Posts Tagged ‘human rights abuses’

‘Toxic Tour’ Shames Mining Companies – 2017

Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

‘Toxic Tour’ Shames Mining Companies – On Tuesday 2th November 2017, the London Mining Network, War on Want and The Gaia Foundation and community leaders from Uganda, the Philippines and Colombia visited a series of mining companies and financiers of mining.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

Although we no longer have an Empire, London remains the heart of the neo-colonial mining industry across the world, with many mining companies listed here. It also plays a key role in the financing of mining companies working across the world. In part this is a hangover from our colonial heritage but is now mainly because of the ease of laundering dirty money through hedge funds and other businesses via the City of London.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

The protest was timed to coincide with the London Mines and Money Conference, where around 2,000 mining company representatives, investors and financiers were celebrating their destructive and exploitative activities around the world.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

The ‘Toxic Tour’ began in Stratton Street, close to Green Park station in Mayfair outside the offices of Harwood Capital LLP who own 9% of Bluebird Merchant Ventures who have plans for a huge open-pit Batangas Gold Project on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. We heard from Clemente Bautista Jr, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network, how this would be an environmental disaster, with wastes from the mine destroying much marine life in the Verde Island Passage which has the highest concentration of shorefish in the world.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

A short distance further into Mayfair the protest stopped outside the London offices of Vedanta, where Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta spoke on Vedanta’s terrible record of environmental destruction, pollution and death in India and Africa, and of their illegal attempts to get mining permission. In Zambia, where their copper mine polluted the country’s major river, Foil Vedanta had exposed their illegal avoidance of tax.

A few yards away we halted outside the offices of Glencore UK, the world’s largest mining company by revenue. Adam Lee of the IndustriALL Global Union which with its affiliates represents over 50 million workers around the world told us of trade union told us how this Anglo–Swiss multinational which is listed on the London stock exchange exploits its workers. Security stopped the protesters when they tried to enter the the foyer of the offices.

Paulson Europe LLP in Jermyn St was the next stop, as they are a major investor in AngloGold Ashanti. Colombian activist Camila Méndez talked there about the huge environmental damage caused by their La Colosa gold mine in Cajamarca.

Protesters were stopped in the doorway as they tried to walk into the foyer of Rio Tinto Zinc on the corner of St James’s Square. After a couple of short speeches while they blocked the doorway there was a longer talk on the pavement outside. A long-term researcher into their activities told the group that he was more hopeful about the future activities of RTZ than other mining companies as they seemed to be attempting to develop in less environmentally damaging ways. He said this was because they had been one of the first mining companies to attract major protests.

Finally the protest moved out of Mayfair to Carlton House Terrace on the north side of The Mall and the offices of Anglo American plc, where security locked the doors as we approached for a protest in the street outside. I think this was the final stop on the tour, although there were many more companies it could have visited, particularly around the City, but it was getting dark and time for me to go home.

More pictures at ‘Toxic Tour’ shames mining companies.


Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice – 2012

Monday, November 6th, 2023

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice After a protest at Harmondsworth Detention Centre following the death of a detainee I travelled into central London to cover a protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square on the eve of US Elections.


Noisy Demo after 17th Immigration Death – Harmondsworth Detention Centre

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

Campaigners from the All African Women’s Group and others demonstrated noisily at the Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre as the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman paid a visit following the death a week ago of Prince Kwabena Fosu, a Ghanian who died after ‘restraint’ by GEO Group staff.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

Statements from other Ghanian detainees at the site alleged that Fusu had sustained massive blows from one officer who has later asked to change his “blood stained clothes so that no one would notice what happened” and that the officer concerned is now on leave “in order to pervert the course of justice“. There appears to have been no proper police investigation of his death.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

The protesters walked down the private road leading to a BT facility which runs between the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Detention Centres just north of Heathrow airport, ignoring a sign stating “No Tresspassers Allowed‘ with a banner ‘We will NOT let this death be Silenced‘ and made their presence obvious to the men imprisoned inside with a megaphone and some loud shouting.

Immigration Deaths and US Truth & Justice

The detention centres are surrounded by 20ft high stout metal fences, the lower half with metal sheeting and the top 10ft of a heavy metal gauze. Through this those on the upper floors of the centre could see the protest and we could see rather shadowy shapes watching us below, and could hear some shouting and people banging on the bars of the window as guards tried to stop them.

I walked with the protesters around the Harmondsworth site, watched by police and G4S security staff. When some protesters began kicking and stamping on the metal fence to make a noise, police and G4S security came to tell them they must stop and leave the site.

The police officer in charge read a notice charging the protesters with aggravated trespass and warning them that unless they left the site now they would be arrested, and that they were banned from returning withing 3 months. The protesters decided to leave rather than be arrested, and very slowly left the site.

