Posts Tagged ‘parliament square’

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Saturday, June 18th, 2022

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds. 18th June 2017 was a Sunday, and though I now prefer to observe Sunday as a day of rest, five years ago it was for me another working day. Since the lockdown I get tired much more quickly and I’m cutting down a bit on work. Today I’ll probably go for a walk with my wife after lunch, stopping off on the way home to sit and eat an ice cream before picking more strawberries from the garden and relaxing a little before dinner.

But back in 2017 I was making good use of a Travelcard, going first to the Central Hill Estate which looks down over London close to Crystal Palace then travelling to Westminster to remember Brian Haw before taking the tube up to Oxford Circus and walking to the BBC to join marchers gathering for the annual Al Quds march.


Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill – Central Hill Estate

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds
A woman comes to talk to me about living on the estate since it was built

I deliberately arrived very early at Central Hill so I could take a walk around and make more pictures of one of London’s finest council estates, but almost missed the start of the talk I had come to hear opposing Lambeth Council’s plans for its demolition as I spent some time talking with a woman who had seen me taking pictures who was still living in the home she had moved into when the estate was built and had raised her family here. She told me how good it had been living here in a fine home that was still in good condition and had never needed any major repairs.

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Ted Knight, former leader of Lambeth Council, had come to speak in support of the campaign to save the Estate, passed for demolition by the council despite the almost unanimous vote of residents for plans to refurbish rather than demolish and the plans by Architects for Social Housing which would achieve the increase in density desired without demolition.

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Knight as council leader earned the name ‘Red Ted’ from the gutter press for standing up to the Tory Government’s rate-capping 1984 Rent Act which severely limited the spending of local councils – which eventually led to him and 31 other councillors being surcharged and banned from political office for five years in 1986. He remained an active trade unionist and in the Labour Party and when he spoke was Branch Chair of the Gypsy Hill ward which includes Central Hill. Although his politics and mine were not entirely the same, I was sad to hear of his death in 2020.

As Knight said, under borough architect Ted Hollamby the estate was planned by Rosemary Stjernstedt as a living community and had remained remarkably successful, with a number of original residents from the 1970s still living there and wanting to continue to do so. At that time Labour believed that nothing was too good for the working people and the estate was built to high specifications and is still in sound condition. A deliberate process of managed neglect – like that which had resulted in the Grenfell Tower disaster had – had been carried out by Lambeth Council to legitimise its demolition.

Lambeth council now refuse to allow the community to use the resource centre

Although the meeting was poorly attended, surveys of estate residents have shown a very high proportion of residents want to remain on the estate and oppose the demolition. The council quotes very different figures and its response to feedback from estate residents has been to remove the estate representatives from the consultative body.

Faults in the paving are marked but left without repair

Lambeth Council has also ridiculously inflated the estimate for the refurbishment of the estate and rejected without proper consideration a carefully planned alternative scheme for a much cheaper limited infill of the site rather than demolition which would involve far, far less disruption to the families who live here and also result in the retention of much-needed social housing. The only real problem with the alternative scheme proposed by Architects for Social Housing is that it would not generate excessive profits for the developers.

Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill


Brian Haw remembered – Parliament Square

This was the sixth anniversary of the death of peace campaigner Brian Haw who had made a ten-year political stand against war in Parliament Square despite considerable harassment by police urged on by politicians, laws introduced against his and other protests, Westminster Council officials and almost certainly MI5 agents.

Brian Haw began his camp here on 2 June 2001, and remained in place despite many attempts, legal and otherwise to remove him for almost 10 years, leaving only when arrested, for court appearances and to speak at protests at Trafalgar Square and Downing St until 1 January 2011 when he left England to receive treatment for his lung cancer in Berlin. He died in Germany in the early hours of 18 June 2011.His ten years of protest and the frequent and repeated harassment undoubtedly hastened his decline and death.

His protest in Parliament square was continued by Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005 and had been imprisoned twice for her role in the protest and arrested 48 times. The level of harassment increased and she went on hunger strike on 31st December 2012. Late in January 2013 she was taken into hospital close to death, and was treated for frostbite and exposure. Her protests continued on-line.

Brian Haw remembered


Al Quds march – BBC to US Embassy

Several thousands came from around the country for the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march in London. Organised by a Quds committee with the Islamic Human Rights Commission it was supported by various groups including the Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. At the front of the march were a group of Imams and Neturei Karta anti-Zionist Jews.

The march called for ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and for all oppressed peoples across the world. It supports of the BDS campaign for a boycott of Israel Israeli goods, divestment from companies supporting Israel and sanctions against the Israeli state. It demands that Israel ends its breaches of international law and its oppression of the Palestinian people in what is an apartheid system, and ends its siege and attacks on Gaza.

Zionists oppose the march with a protest close to the final rally at the US Embassy, but a small militant group carrying Israeli flags attempted to stop the march on its route, calling those taking part supporters of the banned terrorist group Hezbollah.

A number of the marchers were holding Hezbollah flags, which carried a message indicating they were supporting Hezbollah as a political organisation – it is one of two main parties representing Shia Muslims, Lebanon’s largest religious group – as a part of national unity governments in the Lebanese parliament.

Police seemed very reluctant to move the Zionists off the road in front of the march which was held up for some time, with marchers simply waiting for the police to clear them. After some time the the marchers held their planned minute of silence for the Grenfell Tower victims before getting up and telling police that unless the police cleared the road they would simply push them aside and march through.

