Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

Monday, May 30th, 2022

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers – Saturday May 30th 2015 was another varied day of events and protests across London.


Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail to apologise – Kensington.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I began the day travelling to High Street Kensington, just a short walk from the offices of the Daily Mail. It has the largest circulation of any UK newspaper but is also the UK’s least reliable source of information. Recently The Factual analysed 1,000 articles from each of 245 major news sources from around the world although mainly from the USA and including international news organisations such as Reuters and AP. The Mail came out with the third lowest score of any with a Factual Grade of 39.7% compared to the average of 61.9%. In a table listing all the results, even The Sun does a little better, as do the Daily Express and RT News, though all of these are way below average while The Guardian was above average along with the BBC, though neither among the top scorers.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

We don’t have a free press in this country, we have a press largely controlled by a small number of billionaires who, as these figures show, use it largely as a source of disinformation and the promotion of their prejudices – including homophobia, racism and misogyny. Articles are more generally written as click-bait rather than with any desire to inform or educate, and it was hardly surprising when in 2016 it was sanctioned by the International Press Standards Organisation for violating professional norms for accuracy and in 2017 Wikipedia editors decided it was a “generally unreliable” source.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I was there for the start of a long protest by Filipino health workers outside the Daily Mail over its reporting of the Victoriano Chua case which insulted Filipino NHS workers as a whole despite the vital contribution they make to the NHS. The demanded the Daily Mail apologise for its racist comments and to recognise the contribution that they make, keeping our NHS afloat. As someone who a dozen years earlier had been looked after in intensive care by a Filipino nurse I feel very grateful to them, though angry at the UK government for not training enough nurses and doctors – and in particular for removing the training bursary for nurses which has now made the situation much worse. But I did feel they were asking the leopard to change its spots.

Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise


Walking the Coal Line – Peckham

Rye Lane

I left the Filipinos as their protest was still building up and journeyed across London to Peckham Rye where we were invited to take a tour of the proposed Peckham Coal Line elevated linear urban park between Peckham Rye and Queens Road Peckham stations as a distant part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival events – something vaguely related to the annual flower show.

The Coal Line was frankly hugely over-hyped, particularly in comparing it to New York’s ‘High Line’, and the walk was largely close to but not on the actual proposed line. The former coal sidings on the viaduct which inspired the project are next to a working rail line and could only be seen looking down from neighbouring buildings.

As I commented: “The walk is essentially an urban linear park that would make a useful short cut for some local walkers and cyclists, and could also be a part of a longer leisure walk from Brixton to the Thames. I hope it comes into existence, as the cost would be relatively low and it would be a useful addition to the area.

But I still enjoyed an interesting walk, visiting both the Bussey Building in the former industrial estate Copeland Park south of the line and the multi-storey car park to the north which now houses a cafe, a local radio performance space and another rooftop bar next to the Derek Jarman memorial garden and has good views of Peckham and central London. And having followed the official route to Queens Road Peckham I walked back a different way vaguely along the Coal Line at ground level, finally travelling more closely along it in an Overground train that took me to Canada Water and the Jubilee Line to Waterloo.

Walking the Coal Line


UK Uncut Art Protest – Westminster Bridge

UK Uncut met outside Waterloo station for their mystery protest taking direct action at an undisclosed location. Police liaison officers tried to find out where they were going and what they intended to do, but nobody was talking to them. Finally they set off and marched the short distance to Westminster Bridge where they spread a large piece of cloth on the roadway and painted a banner telling Parliament that collecting dodged taxes would bring in more than cutting public services.

They lifted up the banner and then ‘dropped’ it over the side of the bridge. It was a long run to take a picture of it hanging from the bridge, and I’m not sure worth the effort. It would have been better to have lowered it on the downstream side so as to get the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Another group of protesters in Parliament Square were protesting against the plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act, and some of the UK Uncut people had joined them before the end of the ‘Art’ protest. In May 2022 the government announced it was getting rid of the act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ which will allow the police to “perform freer functions“, Leading charities concerned with human rights have condemned the changes as affecting “the ability of individuals to hold the government and public bodies to account by bringing cases when their human rights have been breached.” They state “The Human Rights Act has greatly benefited a vast number of people from across society, improving their health and wellbeing; ensuring their dignity, autonomy, privacy, and family life; and overall improving their quality of life.” Many see the changes as yet another move towards fascism and a police state.

