Posts Tagged ‘murders’

Grenfell 4 Years On – Still No Justice

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Like many I woke up on the morning of 14th June 2017 to the news of a terrible fire that had engulfed a tower block in North Kensington with horrific stories of the death of so many trapped in the building, particularly on its upper floors. It had begun early in the morning after I had gone to bed and switched off my computer and phone, so I hadn’t got the text from an agency asking if I could go there. Clearly by the time I woke up to the morning news the area was swamped by the media and I decided not to add to the pressure on the survivors and the local residents who were traumatised by what they had seen and heard.

I was shocked by the news, but not surprised. It came after years when the government – particularly the coalition, but others too – had been attacking health and safety measures as ‘red tape’ and making cuts to the fire service, particularly in London, that I’d reported on. And after years of attacks by local and national governments on social housing. Though I was shocked to find that the London Fire Service, thanks to cuts made by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, now longer had an appliance to deal with fires in such high-rise buildings and had to call on the neighbouring suburban Surrey Fire Services for one.

I then knew enough about the design of such towers to understand that this fire should not have been possible. If design and building regulations had been followed it should have been confined to the flat were it started and quickly burned out. Instead the videos clearly showed its rapid spread up the outside of the buildings.

It took only a few weeks for the basic facts behind the fire to be discovered, with Architects for Social Housing in particular producing a straightforward account of the many faults, The Truth about Grenfell Tower on July 21st. Their report not only identified the various faults in the type of cladding and in particular its incorrect installation, but also of the lack of proper oversight in large schemes such as this and the culpability of local councillors and officers.

An unnamed senior architect stated at the end of a lengthy comment to ASH,

‘Since PFI was introduced by Thatcher we have a legacy of hundreds, if not thousands, of sub-standard buildings – schools, hospitals, police stations, etc – that the taxpayer is still paying extortionate rents for under the terms of the 30-year lease-back deal that is PFI. This is her legacy of cosy relationships between local authorities, quangos and their chummy contractors. It is a culture of de-regulation, of private profit before public good. Thomas Dan Smith, the Leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 to 1965, went to gaol in 1974 for dodgy dealings with local authorities in property development, albeit from a different motivation; but what the public must demand and get now over the Grenfell Tower fire are criminal convictions, and soon.’

https://architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2017/07/21/the-truth-about-grenfell-tower-a-report-by-architects-for-social-housing/

What should have followed in the next few months was the criminal trial of those responsible, after which there could perhaps have been a public inquiry in particular looking at the lessons to be learnt and the changes in laws required. Instead we got the usual empty rhetoric from politicians and and public inquiry that was set up in September 2017 but only began taking evidence in June 2018. Much of its first phase was concerned with trying to transfer responsibility from the faults of the building and those responsible for it onto the London Fire Brigade, who had acted heroically on the night and managed to rescue many, and in particular to demonises LFB’s Dany Cotton, who shortly afterwards took early retirement.

This report by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, selected by Theresa May to lead the enquiry should and hopefully will be seen as an incredible indictment of our public inquiry system, which seems to exist to push issues into the very long grass and allow the guilty to escape any real judgement allowing them to spend millions on barristers to muddy the waters and save their skins. The firefighters and the survivors don’t have that protection.

The enquiry continues with some startling testimonies from those responsible for the defective refurbishment and councillors and officers as well as from residents. So far these broadly repeat and support the conclusions of the July 2017 ASH report – but it has taken almost 4 years longer. It’s hard to read some of the testimonies and not think that person should be in jail. But the chances of any justice for Grenfell still seem remote.

In the days after the fire I went on several protests and four days later made my way to see for myself and, like others pay my respects to the dead. The pictures with this article are from that visit. Since I’ve returned for some of the monthly silent walks and other protests in the area, though these have been suspended for Covid.


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.


June 10 2018

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

London events I covered that day and some of what I wrote about them on My London Diary. More at the links below.

A protest in Trafalgar Square calls for an end of the violence by the Ortega-Murillo regime in Nicaragua, where since the 19th of April police have killed over 100 protesters and a injured over 600, and there have been many unjustly detained, tortured and raped.

Women wore purple, white and green head scarves to make up three strands of a huge procession in the suffragette colours through London marking 100 years since many British women gained the right to vote.

The 1918 act gave the vote to the first time to all men over 21 and to men like my father over 18 serving in the armed forces, but did not bring in universal suffrage for women. Women had to be over 30 and meet a property requirement. It was another ten years before all women over 21 – including my mother who was by then 23 – could vote.

