Posts Tagged ‘Peter Tatchell’

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria – 2016

Sunday, December 17th, 2023

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria – Three protests in London on Saturday 17th December 2016.


Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday – Trafalgar Square

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

A silent vigil on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square marked the 29th birthday of trans-gender whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, jailed for 35 years in 2013, whose courageous leaks revealed war crimes by US, UK and other governments.

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria
A Queer Strike protester and veteran peace activist Bruce Kent

Working for the US Army as a specialist intelligence analyst as Bradley Manning she released almost 750,000 documents to Wikileaks in 2010 showing the US, UK and other governments’ war crimes and corruption in Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Israel & the Palestinian Authority, Peru, Venezuela and elsewhere. Some were classified and many others were highly sensitive and incriminating. In 2013 she was sentenced to 35 years and held in the maximum security U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

The London vigil was a part of an international day of action for her release. Since she came out as a trans woman in 2013 she had been repeatedly harassed by the military in prison and twice in 2016 had attempted suicide. Protesters around the world called on President Obama to release her on the basis of the prison time she had already served before he left office. The following month he commuted her sentence to around seven years and she was released from jail. She spent a further year in 2019-2020 after she refused to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday


Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan – Downing St

Chelsea Manning, Kurdistan & Syria

Kurds, many wearing or waving the flag of Free Kurdistan called on the civilised world to recognise the sacrifices made by the Peshmerga in fighting for freedom and against Islamic extremism in Iraq and Syria.

The Peshmerga is the army of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, first formed in the18th century as border guards but more recently fighting for Kurdish autonomy, although it also includes Assyrian and Yazidi units. Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq, and under the Iraqi constitution the Pershmerga is responsible for the security of the region.

They played a key role in US missions against al-Qaeda after 9/11and were with other Kurdish forces now fighting against ISIS with some support from the USA. But the USA was refusing to directly supply any weapons except through the Iraqi government who were failing to pass any on the the Pershmerga as they feared they would be used to promote an independent Kurdistan. And in London people seemd to be clearly calling for a free Kurdistan.

The result of this failure to pass on weapons is that the force is poorly armed, mainly using Soviet-era weapons they captured in earlier Iraq uprisings and now weapons captured from ISIS in 2014. This protest called for greater support to provide them with modern weapons and other support they lack including ammunition, ambulances and military communications equipment.

Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan


Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

A short walk away in front of the Houses of Parliament Healthcare workers held a die-in at Parliament in solidarity with the Syrian people.

They called for an end to the bombing of civilians, hospitals and schools by the Assad regime and for the UK government to put pressure on the Syrian government to allow the delivery of aid. They urged the UK to make airdrops of aid, provide safe passage to all those trapped and grant asylum to refugees.

The protest was organised by Medact’s Arms and Militarisation (MAM) group along with Syria solidarity activist groups and individuals including the Syrian British Medical Society.

Peter Tatchell holds a poster

Between 2014 and 2021 when the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme closed, the UK accepted around 20,000 Syrian refugees. When adjusted to reflect the population size of European countries this puts the UK well down among European countries. For the total number of resettled refugees from 2008-20021 the UK comes fifth behind Germany, Sweden, Norway and France but adjusted for population size we are in 10th position.

But along with the USA, Britain failed to take any effective action in support of the Syrian revolution and the crimes against the people committed by the Assad regime, and were severely outplayed by Russia who backed Assad.

Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria


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TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – 2011

Thursday, November 30th, 2023

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – On Wednesday 30th November 2011 public sector workers across the country held a one-day strike against government plans to cut public service pensions with pickets at thousands of workplaces and rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country as well as a South East TUC organised march in Central London which I photographed. Later in the afternoon I went with Occupy London protesters who occupied the offices of the highest paid CEO in the UK to protest against corporate greed.


TUC Nov 30 March – Lincolns Inn Fields to Westminster

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

It’s always hard to estimate the numbers on very large marches such as this one but it was very large and when I arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the large space already seemed pretty crowded an hour before the march was due to start. Many people gave up trying to get in waited to join the march on Kingsway.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

At the front of the march were Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, NASUWT president John Rimmer (below) and other trade unionists. Many other groups had come with banners.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

There were many placards suggesting ways to avoid the cuts, including by taxing the mega-rich and cutting the pointless and wasteful expenditure on Trident rather than job’s health and education.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed
Peter Tatchell

Some of the students on the march felt it was going to slow and began to march in front of the main banner.

Police stopped them and held up the whole of the march at Aldwych but then didn’t seem to know what to do. Eventually they just let things go ahead.

I took a lot of pictures of the Education Activist Network who were the liveliest part of the protest but there were plenty of others to photograph too with many interesting hand-made posters.

I stopped for quite a while to photograph marchers as they went past.

and they were still coming in large numbers an hour after the front of the march had passed me.

I was still on the Embankment with marchers when the rally had begun closer to Parliament and people were still rolling in. I think there were probably between 20 and 30,000 taking part, but it was hard to know and I think many who had been on picket lines early in the morning had left before the rally began. I left too to meet with people from Occupy London.

More pictures on My London Diary at TUC Nov 30 March.


Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed – Piccadilly Circus & Panton House

Occupy London had called people to meet at Piccadilly Circus at 3pm but had not indicated what would be happening next. I arrived to find around a hundred protesters there along with quite a few Greek football supporters and a large number of police standing around watching them.

We stood in the intermittent rain for around half an hour waiting for something to happen. At 3.30pm around 30 people rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ banner, but made no attempt to enter the store which quickly lowered its metal shutters.

Police rushed across the street to surround them, but soon became clear that this had merely been a diversion, as others close to Eros unfolded their long main ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner and rushed down Haymarket with it catching the police by surprise and leaving them behind.

I was running ahead of them, taking pictures over my shoulder and managing to keep ahead, but the police were well behind as we reached Panton St.

Here the protesters set off a bright orange flare, turned down Panton Street and rushed into Panton House. I followed the group with the main banner inside, but stupidly stopped in the foyer to take pictures through the glass frontage of the flares outside.

I was a little behind as the protesters ran up the stairs and rather out of breath after running along the street. By the time I reached the third or fourth landing I had decided to give up and pressed the button for a lift. Police arrived just as the lift came and one officer grabbed me stopping me from getting in.

Police told us all to go downstairs, but around 20 of the protesters and a few press had reached the roof. I made my way down, though it was difficult as more police rushing up pushed those of us going down out of the way.

The police had now surrounded the entrance, preventing any more people entering, but were allowing us to go out. I was pleased to get out because the air inside had been thick with the orange smoke and I had been choking slightly, Smoke flares aren’t intended for indoor use.

A little back on Haymarket by the side of the building protesters outside were taking part in a mike chat group chant to inform passers-by what was going on. From this I learnt that Panton House contains the London offices of the mining company Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies they say is the highest paid CEO in the UK, and “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

Police began to surround them and I quickly moved away as they kettled the protesters, and also to get a better view of what was happening on the roof. TI had missed seeing the ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner being let down over Haymarket earlier but saw them trying to do so again but being dragged away from the edge. More police vans were now arriving and I decided there would be little else I could see and left.

More at Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed.


Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria – 2013

Sunday, September 3rd, 2023

Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria – 2013 On Tuesday 3rd September 2013, ten years ago I photographed two different protests in Central London, beginning at Downing St against Russian homophobia and going on the the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a rather mixed protest over Syria.


Love Russia, Hate Homophobia – Downing St

Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria

Several hundred had come to Downing St two days before David Cameron was to attend a G20 Summit in St Petersburg hosted by Putin, urging our Prime Minister to press him to repeal the Russian anti-gay law and prosecute violent homophobes.

Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria

The organisers had asked people to wear red, and many did though others came in more colourful attire and several were in drag. The protesters including a large African LGBT contingent and Peter Tatchell.

Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria

The protest which was a part of a world-wide day of action against Russian homophobia :

Putin Hands Off Queers & Syria

The organisers had listed eight themes for the action including some related to the forthcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics:

  • David Cameron: What are you doing about the anti-gay law in Russia? We want answers. Tell Putin to drop the law.
  • Russia: End the anti-gay law & homophobic violence
  • Solidarity with Russian LGBT & human rights defenders
  • Defend freedom of expression & human rights for all Russians
  • Oppose the Putin regime’s escalating authoritarianism
  • IOC must protect LGBT athletes and spectators, and ensure freedom of expression
  • Sochi corporate sponsors must condemn homophobic legislation & violence
  • The IOC must insist that Russia lifts its ban on a LGBT Pride House at Sochi

More pictures at Love Russia, Hate Homophobia.


Hands off Syria – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square,

Several hundred people, including many Syrians living in the UK, came to the US Embassy for a protest rally called by Stop The War to keep up the pressure on President Obama not to bomb Syria.

Among the Syrians present were groups supporting both the revolution in Syria, particularly Kurds who have long suffered discrimination and repression in the country and supporters of the Assad regime who made the ridiculous claim that there had been no discrimination in Syria.

The Assad regimes have made more than 300,000 Kurds stateless, not included in the census, unable to vote, stand for office, gain school certificates or university degrees, or travel outside their own provinces. International organisations have clearly shown that Kurds in Syria are subject to discriminatory policies against their language and dress.

The Stop The War protest was followed by a lengthy protest by the pro-Assad Syrians against US intervention. They vociferously denied that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons in Syria blaming others for their use. Reports by various bodies now show there is no room for any doubt that they were used by government forces.

The failure by Obama and other western countries to take effective action in Syria – such as enforcing a no-fly zone in disputed areas left the door open for Putin to intervene providing direct military support for Assad in 2015. Putin was also able to come to arrangements with Turkey despite them being key members of NATO in the region and enabled them to take military action against the Kurds who were the most efficient force in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

The failures of the USA in Syria was probably also key in giving Putin the confidence to invade the Crimea and parts of Ukraine in 2014 – and then on to the current invasion there. We were also given a powerful reminder of earlier US blunders by the presence outside the US Embassy just along from the protests I was covering of a protest camp already in front of the embassy over the attacks on Camp Ashraf in Iraq on 1 September.

