Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

Extinction Rebellion and more

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Extinction Rebellion (XR) began 11 days of protest which initially brought most of central London traffic to a halt on Monday 15th April 2019. They didn’t manage to keep up the protest until “the government takes necessary action on the global climate and ecological emergency” as we have yet to see that two years later, but they did considerably raise public and media awareness about the severity of the problem the world faces.

Unfortunately there seems to be little chance that effective action will be taken in time to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2015 as they demanded, though perhaps the half-hearted measures that will come out of the delayed climate summit later this year will do just a little to slow the rate our our planet’s decline, possibly enough to see my life out, though I worry about the future of my children and despair for that of my grandsons and daughters.

XR have now very much lost the initiative, mainly I think because of internal dissensions, perhaps inevitable because of some of the rather odd characters that they attracted. But some of their ideas, particularly over the police and arrests cut them off from many on the left who attacked them as a movement funded by shady capitalists and led by wacky idealists, more a Glastonbury festival than a political movement. Much of the criticism was ill-founded but not all.

The major effect they had on our government was for them to put pressure on the police to get rid of these pesky protesters – first by more arrests and prosecutions and now by the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill to give the police greater powers to control all protests.

Early on the Monday morning, XR protesters set up camp at a number of key locations in London in a well-planned exercise. I turned up rather later to take photographs, first at Waterloo Bridge, which XR had turned into a ‘garden bridge’, blocking all traffic and bringing flowers and trees. There had been arrests earlier, but police had been unable to stop the protesters and the bridge – despite many further arrests – remained closed for over a week.

Because of the XR actions traffic all around the centre of London was at a halt, with buses not moving. Fortunately the tube was unaffected and took me to Oxford Circus, which now had a large pink yacht at its centre, named after the Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres, assassinated for her activism in 2016. It was here that I met the dance troupe dressed in red that were such a visible presence in XR protests.

XR were not the only environmental game in town, and I took the Underground to St Paul’s Cathedral for a protest organised by the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, Earth Strike and London Students for Climate Justice. I arrived when there protest was due to start, but there were only a few of them present. I hung around for half an hour or so, and then gave up and left. Later I saw the accounts of their protest which did eventually attract a small crowd and was sorry I’d missed the action.

But there was rather more happening at Marble Arch, one of London’s main gyratory systems, where XR had blocked Oxford St, Park Lane, Edgware Road and a couple of other routes and had set up a stage, workshops and a tent village as well as the road blocks.

But XR had also planned an event for Parliament Square, where the roads around were blocked for a New Orleans funeral procession with jazz band to make its way around the square.

The funeral was perhaps also designed as a diversion for some more direct action, which I again missed at the Shell Centre on the South Bank. A small group of activists daubed slogans across the front of the building and two occupied the glass porch over the door. The activists had deliberately broken the glass in one of the doors, with the intention that this would result in a trial before a jury rather than by magistrates, enabling them to present the reasons for their action, and three had been arrested and taken away by the time I arrived, but the two were still up on the porch and others holding banners on the street in front.

My day had not quite finished as I made a small diversion on my way home to visit Brixton, where staff, families and children from children’s centres were protesting against plans by Lambeth Council to close five centres and make drastic cuts at seven others. The council had recently spent £68 million on refurbishing the Town Hall and building a new Civic Centre.

Save Lambeth Children’s Centres
Extinction Rebellion at Shell
Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession
Extinction Rebellion Marble Arch
Anti-capitalist environmental action
Extinction Rebellion Sea at Oxford Circus
Extinction Rebellion Garden Bridge


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

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.


London, Sat 9th April 2016

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Over a thousand campaigners had come to applaud those who had occupied the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill for 10 days to oppose Lambeth Council’s plans to turn the building into a fee-charging gym run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, leaving just a small unstaffed room with a few books in place of a proper libary. The occupation made national headlines and attracted the support of many leading authors.

After the occupiers emerged to rousing cheers there were some short speeches before campaigners set off to march via another closed library to a rally opposite Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, but I left them at Loughborough Junction to catch a train to my next appointment. The library was miraculously opened on a reduced scale a couple of weeks before the 2018 council elections and in 2020 a lottery grant was given to the Carnegie Community Trust to run the library – an organisation linked to Labour councillors – rather than the community organisation the Friends of Carnegie Library. Security during the 2 years of closure cost the council three times as much as keeping the library open would have done, and the basement excavations for the gym ended up costing Lambeth over four times their original estimate.

In Whitehall around 2,000 protesters blocked the road in front of Downing St calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to resign because of the lack of trust about his financial affairs following the revelations in the Panama papers. Many protesters had come in party mode, with flowered garlands, Panama hats and suitably Central American dress or pig flavoured posters.

The party was still continuing but in a more angy mood when I returned several hours later have covered three other events, although there were fewer protesters. I was pleased to photograph two people in pigs heads – referring to the initiation ceremony Cameron had gone through when a student at Oxford for the “ultra-exclusive, ultra-posh Piers Gaveston Society” (which he later denied) with the placard ‘He’s Got To Go’. Despite the damning revelations of the Panama Papers against the ultra-rich and the offshore finance industry little if anything has changed.