The Al Quds day march is very much a family event but with the numbers involved the march stewards would clearly have been able to do so and the statement did galvanise the police into action, and the march was able to move on slowly.

The event organisers make it very clear that this is not an anti-Semitic event, and I think one or two placards which might have suggested this were rapidly removed by stewards. In 2019 Home Secretary Sajid Javid decided to proscribe Hezbollah’s political wing as well as the military wing which had been proscribed in 2008, so showing any support for Hezbollah would be an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Al Quds march
Zionists protest Al Quds Day March


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Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Democracy, Black Cabs, Murad & Zionists – My agenda for Wednesday 2nd June 2010 was a busy one, with protests about democracy in Parliament Square, London’s Black Taxis at Aldwych, a picket at BP’s St James’s Square HQ, trade unionists protesting at the Turkish Embassy and Zionists supporting the Israeli attack and killings on the Gaza aid flotilla.


Democracy Village Protest – Parliament Square

People had been camping in the Democracy Village in Parliament Square for just over a month and a few of them had come across the road with banners to protest. They held up banners, including a large one saying ‘We Respect The Soldiers We Do Not Support The War‘ and another ‘We Demand Peace In Afghanistan and No More War‘ and several made speeches with a megaphone. Another very artistically written notice on a large square of cloth on the pavement read ‘With Each Conscious Breath May You Know How Loved You Are in All Ways. You Are Divine. Let Your Light Shine’.

Democracy Village Protest


Brian Haw – Summons Marks 9 Years in Parliament Square

I went back to the other side of the road to talk with Brian Haw and Barbara Tucker who I had come to visit on the 9th anniversary of the start of Brian’s protest vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square. A week ago they had been arrested and held for 30 hours on the day of the state opening of Parliament before the court released them on bail.

The arrest had come after Brian objected to police searching his tent in the early morning without a warrant – the 13th or 14th illegal search they have made, all part of a continual campaign of harassment. As we were talking we became aware of three police a few yards away standing and watching us. They then came over and served Barbara Ticker with a summons for using a megaphone in Parliament Square.

Brian and Barbara asked why she was being singled out for attention as there were at that time others In the Democracy Village actually using a megaphone and she was not at the time doing so. The officers made no attempt to answer this question.

BrianHaw – Summons Marks 9 Years


Black Cabs Protest – Aldwych

I don’t use taxis in London – or at least very seldom. I can only remember two occasions in the last thirty or so years, both when others insisted I go with them. It’s a wasteful, outdated and overpriced system which is responsible for much of the congestion in London, both by cabs carrying only small numbers of people compared to other public transport and also by ‘cruising for hire’ with no passengers on board.

My account on My London Diary gives some of their grievances, some of which I have some sympathy with, and I agree the police should be enforcing the law (rather than harassing protesters) but the whole system needs to be updated, taking into account the general availability of smart-phones and improvements in satellite navigation systems which increasingly make the ‘knowledge’ redundant and can provide real-time congestion information.

I didn’t find it an easy protest to photograph, which I think shows in the results. Lots of taxis are frankly rather boring, and not that unusual in London, where I commented that “While standing at a bus stop a couple of weeks ago I counted over 30 empty taxis going past before my bus arrived, and I couldn’t help but think we could have a better public transport system without taxis.”

Black Cabs Protest


BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers – St James’s Square

BP have a long-running dispute with the workers on the Cusiana oilfield in the Casanare department of Colombia, and its one where they are playing dirty, with union members accusing BP of carrying out a campaign of misinformation about what is happening in the plant, and in particular of falsely claiming the support of government officials for their lies about the action.

More or less as this picket was taking place, armed commandos from the Colombian army leapt over a security grid at the plant and attacked the workers who were carrying out a peaceful occupation of the Cusiana CPF (Central Processing Facility) in Tauramena.

Previously BP had come to an out of court settlement on a UK High Court challenge over the pipeline from this oilfield to the coast, when farmers alleged that BP benefited from the actions of Colombian paramilitary forces who harassed and intimidated them in their protection of the pipeline. During the preparation of the case, of the lawyers for the farmers discovered she was on a death list and fled the country; she was granted political asylum in the UK.

The protest was organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign and was supported by the ICEM, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Worker’s Unions, based in Switzerland which represents more than 20 million workers around the world, uniting trade unions in its sector around the world.

BP Picket for Colombian Oil Workers


Protest for Murad Akincilar Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Trade unionist Murad Akincilar was arrested on a spurious charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation while on an extended holiday in Turkey last September and was in prison in Istanbul. His treatment in prison has resulted in serious eye damage and partial blindness. He was known personally to some of the protesters as he studied for a Masters Degree at the LSE, but since 2001 he has lived in Switzerland and worked for Swiss trade union Unia which was leading the campaign for his release.

The protest opposite the Turkish Embassy was organised by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Gik-der, an organisation founded in north London in 1991 by migrants fleeing political and racial persecution in their home countries of Turkey and Kurdistan.

Protest for Murad Akincilar


Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity – Israeli Embassy, Kensington

The Zionist Federation together with members of the English Defence League demonstrated opposite the Israeli embassy in support of the Israeli Defence Force killings in the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla.

A smaller group of pro-Palestinian protesters had come to oppose them, although both the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition had decided not to support the counter-demonstration to avoid conflict.