As so often in cases involving custody deaths, the inquest was long delayed and only concluded around seven and a half years after Fusu’s death. It concluded that his death had been contributed to by neglect and multiple serious failures by the Home Office, GEO who were running the detention centre when he died, Primecare who were responsible for healthcare services, doctors and everyone else involved.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “It is unconscionable that someone entrusted to the care of the state can die in this way. The jury have delivered a damning indictment of all of those responsible. Prince was failed at every level, by individuals and agencies who owed him a duty of care. He was treated in dehumanising way and as a discipline problem rather than as a seriously unwell man in need of compassion and medical care.

“His death comes as a direct result of the UK’s hostile immigration policies. This reinforced a toxic culture of indifference and neglect, where professionals who came into contact with Prince were simply unable to see the human being before them.”

No criminal charges have been taken against any of the companies or individuals involved in Fusu’s death. The CPS took years to decline to bring any charges of corporate manslaughter. After deciding to bring lesser charges under the Health & Safety Act 1974, they then reversed that decision.

More pictures at Noisy Demo after Immigration Death.


Truth, Justice and the American way? – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

On US Election night the London Guantánamo Campaign hosted a protest outside the US Embassy at which various organisations raised human rights concerns about prisoners in the USA.

Among the other organisations with speakers at the event were Stop the War, tne Green Party, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Free Talha Campaign, Cageprisoners and more and there were also some performers between the speeches. And thre was a silence with candles being lit to remember the many who have been killed.

The protesters gathered around the statue of former president Eisenhower to one side of the Embassy frontage, which was being lit up for election eve with a laser projections of the stars and stripes.

The speakers highlighted shameful human rights abuses being carried out by the USA, particularly at Guantanamo, and called for whoever was elected President to close the prison camp and end the unlawful practice of extraordinary rendition. There were also those calling for the release of Bradley (later Chelsea) Manning, the whistle-blower jailed for releasing details of US war crimes.

Aisha Maniar, organiser for the London Guantánamo Campaign, said: “Four years ago, a new American president, Barack Obama, promised the world a change it could believe in. One change he put his name to in writing was the closure of Guantánamo Bay and the end of military tribunals there. That has not materialised; the American administration has added drone attacks to its repertoire of extralegal activity, expanded the scope of arbitrary detention without charge or trial, and over 160 prisoners remain at Guantánamo Bay after almost 11 years, including British resident Shaker Aamer.”

More at Truth, Justice and the American way?


Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament – 2013

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament: On Thursday 12th September 2013 Campaign Against Arms Trade brought their protests against the DSEi arms fair then taking place in East London to Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

Their protest and die-in opposite Parliament was much more visible than those out in the fairly deserted streets of East London where the arms fair takes place at the ExCel Centre on the north side of the Royal Victoria Dock.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

There the protest is directed against those taking part in the arms fair, both the exhibitors who are coming to sell their deadly weapons and those arriving to view and buy them.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

They came to Westminster as MPs were arriving to take part in a debate on the role of United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI), including its controversial Defence & Security Organisation (DSO), the government’s arms sales promotion unit.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

The DSO sends out official invitations to the arms fair to 67 countries including many of the worlds most repressive regimes. Those on the invitation list included Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Libya, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Arms sold at the arms fair in East London would inevitably fuel the civil war taking place in Syria and other armed conflicts around the world. The was in Yemen began the year following this arms fair, and Saudi Arabia has used weapons bought in East London in its fight against the Houthis there.

Also taking part in the protest were a number of campaigners from Bahrain where weapons sold at DSEi in Newham have been used to repress internal dissent.

Among the MPs who visited the highly visual protest was Jeremy Corbyn who stopped to speak briefly on his way to take part in the Parliamentary debate. He praised the protesters for their protests today and for their continuing events to stop the DSEi arms fair.

More pictures at Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament.


Kashmir Indian Independence Day Protests

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

Kashmir Indian Independence Day Protests: A large protest outside the Indian High commission by Kashimiris blocked Aldwych on Thursday 15th August 2019, Indian Independence Day, against arrests and human rights abuses in Kashmir. Later people protested in Trafalgar Square.

Kashmir Indian Independence Day

Various groups came to condemn Indian Prime Minister Modi’s revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and call for freedom for Kashmir which has been occupied for many years by over 700,000 Indian troops. They want the rights of the Kashmiri people respected and UN resolutions implemented.

Kashmir Indian Independence Day

India celebrates Independence Day annually on 15th August, the anniversary of the day when that country gained independence from the United Kingdom on 15 August 1947, though it was only in January 1950 that it removed the British King as head of state (which is celebrated on Indian Republic Day on 26th January.)

Kashmir Indian Independence Day

15th August 1947 was also when India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, an event with violent riots and many deaths, with around 15 million people being displaced from their homes due to religious violence.

Kashmir Indian Independence Day

In 1947 Kashmir was a ‘princely state’ ruled by a maharajah and a part of Britain’s Indian Empire. Over three-quarters of its population were Muslims and it was expected to become part of the new Pakistan, but after Pakistan began to use guerrilla soldiers to try to force the decision the ruler turned to the British Governor-General for military assistance. Mountbatten only gave this on condition that Kashmir would become a part of the new state of India.

