Posts Tagged ‘march’

Defend Afrin, end Turkish Attacks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

The largest protest I attended on Saturday 27th January 2018, four years ago was against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Northern Syria, then a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO member with probably the largest and best-equipped army and air force in the Middle East was taking on the small and poorly equipped Kurdish forces, and despite a valiant fight the final result was predictable, particularly once Russia, the other major player in the Syrian conflict had given them their blessing.

Turkey has continued its attacks on Northern Syria, but mainly through air strikes, but these are seldom reported in UK media although covered by specialist sources such as ‘Foreign Policy‘, part of the Slate Group.

The US gave some support in other battles fought by the Kurds against Islamic State forces, but this was always limited and mostly ended with the withdrawal of US troops which was announced by Trump in December 2018, and again in October 2019, although around 900 were still there in October 2021. Turkey has been a major source of finance for ISIS, allowing them to profit from smuggling of oil, and backing some groups which were fighting with them.

In recent days there have been short mentions on the BBC about the continuing battles being fought by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia against Islamic State in Northern Syria. The prisons and refugee camps where former ISIS fighters and supporters are held are largely in Kurdish territory and ISIS are still active and fighting to release people from detention to increase their strength.

As I wrote in 2018, “the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups – which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds – equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.”

Unfortunately there seems little chance that such a model with be adopted more widely. Turkey continues to attack the Kurdish areas and does so using weapons sold to them as a NATO member by the UK, France and UAE. Turkey claims that the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, founded in 1978 which began its armed struggle for self-rule for Kurds in Turkey 1984.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999 and the organisation has been proscribed in many countries allied to Turkey, including the USA and UK. Several PKK flags were seized by police at the start of the march.

More at Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack.


This was not the only protest in London on that day, and I also photographed two other events. African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE were outside the UAE Embassy in London protesting against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves. On Regent St, the long-running protest outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St was continuing asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company’s clothing.

Canada Goose protests continue
End UAE support for slavery in Libya


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel
Three protests on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now! Irish Embassy

Selma James calls for the release of Margaretta D’Arcy

I don’t think my path has ever crossed, at least not knowingly, with that of ‘Guantanamo Granny’ Margaretta D’Arcy, though Facebook tells me we have 163 mutual friends. My eldest brother, around her age but long since dead, may well have sat down with her on Whitehall with Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100 back in 1961. Her life has been “decades of playwriting, acting, pageantry, pirate radio, books, peace activism, protest and imprisonment whilst bringing up her family of boys. She addresses Irish nationalism, civil liberties and women’s rights.”

Her political activities led to imprisonment in Northern India, in Armagh, in Holloway (for protests at Greenham Common against Cruise missiles.) This protest came after she was due in court after being jailed for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War against the use since 2001 of Shannon by US war planes in violation of Irish neutrality – and she served three months for refusing to sign a bond against further trespass on the airport.

The protest at the Irish Embassy called for her immediate release and was supported by organisations including the Global Women’s Strike, Troops out of Ireland, Winvisible, Women of Colour, Kilburn Stop the War, Labour Caribbean Solidarity, Payday Men’s Network, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

Students march to protect Education

London University Students held a peaceful protest to show they intend to keep up their protests for democratic, public education free from exploitation and police violence and to support university cleaners on a 3-day strike for ‘3 Cosas’ – sick pay, holidays and pensions – and for recognition of their trade union, the IWGB.

After a rally outside the University of London Union in Malet St they marched on a tour of key sites including Senate House, the University & Colleges Employers Association in Woburn House in Tavistock Square, Holborn Police station, where they protested loudly against police violence and in particular at the execution by police of Mark Duggan and ending with another short rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the Tavistock Square offices, a few of those in a black block at the front of the march made a brief token entry into the lobby, accompanied by rather more photographers and videographers, and some paint was thrown at the outside of the building, hitting several protesters and photographers.

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel

People protested close to the Israeli Embassy in response to a call by African asylum seekers for international action to support their protests against the arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of refugees inside Israel.

Tens of thousands of African asylum seekers have been protesting on the streets of Israel since the beginning of the month, holding mass rallies against their treatment by the Israeli authorities. New laws mean anyone entering the country without proper papers to be held for up to a year without trial, and for those who are already in the country to be held in infinite detention, at a detention facility in the Negev desert which like many other Israeli prisons is run by the private security company G4S.