Although official Zionist sources had expressed some regret at the violence and loss of life, the mood of the supporters here appeared to be one of a gloating triumphalism that seemed entirely inappropriate to the situation. I was “sickened when at one point a large group of the demonstrators began chanting ‘dead Palestinian scum’ ” and appalled to find this was “a demonstration jointly with the Zionist Federation and the English Defence League, some of whose members many of us have seen and heard chanting racist slogans on our streets. It seems unbelievable that a Jewish organisation should align itself – even if unofficially – with people like this.”

Attempts to justify the summary execution of one of the victims by shots to the head at close range by the existence of so-called weapons on the ships seemed insulting – almost all those shown in the photographs are “exactly the kind of tools that would be expected to be found on any ship in its galley and for general maintenance, as well as items being taken for building work in Gaza. The possible exceptions are a few canisters of pepper spray, some catapults and what looks like some kind of ceremonial knife.”

I’m very much in favour of peace in Palestine and Israel, but like many I feel “the actions of the state of Israel in their attacks on Gaza, their disruption of everyday life for the Palestinians and the blockade is making the possibility of peace much more distant… Like other conflicts, resolution depends on winning hearts and minds and this can’t be done with tanks and bulldozers.”

Police had to step in at the end of the protest when four press photographers were surrounded and chased by a an angry group of threatening Zionist demonstrators but all I suffered were a few threats and hostile gestures.

Zionist Federation Support Israeli Atrocity


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Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Friday, May 27th, 2022

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters – I had a long and busy day in Westminster on Wednesday 27th May 2015. It was the day of the Queen’s speech to parliament, reading out the intentions of the government’s coming session, and people and groups had come to the area to make their feelings about this clear.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

I usually avoid any occasions involving royalty who I think reflect the worst aspects of our class-based society. We got it right in 1649, when Charles I was found guilty of attempting to “uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people” and although the ‘Commonwealth’ wasn’t a great deal of fun the restoration of the monarchy was a a national tragedy even more retrograde than Brexit.

I don’t want to photograph crowds of sycophantic flag wavers – including many tourists, nor the royals themselves, who many feel are an inbred group of parasites who rose to wealth and power through the theiving, skullduggery and aggression of their ancestors, maintaining their position through a biased military, political and legal system. Certainly we would be a better and healthier nation without them and the class system they help perpetuate.

Royal occasions also bring out the very worst in our police, and this was clearly on show in their actions against Class War and some others who had come to protest at the event. Rather than upholding the law they were making it up on the spot to avoid any possible embarrassment to the Queen, forcing people to move and making arrests without any lawful basis.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Class War had come with their controversial banner showing the political leaders and I managed to get a few images of them was they held it up for a few seconds on the Queen’s route well before she was due to arrive. But they were immediately forced to take it down and told they would be arrested if they continued to protest, with the threat that the banner would be taken from them.

It was a copy of the one that police had seized at a ‘Poor Doors’ protest a couple of months earlier and held in Bethnal Green police station (where they lost it rather than hand it back when they had to admit they had no legal basis to have taken it.) Banners aren’t cheap and Class War funds are limited to a few individuals digging in their pockets, so they rolled it up and moved away.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Police then arrested two men, one holding a video camera, and another holding under his arm a small poster with a message about austerity being stupid. As my caption states “They tell the police correctly that they have committed no offence, but the police decide to arrest them anyway. Just in case.” They were released without charge a couple of hours later.

As a large group of police were following and harassing them, Class War and friends decided to leave for a nearby pub. I followed them, along with a large squad of police, and talked with them as they stood outside quietly having a drink. On the other side of the road were around 50 police standing around watching them, including a squad of TSG, looking menacing for over an hour. I was later told police kept following some of Class War for the next six hours. It all seemed a huge waste of public money.

I’d stayed with Class War so long because it looked likely that the police were going to take action, perhaps make more arrests although no offence was being committed, but also to let the crowds and policing around the Queen’s route disperse, and then made my way up Parliament Street to Whitehall where Compassion in Care were campaigning for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it an offence not to act on the genuine concerns of a whistleblower and protect those revealing scandals in social care and other sectors.

This would replace the Public Interest Disclosure Act which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. Compassion in Care say that the reccomendations of the then recent Francis review “will do nothing to protect whistle-blowers or encourage anyone else to raise concerns. This is because his recommendations rely on employers and regulators – which include the very same people who have “got away with” cover-ups, ignoring concerns, and victimising whistle-blowers for many years.”

I walked on up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where people were beginning to gather for a National Campaign against Fees and Cuts rally. A group of police were gathered around a man and arresting him, but refusing to answer any questions from a concerned crowd around them as to what was happening. A small crowd followed the police as they took the man to a nearby police van, where a police officer assaulted a young bystander who was then also arrested. Finally as the van drove away, an officer told us that the man was wanted for an earlier offence and the arrest was in no way related to the protest that was gathering. If the police had made this clear from the start all this could have been avoided.

Back in Trafalgar Square a man appeared with a mobile disco and crew and people began to dance. This turned out to be Lee Marshall (aka Disco Boy) who describes himself as an “entertainer prankster DJ host”, and apparently has gained a huge social media following, with his video stunts watched by hundreds of thousands of people and had come to perform in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere in Westminster. He moved off as the rally began.

There was a short rally for the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) with various groups including Class War holding banners on the plinth of Nelson’s column before they set of for the march.

Also in Trafalgar Square were Ahwazi protesters from the Hashem Shabani Action Group whose homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oilfields, was occupied by Iran in 1925. Since then Iran has attempted to suppress their heritage and identity, in part by resettling non-Ahwazi Iranians in the area.

