Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

DPAC – Stop & Scrap Universal Credit – 2018

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

DPAC – Stop & Scrap Universal Credit: A couple of days ago the media were carrying news of a report by the Resolution Foundation on the working of the Universal Credit benefit first introduced in 2013. This found that seven in 10 (71%) families on UC were worse off in real terms now than they would have been under the previous benefits, and that out of work people with disabilities were those likely to have lost most.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

Six years ago, DPAC were already pointing this out and on Wednesday 18th April 2018 campaigners from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network), Black Triangle, Winvisible and others began a nationwide day of action against Universal Credit in London with a rally in Old Palace Yard and a protest inside Parliament.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

Security meant I was unable to cover their protest inside the Houses of Parliament but I met those who had been protesting inside when they came out to join those protesting outside and held a rally in Old Palace Yard.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

As that rally ended the campaigners marched into Parliament Square where they blocked the roadway for around half an hour before ending their protest.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

DPAC and others say that Universal Credit has so many flaws it must be scrapped, calling it “an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it“.

Back in 2018 they pointed out it has been particularly disastrous for disabled people. The removal of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums means single disabled people lose around £2,000 per year and a disabled couple over £4,000.

There have been some changes in Universal Credit since 2018, but these have mainly been administrative and have not affected the basic unfairness towards the disabled. The Resolution Foundation report suggests that a single person with a long-term disability which prevents them from working would now be £2,800 per year worse off than under the old benefits system.

Their report suggests overall cost of Universal Credit in 2028 will be about £86bn a year, while under the previous system it would have been £100bn, a saving of £14bn, which is being made to the cost of those disabled and others out of work – the poorest groups in our society. In contrast those working and also claiming UC will be a little better off than under to previous benefits system.

As always police found dealing with disabled protesters difficult. It doesn’t look good to be harassing them in the way they would normally act to protesters, and they have a great problem in making arrests of people in wheel chairs or on mobility vehicles. Apparently the Met have only one vehicle which can safely carry either – and only in limited numbers, perahps one at a time.

More about the protet and more pictures on My London Diary at Stop & Scrap Universal Credit say DPAC.


As well as this protest there was also a large protest in Parliament Square by Kashmiris and Indians from many sections of the community including Tamils, Sikhs, Ravidass, Dalits, Muslims and others against the visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and smaller groups supporting him and his ultra-right Hindu supremacist policies.
Indians protest President Modi’s visit
Hindus support Modi
Save Girl, Educate Girl

And in late afternoon I went to join Environmental group Biofuelwatch holding their ‘Time to Twig’ Masked Ball Forest Flashmob outside the Marylebone hotel where the largest international biomass conference was taking place.
‘Time to Twig’ Masked Ball


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Goodbye and Good Riddance – April 2023

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

Goodbye and Good Riddance – April 2023: Continuing from yesterday’s post some more pictures from 2013, from my albums on Facebook from April 2003.

