Posts Tagged ‘parliament square’

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


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Photographing Police & Policing Protest – 2009

Friday, February 16th, 2024

Photographing Police & Policing Protest: On Monday 16th February 2009 I photographed two protests, one against a new law on photographing police and the second which made me question how the police were policing protests. Fifteen years later we have seen a number of laws which severely restrict the right to protest and draconian new proposals to outlaw many more of the activities which help bring protests to public attention.


Media Protest at Terror Law – New Scotland Yard

Photographing Police & Policing Protest

Around 400 people, mainly photographers, had turned up to protest outside New Scotland Yard, then still on Victoria Street, Westminster, on the day that Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act came into force.

This makes it an offence to photograph members of the police, armed forces or security services, or at least to do so if the photographs are “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism“.

Photographing Police & Policing Protest

The vagueness of this statement is a a symptom of the failure of our parliament over recent years to properly scrutinise new legislation, and journalists and others have protested that it could seriously inhibit the freedom of the press as well as the normal liberties of all citizens. The Metropolitan Police Federation agreed, believing the law is unworkable and could well inhibit the freedom of the press.

Photographing Police & Policing Protest

Photographers saw it as yet another law which increases the climate of fear felt by anyone using a camera on the public streets. Many of us have experienced questioning by the police when working; photographers have already been detained and searched under existing anti-terrorist laws and other acts when covering demonstrations, travelling close to airports or even photographing weddings.

Photographing Police & Policing Protest
Mark Thomas speaking

Many of London’s leading press photographers turned up to this ‘media event’ organised to highlight the dangers to our freedom of expression and action this new law presents. Most of them wore badges or stickers proclaiming “I’m a photographer… not a terrrorist“, the name of the campaign group set up by photographers.

PHNAT’s founding description was “Photography is under attack. Across the country anyone with a camera is targeted as a potential terrorist. This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery press freedom.” It was set up by a small group of London-based photographers and videographers who covered political protest including myself and colleagues in the NUJ and grew rapidly.

For once this was a protest which gained wide publicity even on the BBC and newspapers which generally ignore UK protests. It was of course covered in the photographic press too, though at the time I found the quality of the photographs of the event in some of them rather lacking.

More pictures on My London Diary – Media Protest at Terror Law.


Protest at Silence over Congo Genocide – Westminster

Police at the photographers’ protest had been friendly and for once I think they didn’t even bother to photograph us, though doubtless the whole area was covered by a number of CCTV cameras. But there was a very different atmosphere around the policing of this second event I photographed.

It was a fairly small protest, with perhaps 50 people in a march organised by International Congolese Rights against the continuing violence in the DRC, marching slowly down Victoria Street to Parliament Square.

They marched slowly, at a funereal pace in memory of those killed in Congo in the fighting since 1996. The marchers were continually harassed by police to go faster, but refused to do so. There were probably more police than marchers and the march was accompanied by five police vehicles, one in front of the marchers a surveillance vehicle with loudspeakers and continually filming the march.

When the march reached Parliament Square, the marchers were ushered into a pen of barriers on the side of the square facing Westminster Abbey and St Margarets, although clearly they intended to demonstrate to Parliament rather than the Church of England and surely should have been allowed to protest at the front of the square. One of their representatives was still arguing with police about this when I left.

Here is what I wrote in 2009 about the Congo and the reasons behind this protest:

Capitalism at its rawest is fighting for the mineral wealth of the country – particularly coltan, an ore containing niobium and tantalum, essential for mobile phones and other electronic devices, of which the Congo has 80% of known world reserves and cobalt – of which it is the world’s largest producer – but also diamonds, copper, and gold.

Competing interests trying to grab these riches have led to over 6 million people being killed in the Congo, and unimaginable atrocities against the people there – some of which were shown in the pictures that some of the demonstrators carried.

The Congo is a corrupt police state ruled by Laurent Kabila, with large areas occupied by forces backed by neighbouring states and criminal syndicates, including the Rwandan army. Rwanda, under President Paul Kagame has supported the National Council for the Defense of the People loyal to former General Laurent Nkunda. The UK government is accused of supporting Rwanda.