UK Uncut Art Protest


Biafrans demand independence – Trafalgar Square.

Biafra came from the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation.

Biafra was incorporated into Southern Nigeria by the colonialists in the 1884 Berlin Conference and then became part of the united Nigeria in 1914. Biafrans declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, but lost the long and bloody civil war that followed, with many Biafran civilians dying of starvation.

Biafrans demand independence


Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers – Trafalgar Square

After a large rally in Trafalgar Square, National Gallery staff striking against privatisation marched towards the Sainsbury Wing, holding a sit down and short rally outside after police blocked the doors to the gallery. The gallery doors were then locked.

Candy Udwin, a PCS rep at the National Gallery had been sacked for her trade union activities in connection with the plans to privatise gallery staff and the opposition to it by staff. Exhibitions in the Sainsbury wing have already been guarded by privatised staff, and the security there is also run by the private company. After 100 days of strike action the dispute was finally resolived in early October 2015 after the appointment of a new gallery director with terms and conditions of service protected and Udwin returning to work.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers


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Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop – Six years ago, the 14th May 2016 was also a Saturday, and like today there was a protests for Nakba Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, but also several others on the streets of London which I covered.


Reclaim Holloway – Holloway Road

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that when the prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate then owned by HM Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold for private development.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

The Ministry of Justice sold the site to housing association Peabody for £81.5m in 2019 and their plans include 985 homes and offices, with 60% of so-called affordable housing as well as a women’s building with rehabilitation facilities reflecting the site’s history. The development stalled in February 2022 with Peabody saying they were unable to afford the money needed to fit out the women’s centre.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford Street

Protesters made their way along Oxford St from their regular Saturday picket outside Marks & Spencers, handing out leaflets and stopping outside various shops supporting the Israeli state for speeches against the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people and attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’ remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced out of their homes between December 1947 and January 1949 is commemorated annually on May 15th, but the protest was a day earlier when Oxford Street would be busier. The Palestinians were later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes or reclaiming their properties, with many still living in refugee camps.

The protesters included a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the protesters of anti-Semitism but the protest was clearly directed against unfair and illegal policies pursued by the Israeli government rather than being anti-Semitic. The counter-protesters tried unsuccessfully to provoke confrontation, standing in front of the marchers and police had at times to move them away.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day


Vegan Earthlings masked video protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large circle in Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end animal cruelty.

Vegan Earthlings masked video protest


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Another small group of protesters stood in front of the National Gallery held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

Refugees Welcome say protesters


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

Finally I was back on Oxford St where cleaners union United Voices of the World (UVW) was holding one of protests outside Topshop stores around the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living wage; one has now been sacked. Joining them in the protest were other groups including Class War, cleaners from CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The Oxford Street Topshop was heavily defended by police, as well as by illegal extra security guards wearing no ID. Several hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police blocked the entrance to the shop, though the protesters made no serious attempt to enter the building.

Jane Nicholl of Class War poses on a BMW as they block Oxford Circus

After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade, moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuaded them to move.

UVW’s Petros Elia argues with a police officer outside John Lewis

They moved off, but rather than going in the direction the police had urged them, marched west along Oxford St to John Lewis, where they protested outside the entrance, where cleaners have a longstanding dispute. The cleaners who work there are outsourced to a cleaning contractor who John Lewis allow to pay low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for these workers who keep its stores running.

There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police but I saw no arrests and soon the protesters marched away to the Marble Arch Topshop branch to continue their protest.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


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End Indefinite Detention, Don’t Sack Cleaners

Saturday, May 7th, 2022

End Indefinite Detention, Don’t Sack Cleaners – two protests I photographed on Saturday 7th May 2016, one on the edge of London and the other in the centre.


Detention Centres Shut Them Down – Harmondsworth, Saturday 7th May 2016

Mostly protests begin later than expected and I was surprised when I arrived at Europe’s largest detention centre complex at Heathrow, two Category B prisons, Colnbrook & Harmondsworth, managed by private security company MITIE to find that the action organised by the Anti Raids Network as a part of a day of action at all UK detention centres had already begun.

Most of the protesters had come out to the protest on the west edge of Greater London from the centre and had apparently got there earlier than they expected and had immediately rushed past the few security guards onto the private roadway between the two prisons to communicate with the detainees who had gathered around the windows of the two blocks behind their 20 ft high fences. I’d photographed earlier protests here where the protesters had walked noisily around the Harmondsworth block (strangely on the Colnbrook side of the complex) on the rough track around the fence, but the centre was now under new management and MITIE were determined to keep them further away.

