Posts Tagged ‘MHRN’

10 Years Ago – London, Atos & Guantanamo

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

10 Years Ago – London, Atos & Guantanamo – 3rd Feb 2012


London Walking

I was early for the protest I had come to photograph so I took a little walk around the area just north of the Euston Rd. I’d used Transport for London’s Journey Planner, but forgotten that this sometimes hugely exaggerates the time taken to make changes between trains and between train and bus for those familiar with routes. Walking helped stop me from completely freezing with the temperature around zero and a cutting wind. Some days even thermal underclothing isn’t enough.

Later I walked around Kings Cross looking for a protest outside a place that didn’t seem to exist – I think the organisers had got the address wrong – but in any case I could find nothing happening in the area and then went to get a bus and photographed the St Pancras hotel from near the bus stop. Eventually my bus came.

London Walking


Disabled Protest Supports the Atos Two

Disabled people and their supporters braved freezing weather to stage an hour-long protest outside the UK offices of Atos, protesting against the unfair testing of fitness to work and benefit cuts and supporting the ‘Atos 2’.

The Atos 2 were a wheelchair user and a pensioner, Notts Uncut activists who were charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ after peacefully entering an Atos assessment centre in Nottingham on a National Day of Action Against Atos and the Benefit Cuts last December. The charges were eventually dropped but the arrest and illegal confiscation of video material marked a new and disturbing attitude by police towards peaceful protest. There was another protest in Nottingham at the same time as that in London.

Disabled Protest Supports the Atos Two


London Guantánamo Campaign Candlelit Vigil

The London Guantánamo Campaign marked 5 years of regular protest at the US Embassy and over 10 years of illegal detention with a candlelit vigil, calling for the shutting down of the camp and the return of UK residents Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

Ahmed Belbacha was eventually released without charge in 2014, having been twice cleared for release in 2007 and 2009. He had come to the UK from Algeria as an asylum seeker and lived and worked here for a couple of years before his claim was rejected, after which he went to Pakistan to study the Koran. He made a visit to Afghanistan and was arrested on his way back to Pakistan.

Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and legal UK resident married to a British woman who was applying for British citizenship went with his family to work for an Islamic charity in Afghanistan in 2001. He was arrested by Afghans and handed to the US in return for a ransom. Again he was cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, but continued to be held until October 2015.

London Guantánamo Campaign Candlelit Vigil


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Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad
January 16th 2013 was an unusually busy day for protests in London on a Wednesday, though not all were quite what they seemed.

My working day started a short walk from Notting Hill Gate station, where a small group of protesters had come to take part in an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, one of the three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral the previous February.

Alyokhina was sent to serve two years in a prison camp at Perm in Siberia, one of the Soviet Unions harshest areas and was appearing in court that day to plea for her sentence to be suspended so she could raise her son, born in 2008, until he is 14.

She was kept in prison until 13th December 2013 when she was released under an amnesty bill by the Russian Duma, and since has continued her political activism, suffering further arrests and assaults. Last year – 2021 – she served two 15 day prison sentences before being put on a year’s parole.

The protest on the main road close to the Russian Embassy which is hidden down a very private street was scheduled to last three hours, and had got off to a slow start, with some of those arriving deciding to go away for coffee and come back later. Numbers were expected to rise later, but I couldn’t wait as I was due at another protest at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

I arrived at the vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice to find there was also a second protest taking place. I had come to meet disabled protesters who were supporting a tribunal hearing of a judicial review of Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act as they are not accessible for those with mental health conditions.

Those taking part included members of the Mental Health Resistance Network, MHRN, Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, Winvisible, Greater London Pensioners Association and others, including members of the Counihan family and PCS members who work at the court.

Speakers at the rally reminded us of the special problems with the Work Capability Assessments for many with mental health conditions, as these are often spasmodic. On good days claimants may not seem very ill and seem fit for work, while on bad days they may be unable to attend an assessment and for this reason be automatically judged fit for work.

Their press release included the statement:
‘Dozens of disabled people are dying every week following assessment. Nearly 40% of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’… This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.’

Also protesting outside the courts were the ‘Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)’ who claimed that a child who has never been diagnosed with any mental illness was being dosed with a dangerous anti-psychotic drug prescribed by a psychiatrist. Wikimedia describes the group as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists’ and was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

The court backed them in the particular case concerned, though most of the information about it was confidential and the court decision may not have been confirmed by the family court.

Among those taking part in their protest was a man in a white coat at the protest holding pill bottles representing the drugs they described as redundant and unscientific and instead promoting the benefits of ASEA, which appears to be an unscientific scam, promoted by dubious means. Basically salt water, the web site ‘Science-Based Medicine’ concluded: “The only value of the product is the entertainment value that can be derived from reading the imaginative pseudoscientific explanations they have dreamed up to sell it.”