Although there are around 50,000 African refugees in Israel, only a few hundred have had their applications processed. Most live illegally on the streets, taking whatever work is available in the ‘black economy’, with constant exploitation and threat of arrest. A recent strike by those working as cleaners, cooks, dishwashers and other low paid workers had brought many restaurants, hotels and businesses to a standstill.

Police tried to move the protesters to the opposite side of the busy main road, still further from the embassy which is in a private street, but they refused to move. Eventually police gave up and brought some cones from across the road to allow others to pass the growing protest in safety.

More on all these on My London Diary:

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel
Students march to protect Education
Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now!


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A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination
Three of the protests I photographed four years ago on Saturday 20th January 2018.

US Embassy first protest – No to Trump’s racism

The US decision to move their embassy out of Grosvenor Square in central London to the rather more obscure area of Nine Elms was at least in part thought to be their hope that it would attract fewer protests and that these would be given less media coverage.

So I was very pleased to photograph what was I think the first protest at the new site, on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. It was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’.

His use of this word provoked offence and outrage around the world, and was a new and more offensive aspect of the racist attacks on black communities, migrants, refugees and the Muslim community.

Through Trump’s campaign and first year of office he has kept up his racist demands for a wall to be built along the Mexican border to keep out migrants (and demanding that Mexico pay for it.) Stand Up to Racism called for a wave of protests across the country on the anniversary to ‘knock down the racist wall’. They built a wall in front of the new US embassy which opened for business earlier in the week and at the end of the protest they knocked this wall down.

Trump had earlier announced that he had cancelled his visit planned for the following month to open the embassy – which would have attracted massive protests. And as I commented, ” Few doubt that it was this that caused him to cancel his visit, though Trump tweeted that it was a lousy building in the wrong place – and with his usual accuracy blamed Obama for a decision that had been taken by Bush.”

Architecturally I think Trump perhaps had a point. Basically the building is a cube with a few plastic bits hanging on three sides, perhaps its main redeeming feature its moat, though being only along one side this is not particularly functional. Though the mediocrity of the luxury flats around it which will doubtless largely be overseas investments rather than homes does make it stand out. The Grosvenor Square building by leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen was London’s first purpose-built embassy when opened in 1960 and attracted almost universal criticism when built, but was considerably worsened by the 2008 security additions, now being removed as it is turned into a luxury hotel.

Break UK silence over Iran uprising

The anti-government protests which took place in Iran in December 2017 were the biggest since the crushing of the 2009 Green Movement by security forces. Protesters opposite Downing St called on Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Unfortunately Britain has little or no influence on the Iranian government and has for years slavishly followed the US lead in relations with the country. Our relations with the country since oil was first discovered (and exploited by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 51% owned by the British Government which much later became BP) have often been doubtful both before and after the 1979 revolution, which arguably came about largely as a consequence of US/UK policies.

The protest was organised and largely attended by members of the PMOI/MEK, an organisation which began in 1965 in opposition to the US-supported Shah and formed an armed militia. After the revolution it refused to take part in the constitutional referendum and in 1981 it was banned. The MEK sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) and many MEK members were arrested, tortured and executed in the 1980s culminating in mass executions in 1988, when around 30,000 people were killed. MEK camps were bombed by the US during the invasion of Iraq and they were forced to surrender and disarmed, confined to a camp in Iraq. It was MEK provided information – some deliberately false – about the Iranian nuclear weapons programme – apparently given to them by Israel – that led to sanctions against Iran.

Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence

The Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB organised a march from Parliament Square to the Indian High Commission which was supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations, the South Asian Solidarity Group and others following attacks in India on the Dalit community by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination there.

Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of a historic victory by Dalit soldiers fighting for the East India Company in the Battle of Koregaon on January 1st 2018. The victory has been celebrated since 1927 when celebrations at the memorial pillar erected by the British were inaugurated by Dr Ambedkar, the principle architect of the Indian Constitution, which made caste discrimination illegal in India. This year’s celebration was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists with many injured and one boy killed and the unrest and attacks spread to Mumbai.

Caste-based attacks on Dalits have increased greatly since the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP party under Narendra Modi, whose central vision along with the linked violent Hindu Nationalist RSS movement is for Dalits to remain at the bottom of Indian society. Lobbying mainly by wealthy Hindus in the UK led the UK government to abandon a 2013 promise to include caste as an aspect of race under the Equality Act 2010.

