Posts Tagged ‘Movement for Justice’

Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison – 2017

Monday, May 13th, 2024

Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison: Saturday 13th May 2017 was the 11th protest outside Yarl’s Wood in the Movement for Justice campaign to shut down this and other immigration detention centres.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

For once the weather was fine and there was little or no mud in the field facing the prison. And for some reason – perhaps the windows had been cleaned – we could see the detainees more clearly than on some previous occasions. And I seem to have written rather more clearly than on some occasions about the day – so here I’ll just reproduce the text from My London Diary, with a few of the pictures.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

I’d caught the train from St Pancras to Bedford as usual, but instead of waiting for the MfJ bus had brought my Brompton, so could just jump on it and cycle towards Yarlswood. It was a ride of around 6 miles, mainly along side roads or on cycle paths beside busier roads, and it was a pleasant enough ride, though Yarl’s Wood is on a former airfield on a plateau rather higher than the city, and so it was uphill quite a lot of the way. And the climb up from the nearest village, Milton Ernest, was rather long and steep, though at least I didn’t have to bother about traffic, as the police had closed the road. But I was a little out of breath and tired as I arrived.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

But Yarl’s Wood really is in the middle of nowhere, making those inside feel very isolated, and visits to them by anyone without a car are tedious and expensive for those on low income. So events like this are important in reminding those inside that they have not been forgotten.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

There were several hundreds of people already at the roadside – and a long row of coaches that had brought them there, and there were speeches and chanting while they waited for others to arrive.

Most of the detainees are women, but there are men in a family section of the prison

From the road there is still a long walk along field edges following a public footpath, around three-quarters of a mile. Parts of this were heavy going on the Brompton, not designed for off-road use, and I did have to walk part of the way, as well as occasionally stopping to photograph the marchers, now around a thousand strong.

When the protesters arrived at the field in front of the tall fence around the centre, they were welcomed by shouts and waving from those imprisoned inside who held up messages calling for justice in the narrow slits the windows open. Only those who could get to the upper windows on the block facing the fence could see the protest, but others inside could certainly hear it.

There were speeches from former detainees, including several women who had been held at Yarl’s Wood, including Mabel Gawanas who was recently released a few days short of 3 years inside, and other former immigration detainees. People kicked on the fence to make a terrific racket and held up banners, posters and placards to show the detainees in what the protesters describe as as ‘racist, sexist hell-hole’ they have not been forgotten. Some inside spoke to the protest by mobile phone.

Some of the protesters climbed ladders to hold banners and placards above the first solid 10 feet of the 20 foot fence, while others had long poles or lit flares to make the protest more visible. A few yards back from the fence where the ground slopes up we could see those at the windows and photograph them through the mesh fence, though it wasn’t easy.

I left as the protest began to draw to a close, cycling back along the footpath to the road and then enjoying the long downhill stretch to the village and the main road. But I had to pay for this, as a short uphill modern stretch of road off stretched me almost to exhaustion. 40 metres doesn’t sound a lot, but feels in on a bike. And while the road up from Milton Ernest does the climb at a fairly sensible rate, Oakley Hill up from the A6 is at least twice as steep. I should have got off and walked, but pride doesn’t allow it unless it becomes really impossible. For some reason my three-speed gear had decided to be a two speed gear, but probably it wouldn’t have helped here as I think it was only the top gear I was missing – and I needed something considerably lower. But after than it was downhill most of the way to Bedford and a train probably an hour earlier than had I been on the bus.

More pictures at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison,


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Croydon, Abortion & Windrush – 2018

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

Croydon, Abortion & Windrush – I began work on Saturday 5th of May with a late May Day march in Croydon, then came to Westminster where abortion rights protesters were meeting to oppose a ‘March for Life’ anti-abortion march and rally. At Downing Street there was a rally against the racist attacks by Theresa May against the Windrush generation, which later marched to continue at the Home Office, where I ended the day after photographing the anti-abortion march.


Croydon march for May Day – Saturday 5th May 2018

Although International Workers Day is celebrated internationally on May 1st, in Croydon there was a march and rally on the following Saturday.

Croydon is just 15 minutes by public transport from the centre of London, and those who were able to do so had probably joined the main London march on May Day, while others will have had to wait for the weekend to celebrate, so the march and rally on Saturday made sense.