Goodbye and Good Riddance
Good Friday in Staines. 7 April 2023.
Christians in Staines, as in many other towns and cities across the UK, take part in a Good Friday procession of witness through the town centre. Led by a man carrying a large wooden cross and the Staines Salvation Army Band people from churches in Staines, Ashford and Laleham walked past shops and market stalls to an outdoor service in the Two Rivers Shopping Centre with hymns, prayers, religious songs and a short address. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance
Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition – Friday 14 April 2023
An exhbition in Aysen’s council flat on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark to celebrate 20+ years of housing struggles for housing justice and against gentrification, social cleansing and demolition of social housing. Her flat has been transformed into a living exhibition with flyers, posters, video, audio and installations on housing struggles. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance
Extinction Rebellion’s ‘The Big One’ London, UK. 21 Apr 2023.
On the first day of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘The Big One’ people march past Parliament calling for an end to airport expansion. Air travel is hugely polluting and expansion would make it impossible to meet the targets needed to prevent disastrous global warming and climate change. Peter Marshall
Goodbye and Good Riddance
Care 4 People & Planet, London. 21 April 2023.
On the first day of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘The Big One’, women hold an open speakout opposite Downing St with the banner ‘Care 4 People & Planet – Pay US NOT billionaire polluters”. Women are being targeted by government cuts in mothers and disabled benefits to force them back into employment while they support fossil fuel polluters and other destructive industries. Young people and women have been at the forefront of the movement for climate justice around the world. Peter Marshall
Peoples’ Pickets for ‘The Big One’, London. 21 April 2023.
On the first day of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘The Big One’ people picketed at a number of short protests outside government ministries and other government buildings in central Westminster. Peter Marshall
More From ‘The Big One‘, London. 21 Apr 2023.
Many thousands came to Westminster to take part in the first of 4 days of Extinction Rebellion’s protest demanding the government reverse policies that are fuelling climate change with new coal mines and oil fields and encouraging aviation. The protesters say their corruption has wrecked the economy, education system and our NHS, increased fuel costs and cut living standards while they blame poor families, people of colour, and new immigrants. Peter Marshall
XR Earth Day Unite For Nature March, London. 22 Apri 2023
Many thousands of Extinction Rebellion supporters march from a rally outside Westminster Abbey on Earth Day to honour and respect the natural world and all endangered species. Led in blocks by drummers they stopped at several points to play birdsong loudly on all their phones. So many took part that the silent die-in for species lost and under threat planned for Parliament Square spread from Lambeth Bridge to St James’s Park. Peter Marshall
Extinction Rebellion Procession Against Incinerators, London. 24th April 2023.
A procession sets off from the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ) to march to DEFRA calling for plans to build more waste incinerators to be dropped and existing ones to be closed down. The call for a massive reduction in waste through reuse, recycling and composting and an end to polluting carbon dioxide producing waste burning. The procession included a Stop HS2 elephant, mimes, drummers and a large model incinerator. Peter Marshall
XR End Fossil Fuels March, London. 24 April 2023.
Greenwash Carbon Capture & Storage team. On the final day of XR’s The Big One, several thousands marched from Parliament Square past Downing St and along the Strand, crossing over Waterloo Bridge to end with a protest in front of the Shell Centre. The march demanded no future for fossil fuels. Peter Marshall
Black Lives Matter Protest State Racism, London, 29 April 2023.
The march begins. Black Lives Matter lead a rally and march from Home Office to Whitehall calling for unity and action against the state racist Borders Act, the anti-democratic Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the fascist Public Order Bill. They were joined for the march by Just Stop Oil. Among the speakers were Holly, the partner of Marcus jailed for 2yrs 7months for his protest on the Dartford Crossing, who also sang. Peter Marshall
Iranians Continue Protests For Regime Change, London 29 Apr 2023.
Several thousand Iranians and supporters marched to Whitehall and formed a dense crowd opposite Downing St for a rally in solidarity with protesters in Iran calling for the end of rule by Mullahs. The called for the UK to declare the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC a terrorist organisation. Peter Marshall
Sudanese Call For Peace in Sudan, London 29 Apr 2023
The Sudanese Revolutionary Movement protest opposite Downing St, calls for an end to the war between generals in Khartoum and the genocide in Darfur. The people want peace, democracy and justice in Sudan. Peter Marshall

More pictures from these and other protests in March 2023 in my Facebook Albums.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Climate Justice, Congo & London – 2011

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

Climate Justice, Congo & London – On Saturday 3rd December 2011 there was an Xmas shopping event in the City, normally pretty dead at weekends and Occupy were holding climate justice workshops before joining Campaign Against Climate Change’s annual march. That took me past a protest at Downing Street against the vote-rigging in the recent election in the DRC. I’d taken some pictures earlier as I was going around London and took a few more in the dark later on my way to an event in Acton.


City Xmas Celebrations – Bank

Climate Justice, Congo & London
A live musical box

There was a special Xmas Saturday shopping event in the centre of the City of London which usually closes down for the weekend, but I think it was aimed more at the wealthy 1% than me.

Climate Justice, Congo & London
Santa had come with real reindeer

I wouldn’t normally have gone but it was on my fastest route to St Paul’s Cathedral and it was the first time the City had held such an event. Though unless there were rather more visitors later in the day it would probably be the last. I didn’t feel welcome and didn’t stay long.

More – including reindeer – at City Xmas Celebrations.


Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops – St Paul’s Cathedral steps

Climate Justice, Congo & London

Occupy London was still camping next to St Paul’s Cathedral, having been there since 15th October, and they were holding workshops when I arrived about various aspects of climate justice and campaigning, and preparing banners and posters for the Climate Justice march later in the day.

Climate Justice, Congo & London

They planned to make their way to the start of the march in a ‘Climate Walk of Shame’ around the offices of various climate change villians (‘unsavoury sites of climate criminality’) in the City.

As often with Occupy, the plenary session went on longer than anticipated. Many people wanted to contribute and some at rather greater length than necessary and the walk began rather late.

I’d hoped to be able to go with them, but only went as far as their first stop at one of the banks in St Paul’s Churchyard before I had to leave to make my own more direct way to the start of the march in Blackfriars.

Occupy LSX Climate Justice Workshops


Stand Up For Climate Justice – Blackfriars to Old Palace Yard

Around a thousand people gathered at Blackfriars for the march organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change to a rally opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Climate talks were taking place in the 17th UN conference in Durban, but seemed unlikely to make much progreess as the US were continuing to refuse to accept mandatory limits on carbon emissions. It seemed likely this would prevent any progress on global reductions in emissions, and seemed certain to lead to catastrophic increases in global temperature. Or, as I put it “bluntly, our planet is going to fry.”

While Barbara Boxer the head of the Senate environment committee was pointing out that the US is the world’s largest historic emitter and thus has a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the US right, and the ‘Tea Party’ movement in particular, were still denying the existence of climate change and vehemently opposing any restrictions on the emissions of US industry.

