Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds – the three protests I photographed in London on Friday 1st August 2014 were all related to world trade – the Atlantic Slave Trade and current devastation caused by mining industry and the diamond trade that funds Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.


Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade – Windrush Square, Brixton

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

On August 1st 1834 the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act came into force, ending slavery across the British Empire. But although the slave owners received compensation of £20 millions the freed slaves got none. They were not even freed, but converted to ‘apprentices’ who were expected to continue to work without wages for up to six years until 1838 and were unable to own land.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The payment to the former slave owners was huge – around 40% of the National Budget of the UK, and the Treasury who took out a loan to enable them to pay it. British tax payers – including many descendants of former slaves – were still paying off the debt until 2015, as a rapidly deleted tweet from the UK Treasury confirmed in February 2018.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The Act abolishing slavery was designed largely to ensure that Britain’s hugely profitable sugar industry based on slavery continued after emancipation, and Britain also continued to import cotton grown by slavery in the southern states of the USA as well as sugar from slave plantations in Brazil and Cuba.

August 1st became widely celebrated as ‘Emancipation Day’ and it was the date chosen by Marcus Garvey to found the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914, and for a meeting six years later in Madison Square Gardens in New York attended by 25,000 of UNIA’s claimed membership of 4 million.

Demands for reparations to be made to the descendants of slaves have so far been met by only token measures, such as the renaming of streets and buildings and official apologies, with some legislation requiring companies to provide information about their involvement in the trade and insurance of slaves.

But since the 1990s there has been a growing movement demanding financial reparations both for slavery, particularly following the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations convened by the Organisation of African Unity and the Nigerian government and held in Abuja, Nigeria in 1993.

In the UK the movement was led by Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham until his death in 2000. Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 expressed “deep sorrow” for Britain’s role in the slave trade, saying it been “profoundly shameful”, though as Wikipedia notes this was criticised as lacking any measures of reparation. A further public apology for London’s role in the slave trade came from then London Mayor Ken Livingstone during the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the 1807 Slave Trade Act.

A case was for compensation was brought against Lloyds of London in 2004, but failed. The same year a Jamaican Rastafari call for European countries, particularly the UK to support the resettlement of 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa in a scheme costed at £72.5 billion was rejected. Other claims have been lodged by in 2007 by Guyana, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.

On 1st August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Garvey’s setting up of the UNIA. a large group of mainly people of African and Afro-Caribbean descent gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton for several hours of speeches, celebration, drumming and dancing before they were to march to Parliament to make their demand for reparations. The march has become an annual event in London, but I had to leave shortly before it began.

Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade


Vedanta told ‘end your killing’ – Lincoln Inn’s Fields

I joined the protest outside the building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where the FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company Vedanta Resources was holding its AGM. Here and at other protests in Zambia and Odisha and Delhi in India.

Vedanta is a huge company which protesters say is “guilty of thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and contentious companies in the world.

Their activities, particularly their attempt to destroy the sacred Nyamgiri mountain in India for its aluminium ore, have led to protests around the world, and an Indian Supreme Court decision that, at least for the moment have halted the mining there.

Another setback for Vedanta was the research by activist group Foil Vedanta into their subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, accused of poisoning thousands and causing ongoing birth deformities by major pollution spills in 2006 and 2010. The research showed the company which was claiming it was making a loss and so unable to pay its fines and tax bill was actually making around $500 million a year.

Labour MP John McDonnell was among those who had become a shareholder to attend the AGM

Vedanta’s problems being made public resulted in a dramatic crash in its share price and the previous December it dropped out of the FTSE100. Billionaire owner Anil Agarwal responded by buying large numbers of the shares and was now said to own over two thirds of the company. But there were other shareholders going into the AGM, including a few activists who had bought a share to entitle them to attend and ask questions.

The activities of these activists, both inside and outside the AGM every year, were eventually were an important part in the decision four years later by Agarwal to make Vedanta a private company.

