Posts Tagged ‘Lambeth Council’

Reclaim Brixton 2015

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Brixton has been in the news again recently, with various analyses published on the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton uprising (aka Brixton riots) which began on 10th April. Official reports put the 3 days of unrest which caused £7.5m of damage and left almost three hundred police (and an impossible to estimate number of the local community) injured down to poor housing, unemployment, and police harassment.

It was largely the actions of the police that led to the events. Their failure to effectively investigate the arson attack on a party in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981 scandalised much of the nation and the racist reaction of the mass media to a protest march about this raised tension, exacerbated by the police arrests of the march organisers who were charged with riot – and later acquitted. But the final straw was when police at the beginning of April began ‘Operation Swamp 81’ with large numbers of officers coming into Brixton and stopping an searching almost a thousand people – almost entirely African-Caribbean – under the ‘Sus law’, the 1824 Vagrancy Act which allowed police to stop and search anyone they believed was acting suspiciously.

Little changed after the official reports came out, and it was only 19 years later, following another scandalous police failure to properly investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 that the Macpherson report found that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Although some changes have been made, there are still plenty of signs that this continues to be deeply embedded in the ethos of the force.

The publication of ‘The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ on 31st March this year (2021) came at perhaps a particularly insensitive time for a report that is widely seen as a whitewash by a commission set up to reflect particular views. Set up in opposition to the protests by the Black Lives Matter movement over the death of George Floyd (and three weeks before the trial of his killer ended in three guilty verdicts) it evoked fury from many experts in the field as well as the millions who still experience discrimination.

More recently is has been condemned in remarkably forthright terms by the independent experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council who state “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent” and call on the British government to categorically reject its findings.

Brixton has changed since 1981 and some of those changes are very much for the worse for the local population. There were further riots, and there have been deaths at the hands of police – such as those of Ricky Bishop in 2001 and Sean Rigg in 2008 – but the main threat facing the local communities is gentrification as Brixton is changing from a working class area home particularly to migrant communities to a trendy up-market suburb. Its a change which is in part inspired by the vibrant communities which it is displacing, but also driven by the excellent transport links the area enjoys.

25 April 2015 saw Reclaim Brixton, a day long protest against gentrification which saw several thousands gathering at various events in what is still so far as I’m aware the largest protest of its kind. One major blow to local people has been the decision by Network Rail, backed by Lambeth Council to redevelop the railway arches in the centre of the town, home for many years to some of Brixton’s best loved – and cheapest – businesses. The current tenants, one of which came here in 1932 – are being evicted and after renovation the rents will be triple and their places largely taken by the same chains and franchises that we see in so many other high streets.

Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window at Foxton’s estate agents, going into Brixton Village with their banners and briefly occupying Lambeth Town Hall.

More at:
London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton ‘march
Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton
Take Back Brixton against gentrification
Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

London, Sat 9th April 2016

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Over a thousand campaigners had come to applaud those who had occupied the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill for 10 days to oppose Lambeth Council’s plans to turn the building into a fee-charging gym run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, leaving just a small unstaffed room with a few books in place of a proper libary. The occupation made national headlines and attracted the support of many leading authors.

After the occupiers emerged to rousing cheers there were some short speeches before campaigners set off to march via another closed library to a rally opposite Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, but I left them at Loughborough Junction to catch a train to my next appointment. The library was miraculously opened on a reduced scale a couple of weeks before the 2018 council elections and in 2020 a lottery grant was given to the Carnegie Community Trust to run the library – an organisation linked to Labour councillors – rather than the community organisation the Friends of Carnegie Library. Security during the 2 years of closure cost the council three times as much as keeping the library open would have done, and the basement excavations for the gym ended up costing Lambeth over four times their original estimate.

In Whitehall around 2,000 protesters blocked the road in front of Downing St calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to resign because of the lack of trust about his financial affairs following the revelations in the Panama papers. Many protesters had come in party mode, with flowered garlands, Panama hats and suitably Central American dress or pig flavoured posters.