By 2011 there had long been no serious scientific debate about the reality of climate change, though still some controversy about the exact magnitude and the timescales involved. But all informed opinion agreed that urgent action is needed, though the heavily funded fossil fuel lobby was still spreading lies and opposing any action.

Since 2011 things have become even more clear and the effects have become worse than even the more pessimistic scientists then predicted. But still politicians are not taking the urgent actions needed, and limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C now seems impossible.

Among many speakers was John Stewart of HACAN who pointed out that while the richest 7% who cause 50% of the world’s pollution, aircraft use, one of the major sources of emissions, is limited to an even more limited group of the world’s population, with only 5% of the world’s population ever having flown.

More at Stand Up For Climate Justice.


Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging – Downing St

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is both blessed and cursed by its immense mineral resouces, probably the richest of any country in the world, including 80% of the world’s cobalt reserves, and between 65-80% of coltan, the mineral from which tantalum capacitors, vital for mobile phones, games consoles, computers and other electronic devices are made.

Despite this wealth of the DRC, the people remain some of the poorest in the world, and because of these minerals the country is one of the most corrupt in the world. The move towards renewable energy and the increasing need for batteries for electrical vehicles has led to increased geopolitical competition over the DRC’s cobalt resources.

The area has been the subject of various wars and there is still conflict as well as widespread violation of humanitarian and human rights law, including the sexual abuse of women and children.

The Kabila regime has been kept in office by western interests who have now turned a blind eye to the widespread vote-rigging violence and fraud in the elections. The opposition later claimed to have outvoted Kabila with 54% of the vote to his 26%, while Kabila claimed to have won by 49% to 32%.

In 2019, the son of the candidate thee protesters say won the 2011 election became President in the first peaceful transition of power since the DRC became independent but the early years of his presidency were still with governments dominated by supporters of Kabila. In 2021 he was able to form a new government which among other measures has promised to reverse deforestation in the DRC by 2030.

More at Congolese Protest Against Kabila Vote-Rigging.


London Wandering – City and North Acton

I’d taken a few views of London as I walked with the Climate March.

And in the early evening I went to an event in North Acton, walking to the venue from Willesden Junction. There are just a few more on-line at London Wandering.


Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

Friday, October 20th, 2023

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats: Saturday 20th October 2012was a busy day for protests in London with a huge TUC march against austerity with various groups on its fringes and other smaller protests around.


Against Austerity For Climate Justice! – St Paul’s Cathedral

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The climate block of the TUC ‘A Future That Works’ march held a rally on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral before marching to join the main TUC march.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The block was joined people from Occupy London and UK Uncut who made up a ‘No cuts, no tax-dodging’ block.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

The main banner called for a ‘Massive Shift’ to invest in jobs and renewable energy and there were other banners, flags and placards with the Uncut logo calling for an end to tax evasion and tax avoidance.

Climate, Malala, TUC, Workfare & Tax Cheats

I left them as they began to make their way to join the main TUC march, hurrying to Downing Street for an unconnected protest.

More pictures: Against Austerity For Climate Justice!


Edequal Stands with Malala – Downing St

Members of the Edequal Foundation, an educational charity founded by Shahzad Ali and based in north London which supports teachers and students demonstrated in a show of support for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban because of her campaigning for education for women.

She began her campaign in 2009 by writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC about life under Taliban control and was later filmed by the New York Times. She became well-known for these and other interviews and in 2011 was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Rev Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.


Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban while returning by bus from an exam on 9th October 2012 and this made her the centre of international attention and support. After treatment in Pakistan she was transferred to hospital in Birmingham and after recovering settled there continuing her campaigning. She has since received other awards, becoming the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17.

Edequal Stands with Malala


A Future That Works TUC March – Westminster

The TUC march for ‘A Future That Works’ against austerity was impressively large with a reported 150,000 people taking part.

I’d gone to photograph the marchers going past Parliament and up Whitehall to Traflagar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I’d begun taking pictures about half an hour after the front of the march had passed, and two hours later people were still passing me in a dense mass, waving flags and carrying banners.

Most had come with trade union groups and there were many fine union banners, but there were also others taking part. Police generally stood well back and the march with just a few trade union stewards proceeded peacefully along the route.

Quite a few stopped for some minutes outside Downing Street to shout noisily in the direction of No 10, though I think Prime Minister David Cameron was miles away. Certainly the march had no effect on his policies.

There were a few police here and at other key points, but one group on the march got special attention, with a line of officers in blue caps walking in line on each side of around 200 black-clad anarchists. Earlier I had seen one small group of anarchists being chased by a police FIT team who called in other police to surround them while they attempted to take their photographs.

Many more pictures at A Future That Works TUC March.


Against Workfare and Tax Cheats – Oxford St

Boycott Workfare were “a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare.” They say that “Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.”

Their campaign was supported by a wide range of organisations including a number of trade union branches and several hundred people turned up on Oxford Street for their protest, including a number dressed in black and masked with scarves or wearing ‘Anonymous’ masks.

