Posts Tagged ‘Lucy Parsons’

Class War Occupy Rich Door 24 Sep 2014

Friday, September 24th, 2021

A few days ago I had to sit down and write some explanations to a friend who lives on a smallholding in rural France who doesn’t have a computer or internet access. It made me realise how much has changed for most of us since some time in the 1990s, when we all began to be connected by the World Wide Web and browsers such as Mosaic which really made the breakthrough to something like the web we now know and most of us spend large parts of our life in.

Some time ago I’d sent him a copy of my book – or rather ‘zine’ – ‘Class War: Rich Door, Poor Door‘ I published in 2015:

“A photographic account of the protests from July 2014 to May 2015 at One Commercial St, Aldgate, London against separate doors for rich and poor residents. The book includes over 200 images from 29 protests. ISBN: 978-1-909363-14-4”

It is still available, and at the very reasonable price of £6.00, though given Blurb’s postage rates it only makes sense to buy it if you get together with a few mates to order several copies.

More recently my wife sent him a copy of a postcard with my picture from 2014, ‘Vigil for Ferguson, US Embassy – No Justice, No Peace’ and he wrote back asking who Ferguson was – and included a couple of questions about the Class War book.

Google of course would have supplied him the answers in the twinkling of a mouse click, and told him Ferguson was a town in Missouri where riots had followed both the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer and the failure to indict the officer for the murder. He could have got the answer even quicker on my own web site, My London Diary, where putting ‘Ferguson’ in the search box at top right on most pages returns links to the Solidarity with Ferguson vigil, Hands Up! Against Racist Police Shootings protest following the shooting and this Candlelit Vigil for Michael Brown following the decision not to charge Darren Wilson with his murder.

His second question was about the Class War banner with its message “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” Lucy Parsons 1853-1942, and was simply to ask “Who was Lucy Parsons”. Again Wikipedia and other web sites such as the IWW Archive would have given a fast and far more comprehensive answer than the brief reply I wrote.

The final question was one that amused me. “Who, ” he asked, “was that elderly gentleman with a walking stick” and “why was he being arrested and being put into a police van in one of the pictures“. It was of course Ian Bone, and again my web site contains much about him on many occasions, including pictures and an explanation of his arrest on Wednesday 24th September 2014.

When the building manager had held open the ‘Rich Door’ for a resident to go through, the person holding one end of the Lucy Parsons banner had stepped in front of it to prevent him closing it. He made the mistake of walking away to the concierge desk, probably to ask the concierge to call the police, but leaving the door open and unguarded. So Class War walked in unopposed, bringing two banners with them and continued to protest in the the foyer.

Ian Bone talked to the building manager, then held up a couple of framed notices from the desk, and talked about them and the objections to social tenants being made to use a separate door on a dirty alley at the side of the building, before putting them back carefully on the desk next to a vase full of flowers. Others spoke briefly and people loudly shouted slogans.

And then “there was a crash and the vase of flowers was no longer on the reception desk. Ian Bone had knocked it off with his walking stick, which he had been swinging around rather wildly as he spoke. I only saw it out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t tell if it was deliberate or accidental.” Though I was fairly sure it would have been on purpose.

Shortly after, the police arrived, and there was some discussion; I went outside and a few minutes later the protesters followed and the protest continued as usual on the pavement, with more speeches and noise. Eventually the protesters decided it was time to leave and were moving away when a police office approached Ian Bone and told him he was being arrested as the CCTV in the ‘rich door’ foyer showed him breaking the vase. There was considerable argument as he was led away and put in the van, but no attempt at resistance.

Later we heard that Ian Bone had agreed to pay £70 for a replacement vase and the building owners had decided not to press charges. And at the following week’s Poor Doors protest Class War brought along a couple of vases of flowers to play with and to try and get the building manager to take, though as they probably came from a Pound Shop they “they were perhaps a little plastic and tacky looking compared to the one that had been broken the previous week.”


The building manager refused to take the replacements, but later made the mistake of grabbing hold of one which was thrust in his face, “probably by reflex. His face when he found himself holding it was interesting, and he quickly put it down, placing it on the desk in the reception area in the same place as the one knocked off last week, complete with its with a ‘Toffs Out!’ Class War card.” And I was just able to photograph it through the window there on the desk.

More on My London Diary:
Class War Occupy Rich Door
Class War Poor Doors Week 10


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.


Rich Door, Poor Door: 2014

Friday, July 30th, 2021

A foot in the Rich Door

I used the text for this protest on 30th July 2014 as the opening text for my ‘zine’ ‘Class War: Rich Door. Poor Door‘ published in 2015 and still available from Blurb. It was the first in a series of around 30 weekly protests (and a couple of special events, pictures from most of which are in the zine, by Class War at this block in Aldgate where the small proportion of social housing tenants have to use a door down a side alley rather than the plush entrance on the main road for those in the private flats.