The students and some others at the NCAFC protest then set off to march down Whitehall, where police made an unsuccessful attempt to stop them, at Downing St, arresting several forcefully. There seemed to be little point as police numbers were clearly too few and many protesters were simply walking around them and the barriers as I did.

The Ahwazi protesters had marched with the students and they stopped in Parliament Square for a rally while the rest marched on peacefully around the area for some time stopping to protest outside the Dept of Work & Pensions and the Tory Party HQ before returning to protest noisily in front of Downing Street which was protected by mass ranks of police. They then marched on, I think intending to go towards Buckingham Palace, but I’d had enough walking around.

On the pavement opposite Downing St at the same time as the NCAFC march the People’s Assembly were holding a static ‘End Austerity Now’ protest. I listened to a few of the speeches and photographed them. But it had been a long and rather confusing day and it was time for home.

More on the events of the day on My London Diary
People’s Assembly ‘End Austerity Now’
Ahwazi Arabs protest Iran’s war
NCAFC March against ‘undemocracy’
NCAFC rally in Trafalgar Square
Disco Boy plays Trafalgar Square
Police arrest man in Trafalgar Square
‘I am Edna’ – protect whistle-blowers
Class War protest Queen’s speech


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Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health

Saturday, May 21st, 2022

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health – there was a varied array of protests in London on Saturday 21st May 2016, and I was kept busy photographing them. Fortunately most were within walking distance of each other in central London, but I ended the day with a rally and march in Stratford.


Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival – Royal Festival Hall, Southbank

I rushed from Waterloo station to the nearby Royal Festival Hall where I found campaigners from Foil Vedanta protesting against Vedanta’s sponsorship of the Jaipur Literature Festival. They say Vedanta, the most hated company on Earth, causing pollution, illness, displacement, poverty and deaths by its mining operations, sometimes criminal, in India, Zambia, South Africa and Australia, is attempting to whitewash its image by sponsorship of the festival.

They briefly interrupted a presentation in the main space of the Clore Ballroom to make their case. Earlier Foil Vedanta and Round Table India had sent an open letter to authors who had agreed to appear, signed by around 50 mainly Indian writers, poets, academics and activists, informing them of Vedanta’s criminal operations, and calling on them to withdraw, and some had done so, with others expected to criticize Vedanta in their presentations.

After the interruption the campaigners withdrew to the rear of the area where they continued to hand out leaflets and brief journalists, watched closely by security who insisted they keep the entrance clear but did not otherwise intervene.

More at Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival.


Tampon tax now Osbourne! – Parliament Square

Campaigners met in Parliament Square and then marched to present a letter to Downing St calling on the government to fulfil their pledge to axe the tax on tampons. A massive campaign and lobby resulted in the removal of regulations preventing the removal of tax but it is still being levied.

Prominent in the protest were those from the 50:50 Parliament campaign for equal representation of women and men in Parliament who say that if there were more women in Parliament there would not be taxes like this – and much less of the public-school bickering that often dominates the House of Commons.

More at Tampon tax now Osbourne!


‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ Parliament Square

As the Tampon Tax campaigners left on their march to Downing St, four horse drawn vehicles arrived for the protest by Roma, Gypsies and Travellers against the hardening attacks against their way of life.

Heritage wardens and police told them it was was against bylaws to bring horses on to the square and after a short rally on the grass they led protesters in repeated circuits of the roadway around the square before leaving as the main rally on the corner of the square started.

Changes in the laws have allowed local authorities to stop providing traveller sites, and laws against fly-grazing have made finding places to stay and moving around the country much harder. Alterations in local planning guidance have meant that local planning laws have been used in a discriminatory fashion to prevent them using land even when they own it – as at Dale Farm. The ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ protest called attention to these attacks by the government on their ethnicity and demanded an end to 500 years of persecution.

More at ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’


March Against Monsanto Rally – Downing St

It was a day of several hundred world-wide protests against Monsanto, but there had been little publicity for the London protest and attendance for disappointing, and although there were good speeches these were to a small group of dedicated activists.

Among the listeners were a couple of bees and this cow

Monsanto dominates the worlds markets for seeds and agrochemicals at the expense of small scale farmers and communities around the world and is forcing harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds on farmers in their corporate control of the world’s food system. The company has sued thousands of small farmers in the US and elsewhere to protect its patents which cover a wide range of crops and other products.

More at March Against Monsanto Rally.


Housing is a Mental Health Issue – Stratford

From Westminster the Jubilee Line takes a little over 20 minutes to get to Stratford Station, outside which I met Focus E15 housing campaigners who were holding a rally and march. It was Mental Health Awareness Week and they were protesting against Newham council’s policy of social cleansing, highlighting the mental health issues that arise from housing problems.

There is a huge boom in building around Stratford given great impetus by the 2012 Olympics, but as speakers made clear when the march paused in front of some of the the high-rise housing, this is being built largely for the rich – while those unable to afford sky-high market rents are being forced out. They say Newham is causing mental health problems for vulnerable people through evictions and placements with insecure tenancies away from families, friends and support systems in cities and towns across the UK.

Good homes on the Carpenters Estate have been kept empty by Newham for over 10 years

The new tall blocks also produce a hostile micro-climate at ground level, and when the march approached one of the most recent, gusts of wind tore one of the banners in two. The march ended on the pavement outside Wilco’s in Stratford Broadway, where Focus E15 hold their regular Saturday morning street stall.

More at Housing is a Mental Health Issue.