They marched to protest at shops and businesses in the area which are taking part in workfare schemes which many of those unemployed had to work without pay or lose their benefits. Many of the shops closed as the protest went part and the protesters briefly occupied others.

Although this had been planned as a ‘a fun and family-friendly action’ and was led by a samba band, while it started peacefully a number of scuffles broke out when police tried to stop or arrest those taking part, and by the time it ended many on both sides were clearly angry.

There was a nasty moment after the protesters had crowded inside a hotel which uses people on workfare on Great Marlborough Street. They made some noise but there was no damage and they would almost certainly have moved on after a few minutes as there were other places to visit. Police entered and tried to forcibly push the protesters out, while police outside were preventing them from leaving. I fortunately avoided injury when pushed down the stairs by police.

From there they returned to Oxford Street and tried to rush into a number of shops known to be using workfare and some also known to be avoiding payment of huge amounts of UK tax. Some got their shutters down and police managed to get to others and block the entrance before the protesters arrived – doing the protesters job for them in closing the shop.

The Salvation Army, one of a number of charities involved in the scheme got a kid glove treatment – with just two protesters standing in the doorway and making short speeches before the protest moved on.

At Marble Arch the protester turned around to march back up towards Oxford Circus, and police tried to put a cordon across the street to stop them. But the gaps between officers were too large and most protesters simply walked through the gaps when officers grabbed one of two of them. Some of the police clearly lost their tempers and many protesters were shouting at them to calm down.

One officer who had tackled a protester was apparently injured and a group of police grabbed a protester and pushed him roughly down on the pavement in front of a shop. As I reported:

While several police forcefully pushed him to the ground, others stood around them. They seemed to see their main purpose as preventing photographers and others from seeing what was happening, with one woman officer in particular following my every move to block my view, while I could hear the protester on the ground shouting that he was not resisting and asking why they kept on hurting him. From the brief glimpses I got as police attempted to prevent me seeing what was happening they appeared to be using entirely unnecessary force.

The protest was continuing but I’d seen enough and taken as many pictures as I could over the day and it was time to go home.

More at Against Workfare and Tax Cheats.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival – 2015

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Access to Work & Harvest Festival: On Saturday 26th September 2015 I was pulled in two directions, wanting to attend both a protest for disabled people in Westminster and the harvest festival at Grow Heathrow in Sipson on the western edge of London. In the end I managed to get to both, leaving the first early and arriving a little late at the second, going more or less to the end of the Piccadilly line at Heathrow Central and then catching a bus.


Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest – Westminster

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

The Access to Work scheme was set up in 1994 to provide disabled people with funding to pay for extra disability-related expenses which enable them to work, including travel, support workers and specialised equipment. It was a significant milestone in equality for the deaf and disabled in the UK, and at the end of the Labour government in 2010 was supporting almost 28,000 people. Under Tory cuts this number had been reduced by 15% to around 22,000 with many applications being refused by the DWP.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

In 2015 the government put a cap on the amount which could be claimed annually by those on the scheme of around £42,000, applying immediately to new claimants and in a couple of years to those already part of the scheme.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

According to the protesters the cuts would not only prevent many currently supported by the AtW scheme to be able to continue their jobs but would also would lose the government revenue as the current scheme brings in £1.48 for every pound invested.

Access to Work & Harvest Festival

Many of those taking part in the protest were disabled people on the AtW scheme who fear they will be unable to continue in their careers if the cuts are implemented, including many deaf people. Many signed with their hands as I photographed them, and the hand, a symbol for British Sign Language was prominent on some of the banners and on at least one face.

The campaigners met in Old Palace Yard and then assembled to march through Parliament Square and a short distance up Victoria Street and then past the Department of Work and Pensions in Caxton House and on to a rally opposite Downing Street.

I left as the rally there was about to start to take the District line and then the Piccadilly to Heathrow Central from where I could catch a 111 bus to Sipson.

More at Deaf & Disabled Access to Work protest.


Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival – Sipson

Grow Heathrow which had occupied an abandoned and overgrown nursery in Sipson in 2010 were holding a harvest festival to celebrate another year’s harvest there with ‘music, pumpkins and pizza’ as well as holding an open ‘No Third Runway!’ discussion. which I was keen to attend and take part in.

The discussion was already underway when I arrived a little out of breath after running the short distance from the bus stop, but I was able to ask several questions and make some comments as well as taking pictures. With John Stewart and other campaigners including Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion and Sheila Menon of Plane Stupid taking part it was an interesting discussion, and if fairly small the group taking part was certainly a select one.

As I commented then, “Whatever decision the current government take over the curiously defective considerations of the Davies committee (and I think we may well see some very long grass coming into play) it seems to me unlikely that Heathrow expansion will be deliverable.”