Protesters outside Channel 4 on the Horseferry Road were calling for a ban on the Grand National horse race taking place today. Already 4 horses had been killed following accidents at this year’s meeting at Aintree – and around 46 in the last 15 years.

And at the Polish Embassy in Portland Place several hundred Poles and supporters protested in solidarity with the large protests in Poland against the bill proposed by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) which will outlaw abortion in all cases, protecting the life of the unborn child even where this may cause extreme distress or even death for the mother. They hung wire coathangers – the traditional crude tool of back-street abortionists – on the embassy door and fence. Huge protests continue in Poland where a near-total ban on abortion came into effect in January this year after the Consitutional Court ruled that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

Colombia has a long history of protests and their violent repression, at least since the late 1940s when the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate provoked riots across the country, with a brief period of respite under a ‘National Front’ in the 1950s. But from the 1960s on the country suffered an armed conflict, with the USA encouraging the military to attack leftist groups in the rural areas and the involvement of right-wing paramilitaries and mercenaries for multinational companies in human rights abuses in the fight against guerilla groups such as FARC. Drug cartels have also played an increasing role in the violence since the 1970s.

The government negotiated a peace deal with FARC which was rejected by a referendum later in 2016, but a revised deal was ratified by Congress shortly after. However agreements reached were largely dismantled by a right wing government voted in in 2018 and since then protests and police repression have again risen. Colombia, according to the World Bank, is the seventh most unequal country in the world.

A protest took place in Trafalgar Square on the same day as protests in Colombia against political persecution, calling for an end to paramilitary killings. People want peace, human rights and democracy in Colombia.

More at:
End Killings in Colombia
Party against Cameron
Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland
Stop Grand National horse slaughter
Cameron must go!
March to Save Lambeth’s Libraries
Carnegie Library Occupation Ends


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

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.


A Day Out with Class War

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Lisa McKenzie’s election address in Chingford

Class War had decided to stand candidates in the 2015 General Election, and a handful of people had volunteered to stand under their banner including in three constituences around London. These included Lisa McKensie, then a research fellow at the LSE who was standing against Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith in his Chingford constituency on the north-east border of London. An on Saturday 14th Mar 2015 I went with Class War for the launch in Chingford of her election campaign to give his constiutents a chance to kick out him and the evil policies he represents, which inflict misery on the poor and disabled. Unfortunately few in Chingford seem to care much about the poor or the disabled and although there was an almost 5% swing away from the Tory in the election only 53 votes went to Class War.

Police take away Class War’s election banner

What Class War didn’t have with them for the launch of their campaign in the constituency was their banner showing pictures of their banner stating clearly their opinion of leading politicians, which controversially police had ripped from their hands at a protest earlier in the week because of its large text ‘ALL FUCKING WANKERS’ rather than the disturbing faces of party leaders. Some months later they were directed to return it, but somehow had managed to lose it – I hope Class War were re-imbursed.

Police had turned up in some force at Chingford station to welcome the group of around 20 supporters who had turned up for the launch, and continued to harass the group as it made its way along the street, stopping occasionally for speeches.

A police officer threatens a man with arrest for holding a poster

There were remarkably few people on the streets of Chingford and none of them made complaints about the posters that were being held up, though there were one or two who made ‘V’ signs and shouted obscenities, largely from passing vehicles. But most of the few who walked by either failed to notice the protest or pretended to, with others expressing similar views to Class War of their MP, in seat since 1992.

Lisa puts a leaflet in the door at the Chingford & Woodford Green Conservative Party office

There was a convenient space in front of the Methodist Church for Lisa to give her election address, and there were other speakers, including Class War’s candidate for South Croydon Jon Bigger, all watched intently from across the road by a police officer, though there were now fewer following the event. After the speeches the group wandered back up the road towards the station, with Lisa stopping to put a leaflet through the door of the local Conservative Association office before most of us made our way into a local pub to celebrate the election launch.

After a drink or two we made our way across the road for the train back to central London, with police still following us until the train pulled out of the station. Some of those present including the two candidates were on their way to the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark to show solidarity with occupiers who continue to highlight the shameful treatment of residents whose homes there are being demolished, and I went along with them on what was a rather hilarious journey.

It was a little tricky to get into the estate as Southwark Council had tried to block all the entrances, but fortunately we met some activists who were able to show us a rather lengthy detour to gain access. It did at one stage involve swinging across a small gap, made a little more difficult by the heavy camera bag I was carrying, but eventually we were there and something of a party was taking place. The occupied flat was on the top floor and had splendid views of south London.

I didn’t take many pictures, as undertandably many of the activists did not want to be photographed. It was the kind of curious situation where many were taking pictures on their phones, but I was shouted at for using a camera – though carefully framing so only those who I had permission to photograph have their faces shown.

