Posts Tagged ‘harassment’

Low Pay, Lousy Conditions. 3rd Aug 2013

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

IWGB are harassed by Westfield security after their protest in John Lewis

The two events I covered on Saturday 3rd August 2013 both concerned the fight to get decent wages and conditions for low paid workers in London, something which has largely been left to the left wing and grass roots unions to fight for rather than the big trade unions or the Labour Party.

Outside Sports Direct in Oxford St

The two major ways that low paid workers are cruelly exploited in modern Britain are through zero-hours contracts and outsourcing, and these were at the heart of the two protests.

Security stop protesters from going down the escalator in Sports Direct

The first, at Sports Direct in Oxford St called on the company to abandon the use of zero-hour contracts which deprive all their 20,000 part-time workforce (over 85% of staff) sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights.

The protest continues inside Sports Direct

Zero hours contracts, as I explained on My London Diary “are a peculiar legal casuistry that in essence denies the whole concept of a contract as normally understood, agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers … Although they give no guarantee of any income, they oblige the workers to be available for work at the employer’s whim, making it impossible for them to take on other work.”

IWGB get out flags, placards and banners on the top floor of John Lewis

All the advantages are for the employer who has a contract which imposes great constraints on workers while denying them the employment rights which are a part of normal employment and leaving them open to the whims of managers as to whether they work or not. A limited reform in 2015 prohibited terms in them which prevented people working for other employers, but if that leads to them being unable to work when the employer demands them to, they may still find their hours very much reduced in future or their contracts terminated.

And begin their protest in John Lewis in Stratford Westfield

The protest was a noisy one and after around 50 minutes handing out leaflets and speaking to shoppers on the street outside, they surged into the small street level area of the shop, where they made no attempt to push post security men who stopped them at the entry to the escalator leading down to the main store. They continued the protest inside the store being careful not to cause any damage. After around five minutes one of the police officers who were watching came to talk to one of the leading protesters and was told they would leave shortly, and after a few more minutes they did, ending the protest on the pavement a few minutes later.

They take the escalator to continue the protest on the floor below

I made my way to Stratford to join the IWGB union who were making a surprise visit to protest inside the John Lewis store in Stratford Westfield. The cleaners there are outsourced to sub-contractor ICM of the Compass Group, who had recently announced pre-tax profits for the year of £575 million. They pay the cleaners £6.72 per hour, considerably less than the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour set by the GLA and backed by the London Mayor.

Everyone in John Lewis could hear the protest and stopped to look and listen

Outsourcing enables John Lewis to distance itself from the low pay and poor conditions of service of these workers who share the workplace with the much-lauded John Lewis ‘partners’, who as well as higher pay and better benefits, also get a share in the company’s profits, enabling John Lewis to claim it is a ‘different sort of company’ with a strong ethical basis, but still leave its cleaners – a vital part of its workforce – on poverty wages.

I met the cleaners outside Westfield and walked with them through the shopping centre to John Lewis at its far end, trying with them to look inconspicuous. In the store we went up to the cafe area on the top floor where they got out banners, placards and a large megaphone from their bags and then proceeded to walk around in a noisy protest.

They then took the escalator to the floor below and walked around that making the case for a fair deal for the cleaners to management and customers. Among those protesting (centre, above) was a man who had been a ‘partner’ in the Westfield store and was dismissed after he gave an interview to The Guardian supporting the cleaners’ case for equal treatment, and he was greeted by many of his former colleagues on the shop floor.

I get told I can’t take photographs

After protesting on each floor of the store, there were a numbber of final speeches, including one by the dismissed ‘partner’, on the ground floor before the group left, going out into the Westfield Centre in front of John Lewis. Here they were met by the centre manager and security staff who tried to stop the protest, with some pushing them (and me) around. Here I was told I was not allowed to take pictures, but took little notice. Very slowly we all made our way out of the centre by the nearest exit, still followed by Westfield security, and were met by two police officers who were told the protest was finishing.