As I arrived and talked with the small group who had remained at the entrance those inside appeared at the far end of the road, being slowly moved out by the police reinforcements who had arrived shortly before me, and I followed protesters down the road to join them.

As well as making a lot of noise with pots and pans, megaphones and kicking the solid metal bottom of the fence, the protesters also held up a large banner with a phone number so that the detainees could contact them and tell them what was happening inside. At first the police made slow progress in moving them along, but soon another police van arrived with more officers and they were able to move them quickly to the front of the complex.

After regrouping there, most decided to walk along to the public footpath that runs along the east edge of the centre. Although bushes and small trees in front of the fence made the centre almost invisible, it was easy to hear the detainees shouting from inside and for them to hear the protest. Soon phone contact was made with some of them and they were able to speak over a megaphone. As I wrote back in 2016:

“Bashir from Lebanon told us he had been held in detention for 18 months and that his wife and children need his help, but he is stuck inside, unable to see them or do anything. Indefinite detention such as this seems a clear breach of so many of the human rights that everyone in the UK should be entitled to under our Human Rights Act 1998. Treating people like our system does is simply shameful.”

Detention Centres Shut Them Down – where there is more about the protest.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre – Barbican, London, Saturday 7th May 2016

I left to make my way to central London where Cleaners union United Voices of the World were holding a flashmob at the Barbican Centre after cleaning contractor Servest proposed making many of the cleaners redundant or severely cutting their hours and pay. As well as the UVW, the action was supported by activists from the Bakers Union, Class War, SOAS Unison, Unite Hotel workers branch and IWGB Couriers branch.

I met the cleaners close to Moorgate Station and walked with them towards the Barbican, where they burst into a run as they turned a corner and rushed into the main entrance, past a couple of security guards who had no chance of stopping the unexpected arrival. They made there way to the middle of the arts centre, to protest noisily outside the hall where customers were entering a sold-out concert of music by Yann Tiersen.

After a few minutes police arrived and told the protesters they must leave or be arrested, and after some argument they slowly and noisily made their way back towards the main entrance, with police continuing to harass them.

They continued to protest on the street outside the main entrance, and the protest was still continuing there when I left for home.

More on My London Diary at Cleaners invade Barbican Centre.


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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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Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

Saturday, April 9th, 2022

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia – Saturday 9th of April 2016 was a busy day for me photographing protests across London.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

Lambeth Libraries Occupation and March, Herne Hill

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

My day began in Herne Hill in South London, where campaigners had been occupying the Carnegie Library since March 31st fighting Lambeth council’s plans to turn the building into a fee-charging gym run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd with an just unstaffed lounge with books. They emerged to a huge welcome from over a thousand campaigners after their occupation had given the campaign national news coverage and huge support from around the country.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

The came out to lead a march to save all of Lambeth’s Libraries after they had been forced to leave by an injunction obtained by Lambeth Council. The march was going via the Minet Library, also closed by the council on 31st March to a rally opposite the town hall in Brixton.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

I left the marchers to take a train from Loughborough Junction back to the centre of London.

Carnegie Library Occupation Ends
March to Save Lambeth’s Libraries


Cameron must go! Downing St

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

When I arrived, a large and lively protest outside the gates of Downing St was blocking traffic in Whitehall calling on Cameron to resign because of the lack of trust about his financial affairs following the revelations in the Panama papers.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

Many protesters had come in party mode, with flowered garlands, Panama hats and suitably Central American dress and some with placards and posters referring to Cameron’s pig-related activities.

Cameron must go!


Stop Grand National horse slaughter, Channel 4, Horseferry Rd

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

I left Whitehall where the party was still continuing outside Downing Street and walked to Channel 4’s London HQ, where a small group was protesting the cruelty to horses involved in the Grand National and other similar races. Already 4 horses had been killed that year in the current race meeting at Aintree, and at least 46 following accidents at the annual meeting there since 2000.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

Race horses seldom if ever actually die from the accidents, but a broken leg makes them worthless and rather than spending money on keeping them alive they are killed.