Kashmir Indian Independence Day

Indian soldiers came and cleared out the Pakistani irregular soldiers from most of the state. But despite UN intervention there has been no real resolution, with two further wars over Kashmir and a continuing huge and repressive military occupation with huge levels of arrests and human rights abuses.

India now controls around half of the former princely state and Pakistan around a third with the rest being under Chinese control since the 1950s. China had never accepted agreements made in the late 19th century about the eastern region of Kashmir.

Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution Kashmir was given special status with limited autonomy and UN resolutions called for a referendum to decide the future of the state.

The protesters included groups from both the Indian and Pakistan administered areas of Kashmir. As I arrived there were some scuffles and fake blood was thrown at the side of the embassy, but the crowd was too dense for me to get to the scene, with police also refusing to let me get there.

After several hours of protest on Aldwych the crowds began to thin, with many moving away to a further protest in Trafalgar Square which I also covered.

This ‘Stand with Kashmir’ protest had been organised by supporters of independence for Kashmir and heated arguments began when one speaker called for all Pakistan flags to be removed. Several police officers came in to separate the two groups of protesters and allow both protests to continue.

Those who supported Kashmir as a Pakistani state, or a state with a close relation to Pakistan moved towards the top of the steps and continued in a largely separate rally, waving Pakistan flags and with some speeches, including from Sahibzada A Jahangir, spokesman to the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The main rally continued further down the steps, with a larger crowd mainly in the main body of the square.

More pictures from both the Indian High Commission and Trafalgar Square on My London Diary:
Kashmir Indian Independence Day Protest
Stand with Kashmir


Turkey & Free Assange

Friday, June 16th, 2023

Turkey & Free Assange: Ten years ago today on Sunday 16th June 2013 I covered two protests in London around countries and issues still in the news now. The first was demanding an end to human rights abuses in Turkey and for Erdogan to go – and he has recently won another term in office and his authoritarian regime continues. It was also the first anniversary of Julian Assange taking refuge in the Eduadorian Embassy and Assange is still confined, now in Belmarsh prison, still likely to be extradited to spend the rest of his life in US prisons for publishing details of US war crimes.


Turks continue fight – Turkish Embassy to Downing St

Turkey & Free Assange

Around a thousand British Turks met opposite the London Embassy and marched to a rally opposite Downing St. Their march was in solidarity with mass rallies in Turkey a day before a general strike there called by the country’s largest union representing public sector workers as a response to the brutality used in clearing Gezi Park.

Turkey & Free Assange

President Erdogan and his ironically named Justice and Development Party AKP had brutally repressed earlier peaceful protests in Turkey in Gezi Park, Taksim Square and elsewhere in the country. Some of the protesters wore badges of protesters shot by police in demonstrations.

Turkey & Free Assange

This was a very patriotic protest, many carrying Turkish flags and singing Turkish songs. The modern Turkish state was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s as a secular and democratic state and many Turks feet the AKP governments under Erdogan sine 2002 have seriously eroded these principles.

Turkey & Free Assange

Since 2002 they have imposed their conservative Islamic views on the country and have built an extra 17,000 mosques. Authoritarian measure have restricted the sale of alohol and shows of public affection.

Turkey & Free Assange

The government had enacted strict control over Turkish media and imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. Opponents of the government are accused of treason and imprisoned without evidence, while court hearings can take years. Many had been held without charge for 5 years or more.

It remains impossible to have fair elections in Turkey as the government exercises almost complete control of the media. In May 2023 Erdogan was re-elected president with 52% of the vote against 48% for his opponent although there had been hopes he might lose.

More at Turks continue fight.


Waiting for Assange – Ecuadorian embassy, Knightsbridge

Sunday 16th June 2013 marked exactly a year since Julian Assange had been given asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy and I joined a crowd of supporters waiting for him to appear on the balcony and calling from release of all whistle-blowers.

The UK government had refused to allow him passage to Ecuador and instead had spent over £3m of taxpayers cash over a constant police presence outside the embassy, which occupies only a few rooms in the building.

The event was organised by Veterans for Peace UK, and they linked Assange with others ‘facing persecution for exposing the true nature of war and the state‘, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. Supporters view Assange, Manning and Snowden as heroes who should be released rather than prosecuted.

The decision of Sweden to pursue the extradition of Assange on charges related to his sexual activities appears to have been politically motivated to make it easier for him to be transferred to the USA.

Among those at the protest were women from Women Against Rape who made clear they were against his extradition, accusing politicians of using “once again women’s fury & frustration at the prevalence of rape & other violences” to advance their own purposes.

The protest continued with a protest on the pavement outside the embassy holding up signs with the message ‘F R E E A S S A N G E’. They went back acrooss to the pavement opposite after a few minutes when politely asked to do so by police. A number of South Americans entertained with songs, but there was no sign of Assange.

It had been suggested when I arrived that he would come out at around 5pm, but at that time the embassy told press he was sleeping and they hoped he would come out at 6pm. I decided there was little point in my waiting and left.