Protest at Silence over Congo Genocide


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Gaza March in London 3rd Feb 2024

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Gaza March in London – Another huge march through central London called for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli genocide against Palestinians.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024

I didn’t hear any news reports of the march, and over the past few days other events have largely pushed reporting over the continuing genocide to the edges of coverage.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

If anything the deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza appears to have increased since the ICJ ruling calling on Israel to do all it can to prevent genocide in the area.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Israel is still keeping international journalists out of Gaza and feeding the world’s press with misleading information. The BBC have some good reporters but they cannot work in Gaza. They have had interviews with some families and doctors in Gaza – some now killed. Papers such as The Guardian also carry reports from people in Gaza – such as Mondays Gaza diary part 44: ‘The angel of death is roaming the skies, nonstop’. But to get real information about what is actually happening on the ground you need to also go to alternative news sources.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of those is Double Down News, who say “Far too many Journalists sit comfortably trapped in their own bubble of privilege and power, talking to each other and the so-called political class, rather than serving the people they’re meant to inform.” They aim to “prioritise people, ideas, evidence and community above all.” DDN carries no advertising but is supported by over fourteen thousand of subscribers who give what they can afford rather than being owned by governments or billionaires. And you can be one and become a part of the community equally with the others.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of their latest videos is ‘Israel’s AI Killing Machine‘ by Palestinian-American lawyer and activist Lara Elborno which exposes by how Israel is using modern technology to target civilians across Gaza. Like other videos on the platform it provides a chilling insight missing in the mass media.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Before writing this a few days ago I read Al Jazeera’s Israel War on Gaza coverage, with its list of key events on day 123 published on Tuesday 6th February. Under the Humanitarian crisis in Gaza it begins its report with “At least 27,478 people have been killed and 66,835 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

It goes on to give other significant news on the humanitarian crisis, before news on Regional tensions and diplomacy and on what is happening in the Occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera was the first independent news channel in the Arab world and is funded by the Qatari state.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

All pictures here are from the march in London on Saturday 3rd February 2024 which was I think uneventful. It was certainly large and several streets around the BBC were densely crowded before the start. I photographed the start and then slowly went down Regent Street with the marchers, stopping a number of times to photograph them as they walked past me.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. ‘Sunak’ and dead babies.

At Piccadilly Circus I decide to wait until the end of the march arrived there, and it was a long wait. It was almost two hours after the start of the march before the end arrived, and most of that time the streets were crowded across both carriageways with slowly moving people.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. London Mothers and Children Say Stop Killing Babies.

It was too late to be worth trying to get to the rally on Whitehall and so I began my journey home. I uploaded 35 images to Alamy but later put these and around 35 more into an online album Ceasefire Now – Stop The Genocide In Gaza.


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Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution – 2011

Monday, January 29th, 2024

Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution: People were protesting on the streets of London on Saturday 29th January 2011 in solidarity with demonstrations in Egypt at the Egyptian Embassy. Elsewhere students, teachers, parents and others took part in a large peaceful march against increases in student fees and cuts in education and public services.


Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution – Egyptian Embassy, South St. Mayfair

Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution

Around 200 people, mainly Egyptians living in the UK had come to the street outside the embassy for peaceful but noisy protest “to show our solidarity & support of our fellow Egyptians in our beloved country, who decided on making Tuesday 25/01/2011 a day of protests & demonstrations in Egypt against the unfair, tyrant, oppressive & corrupt Egyptian regime that has been ruling our country for decades.

Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution

The protest had brought together Egyptians from differing political & ideological backgrounds, inviting “inviting all supporters of human rights & civic democracy to come & support us in delivering our message to the Egyptian regime.”

Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution

Their stated goal was to achieve “a democratic, free & civil nation capable of ensuring a dignified, honourable & non-discriminatory life for all Egyptians.

Education Cuts & Egyptian Revolution

Although the Arab uprising in Egypt in 2011 achieved some of its aims, including the end of the 30 year dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, it was followed by a struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood gaining power and Mohamed Morsi being elected as president in June 2012 only to be overthrown a few months later and the countrycpoming under the military regime led by Abdel Fattah el-Sissi since 2014.

