Posts Tagged ‘placards’

Nelson Mandela’s Birthday

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Back in 1988 on the 17th July, the day before Nelson Mandela’s Birthday on the 18th July, I joined thousands of marchers through London demanding he be freed from jail.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela Mandela was born on 18th July 1918, so this was his 70th birthday and he was still in jail, then held in Pollsmoor Prison, near Cape Town, having been removed with other senior ANC members from Robben Island to remove their influence on younger ANC members held there.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

He was well treated in Pollsmoor and international attempts to end apartheid was increasing, along with secret meetings with the South African Minister of Justice. President Botha had actually offered to release him, if he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon”, but Mandela had refused to leave while the African National Congress was still banned.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31

Mandela’s 70th birthday was celebrated around the world, with a televised tribute concert at Wembley Stadium attracting an estimated 200 million viewers.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

The march in London was a large one, and I wasn’t then a seasoned photographer of protests, though I had taken pictures at a number of smaller events.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-34

Because of the size of the event there were a number of feeder marches leading to a rally in Hyde Park. I joined the march coming from Camden and went with it to the rally, where I took some pictures in the crowd but didn’t attempt to cover the speakers, who included the Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

I took altogether only just over a hundred black and white pictures, of which I’ve now uploaded around a quarter to an album, Free Nelson Mandela – March and Rally – London 1988. You can also click on any of the images in this post to go to a larger version from where you can browse all the pictures that are online.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Freedom and the Law

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Freedom is something we almost universally value, but which is often hijacked by various groups, particularly on the extreme right to support particular causes which have little real connection with our undamental rights. Freedom is certainly not the freedom to do what we like regardless of the effect it has on others.

Freedom is not the right to own and carry guns or other weapons. It isn’t the right to spread disease we may have by not taking sensible precautions such as wearing a face mask in crowded places. It isn’t the right to increase the risk of others getting lung cancer or to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Arguably the most important of our freedoms is the right to hold and express political and religious ideas and to express these. But that is not absolute, and rightly there are laws against hate speech and incitement to others to commit criminal actions or threaten the lives of others.

Back in 2005, the Labour government brought in a law to criminalise protest in Parliament Square. It was clearly a law which imposed unnecessary restrictions on our freedom and one which was brought in for a trivial reason, to end the embarrassment to the Labour ministers of one man, Brian Haw, continuing to protest, particularly over Iraq war and its disastrous consequences. That Tony Blair was annoyed by a regular reminder of his lies was not a suitable basis for legislation.

A regular series of harassment by police and others – almost certainly at the urging of the Home Secretary – had failed to shift this persistent protester, and civil servants were ordered to add a section to the bill which became the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to make his protest illegal. In the event the act failed to apply to his protest and I wondered if this was a little deliberate subversion by at least one of those responsible for its drafting rather than simple incompetence. Because his protest had begun well before the SOCA law came in on 7th April 2005, it was apparently not covered by it. As I commented, “rather a lot of egg on government faces there.” This initial ruling by the High Court of Justice was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal and these sections of the law were replace by other restictive laws in 2011.

On Sunday 7th August 2005, protesters came to Parliament Square to deliberately disobey the law, and the police came, some rather reluctantly, under orders to arrest them. The protestors argued that protest is a human right and cannot be restricted by law in a free society.

Brian Haw was there, but protesting legally as it appeared that the act didn’t include him. He held up a placard with the words from a speech in Boston by US Scretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”
interleaved with his own comments on Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Belmarsh and the Iraq war and more.

The police swooped on a few of those with posters or placards and arrested them, leading them away but their heart was clearly not in it and the great majority of the protesters were untouched, though
they were warned that their protest was illegal. As I commented: ” I saw five people arrested for simply peacefully holding banners supporting the right to protest. It happened on the square opposite our Houses of Parliament, and it made me feel ashamed to be British.”