Camp Ashraf in Iraq had been home to the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition to Islamic rule in Iran, in 1986. Before the US coalition invasion of Iraq, the US had come to an agreement with Iran that they would neutralise the PMOI, and coalition forces attacked the camp. Eventually there was a ceasefire after which the PMOI agreed to give up its tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy artillery and the residents of the camp were given protected status as civilians under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But after the US left Iraq, the camp came under control of the Iraq government, who attacked it on several occasions. The Iraqi army killed 34 and wounded 318 in a raid in April 2011, and a raid on September 1, 2013 had killed killed 52. The PMOI blamed Iraq for this but others blame Iranian militias directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The PMOI camp was calling for the US for support. The PMOI were focibly moved to another site in Iraq in 2012 and in 2016 the US brokered a deal to relocate them to a site in Albania, giving the UN refugee agency $20million for their resettlement.

More pictures of the Embassy protests at Hands off Syria.


Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Sunday, June 4th, 2023

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage: Tuesday 4th June 2013 saw quite a mixture of protests around Westminster with a regular daily protest during the Parliamentary session calling for the return of Shake Aamer and in solidarity with Guantanamo hunger strikers, a protest at the Home Office against the deportation of gay asylum seekers to Uganda, at the Ministry of Justice against privatisation of legal aid and protesters for and against outside the House of Lords were debating the gay marriage bill.


Bring Shaker Aamer Home Vigil – Parliament Square

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Protesters were keeping up their daily vigil opposite the Houses of Parliament to remind MPs that British resident Shaker Aamer was still held in Guantanamo despite being cleared twice for release. They called on the UK government to urge President Obama to release him and close down the illegal prison camp.

The Guantanamo hunger strike was now putting the lives of the hunger strikers in danger, with over 40 of more than a hundred taking part now being forcibly fed, including ‘prisoner 239’, Shaker Aamer from Battersea.

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

Although today the daily protest was small it drew attention to itself with large bright orange banners and those taking part all in black hoods and orange jumpsuits, and one wearing ‘chains’ around hands and feet.

Bring Shaker Aamer Home Vigil


Stop Deporting Lesbians to Uganda – Home Office, Marsham St

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

A few days ago on 30th May 2023, Uganda’s President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act which is said to be among the harshest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world. It imposes the death penalty for some so-called aggravated cases and largely repeats a similar 2014 law which was declared unconstitutional by Uganda’s constitutional court.

Uganda was a British protectorate from 1894 to 1962 and inherited anti-gay laws from colonial penal code, which have been widened since independence. Wikipedia puts it clearly “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda face severe legal challenges, active discrimination, state persecution and stigmatisation not experienced by non-LGBT residents.” It goes on to state “Violent and brutal attacks against LGBT people are common, often performed by state officials.

Despite the dangers the Home Office was continuing to deport gay people who had fled Uganda because of the danger and often violence they had suffered because of their sexuality back to where they faced persecution and probably death.

Shaker, Uganda, Legal Aid & Gay Marriage

The protest came after lesbian Jackie Nanyonjo died following injuries inflicted on her during her forced deportation by thugs contracted to the UKBA in March, and a day before flights were due to return ‘Linda N’ on Qatar Airways and ‘Josephine’ by Royal Air Maroc.


Linda N, a known lesbian activist and member of the Movement for Justice was dealt with under a ‘fast track’ procedure designed to prevent proper consideration of cases, and despite a great deal of evidence was told she had not done enough to prove that she was gay. Josephine, a woman aged 62 with family in the UK, came here for sanctuary after refusing to carry out female genital mutilation (FGM). If returned she will be subjected to punishment beatings for her refusal and possibly killed.

The protesters called for an end to racist immigration policies and the release of these women and others held in Yarls Wood and an end to deportations still taking place to Uganda and other unsafe countries including Afghanistan.

Stop Deporting Lesbians to Uganda


Save Legal Aid & British Justice – Ministry of Justice, Petty France

Around a thousand people including many lawyers and other campaigners for justice blocked the road in front of the Ministry of Justice for a lengthy rally against proposed changes to the legal aid system which would mean that instead of people being defended by lawyers with the relevant expertise they would be assigned to the company who had made the cheapest bid. Large companies with little legal connection including Eddie Stobart and Tesco were expected to bid for the work, putting the many small specialist law firms which currently exist out of business.

As speakers pointed out these changes threaten the very heart of our legal system, severely reducing the chances of those who are not rich to get justice.

The changes were being proposed without proper consultation and regulations to bring them were tocome into effect within 3 months, without any pilot scheme, without an debate in the Houses of Parliament and with no proper examination of the evidence.

Among the speakers were several QCs, including Dinah Rose, Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Fordham, representatives of human rights organisations and charities, MPs David Lammy, Jeremy Corbyn, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter and Bianca Jagger.

Many more pictures including those of most of the speakers at Save Legal Aid & British Justice.


For and against Gay Marriage – Old Palace Yard

Two groups of protesters were in Old Palace Yard. Stonewall had come with posters, t-shirts and vuvuzelas along with other LGBT protesters including Peter Tatchell and there were others including one in drag waving a rainbow flag.

