building work as well as selling a few jars of honey. Alf was a dedicated beekeeper and travelled further afield, with hives as far away as Gloucestershire, busily pollinating the orchards.

March of the Beekeepers

Somehow I never took up beekeeping, though I’d helped Dad for years. Living in various flats for around ten years took me out of the loop, and when I finally moved to a house with a garden I was too busy with other things, not least photography.

March of the Beekeepers

Bees are essential for all of our lives as one of the major pollinators of fruit and they are under great threats. Bee colonies have been dying, and a major cause of this has been the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. These can kill bees but also seriously weaken their resistance to other factors – including climate change and the Varroa mite.

Though there had been strong pressure particularly in the EU for these pesticides to be banned, the UK had abstained from a vote to ban them following a report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). This was despite the decline in bee numbers being particularly drastic in England, with the number of colonies down to under half of those present in the 1980s. These pesticides don’t only kill bees they also kill other pollinating insects such as moths, which have also seen a huge decline in recent years.

The protest on Friday 26th May 2013 was supported by a wide range of organisations including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network (PAN), RSPB, Soil Association, The Natural Beekeeping Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and 38 Degrees and urged Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to take urgent action and to support a further EU ban being debated the following Monday.

While the protesters stayed in Parliament Square I went with a small group led by fashion designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett to take a petition with 300,000 signatures to Downing St.

A ban on the use of three neonicotinoids came into force in the UK and EU in 2018, but the UK government has since in the last three years running allowed a so-called emergency use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam – a teaspoon of which is enough to kill around 1.25 billion bees on sugar beet crops. This is against the advice of the government’s own Expert Committee on Pesticides and would be unlawful were we still in the EU. Brexit means we can kill bees.

More at March of the Beekeepers.

XR – The Big One

Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

Friday 21st April 2023 is the start of ‘The Big One‘, a four day action ending on Monday 24th April organised by Extinction Rebellion when people from a huge range of groups and movements, not just XR, will gather throughout Westminster and at the Houses of Parliament.

The Big One
Emma Thompson at XR’ Sea of Protest, 19 Apr 2019

XR say “The climate, nature and humanity face disaster. We know it’s time to act. Do you trust politicians to do the right thing for us? For the planet? Join 100,000 people holding them to account.

The Big One

More than 200 organisations are supporting the action, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and PCS, although when I checked with a week to go only around 26,000 people had actually registered to come. I imagine many like me are loath to sign up publicly to protest, or just lazy or haven’t got around to it.

The Big One

The events are planned by XR to be family friendly, accessible and welcoming, creative and engaging “with People’s Pickets outside government departments and a diverse programme of speakers, performers and workshops, awash with colour and culture. There will be art and music, talks from experts, places to listen and engage, and activities for the kids.”

I hope to be there and recording the events, though these days I’d having to take things a little easier than I used to and may need to rest, perhaps on the Sunday when The Big One’s Running Out of Time! coexists with the London Marathon. But please come if and when you can to join in. More at the Extinction Rebellion web site.

Four Years ago, Extinction Rebellion was coming to the end of a week of protests that shut down much of London, having occupied Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus, Mable Arch and other key sites on Monday 25th. I’d photographed a number of their actions and you can read about them and see pictures on My London Diary.

On Friday 19th April 2019 the ‘Sea of Protest’ was still occupying and blocking Oxford Circus with a large pink yacht named for the Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres assassinated in 2016. As a part of activities planned to show ‘Love For The Earth’ on the 5th day of the occupation there, actress Dame Emma Thompson arrived from New York to speak.

Parts of the press and media with interests in fossil fuels and giving support to climate deniers criticised here for flying here to speak. But though we need to drastically cut our dependence on aviation, this isn’t about ending journeys like these for which there is no real alternative, but for making huge cuts in the total numbers of flights. We need to end the subsidies to aviation and levy taxes on flying – a system with per person annual carbon allowances and heavy penalties for exceeding these would be more fair.

Police stood and watched the crowd as Thompson spoke, but a few minutes later after I had left the area for a short break, police surrounded the pink yacht and put a ring of officers around Oxford Circus.

Slowly police persuaded protesters to leave by threatening them with arrest and cutting off those who were locked on around the bottom of the yacht. There were a number of arrests of those who had refused to leave. XR organisers persuaded people not to physically oppose the police action as this went against the non-violent principles of Extinction Rebellion.

XR’s policy of non-violence and encouraging as many people as possible to get arrested has led to criticism from many more militant groups, and puts a great stress on those who give legal assistance, including Green and Black Cross, “an independent grassroots project set up in the spirit of mutual aid to support social and environmental struggles within the UK”.