I also photographed a protest similar to that described in yesterday’s post about 19th January 2019 by Bolivians against Evo Morales being allowed to run for a fourth term as President.

More on all these in My London Diary:
US Embassy – No to Trump’s racism
Break UK silence over Iran uprising
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy


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Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity
Saturday 19th January 2019 was another day of protests in London.

Women’s Bread & Roses protest

Inspired by the Bread & Roses protests which revolutionised workers’ rights for women in 1912, Women’s March London marched from the BBC to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The march was a part of an international day with women marching in many countries across the world and particularly in the USA.

Women were marching against economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment and hostile environment in the UK, and they called for a government dedicated to equality and working for all of us rather than the few.

It began rather oddly outside the BBC with a carefully organised and scripted rally by a TV crew working for the BBC to produce what they called a documentary, though it seemed to have little real connection with the event that was taking place.

I walked with the women photographing them as they marched to another hopefully less scripted rally in Trafalgar Square where I left them to go to another event.

Bolivians protest against Morales

While in Trafalgar Square I photographed another protest taking place on the North Terrace, where Bolivians from the 21F movement had gathered against the ruling by Bolivia’s Electoral Tribunal that President Evo Morales could stand for a fourth term in office. Morales was first elected president in 2005, and supported the 2009 constitution which only allowed two consecutive terms in office. But later he tried to change this and the matter was put to a national referendum on 21st February 2016 which narrowly rejected the change.

Morales then went to the courts and they ruled that the limitation to two terms was an infringement on human rights and allowed him to stand again,, and he won a third term in office. The protesters were from the 21F movement, named from the referendum debate who accused him of corruption and interfering with the court system and say he is behaving as a dictator by trying to remain in power for a fourth term. He stood and won in October 2019, but a coup attempt in November 2019 forced him to flee the country, though he was able to return after MAS candidate Luis Arce won a clear victory in the 2020 general election and was sworn in as President.

Morales, the head of the Movement for Socialism party (MAS) while in office implemented leftist policies, reducing poverty and illiteracy and combating the influence of the United States and multinational corporations in Bolivia which has made him very unpopular with many of the middle class who were used to running the country – as well as the USA who have encouraged and financed opposition to him. Perhaps the 21F protest was really more about his policies than a concern for the integrity of the constitution.

Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists

From Trafalgar Square I made my way to the Cable Street Mural on the former Stepney Town Hall in St George’s Gardens Shadwell, where Anarchist and Anti-fascists were gathering to march to oppose racism, xenophobia, fascism and the upsurge of far-right populism and to show solidarity with Russian anti-fascists who have been arrested, framed and tortured in a brutal wave of repression.

There were speeches by Russian and Ukrainian comrades and a message from some of those under arrest in Russia. Six were arrested in 2017 by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and charged with belonging to a non-existent organisation, ‘The Network’. They have been and beaten and tortured in the pre-trial detention facility using electrical torture and hanging them upside down to get them to sign confessions, which they were forced to memorise.

Five more anti-fascists have been arrested since and also tortured to admit they were members of ‘The Network’, which the FSB claims were planning explosions during the Russian presidential elections and the World Cup. They could be jailed for up to 20 years for membership of the fictional group.

Stanislav Markelov, murdered by fascists in broad daylight on January 19th 2009.

January 19th was the 10th anniversary of the brutal murder on a Moscow street in broad daylight of two Russian anti-fascists, journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Russian anarchists and anti-fascists hold events to remember them on this day every year.

From the fine mural celebrating the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, when the East End rose up to fight the police who tried to force a way for Mosley’s Blackshirts to march through the Jewish East End, the protesters marched to Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, re-named after a young Bengali textile worker, 24 year old Altab Ali, who was murdered here on May 4th 1978 in a brutal unprovoked racist attack by three teenage boys as he walked home from work.

More on all three protests on My London Diary:
Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists
Bolivians protest against Morales
Women’s Bread & Roses protest


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Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing: 18/01/2014
Another busy day for protests in London seven years ago.

Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary
A large crowd protested on Kensington High Street opposite the private gated and guarded road containing the Israeli embassy five years marked 5 years after the end of the 2008/9 massacre in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which around 1,400 Palestinians were killed, many of them unarmed civilians.

Among those taking part were a number of Palestinians and Jews, who have been prominent in calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The protest was supported by many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al-Aqsa UK, Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine, War on Want, Unite the Union, Public and Commercial Services Union, Amos Trust and ICAHD UK.