A short distance to the side were a similar sized group organised by Christian Concern, an evangelical organisation who prayed and sang, murdering ‘Amazing Grace’ several times while I was there. At there centre were a black couple dressed as a bride and groom standing on a base resembling a wedding cake.

As well as these two groups which carefully avoided any direct conflict – one woman from ‘Christian Concern’ who came and began to tell the LGBT protesters that she was praying for them was quickly dragged away by one of their organisers – there were also a number of religious extremists also wandering around the area and protesting much of the day, some holding up large print posters of Bible texts, others standing still and preaching – though as I pointed out there there seemed to be nobody listening to their amplified sermonising.

I think the real debate is not about marriage but about having an established church which has made marriage both a civil and a religious contract. The law should clearly separate the two and religious bodies can now outside the established church do so should they chose. Some Christians would have no problems with having religious ceremonies for gay marriages, but others would not be forced to do so.

My elder son and his bride had two ceremonies some weeks apart, one a religious one with an Imam officiating and the other, some weeks later, with an official registrar present. Marriage law is essentially about the civil contract and I can see no reason against this applying to any couple whatever their genders – nor did the House of Lords.

More pictures at For and against Gay Marriage.


The Big Gay Flashmob – 2010

Tuesday, April 11th, 2023

The Big Gay Flashmob at Tory HQ – Millbank, London. Sunday 11 April 2010

The Big Gay Flashmob
Kiss-In – Tamsin Omond and Peter Tatchell

In 2010 as a General Election was approaching, Tamsin Omond had begun the ‘To the Commons‘ campaign which made this statement:

“The Commons is you and me. It’s the kid on the skateboard, the woman struggling with her shopping, and the guy who serves us coffee in the morning. The Commons is about having our say and getting our voices heard. It’s about looking out for each other, our neighbourhoods, and our environment. Yes we’re a political party but we’re not about politics. We’re about people.”

The Big Gay Flashmob

The message on the web ended “Vote for Tamsin Omond for Hampstead and Kilburn” where she was standing as a candidate. It wasn’t a hugely succesful campaign, and she ended up with only 123 votes, against 17, 332 for Labour’s Glenda Jackson in what was one of the closest races in 2010, with the Tory only 42 votes behind and the Lib Dems a close third. We have an electoral system and a media that is incredibly stacked against candidates from outside the major parties, who only win in exceptional circumstances – such as electing Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, or if Corbyn was to leave Labour to stand in his constituency at the next election.

The Big Gay Flashmob

As a part of her campaign, Omond had organised the ‘Big Gay Flashmob’, advertising the event on Facebook and getting Peter Tatchell of Outrage! (and later of the the Peter Tatchell Foundation) to work with her to publicise it. Over 1500 had signed up to attend the event and a fairly large proportion of them turned up on the day.

The Big Gay Flashmob

In the morning Omond and Tatchell had gone to a meeting with George Osborne, who had been shadow chancellor and was the Conservative Campaign manager. The Tory party has a long record of homophobia and of voting against gay rights, and many Tory MPs voted against the full repeal in 2003 of Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 infamous ‘Section 28’ which banned local authorities from “promoting homosexuality.”

Sister Angel Popstitute, a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence from the London House of Common Sluts

Recently too, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling had suggested that Bed and Breakfast owners should be able to refuse gay couples, and there was still a very strong and vocal anti-gay element in the Tory party despite there being many gay members and gay Tory MPs. The great majority of the roughly 50 who voted against civil partnerships in 2004 were Tory MPs and party leader David Cameron was against the possibility of gay marriage.

So the flash mob was scheduled to take place outside Tory Party HQ, then on Millbank in the Millbank Tower. There were speeches, much loud chanting and a number of kiss-ins which everyone seemed to enjoy.

More pictures at Big Gay Flashmob at Tory HQ.


Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Back on Saturday 22nd March 2008 I had a rather varied day in London, meeting protesters cycling to Aldermaston on my way to photograph a march for freedom in Tibet, then going to a protest against the deportation of a gay man to Iran and finally to a pillow fight.


Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on foot and had just come out of Oxford Circus station when I saw the CND Bikes Not Bombs group of cyclists who had begun their ride in Trafalgar Square earlier and were on their way to ride to Aldermaston. Though when I took a few photographs as you can see from the bus they were cycling in exactly the wrong direction, east towards Ilford. Of course they weren’t lost, just trying to attract some attention to the protest, riding with a sound system along London’s busiest shopping street.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I’d thought briefly about taking part myself in the event, as I’d used a bike to get around since I was six, having graduated then from a first a pedal car and then a tricycle. I did own a car briefly when I was around 21, but soon realised it was impractical in cities, expensive, polluting and environmentally unsound and never made the same mistake again.

But for the reasons I listed on My London Diary – sloth, other events, lousy weather and a dislike of early rising – I didn’t join this official ride, though I did cycle on my own from Reading to Aldermaston and back on the following Monday to join the protesters there.

Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston


Support Tibet March

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on my way to Park Crescent, a short walk north of the Chinese Embassy where Tibetans and supporters of freedom in Tibet were meeting to march through London on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Tibet came under effective control of the Chinese government in 1951, when an agreement had been come to the status of Tibet within the recently established People’s Republic of China. In 1949 Tibetan protesters feared the Chinese were about to arrest the 14th Dalai Lama. Protests were at first peaceful but were brutally repressed by the People’s Liberation Army and there was heavy fighting which also involved Tibetan separatists who had been carrying out guerrilla warfare against Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama fled the country and set up an independent Tibetan government in India, where he still lives – and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The Tibetan uprising had begun on 10th March 1959 and this day is celebrated each year as Tibetan Uprising Day and Women’s Uprising Day. Since 2009, following protests on 10th March 2008 in Lhasa, the Chinese-controlled authority in Tibet have celebrated the day they fully regained control, 28th March as the national anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day.

The Tibetan Independence Movement who organise annual protests calling for freedom for Tibet was originally funded and trained by the CIA, but this was withdrawn following Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. And the Dalai Lama who had originally backed it, and who appears as a large photograph carried reverently in the marches, also withdrew support for the independence movement in the 1970s.

It is clear from reports by Amnesty International and others is that there are considerable human rights abuses in Tibet. The 2021 US State Department report listing includes “unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom….”

Support Tibet March


Defend Mehdi Kazemi – Downing St

But of course human rights are not always respected in this country, and we currently have a government which is proposing to withdraw from some international human rights conventions and proposing racist anti-immigrant policies which are deliberately in breach of them.

Back in 2008, the Labour government was also riding roughshod over the human rights of some immigrants, setting up a system of large-scale detention of asylum seekers and treating individuals unfairly in a bid to outflank the Tories on cutting immigration through blatantly right-wing policies.

Mehdi Kazemi had come to the UK to study after having been involved in a consensual homosexual relationship in Iran. After his boyfriend was executed for this he became a wanted man in Iran and he went to the Netherlands to apply for political asylum.

This was refused as he had come from the UK and so was not allowed under the 2003 Dublin Agreement. The Uk had refused him permission to stay in Britain and were proposing to deport him to Iran where he would be tried and executed.

His case was just one of many where the Home Office were failing to recognise the need for refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation, and for failing to have accurate and up-to-date information on homophobic persecution in countries to which LGBT asylum seekers might be deported.

Support for Kazemi at this protest and by a number of MPs, MEPs and human rights activists did eventually result in the Home Office agreeing to review his case and he was given leave to remain here in May 2008.

Defend Mehdi Kazemi


Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight – Leicester Square

My day ended in very much lighter mood with a pillow fight in Leicester Square, one of many organised in capitals around the world due to kick off at 15.03PM.

I commented: “Of course its a trivial, silly event, but the idea and the kind of organisation involved I think represents something new and exciting, a kind of ‘Demo 2.0’ which we will surely see more of in the future.”

Perhaps this hasn’t had as much impact here in the UK as I had hoped, but I think may have been more important elsewhere in the world. To some extent it has been outgrown as Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps have become more important and even protests organised months and years in advance make use of them.

But it was interesting if rather tricky to photograph, and I got stuck in without a pillow and at some danger to my health, main not “from impact but suffocation when some pillows split open to fill the air with clouds of feathers and feather-dust. At times I wished I was wearing a mask to protect my lungs; keeping my mouth firmly closed and breathing though my nose only stopped the larger particles.

And I also found the the autofocus on my DSLR was too efficient at focusing on feathers in the air, and until I turned it off and went manual many of my pictures failed to be sharp for the people and pillows behind the screen of feathers.

Later as the pixel count on DSLRs increased and full-frame cameras appeared I found it very useful to work in many situations using just the central ‘DX’ half-frame area of the viewfinder – which would have been very useful to let me see the people and pillows coming for me, but on this occasion I found “chaos really rules taking pictures becomes a press and hope situation. I think some of them do give an idea of what it was like to be there.

Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight


Climate Revolution Fracked Future Carnival 2014

Sunday, March 19th, 2023

The Climate Revolution is an organisation set up by the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (1941-2022) at the London Paralympics closing ceremony in 2012 and she spent the last years of her life campaigning to halt climate change, stop war and defend human rights and protesting against capitalism. Her work is now continued by the not-for-profit organisation she set up, the Vivienne Foundation.

Climate Revolution Fracked Future Carnival

I’m not a follower of fashion, as those who know me will have noticed. But Westwood’s activism reached a rather different and wider audience than the more usual campaigning groups, gaining publicity across the whole world of fashion and at times attracting the kind of mass media attention that follows celebrities, rather than issues, now attract.

Climate Revolution Fracked Future Carnival

Protests taking place in the UK seldom seem to be news – last Wednesday striking workers brought much of London to a standstill and possibly 100,000 people marched through the streets and protested in various places but when I came home and searched on the BBC news site in the early evening there was not a mention of it, though there may have been a little coverage later.

Climate Revolution Fracked Future Carnival

Others did rather better, but it needs something else for a protest to be news for our media. It can be that it happens abroad and particularly if it is against some regime unpopular with our (and the US) government. But it can also be if it is violent or particularly quirky or involves a major celebrity such as Dame Vivienne Westwood – and those protests she organised and her designs were always rather quirky too.