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Police & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

PPolice & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days of the Parliament Square Peace Campaign approaches – some of my pictures from Thursday 10th May 2012.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor – Westminster

Occupy supporters in plastic helmets joined the police march

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Occupy, Right To Protest and others joined in to protest for justice in policing.

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union, but the Police Federation can organise demonstrations like this when thousands of off-duty police, some with family members made a impressively large if rather dull protest past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St. Most wore one of the 16,000 black caps produced for the protest, the number of officers expected to be lost over the next four years as the police budget is cut by 20-30%.

Police officers attempt to intimidate the Space Hijackers

Like other public sector workers, police had suffered a two year wage freeze, as well as increases in pension contributions and many have also had large cuts in overtime. As well as those protesting, police were also on duty controlling the protest, though it was unlikely to get out of hand. But there were others as well as police, including the Space Hijackers who had a stall giving advice on how to protest, and also Occupy protesters who were calling for “a fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!

Others were there to protest against various aspects of police corruption and faced some aggravation from the officers on duty as well as some protesters. The Defend The Right To Protest group reminded police marchers of Alfie Meadows, Sean Rigg, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes and many others killed or seriously injured by police officers. Officers on duty made some attempts to intimidate some of the non-police protesters – and also photographers covering the event.

More at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March – St Thomas’ Hospital to Westminster

Public sector workers in Unite, PCS and UCU were on a one-day strike against cuts in pensions, jobs and services, and picketed workplaces and marched from a rally at St Thomas’ Hospital across Westminster Bridge to Methodist Central Hall for a further rally.

PCS picket at Tate Britain

Some of the pickets had begun at 5am, and a few were still in place as I walked past workplaces in Westminster – including the Houses of Parliament to meet the marchers coming over Westminster Bridge.

As they marched, many chanted “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late”, as retirement age is set to increase to 68 and beyond, while retirement contributions are increasing. They are also losing out because the government has decided to index pensions to the lower CPI inflation figures which mans they get around 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

More on My London Diary at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square – Parliament Square Peace Campaign

Brian Haw came to Parliament Square to begin his protest there on the 2nd June 2001, and the Parliament Square Peace Campaign he started had been there for almost 4,000 days, with a presence night and day, 24 hours a day since then.

Barbara Tucker

After Brian’s death from cancer the protest was continued by Barbara Tucker and other supporters who have maintained the protest on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight. Over the years the campaign has been subjected to frequent illegal harassment by police officers, Westminster Council officials and thinly disguised members of the security service, and laws have been enacted intended to bring the protest to an end.

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. Clearly a blanket is not a structure, and police and council have also removed other items of property. Later her umbrella was also taken away. Barbara’s health deteriorated and she eventually had to leave the square, and the protest finally ended early in May 2013.

4000 Days in Parliament Square


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Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy Gandhi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals – on Monday 4th May 2015 Occupy Democracy were on the fourth day of their ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!”

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

Occupy had come to Parliament Square in defiance of the law criminalising the use of tarpaulins, tents and other protection in the square, and were making six key demands:

• reform of party funding so that members of parliament act in the interests of those who elect them rather than the 1% who bankroll them
• major democratic reform of the media to break the stranglehold of vested interests
• a fundamental overhaul of lobbying and the way powerful economic interests inhabit the corridors of power within government
• the introduction of proportional representation so that everyone’s vote counts
• that MPs should not have conflicts of interests from either paid employment or corporate shareholdings
• a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy.

Occupy Festival of Democracy
Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

On Monday 4th they began a rally and meditation at the foot of the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedience, calling for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime. Donnachadh McCarthy laid out a large blue banner with the message ‘Criminalise Fossil Fuel Exploration‘ and a mock tombstone with the inscription ‘RIP – 300,000 Dying from Climate Crisis Every Year Said Kofi Annan UN Gen Soc‘.

Occupy Ghandi - Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals

People then brought tarpaulins to sit on around these on the paved area in front of Ghandi’s statue and began a series of short speeches, meditation and songs about climate change and fossil fuel use.

They took a small blue tarp to the statue of Gandhi and wrapped it carefully around him. After a short pause two of the GLC’s private security heritage wardens who had been watching the event with a few police officers came up and removed the blue tarpaulin. A replacement was brought up and carefully held by two of the protesters without touching the statue (much) and the meditation continued.

There was another minor intervention by the heritage wardens who objected to burning incense sticks being placed in the flower beds. The protesters removed them and instead held them.

Donnachadh McCarthy then produced a blue folding tent and erected it, announcing that he was going to defy the ban on tents and inviting others who wished to join him.

People climbed in and after posing for a photograph with the tent the protest continues, with Donnachadh joining them inside as police approached. The police warned those inside the tent they were committing an offence and warned them they could be arrested – and then walked away.

Some minutes later, at exactly 2pm a larger group of police returned and surrounded the tent.

They gave those inside a final chance to leave without being arrested. Three people remained inside the tent, holding each other tight.

Finally they were arrested, handcuffed and taken away to waiting police vans. The whole police operation seemed a massive waste of public money enforcing a ridiculous law. The real criminals are not a few protesters with tents and tarpaulins in public squares, but those who sit in boardrooms and continue promote and produce fossil fuels which are driving us towards extinction, plotting actions to derail attempts to make the changes the planet needs in order to increase their profits.

More pictures at Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals.


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XR, Axe Drax and Knife Crime 2019

Sunday, April 17th, 2022

XR, Axe Drax and Knife Crime 2019 – three years ago Extinction Rebellion were, like today, protesting on the streets of London, with several key locations in London blocked for most of the week. Some joined the Axe Drax protesting over the polluting wood-burning powerstation that gets environmental subsidies for massive pollution. And the families of victims of knife crimes held a rally at Downing St and later blocking Westminster Bridge calling for urgent action against knife crime.