It wasn’t a huge march, though doubtless more made their way to the rally later at Rusking House, where the speakers were to include Ted Knight, once the leader of Lambeth council and then one of the best-known Labour politicians, derided in the press of the day as ‘Red Ted’. One of the largest groups on the march was the supporters of the local Keep Our St Helier Hospital campaign fighting against proposed cuts there.

More pictures at Croydon march for May Day.


Women protest anti-abortion march – Parliament Square

Feminists in the abortion rights campaign held a rally in Parliament Square before the annual March for Life UK by pro-life anti-abortion campaigners was to arrive for their rally.

They opposed any increase of restrictions on abortion and called for an end to the harassment of women going into clinics and called for women in Northern Ireland to be given the same rights as those in the rest of the UK, as well as supporting the Irish referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution dating from 1983 which effectively banned abortion in Ireland.

More pictures at Women protest anti-abortion march.


Anti-Abortion March for Life – Whitehall

I walked up Whitehall to meet the several thousand anti-abortion campaigners, mainly Catholics, marching to their rally in Parliament Square.

They argue that even at conception the fertilised egg should be awarded an equal right to life as the woman whose body it is in, and call legalised abortion the greatest violation to human rights in history.

This was the first London march by ‘March for Life UK’ who had previously held marches in Birmingham and came a few weeks an Irish vote was expected to repeal the 8th amendment and allow abortion in Ireland, and some posters and placards called for a ‘No’ vote in this.

More pictures at Anti-Abortion March for Life.


Windrush rally against Theresa May – Downing St

I remained on Whitehall to join a rally at Downing St organised by Stand Up to Racism calling for Theresa May’s racist 2014 Immigration Act to be repealed and an immediate end to the deportation and detention of Commonwealth citizens, with those already deported to be bought back to the UK.

It demanded guaranteed protection or all Commonwealth citizens and for those affected to be compensated for deportation, threats of deportation, detention, loss of housing, jobs, benefits and denial of NHS treatment and an end to the ‘hostile environment’ introduced by Theresa May.

Speakers also condemned the unusual moves by the Tories in ways that threaten the normal working of Parliament to try and keep information about the Windrush scandal secret. Aong those speaking were Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, trade unionists, and people from organisations standing up for immigrants and opposing immigration detention including Movement for Justice who brought two women who had been held in Yarl’s Wood to speak.

After the rally at Downing Street protesters marched to the Home Office for a further rally there.

More pictures on My London Diary:
Home Office: Windrush Immigration Act protest
Downing Street: Windrush rally against Theresa May


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth 2015

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth: Saturday 11th April 2015 saw what I think was the largest protest to date outside the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre on the Bath Road immediately north of Heathrow airport.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

Various organisations had held protests here over the years, but these had grown since Movement for Justice began organising them, bringing a large group of current and former asylum seekers out from London on the tube to Terminal 5 and then on the short bus ride to the prison. They included some who had come from other cities in the country – and even from Glasgow. Other groups at the protest included No Borders, Southall Black Sisters and Shoreditch Sisters W I.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

There are two detention prisons on the site, both surrounded by 20ft high fences with a private road to a BT site running between them. Called Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, they were in 2015 both run by Mitie’s ‘care+custody’ division, and the overall name for the centre had changed to Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre, which made clear that the government intention was to deport people rather than operate a fair asylum system.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

The Home Office has long proved itself to be both incompetent and racist, and huge backlogs have built up over the processing of asylum claims. They seem to start from the position that all asylum claims are unfounded and those making them are liars, often despite the evidence. Claims that should be processed in days take months or years – during which time people may be kept in detention centres like these generally quite unnecessarily. We should imprison criminals, not asylum seekers.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

As I commented in 2015:

these are prisons, with those inside being unable to leave; they have a few privileges denied those in normal jails, including the use of mobile phones, but some disadvantages, including that they are all on indefinite sentences at the whim of government and subject to a constant threat they will be forcibly bundled onto a plane and taken back to the country from which they have fled, often at fear of their lives. These prisons are also run by staff who often lack the basic training, supervision and accountability of normal jails.”

The majority of those who claim asylum are eventually granted leave to remain in the UK as their claims are well-founded. Some have been deported before they are given time to prove their cases to the Home Office’s satisfaction under “fast track” procedures that have been ruled illegal.