When the protest in Parliament Square ended, protesters were invited to take part in another illegal protest inside the one km restricted zone around Parliament, but on Westminster Bridge. Again taking their lead from Boston, though this time from 1773, and tipping tea into the water, campaigners calling for a low-level tax on foreign currency exchange transactions, as proposed by Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin in 1978. This would deter speculation on currency movements, giving governments greater control over their fiscal and monetary policies, and reducing the power of speculators to affect the markets.

The connection between the tea bags torn to tip tea into the Thames, produced by large multi-national companies who are among the currency speculators, and the Tobin Tax, seemed a little weak – as doubtless was the brew in the river – though it did all alliterate nicely for the Westminster Tea Party – Time for Tobin Tax.

We are now seeing a law going through Parliament which will even further restrict our right to protest, increasing discriminatory policing, criminalising some traditional ways of life and seriously restricting and controlling protests in a huge shift further towards a police state. Unfortunately a large Conservative majority makes it seem inevitable that our freedoms will be significantly reduced.

More on My London Diary for August 2005.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Scientists Call For Research-Based Policies

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Recent events have brought scientists much more into centre stage, and politicians now claim to be “following the science” although this often means simply picking and choosing those bits from the wide range of scientific advice that suits their particular agenda.

Science isn’t monolithic, and its predictions are generally in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. Different disciplines may bring rather different emphases to aspects of complex problems and sometimes we need a wider view than that of a particular specialism – and even some common sense.

It seems clear that at the beginning of the Covid outbreak our government placed to much confidence in the advice of some mathematical modellers and failed to follow that based on medical experience in dealing with earlier pandemics on wearing masks and tightly controlling international travel that kept infection rates near zero in some countries. And that they had dismissed the evidence of earlier exercises in pandemic control and failed to follow the conclusion that we needed stockpiles of protective equipment.

Simple mathematical predictions close to the start of 2020 – like those I made metaphorically on the back of an envelope from then available data – suggested that by leaving the progress of the virus essentially unchecked we might expect around 400,000 deaths. It was perhaps calculations such as these that led to a massive programme of ordering vaccines.

Our various lockdown control measures – too little and too late – and gradual improvements in the care of those infected have so far managed to keep the numbers down to a little under half that initial estimate, though another wave may take us rather closer, particularly if variants prove more resistant to current vaccines.

A couple of days ago I was invited to complete an online opinion survey about the political challenges facing our government. One question asked me to pick one from a list as the major political challenge facing the UK government. I read through the list, which began with something about immigration and was shocked to find after reading the 10 choices I had to pick ‘Other’ and type in ‘Climate Change’.

It was climate change that essentially prompted the protest by scientists on April 22nd 2017 to march through London from the Science Museum to a rally at Parliament. They came to celebrate the vital role that science plays in our lives and to call for an end to the fake news and fake science such as climate denial by politicians such as Trump which will prove disastrous.

The march drew attention to the need for international cooperation to combat the existential challenge of man-made global warming – and warned of the danger to this from Brexit and isolationism around the world.

It was an unusual event in many respects. As I pointed out on My London Diary and elsewhere:

“It was a considerably more nerdy protest than most, and some of the posters and placards were difficult event for someone like me with a couple of science degrees in my past to understand. Many scientists do seem to have a problem in communicating with the rest of us and write slogans like ‘Do I have large P-value? Cos I feel Insignificant’ or ‘dT=α.ln(C1/C0)’.”

My London Diary

As well as covering the march and rally by scientists I also photographed campaigners calling for the reform of our secretive Family courts, Poice and Social Services which cover up their failures and corruption by gagging orders, and a protest outside the Consular department of the Russian Embassy to show solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya, where over a hundred men suspected of being homosexual have been rounded up an put into camps and tortured, with three thought to have been killed. You can see more about these events and the scientists’ protest on the links below.

Reform Family Courts
LGBT rights abuses in Chechnya
Scientists Rally for Science
Scientists march for Science


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.