Posts Tagged ‘protest’

University of London 3 Cosas Strike

Friday, January 28th, 2022
On the IWGB battlebus

Eight years ago on Tuesday 28th January 2014 low paid workers at the University of London were on the second day of their 3 day strike. Their union had organised a day of action around London and I had been invited to come and photograph it, having photographed a number of their previous protests.

University cleaners, maintenance and security staff were demanding that the University recognise their trade union, the IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) and give them better pay and conditions, comparable with other university staff they work alongside. The ‘3 Cosas’ were sick pay, paid holidays and pensions – all areas where these staff were only being given the legal minimum (and sometime not even that.)

As I wrote in 2014:

“although these workers work at the university and carry out work essential for the running of the university, the university does not employ them. Most low paid workers – cleaners, maintenance and security staff, catering works and others – at the University of London are no longer directly employed by the University, but work in the University on contracts from contractors Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace at the end of last year.) The policy of outsourcing these workers seems largely intended to evade the responsibilities of London University towards an essential part of their workforce.”

3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus

It meant an early start for me, although the pickets had been outside Senate House for four hours when I arrived at 9am. Living outside London though on its edge I seldom arrive before 10am as it doubles my travel costs and I’ve never been a happy early riser. Fortunately the weather was good, a bright winter day and I’d dressed for the weather with thermal underwear, thick socks and a woolly hat, though it was still pretty chilly on top of the open-top bus.

The bus turned out to be a 1960 Routemaster which was sold by London Transport in 1986 but only converted to open-top in 2001. (I’d long thought that there was a plentiful supply of such vehicles after drivers attempted routes under low bridges, but apparently not, although a couple of bridges near where I live have had quite a few victims over the years.) Compared to modern buses, Routemasters offered a very bumpy ride with considerable vibration, and taking pictures on the upper deck required some faster than normal shutter speeds and most of the time working one-handed while clinging on with the other.

Space on bus tops is also quite small and moving around impeded both by the seats and the other riders (I think it’s a more appropriate term than passengers) and though they were very cooperative the top of the bus was pretty full. Most of the pictures I made were taken when the bus was stopped either at junctions or for short protests and my fisheye lens proved really useful.

The bus trip began at Senate House, and then began an extensive tour around central London, making a tour of various university sites where IWGB members were striking. There was a great deal of booing as we passed the Unison headquarters on Euston Road, as many of the workers had left Unison in disgust as they felt the were not supporting the demands of low-paid workers. The IWGB had intended to stop outside the offices of The Guardian newspaper, but had been held up too much by London’s traffic and drove past and on to Parliament Square.

Here we jumped off the bus and marched to Parliament where the IWGB had arranged to meet Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for a short rally (and Andy Burnham sent a short message of support.)

There was a short shower before the bus came to pick us up on the Embankment, taking us to a side street near the Royal Opera House. Everyone kept quiet as we got off, then rushed around the corner and into the foyer. IWGB members there had voted for a strike the following month for union recognition and the London Living Wage.

In the foyer we were met by a man who introduced himself as the Unison Health & Safety rep and told the IWGB President and the other protesters that the ROH had already agreed that the cleaners will get the Living Wage, but had not yet told them. The Opera House recognises Unison, despite the workers almost entirely being IWGB members. It’s a ridiculous situation but one which is allowed under our poor trade union laws, though not one that makes sense for either workers or employers.

After making their views clear the IWGB members left quietly and got back onto the bus for the final visit of the day, to the Angel Islington, where Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over employing the workers at the University of London from the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace in December) has its offices. As at the Royal Opera House, there were plenty of police present and waiting for the protesters, but here they managed to lock the metal gates on the two entrances to Angel Square as the bus arrived, leaving the protest to take place in front of one of them in Torrens Place.

From here the bus was going on to the union offices at the Elephant and Castle and I was invited to join them for a very late mid-afternoon lunch but unfortunately I had work to do on the many pictures I had taken and had to leave them and make my way home.

IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Parliament
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus


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Defend Afrin, end Turkish Attacks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

The largest protest I attended on Saturday 27th January 2018, four years ago was against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Northern Syria, then a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO member with probably the largest and best-equipped army and air force in the Middle East was taking on the small and poorly equipped Kurdish forces, and despite a valiant fight the final result was predictable, particularly once Russia, the other major player in the Syrian conflict had given them their blessing.