In an interview with German news organisation DW ten years after the upraising an Egyptian activist commented “The counterrevolution has pushed the country into a state that is even more oppressive than before the 2011 revolution. The uprising has taken a terrible turn and has led to a tremendous regression.”

The protesters aimed to bring together people from across a wide range of political viewpoints, they refused to allow Hizb Ut-Tahrir protesters to join them, as they are opposed to human rights and democracy.

More pictures Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution


Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away – South Audley St

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, an Islamist group calling for the establishment of a Muslim caliphate, marched to the Egyptian Embassy to take part in the protest there but were turned away.

When they arrived they were met by Egyptians taking part in the protest and told very firmly that the embassy protest – like the Egyptian revolution – was to be entirely non-sectarian and that they were not welcome there.

Instead they had to hold their own separate demonstration around a hundred yards away around the corner along South Audley St, where they were spread out along the pavement between South Street and Hill Street.

As always at their events, everyone was dressed in black and the men and women were segregated. The men filled most of the pavement along South Audley St, with just a few women at one end, with most of them around the corner eastwards on South Street, away from the loundspeakers and the embassy.

As I commented it seemed a clear demonstration of the lack of equality they would like to impose. None of the speeches while I was there was in English, but I was able to gather that they were calling for Egypt to come under the rule of an Islamic Khalifah (caliphate), the “real change” which they see as the answer to everything.

It was a call diametrically opposed to the aims of the Egyptian revolution, which aimed to get rid of the oppressive regime and make Egypt a free and democratic nation, a secular state where there is no discrimination based on gender, religion or political views. The last thing they wanted was to replace one repressive regime by another, though depressingly that was what the future held for their country.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away


No Fees, No Cuts! Student March

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts had organised two large national protests in London and Manchester to defend education and the public sector. They took place a little over two months after another large student march had ended with a small group walking into the Tory HQ at Millbank and occupying it.

On that occasion the police had tried to carry out a brutal eviction and were met with an angry response, with the protesters smashing large plate glass windows to allow others to enter, though few did. A number of protesters and press were injured by police (and a few police injured too), though most of those at the scene simply watched from outside in the courtyard and were appalled when a stupid idiot threw an empty fire extinguisher from the roof and began to chant against him. Fortunately no-one was killed. But the event made the headlines of those media organisations which generally turn their blind eye to protests, though the reports didn’t much engage with the reasons for the protest or report fairly on all that had happened.

Police seemed to have learnt some lessons from their mistakes on that occasion and made much greater efforts to communicate sensibly with the protesters and not to kettle them or push them around. As I wrote “Despite the number of protesters in anarchist dress with facemasks, most students are not out to cause trouble.”

The march had begun with a short rally in Malet Street and I met it as the front was making its way out of Russell Square walking with it and taking pictures of the marchers and of short protests at Topshop and Vodaphone shops in Strand against their tax avoidance. Police lined the front of the shops and soon persuaded the protesters to move on.

Things livened up a little outside Downing Street were the march paused for some angry shouting and several people let of smoke flares before moving on. Many stopped for a while in Parliament Square, with some dancing to a samba band, but after a while everyone moved off to where the march was to end outside Tate Britain on Millbank.

Unlike in the previous November there was a large group of police lined across the entire frontage of the Millbank tower complex – bolting the stable door as I think it unlikely that there would have been any trouble.

The only sign of any conflict between police and protesters I saw did come outside here, when there was a brief sit-down after police tried to drive two vans full of reinforcements through the crowd. Sensibly the police simply brought in a line of officers to allow the vans to drive along the pavement rather than try to force people to move.

By the time I arrived outside Tate Britain with the tail of the march they rally there had ended and I decided it was time to leave, though some of those on the protest were planning to continue elsewhere – including going to the Egyptian Embassy where I had been earlier. Later at home I read reports on-line that half a dozen people had been arrested in minor incidents.