The commision had been set up in order to approve Heathrow expansion and it became official government policy in October 2016. It was supported by a parliamentary vote in 2018, but an application for judicial review by environmental groups, the Mayor of London and local councils ruled the decision unlawful as it had failed to to the government’s commitments to combat climate change into account. The government accepted the court’s decision, but Heathrow appealed to the Supreme Court who overruled this decision.

Although this theoretically allowed the expansion to go ahead, it currently seems unlikely to do so, with increasing environmental concerns, changes in forecasts of future air traffic, increasing costs and also increasing capacity at other UK airports almost certainly make it no longer viable.

After the discussion I took the opportunity to walk around the site to see what had changed since my last visit, and take more pictures. The case for eviction of Grow Heathrow had been recently adjourned until Summer 2016. Half the site was lost by an eviction in early 2019 but the site was only finally evicted in March 2021.

More at Grow Heathrow celebrates Harvest Festival.


Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament – 2013

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament: On Thursday 12th September 2013 Campaign Against Arms Trade brought their protests against the DSEi arms fair then taking place in East London to Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

Their protest and die-in opposite Parliament was much more visible than those out in the fairly deserted streets of East London where the arms fair takes place at the ExCel Centre on the north side of the Royal Victoria Dock.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

There the protest is directed against those taking part in the arms fair, both the exhibitors who are coming to sell their deadly weapons and those arriving to view and buy them.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

They came to Westminster as MPs were arriving to take part in a debate on the role of United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI), including its controversial Defence & Security Organisation (DSO), the government’s arms sales promotion unit.

Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament

The DSO sends out official invitations to the arms fair to 67 countries including many of the worlds most repressive regimes. Those on the invitation list included Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Libya, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Arms sold at the arms fair in East London would inevitably fuel the civil war taking place in Syria and other armed conflicts around the world. The was in Yemen began the year following this arms fair, and Saudi Arabia has used weapons bought in East London in its fight against the Houthis there.

Also taking part in the protest were a number of campaigners from Bahrain where weapons sold at DSEi in Newham have been used to repress internal dissent.

Among the MPs who visited the highly visual protest was Jeremy Corbyn who stopped to speak briefly on his way to take part in the Parliamentary debate. He praised the protesters for their protests today and for their continuing events to stop the DSEi arms fair.

More pictures at Arms Trade Die-In at Parliament.


National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018
Campaigners spell out ‘stopuniversalcredit’ in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall; the ‘#’ was delaying security

Thursday 24th May 2018 was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions. The pictures come from these events.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Back in 2010 when the idea of Universal Credit was announced by Iain Duncan Smith it was true that the UK’s benefits system was something of a muddle, and the aim of producing a simpler system which brought six existing benefits together was probably laudable. But its implementation has been a disaster for many.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

Those six benefits had each been introduced to deal with particular needs, and though not perfect they more or less worked. Trying to fit everything into a single system has proved to be far more difficult, and many of the decisions made about how the system might work failed to take into account the circumstances in which those on low incomes actually live and the lack of supporting resources the wealthier take for granted, such as friends and family with money and bank accounts with savings.

National Day of Action against Universal Credit 2018

When announced, Iain Duncan Smith promised it would make the social security system fairer to claimants and taxpayers, but as it came into being it became clear that the main objective was to cut the cost to taxpayers and to provide what is effectively a handout to companies and organisations which employ workers on low rates of pay.

The plans for introducing UC hugely underestimated the complexities of the system, particularly as it applies to the the most precarious of workers, many of whom are now employed on zero hours contracts with no guaranteed weekly hours of work. There were huge problems with computer systems partly because of the complexity but also because of a failure to understand the problems and to properly specify what was needed.

The real motivation behind UC was made clear in 2015 when George Osborne announced a future £3.2 billion a year cut to the overall Universal Credit budget, reducing work allowances and reducing and limiting the per-child element of support. These cuts were later partly reversed by Philip Hammond.

The transition from the legacy benefits to UC has been extremely hard for many, particularly as some have had a period of up to 13 weeks before receiving their first payment under UC. Food banks have been put under great strain because of this and benefit sanctions. 60% of tenants put onto UC have been forced into arrears on their rents and many have faced eviction.Some have become desperate enough to take their own lives.

Wikipedia quotes a report that in 2018 a million working “homeowners now getting tax credits will have less with the new system and lose on average £43 a week. 600,000 working single parents will lose on average £16 per week and roughly 750,000 households on disability benefits will lose on average £75 per week. Nearly 2 in 5 households receiving benefits will be on average worse off by £52 per week.”

Universal Credit has become a mess and various small changes the successive governments have been forced into making have hardly improved it. There are some measures which could be taken to improve the situation. Large increases in the minimum wage with the aim of moving to a situation where those in work would be adequately paid and not need UC would help. Changes in employment law including the replacement of zero hours contracts by a fair flexible contract system would also make a contribution. But almost certainly the best solution would be to move to a universal basic wage.

Thursday 24th May was the Unite National Day of Action against Universal Credit and I photographed two of the events in London for this, a protest by a group of campaigners from Camden Unite Community at Tate Modern and a rally outside Parliament which was followed by a march to protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions.

