Posts Tagged ‘MfJ’

The Racist UK Immigration System

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

The Racist UK Immigration System: The Home Office a couple of years ago commissioned a report following the huge publicity over the Windrush scandal after government ministers had been forced to agree to educate all Home Office employees about our colonial history and the experiences faced by black people coming to the UK.

The report, “The Historical Roots of the Windrush Scandal“, by a well-known historian the Home Office refuses to name, details how the whole history of post-war British immigration legislation since the Second World War was “designed at least in part to reduce the number of people with black or brown skin who were permitted to live and work in the UK“, reflecting the “racist ideology of the British Empire.”

For over a year politicians and others have been calling for the report to be published but the Home Office has refused. Last month it was leaked in full to The Guardian, but is still not available to the public, despite having been paid for by our taxes. Many requests for its publication from MPs including the home affairs select committee and campaigners over the past year had been turned down and a freedom of information request about it was refused.

The protest began on Bath Road in front of the Immigration Removal Centres

Some speculate that the true reason for it being kept secret was because it was in direct contradiction to last years report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities which had ludicrously concluded there was “no evidence to suggest that Britain was an institutionally racist place.

Others suggest the refusal to publish was that it would bring new highly discriminatory policies being introduced – such as the attacks on cross-channel migrants and the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda – liable to greater opposition as a development of an already clearly racist immigration system.

Colnbrook on the left, Harmondsworth at right

Back in June 2014, when the Movement for Freedom organised a protest on June 7th outside the adjoining Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres on the northern boundary of London Heathrow, the thrust of the protest was against the the unjust ‘Fast Track System’ and mistreatment of detainees by private security firms inside these immigration prisons.

John McDonnell speaks outside the detention centres on Bath Road

Local MP John McDonnell who came to speak told the protest that when he first became MP for the area in 1997 the immigration detention centre was only a small building housing a dozen or so detainees rather than the two large blocks the protesters were in front of. The protesters argue that immigration detention is almost entirely unnecessary, existing only to deter immigration and harass and punish those who come here to seek asylum.

Asylum seekers wave from behind the 20ft fence, razor wire and window bars

The fast track system was set up with the deliberate aim of deporting people before they had time to put together the evidence that would enable them to properly present their case to remain. You don’t get a certificate given to you for being tortured or raped but our system treats all of them as guilty, trying to evade our immigration laws and rather than the Home Office having to prove their stories are fabricated calls on them to provide proof of threats, torture, rape and other events that forced them to flee. Legal challenges including that by Detention Action in 2015 found “rules setting the tight timescales for asylum-seekers to make appeals were unlawful and ‘ultra vires’ and that the strict time limits in and of themselves were ‘structurally unfair’.”

Although the legal judgements led to the suspension of DFT, the deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda currently about to take place clearly represent a ratcheting up of this punitive approach and seem likely also to be successfully challenged in the courts – thought not before hundreds or thousands have been wrongfully deported.

The detention centres were built on a site which has a private road leading to a BT site at the rear. After the speeches on the public highway in front of the site, the marchers walked down this road, making a lot of noise chanting and shouting as well as with whistles and other noise-makers. Detainees came to the windows and waved thanking the protesters for their support, and some were able to communicate using mobile phones.

Mobile phone messages from inside were broadcast to protesters using a megaphone

The two detention prisons are both surrounded by 20 foot high fences, the lower half solid metal sheets and the upper half with a dense solid wire mesh, which makes photographing the windows difficult. But we could clearly see the detainees and they could seem the long banner with the message ‘Stop Racism – End Fast Track – End Detention’ which was held up, and we could make out some of the messages they had written calling for freedom.

We were able to walk completely around the Harmondsworth building (but not the higher security Colnbrook one) and when I left the march organisers were planning to return their route in the opposite direction as they had so many phone calls from those inside, but I had to leave.

Diane Abbott published an opinion piece in The Guardian on the leaked report at the end of May this year, “The truth is out: Britain’s immigration system is racist, and always has been. Now let’s fix it“. Unfortunately I think our current government is unlikely to have any interest at all in doing so. She ends her piece: “The system is calibrated for racism. It always was. We know it, and now we know that, behind closed doors, Priti Patel’s Home Office knows it. The dirty secret is no longer secret.”