Anonymous March For Freedom UK

Following their large protest on November 5th, Anonymous supporters arranged a another wide-ranging protest against privatisation, cuts, environmental and other issues, calling for the people to claim the country back from those who are destroying it.

This was rather smaller with perhaps a little over a hundred people, some wearing Anonymous masks meeting in Trafalgar Square and then marching down to Parliament, although as it was a Saturday there would be no politicians there.

Standing around the square were quite a number of police, including Police Liaison Officers in their blue bibs as well as a FIT team with a police photographer. But the police seemed much less confrontational than in November and actually helped them to march down Whitehall to Parliament – and when no one seemed then to have any idea what to do next actually made some sensible suggestions.

Eventually the police persuaded the protesters to move off the road and on to the pavement outside Parliament where they held a rally. There were a number of speeches than the protest rather ground to a halt, with some suggesting that they party in Parliament Square. I left at this point, walking past enough police vans to hold several times as many officers as protesters as I did so.

Peace vigil for Syria

In Trafalgar Square Syria Peace & Justice were holding a peace vigil ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks. They called for immediate humanitarian ceasefires and the release of all political prisoners and an inclusive Syrian-led peace process.

Unfortunately although the USA and western countries who had encouraged the Syrian rebels made supportive noises, they failed to come up with any real support. It was left to Russia who came to Assad’s aid and ensured the continuation of his regime, with some help from Turkey, who despite their membership of NATO colluded with both Assad and ISIS as well as Russia.

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing

Nearby in Villiers St, there were protesters outside the Gay Star Beach Party LGBT tourism promotion, which received money from the Israeli Tourism Board to encourage gay tourists to holiday in Tel Aviv.

The picket outside the event asked people to boycott Israel until ends human rights abuses and recognises the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and complies with international law, and handed out ‘No Pinkwash’ cards which they say persuaded a number of people not to attend the event. Very few appeared to actually attend the beach party.

They also highlighted Israel’s racist treatment of African people following the protests in Tel Aviv last week by 30,000 African asylum seekers and refugees. These demanded that all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centres be freed and that their rights as asylum seekers and refugees be recognised.

More on all four protests on My London Diary:

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing
Peace vigil for Syria
Anonymous March For Freedom UK
Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary


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Why we are short of Nurses

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

Why we are short of Nurses
On January 9th 2016 I took the pictures shown here of a rally and march against the axing of bursaries for student nurses and midwives. The current huge surge in hospitalisation of Covid victims as Omicron rages through the nation has highlighted the huge shortage of qualified medical people in the NHS at all levels.

For years, but increasingly since the Tory-led coalition came to power in 2010, there have been huge shortages, with the NHS having to recruit from overseas – including from many poorer countries which are even more short of staff than the UK.

We have of course been bringing in nurses and doctors from abroad for many years – at least from the 1950s – rather than training enough from our own population. It has never been that there were not enough young people who want to be nurses and doctors – and in my years as a teacher I taught quite a few suitable young men and women who were well qualified but failed to gain admission to medical schools where there were perhaps 12 applicants for every place.

Hospitals have also become hugely reliant on agency nurses rather than directly employed staff, partly because of relatively low pay, but also because of a lack of self-defeating lack of flexibility by underfunded NHS hospitals which actually results in increased costs.

But for training nurses, the Tory government really messed things up in 2016 by removing the training bursaries for NHS nurses and midwives. Unlike other students they perform essential work for the NHS in hospitals caring for patients as an integral part of their courses, which makes it virtually impossible for them to undertake other part-time employment during their studies.

And in 2017 things got even worse and nursing students have had to pay tuition fees in the same way as other university students, leaving them with large loans to pay off when they complete their courses and go into employment.

Len McClusky, General Secretary of Unite next to a Unison banner

In 2020 the Royal College of Nursing published a report Beyond the Bursary: Workforce Supply which makes the point that at the start of the pandemic there were almost 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, and called on government to develop a fully funded workforce strategy and aim for “an oversupply of nurses given years of underinvestment and the growing needs of our population.

The report notes that following the removal of the bursary there was a 31% drop in applicants for nursing courses, and over 4% fewer being accepted. Where we needed and increase in numbers being trained due to the shortage, government policies directly produced a decrease.