Following a change in government in Ecuador police were invited inside to arrest Assange in April 2019. Since then he has been kept, much of the time in isolation, in the high security Belmarsh prison in Thamesmead. After a number of legal cases and appeals, ten days ago on 6th June 2023 he lost his appeal against extradition.

More at Waiting for Assange.


Carnival of Dirt – 2012

Thursday, June 15th, 2023

Carnival of Dirt: People from more than 30 activist groups from London and around the world met on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday 15th June 2012 for the Carnival of Dirt, a funeral procession for the many killed by mining and extraction companies, powerful financial organisations whose crimes are legitimised by the City of London.

Carnival of Dirt
‘POVERTY IS FILTHY’

Although little mining now goes on in the UK, London remains the mining capital of the world with many of the largest and most powerful mining and extraction companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and trading on the London Metal Exchange. The Carnival of Dirt named some of them as major criminals, including Xstrata, Glencore International, Rio Tinto, Vedanta, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, BP and Shell.

Carnival of Dirt

Many activists around the world have been murdered for standing up against the interests of these companies, whose greed has led to crimes against humanity on a huge scale around the world. As I wrote in 2012, “They lie behind the millions who have died in wars in the Congo and elsewhere, behind the torture and rapes and other human rights abuses that are used to drive people off their land, behind the huge areas of land poisoned by toxic wastes, forests and whole mountains destroyed, ecocide on a truly massive scale.”

Carnival of Dirt

Many of these crimes have been well-documented but these companies are still supported by our pension schemes and protected by our government, as well as being allowed to get away with avoiding or evading millions or billions of pounds in UK taxes.

Carnival of Dirt

Many of those who came to the carnival were dressed in black, and the funeral procession had a New Orleans style theme. The cortège “included a large snake, a turtle and a tortoise, a reminder of XStrata’s criminal diversion of the McArthur River, destroying the ecosystem and despoiling the sacred sites of Australian aborigines.”

There were a number of coffins to represent the dead, naming some of the companies involved with messages such as ‘Glencore Values – Toxic Assets, Toxic Environments‘. Another read ‘XStrata – X-Rated on Human Rights‘ and pointed out the CEO Mick Davis “Gets £30 million to stay in job while 2 Dead 80 Injured protesting at Tintaya mine in Chile.’

The more than 18,000 child miners in the Phillipines were represented by a small coffin. One read ‘10 Million Dead Through Conflict in 16 years equals a 9/11 every 2 days‘. Red drops for blood ran down the side of a black coffin with the messages ‘Resist Corporate Terrorism’ and ‘London Metal Exchange – Setting the Global Standard in Bloodshed‘ . Another coffin testified to the genocide in West Papua where Indonesian troops have torched villages.

Some of the protesters walked with photographs of a few of the better-known activists murdered for standing up to corporate terrorism, and a leaflet named some – “Valmore Locarno, Fr Fausto Tentorio, Victor Orcasita, Alexandro Chacon, Fr Reinel Restropo, Dr Gerry Ortega, Armin Marin, Dr Leonard Co, Elizer Billanes, Jorge Eliecer, Floribert Chebeya, Raghunath Jhodia, Abhilash Jhodia, Damodar Jhodia, Petrus Ayamiseba.” Other placards showed unnamed and horribly mutilated victims.

After brief speeches the procession moved off from St Paul’s towards the Stock Exchange behind the marching band, but they were blocked by barriers and private security staff at Temple Bar, preventing them going into the now privatised Paternoster Square. After a short protest there it moved off, walking along public streets to the north entrance of the Stock Exchange on Newgate Street.

The entrance was blocked by a line of police but the protesters stopped from a short rally, listening to a speech by Benny Wenda who managed to escape to the UK after being arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Indonesian troops. There were heavy showers and we all got rather wet, though some protesters were fortunate to be carrying black umbrellas with slogans on them; the slogans ran in the rain but the umbrellas kept those underneath rather drier.

From there the cortège moved on to protest in front of the Bank of England, where there were several speeches from researchers and activists. From there we moved to a final rally at the London Metal Exchange, where we heard a longer exposition of the various trading activities which cause a great deal of death and unnatural disaster across the globe.

The came a reading of the names of some of the prominent murdered activists, each name being followed by the protesters shouting ‘Present’ or the Spanish ‘Presente’ to show they were still a part of the living, in the hearts and minds of those mourning them. At the end of the list there was a two-minute silence in the memory of them and the millions of others killed for the profits of the mining companies. After throwing ashes at the building the procession continued to its finish at Altab Ali park.

By this time I was very wet, and so were my cameras and lenses, with condensation steaming up on inner glass surfaces. Many of the later images were taken with a wideangle fisheye, a single focal length lens that was more resistant than the two zooms I use for most of my work. I was tired and needed to get somewhere to dry out, so while many were planning to go on to further protests in Green Park and on the Embankment it was time for me to go home.

More pictures on My London Diary at Carnival of Dirt.


NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Wednesday 24th April 2013 was a busy day for protests in Westminster. And there was one in the City.