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Yarls Wood – Shut It Down

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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

Yarls Wood - Shut It Down

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


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UN Anti-Racism Day – London

Saturday, March 19th, 2022

March 21st was established by the United Nations as a World Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the sixth anniversary of police opening fire and killing 69 peaceful protesters at Sharpeville, South Africa on March 21, 1960. Protests in the UK for UN Anti Racism Day take place close to the date and there will be large national marches today, 19th March in London and Glasgow and tomorrow in Cardiff. Today’s post is about events in London on March 19th 2016.

UN Anti Racism Day - London

Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march

UN Anti Racism Day - London

Thousands met at the BBC to march through London to a rally in Trafalgar Square in an event organised by Stand Up to Racism against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism and to make it clear that refugees are welcome here.

UN Anti Racism Day - London
Lee Jasper and Zita Holbourne at the front of the Black Lives Matter bloc on the march

Prominent on the march were Black Lives Matter protesters, wearing red in support of the ‘Justice for Sarah Reed’ campaign, chanting loudly “Say Her Name, Sarah Reed” and “Black Lives Matter”. She had died aged 31 in Holloway prison where she was held waiting for psychiatric reports following an attack on her, possibly an attempted rape, by fellow patient in a psychiatric hospital for which she was arrested and charged with grievious bodily harm with intent.

An inquest decided she had killed herself when her mind was unsound, and that unacceptable delays in medical care contributed to her death. Clearly too the prison staff had failed in their duty of care. Four years earlier she had been falsely arrested for shoplifting and seriously assaulted by the arresting officer who was later convicted and dismissed from the Metropolitan police for the offence.

There were also a number of groups on the march working with refugees trapped in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk, and some of those had lines drawn across their lips to remember some of the refugees on hunger strike there who have sewn up their lips.

Although the deaths of many refugees drowned in crossing the Mediterranean have led to widespread sympathy among the British people, there has been no compassion shown by our government, who have increasingly been driven by racists and bigots who oppose Britain taking in any refugees and want to abandon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the UK helped to draw up in 1947-8.

There were a small number of these bigots, members of the far-right group ‘Britain First’ in their para-military uniforms, who came to shout insults and make offensive gestures at the marchers as they went through Piccadilly Circus. A large ring of police kept them away from the marchers and protected them from any attack by anti-fascists.

Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march


Refugees Welcome Rally

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean was killed by police in Brixton in 2008

At the end of the march there was a rally in Trafalgar Square, with a long list of speakers. They included Vanessa Redgrave and Jeremy Hardy, MP Diane Abbott, MEPs Claude Moraes and Jean Lambert, journalist Journalist, writer Michael Rosen, leading trade unionists Dave Ward CWU, Christine Blower NUT, and Sally Hunt UCU, Marilyn Reed the mother of Sarah Reed, Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett and Marcia Rigg, Maz Saleem daughter of the Mohammed Saleem who was killed in a racist attack, Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain and a young refugee from Iraq.

Refugees Welcome Rally


Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day

Australian human rights protesters were holding protests at embassies around the world, including the Australian High Commission in London to condemn the Australian government’s racist immigration policy and treatment of refugees.

Refugees who try to claim asylum in Australia are locked up and detained indefinitely in contradiction to international law on remote Pacific Islands including Manus and Nauru in detention camps run by Serco and will never be allowed to resettle in Australia. The Australian protesters were joined by some of those from Movement for Justice which has led protests against the UK immigration detention centres, including that at Yarl’s Wood, run like the Australian camps by Serco, where detainees, also held indefinitely, have been sexually abused and denied proper health treatment. At least one prisoner in the Australian camps has been beaten to death by the prison guards.

Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day


DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’

Finally on 19th March I went to Parliament Square for another human rights related event, where Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were celebrating the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, one of the chief architects of the brutal Tory welfare policy that has caused them so much suffering, harm and deaths to disabled people.

Though they were pleased that IDS has gone, his policies remained, and his successor, Stephen Crabb, proved top be equally be bigoted and lacking compassion and any understanding of the needs of the poor and disabled.

DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’


More on all these events on My London Diary:
DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’
Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day
Refugees Welcome Rally
Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march

Snow, Pensions & Jobs, Hunger Strikers – 2018

Monday, February 28th, 2022

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

London Snow

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

London Snow

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

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

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

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs

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

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

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

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

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers

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

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

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

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

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Flowers to Yarls Wood – 2017

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Four years ago on Saturday 18th November saw Movement for Justice’s 12th protest outside the immigration detention prison up a hill around 6 miles north of Bedford, calling for this and the other immigration detention centres to be shut down. On this occasion many took flowers to pin to the upper section of the fence where they could be seen by the women inside.