The RCN called on the government to abolish the tuition fees for nursing courses and reimburse the fees for those students affected by the removal of the bursary. And although the welcomed the decision to bring back an annual maintenance grant of £5000 for nursing students (£8,000 for some difficult to recruit specialities) from September 2020 they asked for that to be increased to a level that reflects the actual cost.

Of course the pandemic has made things worse. Some have died from Covid, partly as a result of the failure to provide effective protective clothing – and those contracts given to Tory mates with no experience in the field while some established companies failed to get orders. Many among those who recovered from Covid continue to suffer its after-effects – ‘long-Covid’. Others have simply been exhausted by overwork – and this is “a workforce that felt undervalued, unrewarded and where one in three were nearing retirement age.”

Brexit too has taken its toll, both with nurses from European countries leaving the UK and the failure of our government to respect the early promises it made to EU citizens working in the UK has not helped. Brexit and the continuing squabbles by the government over the treaty it signed is also a deterrent to people to now come and work here.

The shortage of nurses – and other medical staff – is a direct result of government policies. Not just the Tories but also of Labour under Blair and Brown, and is a part of the slow sabotaging of the NHS as a part of a policy of creeping privatisation that has been underway since at least the Thatcher years, though vastly accelerated since 2010. Unfortunately it isn’t as one placard states that the Tories are short-sighted, but that they are playing a long game to undermine our National Health Service.

More pictures on My London Diary:
NHS Bursaries March
NHS Bursaries rally before march


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Epiphany Rising Against Monarchy

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

Epiphany Rising Against Monarchy
Relatively few nowadays observe the 12 days of Christmas which come to an end on January 6th with Epiphany. Traditionally in the UK and some other countries it was when Christmas decorations were taken down, but also a feast day celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings with their gifts. Nowadays most seem to put up decorations even before the start of Advent and often take them down by the New Year.

Ian Bone holds a picture of Thomas Venner

Epiphany gained a new importance in literature and moved to entirely lower case in the work of James Joyce, where his hero Stephen Daedalus defines it as “a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself.” Epiphanies are moments of revelation that change the the way a character or person sees life or a particular situation, suddenly seeing things in a new light. I think all great photographs are epiphanies.

Ian Bone speaks

But getting back to the 6th of January, and in particular the 6th of January 1661 which was the subject of a partial re-enactment on the 6th of January 2013, we need to remember the centrality of religion in those times. Though many might now protest against the monarchy, particularly in recent days over the ennobling of a war criminal and the alleged criminal acts against minors by one of the royal family, few would now do so for the kind of religious reasons that led Thomas Venner and his fellow Fifth Monarchists to carry out a bloody armed insurrection in the City of London.

As I wrote in My London Diary:

The Fifth Monarchists were an important religious movement in England during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, seeing the execution of King Charles as being part of the fulfulment of the Biblical prophesy in the book of Daniel about the end of the four kingdoms of history being followed by the “rule of a son of man” for a thousand years (which they took as the rule by the Pope) after which would come the Christ’s reign on earth. For this to happen, the old order had to be ended by violence – as had begun with the beheading of the king.

They included three of those who had signed the execution warrant, but they soon become disillusioned with Cromwell, who they saw as trying to make himself a king and they began to agitate against him. Thomas Venner was imprisoned for several years for plotting to overthrow Cromwell, but released when Richard Cromwell became Protector.s

They were incensed by the restoration of the monarchy, and in particular by the savagery shown by the new order against the ‘regicides’, including Fifth Monarchist Major-General Harrison who showed great bravery during his gruesome public execution by hanging, drawing and quartering.

My London Diary

Like Venner’s the re-enactment began at Swan Alley (now Great Swan Alley) and with around a similar number of his 50 or so followers, and were variously armed with pikes and other weapons. The event in 2013 began with a speech by Ian Bone about the history of the earlier event, followed by several other anarchists and socialists whose comments related the it to our current times. The event was for a short film, Epiphany, with Ian Bone as writer working with director Suzy Gillett.

I suspect Venner’s address was rather more fiery, but we did have a very fine banner, with a heraldic lion and the text ‘Who shall rouse him up?’, and as in 1661 the mob was led out of the yard by a young woman bearing a pike and the battle cry “King Jesus and the heads upon the gates“. Among those taking part was Sam, grandson of Philip Sidney Noakes, the last of the Muggletonians, another of the radical seventeenth century religious movements with his daughter Rachel.