XR Waterloo ‘Garden Bridge’ continues – Waterloo Bridge

With several of London’s key routes still blocked by Extinction Rebellion there were no buses in the central area, so I walked across Waterloo Bridge on my way from the station to the City. I could of course had used the tube, but XR had turned the bridge into a ‘Garden Bridge’ and I wanted to see how their protest there was progressing so went earlier to allow myself plenty of time.

The bridge over the River Thames was still closed and had plenty of plants on it – so XR had, despite a couple of hundred arrests, achieved something that Boris Johnson had failed to manage with his backing the ludicrous and expensive Garden Bridge scheme as Mayor. New protesters were arriving to keep the bridge green as I walked across, enjoying the atmosphere with no traffic pollution, only people, plants and bikes.

The only vehicle on the bridge was a lorry brought by XR to stop the flow of traffic and to act as a stage for performances. There were people on top and locked on underneath to frustrate any attempt by police to remove it. It was a sunny morning, warm for the time of year and people were enjoying themselves, some dancing to drums or listening to poets, story tellers and singers, some attending workshops, others just laying back and enjoying the sun.

Their aim was to keep the bridge closed to vehicles until the government took necessary action on the global climate and ecological emergency, telling tell people the truth about the disaster we are facing, halting biodiversity loss, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. They want a programme led by a Citizen’s Assembly on climate and ecological justice. The government failed to act, other than put increasing pressure on the police to remove the gardeners who held the bridge for over a week.

XR Waterloo ‘Garden Bridge’ continues


Drax wood burning must end – Grocers Hall, City

Campaigners were picketing the Drax AGM in the City of London next to the Bank of England demanding an end to burning wood at Drax power station, the UK’s biggest carbon emitter.

In 2018 Drax got a huge subsidy of £789 million from a levy on our electricity bills because their highly polluting wood-burning qualifies them under a measure intended to combat climate change, not contribute to it. The wood they burn, largely from US forests which are being destroyed for it, contains carbon safely locked away, which they put back into the atmosphere that the trees removed it from. Drax – which was also planning to become the largest gas powered generating station in the UK, put 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2018.

Drax wood burning must end


XR around Parliament Square

I took the tube to Westminster where Extinction Rebellion were still blocking the streets around Parliament Square two days after they closed them to traffic.

More protesters were arriving to join the blockade, and the theatrical ‘Red Rebel’ group of protesters was walking around the area. I took a few pictures before walking up Victoria St to the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

XR around Parliament Square


Drax Protest at BEIS – Westminster

The Axe-Drax protesters had also come from the City to continue their protest outside BEIS demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution. Drax burns more wood each year than the UK produces, mainly from environmentally disastrous clear-felling of US forests. Drax also burns coal from opencast mining, again with huge environmental damage, disrupting some communities and lead to human rights abuses, particularly in Colombia.

Drax’s planned gas-fuelled power plant, 2.7 times larger than the existing largest gas-fired plant was planned to come into operation in 2025 and probably intended to get most of its gas from UK fracking or new gas fields in the UK and Shetlands. Campaigners say that we can only meet the desperate need to cut our emissions enough to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees if we keep the gas in the ground under land and sea – and that our longer-term aim needs to be to lower the CO2 levels. The campaigners were joined by a few more from Extinction Rebellion.

Drax Protest at BEIS


Knife crime campaigners Operation Shutdown – Westminster

Finally I joined a large group of campaigners from Operation Shutdown, a consortium of mums, dad’s and other bereaved family members and loved ones who were holding a rally at Downing St calling for urgent action by the government to halt the growing epidemic of knife crime.

They called for stiffer penalities for knife and gun crime, an end to cuts to local services including youth work and theie restoration to pre-austerity levels, as well as more money to get more police on the streets. They want adequate safeguarding, a coordinated approach to trafficking and grooming and abuse of children and young people and a proper sharing of information and accountability for recently announced public health approach to knife crime.

At the end of the Downing Street rally they marched with two wreaths the short distance to Bridge Street where they presented the wreaths to a police officer and hold a silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, killed at Parliament by terrorists, before continuing onto Westminster Bridge which they sat down on to hold a further rally.

Knife crime Operation Shutdown


More pictures and text on these stories on My London Diary:

Knife crime Operation Shutdown
Drax Protest at BEIS
XR around Parliament Square
Drax wood burning must end
XR Waterloo ‘Garden Bridge’ continues


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Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End – I travelled to Tottenham and Kilburn to photograph protests but fortunately the people from Ponders End had come to protest at Westminster. All three protests I photographed on Saturday 29th March 2014 were about the inhumane policies of the Tory Government.


Mothers march for justice – Tottenham

Rev Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson

Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty, an indefatigable lifelong campaigner on behalf of the poor died in 2020, aged 87. His first job after National Service in the Army had been with the family firm selling champagne around London, but after a dozen years until he discovered a vocation to become a worker-priest and was ordained as a deacon in 1967 and then a priest in 1968. Around 1981 he became a parish priest in Turville, the location chosen for The Vicar of Dibley, making his priority the support of the poor in a area of extremes of wealth.