Our laws prevent them from working and contributing to our economy and society, and almost all are keen to do so and have skills which are in short supply. We need a system that gives people the medical treatment they need and gets them back into normal work and life as quickly as possible. Instead far too many are simply parked in prisons like these without proper medical care and largely isolated from those who could help them. Its both inhumane and economically unsound.

Although police and a large team of security guards stopped the protesters from going down the road toward the prison blocks, forcing them into a pen in front of the administration building at the front of the site, the loud protest could be heard throughout the site. Some of the prisoners were able to use their mobile phones to welcome the protesters and let them known about the poor conditions inside, and their calls were relayed over the public address system the protesters had brought.

Most of those who spoke at the protest had themselves been held inside these or other detention centres often for long periods after escaping from beatings, rape and torture in their home countries, and several spoke about their experiences in the system here. Some said they had been treated as troublemakers because they stood up for their rights – and that inmates who failed to do so, whatever the strength of their cases, were likely to face deportation.

I was tired after a couple of hours of the noisy protest, with chanting, singing and dancing – though mainly I had just been taking photographs, and left to catch a bus home. I could hear the protest continuing from the bus stop several hundred yards away, and when the bus came – ten minutes late – saw the protesters making their way out of the site to a public footpath which runs along the side of the Colnbrook site to continue their protest closer to those prison blocks.

Many more pictures on My London Diary at End Immigration Detention.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine – 2014

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine – Three protests in Westminster on Thursday 13 March 2014.


Badger Army Says End Culls – Old Palace Yard

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

Bovine TB is a great problem for dairy farmers and the great majority of them are convinced that badgers play an important role in spreading it, although scientists estimate that around 94% of all infections are spread from cow to cow. A major part of the problem is that the test used for the disease in cows fails to detect a large proportion – perhaps a third – of infected cows.

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine
Bill Oddie

Around 20,000 cows are slaughtered each year because they are found to be infected and compensating the farmers costs us over £100 million a year. The Badger Trust argues in a report based on scientific evidence that a more effective approach than culling would be to focus on “cattle, cattle testing and vaccination and enhanced cattle biosecurity (including cattle movement).”

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

There is no scientific consensus that the killing of 260,000 badgers since 2013 has had any effect on the spread of the disease. DEFRA continues to support badger culling but Labour in 2023 pledged to end it if elected – though they have already drawn back from most of their pledges.

Badgers, Yarls Wood & Ukraine

The cull has provoked strong emotions on both sides and this protest on a day when MPs were discussing the cull reflected that. You can read more about it and see more pictures on My London Diary at Badger Army Says End Culls.


End Persecution & Sexual Abuse at Yarl’s Wood – Home Office, Marsham St

A short walk away outside our “dysfunctional” and Home Office – then under Theresa May and her racist “hostile environment” policy – a protest called for an end to the psychological, sexual, physical and legal abuse of women asylum seekers and immigrants held at Yarl’s Wood and for the detention centre to be closed down.

Many women have made complaints of sexual abuse by male prison staff at the centre, and one who was awarded compensation was was horrified to learn that the man who abused her was still working there, free to commit further offences.

The protest took place following reports of the disappearance of a detainee called Saba from Pakistan, who women in Yarl’s Wood believe had committed suicide there. It was supported by the Movement for Justice, Southall Black Sisters and the All African Women’s Group, and protesters included women who had been held in the detention centre while their asylum claims were being considered.

In my account on My London Diary I give more details about her and also of the cases of a political refugee from Mali who had been illegally deported back there in the previous month, and a Kurdish trade union activist also illegally deported by the Home Office and then in hiding in Turkey where she had attempted suicide.

There had been many other reports of violence against women the centre, and the protest organisers stated:

Yarl’s Wood women are fighting back against attempts to deport them or their sisters to persecution and death and exposing sexual abuse by male staff. The frightened response of the Home Office and its agents is to increase the repression in Yarl’s Wood, breaching even the present, inadequate legal rights of detainees and creating an environment that can drive women to suicide.”

The protest called for a public inquiry into abuses at Yarl’s Wood and for it to be shut down.

End Sexual Abuse at Yarl’s Wood


Ukraine Vigil – Downing St

Finally I went to Downing Street where on the pavement opposite Ukrainians had set up a permanent vigil, hoping to get the UK Government to stand up against Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea.

There wasn’t a great deal happening during my brief visit, and I was correct to think that the UK government would take anything but half-hearted action. To do more might hurt the City’s financial interests – and those of some leading Tory MPs and their family businesses. The failure of the west to end its aggressive Cold War attitudes to Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 was bound to have highly poisonous repercussions. We should have welcomed the country into our sphere and dismissed the NATO hawks.

A few more pictures at Ukraine Vigil.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Shut Down Yarl’s Wood – 2016

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood – Saturday 12th March 2016 saw one of the largest protests outside the Immigration Detention Centre at Yarl’s Wood with well over a thousand people from around the country waving and shouting support to the women asylum seekers held indefinitely inside, who responded enthusiastically by shouting and waving back from the prison blocks behind the high fence, hindered by windows that hardly open. There were many among the protesters who had themselves been locked up in Yarls Wood or other detention centres.

Shut Down Yarl's Wood

My day began badly, with a cancelled train and then a coach driver for the five or six mile journey from Bedford Station to the isolated prison who got lost and took us for a 20 mile mystery tour through rural Bedfordshire, meaning we arrived rather late for the protest.

Shut Down Yarl's Wood

We arrived just in time for the final few minutes of the rally by Movement for Justice, the organisers of the protest, outside the locked gates of the Twinwoods Business Centre. An shortly after the protesters set off for the long march down the road and along a public footpath to a field on a slight rise adjoining the prison where the main protest was to take place.

Shut Down Yarl's Wood

It was dry and sunny, but there had been a week of rain and the fields we walked past were full of puddles and the rise in front of the 20 foot prison fence was extremely treacherous and hard to climb. Alongside the metal fence was a concrete path but then a few feet of churned up mud before the slippery slope.

Shut Down Yarl's Wood

At the bottom the lower 10ft of the fence is solid metal sheeting, so there you have no view of the prison. but can make a considerable noise by banging or kicking the fence. On top of the slope you can see the upper floors of the closest prison block, and from there we could make out those prisoners who had managed to get to the windows and were shouting greetings and some holding out notices though the small gap – just large enough for a hand to go through – that the windows open.

Unfortunately the windows reflect the sky and in the bright weather we could only see dimly those inside. Further along the rise we could see a little of the ground floor of the detention centre, and here the views were a little clearer. This part of the immigration prison was then being used for families, while the rest ws a women’s prison.

The regime in immigration detention differs from that in our other prisons and in one respect is worse. Those inside are held indefinitely and have no way of knowing when they might be released. And their detention can be very lengthy with one woman held there for three years less a couple of days. Many have seen this as totally unacceptable and called for a maximum length of detention of 28 days as is the case in some other countries.

But the detainees alhtough kept as prisoners are allowed to have mobile phones which they need to communicate with solicitors and others dealing with their immigration cases. And the protesters were able to phone some of the women inside and the calls could be linked to the public address system brought to the protest so they could tell something of their stories.

Those held in immigration detention are not criminals and few have or would commit any criminal offences. Many indeed have been victims of criminal attacks, violence and rape, or face these if they are deported back to their home countries. They all want to be allowed to live and work here, to contribute their skills to our country and pay our taxes. There is no need to keep them locked away. But we have a racist immigration regime that treats them as criminals and liars and shows little evidence of any humanity – but much of indifference, incompetence and unnecessary delays.

The goverment outsources their detention to private companies and various investigations and reports have shown the lack of care, mistreatment and even sexual harassment and violence in this and other centres. Rather than shutting them down and moving to a more humane system the government have now moved those who might otherwise been in Yarl’s Wood to a far more remote location to make protests harder to organise.