More details on the protests on Thursday 24th May 2018 by campaigners at Tate Modern, the rally outside Parliament and march to protest outside the DWP on My London Diary.

Universal Credit rally & march
Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern

March 8th – Women Strike And Protest

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

March 8th – Women Strike And Protest. Last year on International Women’s Day I published a long post, International Women’s Day Marches with images from my coverage of them from 2002 until 2020. This year I look back five years to Thursday 8th March 2018 when I covered a wide range of protests, most of which were linked to International Women’s Day


Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy – US Embassy, Nine Elms

This was the first protest outside the new US Embassy where they intend to continue the regular monthly protests which they have had outside the old embassy in Grosvenor Square since 2007 until the illegal and immoral US prison camp is shut down and all the prisoners released.

Normally these protests take place on the first Thursday of every month, but in March 2018 the protest scheduled for March 1st was postponed for a week because of snow. Because of the change of date some regular protesters were unable to attend and the protest started a little later than usual as some had problems finding the new location. This was the only event not connected with International Women’s Day I covered on the day.

In March 2018, 41 prisoners remained held at Guantanamo. There was no evidence against most of those held and tortured there that would stand up in any court of law, often simply a matter of suspicion or hearsay or desperate statements made under extreme torture. Many were simply foreigners in the region seized to gain cash rewards from the US forces.

Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy


Family Courts put on Trial – Old Palace Yard

March 8th - Women Strike And Protest

Global Women’s Strike had organised a mock trial of the UK Family Courts in an International Women’s Day protest in front of Parliament.

March 8th - Women Strike And Protest

Among those who spoke were mothers whose children had been unjustly taken away, and statements from others were also read out, along with some shocking comments made in court by judges.

The UK has the highest rate of adoptions in Europe, almost all without consent of their birth family. Families of colour, immigrants and disabled are all disproportionately affected and in some working class areas 50% of children are referred to social services.

Poverty, often the result of benefit cuts and sanctions and poor housing conditions especially in temporary accommodation is often mistaken for neglect and the help mandated under the 1989 Childrens Act is seldom available. Children are often simply taken into care and then put up for adoption even though they have mothers or grandmothers who are capable of good parenting and only need support.

The campaigners say that victims of domestic abuse are often accused of ‘failing to protect’ their children and vague charges such as putting children at risk of future emotional harm and neglect are used by the secret courts to remove children from mothers and grandmothers. They want hearings with proper public scrutiny and an end to the gagging of mothers and familys, a great use of kinship carers and the proper implementation of the 1989 Children Act, and the Care Act 2014 which entitles disabled mothers to extra help.

Parliamentary officer Black Rod sent police to try to shut down the protest, but the organisers showed them documents to say they had permission for the protest and to use a megaphone. They seemed puzzled but left.

Family Courts put on Trial


London Women’s Strike – Russell Square

This was the big event of the day and included speeches about a wide range of causes. As the organisers said the “Women’s Strike is a strike for solidarity between women – women of colour, indigenous, working class, disabled, migrant, Muslim, lesbian, queer and trans women” and “is about realising the power we already hold – activating and nourishing resistance.

Many of the women present went on to other protests elsewhere including several protests in support of cleaners at the TopShop and The Royal Opera in Covent Garden, and cinema workers at Picturehouse, calling for an end to immigration detention an in solidarity with the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers, for Unilever to withdraw its investment in Myanmar where its presence supports a government that has brutally raped, tortured and killed many Rohingya, and supporting sex workers by calling for the decriminalisation of prostitution and I also went to cover some of these

Much more about this event on My London Diary: London Women’s Strike.


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

At the Home Office protesters showed solidarity with those held in Yarl’s Wood on International Women’s Day, in particular with those who had began a hunger strike 15 days ago against their imprisonment and the conditions and treatment by the detention centre staff and the Home Office.

Since then the strike has gathered momentum and escalated into an all-out strike: work strikes, occupations, and a general refusal to cooperate, and long lists of the detainees demands have been published by Detained Voices.

More at Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood.


Reinstate the Royal Opera House 6 – Royal Opera, Covent Garden

Six members of grassroots independent workers union CAIWU were fired by cleaning services company Kier for their jobs at the Royal Opera House, another disciplined and a sixth was on final written warning. They were clearly being victimised folloing successful trade union action which had forced Kier to pay its workers there the London Living Wage.

The large and loud action with union members augmented by women from the Women’s Strike blocked Drury Lane for some minutes. Police arrived, talked to the protesters and then went inside to talk to the managers inside before emerging, carefully removing poster and fliers the protesters had left on their car before driving off. The protesters later moved back into Covent Garden Market leaving the road free.

More at Reinstate the Royal Opera House 6.


& Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide – Unilever House

Women from the Women’s Strike called on Unilever to disinvest from Myanmar where they have a $667 million investment.