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Guantanamo Day – 11th January

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

Guantanamo Day – 11th January. It was on January 11, 2002 that George W Bush set up the detention camp on the disputed US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, after he had been advised by lawyers that the US courts would be unable to offer detainees held there the normal legal protection that detention in the US would have enabled.

Guantanamo Day - 11th January

Camp X-Ray, a temporary facility, began with 22 detainees on that day, and others were soon filling this and the other camps which make up Guantanamo the largest of which was Camp Delta. At first the details of those sent there were kept secret, but eventually the US Department of Defense was forced to respond to a Freedom of Information from the Associated Press and to say that 779 prisoners were being held there.

Guantanamo Day - 11th January

The world got to know considerably more about what had been going on inside the torture camp in 2011 with the publication of documents by Wikileaks including 779 secret files on the prisoners. Among other revelations was “that more than 150 innocent Afghans and Pakistanis, including farmers, chefs, and drivers, were held for years without charges.”

Guantanamo Day - 11th January

The US government asserted that those held there were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions, though later they lost the case in the US courts which found that they were entitled to protection under Common Article 3 which applies to armed conflicts “not of an international character”.

Guantanamo Day - 11th January

From the start the US had claimed to be treating “all detainees consistently with the principles of the Geneva Convention.” This was of course a complete lie. Guantanamo was set up as a torture camp and detainees were routinely abused and tortured, humiliated and kept under inhumane conditions in what an Amnesty International report ‘called the “Gulag of our times.“‘ As various reports by them and others including the Red Cross state it was a human rights scandal. There is much more about this in the Wikipedia article.

When President Obama came to power he had promised to close the camp, but his efforts to do so in 2009 were opposed by the military at Guantanamo and funds to transfer or release the prisoners were blocked by the US Senate. Further opposition from the US Congress against moving prisoners to the US for detention or trial prevented Obama from clearing the camp, but by the end of his administration only 41 men remained detained there.

By the end of 2023, 30 men were still being held at Guantanamo, with over half having been cleared for release. 11 of them have been charged with war crimes and are awaiting a military trial and 1 has been convicted. Some are still there because if sent to their home country they are likely to be subject to further imprisonment or death despite their innocence.

British interest in Gunatanamo decreased sharply after the release in October 2015 of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident there. A Saudi national who had permission to stay in the UK he was able at last to return to his wife and children in Battersea after having been held and tortured since 2002. He had never been charged or faced trial.

The Guardian reported following the publication of the book ‘The Secret History of the Five Eyes‘ by Richard Kerbaj in 2022, that in 2004 “Tony Blair’s government was given special access to US intelligence files on Guantánamo Bay which revealed there was no credible evidence against the British detainees“. Yet Aamer was held for another 11 years.

Since Aamer’s release protests on the anniversary of the setting up of Guantanamo have continued, but on a rather smaller scale as you can see from Vigil marks 17 years of Guantanamo torture in 2019. The pictures on this post are from 2008 when I photographed four different events in London on January 11th.

Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally

Climate, Pay & Pensions – 2019

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

Climate, Pay & Pensions – Friday 29th November 2019 was ‘Black Friday’ for some but for others it was ‘Buy Nothing Day’ and Climate Strike students were on the march, while separately University lecturers and others in the UCU along with students and other supporters were marching to Parliament in support of their 8 day strike over pensions, pay and conditions.


Youth Climate Strike March

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Over a thousand mainly school students met in Parliament Square to demand the government and other governments world-wide take urgent action to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Climate, Pay & Pensions

They demanded a Green New Deal to save their future and for the school curriculum to make clear the urgent need for changes in attitudes and action.

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Of course their protest fell on deaf ears in the Tory government, and although it did seem for some time that the Labour opposition was beginning to think seriously about the environmental crisis, as it seems more likely they might get into power their climate polices for a https://www.labourgnd.uk/gnd-explained Green New Deal are rapidly being abandoned and it now seems they are “unlikely to meet its £28bn green pledge at all.”

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Well over a thousand marched up Whitehall and on through Trafalgar Square to Regent Street, intending to go to Oxford Street on ‘Buy Nothing Day’, but police stopped them on Regent Street and diverted them into Mayfair and eventually back to Whitehall and Parliament Square.