The whole system of immigration detention seems to have been designed as a deterrent to asylum seekers coming to the UK, though unsuccesful in doing so. People who had fled their countries because they were in fear of their lives and had often been subject to violent attacks and rapes were thrown into jail while there cases were being considered. Often their imprisonment made it very much harder for them to provide the evidence demanded by the Home Office of the danger they had been in and their suffering, and official reports and journalistic investigations, some by reporters who had taken jobs at the centres, both revealed the callous and often illegal treatment they received from the staff in these privately run centres, including sexual assaults and violence.

Mabel Gawanas who was held inside for a day under 3 years speaks to her friends still inside

The accomodation provided is poor and the food is of poor quality and often fails to meet the relgious ordietary needs of the detainees, and there have been numerous reported cases where necessary medical treatment has been either refused or excessively delayed. But the major problem is that immigration detention is of indeterminate length, with some detainees serving perhaps a few weeks and others up to three years. Unlike in a normal jail there is no known length to the time people serve and no way that they know when they may be released or deported. And there is no process for them to appeal their detention. The government like to pretend it isn’t a prison, and there are some differences in the routines, but those held inside cannot leave and are often restricted in their movements inside the buildings.

The windows only open a few inches

There are currently in 2021 seven ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ in the UK as well as a number of short-term holding facililites. All but one of the seven are run by private companies, Serco, Mitie, G4S, a Capita subsidiary and Geo, and they are run to make profits. The less they spend on food, staffing and facilities the more the companies make – and the more those detained suffer. In 2015 the Chief Inspector of Prisons labelled it ‘a place of national concern’.

Yarl’s Wood is in an isolated location, hidden away from roads on a former wartime airfield. As I found cycling from Bedford Station it is on the top of a hill and rather windswept. From where the protesters coaches and cars can park it takes aroud a mile walking along public footpaths to get to the field next to the prison where the protests take place. The prison is surrounded by a 20 ft high metal fence, the lower half with metal panels and the upper half with a thick wire grid material that allows the upper storeys of the building to be seen from the top of a rise in the field.

It’s difficult to take pictures through this screen, but not impossible. I’d taken with me a Nikon 70-300mm lens and was working with the D810 in DX mode which converts that into a 105-450mm equivalent and still provides a 16Mp file. Focussing was tricky as the autofocus was very good at focussing on the wire, leaving the building behind well out of focus, and although it would sometimes focus on a window frame, it was far easier to use manual focus.

I also took some pictures on a 28-200mm (equivalent to 42-300mm) which was better when I wanted to include any foreground detail, but the windows became rather small. Even at 450mm any one of the pair of windows only filled around a sixth of the frame, and some of the images have been cropped.

For photographing the protesters as well as that highly versatile 28-200mm used both as a X lens on the D810 body and a full-frame lens on the D750, I also had a 28-35mm lens for use on the D750.

Many of the exposures I made where not quite sharp. It was November and the light dropped off fairly dramatically towards the end of the protest and by 3pm I was having to work at 1/250s at the full aperture of F5.6, not really fast enough a shutter speed for a 450mm lens. So camera shake added to my focus problems. At 3.30pm the protest seemed to be nearing its end, I was getting too cold and decided it was time to get on my bike and return to Bedford Station. Fortunately except for a short steep slope it was more or less downhill all the way.

In August 2020 the Home Office announced it was ‘re-purposing’ Yarl’s Wood, which became a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat. But by November 2020 it had also been brought back into its previous use with around ten women then being indefinitely detained there.

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 12


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Brexit and More: 20th Oct 2018

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

Brexit isn’t the end of the world, but it is beginning to become very clear what a huge mistake it was, driven by a relatively few people who not only stood to make large profits but also were scared of losing the huge advantages they get from currently legal tax avoidance schemes which the EU were promising to clamp down.

The vote – a close one – shows how the handful of billionaires who control most of our media and set the agenda for the rest use their power to influence many voters in this country, making a mockery of the ideals behind our ideas of democracy. It also showed the stupidity of the then Conservative leader who was so sure of winning that he set up the vote on an important constitutional change in a way that would not have been allowed by the average tennis club, where important issues would need rather more than a simple majority.

Those behind the People’s Vote argued that so much evidence had come out since the referendum that it was necessary to get a new mandate from the people to leave the EU. It was an argument that although well-founded was not going to get any support from the then PM Theresa May who was by then running scared of the right-wing hard Brexiteers who eventually took over the party. And it was also to prove toxic to the Labour Party who were pushed into supporting it by Keir Starmer – when there was already no shortage of poison and dirty tricks – as a leaked report made clear – though we still await the report of the Forde Inquiry on this.