Stop Grand National horse slaughter


Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland, Polish Embassy

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

From Horseferry Road where the protesters told me more people were coming to join the protest I took the tube to Oxford St and rushed up Regent St and Portland Place to the Polish Embassy, where a crowd of several hundred Poles and supporters were supporting large protests in Poland against the bill proposed by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) which will outlaw abortion in all cases, protecting the life of the unborn child even where this may cause extreme distress or even death for the mother.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

At the end of the protest they hung wire coat-hangers, a traditional crude tool of back-street abortionists, on the embassy door and fence.

Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland


Party against Cameron, Downing St

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

I took the tube back to Charing Cross and walked down to Downing Street and the party which had begun before lunchtime was still going on there at 4pm, though most of the people had gone home.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

They were still blocking the side of Whitehall next to Downing Street and there was dancing on the street to a sound system and it was more of a street party. Police were still standing back and watching but seemed to be making no attempt to clear the street.

Party against Cameron


End Killings in Colombia, Trafalgar Square

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

In Trafalgar Square an emergency protest was taking place on the North Terrace against the massacres in Colombia, organised by the UK Congreso de los Pueblos and Marcha Patriotica supported by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign. The protest was held in solidarity with those taking place that day in Colombia against political persecution and calling for an end to paramilitary killings. They want peace, human rights and democracy in Colombia.

Libraries, Cameron, Grand National, Abortion & Colombia

It’s sometimes difficult to understand what is happening in Colombia – as in some other foreign countries. Our news media seldom report fully and often take a very biased view, relying on reports reflecting only the views of big business, the wealthy classes and US propaganda. Here’s what I wrote about the situation:

Conservative opposition politicians led by former president Alvaro Uribe have protested against ongoing peace talks with leftist rebel groups by President Juan Manuel Santos. Uribe is opposed to talks with FARC and the ELN. If there was a peace agreement there could be investigations of the various human rights abuses and corruption scandals that took place while he was in power. The conservative protest follows earlier protests last month by mainly left and rural Colombians in support of Santos and the peace talks.

End Killings in Colombia

I was tired and it was time to go home.


End Killings in Colombia
Party against Cameron
Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland
Stop Grand National horse slaughter
Cameron must go!
March to Save Lambeth’s Libraries
Carnegie Library Occupation Ends


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Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei – On April 6th 2019 I photographed two protests in London both linked with the brutal excesses of Sharia law, in the Sudan and in Brunei.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Sudanese for Freedom, Peace and Justice – Sudan Embassy, St James’s

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Sudan became united under Egyptian conquest in the 19th century and then coming under British rule in the 1880s after the British occupied Egypt in the 1880s, though since 1899 its governance was nominally shared by Britain and Egypt. After the 1952 Egyptian revolution Britain was forced to end its shared sovereignty and Sudan became independent in 1956.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Independence led to a civil war which eventually resulted in the independence of South Sudan in 2011. There was a military coup in 1958, then a return to civilian rule from 1964-9 with another military coup in 1969 and yet another in 1985 that overthrew dictator Jaafar Nimeiri. But in 1989 came the military coup led by Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who became its dictator under various titles from 1989 until 2019 when the large-scale protests in Sudan which this London protest supported led to him being deposed by the military on 11th April. Later in the year power was transferred to a mixed civilian-military Sovereignty Council.

Al-Bashir & the Sultan of Brunei

Under al-Bashir the country had been run under a severe implementation of Sharia law, with stoning, flogging, hanging and crucifixion. In 2020 Sudan ended the rule under Islamic law and agreed there should be no state religion. It abolished the apostasy law, public flogging and the alcohol ban for non-Muslims, and criminalised female genital mutilation with a punishment of up to 3 years in jail.

The protest was large and high energy, and called for an end to the violent and corrupt Sudanese regime and for president Omar al-Bashir to ‘Just Fall’ and stand trial by the ICC for genocide in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and South Blue Nile.

Sudanese for Freedom, Peace and Justice

Brunei Sultan gay sex stoning protest, Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane

I arrived rather late at the protest outside the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane, a short walk away (though I ran much of it) from St James’s to find a rather staid protest taking place against its multi-billionaire Sultan of Brunei who has announced death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex, adultery and blasphemy. The hotel was bought by him in 1985.

Although it was a colourful crowd, with a number of people in rainbow clothing and a few in drag, along with several well-known figures who spoke, including Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Emily Thornberry MP and Peter Tatchell, the protesters kept outside the hotel yard with police harassing them to keep the road clear despite there not being enough room on the pavements, and to allow cars and taxis to take and collect hotel guests to the main entrance.