Many more pictures at:

Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield
End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct


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.


London 20 May 2017

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Probably the question I’m most often asked about my photographs of protest is how I find out what is happening. Back in the old days of the last century it was difficult, and I photographed far fewer events. I’m not sure if there were fewer protests, though I think so, but it was certainly then much harder to find out about them. Apart from the printed newsletters and magazines of organisations there were posters pasted illegally on mainly derelict sites around parts of London and the flyers that were handed out at one protest about others in the following months. And word of mouth, again mainly from people I met at protests.

With the Internet, and in particular the World Wide Web and web browsers things began to change, though fairly slowly at first. Organisations slowly began to have web sites and advertise their protests on them; others set up e-mail lists and in 1999 Indymedia began. Google had been founded a year earlier, but there were other search engines more prominent for some years; at the time I was earning money writing for a commercial web site and much of my work depended on web searching to find content to write about – and I also searched for protests, building up a long list of useful sites.

Over the next few years, Google came to dominate web searching and social media began to be more important. By around ten years ago most protests had become Facebook events and much of my diary could be filled in by a search through the events on that platform. Also as I put more of my photographs on-line, at first through Indymedia and later through Facebook and Demotix, I began to get more and more invitations by e-mail and through Facebook to events, some in London and others around the country and world I could not possibly attend. And of those that were in my area I could only cover a fairly small fraction, generally those I saw as most important.

But there were and are those protests I came across by accident, often when covering other events. I’m not sure now whether or not I was aware that 20th May 2017 was Fight Dog Meat Kindness and Compassion Day, but while I’m against torturing animals I would not have gone out of my way to photograph the End dog and cat meat trade protest but was there in Trafalgar Square for Teen Voice says votes at 16, where young people were saying it was unfair they had not been able to vote in the Brexit referendum – while they can work, pay taxes and even join the armed forces they had no say in a decision which will effect their future to an arguably greater extent than anyone who voted.

The protest at The Guardian newspaper was very definitely in my diary, and I was saddened by their coverage of events in Venezuela, which has consistently taken the side of the right-wing middle class in that country against President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez whose reforms have done so much, decreasing poverty, providing free health care and education, devolving power into the hands of local collectives and building homes for the working class. While reporting on the ‘pro-democracy’ protests which are part of a US-backed right-wing coup it has failed to report their attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities which have led to many deaths and the mass demonstrations in favour of the government by working class supporters.

Thanks to the Jubilee Line I was able to travel on to Stratford to photograph Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag, a handout giving some of the facts about Newham Council which somehow were not included in the council’s glossy information sheet. Newham has more homeless than any other local authority in England – one in 27 residents – and more evictions from rented accommodation than any other London Borough. As well as failing housing policies with many homes deliberately kept empty for over ten years, Mayor Robin Wales is also responsible for huge and disastrous expensive long-term loans which mean 80% of council tax from Newham’s residents goes directly in interest payments to the banks.

The protesters here on the wide plaza in front of Stratford Station were harassed by both police and Newham Council officers who made the ridiculous claim they were causing an obstruction in the large uncrowded area and issued them with a £100 fixed penalty notice, part of the ongoing attempt by Newham to silence Focus E15 who continue to throw a spotlight on the activities of Newham Council and Mayor Robin Wales, both a disgrace to the Labour movement. Eventually even Newham Labour could no longer stomach another term for Robin Wales, though his successor has yet to greately improve matters.

Finally it was back on the Central Line to Grosvenor Square, still then the home of the US Embassy, where March Against Monsanto was protesting – along with others in an international day of protest – against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, dangerous bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and the need for improved protection victims of multinational corporations. It turned out to be a disappointingly small protest even though the then ongoing secreetive TTIP trade talks between the EU and the USA could have lead to a deal which would override our national laws which protect our health and safety and endanger the integrity of our food supplies as well as banning or greatly restricting the traditional practice of farmers saving their own seeds.