Although Westwood very much did her own thing, she was also great at cooperating with other groups working in the same area – such as the anti-fracking ‘Nanas from Nanashire’ who came down to London for this protest.

The protest was arranged to take place outside the Shale Gas Forum, where the CEOs of IGas, Cuadrilla and various government officials were plotting new ways to bring fracking to the UK, and to change our to allow this to happen. In particular they want to stop people being able to prevent dangerous mining beneath their properties which could cause dangerous and damaging subsidence. Their proposals would allowed companies to proceed without proper concern for safety and environmental consequences and give them some indemnity against damages and government would promise to pay a high price for the gas.

The Forum had been scheduled to take place at an expensive hotel in Belgravia, but after arrangements had been made for protest carnival to take place outside, it was moved to a ‘secret’ location elsewhere in London. Climate Revolution obviously had friends in high places who leaked the details to them.

It was Budget Day, but rather than going to take pictures around Westminster I decided it was more important to cover the protest against fracking. I met Westwood and her supporters, mainly fashion students, outside the Royal College of Arts Battersea location just south of Battersea Bridge and marched with them to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Cadogan Place which had been the original venue for the frackers.

We knew the event had been relocated and their was some confusion at the end of the march as to whether it should entrain immediately at Knightsbridge station or go to the hotel. Eventually this was resolved and there was a rally outside the hotel with speakers including Vivienne Westwood and Vanessa Vine of BIFF (Britain & Ireland Frack Free).

The new location was still a secret as we followed the Rhythms of Resistance samba band to Knightsbridge station, where more protesters were waiting and took the underground to Old Street.

People were slow to arrive at Old Street, with some stopping off to buy coffee or sandwiches and others getting lost on the way, but eventually we were on the march again, on our way to the rear gates of the Territorial Army Centre on Bunhill Row, guarded by a few police.

Outside the event, people danced to Rhythms of Resistance, and there were speeches by Vivienne Westwood, Tina Louise from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, Vanessa Vine, Frack Free Bristol, and others, some of whom had also spoken at Knightsbridge.

Some of us then walked through Bunhill Fields cemetery to City Road to protest on the other side of the military centre, and later most of the other protesters followed for a further rally at the main gates.

The protest was beginning to wind down and people were leaving and I left too, going to cover a protest by The African LGBTI Out & Proud Diamond Group and Peter Tatchell Foundation held a noisy protest at Uganda House calling for the repeal of Uganda’s draconian anti-gay laws.

And from there I went on to Downing St, where the People’s Assembly were holding their Budget Day Protest before finally I could go home.

More on all these stories on My London Diary:

Climate Revolution March to Fracked Future Carnival
Fracked Future Carnival in Knightsbridge
Fracked Future Carnival at Shale Gas Forum

Protest over Uganda Gay Hate Laws
People’s Assembly Budget Day Protest


Naked Vegans, Acid Attacks, Anonymous & Kobane

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

PETA World Vegan Day Naked Protest – Trafalgar Square, Sat 1 Nov 2014

Wikipedia tells me that World Vegan Day is an annual event celebrated by vegans around the world every 1 November and was established in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UK Vegan Society and the coining of the terms “vegan” and “veganism”. The exact date of the founding wasn’t known and Nov 1st was chosen for its association with “Samhain/Halloween and the Day of the Dead”. November 1st has also been All Saints Day since AD 835.

I’m not a vegan. But I have no problems with eating vegan food or vegetarian food, but often prefer meat or fish in my meals. But clearly reducing the amount of meat that is eaten by people around the world would be a useful contribution to reducing carbon emissions, although some vegetable production does involve a considerable carbon footprint, as well as environmental problems.

I welcome that many people now choose not to eat animals and avoid animal products, whatever their reasons, but also think there are good reasons to keep farming animals though there are plenty of farming practices I think should be banned. But keeping livestock is very much a traditional part of life in this country, one that has produced the landscape we enjoy and the animals we like to see in it. It can be done in an ethical and humane manner, though this means paying a price that allows farmers to do so.

So although I was happy to photograph PETA’s World Vegan Day protest in Trafalgar Square when activists wearing little clothing and smeared with fake blood lay on a large tarpaulin, I was not in sympathy with some of the views expressed by PETA. But the posters held by those taking part in the protest (I think less than half the advertised 255, the number of animals killed for food in the UK every second) simply noted the “1 billion animals killed for flesh each year” and encouraged people to “Choose Life: Chose Vegan“.

PETA World Vegan Day Naked Protest


Against acid attacks on Iranian women – Trafalgar Square, Sat 1 Nov 2014

I think I had actually come to Trafalgar Square for this protest, organised by the 8th March Women’s Organisation (Iran – Afghanistan).

They were in the square protesting at the horrific attacks on women who go onto the streets of Iran not wearing a veil. Gangs encouraged by the Iranian regime have thrown acid in the faces of many women, causing intense pain and burning, leaving them scarred and blinded. As the protest also pointed out as well as the forced wearing of the veil, women in Iran have no right to divorce, can still be stoned to death for adultery and can be victims of so-called ‘honour killings’.