It took Class War to liven up proceedings, pushing aside the barriers in front of the hotel entrance and running inside the hotel yard with their Women’s Death Brigade and Lucy Parsons banners, ignoring the attempts of security and police to stop them. They stood on the steps of the hotel entrance, stopping guests entering or leaving and after a short delay many of the other protesters joined them, bringing placards and rainbow flags.

The protesters ignored the hotel staff who told them to leave and the police who came and threatened them with arrest, and were still blocking the entrance when I left 50 minutes later.

Brunei Sultan gay sex stoning protest


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Yarls Wood – Shut It Down

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

Yarls Wood – Shut It Down – Saturday 24th March 2018 saw another protest outside Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, calling for all immigration detention centres to be closed down.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

It was the 13th protest there organised by Movement for Justice, but on this occasion other groups including Sisters Uncut had also organised separately to come to the event and hold their own slightly distanced protest, following serious allegations about the way MfJ worked and had behaved, particularly to one woman who had been one of their high-profile members, but also a number of others including some of the migrants they had supported.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

I had been shocked to hear of the allegations, but not particularly surprised. I admired both the work MfJ had done over the years in leading the protests against our racist immigration system and the contribution of the woman activist concerned who I had met and photographed at a number of protests.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

But I had been long aware that MfJ was led by Trotskyists, members of the Revolutionary International League, including several white activists, having been set up by them in London in the 1990s to confront racism and fascism. So I knew that like all such groups knew they would enforce disciplines to back the party line at least on its inner members, so the revelations came as no surprise to me.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

Of course I don’t condone these actions, though I was in no position to judge on the truth of some of the allegations, but it seemed to me the most important things was that protests against our racist immigration system should continue and should be effective. For some years MfJ had been the main group taking effective action against immigration deportation flights and immigration prisons. I was pleased that the controversy actually seemed to have prompted other groups to organise and protest on this occasion and for later events.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

The protest followed much the same pattern as the others I’ve attended at Yarl’s Wood, except that the protesters spread out a little more along the slope and the fence with some wishing to distance themselves from MfJ and their PA system. And, at least while I was there, all of those who spoke over this to the protesters and the women inside were former asylum seekers who had themselves been detained, many inside Yarl’s Wood. And inside Yarls Wood there seemed to be more women able to come to the windows and join in the protest.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

I’d also gone slightly better prepared so far as equipment was concerned, as I now had a 300mm Nikon lens and a camera on which I could use it either in full-frame format or switch to DX, which made it a 450mm equivalent and still get files of sufficient size for publication. Shooting through the wire mesh of the top 10ft of the 20ft fence still made focus hard – and autofocus reliably settled on the mesh rather than the windows behind, so I had to resort to manual focus. But at least the windows didn’t move, which made this fairly easy.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

This time too we had a coach driver who knew the way and arrived in plenty of time for me to photograph the events on the road before the march to the prison. But it also meant I had to leave a little before the event had concluded to catch the train back to the station. I think for later protests I brought my folding bike so I could easily (or fairly easily as there is a long climb up from the A6 to Twinwoods and the meeting point) make my own way the five or six miles to and from Bedford station.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

The weather was good to us this time, but there had been heavy rain earlier in the week leaving at least one giant puddle we had to walk round on the way to the prison fence, and making the slope on which the protest was taking place rather treacherous.

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

More pictures from the protest on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood.


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Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood

Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood. On Saturday 12th March 2016, six years ago today, I made another visit to the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood where the Movement for Justice (MfJ) had organised another large protest.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women at the windows – one holds a bible through the narrow window opening

The Home Office no longer uses Yarl’s Wood to house large numbers of women asylum seekers, but unfortunately this does not mean their cruel and racist policies have changed. Women were at first moved out because of Covid, but Priti Patel has set up a new immigration prison, Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, to hold 80 detainees to replace it, with around 88 women being moved and locked up there for Christmas 2021.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
People march down the road to a footpath leading to Yarl’s Wood

The new centre at Hassockfield is on the site of the notorious Medomsley Detention Centre, where over 1,800 young male detainees were abused in the 1960s to 1980s, and is at at Medomsley Edge, 13 miles NW of Durham, 1.7 miles North of Consett. It has been renamed again as Derwentside, to give it a more friendly image, though the river is around a mile away as the crow flies. Almost certainly the Home Office was fed up with the protests organised by MfJ and others at the already rather remote site at Yarl’s Wood, around 5 miles outside Bedford, and thought it a good idea to move it rather further away from London, where there are many former detainees and activists who came to demonstrations.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Marching along the footpath

But of course people came from all over the country – including from Scotland – to Yarl’s Wood, and protests will continue, with an active ‘No to Hassockfield‘ local group at their centre, although it’s too far away for me to photograph them.