Finally I went to Grosvenor Square for a protest outside the US Embassy where protesters, including members of ‘Veterans for Peace’, were holding a vigil in solidarity with Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, on day 963 of his pretrial detention while his defence argued in court for charges to be dismissed for lack of a ‘speedy trial.’

They stood holding placards in silence while the audio of a 45 minute video, ‘Collateral Murder’ allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was played on a PA system. The video clearly shows US forces committing war crimes and has become a symbol of the need for Wikileaks and ‘for courageous whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning.’

The protest was one of a series organised by WISE Up Action, a Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and after the vigil at the US Embassy many of those taking part were going to the daily vigil outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange was then inside having been granted asylum and under threat of arrest by British police should he leave. But it had been a long day and I decided it was time for me to leave for home before ‘Collateral Murder’ finished playing.

More at:
Stand with Brad at US Embassy
Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids
Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments
Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


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MP Threatened Over Brexit

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

Anna Soubry MP harassed by extremists

On December 19th 2018, tempers were still running high over Brexit, and I had been photographing extreme Brexiteers shouting at and threatening Steven Bray and other pro-Europeans as they continued their daily vigil outside parliament.

The protests across lunchtime seemed to be drawing to a close when I noticed the small group of extremists interviewing a bizarrely-dressed blogger outside the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament and went across to take some pictures.

Then they saw Anna Soubry, then the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, on the west edge of Nottingham and a vocal pro-European walking past and confronted her. She stopped to talk and argue with them, and they angrily shouted at her. She called to a police officer nearby for support, but he simply told the protesters to stop and ignored them when they failed to do so. Eventually after a minute or so she managed to turn away and walk past more police into Parliament, and officers then prevented the Brexiteers from following her.

I filed the pictures rather more rapidly than usual to meet deadlines as I realised that I was the only photographer present (though at least one of the extremists was filming the confrontation) and was pleased to see a few of them in the papers later. Though had I been with a more active agency I would have made much more from the set.

Extremist Brexiteers at parliament

Here are a couple of the pictures from a few minutes earlier outside the gates of Parliament.

Police were holding them back as they tried to stop cars leaving through the gates.

Extreme Brexiteers clash with SODEM

Earlier the group of extremist Brexiteers had been harassing Steven Bray and the supporters of SODEM, (Stand of Defiance European Movement) the group he founded in 2017 and which was holding daily vigils whenever Parliament was in session.

They accused Bray of being a drunk and asked “Who funds Drunk Steve”, a question that was rather redundant as two large banners were covered with logos of a wide range of organisations supporting SODEM’s daily pickets. There was a lot of shouting, threats and aggressive gestures, but no actual violence with police trying with little success to separate the two groups.

I’d photographed both groups on previous occasions, and had given up on going specially to photograph them, but was still taking pictures when I had gone up to cover other events – as on this Wednesday. SODEM were always pleased to be photographed, but their opposition at times objected to my presence.

MP welcomes Delhi to London driver

Another event that happened while I was there was the arrival of The Turban Traveller, a Sikh with a film crew from Creative Concept Films in Delhi who arrived in London today after driving overland from Delhi and was greeted by Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall.

Cuts kill disabled people say protesters

But I had come to Parliament to photograph disability groups DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network) who together with WOW campaign were protesting against the cumulative impact of the cuts on the lives of disabled people.

The War on Welfare campaign attracted over 200,000 signatures to its petitions against welfare cuts, and the protest was in support of a debate due later in the day on the cumulative impact of the cuts on the lives of disabled people.

Among those who came to speak with the protesters was Virendra Sharma MP, who had come out to meet the Sikh overland traveller and although showing an interest seemed to be unaware of the problems the cuts had caused the disabled, Laura Pidcock (then MP for North West Durham) and Lib-Dem peer Lord Roberts of Llandudno. Both the latter seemed very concerned about the terrible effect the various cuts falling particularly on the disabled.


Anna Soubry MP harassed by extremists
Extremist Brexiteers at parliament
Extremist Brexiteers clash with SODEM
MP welcomes Delhi to London driver
Cuts kill disabled people say protesters


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Five Years Ago – 13th July 2016

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Wednesday was a busy day for me on 13th July 2016, photographing five events in London.

Cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices were still on strike against the anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning, by then the longest running industrial dispute in the history of the City of London and supporters including Unite the Resistance, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Class War and others held a rally in support of the action by the United Voices of the World trade union, beginning on Wood St and then moving on to the street outside CBRE who manage the offices.

CND members and supporters had come to Parliament to lobby MPs against the plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion, and held a ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ in Parliament Square where members of Faith groups including both Christians and Buddhists held placards. Church leaders had written to The Times stating ‘The Government must take a lead – cancelling Trident would be a momentous step – Britain can lead the way!’ The government was instead led in its decisions by the lobbyists from those arms companies that profit greatly from these totally redundant weapons.