More from April 19th 2019 on My London Diary:
Police clear XR from Oxford Circus
Emma Thompson speaks at XR

Arctic 30, Gurkhas, Zombies & John Lewis

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Another busy day for me in London on Saturday 2nd November 2013, though I spent quite a lot of it in a pub with zombies who were putting on a rather late Halloween appearance. But there were more serious things as well.

Free Kieron & Arctic 30 – Russian Embassy, Notting Hill. Sat 2 Nov 2013

Family, friends & supporters of freelance videojournalist Kieron Bryan, one of the 30 arrested on Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise, held a silent vigil at the Russian Embassy, delivering a petition signed by over 1000 journalists calling for his release.

There was intense media interest in the event, with several TV crews, radio journalists and photographers, perhaps because the imprisonment of a journalist is a threat to all journalists around the world. Unusually the Russian embassy had agreed to meet Kieron’s brother and take the petition, and although no photography is permitted in the private street in which it (and the Israeli embassy) are situated I was able to photograph him standing in the gate to the street holding it.

The Arctic 30 had sailed to the Russian Arctic on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in September 2013 to protest peacefully against Gazprom’s plans to start oil production in the Arctic. The ship was seized and they were kept in custody for two months before being released on bail in November – after the Netherlands had filed a case at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea which led to an order for the crew and Dutch-registered vessel to be released while the case was being considered. Although Russia ignored this ruling they did release the journalists, activists and crew, and six months later, the ship. Probably protests such as this helped to persuade them to do so.

The Dutch government filed complaints at the European Court against the unlawful detention of the Dutch-registered ship and the protesters also took a case claiming that hey had been detained unlawfully and their right to freedom of expression had been breached.

Free Kieron & Arctic 30

Gurkha Veterans Hunger Strike for Justice – Downing St, Sat 2 Nov 2013

Gurkha wives and widows support the campaign for justice

Although high-profile earlier campaigns supported by Joanna Lumley and others in the broadcast media have led to increased support for former Gurkha soldiers, elderly Gurkha veterans did not benefit from these and most live here in extreme poverty.

After submitting their petition to Prime Minister David Cameron and the Nepalese Prime Minister in April and getting no satisfactory result and they had “with a heavy heart” begun a series of hunger strikes. These had begun in late October with a “13 days relay hunger strike in the name of the 13 Ghurka VCs” which was in progress when I took these pictures, demanding equal pensions, compensation, a preserved pension for those made redundant, the right of settlement in the UK for their adult children and free medical treatment in Nepal.

Five days later some began a hunger strike until death, and after two weeks the government offered talks and this was halted.

Gurkha Veterans Hunger Strike

LoNdOn ZoMbIE WaLk VII – Soho, Sat 2 Nov 2013

I met with around a hundred zombies in Waxy O’Connor’s pub on Rupert St, where they were drinking for a couple of hours occasionally emerging into the dim daylight of Wardour St for a fag break.

Around 4pm as dusk was falling the multitude of undead staggered up the stairs to begin their crawl around Londinium in search of brains and booze. I left them to it.

Among those on Gerrard Street were a group of Zombie Police whose warrant cards carried the message ‘A pint of Cider and Black Please’.

Announced as the seventh consecutive year for this event, it followed on from some earlier ‘Crawls of the Dead’ which began in 2004.

Inside the pub the lighting was low and I needed to use flash. While the Nikon flash gun I was using in the hot-shoe of my camera is generally a great performer I had some problems. While it is OK with the camera in landscape mode, turning the setup through 90 degrees for portrait format images isn’t really very successful. And I also found myself unable to use the usually magical i-TTL mode, not because of some zombie spells, but as later searches through the fat manual at home revealed it is incompatible with the camera mode I had set for the dark interior. I think the camera and flash manual have a total of well over 500 pages – these things are just too complicated for mortals.


City Link & Cleaners at John Lewis – Oxford St, Sat 2 Nov 2013

As the final zombies staggered out of the pub to crawl Soho I rushed away to Oxford Street where cleaners were holding a protest outside the flagship John Lewis Store, and were today joined by City Link workers who deliver goods for the company.

City Link was sold off earlier in the year to Jon Moulton’s private equity group ‘Better Capital’ and face pay cuts, enforced overtime, loss of bonus scheme and other changes. They were protesting with John Lewis’s cleaners who are fighting to get a living wage and better working conditions. Unlike other staff in the store who are directly employed by the company as ‘partners’ and share in the profits through a bonus scheme, cleaners are outsourced to a cleaning company and paid less than a pittance, with unsocial hours and poor conditions of service. John Lewis management wash their hands and say it it nothing to do with them.

City Link & Cleaners at John Lewis