The military government there are committing systematic rape and other torture with total impunity as part of their genocide against the Rohingya people. Unilever claims, especially in its marketing for Dove products to respect the dignity and rights of women and girls and says it “aims to improve safety for women and girls in the communities where they operate.”

More at Unilever & Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide.


Human Chain Around Parliament – Free Assange!

Friday, October 14th, 2022

Last Saturday, 8th October 2022, I photographed a protest in London against the imprisonment and possible extradition of Julian Assange, currrently held in the UK’s maximum security jail at Belmarsh.

Human Chain Around Parliament - Free Assange!

Assange’s “crime” was to publish documents about US war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and elswhere, making documents downloaded by Chelsea Manning, making them available after suitable redaction to protect the individuals concerned to the world’s press and to the public on WikiLeaks. Wikipedia has a good and fairly detailed entry on him which most of the details here come from.

Human Chain Around Parliament - Free Assange!

If extradited to the US he would be put on trial in a area where the jury would be composed of people from an area with strong connections to the US security services who will already have pre-judged him as guilty. His sentence is likely to amount to 175 years in a US maximum security jail, probably in isolation and never to be freed.

Human Chain Around Parliament - Free Assange!

In 2010 Sweden issued an extradition warrant for him on allegations of sexual misconduct, which were widely seen as a pretext to enable him to be extradited from Sweden to face criminal charges in the USA. When in 2012 he lost his fight against extradition to Sweden he jumped bail to take refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he lived in highly restricted accomodation until 2019.

A new government in Ecuador decided to end his asylum in the embassy and invited police in to arrest him in April 2019; he was then sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail. The Swedish sexual charges against him were dropped later in the year, but the USA immediately began proceedings to extradite him to face trial under the US 1917 Espionage Act.

The decision to use this Act has been widely criticised in the press and elsewhere as being an attack on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees press freedom. And if Assange is guilty then it seems clear that the editors of the newspapers that published the revelations he made in publising the Baghdad airstrike Collateral Murder video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs and other material could also be prosecuted. Even my publishing the link to the video could be a crime.

Assange’s sentence was completed in September 2019, but he was kept in jail because of the US extradition claim. He had been visited earlier by Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, who, as quoted on Wikipedia found “in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

After a protracted hearing including much medical evidence, a judge on 4 January 2021 ruled that Assange could not be extradited to the USA on grounds of mental health and the suicide risk in a US prison cell. The USA appealed the decision, and Assange remained in jail. The High Court rejected much of the medical evidence, believed the US lies of fair treatment made and found in favour of the USA on 10 December 2021.

In April his extradition was formally approved in court and referred to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who approved it in June. But the legal battle continues with a new appeal. Essentially Assange has now been locked up for 10 years. Wikileaks has continued his work in releasing information in his absence. The continuing persecution by both the UK and USA for revealing their war crimes seems spiteful and malicious.

On Saturday 8th October I photographed a protest in London by around 10,000 people who formed a human chain calling for Assange to be freed and not to be extradited around the Houses of Parliament, crossing the river on Westminster Bridge and returning across Lambeth Bridge, a distance of a little over two kilometres.

It’s difficult to know how many took part, but there seemed to be enough people to join hands, with quite a few to spare in some parts where people were shoulder to shoulder and some to spare. The organisers had thought they would need around 5,000 so I think it was probably rather more than that; estimates I’ve seen range from 3,000 to 12,000. But as well as those present in person, many unable to get to Londonwere represented by yellow sashes with their names on them.

When I arrived people were tying these to the railings around the Houses of Parliament, but police came to remove them, handing them back to the protesters. They said nothing was allowed to be fixed to the railings. Many of the protesters held or wore the sashes for the protest, and although I don’t often take part in the protests I’m photographing, most of these pictures were taken by me with a sash reading ‘#Free Assange Monique Dits Belgium‘ around my neck.

At around 1.30, rather later than planned people were told to link hands and they chanted ‘Free Assange’ and other slogans for a few minutes. I’d chosen to be on Lambeth Bridge for this as I could then take photographs with the Houses of Parliament seen across the Thames in the backgound.

After taking some there I made my way along the rest of the chain back to Parliament, on my way passing John McDonnell being interviewed by a videographer. Normally I would have stopped to talk to him, but by now I was rather tired, still suffering a little from my booster jab the previous day and I carried on, past a small crowd of people with video and still cameras three or four deep around Jeremy Corbyn. But I’d decided he wasn’t really the story and carried on. I’ve photographed him enough times over the many years I’ve known him.

You can see more of the pictures I made in the album Human Chain Around Parliament Says Free Assange.


Funeral for Cyclists, Against Islamophobia, Iranian Repression

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

London, Saturday 13th October 2018


National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist

I’ve been a cyclist since my sixth birthday, when my parents bought me a second-hand two wheeler to replace the trikes I’d been on since before I could walk. By the end of the day I could ride it, if rather unsteadily, along the pavement of our street.