The current dispute over the agreement signed with the EU to resolve the problems of the Irish border shows how eager the Johnson government was to get a hard Brexit done, apparently signing up without reading the small print (or rather ignoring the advice of civil servants who had read it.) Although the EU seem to be making things as easy as possible for exports to flow freely it currently seems likely that the UK will continue to demand the impossible and trigger a complete breakdown and a massive and highly damaging trade war, probably not confined to Europe.

I photographed at the start of the huge People’s March, when people filled much of Park Lane and a large corner of Hyde Park, and watched as they streamed past me.

Movement for Justice came to the march and tried to join it near the front, and when they were refused went and stood on the road in front of the official banner – along with quite a few other protesters. They were calling for an end to the hostile environment and the scapegoating of immigrants and demanding an amnesty for all people already present in the country and the extension of freedom of movement to include the Commonwealth. They marched down Piccadilly ahead of the main march whose start was held up.

Later I rejoined the main march as it came down Whitehall for the rally in Parliament Square. There were so many people that they could not all get into the square and many came to a halt along Whitehall, while others were reported still to be at Green Park, just a short distance from the start of the march. People were dancing and partying on the route having given up the attempt to complete the march.

A couple of other protests were taking place around Whitehall. Opposite Downing St the
People’s Mujahedin of Iran were protesting against the repressive regime in Iran,. there and calling for an end to executions there Posters reminded us that the Iranian regime is the world record holder for executions and gibbets and three women held in a prison cell illustrated the reign of terror there.

At the Ministry of Defence Veterans United Against Suicide were calling for more to be done to help service men and veterans in the fight against their developing PTSD and eventually committing suicide. They appeared to be a small extreme right group exploiting the issue, with a large banner supporting the soldier discharged for standing with Tommy Robinson in a photo used to publicise his extreme right-wing views. While I took a few pictures a speaker was condemning one of the major forces charities, accusing it of fraud and failure to act over the mental health issues. Some of those present made clear that I was not welcome at the event and I decided not to stay.

More at:

People’s Vote March – End
Veterans United Against Suicide
People’s Mujahedin of Iran
MfJ at People’s Vote March
People’s Vote March – Start


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A Wet Day at Yarls Wood

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Five years ago Movement for Justice organised a protest outside Yarls Wood on Saturday 10th September 2016, and I took the train to Bedford where there was a coach to make the five mile or so journey to the remote site on a former WW2 airfield, now a business park. Unfortunately it is so remote that the coach driver didn’t know the way, and we ended up making a lengthy detour and arriving over half an hour later than we should have done.

The coach set us off as usual on the road outside the Twinwoods Business Park entrance, around 3/4 mile from the Immigration Removal Centre. A rally was taking place on the grass there while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Eventually we set off marching down the road to the public footpath that leads along mainly muddy tracks beside several fields to that beside the immigration prison. The prison has a 20ft high fence around it, the first 10ft with solid metal sheeting and the upper half with a thick gauze through which we could see the women at the windows welcoming and signalling to us.

The field rises up quite steeply from the fence, enabling us to see the two top floors of the nearest wing of the centre, a private prison run by Serco. Going further back the lower floor where famiilies were housed became partly visible. Those held inside are in indefinite detention, never knowing when they will be released or deported – and one woman was kept locked in there for just one day less than three years.


Many of the supporters of Movement for Justice have previously been held in this or similar detention prisons, and a number of them spoke at the protest about their experiences inside. We also heard from some of the women inside, who unlike those in our normal jails, are allowed mobile phones. Some told us how Serco security guards had prevented them from coming to the windows and were threatening those who greeted the protesters with solitary confinement.


Other groups from around the country had come to support the protest, and among them were Latin American women and Sisters Uncut, who at one point provided a display of coloured flares from the top of the hill. Unfortunately be the time I had clambered up to muddy slope to take pictures it was past its peak.


The rain continued, though fortunately it was not too heavy, but the slope towards the fence meant that some areas were waterlogged and others were slippery mud. It was a noisy protest as people shouted and kicked the fence and battered it with branches. On my way back to the coach I went to take a look at the real wood called Yarl’s Wood to the south. I’d hoped I might find another view of the prison, but was disappointed. it seemed a shame that such a peaceful wood should be mired by taking its name for this shameful immigration prison.