The party was still continuing but in a more angy mood when I returned several hours later have covered three other events, although there were fewer protesters. I was pleased to photograph two people in pigs heads – referring to the initiation ceremony Cameron had gone through when a student at Oxford for the “ultra-exclusive, ultra-posh Piers Gaveston Society” (which he later denied) with the placard ‘He’s Got To Go’. Despite the damning revelations of the Panama Papers against the ultra-rich and the offshore finance industry little if anything has changed.

Protesters outside Channel 4 on the Horseferry Road were calling for a ban on the Grand National horse race taking place today. Already 4 horses had been killed following accidents at this year’s meeting at Aintree – and around 46 in the last 15 years.

And at the Polish Embassy in Portland Place several hundred Poles and supporters protested in solidarity with the 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. They hung wire coathangers – the traditional crude tool of back-street abortionists – on the embassy door and fence. Huge protests continue in Poland where a near-total ban on abortion came into effect in January this year after the Consitutional Court ruled that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

Colombia has a long history of protests and their violent repression, at least since the late 1940s when the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate provoked riots across the country, with a brief period of respite under a ‘National Front’ in the 1950s. But from the 1960s on the country suffered an armed conflict, with the USA encouraging the military to attack leftist groups in the rural areas and the involvement of right-wing paramilitaries and mercenaries for multinational companies in human rights abuses in the fight against guerilla groups such as FARC. Drug cartels have also played an increasing role in the violence since the 1970s.

The government negotiated a peace deal with FARC which was rejected by a referendum later in 2016, but a revised deal was ratified by Congress shortly after. However agreements reached were largely dismantled by a right wing government voted in in 2018 and since then protests and police repression have again risen. Colombia, according to the World Bank, is the seventh most unequal country in the world.

A protest took place in Trafalgar Square on the same day as protests in Colombia against political persecution, calling for an end to paramilitary killings. People want peace, human rights and democracy in Colombia.

More at:
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


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Gentrification is Class War: 4 Feb 2018

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Back when I began taking pictures of London in the 1970s London still had many largely working class areas, many the kind of places where some photographer friends would raise an eyebrow when I said I had been taking pictures there, or even send me dire warnings about the dangers of walking the streets there with a camera around my neck.

They were areas where people in the basic jobs that keep the city running could afford to live – both those whose families had moved to these areas several generations back and those including migrants and refugees who had come more recently. Some were certainly beginning to see a new more affluent population moving in, and many of my pictures featured skips in front of housing that was being renovated, both by developers who were buying up many older properties and young professional couples who were often ‘knocking through’, and pub conversations began to be riddled with terms such as ‘RSJ’.

Since then more and more areas across London have been subject to ‘gentrification’, their character being changed and new businesses coming in to cater for the new wealthier population, while increasingly the low-income inhabitants are forced out to cheaper areas further from central London as house prices and flat rents soar – and as council estates are demolished and replaced by higher density largely private flats at high market rents.

This process of ‘social cleansing’ has been taking place across London, and has been accelerated by many Labour councils since Tony Blair began New Labour’s regeneration programme with a press photo-opportunity on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark in his first speech as Prime Minister in 1977.

Many of the shops that I photographed back in the 70s and 80s, small local shops – corner stores, cobblers, hairdressers, greengrocers, butchers, etc – and other small local businesses have now disappeared, their premises now often estate agents, and cafés have changed their nature from ‘greasy spoons’ where you could get a filling cheap lunch to serving coffee and cakes, vegetarian food or rather more expensive restaurants catering for the new and wealthier clientèle. Of course tastes generally have changed and so have shopping habits, and some of the new is certainly welcome. But so much of those shops and pubs that were a part of these neighbourhoods have been lost.

Brixton perhaps stood out against gentrification longer than most – with the reputation it had from the disturbances in 1981, 1985 and 1995 deterring many newcomers. All took place following heavy-handed police action; Operation Swamp 81, when over 900 people were stopped and searched in 5 days, with 82 arrested, the shooting of Cherry Groce in 1985, and the death in police custody of Wayne Douglas in 1995. But many young people were attracted to the area by the vibrant atmosphere and Caribbean culture, by music venues, the Roxy, markets, food and pubs, and with its good transport links and closeness to central London it has attracted many young professionals in more recent years.