Also on Parliament Square was a protest supporting Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood’s ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles. Among those who spoke was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbot.

The day was also a ‘#PIPFightback’ National Day of Action against the Personal Independence Payments which disabled people say are a totally inadequate replacement for the Disabled Living Allowance. These rely on systematically flawed assessments carried out by private firms Capita and Atos which make no allowances for many variable conditions and ignore medical evidence. Administered by poorly qualified staff, many are overturned at tribunals after disabled people have suffered for months, sometimes leading to hospitalisation or suicide.

I’d started the day outside the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre run by ATOS in a back street with a small group of protesters including Gill Thompson, whose brother David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier died in July 2013 after his benefits were ‘sanctioned’. He was left starving without money for food or electricity to keep the fridge containing his insulin running. Like many his benefits had been stopped for trivial reasons and she was calling for a full and public inquiry into cases like those of her brother and to ensure a fairer system for vulnerable claimants.

Later people from the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies responsible for PIP assessments and held a rally on the busy pavement there.

After some speeches they moved from the narrow pavement to the busy road to continue their protest, holding up traffic for a few minutes, though they quickly moved to one side to allow an ambulance to drive through.

From there the moved to hold a short protest outside the Department of Work & Pensions offices at Caxton House, and then on to Parliament Square for another short rally.

Finally they decided to go to College Green where a media village was present with politicians being interviewed on TV over the appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Police tried to stop them going into the area, but after some moved in eventually allowed them to stand on a path in the middle of the area a few yards away from the TV crews, who almost all totally ignored the protesters. Disabled people suffering and even dying apparently isn’t news.

Solidarity for Wood St cleaners
Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party
Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster
NHS Bill protest at Parliament
PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


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.


April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments

16th January 2013

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Probably the best way to describe my work on Wednesday 16th January would be varied, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to photographing protests on the streets of London. I was never quite sure what I would find or what would happen, and every protest brought its own problems in terms of photography, and also sometimes in how to write about them.

I started the day with Pussy Riot, or rather with protesters in solidarity with them on an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, attending a court hearing today over her plea for her sentence to be suspended so she can raise her son until he is 14. She was one of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral in February, and was sent to a prison camp in Siberia for two years.

I had expected rather more protesters than the small group I found there, as the case had attracted considerable publicity, but perhaps it was too early on a cold January morning to attract many. It isn’t either a very good place to protest, as the actual embassy is hidden away a few yards down a private road roughly opposite where protests (and photographer) are strictly forbidden. But I also left fairly promptly after the time set for the start of a protest, and numbers may have grown later.

Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


There were more people, including quite a few that I knew, at a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Many were disabled, with a few in wheelchairs, but more who have mental health conditions, along with a number of pensioners, trade unionists from the court branch of the PCS and other supporters and the protest was organised by disabled activist groups including DPAC and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Inside the court a tribunal was hearing a judicial review into Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act, not being accessible for those with mental health conditions, and several of those speaking at the rally had personal stories to tell of how they had suffered as a result.

Mental health conditions are often spasmodic, which may result in claimants on a good day not seeming very ill and on a bad day being unable to attend an assessment – which results in them being automatically judged fit for work. Few of those carrying out the tests had sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of mental health to be able to sensibly conduct the assessment, and medical records were often not taken into consideration.

It seems totally ridiculous for benefits which people need because of their medical conditions not to be assessed on the basis of reports by the doctors who have examined and know their patients, but we have a system that instead tries to deny benefits on the basis of often arbitrary ‘tests’ by unqualified staff.

Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments


Another protest was taking place outside the courts, which I hadn’t been aware of, and it had a very different atmosphere which I found rather chilling.

There was something very organised about it, with people dressed in red and all the placards carefully printed and it lacked the kind of spontaneity. Although it was a protest against the use of drugs to treat mental illness, some of those taking part gave the impression that they had been drugged.

Drugs are certainly misused in the treatment of people with mental health issues, though I think there are occasions when they are an important part in improving people’s health. And certainly they are over-used as a way to avoid treating the real causes of some people’s problems which come largely from poverty, lousy housing and terrible jobs. But there seemed to be something very wrong in some of the assertions that were being made.

I hadn’t heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, and was not really surprised when I looked it up on the web and found it described on Wikipedia as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists‘ established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

And as I wrote when I put these pictures on line:

it seems unfair to dismiss all of psychiatry as their banner did as ‘Junk Science and Dangerous Drugs‘ and I find it impossible from personal experience to deny the existence of medical conditions such as depression – or to dismiss the utility of some drugs in the treatment of mental conditions.

Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids