Posts Tagged ‘murdered by police’

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End – I travelled to Tottenham and Kilburn to photograph protests but fortunately the people from Ponders End had come to protest at Westminster. All three protests I photographed on Saturday 29th March 2014 were about the inhumane policies of the Tory Government.

Mothers march for justice – Tottenham

Rev Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson

Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty, an indefatigable lifelong campaigner on behalf of the poor died in 2020, aged 87. His first job after National Service in the Army had been with the family firm selling champagne around London, but after a dozen years until he discovered a vocation to become a worker-priest and was ordained as a deacon in 1967 and then a priest in 1968. Around 1981 he became a parish priest in Turville, the location chosen for The Vicar of Dibley, making his priority the support of the poor in a area of extremes of wealth.

He resurrected the practice, now common of being a McKenzie Friend, which allowed him to stand with and represent those brought to court over debts, particularly those unable to pay the Poll Tax. His revelations on the activities of bailiffs enforcing debts lead to a Code of Practice which, at least when enforced, gives some protection to the vulnerable, and it was his initiative in commissioning the Family Budget Unit to investigate the actual costs of living that led the the UK and London Living Wage being established.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Spiderman led the march

His work in later years was largely about housing and homelessness, and I met and photographed him on many protests. He set up the charity Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) but then resigned as its chair so he could campaign politically through Taxpayers Against Poverty.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, murdered by police in front of a banner with his picture

The march in Tottenham on 29th March 2014 organised by the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty demanded living incomes and decent truly affordable homes and rejected the unfair Tory bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, which were the cause of hunger and cold homes. He spoke before the march and walked on it with a placard hanging from a string around his neck: ‘We march for Freedom from Hunger, Cold, Outrageous Rents – Fight for a Living Wage’.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

The march was smaller than hoped, several hundred rather than the hoped for ‘1000 Mothers March for Justice’, though more were expected to turn up at Tottenham Green East for the rally at its end, unfortunately after I had left. Those on the march included representatives from many local groups as well as others around London, and they carried an impressive number of banners.

Mothers march for justice

Kilburn Uniform Day – Kilburn Square

A few miles to the west, the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community was holding a two hour protest in Kilburn Square on the main Kilburn High Road over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

In 2010 food banks were rare things in the UK, used over the year by around 60,000 people. After ten years of Tory policies this had increased to around 2.5 million, around 40 times as many. Much of that increase is a direct result of government policies, including its inhuman sanctions policy against benefit claimants, as well as of poverty wages and unfair employment practices such as zero hours contracts.

Moving people onto Universal Credit resulted in many being without resources for five weeks, sometimes considerably longer. As I wrote “Our government appear to be completely out of touch with how many people in the country live. They simply cannot comprehend what it means to be without money, or without friends or family you can rely on for a few thousand when you have a problem. Many people on low income simply don’t have any such resources – all they have is debts and bills to pay.”

Things have got worse since 2014, and soaring energy prices along with the additional National Insurance payments coming in next month will again put more families into desperate levels of poverty – and increase those evicted as they cannot pay the rent. It isn’t that the country doesn’t have the money – we are still one of the richest countries in the world – but that increasingly the already wealthy are getting richer while the poor sink into more desperate poverty.

And it’s successive governments – including New Labour – that are to blame, with a failure to build sensible amounts of social housing, the encouragement of high cost private housing and buy to rent. The wealthy have got tax breaks while many working full-time have been finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. And tax avoidance has reached huge levels thanks to a failure to plug silly loopholes and face up to the problems caused by off-shoring. We should have a zero-avoidance policy not one that encourages it.

Kilburn Uniform Day

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika – Parliament Square

The final event I photographed was a lively protest by fellow students and supporters at Parliament urged then Home Secretary Theresa May to abandon the planned deportation of 19 year old model A-level student Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius due to take place on Mothers Day.

She came here with her family who claimed asylum after physical abuse from a relative in Mauritius in 2012, but the claim was rejected and the whole family are under threat of eviction – and as she is now 19 they decided to deport her alone weeks before she was due to take her A levels in Ponders End.

We continue to see “a ‘tougher than you’ shift to the right over immigration played out by both government and opposition over the past years, each trying to outdo each other … So we get foolish and desperate measures like the immigration vans, and raids at tube stations and other public places by the Border Force based unlawfully on racial profiling.”

Migrants, including many who are here without legal right to remain, play an important part in keeping London running despite government attempts to identify and remove them. Estimates in 2014 were that there were around half a million in the city and without them, “London would grind to a halt. They do mainly the low paid dirty jobs no one else would want for pay that isn’t enough to live properly on in London – often at below the minimum wage because of their immigration status.”

The protests and a petition with over 170,000 signatures failed to have any effect on the heartless Home Office and Yashika was deported. But good news came later. Perhaps because of the huge publicity around her case she was welcomed and supported back in Mauritius and was able to take her exams there. Despite her studies having been interrupted by spells in Yarl’s Wood immigration prison she was able to gain her A levels and go on to university – and keep out of the media limelight.

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika

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Unite Against Racism

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Two years ago today, 27 April 2019, I joined with a large crowd in Southall remembering the murders there of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and Blair Peach, calling for unity against racism.

The march took place on the Saturday after St George’s Day, and marked the 40th anniversary of Blair Peach’s murder by police officers. Several thousand police had packed the town to defend the National Front who were holding a meeting at Southall Town Hall. A large group of the local community and supporters from across London had come to oppose the meeting, and and police rioted and attacked what had been a determined but largely peaceful protest. Wikipedia has a long and well referenced article on the murder from which many of the facts below are taken, though speeches at the 2019 protest also included some eye-witness accounts. Peach was a member of my own union at the time, the NUT, which also made me very aware of the events and was prominent in the fight to see justice.

Blair Peach was in a group of friends who tried to escape the violent police attacks on Southall Broadway and make their way home down a side street, but unfortunately this led nowhere and the police Special Patrol Group drove up in several vans and began attacking the crowd there, who responded with bricks and bottles. Witnesses, including residents on the street say the police were hitting everybody and fourteen saw a police officer hitting Peach on the head.

People obseve a minute of silence where Gurdip Singh Chaggar was killed

Forensic evidence found he had been hit with an illegal weapon, probably a lead-filled cosh or pipe, and searches of the lockers of the SPG unit involved found 26 illegal weapons. None of the witnesses were able to identify the police officer involved – perhaps because one officer had shaved off his moustache and another grew a beard and refused to take part in the identity parades. Many also had their uniforms dry-cleaned before the police investigation inspected them.

Although the police investigation had produced a great deal of evidence against the SPG, the DPP decided it was insufficient to justify a prosecution. The report was kept secret, though parts appeared in the press early in 1980, and the inquest was hampered as the legal team acting for the Peach family were not allowed access to it. The verdict of the inquest, ‘death by misadventure’ was widely considered – even by The Times – to have been inappropriate. The coroner afterwards wrote an article including his comments that some of the civilian witnesses had lied as they were “politically committed to the Socialist Workers Party” of which Peach was a member and that some Sikh witnesses “did not have experience of the English system” to enable them to give reliable evidence but was persuaded not to publish it.

At Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara

The fight to get justice over the murder continued, but none of the officers involved was ever brought to trial. Apparently all left the police force shortly after the investigaton. Peach’s family were awarded £75,000 compensation in a tacit admission of police guilt by the Metropolitan Police in 1988, but requests for a public inquiry were turned down by the Home Office. The SPG was disbanded in 1987, but replaced by a very similar Territorial Support Group. It was only following a member of the TSG killing newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson as he was walking home past the G20 protests at Bank in 2009 that the report of the police investigation into Blair Peach’s death was finally made public.

The 2019 march and rally in Southall convened close to where Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18 year old student, was murdered by racist skinheads in June 1976 as he left the Dominion Cinema and began, at the request of his family with a karate display. It paused for a minute of silence where his was killed before moving on to stop at the Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara which the Chaggar family attend, where prayers were said.

Flowers were handed out which were then laid at the street corner where Blair Peach was murdered before we moved on to a rally outside Southall Town Hall where the National Front held their meeting. Peach’s murder inspired the formation of both the anti-racist grassroots group The Monitoring Group, whose founder and director Suresh Grover introduced the event and of Southall Black Sisters, whose founder Pragna Patel who was one of the speakers, along with other community leaders and anti-racists.

Perhaps surprisingly absent was the local Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, who in 2019 lost a vote of no-cofidence by the local party apparently due to his low attendance at party meetings, slow responses to constituents and failure to campaign over local redevelopment issues. John McDonnell, Labour MP for a neighbouring constituency and then Shadow Chancellor was there from the start of the march and made a powerful speech.

More about the event and many more pictures: Southall rally for unity against racism