Sam, grandson of Philip Sidney Noakes, the last of the Muggletonians, with his daughter Rachel

There were other anarchist banners and black and red flags and banners and people shouted some of the old slogans, ‘King Jesus‘, ‘Heads On Pikes‘ and ‘Nobility In Chains’. Though some were carrying axes and hammers, certainly illegal offensive weapons, none were put into use into what was a rather tame stroll with a number of stops to allow the film director Suzy Gillett to move the camera into position on the way via the Guildhall to the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

There the group were content with posing for photographs, rather than following Venner’s example and storming in and holding it for several days, along with other parts of the city, until finally the army was sent in against them. Most were then killed and the others captured after a long and bloody fight. Venner himself was wounded in 19 places before he was finally overpowered.

Together with ten others after a brief trial he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered; the sentence was carried out in front of the meeting place of his congregation in Swan Yard on 19 Jan 1661. Many other Fifth Monarchists who had taken no part in the rising were hunted down and hung or imprisoned, and draconian laws were enacted against dissenters but this did not end the movement.

You can read a fuller account of the event in Epiphany Rising Against King on My London Diary, and even more detail in a post on the Bristol Radical History Group site.


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Desperate Day For Gaza

Monday, December 27th, 2021

December 27th 2008 was a desperate day for Gaza, when the Israeli military launched the beginning of a massive air attack on the small enclave. Operation Cast Lead had been six months in the planning and 100 pre-planned targets were struck in less than four minutes. The initial air attack was followed by others and on the 3rd of January 2009 with a ground attack. Israeli Defense Forces ended their attacks on 18th January 2009.

According to Wikipedia, the Israeli government stated was a response to weapons smuggling into Gaza and to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel with, according to the Israeli military 3,000 rockets hitting Israel over the whole of 2008 – despite a ceasefire agreement which held for around 5 months before an Israeli attack on a cross-border tunnel in Gaza in November. Rockets killed 8 people in Israel in 2008, four of them after the attack on Gaza began on 27th December.

Again according to Wikipedia (I’ve removed the 14 references to sources which you can find in the original);

A total of 1,100–1,400 Palestinians (295–926 civilians) and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.

The conflict damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities,800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms; leaving 50,000 homeless, 400,000–500,000 without running water, one million without electricity, and resulting in acute food shortages. The people of Gaza still suffer from the loss of these facilities and homes, especially since they have great challenges to rebuild them.

Wikipedia

There is much more detail on the attack and its consequences, as well as on later attacks on Gaza in 2014, 2018 and 2021 on Wikipedia in articles including those cited above and there would be little point in going further into the details here.

There was a large protest in London against the attack early in January 2009, and I photographed this an other protests, including those the anniversary of the start of the attack on 27th December 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. There I’ve written more about the protests and with many more pictures, including pictures of Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn and many others speaking against the attacks and ongoing siege of Gaza.

January 2009 Gaza: Protest March from the BBC
December 2009 Remember Gaza
December 2010 London Vigil For Gaza
December 2011 End The Siege Of Gaza
December 2012 Gaza – End the Siege


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Nelson Mandela’s Birthday

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Back in 1988 on the 17th July, the day before Nelson Mandela’s Birthday on the 18th July, I joined thousands of marchers through London demanding he be freed from jail.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela Mandela was born on 18th July 1918, so this was his 70th birthday and he was still in jail, then held in Pollsmoor Prison, near Cape Town, having been removed with other senior ANC members from Robben Island to remove their influence on younger ANC members held there.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

He was well treated in Pollsmoor and international attempts to end apartheid was increasing, along with secret meetings with the South African Minister of Justice. President Botha had actually offered to release him, if he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon”, but Mandela had refused to leave while the African National Congress was still banned.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31

Mandela’s 70th birthday was celebrated around the world, with a televised tribute concert at Wembley Stadium attracting an estimated 200 million viewers.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

The march in London was a large one, and I wasn’t then a seasoned photographer of protests, though I had taken pictures at a number of smaller events.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-34

Because of the size of the event there were a number of feeder marches leading to a rally in Hyde Park. I joined the march coming from Camden and went with it to the rally, where I took some pictures in the crowd but didn’t attempt to cover the speakers, who included the Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

I took altogether only just over a hundred black and white pictures, of which I’ve now uploaded around a quarter to an album, Free Nelson Mandela – March and Rally – London 1988. You can also click on any of the images in this post to go to a larger version from where you can browse all the pictures that are online.


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