Posts Tagged ‘murders’

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.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage


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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.