Railway lines run through the centre of Brixton, and the arches underneath them have been an important part of its life, providing low cost premises for businesses and, particularly in Atlantic Road and Brixton Market Road, for shops. They provided what has been called “the heart of Brixton”. But as I wrote in my text for Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action on Sunday 4th February 2018:

Network Rail have colluded with Lambeth Council to get rid of something that gave Brixton its unique character and replace it by trendier shops catering for the new wealthy young population – part of Lambeth Labour’s programme of social cleansing which includes demolishing council estates and replacing them with high cost private accommodation (with a token amount of so-called affordable properties.) The Council ignored the public outcry and large demonstrations to keep the arches.

The plans were accompanied by a great deal of lies and mismanagement by Network Rail and work was supposed to be completed by 2016 but is only scheduled to start tomorrow, and the Save Brixton Arches campaign are calling for it to be abandoned as the plans for the work fail to include proper fire safety precautions and will severely restrict access by emergency services to local businesses and the railway and station.

Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action

Despite the campaign both by the traders and many of the local population the refurbishment of the arches went ahead, though over a year later many had not been re-let. Allies and Morrison, the architecture and urban planning practice which recommended the scheme in 2013 has been involved in many contentious ‘regeneration’ schemes with developers and councils across London which opponents describe as social cleansing. Local Labour MP Helen Hayes was a senior partner in this firm until she left shortly before being elected in 2015, although she has denied any involvement in this particular scheme.

More at Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Peace, Slavery & Social Cleansing

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Three years ago December 9th was a Saturday and people were out on the streets in at least three protests which I photographed.

My day’s work began at the Ministry of Defence, where peace campaigners celebrated the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with a die-in on the steps.

ICAN was awarded the prize for its role in pushing for a United Nations global nuclear ban treaty which was approved by 122 nations at the UN General Assembly in 2017. In October 2020 Honduras became the 50th country to ratify it and will come into force on 22 January 2021. The UK government refused to take and part in the negotiations and has refused to sign the treaty and the award of the Nobel prize hardly got a mention in the UK media.

None of the main nuclear powers has signed the accord, and the protesters including members of ICAN UK, CND, Medact and WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, urged the UK to sign up and scrap Trident replacement. Bruce Kent made a presentation of a large cardboard Nobel Prize to ICAN UK, and handed out small ‘Nobels’ (gold-covered chocolate coins) to all who come up for them. After a few speeches there was then a die-in on the steps of the ministry.


A large crowd had gathered in Belgrave Square for the National Anti-Slavery March, organised by African Lives Matter after the news that African migants detained in Libya were being sold as slaves by Arab slave traders.

They marched to Knightsbridge and then along to Hyde Park Corner, going around the roundabout and then back along the other carriageway of Knightsbridge to the Libyan Embassy where there was a lengthy rally, including an African priest leading a libation ceremony in memory of the many Africans who have fought for their people against enslavement and colonialism; people in the crowd shouted out names for him to honour with pouring water onto the ground.

As well as demanding the closure of the Libyan detention centres, action by African governments to rescue people detained in the camps and condemnation of the slave trade and murders of migrants by all African leaders and the UN, calling on Libya to make and enforce laws that prevent these crimes against humanity, many also demanded reparations for the historic slave trade and the continuing despoliation of African resources by imperialist nations including the UK.


I had to leave before the rally ended as I was beginning to shake and feel unwell, weak and dizzy, the signs of an diabetic hypo, and I walked a short distance away to sit down eating one of the snacks I carry to give a rapid boost of my blood sugar. Soon I was feeling well enough to eat my lunch and take the tube to my final event of the day, a vigil outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton against the heartless policies of Lambeth Council.

Lambeth are one of the London Labour councils who are pursuing a policy of social cleansing under the guise of regeneration, realising the asset value of council estates by demolition and rebuilding with only small provision of social housing, resulting in many local council tenants and leaseholders being forced to move out of the area.

Lambeth have also made drastic cuts, shutting down community centres, cutting services for the disabled, those with mental health problems, young people and social services generally; although the Council claim these actions have been forced on them by Tory government cuts, the protester point out that Councillors’ expenses and allowances keep on growing and they have spent over £150m on a new Town Hall.