March Against Monsanto
Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag
End media lies against Venezuela
Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade


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.


Remember, Remember – Nov 5th

Thursday, November 5th, 2020
Nov 5th 2014

As England begins four weeks of partial lockdown I ponder briefly on the significance of the date and the incompetence of our government before looking at some protests in recent years on November 5th.

Nov 5th 2014

Guy Fawkes was it is often said, the only person to enter Parliament with honest intentions, perhaps a slightly harsh judgement on our politicians, but events over the past few years have certainly shown that being honest has not served Jeremy Corbyn well. Although we no longer openly torture prisoners and Corbyn, though clearly put on the rack by the media is unlikely to be actually hung, drawn and quartered – much though some might revel in it – and he is unlikely to have to jump from the scaffold like Fawkes to avoid this excruciatingly gory fate. But the establishment have become no less weak, simply more devious and discrete in protecting their enormous wealth and privileges against all-comers.

And Covid has given the government an excuse to clamp down on protests across the board, though some have still continued. But with various police actions and Acts of Parliament we are clearly moving closer to a police state, with the active support of a failing opposition in Parliament.

Nov 5th 2013

Fawkes was the inspiration behind  the anonymous anti-hero of the graphic novel ‘V For Vendetta’ written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd later made into a film. It shows an England without political or personal freedom caused not by a pandemic but after a devasting war.

Anonymous, a loose internet based movement of hacker activists took on the Guy Fawkes mask from the film as a symbol, uniform and disguise for their activities, in online videos and street protests – ironically greatly benefiting the mask copyright owners Time Warner who get a royalty from every official sale. And one of their main protests in ‘meat life’ is the ‘Million Mask March’ taking place on November 5th every year.

Nov 5th 2014

But Anonymous is not the only Nov 5th game in town. Guy Fawkes celebrations traditionally include bonfires, and in 2014 Class War took their own guy, an effigy of then London Mayor Boris Johnson to their ‘Poor Doors’ protest at One Commercial St in Aldgate. 

Class War’s guy dressed as London Mayor Boris Johnson burns vigorously at the protest at One Commercial St, Aldgate against separate doors for rich and poor residents. Nov 5th 2014

I wasn’t quite clear how Boris got set on fire (my back was possibly deliberately turned at the time as I don’t seem to have any pictures), though it was always inevitable, and he burned merrily but safely in the middle of the wide pavement.

For reasons best known to them, the police went ballistic, calling in first the Fire Brigade, who were clearly not pleased to have been troubled and arrived some time later with just a bucket of water when the fire was already more or less burnt out, and then making the scene a major emergency with police vans, cars and blue flashing lights, before surrounding and arresting Class War’s Jane Nicholl.

Jane is arrested – Nov 5th 2014

The crowd surrounded them and tried to prevent her being taken to the police van, but there were now probably more police then protesters and they managed to force their way through. Another protester was also arrested and taken to a van, I think for being one of the fifty or more who had tried to stop Jane’s arrest.

Surprisingly Jane Nicholl’s case was actually taken to court, but the police were unable to produced any evidence that anyone had been ‘injured, interrupted or endangered’ by the burning Boris – with the prosecution having already admitted that burning effigies on Bonfire night was perfectly lawful and the case – which had already been altered three times to try to find different offences – collapsed. Clearly the police and Crown Prosecution Service were using the arrest and trial simply to harass and intimidate Class War into ending their ‘Poor Doors’ protests. As they did with other arrests on other occasions, none of which led to a conviction.

I don’t know if there will be people trying to take part in a ‘Million Mask March’ in London this year despite the lock-down; the Facebook pages have only small numbers signed up though already well over 6,000 have expressed an interest for Nov 5th 2021. I suspect police will be out in force as in previous years to stop the event taking place. But I’ll certainly be staying at home.


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.