The pictures and text, including some captions, on My London Diary tell more about what what happened at the protest: Shut Down Yarl’s Wood.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – 2018

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – London hasn’t had a great deal of snow for some years, but when I got off the bus on Wednesday 28th February 2018 close to London University I found myself walking into a blizzard. There was a couple of inches of snow underfoot and the biting wind was driving dense snowflakes into my face making it both difficult to walk and hard to see where I was going.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

I slipped a few times and almost fell as I walked through Byng Place, only just managing to stop myself and my camera bag falling into the snow, and for the first 15 or 20 minutes after I reached the meeting point for the march it was difficult to take pictures, with snowflakes landing on the lens surface as soon as I took away the cloth I had stuffed against it inside the lens hood and raised the camera to my eye.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

Most of the pictures from the start of the protest were ruined by snow on the lens making some areas soft and diffuse. It might sometimes have been an arty effect but wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately after a while the snow died down and I was able to work more normally, though the occasional flake kept coming and there were a few thick flurries later on the march.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

The UCU was on the fifth day of a strike to try and get the universities to talk with them about pay and pensions. On this march to a rally in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, they were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions. And plenty of their students had come along to show their support.

Although students are now paying high fees for their university courses, the pay of university teachers has not benefited from this, and has not kept up with inflation. Much more teaching at universities is also being done by graduate students and others on part-time or often zero hours contracts.

What particularly inflamed the situation was the intention of the universities to end the long-established pension scheme, replacing it with one that would greatly reduce pensions, and their refusal to discuss this with their union, the UCU.

The 5 day strike was supported overwhelmingly by UCU members and had shut down 61 UK universities, despite draconian threats by the management at some of them such as Royal Holloway (RHUL). Pickets had stood in the freezing weather and few people had crossed the picket line.

The move away from the pension scheme was largely driven by a small number of universities, particularly the Oxbridge colleges. Many of these are extremely wealthy, some owning huge areas of land including large parts of London and having vast reserves, not least in their wine cellars. A number of college principals had given their support to the union.

The dispute between the employers and the UCU continued for five years and was only ended in October 2023 when the employer body UUK made an offer of full restoration. This came after 69 days of strikes by the UCU and was a historic victory for UCU members and reversed further cuts made in 2022.

University teachers continue to fight for better pay, more appropriate workloads and job security. FE teachers, marching because of the loss of 15,000 jobs in the sector particularly as adult education has been savaged by austerity, and whose wages had been cut by 21% since 2009, continue to be treated unfairly.

I went into the rally in Central Hall largely to try to get warm after the freezing march, and was fortunate to arrive early enough to get inside – many of the marchers were left outside the the cold where the speakers went outside to speak after making their contributions in the hall.

The event was running late because of the larger than expected number of people on the march, and by the time the main speakers, John McDonnell and Frances O’Grady had performed I’d missed the time for another event I’d planned to cover, the handing in of some NHS petitions at the Department of Health. I But I was pleased to be able to stay longer in the warm.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs
HE and FE march for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

I left the Methodist Central Hall and walked down to the Home Office where an emergency protest was taking place to support the hunger strike and refusal to work by the 120 women and a few men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood.

They had begun their action a week earlier to demand the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights and 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 the re-detention of those released from detention.

Their statement also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for more than ten years and for the Home Office to stop deporting people before cases and appeals have been completed, as well as making full disclosure of all evidence to immigration tribunals.

They called for those in detention centres to be treated with dignity and respect and be given proper health care and an end to the detention of highly vulnerable people. They also want an end to employment in detention centres at ‘prison wages’ of £1 an hour.

Among the groups supporting the protest were the Movement for Justice, All African Women’s Group, Queer Strike and No Borders. Some of those taking part in the protest had previously served time in detention centres and knew first hand about the shameful way the UK treats them and some spoke at the event and several of those taking part in the hunger strike were able to speak to the protest from inside Yarls Wood by mobile phone.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Peckham & Stockwell Protests – 2017

Sunday, January 21st, 2024

Peckham & Stockwell Protests – on Saturday 21st January 2017 I spent the day in South London, photographing protests in Peckham and Stockwell.


Peckham welcomes march against deportations

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

Immigration raids in south London had target long-established African, Asian and Caribbean communities, dividing families, deporting people who have built lives in the UK with parents, partners and children here. Protesters compared the deportation flights which followed with slave ships, with deportees shackled with a guard on each side in a cruel and divisive act of racist discrimination.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

The Home Office had carried out many of these forced deportations unlawfully, and the High Court had decided that their use of the ‘detained fast track’ procedure from 2005-2014 was unlawful and went beyond their legal powers. Had we as individuals had acted illegally for so long and so persistently there would be little doubt that we would now be in prison.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

But the government gets away scot-free. The 10,000 or so asylum seekers deported under the old system could in theory ask for the decision made on their cases to be set aside and lodge a new appeal, although very few are likely to be in a position to do so.