Against acid attacks on Iranian women


Revolution Banner Drop – Waterloo Bridge and Trafalgar Square, Sat 1 Nov 2014

‘Anonymous’ protesters in Guy Fawkes masks held up a large banner with the message ‘REVOLUTION’ on Waterloo Bridge to publicise their November 5th ‘March Against Government Corruption’ in London. I photographed it from Westminster Bridge, but the banner really wasn’t quite large enough to really stand out against the background of the City.

Later they took the banner to Trafalgar Square where a rally in support of Kobane was taking place (see pictures below) and it was rather more impressive there.

Revolution Banner Drop


Global Solidarity With Kobane – Trafalgar Square, Sat 1 Nov 2014

November 1st was also World Kobane Day, and thousands were in Trafalgar Square supporting the defenders of Kobane against ISIS and fighting for the remarkable democratic revolution of Rojava, calling for aid for the Kurdish fighters and refugees, legitimisation of the PKK and the release of Ocalan. The protest was part of a Global day of solidarity with the YPG (People’s Defense Units) and the women of the YPJ fighting against ISIS.

The protest was organised by the Kurdish People’s Assembly and Peace in Kurdistan Campaign in cooperation with Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), Roj Women Assembly and Free Youth Movement and community organisations, and was also supported by some left and human rights groups, but failed to attract some of the larger groups on the left.

Among the speakers were human rights lawyer Margaret Owen OBE, an adviser to Kurdish human rights groups in London, Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP for London, Mark Thomas, Peter Tatchell and Father Joe Ryan, a Catholic priest from Haringey as well as those from various Kurdish groups.

Many speakers criticised Turkey for supporting ISIS and allowing the smuggling of oil and other goods through Turkey which finance ISIS. They also supported the the model constitution adopted in Rojava, the de facto autonomous Kurdish majority region in northern and north-eastern Syria as an important democratic development, for its pluralism, democratic participation and protection of fundamental human rights and liberties.

Global Solidarity With Kobane


Turkey and Voting Systems

Monday, July 25th, 2022

Turkey and Voting Systems – Saturday 25th July 2015, seven years ago today,wasn’t a particularly busy day for me in London, and I covered only three protests. What caught my attention, because of our current political situation was a protest following the May 2015 election over the unfairness of our current voting system. The other two were about repression in another country which has featured greatly in the news recently particularly over the export of grain from the Ukraine, our NATO ally Turkey.


Free Steve Kaczynski from Turkish Jail – Kingsway

Turkey and Voting Systems

Steve Kaczynski, born in Scotland was at one time employed by the BBC World Service as an expert on Turkey. He was arrested in April 2015 during a raid on a left-wing Turkish cultural centre on suspicion of being a British spy and was still in jail without charge, now on hunger strike.

Turkey and Voting Systems

Kaczynski was at the centre to show international solidarity against fascism when it was raided by Turkish police following a hostage incident in a courthouse where a state prosecutor and the two gunmen holding him captive were killed, but there is no evidence that he was in any way involved with the incident.

Turkey and Voting Systems

The Turkish media has made much of rumours leaked by the government that he was a British or German spy, but those who know him find this impossible to believe. His arrest appears to be part of a systematic programme by the AKP Turkish government to intimidate any political opposition.

The protest outside the building housing the Counsellor’s Office for Culture & Information of the Turkish Embassy on Kingsway, close to Holborn Station, included some from the British left as well as the Turkish Popular Front in the UK. Those who knew him described him as a kind and gentle man who abhors violence and has long campaigned for human rights and political freedom. The protesters handed out leaflets to people passing by and made a lot of noise singing and chanting, but the office was closed on a Saturday morning and it was unlikely that there was anyone in there to hear them.

Steve Kaczynski was finally released three months later, after surviving a 61 day hunger strike.

Free Steve Kaczynski from Turkish Jail


Make seats match votes – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Great Britain in balloons, viewed from the north-west tip of the Scottish mainland

The May 2015 General Election resulted in the Conservative Party who got only 36.8% of the votes, just a little over a third, being returned with an overall majority, though only a small one.

A lone Green balloon on the south coast – and not enough room to put in the London area


Our first past the post constituency-based electoral system brings in huge differences based on both which party you vote for and the area in which you live. There was a Tory MP elected for every 34, 241 Tory voters, a Labour MP for every 40,290 Labour voters, but a Lib-Dem for every 301,990 Lib-Demo Voters and only 1 UKIP and one Green MP despite their parties getting 3,881,099 and 1,157,630 votes respectively. Two small parties with significant votes got no MPs at all.

A petition had been started before the election by Owen Winter, the independent member of the youth parliament for Cornwall, got over 200,000 signatures in a week or two and their were other similar well-supported petitions on other sites calling for voting reform and a system of proportional representation that would result in a government that reflected how people voted – signed in total by more than half a million people.

The protest included a map of the UK made by balloons of different colours for the various parties holding seats in the UK, which doubtless made sense for anyone sitting in a helicopter above the event but was pretty well impossible to see and photograph clearly at ground level.

After a short introduction, people went through the ‘map’ with pins popping balloons for the constituencies where no candidate got over 50% of the votes. Again this was hard to make visual sense out of at ground level.