He resurrected the practice, now common of being a McKenzie Friend, which allowed him to stand with and represent those brought to court over debts, particularly those unable to pay the Poll Tax. His revelations on the activities of bailiffs enforcing debts lead to a Code of Practice which, at least when enforced, gives some protection to the vulnerable, and it was his initiative in commissioning the Family Budget Unit to investigate the actual costs of living that led the the UK and London Living Wage being established.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Spiderman led the march

His work in later years was largely about housing and homelessness, and I met and photographed him on many protests. He set up the charity Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) but then resigned as its chair so he could campaign politically through Taxpayers Against Poverty.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, murdered by police in front of a banner with his picture

The march in Tottenham on 29th March 2014 organised by the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty demanded living incomes and decent truly affordable homes and rejected the unfair Tory bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, which were the cause of hunger and cold homes. He spoke before the march and walked on it with a placard hanging from a string around his neck: ‘We march for Freedom from Hunger, Cold, Outrageous Rents – Fight for a Living Wage’.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

The march was smaller than hoped, several hundred rather than the hoped for ‘1000 Mothers March for Justice’, though more were expected to turn up at Tottenham Green East for the rally at its end, unfortunately after I had left. Those on the march included representatives from many local groups as well as others around London, and they carried an impressive number of banners.

Mothers march for justice


Kilburn Uniform Day – Kilburn Square

A few miles to the west, the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community was holding a two hour protest in Kilburn Square on the main Kilburn High Road over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

In 2010 food banks were rare things in the UK, used over the year by around 60,000 people. After ten years of Tory policies this had increased to around 2.5 million, around 40 times as many. Much of that increase is a direct result of government policies, including its inhuman sanctions policy against benefit claimants, as well as of poverty wages and unfair employment practices such as zero hours contracts.

Moving people onto Universal Credit resulted in many being without resources for five weeks, sometimes considerably longer. As I wrote “Our government appear to be completely out of touch with how many people in the country live. They simply cannot comprehend what it means to be without money, or without friends or family you can rely on for a few thousand when you have a problem. Many people on low income simply don’t have any such resources – all they have is debts and bills to pay.”

Things have got worse since 2014, and soaring energy prices along with the additional National Insurance payments coming in next month will again put more families into desperate levels of poverty – and increase those evicted as they cannot pay the rent. It isn’t that the country doesn’t have the money – we are still one of the richest countries in the world – but that increasingly the already wealthy are getting richer while the poor sink into more desperate poverty.

And it’s successive governments – including New Labour – that are to blame, with a failure to build sensible amounts of social housing, the encouragement of high cost private housing and buy to rent. The wealthy have got tax breaks while many working full-time have been finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. And tax avoidance has reached huge levels thanks to a failure to plug silly loopholes and face up to the problems caused by off-shoring. We should have a zero-avoidance policy not one that encourages it.

Kilburn Uniform Day


Fellow Students Fight for Yashika – Parliament Square

The final event I photographed was a lively protest by fellow students and supporters at Parliament urged then Home Secretary Theresa May to abandon the planned deportation of 19 year old model A-level student Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius due to take place on Mothers Day.

She came here with her family who claimed asylum after physical abuse from a relative in Mauritius in 2012, but the claim was rejected and the whole family are under threat of eviction – and as she is now 19 they decided to deport her alone weeks before she was due to take her A levels in Ponders End.

We continue to see “a ‘tougher than you’ shift to the right over immigration played out by both government and opposition over the past years, each trying to outdo each other … So we get foolish and desperate measures like the immigration vans, and raids at tube stations and other public places by the Border Force based unlawfully on racial profiling.”

Migrants, including many who are here without legal right to remain, play an important part in keeping London running despite government attempts to identify and remove them. Estimates in 2014 were that there were around half a million in the city and without them, “London would grind to a halt. They do mainly the low paid dirty jobs no one else would want for pay that isn’t enough to live properly on in London – often at below the minimum wage because of their immigration status.”

The protests and a petition with over 170,000 signatures failed to have any effect on the heartless Home Office and Yashika was deported. But good news came later. Perhaps because of the huge publicity around her case she was welcomed and supported back in Mauritius and was able to take her exams there. Despite her studies having been interrupted by spells in Yarl’s Wood immigration prison she was able to gain her A levels and go on to university – and keep out of the media limelight.

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika


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UN Anti-Racism Day – London

Saturday, March 19th, 2022

March 21st was established by the United Nations as a World Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the sixth anniversary of police opening fire and killing 69 peaceful protesters at Sharpeville, South Africa on March 21, 1960. Protests in the UK for UN Anti Racism Day take place close to the date and there will be large national marches today, 19th March in London and Glasgow and tomorrow in Cardiff. Today’s post is about events in London on March 19th 2016.

UN Anti Racism Day - London

Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march

UN Anti Racism Day - London

Thousands met at the BBC to march through London to a rally in Trafalgar Square in an event organised by Stand Up to Racism against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism and to make it clear that refugees are welcome here.

UN Anti Racism Day - London
Lee Jasper and Zita Holbourne at the front of the Black Lives Matter bloc on the march

Prominent on the march were Black Lives Matter protesters, wearing red in support of the ‘Justice for Sarah Reed’ campaign, chanting loudly “Say Her Name, Sarah Reed” and “Black Lives Matter”. She had died aged 31 in Holloway prison where she was held waiting for psychiatric reports following an attack on her, possibly an attempted rape, by fellow patient in a psychiatric hospital for which she was arrested and charged with grievious bodily harm with intent.

An inquest decided she had killed herself when her mind was unsound, and that unacceptable delays in medical care contributed to her death. Clearly too the prison staff had failed in their duty of care. Four years earlier she had been falsely arrested for shoplifting and seriously assaulted by the arresting officer who was later convicted and dismissed from the Metropolitan police for the offence.

