Posts Tagged ‘Grenfell Inquiry’

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.

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.