Protest the Privatisation of NHS – Old Palace Yard

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

The House of Lords was debating NHS regulations which imposed full competitive tendering on the NHS, a key part in the escalating backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

Unite had set up a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ game show hosted by people wearing ‘David Cameron’ and ‘Jeremy Hunt’ masks and listing the likely costs of various procedures due to the tendering system. They feared “that the coalition’s NHS policies, including a multi billion pound funding squeeze coupled with a massive reorganisation, will destroy the 65 year old health service, paving the way for a new marketised system where paying up to £10,000 for maternity costs or £13,450 for a new hip is the norm.”

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unite said that already more than £20 billion of health costs go to private companies, who take their decisions on the basis of profit rather than the interests of patients. The Lords were debating a motion for the annulment of the regulations on the grounds that Parliament had been assured “that NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients“.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS


Bring Shaker Aamer Home – Parliament Square

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Following a petition with 117,387 signatures to bring Shaker Aamer home from Guantanamo, a debate had been held that morning by MPs in Westminster Hall, where most of the 17 MPs who spoke called for his release, including Shaker’s own MP, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison, who also came out to speak with the protesters.

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unfortunately such debates, although they do increase pressure on the government to take action have no actual consequences. But perhaps it did help to persuade the government that it had to ignore the embarrassment of British agents at being complicit in his torture by the US and make clear to the US government he should at last be released after being held for 12 years, long after he had been cleared of any involvement in terrorism. As I noted, “The facts about torture are now largely public and totally indefensible and it is time for justice to be done.”

Bring Shaker Aamer Home


Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet – Princes St, CityDrax AGM, wpp

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaking at the protest

I had to take the tube to the City to attend a protest outside Gocer’s Hall where the AGM of Drax, the huge coal-burning power station near Selby in Yorkshire was being held. Drax was planning to convert half its capacity to bio-mass and become the largest biomass-burning power station in the world, using 1.5 times the total UK wood production per year.

The wood pellets would come mainly from devastating clear-cutting of highly diverse forests in North America, and although re-grown will eventually remove the same amount of carbon this will take a hundred years or more – during which time the carbon Drax emits – roughly 50% greater than burning coal – will be contributing to disastrous global warming.

Drax already has a disastrous impact in South America were land is being grabbed from traditional communities for open cast coal mining, usually with complete disregard for their human and civil rights, cleared of its biodiverse forests and diverted from food production – often in places where food is desperately needed. Conversion to wood-burning at Drax will result in even more environmental and social destruction.

The incentive to change to wood-burning is that under current government policies Drax will receive huge government subsidies from funds intended to promote renewable energy, diverting funds from schemes for energy production and conservation that actually will help to combat climate change.

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet


Gurkhas Call for equal treatment – Old Palace Yard

I returned to Westminster, where Several hundred Gurkha pensioners and supporters were holding a rally on the 198th anniversary of the first recruitment of Gurkhas into the British Army to deliver a petition to David Cameron asking for equal treatment to other British Army ex-soldiers.

British Army Gurkhas who retired before 1997 were granted the right to settle in the UK in 2009, but their pension remains only a fifth of that of other British soldiers, and is impossible to live on in the UK, being based on the cost of living in Nepal.

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment


UK herbalists Want Regulations – Old Palace Yard

Also in Old Palace Yard were UK herbalists, both traditional and Chinese, protesting against the failure of the government to bring in the statutory regulations they had promised to do by 2012.

Under EU regulations from 2004, traditional remedies then in use could continue to be provided until 2011, but after that had to be covered by national policies to regulate their safety and effectiveness. Although the government had promised to set this up, it has so far failed to do so, and they are now unable to prescribe many commonly used and effective common herbal remedies.

UK herbalists Want Regulations


Get Britain Cycling Report Launch – Parliament Square

Finally, in Parliament Square, Christ Boardman, a gold medal cylist in the Barcelona Olympics posed with MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to launch their report ‘Get Britain Cycling.’

This calls for more to be spent on supporting cycling and that it should be considered in all planning decisions. They want more segregated cycle lanes and for the 30mp urban speed limit to by reduced to 20mph. Children should be taught to ride a bike at school and the government should produce and annually report on a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan. Cycling has enormous advantages both individually and for us all in better health and reducing pollution with reduced health spending.

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch


Algeria, BDS and Kenya – 2014

Wednesday, April 12th, 2023

Algeria, BDS and Kenya: The three protests I covered on Saturday 12th April 2014 were all about activities in other countries, though the first was calling on UK consumers to take action by boycotting goods produced in illegally occupied Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.


Don’t Buy Sodastream at John Lewis – Oxford St

Algeria, BDS and Kenya

Supporters of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign were handing out flyers in a regular fortnightly protest outside John Lewis, urging people not to buy SodaStream products which were then being made in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

The protests are a part of the BDS campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israeli products called for by Palestinian civil society, particularly aimed at products which are made in the illegally occupied settlements.