Peckham & Stockwell Protests - 2017

The protest was organised by Movement for Justice, but supported by many other groups including including SOAS Detainee Support (SDS), Anti Raids Network, Zimbabwe Human Rights Organization Mazimbabweans, Jewdas, BLMUK, London Mexico Solidarity, Fight Racism – Fight Imperialism (FRFI), Sisters Uncut – South East London and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants.

After a short rally the protests marched down Rye Lane, the main shopping street in Peckham, attracting a great deal of support from shoppers on the crowded street.

Some went into shops and handed out leaflets there and on the street. They held a short rally at the south end of the street before returning for another in the square by Peckham Library.

Peckham march against deportations


Oh! Mother march against knife crime – Peckham

Another protest march was taking place in Peckham during the afternoon. Oh! Mother, A Christian organisation based in South London which campaigns for change in communities was protesting to put an end to gun and knife crime.

Their march followed the stabbing to death in Peckham on 30th December 2016 of 24 year old Ernest Kalawa. Among the marchers were members of the dead man’s family, some of whom wore t-shirts commemorating him.

Oh! Mother march against knife crime


March against closing community centres – Stockwell

Members of Lambeth Labour were meeting in Stockwell to march to Stockwell Community Centre, one of two local community centres in Stockwell and Kennington Park which are run by Hyde Housing Association which were threatened with closure.

Lambeth Council is spending £50 million on a new town hall and had pledged £20 million to support the vanity Garden Bridge project, but the Labour-run council had made drastic cuts in community services, including library closures and selling off council estates to developers but has refused to support these community centres.

Lambeth Labour Council is one of a number of London Labour councils dominated by right-wing members who appear to have lost any sense that councils exist for the benefit of their residents rather than of the councillors.

Lambeth appear to follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Southwark, here journalist Anna Minton found that “20 per cent of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists” for developers in the planning industry and that a significant number of Councillors and Council officers are making use of a ‘well-oiled revolving door’ to the industry.

March against closing community centres



FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood – 2015

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood – On Saturday 7th November 2015 Movement for Justice organised a large protest with other groups to show solidarity with the women locked up inside Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre and to demand that all such detention prisons be shut down.


MFJ Meet To March to Yarl’s Wood – Twinwoods Business Park

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Yarl’s Wood was built on a former wartime airfield in remote countryside five or six miles from the centre of Bedford, perhaps chosen in part for its remoteness, which makes it difficult for visitors or protesters to get there.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

But Movement for Justice – MfJ – and others had organised coaches from around the country, including eight from London as well as one from Bedford Station to bring people with others arriving by car, taxi or bicycle. The road leading to the prison is private, but people were able to meet on a public road around a mile away outside the main entrance to the business park there.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive there was lively rally with a great deal of dancing, singing and chanting, keeping everyone’s spirits high, and keeping us warm as a chilly wind with occasional spots of rain swept across the open site on top of a high plateau.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Among those at the protest were many immigrants who had themselves been detained at this or other detention centres around the country while waiting for a decision to be taken on their asylum claims. Sometimes this takes several years and those who are taken to prisons such as these are held indefinitely, never knowing if or when they will be released or taken under guard to be forcibly deported.

Movement For Justice at Yarls Wood

Many inside have fled their countries after violent attacks including sexual assault and rape and deserve humane treatment not imprisonment. Few if any pose any real threat and could be housed outside, often with friends or relatives in this country. If they were allowed to work many would make a positive contribution. They would also be much more able to contact their solicitors and collect information to support their asylum cases than from inside the detention centres where access is limited.

Instead the Home Office locks them away and sometimes seems to have forgotten them and lost the key. One woman was detained for a couple of days less than three years before being released – after which she returned with the MfJ and spoke at protests which give those still inside some hope and remind them that they have not entirely been forgotten.

More at MFJ Meet Outside Yarl’s Wood.


MfJ ‘Set Her Free’ protest at Yarl’s Wood

As well as MfJ, Sisters Uncut, Lesbians & Gays support the Migrants, All Africans Women’s Groups, Glasgow Unity and others had come to join in the protest. Eventually with around a thousand people gathered it was time to march, though a few coaches had not yet arrived.