There were also a number of groups on the march working with refugees trapped in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk, and some of those had lines drawn across their lips to remember some of the refugees on hunger strike there who have sewn up their lips.

Although the deaths of many refugees drowned in crossing the Mediterranean have led to widespread sympathy among the British people, there has been no compassion shown by our government, who have increasingly been driven by racists and bigots who oppose Britain taking in any refugees and want to abandon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the UK helped to draw up in 1947-8.

There were a small number of these bigots, members of the far-right group ‘Britain First’ in their para-military uniforms, who came to shout insults and make offensive gestures at the marchers as they went through Piccadilly Circus. A large ring of police kept them away from the marchers and protected them from any attack by anti-fascists.

Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march


Refugees Welcome Rally

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean was killed by police in Brixton in 2008

At the end of the march there was a rally in Trafalgar Square, with a long list of speakers. They included Vanessa Redgrave and Jeremy Hardy, MP Diane Abbott, MEPs Claude Moraes and Jean Lambert, journalist Journalist, writer Michael Rosen, leading trade unionists Dave Ward CWU, Christine Blower NUT, and Sally Hunt UCU, Marilyn Reed the mother of Sarah Reed, Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett and Marcia Rigg, Maz Saleem daughter of the Mohammed Saleem who was killed in a racist attack, Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain and a young refugee from Iraq.

Refugees Welcome Rally


Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day

Australian human rights protesters were holding protests at embassies around the world, including the Australian High Commission in London to condemn the Australian government’s racist immigration policy and treatment of refugees.

Refugees who try to claim asylum in Australia are locked up and detained indefinitely in contradiction to international law on remote Pacific Islands including Manus and Nauru in detention camps run by Serco and will never be allowed to resettle in Australia. The Australian protesters were joined by some of those from Movement for Justice which has led protests against the UK immigration detention centres, including that at Yarl’s Wood, run like the Australian camps by Serco, where detainees, also held indefinitely, have been sexually abused and denied proper health treatment. At least one prisoner in the Australian camps has been beaten to death by the prison guards.

Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day


DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’

Finally on 19th March I went to Parliament Square for another human rights related event, where Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were celebrating the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, one of the chief architects of the brutal Tory welfare policy that has caused them so much suffering, harm and deaths to disabled people.

Though they were pleased that IDS has gone, his policies remained, and his successor, Stephen Crabb, proved top be equally be bigoted and lacking compassion and any understanding of the needs of the poor and disabled.

DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’


More on all these events on My London Diary:
DPAC’s ‘IDS Resignation Party’
Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day
Refugees Welcome Rally
Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march

Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts

Friday, February 25th, 2022

Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts. Wednesday 25th February 2015 was a busy day for protests in London, and I photographed five events.


Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign protested for 4 hours at Parliament calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he had been held for over 13 years and regularly tortured. Of course I didn’t stay with them that long – there aren’t really that many ways to photograph a fairly small group in orange jumpsuits – but it meant they were still there when I arrived over three hours after their protest began.

Usually their protests are at lunchtime, but because they had stayed longer I was able to photograph their weekly protest at around 3.30pm on my way to an event outside Downing St. They continued these protests while parliament was sitting until Shaker was released towards the end of 2015.


Striking Firefighters block traffic

Firefighters came out of their rally in Central Hall and blocked the road in front of Parliament. I don’t think the police tried to move their fellow public servants, who had a large black balloon with the message ‘FBU – WE RESCUE PEOPLE, NOT BANKS! STOP THE CUTS’ as well as several banners.

After around ten minutes they marched down to Downing St, blocking much of Whitehall. In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with FBU leader Matt Wrack and promised to try to get someone to come out and talk with them.

They were still waiting when I left – and I think they would still be waiting now before anyone representing our Tory government came.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime

A short walk away in Caxton Street people were protesting outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in a nationwide day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox.

Although by law welfare claimants are allowed to have an adviser present with them at job centre interviews, when a claimant arrived together with Cox his interview was cancelled. And later that day police arrived at Cox’s home, arresting him and charging him with threatening behaviour.

When his case came to court in October the prosecution had to drop the main charges. A month after the first hearing Cox was found guilty of refusing to supply person details to the police and fined £200 and admonished on the charge of hindering the officers.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts

Despite earlier promises, Transport for London were planning to go ahead with a 50% cut in station staffing, closing ticket offices such as the well-used one at the busy Edgware Road station on the Bakerloo Line.

Things threatened to get nasty with some angry exchanges when police tried to move RMT members handing out leaflets to the public, but the RMT members insisted on their right to do so on the pavement outside the station entrance.


Lambeth against £90m cuts

Another tube journey changing at Oxford Circus from the Bakerloo to the Victoria Line took me south of the river to Brixton where a short distance from the station a lively rally was taking place on the street corner outside Lambeth Town Hall.

Around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents were there to tell councillors arriving for a council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts.

It was now around 6pm, and in late February the sun sets around 5.30, so it was getting rather dark. Although I had both flash and LED lighting, neither is much use for lighting larger groups of people, and even on the corner of two major roads the streetlighting a few yards back was pretty poor. Thankfully digital cameras are considerably better than film under such conditions and I was able to get good results at ISO 3200.


More on all these on My London Diary:

Lambeth against £90m cuts
RMT protest Underground Job Cuts
Welfare Advocacy not a Crime
Striking Firefighters block traffic
Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


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