Vedanta told ‘end your killing’


Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds – De Beers, Piccadilly

Finally I made my way to Piccadilly where pro-Palestinian campaigners were protesting in front of De Beers jewellery shop, calling on people to boycott diamonds cut and polished in Israel.

Although there are no diamonds mined in Israel, according to Wikipedia, almost a quarter of Israel’s total exports come from the sales of diamonds cut and polished in the country and they account for almost one eighth of the total world production.

Israel claims that all these diamonds are covered by the ‘Kimberley Process’ which aims to prevent diamonds mined in conflict areas and sold to finance war and insurgency coming to the market. But campaigners say that this defines blood diamonds too narrowly, enabling Israel’s diamond-cutting industry to avoid attention, and the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, among others, has called for diamonds processed in Israel to be considered conflict diamonds.”

Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds


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Shell Out

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

If we are to survive as a species we need to stop the climate destroyers, companies like Shell who are still pushing fossil fuels. So it wasn’t surprising that Extinction Rebellion had planned a protest at the Shell offices in London.

Also not surprising that as those taking part were intending to be arrested for taking illegal action and causing damage to the property that they didn’t advertise their protest beforehand. I only heard about it a short while after it happened, when a colleague who had been filming it told me what had happened and said it might still be worth a visit.

I do sometimes get advance information on illegal actions – and have at times been asked to cover them for the organisations taking them, but I usually pass up the opportunities. Sometimes it’s because they are taking place at inconvenient times, often early in the mornings. I’m afraid I don’t like getting up early and living a short journey outside London makes me reluctant to cover anything that starts before around 10.30am.

I also like to keep a certain distance between myself and groups of protesters. It’s a matter of objectivity and of editorial independence. I may support the aims of a protest, but as a photographer and a journalist I want to see and photograph it from my own viewpoint. So while I’m happy to cover events when I can, I don’t normally want to be a part of them.

Sometimes groups who approach me would be happy to pay for my services, though more often there isn’t any money involved. I’ve long been a supporter of trade unions and the idea that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and am opposed to my work being used without payment by anyone else who is making money out of it. I don’t actually need the money any more but there are plenty of younger photographers out there who struggle to make a living, and I’d rather any paid job went to one of them.

While I understand that many organisations want to improve the chances of hasing their protest or other event features in publications by providing free high-quality images, this is something I don’t like to support. If an event is newsworthy, then the media should be prepared to pay for decent pictures – otherwise no news photographers can make a living.

I have two simple rules when I’m asked for permission to use any of my images without payment:
Firstly – and this applies also when people approach me offering to pay – do I approve of the way they want to use the image. Some organisations get a straight refusal, though agencies with whom I place most images are less discerning.
Secondly if any organisation wants to use my work without payment my second question is to ask if the organisation has paid staff. If it can afford to pay workers it can also afford to pay photographers like me. It’s a simple test.

There are of course exceptions. One long-established is for the occasional exhibitions I take part in, where images are provided for free use in publicising and reviewing the show. And there is one or perhaps two magazines worldwide I would allow to use my work without payment in the unlikely event they would want to do so. And my work is made freely available to you all to view on my various web sites, particularly My London Diary, London Photographs, Hull Photos and the River Lea, links to which appear at the bottom of most posts on this site, a total of around 200,000 pictures and still growing.

As well as their general role in promoting climate disaster and ecocide, the protest at the London Shell HQ also highlighted their crimes against the people of the countries of the global south in which they operate, particularly in Nigeria where the company has been responsible for the killing of opponents to its activities, including Nigerian writer, television producer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed by the military government there in 1995. 

I arrived far too late to see the activists daubing slogans on the Shell building and deliberately causing criminal damage so that they would be able to demand a trial before a jury, enabling them to argue their justification for the action. But there were still two activists occupying the glass porch above the entrance, as well as a group of supporters protesting on the road outside.

You can see a few more pictures at Extinction Rebellion at Shell. I didn’t stay long as I’d missed the main action and little now seemed ot be happening – and I had another protest to visit on my way home.


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