A large crowd squashed into the street in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy for a rally in support of the oppressed people of Palestine and others around the world.

The event, organised by the Justice for Palestine Committee, is supported by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and a wide range of pro-Palestinian organisations, and was opposed by the Zionist Federation and some right wing hooligans, who were stopped from attacking the peaceful event by a large police presence in the area.

Celebrated in many countries, Al Quds Day, established by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, has been marked in London for over 30 years.

This year’s event was a gesture of defiance to the demonisation campaign and the ongoing murders by Israeli troops of innocent Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip commemorating 70 years since Israel was formed on expropriated Palestinian land.

Police had set up barriers to keep the official Zionist protest around a hundred yards down the road from the Al Quds day event, while others who were football thugs roamed the streets

Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day
Zionists protest against AlQuds Day
100 years of Votes for Women
End government killings in Nicaragua


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.


The lessons of Marikana

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Seven years ago, on August 16th 2012, South African police opened fire on striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine, killing 34 of them.

The mine was owned by London-based mining company Lonmin (better known by its earlier name of Lonrho) one of whose directors at the time was Cyril Ramaphosa, now President of South Africa.  It seems certain that the police action was deliberately planned and had the backing of powerful people in the South African government.

No one has been prosecuted for the murders and the campaigners called for justice and for compensation for the workers families. Lonmin have attempted to evade their responsibilities and the company was sold in May 2019 to South African mining corporation Sibanye-Stillwater for $226 million. This is a company with a terrible safety record – 20 mineworkers were killed in its mines in the first six months of 2018 – and the Lonmin shareholders and London asset management companies, Investec and Majedie are major investors in Sibanye-Stillwater.

Legally the new owners have inherited the liabilities of Lonmin and are responsible for compensation for their crimes at Marikana.

The protest took place outside the South Africa Embassy in Trafalgar Square where for 1408 days and nights the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group staged their non-stop picket for the release of Nelson Mandela, beginning in 1986. That picket was firmly opposed by both the South African government and the Metropolitan Police who harassed it in various ways, attempting to ban it and making 171 arrests.

Today’s commemoration was again opposed by an embassy employee, who came out and told the protesters they had to move, but they took no notice, and after the embassy had closed for the day they decorated its gates and walls with the pictures of the murdered miners and yellow flowers. The police ignored the event.

A number of those taking part had also taken part in that earlier non-stop picket. Although Mandela was released and we have a new South Africa, much of the exploitation that was present in the old continues, though at times with some new masters. But the colonial domination and extraction of African wealth by London-based companies (and those from other wealthy nations) continues – and the Marikana massacre demonstrates that little has changed.

Justice for Marikana – 7 years on


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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Gurdip Singh Chaggar & Blair Peach

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

This wasn’t the first time I’d been to Southall for a rally remembering the murder there of Blair Peach by the police Special Patrol Group in 1979, though I don’t remember if Gurdip Singh Chaggar’s murder was also remembered at those earlier events.

Blair Peach had come to the UK from New Zealand in 1969 and he was roughly my age. He was working as a teacher in the East End, and like me was an active member of the National Union of Teachers, though I didn’t come across him as I was working around 40 miles away and only involved at a local level.

I suspect we went to some of the same protests agains apartheid in South Africa and against racism, but I was not at the Anti-Nazi League demonstration in Southall on the day he was murdered, probably because although it was not far from where I was living, it was a week after Easter Monday and I was probably working and could not have arrived until it was due to finish.

The racist National Front had called a meeting in Southall Town Hall for 7.30pm, and because it was in the run-up to the forthcoming General Election on 3rd May in which the NF had a candidate (he got 1545 votes, 3.0% of the vote) Ealing Council were unable to refuse them the use of the hall, despite a petition from 10,000 local residents.

Several local groups as well as the Anti-Nazi League organised protests across the day, including the Indian Workers’ Association, outside whose offices Gurdip Singh Chaggar, coming home from the Dominion Cinema, had been set upon and murdered by skinheads in June 1976, and Peoples Unite, a largely Afro-Carribean group who along with others had been involved in disturbances which followed Chaggar’s murder.

Although there had been some reports of bricks and bottles being thrown, the real violence began when the police Special Patrol Group decided to raid a squat being used by People’s Unite as a first aid post. Two officers were reported as wounded and the SPG took out vengeance on all those in the house, and Clarence Baker was hit on the head by a police truncheon, fracturing his skull and putting him in a coma for five months.