What seemed to me lacking – apart from the other 499,000 or so who had signed the petitions – was any clear suggest of how a fairer voting system might work, though on My London Diary I put forward one suggestion which might work as well as retaining some of the advantages of the present system. But almost any system of PR would give us a fairer result than the current one, popular with the Conservatives and Labour as it entrenches their unfair advantage. Although the SNP also benefit from the current system they support electoral reform.

Make seats match votes


Kurds blame Turks for Suruc massacre – Downing St

32 Young activists were massacred by ISIS at Suruc on their way with toys, books and other materials to build a playground, library and other projects in Kobani (or Kobane). Kurds and supporters protested at Downing St, blaming our NATO ally Turkey for supporting ISIS.

People hold pictures of some of those killed by ISIS

Kobani is a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, close to the Syria–Turkey border, which became a part of Rojava, the autonomous area in the north of Syria under Kurdish control as a consequence of the Syrian Civil War. It was beseiged by ISIS from September 2014 to January 2015, and the defeat of ISIS in the area by the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, backed by US air support was a key turning point in the war against Islamic State.

Turkey has carried out a campaign of repression against the Kurds in Turkey who in return have been trying, sometimes by military means, to free themselves from Turkish domination which treats them as inferior citizens, outlawing their language and culture, and kidnapped and still holds their leader, Abdullah Ocalan. More recently Turkey has invaded parts of Rojava, and the Kobani area accepted the Syrian Army and their Russian support into the area in an attempt to protect it from Turkish invasion.

Turkey allows ISIS to operate on and across their border, as well as assisting them in the smuggling out of oil and other goods through Turkey vital in their economic support. They have also allowed recruits and supplies to reach them through Turkey. They appear to hope that ISIS will solve the Kurdish problem for them by defeating the Kurds in Iraq ad Syria.

After many speeches, including one by Edmonton MP Kate Osamor who has many Kurds in her constituency, they marched off towards the BBC which they say ignores attacks on Kurds and routinely sides, like the British Government with the Turkish government against them.

Kurds blame Turks for Suruc massacre


The Wall Must Fall & Kyoto March

Monday, May 16th, 2022

Back in 2004 I was still working with the Nikon D100, one of the first really affordable DSLR cameras which I bought when it came out in 2002. It used a 6Mp Sony sensor in what Nikon called DX format – though it could have been called half-frame. For years Nikon insisted we didn’t need larger sensors, and though they were correct, marketing pressure eventually forced them to move to “full-frame” and us zombies followed them.

The D100 was a decent camera, but let down by a rather small and dim viewfinder, and to some extent by the processing software available at the time for its RAW images. If I had the time to go back to the RAW files these images would look sharper and brighter. Here are a few of those I posted on My London Diary from the two events I photographed on 16th May 2004 along with the two sections of text (with some minor corrections.)


The wall must fall. Free Palestine rally, Trafalgar Square

Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, but not to put itself outside international law. We all need peace in the Middle East. Support for Palestine is also support for an Israel that can coexist with the rest of the world, and for the rest of the world.

Peter Tatchell protests the persecution of Queers in Palestine

The wall must fall rally in Trafalgar square on 16 May 2006 started with an an ugly scene, when stewards stopped Peter Tatchell and a group from Outrage from being photographed in front of the banners around Nelson’s column.

Neturei Karta orthodox Jews had walked down from Stamford Hill on the Sabbath to oppose Zionism

The rally organisers argued that raising the question of the persecution of gays in Palestine distracted attention from the Palestinian cause. Their childish attempts to distract the attention of photographers by jumping in front of the outrage protesters, holding placards in front of theirs and shouting over them simply increased the force of Tatchell’s arguments.

Fortunately the rally soon got under way, the main speaker was Jamal Jumaa – director of the Stop The Wall campaign in Palestine, although there were many other speakers, including Sophie Hurndall, the brother of Tom the murdered peace activist, Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Afif Safieh, Palestinian general delegate to the UK, George Galloway and more. Too many more for most of us.

War On Want activists came with a wall to dramatize the effect of the wall in Palestine. When the march moved off down Whitehall, the wall walked with them, and it was erected opposite Downing Street. There was a short sit-down on the road before the event dissolved.


Campaign against Climate Change Kyoto March, London

Bristol Radical Cheerleaders in the Kyoto march to the US embassy

I caught up with the Kyoto march, organised by the campaign for climate change, as it reached Berkeley Square on the last quarter-mile of its long trek from the Esso British HQ in Leatherhead. Esso are seen as being one of the main influences behind the refusal by George Bush and the US administration to ratify the Kyoto accord. The campaign has organised a number of marches in London, and this is an annual event.

Among the marchers it was good to find a number dressed ready for the promised ‘dinosaur party’ at the US embassy, as well as the fantastic Rinky Dink cycle-powered sound system. It was also good to meet a couple of the Bristol Radical cheerleaders again, bouncing with energy as ever. A little colour was also added by a small group of of Codepink activists forming a funeral cortege, carrying the globe on their coffin.

The police in Grosvenor square were not helpful, but eventually the speeches got under way in the corner of the square.


You can find more pictures on My London Diary starting from the May 2004 page or from the pages for the two events, The Wall Must Fall and Campaign against Climate Change.