Earlier they had been met by a group of XR’s ‘Red Brigade’ mimes who had come to salute the student march.

Many more pictures at Youth Climate Strike March.


UCU March for Planet, Pay and Pensions

The UCU march from London University was on the 4th day of their 8 day strike over pensions, pay and conditions and in solidarity with the Youth Climate Strike also taking place in London the same day.

Some had been on the picket lines since the early morning before the march began in Malet Street.

I saw the march as I came back from Regent Street where I had left the student march as I came on to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, and ran down to catch up with the front of the march on Whitehall, close to Downing St.

The march stopped there for some time, lining the road opposite the entrance to Downing St and shouting towards it, before moving on towards Parliament.

As well as their call for proper working conditions and better pay many of the marchers also came calling for changes in what is taught and with posters and placards about climate change. Some had already marched to support the students.

They then marched on to Parliament Square, where I left them as they moved towards a rally.

More pictures UCU March for Planet, Pay and Pensions.


Anonymous March to Parliament – 2013

Sunday, November 5th, 2023

Anonymous March to Parliament – On Monday 5th of November 2012 around two thousand Anonymous supporters met in Trafalgar Square and marched to Parliament Square against austerity, the cuts and the increasing gap between rich and poor, warning the government they need to change.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

This was part of #Operation Vendetta, which they described as “a worldwide Anonymous operation of global strength and solidarity, a warning to all governments worldwide that if they keep trying to censor, cut, imprison, or silence the free world or the free internet they will not be our governments for much longer.”

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Wikipedia describes Anonymous as “a decentralized international activist and hacktivist collective and movement primarily known for its various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations and the Church of Scientology.” The article also quotes their common tag-line “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Anonymous supporters or ‘Anons’ remain anonymous by wearing masks styled on those in David Lloyd’s illustrations, based on those used in London in 1605 by Guy Fawkes, for Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta which features ‘V’, an anarchist revolutionary and superhero who dresses in a mask and cloak. In 2005 the story was made into a film and masks based on Lloyd’s drawings were mass-produced as merchandise for this, copyrighted by Warner Brothers who collect royalties on them, though there have been many pirated versions.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

The complex story, written when Thatcher was prime minister and set in the near future is set in a Britain after a nuclear war in which the UK suffered little direct damage as a Labour government had renounced nuclear weapons and closed US bases before it broke out. But in the post-war chaos corporations and fascists hadtaken power and established a totalitarian state. In the story which begins on Guy Fawkes Night in London in 1997, V engages in a number of attacks against the regime, including on 5th November 1998 blowing up the Post Office Tower and it ends following V’s death with a general insurrection in which Downing Street is blown up by an Underground train carrying V’s body.

Of course there is no Underground line below Downing Street although there are underground tunnels below much of Whitehall and elsewhere in London some of which are used by police and security services. They were built 100ft down for communications cables during World War 2 and the network was expanded during the Cold War Era.

Across the world Anonymous has carried out a number of sometimes successful cyber-operations as well as launching real-world protests, particularly against Scientology and child pornography sites.

This protest in London called for an end to cuts in education, health and welfare and the end of ‘austerity measures’ that target the poor and vulnerable, calling on the government to tackle the causes of the problems, including the banks and tax avoidance and evasion. They also want freedom for the Internet, with respect for the privacy of Internet users and the dropping of the Communications Data Bill.

They also demanded the release of Internet activists who they say are political prisoners, including Julian Assange then still holed up in a London embassy, Richard O’Dwyer wanted in the US for alleged copyright infringements, and the “PayPal 14, Jeremy Hammond, Topiary and the 4 anons of the UK that will stand trial on November 7th.”

Although the Anons had stressed this was to be an entirely peaceful event the police were taking few chances and were out in force, perhaps reacting more to the events in the novel than the actual event they were policing.

The event itself as might have been expected was chaotic, and the movement from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square was more a drift than a march. Police reacted angrily after the protests simply walked around a line of police trying to stop them were simply walked around and one officer clearly lost his temper at the insistent taunting and photographing by the activists, but police and other protesters soon calmed things down.