We set off on the long walk to the detention centre, with banners and placards, a short distance along the road and then down the public footpath which runs through a couple of fields and across another track, and into a field on the north side of the prison, about a mile from where the campaigners had gathered.

Here there was a fairly steep rise a few feet up a hill from the 20 foot high fence around the detention centre and from the top of this we could see the upper floor windows, some of which had women at them, though only through the dense thick wire grid of the upper half of the fence.

The windows do not have bars, but only open a few inches, but this was enough for the women inside to put their hands through and hold towels and clothing to greet the protesters. Some managed to hold out messages: one read ‘We came to seek Refuge. Not to be locked up’ and another ‘We are from torture. We Need Freedom’.

The lower 10 feet of the fence is made of stout metal panels, and beating or kicking on these makes a very loud noise. Later some protesters brought up rope ladders so they could hold placards and banners on the more open top of the fence so they could be seen by the women inside.

The prisoners are allowed to have phones which they need to contact their solicitors and advisers over their cases and some were able to use these to communicate with the protesters and to have their voices relayed over the PA system the protesters had brought.

There was a heavy rain shower during the protest, and the ground which was already muddy and with large puddles became very treacherous and getting up from the concrete and narrow flat area at the bottom of the fence became difficult. But soon the sun was back out again.

Most of those who spoke at the event were former detainees, some of whom had friends who were still inside the immigration prison.

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave and the low winter sun was beginning to make photography more difficult. It seemed a long and rather lonely journed as I made my way back to the road, boots heavy with mud. But I was free to go, while women who had come to this country seeking asylum from danger and violence in their own countries were still locked up by a hostile and unfeeling government.

More at MfJ ‘Set Her Free’ protest at Yarl’s Wood.


Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow 2014

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow: Back in 2014 I could take a bus a short walk from my home which took me to within a few yards of what had recently been renamed the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre on Bath Road to the north of Heathrow Airport. And since the bus only ran every half hour I arrived a while before the protest there began and had time for a short walk – and almost half an hour to wait on my way home.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

Surprising both buses had fairly clean windows and I also took a few pictures through them on my journey, and you can see a few more at Colnbrook and Heathrow. Before the protest I’d walked beside the Duke of Northumberland’s River which runs through the extensive grounds of the British Airways offices, and on the other bank is a tall fence for the Immigration Centre and BT premises.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

The river is a man-made distributary of the River Colne, dug to take water to the Isleworth flour mill and Syon House. Along with another channel, the Longford River, built to take water to Bushy Park and Hampton Court, it has been rerouted around Heathrow airport and some of the pictures from the bus show the two in their new largely concrete channels beside the perimeter road.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

There are two immigration prisons on each side of a private road leading to the BT site behind. On the left of the picture is the Harmondsworth prison block, and on its right the high-security Colnbrook centre. At the start of the month both had been taken over by Mitie, as ‘Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre’, making ‘Care and Custody’, the Mitie subsidiary running the centre the “largest single private sector provider of immigration detention services to the Home Office.”

Mitie’s track record in running such centres should have disqualified them from running and government services. At Campsfield there had been three mass hunger strikes, a suicide and a disastrous major fire – perhaps why they had become one of the government’s favourite contractors.

Harmondsworth, Colnbrook & Heathrow

The name ‘Immigration Removal Centre’ reflects the government’s racist policies towards asylum centres. It wants to remove immigrants, whether or not they have a sound case for asylum. Such centres lock up people making it harder for them to pursue their case to remain in the UK and easier for them to be deported. The great majority of those imprisoned will eventually be given the right to remain in the UK, but may be held in centres like this for many months or even more than two years before being released so they can continue their lives – and make the positive contribution they will to UK society and our economy.

At previous protests here the protesters had been allowed to march down the private road between the two prisons and continue alongside the 20 foot fence around the Harmondsworth site back to the front. But now – perhaps due to the new management – police refused to allow them access, restricting the protest to a pen in front of the centre’s administrative block.

The protest was one of a number here organised by the Movement for Justice, and supported by many other organisation and the protesters argued for some time to be allowed to march down the roadway and around the Harmondsworth centre as usual but without success. Eventually the around a hundred protesters who had travelled out to the western edge of London moved into the pen provided.