Class War arrive for their first protest

The series of protests had some success – it had immediately resulted in the alley being cleaned up and later it was given much better lighting and it placed the whole idea of ‘poor doors’ firmly on the national and architectural agenda – but eventually failed to resolved the issue for this particular building.

And put up posters and stickers

Here’s that text, written on 30 July 2014:

Class War, including three of their candidates for the 2015 General Election, protested at 1 Commercial St in Aldgate against London’s new appartment blocks providing separate ‘poor doors’ for the affordable flats they have to include to gain planning permission for the development. Class War characterise this as ‘social apartheid.’

The building manager removes a poster

The front entrance on Whitechapel High St (One Commercial St is the name of the block) has a hotel-like reception desk, and is staffed. It leads to the lifts for the expensive flats, many owned by overseas investors. Like most such buildings, some of them are empty and seldom used, while others are short term holiday lets.

Arguments continue over the door

There is apparently no internal connection* between this part of the building and that containing the social housing, which has been given a different name and a separate door some way down the alley on the west side of the building. Their door, the ‘poor door’ has a card entry system which leads to a bare corridor with some mail boxes on one side.

Lisa makes her views clear

The alley is dark at night, and even though today it was unusually clear of rubbish, it smelt strongly of urine. Certainly a far less friendly place than the well lit main street on which the ‘rich door’ opens. There seems to me to be no reason why all those who live in the building cannot share the same entrance even if their flats are on different floors or different sides of the building, and certainly no reason at all to hide the poor door down a mean alley like this.

Police try to persuade the protesters to move across the road

The protesters arrived with a banner carrying a quotation from the radical US labour activist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live“. The Class War posters – with their skull and crossbones – had the message “We have found new homes for the rich” and showed long rows of grave crosses stretching into the distance, and they were stuck on the windows around the poor door using Class War election stickers with their promise of a 50% mansion tax.

But the protesters are unmoved by the police arguments

A few people were still entering and leaving the building, with the protesters talking and shouting at them but not actually stopping them, and at one point the protesters grabbed the door when it was open. There followed a brief tug of war with several from inside the building, including one of the residents as well as those from the ‘concierge’ attempting without success to close it. The protesters made little attempt to enter the building but wanted those inside to be able to hear the protest through the open door.

The Poor Door. When I visited a few days earlier the alley was filthy

By the time a couple of police arrived and hurried into the building to talk to the people inside around a quarter of an hour the protesters had stopped holding the door. The police came out a few minutes later and tried with little success to get the protesters to move further away from the door.

The rubbish had gone but it still stank of urine and had no lighting

The protest continued until after an hour or so Class War decided they had made their point and left, some for the pub. I went around the building to find the poor door and photographed it and the alley it was in.

Class War – Rich Door, Poor Door

* This was a lie by the building manager. On a later occasion I was taken inside the building by one of the private residents, and after taking me to her flat we then went down and out through the ‘poor door’ which she told me she used when taking her dog for a walk.


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.


Portrait of a woman – Lucy Parsons

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading the final instalment of a series of five articles by Colleen Thornton on Paul Grottkau and Lucy Parsons published as a guest post on A D Coleman’s Photocritic International. It was a story which began by Thornton buying on E-bay a rather fine cabinet-card portrait of an unidentified African American woman, made by a hitherto unknown photographer whose name and Chicago address were below the picture.

Although Paul Grottkau was not well-known as a photographer, he had been prominent in socialist circles both in his native Germany and, after escaping to the USA in 1877 following political arrests and persecution, in Chicago where he settled, quickly becoming editor of the German language workers’ newspaper there.

Thornton goes briefly into considerable detail about his activities there, and in particular to the Haymarket Bombing in May 1886 and the arrests and execution of leading anarchists who were Grottkau’s colleagues, and were clearly unconnected with the bomb. Grottkau had by the time of the bombing moved to Milwaukee, where he had started another German language workers newspaper and become a leader in a number of strikes, including the large strike at the Milwaukee Iron Company’s rolling mill in Bay View. The National Guard fired on the 12,000 strikers and their supporters in ‘The Bay View Massacre’, and Grottkau was arrested as he tried to calm the situation by speaking to them in German. The New York Times reported Mrs. Albert R. Parsons as being in the court when he was sentenced to a year in jail (he only served 6 weeks.) Her husband, Albert Parsons was one of The ‘Haymarket Martyrs’, then awaiting execution, and hanged in November 1887. The following year Grottkau returned to Chicago to edit the newspaper again and opened a photo studio. Two years later he moved away with his family, briefly setting up studios in Milwaukee and Detroit before settling in San Francisco in 1891. There he may have worked in the studio of Joseph Holler, as well as continuing his political activities as a Social Democrat. He contracted pneumonia after returning to work for them in Milwaukee in 1898; 10,000 people attended his funeral and his obituary was published by the New York Times. But although his life-long work as an “anarchist/socialist writer, editor, labor organizer, and political activist” is well-known and documented, nothing at the time mentioned that he made a living and supported his family as a studio photographer, and very little is known about his photographic work.