Many more pictures at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary.

Netanyahu’s visit – 2015

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Around a thousand people came to protest against the visit to Downing Street by the then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and several hundred came to oppose the protest and support Israel. Police struggled to keep the two groups apart.

The larger group said the Netanyahu should be arrested for war crimes in the attack on Gaza last year. Many refused to go into the penned area on the opposite side of Whitehall that police had designated and it was probably too small for all of them.

Police tried to persuade them to get off of the roadway and back onto the pavement, but were eventually overwhelmed and the protesters moved across the road to the pavement in front of the Downing St gates.

Some of the pro-Israeli protesters then moved out from their pen, and for some time the two groups faced each other across the fairly narrow way into Downing Street that police managed to keep clear. A few protesters from each side were arrested and led away, mainly when they argued aggressively with police or their opponents.

Among the protesters against Netanyahu and calling for freedom for Palestine there were as usual both Palestinians and Jews; later a group of Neturei Karta arrived, having walked from North London to join them. These ultra-orthodox Jews support Palestine and are opposed to any political state of Israel on religious grounds. One of their banners read ‘JUDAISM – G-dly & Compassionate – ZIONISM G-dless & Merciless’.

The supporters of the Israeli state included a number of right-wing Christians who came with a Union Flag with ‘UK Christians Love Israel’ on it. Like Neterei Karta they are only a small and unrepresentative group.

Some of the pro-Israel demonstrators were reluctant to be photographed and complained to police about photographers as well as about the other protesters who they felt police were failing to control. One man stretched out his hand to cover my lens – so of course after photographing that I made sure that I took his picture and you can see him on My London Diary.

The protest was still continuing as I left to photograph another event nearby, though I suspect that Netanyahu had already arrived and been taken inside by a back entrance. Movement for Justice were in Parliament Square calling on MPs to support the proposals of the detention inquiry. They want an end to detention, fast track and immigration raids, the opening of the Calais border and an amnesty for migrants. Many of those taking part were asylum seekers who had been subjected to indefinite detention in UK detention centres after making their asylum claims.

Fight immigration detention MfJ tells MPs
Support for Israel & Netanyahu
Netanyahu visit protest – Free Palestine

Close Down Yarl’s Wood: 2015

Sunday, August 8th, 2021

I’m not sure what is happening at Yarl’s Wood now. Temporary huts were erected there to house destitute asylum seekers at the beginning of 2021, but abandoned in February by the Home Office after a legal challenge and a local and national outcry. In 2020 it’s purpose was changed from holding women to holding men, and there were reports that most of the women had been removed, but according to the Asylum Information Database there were 238 asylum seekers still held there at the end of 2020. Both Home Office and Serco web sites appear to lack any information. Six years ago today, on 8th August 2015 I attended a protest there and wrote the following report, illustrated here with just a few pictures from the many in the original My London Diary post.


Yarl’s Wood Immigration prison, Bedford. Sat 8 Aug 2015

Around a thousand protesters in a field adjoining the detention centre joined with detainees locked up in Yarl’s Wood to demand an end to immigration detention and the whole racist system which locks up migrants and asylum seekers without trial, subjecting them to abuse and sexual harassment.

Coaches came from around the country to drop protesters outside the business estate on a former aerodrome in the middle of the country around five miles from Bedford, and a coach from Bedford Station made two journeys from there to bring myself and the others who had arrived by train. Others made their journey there by taxi, car and bicycle, and a few by bus, which dropped them at the centre of a village around a mile away.

The protest was organised by Movement for Justice and there is a long list of other groups that supported it and the campaign to close detention centres, though I think there were also others present: Women for Refugee Women, Right To Remain, CheltFems, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, All African Womens Group, Refugee Support Devon, Exeter City of Sanctuary, London Palestine Action, Diásporas Criticas, South London Anti Fascists, No One Is Illegal, Jewish Socialist Group, Left Unity, CUSU Women’s Campaign, Freedom Without Fear Platform, Black Dissidents, Feminist Fightback, Women’s Association for the Guild of Students, University of Birmingham, Unite Hotel Workers Branch, Plan C, Birmingham, Leeds Feminist Network, Sisters Uncut, SOAS Unison.

The protest started next to the road at the front of the estate to give time for all the protesters to arrive, and then walked along a public bridleway which goes close to the detention centre. The protesters were allowed into a field which ran along the side of the high fence around the centre for today’s protest – at a previous protest they had pushed down fences and breached barbed wire to get to the fence.