Much more about an interesting day out on My London Diary:
Class War go to Aylesbury Estate
Class War celebrate Election Launch
Class War Chingford Election Launch


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

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.


2015: Grow Heathrow at Five

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

On 28th February 2015, Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict nursery at Sipson, just north of Heathrow Airport celebrated 5 years with open workshops and a party.

It had been set up as a symbol of community resistance to the economic, ecological and democratic crises and to oppose the increasing development of the aviation industry and Heathrow, at a time when local residents, myself included, were protesting against the building of a “third runway” to the north of the current airport.

Local protests had begun back in 2003, and by the time squatters occupied the long-abandoned market garden victory on the specific issue of the new runway seemed more or less assured. Transition Heathrow’s ‘Grow Heathrow’ had longer term and more far reaching goals, hoping to create more sustainable and resilient Heathrow villages after the dropping of the third runway and more widely to build long-term infrastructure and networks to deal with peak oil and the threat of climate change. On their site they set out to demonstrate how we could live differently, ‘off grid’ and with a different and cooperative lifestyle.

I wasn’t particularly closely involved with Grow Heathrow, though I visited the site a number of times for various events, as well as taking part in the local protests and events at the nearby Greenpeace ‘Airplot’, where I was one of the 91,000 of beneficial owners of a very small area of land. It’s an area I knew from my youth, when I often cycled through Sipson ,Harmondsworth, Longford, Horton and Colnbrook.

Grow Heathrow weathered a number of legal battles to stay in occupation, but were evicted from the front half of the site where most of these celebrations took place two years ago at the end of February 2019 after around 9 years of occupation and growth. I’ve not visited since the eviction but so far as I am aware there are still some residents on the back part of the site – which had a different owner, but visits have not been possible since the start of the pandemic.

The project was an important one and brought together many people from different backgrounds, including local residents and international visitors, some who stayed for months and years. Among those who came to the 5th birthday party to join the celebrations and speak were local MP John McDonnell, Tristram Stuart, a pioneer of the radical food movement with his 2009 book on food waste, anthropology professor David Graeber and activist Ewa Jasiewicz.

Grow Heathrow was an inspiration to many, though some of us were unable to envisage its rather spartan lifestyle for ourselves there were lessons that could be learnt in particular from its involvement with the wider community. Heathrow expansion is back on the agenda today, though it is hard to believe it will go ahead given the growing realisation of the vital importance of the climate crisis. Aviation as we know it is incompatible with the kind of Green future our government now plays lip-service too – and will need putting into action for civilisation to survive.

Many more pictures at Grow Heathrow’s 5th Birthday.


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

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.


6 Years Ago: 24 Sept 2014 Poor Doors

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Six years ago Class War were holding weekly protests outside One Commercial St in Aldgate against the seperate entrances to the building for those in social housing and private residents. The private residents came into a spacious foyer with comfortable furniture and a reception desk with a concierge on the main street, while social housing tenants entered a bleak corridor down a filthy and badly lit alley at the side of the building.

This was the ninth weekly protest and I think the eighth I’d photographed in the series, which continued for around another 20 protests. Although it didn’t succeed in its main aim, the protests did take the issue onto the national agenda, and the alley leading to the poor door was cleaned up, resurfaced and given new lighting.

When the building manager came and escorted one of the residents out through the rich door, one of the protesters standing close to it moved in front of it, preventing it being closed. The manager made the mistake of moving away back towards the reception desk, and the protesters walked in.

They brought their banners in with them, and Ian Bone of Class War began to speak about the protest. The protesters made no attempt to stop residents who walked in or out past them, mostly taking little interest in what was happening.

Some of them were tourists staying a week in flats that are let on Airbnb; other flats in the building are permanently empty or only used for perhaps a week a year from foreign owners who hold them as investments, taking advantage of rising London housing prices to earn a good income when they sell.

Ian Bone had picked up the framed notice from the concierge desk as he spoke, reading out from it and making comments about how differently the rich were treated compared with the poorer residents. The woman who had been at the desk (it has someone on duty 24/7) had retreated with the building manager and was watching from a distance. He replaced the notice carefully beside a vase of flowers on the desk when he finished speaking, and stood beside them.

Later as I was photographing others I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye Ian hook the curved end of his walking stick around the vase, and we all heard the vase shatter as it hit the floor.

A few minutes later a couple of police officers arrived and talked with the protesters and the building manager.

After a few minutes of argument the protesters left the foyer and continued their protest on the pavement outside. There were more speeches, including from a local resident who stopped as he walked past to talk with the campaigners and backed their protest.

More police had arrived, and as the campaigners decided it was time to end the evening’s protest and began to walk away, a woman officer stood in Ian Bone’s way. Other officers came to surround him, and after some talking he was arrested, put in a police van and driven away.

At the police station he was shown CCTV of him pulling the vase from the desk and then admitted he had deliberately broken it. He was made to pay compensation for the broken vase, but no charges were brought against him.

Class War Occupy Rich Door

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.


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

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.

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