The bicycle gave kids like me a new freedom, and within a couple of years I was riding miles either on my own or with a couple of mates to play both in local parks and green spaces and further afield. We cycled away from our dusty streets into the countryside, often going along some of the busiest roads in the country, the A30, A4 and A3 out west from our grey suburbs.

We didn’t think much about safety back then, and though traffic was heavy, vehicles were smaller and speeds were lower. Drivers were I think more considerate back then, and almost all will have been cyclists before getting behind the wheel. So I survived, though there were a few close shaves, later mainly thanks to teenage stupidity.

Over seventy years later I still ride a bike, though with rather larger wheels, and usually just to the local shops, but I feel less safe on the roads. I’ve been knocked off it a couple of times in the past twenty years or so, both times by drivers who were extremely apologetic and confessed they hadn’t seen me as they drove out onto a main road or came up behind me on a roundabout. I was lucky and only sustained minor cuts and bruises and the motorists paid for the repairs to my bike.

During the first Covid lockdown the roads were almost empty and I went out each weekday morning for a ten-mile ride to keep fit. But then traffic began to come back and the fumes and too many close passes put me off the roads again.

In the past few years we seem to have come out of the long era where cyclists were almost completely disregarded in terms of traffic planning (and pedestrians too) but still we are largely failing to get the kind of separate provision to make cycling more safe that we see in some European countries.

Some councils are still dementedly anti-cyclist, and too many drivers see cyclists as an impediment to their progress rather than as fellow road-users. Some still accelerate past me then cut in across me to turn left at junctions, some pass where there is clearly not enough room to do so safely and some even shout insults as the drive past.

Cycling is good for individual health and for the health system as a whole, though less than it should be because of the pollution from traffic. By reducing car journeys it is good for the environment too, and good for motorists as people switching to bikes cuts congestion in cities. As a country we should be spending far more to encourage it and make it safer. In particular that means more separate provision – fears over safety when bikes are on busy roads is one of the main things that stops many getting on bike, but also driver education and improvements in vehicle and road design.

Among those at the protest were a number of families whose members had been killed on our roads, including some from Tony Spink’s family. He was killed cycling through Wakefield city centre by a lorry driver who didn’t stop, dragging him under his lorry as he hung onto the windscreen wipers and thumped on the side of the truck. His mangled bike was pulled from the lorry by the driver at a layby and then dumped in bushes miles away. The driver was jailed for two years. This was an extreme case but the sentence seemed risibly short, as are many of the sentences given to drivers who kill both cyclists and pedestrians.

Protests by Stop Killing Cyclists such as this National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist have publicised the problem and the organisation lobbies for £3 billion a year to be invested in a national protected cycling network and for urgent action to reduce the toxic air pollution from diesel and petrol vehicles which kills tens of thousands of people every year, and disables hundreds of thousands.

Several hundred protesters on bicycles met in Lincolns Inn Fields before riding in a funeral procession behind a horse-drawn hearse to Westminster where instead of following the route the police wanted across Westminster Bridge they turned into Parliament Square and staged a 10 minute die-in before proceeding to a rally in Smith Square.

National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist


Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA – Parliament St

I left the National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist as it went on to Smith Square and walked up Parliament Street to a rally opposing the racist, Islamophobic Democratic Football Lads Alliance who were ending their march with a rally at Downing St.

Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism had organise a rally here, but the DFLA marchers had not arrived at the expected time. Far fewer than expected had turned up for their march, and it had been blocked for some time by more militant anti-fascist protesters on the route.

Some of the DFLA had given up and gone to pubs along the route, but a few had walked across St James’s Park to Parliament Square from where they shouted for a while at the SUTR/UAF protest as police stopped them from getting closer, and after a while persuaded them to move away. The number who finally arrived for their rally was rather small and it didn’t seem worthwhile to take a long walk around the police barricade to try to photograph them.

Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA


Ahwazi protest Iranian repression – Parliament Square

Instead I went back to Parliament Square where I met Ahwazi protesters marching into the square carrying Ahwaz independence flags. They protested noisily facing the Houses of Parliament calling for Iran to end the repression of their people and to get out of their land.

Al Ahwaz, the oil-rich northern side of the Persian Gulf was under British control until 1925, with the population enjoying considerable autonomy as Arabistan. The emirate was dissolved by the Persian regime following a rebellion in 1924 and the area occupied by Persian troops, and a process of ‘Persianisation’ imposed on the area, attempting to destroy its Arab culture. They renamed the area Khuzestan.

Discrimination against the Ahwazi increased under the Islamic Regime, impoverishing the area which contains much of Iran’s natural resources and there has been widespread civil unrest since 2015, with massive protests in April 2018 on the anniversary of the 2011 Ahwaz Day of Rage, itself an anniversary of the 2005 unrest. In September 2018 militants from the
Ahwaz National Resistance attacked an Iranian Revolutionary Guard parade in the city of Ahvaz, killing 25 soldiers and civilians.

Ahwazi protest Iranian repression