There was a rapturous welcome from the women inside the prison, who came to the windows, shouting and waving and holding up signs. Protests like this really give the prisoners hope, and show them they have support and are not forgotten. Together, inside and out people chanted slogans ‘Shut Down Yarls Wood’, ‘Detention Centres, Shut them Down’ and more.

A small rise in the field help us see the windows on the first floor and above despite the fence, solid for around 10ft with another 10ft of mesh on top. People banged it to make a noise, kicked it, and banged it with pots and pans, and some climbed on others shoulders to lift up banners and placards so those inside could see.

Then a group of people wearing face masks began to write slogans on the fence, and soon a long length of it was covered with them ‘No Borders’, ‘No One is Illegal’ ‘#SetHerFree’, ‘Shut it Down’, ‘Gaza 2 Yarls Wood Destroy Apartheid Walls’, ‘Racist Walls’ and more.

Inside the women waved. The windows open to a small gap and one woman waved her leg though it, decorated with paper tied around. Others waved clothing and held up signs, some with slogans like those held up and shouted by the people outside. One carefully drawn one read ‘We Want Freedom – No Human Is Illegal – Close Yarls Wood’ while another simply read ‘Help’.

The organisers had mobile numbers for some of those inside – and others inside wrote theirs large and held them up in the window. We were able to hear greetings and reports from some of those inside, their voices on the phone amplified on the megaphone.

They too could hear the speeches from outside, including several by women who had been held with them inside the prison. Many are held for long periods in this and other detention centres, never knowing when they might be let out – or an attempt made to send them back to the country they were desperate to escape from.

Too soon we had to leave. And they had to stay. As I walked away to catch the coach back to Bedford station I felt ashamed at the way that my country treats asylum seekers. They deserve support and humanity and get treated worse than criminals.


Many more pictures at Close Down Yarl’s Wood.


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.


Anti-Racist & Migrant Rights Reclaim Pride – 2017

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

I’ve almost given up on photographing the annual Pride Parade in central London, which has become such a corporate event, though as in this event in 2017 there are sometimes things happening around it which still have some political edge – and even inside it, generally relegated to well behind the corporate razzmatazz.

As I wrote on 8th July 2017:

“Pride over the years has degenerated from the original protest into a corporate glitterfest led by major corporations which use it as ‘pinkwashing’ to enhance their reputation and it includes groups such as the Home Office, arms companies and police whose activities harm gay people in the UK and across the world.”

My London Diary – July 2017

In 2017 the commercialisation of Pride had reached new heights, with participation limited to those groups who had officially applied and got pride armbands being allowed to join the procession. At least in part this seems to have been an attempt to exclude groups such as the Migrants Rights and Anti-Racist Bloc organised and led by Movement for Justice and including Lesbians & Gays Support The Migrants, No Pride in War and London Supports Istanbul Pride who had joined in towards the back of the 2016 parade.

I don’t know if the bloc had made an application, but I think probably not, and they certainly didn’t have the armbands. They marched between police vans that were blocking the entrance to Oxford Circus in front of the march with others lifting up barriers and tried to make their way past the front of the march to join in further back but were stopped by Pride stewards.

This left them immediately in front of the heavily stewarded front of the official parade, and they refused to move unless they were allowed to make their way into the parade. A stalemate ensued, with Pride stewards insisting that they had to leave the area, and the Migrants Rights and Anti-Racist Bloc refusing to shift. Police tried to get them to move and also tried to get the Pride stewards to let them into the march, but they remained adamant.

It was time for the parade to start, but it couldn’t. Eventually police sorted out the issue by holding back the official parade while the Migrants Rights and Anti-Racist Bloc marched along the parade route past the large crowds to a great deal of applause and some aggravation from Pride stewards along it.

Around a quarter of an hour later, the official parade started, following them along the route. But it was again held up as the front of the procession reached Whitehall, as some of the No Pride in War protesters lay down on the tarmac in front of it. The procession was held up for another 15 minutes as police tried to persuade them to leave – and eventually I think they all got up when finally threatened with arrest.

The Migrants Rights and Anti-Racist Bloc had made a stand and had reclaimed Pride as a protest – with a separate official Pride following behind – and the No Pride In War had also made their point against the inclusion of the military in the official event. But “curiously” for such a high-profile protest in an event covered by huge numbers of press from around the world I think it went totally unreported in the mainstream media. For them, Pride is just a colourful spectacle.

Anti-Racist & Migrant Rights reclaim Pride