Banners were raised along the fence outside the Houses of Parliament, and one young woman removed her shirt to pose in her bra. The ‘heritage wardens’ tried to stop people using fire poi in the square but soon had to give up as more and more began to perform. Police tried without much success to clear the roads to keep traffic moving around the square, and a ‘Transport for London’ lorry managed to effectively block a junction to hold up the bus I was on for over 10 minutes after I had decided to go home. The protest apparently continued for several hours after I’d left.

More on My London Diary at Anonymous March to Parliament.


Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan: Ten years ago on 28th September 2013 I photographed a protest in Parliament Square against the degrading and wholly unreliable tests administered by Atos to determine whether disabled peole qualify for benefits. The I continued to the Sudanese Embassy where a large crowd of Sudanese were calling for an end to the repressive regime in Sudan.


10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests – Parliament Square

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

10,000 White chrysanthemums were spread on the mud and grass of Parliament Square in an act of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 disabled peole who have died in the three months after being made to take the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The 10,000 are largely made up of those who already have a terminal diagnosis but still have to come and submit to the tests for ther benefits to continue for their remaining few months of life. And despite compelling medical evidence many are refused benefits and said by Atos to be ‘Fit for work’.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The ceremony took place in the square bounded by the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and the Treasury and was organised by the 10,000 Cuts & Counting Campaign which included disability activists, Occupy activists, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and others who recognise that lives are being devastated by the government’s austerity programme.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The campaigners do not claiming that the test itself kills the 10,000, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests adminstered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

Sophie Partridge reads the words of Karen Sherlock who died in 2012 after endess pressure and loss of benefits.

A number of disabled people and a mother of three disabled children gave moving testimonies with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions and their lack of understading of the needs of the disabled. They had not been treated with dignity or humanity, with deliberately discriminatory policies, targets to be met, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence. And there was a period of silence and prayers to the four corners of the square.

The Tories had obviously seen the disabled as an easy touch for cuts, thinking they would be unable to defend themselves, but organisations such as DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, have signally proved them wrong. Many of the disabled have become desperate and have been some of the most prominent and most effective protesters, not least because the police have great difficulties (and some sympathy) in dealing with them. Arresting people in wheelchairs isn’t easy.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.


Sudanese Call for Regime Change – Sudanese Embassy

I left Parliament Square where the protest was still continuing with a number of people including MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as well as several disabled activists still waiting to speak to rush to the Sudanese Embassy in Cleveland Row at the end of Pall Mall.

There a noisy crowd of around a hundred were in a protest pen calling for Omar al-Bashir and the National Congress Party to resign. The London protest was in solidarity with those that have been taking place in Khartoum over rises in fuel prices and corruption over the past six days. The protests there have been brutally attacked by the regime.

The protesters in London from ‘Sudan Change Now’ and the ‘National Sudanese Women Alliance’ see the government as a total failure in managing the country for over 23 years, presiding over a political, economic and social collapse.

They say the government disrespects the Sudanese people and ignores their education and health, with all the money going into ‘security’ spending, which does not make the people secure but is used to repress the people and fight wars, with many of the best Sudanese men and women being killed in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

Under the regime of Omar al-Bashir, the judicial system was base on Sharia Law, with stoning, flogging, whipping, hanging and even crucifixtion. Some saw the protests in Khartoum as the start of an ‘Arab Spring’ movement which would lead to regime change but it was not until 2019 that al-Bashir was deposed in a coup d’état, then arrested, tried and convicted on multiple corruption charges.

More pictures at Sudanese Call for Regime Change.


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.


March for Peace and Liberty – 2005

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

March for Peace and Liberty – 2005 Eighteen years ago on Saturday 24th September around 50,000 of us were marching through London for peace and calling for the withdrawal of forces from Iraq.

March for Peace and Liberty

The protest, called by Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) coincided with an even larger protest in Washington close to the White House.