Women have little to protest with and the windows only open an inch or so. They hold messages to the glass and throw out toilet paper

Hassockfield is so remote that the Home Office was unable to find law firms which would give satisfactory tenders to give legal advice there and abandoned the search – with detainees now only able to get advice by phone. Women for Refugee Women are calling for donations to mount a legal challenge over this lack of support. There is a great deal more information about the cruel and racist treatment of asylum seekers with many telling their own stories on their web site.

Yarl’s Wood like almost all of the immigration prisons is privately run for the Home Office, with companies cutting costs for profit

Back on 12th March 2016, my own journey to Yarl’s Wood didn’t go too well, with a train cancellation. But I still got to Bedford Station in a little over two hours and in time for the coach organised by MfJ to the meeting point at Twinwoods Business Park, around a mile walk from the prison. Unfortunately the coach driver didn’t know the way and police had put up large signs stating the road up from the A6 was closed (though in fact they were letting traffic to the protest to go through.) The result was a rather lengthy tour of the Bedfordshire countryside – with another wrong turning, meaning we arrived the best part of an hour late.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Protesters climb up to show placards and balloons to the women

Fortunately the event had started with a rally on the road waiting for people from around the country to arrive, and the mile or so walk to the prison was waiting for us and only just about to begin.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Battering the fence makes a lot of noise

Fortunately it was a fine day for the walk, but there had been heavy rain in previous days and some of the footpath and the field beside the prison where the protest took place was full of mud and some puddles, making it hard to move about and keep my balance. As you can see in some pictures close to the fence it was a sticky mess.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many of those protesting were former detainees, some of whom spoke at the event

The field has a fairly steep slope up from the 20ft prison fence, which does enable protesters to see over the lower 10ft of thick metal sheeting and to glimpse the women waving, shouting and holding posters at the upper floor windows inside.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women had written messages on towels and clothing to hang out through the narrow openings.

It is tricky taking pictures through the 10 ft upper section of the fence with its thick wire grid and I don’t have the kind of long and fast lenses for this. I actually declined the invitation from the organisers to photograph the first large MfJ protest here as I knew I didn’t really have the right gear, suggesting they invite a colleague. But for later protests I decided that there were many other pictures I could take and I could at least get some kind of pictures through that fence.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many reports have confirmed the abuses taking place inside Yarl’s Wood

Many of those at the protest were people who had been locked up inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres, and almost all of those who spoke had stories to tell about how their mistreatment – having been physically and sexually assaulted, locked in rooms, denied medical assistance, unable to get proper legal advice and more. Most had come to this country fleeing from violence, often from rape and in dire need of care and understanding and instead were locked up, their stories disbelieved and further subjected to hostile and inhuman treatment.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Detainees are allowed phones and some were able to speak from inside the immigration prison

At the end of the protest people let off a number of coloured flares before the long walk back to the coaches. I was rather caught in the mud and unable to get close to where this was happening. On the path and road back to the coach I tried to scrape the worst of the mud from my boots and trousers on the grass and on the kerb of the road, and found some sticks to help, but Bedfordshire mud proved extremely persistent.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Most of the speakers were former detainees and friends inside could hear them

We needed to remove our boots before getting on the coach, and fortunately I had a plastic bag to put them in for the journey, getting back into them where we were dropped off at the station. The journey home was slow but uneventful and I was exhausted and needed a good meal and a bath when I arrived – but at least unlike those detainees I was free.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood

More at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary, where you can also find accounts of other protests at Yarl’s Wood as well as other immigration prisons at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook using the site search.


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Snow, Pensions & Jobs, Hunger Strikers – 2018

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Snow, Pensions & Jobs, Hunger Strikers – 2018. On Wednesday 28th February 2018 there was a blizzard in London. University and FE teachers marched through it to a rally about pay and pensions and people came to the Home Office to support hunger strikers in the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood.

London Snow

The snow slacked off a little when I was on the bus but got worse as I walked to Malet St for the start of a march. Most of the pictures I tried to take were ruined by snow flakes landing on the front of the lens faster than I could wipe them off.

London Snow

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

UCU members were on the the fifth day of their strike to get the universities to talk with them about pensions and pay, and marched from Malet St to Methodist Central Hall close to Parliament for a rally.

They were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions, and both groups were supported by large numbers of students. The snow made it difficult to take pictures, and at times it was hard to stop from slipping over on compacted snow. Fortunately it eased off a little after the march started, with just occasional showers as we walked through London.

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs

Sally Hunt of UCU speaks and Kevin Courtney NEU listens at right

Despite the terrible weather there were more marchers than expected and many were left outside the hall. I don’t usually bother to photograph at indoor rallies and haven’t really got the best equipment for it, but on this occasion I was glad to be able to get inside and warm up a little. My camera lenses were also getting a little steamed up and needed to dry out.

Frances O’Grady praises the way that Sally Hunt and the UCU are fighting to keep the pension scheme

I’ve written more about the reasons for the strikes and a little about the rally on My London Diary and won’t repeat that here. Click the link to find more.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers

I stayed longer inside the rally than intended, partly because I was reluctant to leave t he warm hall, but as it came to an end I left to walk to the Home Office, where a protest was taking place in solidarity with the 120 women and men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood who were refusing to work and had gone on a hunger strike.

Their action in Yarl’s Wood had started a week earlier and was demanding the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights, end the separation of families, end indefinite detention, with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end to re-detention of those released from detention.

The also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the country for over 10 years, a stop to deportations before cases are decided and any appeals heard, the proper disclosure of all evidence to the immigration tribunals, adequate health care, an end to detaining of highly vulnerable people, an end to employment at £1 per hour and to be treated with the dignity and respect due to all human beings.

It was a fairly large protest, supported by many groups including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Detained Voices, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, All African Women’s Group, The London Latinxs, Right to Remain, Docs Not Cops and End Deportations as well as Movement for Justice who have organised many protests outside Yarl’s Wood as well as those at other detention centres and led campaigns to close detention centres and support detainees.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Class War & The Shard – 2018

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

Class War & The Shard – 2018.

Ian Bone raises a fist as he comes out of the Royal Courts of Justice

February 8th 2018 was a good day for Class War, beginning with a visit to the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where thanks to barrister Ian Brownhill they emerged triumphant after stopping an attempt by lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50million pound apartments in The Shard.

Lawyers for the Qataris had tried to get an injunction against protests by Bone and “persons unknown” and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner, and the case had attracted considerable publicity in the media including an article by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian and another in Le Monde and many more.

Brownhill offered to conduct Bone’s defence pro-bono and contacted the Quatari’s solicitors who immediately offered to drop the case if Class War ‘would stop attacking the Shard’ whatever that meant. In the High Court the Qataris’ lawyers were forced to drop the attempt to ban protests and the demand for fees but Bone accepted a legal restriction on him going inside the Shard and its immediate vicinity.

The case also showed the police’s insecurity over Class War and documents presented in court on behalf of the Qataris clearly showed they had been given documents by the police including one with clearly defamatory false statements about another person associated with Class War who was not named in the injunction.

Another document presented was a surprising testimonial about Class War which made it sound a rather more impressive and powerful organisation than the small but influential irritant to the rich and unscrupulous it is. The police probably the source for this certainly seem to share the lawyers’ delusions of the organisations grandeur, with an unusually strong police presence outside the court and around a corner clearly outnumbering the Class War supporters.

So the protest that evening took place as Class War intended, pointing out that the ten £50m apartments in the Shard had remained empty since the building was completed. The protest stressed that these were just a small fraction of the plans to build another 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each across London, many replacing current social housing a time when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation.

As Class War stated, there are already a huge number of empty properties in London, many in large development of high priced flats which either remain unsold or are bought as investments and largely unoccupied. What the capital needs is not luxury flats but much more social housing – and to keep existing housing on council estates under threat of demolition.

The protest, as planned, was peaceful but very noisy, and again policed by a ridiculously large number of police and private security. Ian Bone’s poor health meant he was in any case unable to attend in person. The protesters were careful to remain outside the boundary of The Shard, marked with a metal line in the pavement, but police still tried to move them away to the other side of the road, making the patently spurious claim that they were causing an obstruction to commuters attempting to enter London Bridge station. The only real obstruction to commuters attempting to enter the station were the lines of police across their route.

More on My London Diary
Class War protest at Shard
Class War victory against Qatari Royals