The vigil included a tribute to Cressingham Gardens resident and leading campaigner Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months continuing the fight to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

More from all 3 events on My London Diary:

Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil
National Anti-Slavery March
ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


More From May Days: 2018

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

My May Day in 2018 was rather more varied than usual, taking in several other events as well as the traditional May Day march and rally where I started as usual at Clerkenwell Green, along with the Kurdish and Turkish communists and others. Without our various migrant communities it would have been a very much smaller and less colourful event.

Rather than photograph the actual march I left a few minutes before it started to take the underground to Westminster, where the Chronic Lyme Disease Support Group UK was holding a protest to raise awareness of the hidden epidemic of the disease here. Carried by ticks, the disease is hard to diagnose and the NHS has failed to introduce proper tests and make doctors aware of its prevalence and proper treatment.

The general public need to know about the dangers and in particular to take precautions against tick bites and to be ready to remove ticks promptly and safely from their skin. I was fortunate to have met this group shortly before a holiday with friends a couple of years earlier so carried a small bent plastic tick remover for when we got bitten. If you ever walk through tall grass or woods you should have one ready.

From outside Parliament it was a short walk to the Home Office, where Movement for Justice were protesting against a planned charter flight later in the week for a mass deportation to Jamaica. This was in the middle of the Windrush scandal and the flight would include members of the Windrush generation. The Home Office, particularly under Theresa May, has been guilty of enforcing an unjust, scandalous and racist immigration policy which is still continuing.

I rushed away from the Home Office and up Whitehall to the Strand, where I was just in time to meet the May Day march from Clerkenwell Green. I was almost certainly more out of breath than the members of the Musician’s Union whose band were leading it.

The rally was, as I noted, a rather humdrum event dominated by trade union speakers which failed to represent the make-up of the march, dominated by our migrant communities.

It seemed rather curious that speakers apparently were supposed to be ‘non-political’ in their speeches because of the elections later in the week. If you can’t be political at a May Day Rally why bother?

May Day Rally

The rally was enlivened a little by the final contribution which was from a victimised union rep from the Brixton Ritzy, but by the time she spoke most had left either to go home or to the local pubs. Those left were getting ready to continue the day with a protest organised by the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain), United Voices of the World the union, staff from Picturehouse Cinemas, the Women’s Strike Assembly – UK, London Wobblies, Another Europe Is Possible, Plan C London, Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the Precarious Workers Brigade representing precarious workers, people on poverty pay and exploitative contracts whose largely unskilled work is essential to keeping society running.

They marched to protest outside a number of exploitative workplaces where disputes were currently taking place, demanding guaranteed hours of work, a living wage, the decriminalisation of sex work, an end to trade union victimisation and repeal of the anti-union laws.

After their first protest at the Ministry of Justice where cleaners are demanding a living wage, they went on to further protests at King’s College, where cleaners demand to be directly employed with proper terms of employment and a living wage.

I left the protest at King’s to join the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union CAIWU who had been celebratingd International Workers’ Day with an open-topped bus tour stopping to protest outside some of London’s most notorious employers. Their final protest of the day was at the Royal Opera House, where they were in dispute over the victimisation of five members for their trade union activities.

By now I was getting rather tired, but made a short detour on my way home taking the tube to Brixton, where an emergency demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall before Thursday’s council elections was calling for a public inquiry into Lambeth Labour’s housing policy, an immediate halt to estate demolitions and a call to stop the privatisation via Homes for Lambeth which is leading to social cleansing.  

Lambeth Labour’s election manifesto had a proud claim that it was well on the way to “complete our ambitious programme of building 1,000 extra homes at council rent for local families“, while the actual number of council homes with with secure council tenancies built was – according to a Freedom of Information request – only 17. The protesters say that even than figure was around double the actual number.

Lambeth Housing Tell Us the Truth
CAIWU Mayday Mayhem at Royal Opera
Precarious Workers – King’s College
Precarious Workers – Ministry of Justice
May Day Rally
May Day March on the Strand
Against Deportation Charter Flights
Lyme Disease epidemic
London May Day March meets


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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