March for Peace and Liberty

Organisers of the Washington protest claimed that around 300,000 took part, while US police said the half that number was “as good a guess as any.” Police estimates of the London march were, as usual more political than based on any reality, and their figure of 10,000 was laughably low.

March for Peace and Liberty

I had developed my own simple methods to assess numbers. For smaller protests I’d simply stop at a suitable point and count those passing. When numbers got a little larger I’d count in groups of roughly ten, larger still groups of hundreds. Though sometimes that hundred might only have been 80 or sometimes 125 the overall figure was probably within around ten percent of the actual total.

March for Peace and Liberty

But with really large protests such as this, well over the police figure of 10,000, any form of counting is too time-consuming and tedious. I’d often still try to get a rough figure by counting for a minute where I was taking photographs a few times as the protest went part, and then make a rough estimate using the time the whole protest took to pass me. Typically the answer this gave me was around half the number claimed by the march organisers and anything around four to ten times the figure release by the police and often quoted by news media.

It’s a little difficult to find the text I wrote about the protest on My London Diary in 2005 as there are no headings in the text column on the September page, with headings and images in a separate unlinked column to the right – later I improved the site design to unite text and pictures and provided a list of links to stories which remains at the top of the monthly pages. Back in 2005 you simply had to scroll down a long page, and while the headings and text were simple to find, many viewers never managed to find the of text, which ends with a little art criticism. So here it is, with a few minor corrections:

What a fine mess you’ve got us into” is probably the conclusion of most of the British people about Blair’s decision to join in with Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003. Quite how many of them turned up on the 24th to march for a British pull-out is a matter of contention. Both police and organisers estimates – ten and a hundred thousand respectively – seem to me extremely unlikely.

So I was there with probably between twenty-five and fifty thousand people, walking across Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament, despite it being a Saturday afternoon, with no business taking place inside, the ban on the use of amplification within a kilometre of parliament was still in force, so the event was a little quieter than usual. Some did choose to defy the ban and the police appeared not to notice.

Gate Gourmet supply in-flight meals for British Airways. It used to be a part of the company, but was separated out, then sold to American management. Rather like what is starting to happen in our National Health Service, and of course British Airways was also originally owned by the nation.

The company takes advantage of a largely Asian labour force living around the edge of the airport, paying them relatively low wages. The new management decided to cut labour costs even more by bringing in casual labour to do much of the work (while apparently employing more managers!) and when the employees held a meeting to protest, they were sacked.

Pressure from both BA and the union (TGWU) led to the company offering to take back some of the sacked workers, but not all, and the strike continues. Some of the strikers came to take part in the rally, to publicise their case as well as call for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Most of the usual people were there at the march, and I took their pictures again – and some are on the site. When the march started I hung around in Parliament Square to watch it go past before walking rather faster than the marchers up Whitehall.

By the time I’d reached Trafalgar Square and waited again for the end of the march to pass, my knee [I’d injured it earlier in the month] was beginning to ache and I didn’t feel up to walking to Hyde Park. I sat down and ate my sandwiches contemplating the new sculpture on the ‘fourth plinth’, ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ by Marc Quinn. This 15ft white marble shows Lapper, an artist born without arms, sitting naked and eight months pregnant, and will stay on the plinth until April 2007.

It is a striking piece of work and was obviously attracting a great deal of attention from the tourists in the square. I took my time sitting and looking at it while I was eating, and then walking round it from all sides (slightly impeded by the preparations for a juvenile TV show to be broadcast from the square the following day.) Lapper herself works with photographs of her body, and this statue is perhaps too like her black and white photographs, with a rather unpleasant surface, sometimes more soap than marble. I found myself thinking thank goodness for the pigeons who were perching on it and doubtless adding their contributions to it.

Its position up there on a plinth is not ideal. This is work that would be best seen from roughly the same level as its base. The other plinths in the square are occupied by men on horses, which raise their figures more suitably above the plinths. Perhaps when it leaves the square a more suitable display place can be found, but its present placing is a great for catalysing debate about disability. Of course another disabled figure dominates the square; Nelson has his back to her and does not need to call upon his blind eye not to see her.

Many more pictures on My London Diary