Posts Tagged ‘police harassment’

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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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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Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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