Thornton was led by her research to Lucy Parsons and by comparing with the few known pictures of her, was able to establish to her satisfaction that the picture she had bought was of Lucy Parsons. Without access to the original it is difficult to fully assess the evidence, and in particular that of some fairly extensive and skilled retouching by Grottkau that Thornton discusses. She certainly makes a good case, but I am left with just a scintilla of suspicion; I’m convinced but not entirely so. But of course her research about both Grottkayu and Parsons still stands even in the unlikely event that Thornton was wrong about the photograph which prompted it.


I have a particular interest in this story as I have photographed Lucy Parsons many times in different locations, or rather her image on a banner produced by UK anarchist group Class War. What I call their ‘Lucy Parsons‘ banner has on it “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” attributed to ‘Lucy Parsons (1853-1942)’. I first photographed it in July 2014 at one of their many protests against one of London’s new apartment blocks providing separate ‘poor doors’ for those living the the social housing from those in the larger private part of the building. I’ve since learnt rather more about her life and politics, but not before about some of the aspects of her life covered in this series of article.


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.


Lucy Parsons

Monday, June 1st, 2020
Poor Doors protest, Aldgate 30 Jul 2014

I’ve just been reading a guest post on A D Coleman’s Photocritic International by Colleen Thornton on Paul Grottkau and Lucy Parsons, the first in a series of posts in what Coleman describes as her “painstaking inquiry” which “introduces to the medium’s history two extraordinary figures: a German-born 19th-century U.S.-based anarcho-socialist photographer, Paul Grottkau, and his subject, the African-American anarcho-socialist Lucy Parsons, widow of one of the men railroaded to public hanging in the prosecution of the suspects of the Chicago Haymarket Riot.”

Her research was prompted by finding a cabinet portrait of Parsons on eBay with the photographer’s details on the card below the picture. It is to be published on Photocritic International in three parts of three instalments each. As I write the first two of Part I are online, introducing the photograph of ‘an attractive, well-attired “woman of color”’ for which surprisingly Thornton was the only bidder, and with the photographer, who was previously unknown to me.

I’ve long known a little about Lucy Parsons, a remarkable figure in the history of the USA, and about the Haymarket massacre which led to May 1st being celebrated by socialists as May Day – here’s a brief paragraph I wrote on this site in 2018:

Since around 1891, May 1st has also been celebrated as a socialist festival, usually called May Day, but often also referred to as International Workers’ Day, Labour Day or Workers’ Day, the date chosen in memory of the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886, where a bomb was thrown at police as they attempted to disperse what had been a peaceful rally of trade unionists. Eight anarchists – none of whom had actually thrown the bomb – were convicted of conspiracy, and seven were sentenced to death, though the sentences on two were commuted to life imprisonment. The trial was widely criticised as a miscarriage of justice and the three men still alive were pardoned and freed in 1893. The massacre was on May 4th, and the date of May 1st was almost certainly chosen because it was by tradition May Day.

Lucy Parson’s husband, Albert Parsons, was one of the “Haymarket Martrys”, a union leader with no connection to the actual bombing who was executed on November 11, 1887. She had been born a slave on a plantation in Virginia in 1851 and had married Parsons in Texas in 1871, the couple having to move to the north because of racist hostility to their marriage. She became one of the USA’s leading anarchists, a labour organiser and journalist with an international reputation, one of the founders of the  Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Famously described by Chicago police as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters” she continued her political activities until shortly before her death in 1942.

I think Lucy Parsons first came to my attention through Class War, one of whose banners carries the text “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” Lucy Parson 1853-1942 CLASS WAR“. It has on it another portrait of her, a far less formal image – and one that appeals to me rather more than the younger and slightly dreamy vignetted pose in the image that attracted the attention of Thornton. The photographer of this picture, made in the 1920s, is unknown.

The ‘Lucy Parsons banner’ was one they used in the long series of ‘Poor Door’ protests – around 30 in all – that I photographed outside 1 Commercial St, Aldgate, calling attention to the socially divisive separate entrances being provided for wealthy private residents and social housing tenants in this and other blocks.

It has also been carried by them at many other events. In December 2014 Class War used the banner outside the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners who were intending to evict tenants from the New Era Estate in Hackney before Christmass so they could refurbish these low rent social properties and re-let them at market rents – roughly four times as much.


Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era

It’s a banner I’ve made so many picture of, both at protests about various housing issues and at other events. So I thought I’d share just a few here, and an hour later I was still finding more and more to share from My London Diary. So perhaps as more of Thornton’s research is published I may share another set. Those in this post are all from 2014.