The majority of those attending the protest were immigrants, many of whom had been held in this centre or others around the country. Harmondsworth imprisons male detainees, and many of the women at the protest had spent time in Yarl’s Wood near Bedford. Later MfJ would concentrate their protests at that centre.

The protest was a very noisy one, with loud shouting and drumming and a great deal of dancing between the speeches. Phone calls from inside told the protesters that they could be heard inside the cell blocks.

Most of those who spoke were former asylum speakers and told of the suffering they had endured in our immigration detention. As some said, it was worse than prison, as the detention was indefinite. They had no release date to look forward too, and could have been deported at any time back to the countries which they had fled in fear of their lives.

Speakers also called for an end to the ‘Detained Fast Track’ system, deliberately set up when Labour where in power to make it impossible for many asylum claimants to defend themselves against deportation and remove them from the country before they are able to do so. It’s a shameful system that no country that believes in the proper rule of law, fair play and human decency could support.

Various legal challenges to ‘Detained Fast Track’ led to the High Court declaring in January 2017 that DFT had denied justice to asylum seekers for the previous ten years, with thousands being deported without a lawful hearing of their cases.

A friend of the family of Rubel Ahmed who described how he died in Morton Hall immigration detention centre in Lincolnshire on September 5th 2014 after having been refused refused medical treatment for his chest pains. Fellow prisoners heard him screaming for help, and had rioted after his death, taking control of the detention centre until brutally suppressed. One who contacted the press was brutally beaten by prison guards.

Many more pictures from the protest on My London Diary at Close UK Immigration Prisons.


Fire Risk Tower Blocks

Saturday, August 12th, 2023

Fire Risk Tower Blocks – On Saturday 12 August 2017 Focus E15 Mothers led a march from Ferrier Point in Canning Town to a rally at Tanner Point in Plaistow pointing out the danger of these two blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, and then on to the Carpenters Estate in Stratford demanding safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The May 2022 Fire Risk Assessment of 119-205 Butchers Road, Canning Town conducted for Newham Council was obtained by a Freedom of Information request and can be downloaded. The 11 floor block of 43 flats has a single staircase and then had 86 people sleeping there.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The report by Phoenix Green Group declared the likelihood of fire to be ‘Medium’ but the potential consequences would be ‘Extreme Harm’ and gave the building a ‘Substantial’ fire risk rating, stating that urgent action should be taken and listing what was needed. I can find no information on Newham Council’s web site of whether this has been done, or of other council properties which might still be needing urgent action.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The block on Butchers Road was not one of those visited on the march led by Focus E15 Mothers in their march around Canning Town and Plaistow to the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. This had begun at Ferrier Point in Forty Acre Lane, Canning Town around 5 minutes walk away, a rather taller 23 storey block with dangerous ACM cladding like that on Grenfell Tower.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The cladding on Ferrier Point was replaced with non-combustible cladding in 2019. Otherwise there would have been a very different story when fire broke out on a 12th floor flat there around 6pm on 22nd June 2020. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived at 6.22pm around 150 residents had left the building and the LFB had the fire under control by 7.45pm. Six people required treatment for smoke inhalation, one in hospital the others treated on the spot by London Ambulance staff.

Tanner Point in Plaistow was another stop on the march where residents were extremely worried as this also had fire-risk ACM cladding. Along with that on Nicholls Point, a little off the march route, this was also replaced in 2018-9.

The march was organised and led by the Stratford-based Focus E15 housing campaign but supported by other groups, including the Socialist Party, East End Sisters Uncut, the One Housing campaign, Movement for Justice, Whitechapel Anarchist Group, the Revolutionary Communist Group and local residents, including those from the blocks with dangerous cladding.

The march ended on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, a once popular estate with over 400 empty homes which Newham’s Labour council largely emptied of people over 10 years ago and intended to demolish and sell off. Here there was a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event against decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

Events like this put pressure on Newham Council to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding from its taller tower blocks, but it seems there are still fire safety issues in other blocks that it owns. Years of actions by Focus E15 and others have stopped Newham selling off the Carpenters Estate and they are now going ahead with regeneration plans although these unfortunately lack the real commitment to social housing that the area so desperately needs.

More about the march and more pictures on My London Diary at Fire Risk Tower Blocks.