Algeria, BDS and Kenya

The Financial Times had recently commented that the “status of the settlements is clear in international law even if Israel chooses to ignore this and expand its colonisation of Palestinian land, while ostensibly negotiating on the creation of a Palestinian state.” Sodastream makes some of its dispensers in Ma’ale Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Trade with these illegal settlements is illegal under international law.

Algeria, BDS and Kenya

Sodastream claim that they promote peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews by employing around 500 Palestinians, but the FT pointed out “The way to create Palestinian jobs is to end the occupation and let Palestinians build those foundations – not to build “bridges to peace” on other people’s land without their permission.”

A former Sodastreamn worker there claims that most Palestinians working for Sodastream support the boycott “because they are against [Israel’s] occupation. But they cannot afford to personally boycott work opportunities.” The company was reported to be trying to set up a new factory inside Israel rather than the occupied territories which would mainly employ Israeli Arabs. In 2015 as a result of protests such as this one, Sodastream moved production from Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank to Lehavim in Israel proper. The company, which had been founded in the UK in 1903 but relaunched in 1998 was bought by PepsiCo in 2018.

Algeria, BDS and Kenya

Before the establishment of the state of Israel, Palestinians (including Druze & Bedouins) owned 92% of the land, while Jews owned about 8%. The UN awarded Israel 54% of the land, though a fairly large part of this was empty desert. In the 1948 war, Israel took another 24%. In 1967 Israel occupied all of Palestine and with further settlements and the building of the separation wall since then only the Gaza strip and around 40% of the occupied West Bank remains under Palestinian control.

Don’t Buy Sodastream at John Lewis


Against the Electoral Masquerade in Algeria – Algerian Embassy, Riding House St

This protest in London came as presidential elections were about to begin in Algeria, electing President Bouteflika for his fourth term since 1999.

The Algeria Solidarity Campaign say these elections are a huge scam and they are “more convinced than ever that the upcoming elections will be neither free and fair, nor transparent. They will certainly not result in the election of a legitimate President, representative of the wishes of the people.”

Their campaign called “for a massive boycott and/or abstention from voting and its full rejection of the ‘Presidential poll’, as it deems it to be a mere spectacle meant to maintain and cloak its authoritarian and corrupt rule in electoral legitimacy.”

The turnout in the election was low at 51.7%, and as low as 20% in some regions, and around 10% of votes were blank or invalid. But of those who voted, 81.5% were for Bouteflika. Ill health meant he made few public appearances in his fourth term and he resigned in April 2019 after months of mass protests, dying two years later.

Against the Electoral Masquerade in Algeria


Somali Refugees mistreated in Kenya – Kenya High Commission, Portland Place

Members of the Somali community protested outside the Kenyan Embassy against the mistreatment of Somali refugees at the Kasarani Concentration Camp in Kenya. They called for the ICC to investigate the crimes being committed there.

According to Reuters, the Kenyan authorities arrested more than 1,000 Somalis in mass arrests in a Somali dominated suburb of Nairobi following terrorist attacks by the Somali militant Islamic group al Shabaab. Almost 4000 were arrested and more than a thousand were held in the Kasarani sports stadium. Human Rights Watch reported many were held in packed and filthy police station cells and they saw “police whipping, beating, and verbally abusing detainees. There have been numerous credible accounts of Kenyan security forces extorting money and beating people during the arrests and in detention.”

Access to the Kasarani camp by invesigators and reporters was severely restricted, and the few people allowed access “were not able to freely interview detainees in the stadium.”

The arrests followed a number of earlier incidents reported by Human Rights Watch when “Kenyan police in Nairobi tortured, raped, and otherwise abused and arbitrarily detained at least 1,000 refugees, including women and children, between mid-November 2012 and late January 2013, following grenade and other attacks.”

Kenya still hosts large numbers of refugees from other African countries, including around 287,000 Somalis in a total of 520,000 refugees and asylum seekers.

Somali Refugees mistreated in Kenya


Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Back on Saturday 22nd March 2008 I had a rather varied day in London, meeting protesters cycling to Aldermaston on my way to photograph a march for freedom in Tibet, then going to a protest against the deportation of a gay man to Iran and finally to a pillow fight.


Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on foot and had just come out of Oxford Circus station when I saw the CND Bikes Not Bombs group of cyclists who had begun their ride in Trafalgar Square earlier and were on their way to ride to Aldermaston. Though when I took a few photographs as you can see from the bus they were cycling in exactly the wrong direction, east towards Ilford. Of course they weren’t lost, just trying to attract some attention to the protest, riding with a sound system along London’s busiest shopping street.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I’d thought briefly about taking part myself in the event, as I’d used a bike to get around since I was six, having graduated then from a first a pedal car and then a tricycle. I did own a car briefly when I was around 21, but soon realised it was impractical in cities, expensive, polluting and environmentally unsound and never made the same mistake again.

But for the reasons I listed on My London Diary – sloth, other events, lousy weather and a dislike of early rising – I didn’t join this official ride, though I did cycle on my own from Reading to Aldermaston and back on the following Monday to join the protesters there.

Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston


Support Tibet March

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on my way to Park Crescent, a short walk north of the Chinese Embassy where Tibetans and supporters of freedom in Tibet were meeting to march through London on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Tibet came under effective control of the Chinese government in 1951, when an agreement had been come to the status of Tibet within the recently established People’s Republic of China. In 1949 Tibetan protesters feared the Chinese were about to arrest the 14th Dalai Lama. Protests were at first peaceful but were brutally repressed by the People’s Liberation Army and there was heavy fighting which also involved Tibetan separatists who had been carrying out guerrilla warfare against Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama fled the country and set up an independent Tibetan government in India, where he still lives – and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The Tibetan uprising had begun on 10th March 1959 and this day is celebrated each year as Tibetan Uprising Day and Women’s Uprising Day. Since 2009, following protests on 10th March 2008 in Lhasa, the Chinese-controlled authority in Tibet have celebrated the day they fully regained control, 28th March as the national anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day.

The Tibetan Independence Movement who organise annual protests calling for freedom for Tibet was originally funded and trained by the CIA, but this was withdrawn following Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. And the Dalai Lama who had originally backed it, and who appears as a large photograph carried reverently in the marches, also withdrew support for the independence movement in the 1970s.

It is clear from reports by Amnesty International and others is that there are considerable human rights abuses in Tibet. The 2021 US State Department report listing includes “unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom….”

Support Tibet March


Defend Mehdi Kazemi – Downing St

But of course human rights are not always respected in this country, and we currently have a government which is proposing to withdraw from some international human rights conventions and proposing racist anti-immigrant policies which are deliberately in breach of them.

Back in 2008, the Labour government was also riding roughshod over the human rights of some immigrants, setting up a system of large-scale detention of asylum seekers and treating individuals unfairly in a bid to outflank the Tories on cutting immigration through blatantly right-wing policies.

Mehdi Kazemi had come to the UK to study after having been involved in a consensual homosexual relationship in Iran. After his boyfriend was executed for this he became a wanted man in Iran and he went to the Netherlands to apply for political asylum.

This was refused as he had come from the UK and so was not allowed under the 2003 Dublin Agreement. The Uk had refused him permission to stay in Britain and were proposing to deport him to Iran where he would be tried and executed.

His case was just one of many where the Home Office were failing to recognise the need for refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation, and for failing to have accurate and up-to-date information on homophobic persecution in countries to which LGBT asylum seekers might be deported.

Support for Kazemi at this protest and by a number of MPs, MEPs and human rights activists did eventually result in the Home Office agreeing to review his case and he was given leave to remain here in May 2008.

Defend Mehdi Kazemi


Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight – Leicester Square

My day ended in very much lighter mood with a pillow fight in Leicester Square, one of many organised in capitals around the world due to kick off at 15.03PM.

I commented: “Of course its a trivial, silly event, but the idea and the kind of organisation involved I think represents something new and exciting, a kind of ‘Demo 2.0’ which we will surely see more of in the future.”

Perhaps this hasn’t had as much impact here in the UK as I had hoped, but I think may have been more important elsewhere in the world. To some extent it has been outgrown as Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps have become more important and even protests organised months and years in advance make use of them.

But it was interesting if rather tricky to photograph, and I got stuck in without a pillow and at some danger to my health, main not “from impact but suffocation when some pillows split open to fill the air with clouds of feathers and feather-dust. At times I wished I was wearing a mask to protect my lungs; keeping my mouth firmly closed and breathing though my nose only stopped the larger particles.

And I also found the the autofocus on my DSLR was too efficient at focusing on feathers in the air, and until I turned it off and went manual many of my pictures failed to be sharp for the people and pillows behind the screen of feathers.

Later as the pixel count on DSLRs increased and full-frame cameras appeared I found it very useful to work in many situations using just the central ‘DX’ half-frame area of the viewfinder – which would have been very useful to let me see the people and pillows coming for me, but on this occasion I found “chaos really rules taking pictures becomes a press and hope situation. I think some of them do give an idea of what it was like to be there.

Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight


National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby’s

Monday, August 15th, 2022
National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby’s. I thought to myself “nothing much ever happens in London in the middle of August” as I began to think about writing this post for August 15th. Then I looked back in my diary to 2015 and found out just how wrong I was, and there were also some other years where I’ve photographed several events. But on August 15th 2015 I photographed seven protests as well as taking a few pictures as I walked around London.

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

Three of the protests in 2015 were about labour disputes, all in the cultural sector, at the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Sothebys, while the other four were over things outside the UK, in India, Kashmir, Iran and South Korea. Just another day in London.


National Gallery 61st day of Strike – Trafalgar Square

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's
Candy Udwin, PCS rep

It was the 61st day of the strike by PCS members at the National Gallery against the privatisation which will outsource the 400 galley assistants in what is called “modernisation” but which actually is just a cost-cutting exercise.

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

People who work at the gallery would no longer be employed by the gallery and would lose the terms and conditions they currently have from a responsible employer. Outsourcing companies cut costs and extract their profits from the contracts by increasing workload and reducing pay and conditions for the workers, treating them extremely poorly in ways that a public body such as the National Gallery itself never would.

The dispute had also become one demanding the reinstatement of PCS union rep Candy Udwin, sacked for her trade union activities. The PCS picket who had arrived earlier as on every strike day were joined by supporters from other unions.


Equalitate at Tate Modern – Bankside

From Trafalgar Square I took a bus to St Paul’s Churchyard and then walked across the footbridge to Bankside and Tate Modern. There and at Tate Britain visitor assistants whose work has already been outsourced get £3 an hour less than directly employed colleagues, are on zero hours contracts and get far inferior employment rights.

This was the first public demonstration by Equalitate, who supported by the PCS are fighting to get equal pay and conditions for all staff doing the same job. They stood on the busy public riverside walkway in front of the gallery and handed out fliers. Many who took them were shocked to hear about the unfair treatment, but mainly they were tourists and not UK residents.


Sikhs call for release of political prisoners – Indian High Commission

A shorter bus ride took me back to Aldwych and the Indian High Commission. It was Indian Independence Day and Sikh protesters from Dal Khalsa were there supporting the call by hunger striker Bapu Surat Singh, for the release of Sikh political prisoners and for the ‘2020’ campaign for a referendum for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan. He is 82 and began his hunger strike on 16th January, 8 months ago.

The Sikhs are the “indigenous people of Punjab” and say they “have a historical homeland, a separate religion and have the right to self-determination” which was ignored at the time of the 1947 partition of India, with their land being split between India and Pakistan. They intended to hold the referendum in the state of Punjab and among Sikh diaspora living in America, Canada, United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya and Middle Eastern Countries.


Kashimiris Indian Independence Day call for freedom – Indian High Commission

Kashimiris were also protesting at the Indian High Commission on what is celebrated in Kashmir not as ‘independence day’, but as ‘black day’ against the Indian military occupation of much of their country. There are also areas of this disputed country occupied by Pakisatn and China.

There is one Indian soldier for every 14 Kashmiris in the country, and more than 100,000 people have been killed since the current uprising against Indian occupation began in 1987. Many Kashmiris, including women and children have been tortured and some deliberatly maimed or blinded by the Indian Army. Pakistan has been less repressive with fewer human rights violations in the areas it controls, but also has a policy of continuous suppression, exploitation and bullying of Kashmiris.


Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs – Trafalgar Square

Another short journey took me back to Trafalgar Square, where on one part of the North Terrace Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) were remembering its fighters killed in the fight against Iran and ISIS for self-determination.

There are a bewildering array of Iranian Kurdish political groups listed on the UK government web site, including the PJAK. Like the PKK, PJAK owes allegiance to Abdullah Öcalan and the ideals of the Rojava revolution and was possibly an offshoot of the PKK, but unlike them is not banned in the UK as its activities are directed largely agains Iran. It operates from northern Iraq. According to the UK government site it reached a ceasefire with the Iranian authorities in 2011 but is still engaging in underground activities in Iran.


16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest – Trafalgar Square

A small group, mainly Koreans continute its monthly silent vigils to remember the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy, mainly school children who obeyed the order to ‘Stay Put‘ on the lower decks as the ship went down. The call on the Korean government to raise the ship for a thorough inquire, to punish those responsible and bring in regulations to prevent similar tragedies in future.


United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2 – Mayfair

I met members of the United Voices of the World trade union at Oxford Circus, along with other supporters including Paula Peters of DPAC and Candy Udwin, the victimised PCS rep from the National Gallery and some of the other PCS strikers, Class War and others.

They marched from there to protest against Sotheby’s who had sacked two union members, Barbara and Percy, for protesting for proper sick pay, paid holidays and pensions.

Police harassed the marchers and stopped them outside Sotheby’s attempting to move them onto the pavement on the opposite side of the road. The marchers sat down and blocked the road, ignoring the police requests. It’s a very minor route with plenty of alternatives but in a very wealthy area.

Finally they got up and marched around the block, with union officials Vera and Petros going into shops on the way and handing out leaflets explaining why the UVW were continuing to take action against Sotheby’s and asking shop owners and workers to complain to them. Police harassed them and tried to stop them doing this.

They returned to the street in front of Sotheby’s for a short rally – with again police trying without success to move them off the road – and then set off to march around the block again. This time police made an effort to stop them marching, holding UVW leader Petros Elia, and blocking the road, but other protesters simply walked past them on the pavement and marched around the block again.

They returned for a final short rally in front of Sotheby’s before deciding it was time to finish and marching back to an alley close to Oxford Circus, where and I was pleased to at last be able to go home.


You can find more pictures and text on these at the links below on My London Diary, where there are also a few more ‘London Views’, mostly taken from the top of buses, my favourite way of travelling around the city when it is too far to walk. But London’s traffic congestion means the Underground is often much faster.

United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2
16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs
Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom
Sikhs call for release of political prisoners
Equalitate at Tate Modern
London Views
National Gallery 61st day of Strike