Police had kept a cordon around the Town Hall, and escorted the fascists in. Once the meeting had begun they decided to clear the area, allowing protesters to move away westwards along Southall Broadway. Peach and a group of friends were leaving, going back to where they had parked, and turned off south down Beachcroft Road. Unfortunately for them, this road stops short, running into Orchard Rd and then going back towards the Broadway. As they approached Orchard Rd they were met by the SPG, who jumped out of their vans and were now rioting out of control and lashing out at everyone on the road. It’s unclear whether the baton wielded by the officer who killed Peach was standard police issue or as some report soemthing rather heavier. Conscious but in obvious difficulties he was taken into a nearby house and an ambulance called, but he died in hospital four hours later.

Today’s protest started close to where Gurdip Singh Chaggar was murdered and the march halted there for a minute’s silence before going on to stop outside the Gurdwara where he and his family worhsipped. Later it took Peach’s route from Broadway down Beechcroft Road and people laid flowers on the corner of Orchard Road where he received the fatal blow, before going on to a rally outside the Town Hall.

More about the protest at Southall rally for unity against racism.



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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

More staged pictures

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

London’s stabbings and shootings have generated headlines in the UK media and earned London Mayor Sadiq Khan highly critical tweets from President Trump, as well as allowing Boris Johnson to make seriously incorrect claims about his own time as Mayor. Most of us feel that the current rise in London’s figures owes more to Tory cuts in social and youth services and police numbers than any actions taken by Khan, who has announced some sensible policies which may help in the longer term based on those that have had some success in Glasgow.

Of course any death on our streets is tragic, whether by knife, gun, car or lorry. And while there were 732 homicides recorded in England and Wales in the year to December 2018 (and another 59 in Scotland), the latest annual statistics for road deaths for Great Britain are almost two and half times this, at 1770.

It’s also worth reminding Trump, that while London’s murder rate is around 1.6 per 100,000, this is only half that of New York and that all of the 30 largest US cities had higher rates – with Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago topping the list at 55.8, 39.8 and 24.1 respectively. Figures like that – up to 50 times as many in London – put our crisis in perspective. London is still relatively a very safe city.

But even those huge figures for some US cities are dwarfed by those in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, listed as world’s most dangerous city (outside war zones) with an annual homicide rate of 187 per 100,000 people. And it was photographs from this city, by Swiss/Italian photographer Michele Crameri that got me thinking and writing today, with an article in Fstoppers, Award-Winning Photojournalist Accused of Faking Photos of Assassins.

Looking at the pictures it seems fairly obvious that they were staged for the photographer, but despite this, they are said to have “won 15 awards, including [Crameri] being recognized as a finalist by Lens Culture’s Visual Storytelling Awards 2019.”

When working in Honduras, Crameri worked with local journalist Orlin Castro as his fixer, and was introduced to a number of hit men working for the local gangs who acted out some scenes of threatening to kill people while the two men were present (with Castro playing one of the victims in one of them.) These were captioned as if these were actual events rather than play-acting.

A harrowing film n Youtube, shot for VICE, Crime Reporting in the Murder Capital: San Pedro Sula Nights, shows Orlin Castro at work as a night-time crime reporter, reporting on the killings in the war between the city’s two most notorious gangs. It’s hard at times to watch, and to read the English sub-titles as Castro talks about some of the stories he has covered. Reporting is a highly dangerous job in Honduras, as the notes on the video comment, with “the Honduran National Human Rights Committee, at least 47 journalists and media executives have been murdered between 2003 and 2014.” Had Crameri been photographing the real thing he might well have ended up as another number on this list.

Although it is difficult to look at Crameri’s pictures and not at least have a powerful suspicion that they were staged, the deception was only brought to light by two other photographers who had also worked with Orlin Castro as their fixer and who raised the issue with them. Castro says that Crameri promised him the pictures would only be for his personal archive and “that he specifically told Crameri not to publish the photograph of him being jokingly threatened with the gun.”

Of course there is nothing wrong with the pictures – though clearly the photographer should have respected Castro’s request, and it’s possible that publishing that image may have placed him in some danger. The others are pictures of hit men, and had the captions clearly stated that they were playing for the photographer rather than actually at work they would have still been a viable part of the project. But lying about them not only invalidates those images, it also puts into question the whole of the project – and indeed the photographer’s other work. If you mislead us about these, why should we believe what you say about your other pictures.

The most valuable thing that any photojournalist or documentary photographer has is his or her integrity. Without it the pictures are just pictures, no longer a witness to the world.