Turkey has continued its attacks on Northern Syria, but mainly through air strikes, but these are seldom reported in UK media although covered by specialist sources such as ‘Foreign Policy‘, part of the Slate Group.

The US gave some support in other battles fought by the Kurds against Islamic State forces, but this was always limited and mostly ended with the withdrawal of US troops which was announced by Trump in December 2018, and again in October 2019, although around 900 were still there in October 2021. Turkey has been a major source of finance for ISIS, allowing them to profit from smuggling of oil, and backing some groups which were fighting with them.

In recent days there have been short mentions on the BBC about the continuing battles being fought by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia against Islamic State in Northern Syria. The prisons and refugee camps where former ISIS fighters and supporters are held are largely in Kurdish territory and ISIS are still active and fighting to release people from detention to increase their strength.

As I wrote in 2018, “the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups – which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds – equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.”

Unfortunately there seems little chance that such a model with be adopted more widely. Turkey continues to attack the Kurdish areas and does so using weapons sold to them as a NATO member by the UK, France and UAE. Turkey claims that the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, founded in 1978 which began its armed struggle for self-rule for Kurds in Turkey 1984.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999 and the organisation has been proscribed in many countries allied to Turkey, including the USA and UK. Several PKK flags were seized by police at the start of the march.

More at Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack.


This was not the only protest in London on that day, and I also photographed two other events. African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE were outside the UAE Embassy in London protesting against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves. On Regent St, the long-running protest outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St was continuing asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company’s clothing.

Canada Goose protests continue
End UAE support for slavery in Libya


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Poplar To Limehouse 1988

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Poplar To Limehouse 1988 – my walk continued on the East India Dock Road.

East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51-positive_2400
East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51

From the posters in the window this was clearly a video rental store, a relatively new thing back in 1988 – the first Blockbuster Video store only opened in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Home video recording only began to be popular after the introduction of Betamax in 1975, followed in 1977 by VHS (along with other formats.) By 1988 VHS had become the dominant format.

But my attention was caught by the notice on the door, ‘NO DOGS OR BIKES ALLOWED’ with a very small ‘Thankyou’ and the two bikes (I think a BMX and a racer) flung down on the pavement outside unlocked by their two young owners.

Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53-positive_2400
Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53

Poplar Labour Party, led by George Lansbury, gained control of Poplar Borough Council in 1919. Poplar was one of the poorest areas of the country and so rateable values there were low. With councils then being responsible for supporting the unemployed and poor, council rates thus had to be set at a much higher level than in wealthy boroughs, which was clearly unfair on boroughs like Poplar who had so many more people needing support. Their rates were the highest in London, twice as high as in the wealthy borough of Kensington.

Poplar Labour had come into office to make changes, to provide greater support for the poor, to set a higher minimum wage for council workers and to pay women equally to men. When a demand from government came in 1921 to increase contributions for cross-London authorities Poplar council refused to pay, instead voting to use the money for the local poor. The authorities took them to court, and 30 councillors marched there with two thousand supporters. All of the councillors were sentenced to prison, where one of the six women, Minnie Lansbury, died, only 32.

Public outcry with large demonstrations and some riots – and other councils following Poplar’s lead – led to the councillors being released with an Act being rushed through Parliament to make the system more fair, with richer boroughs contributing more and the poorer less.

Their protest had clearly been illegal, but was clearly justified, and it led to a much-needed reform. It’s a lesson which still has relevance, particularly with such current matters as statues and the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54-positive_2400
Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54

The statue of Richard Green still stands outside Poplar Baths, a Grade II listed building from 1933, replacing an earlier baths from 1852. The baths were largely to provide washing facilities when few homes had bathrooms in this poor area of the city. As well as ‘slipper baths’ there were also vapour baths, showers and laundry facilities. The new baths in 1933 was a huge building including these facilities and two swimming pools, the larger of which could be covered over and used as a dance hall, theatre and sports hall.

The baths reopened in 1947 after the war despite considerable damage and was closed and converted into a training centre in 1988. My picture from 1988 shows a board advertising the support of the London Docklands Development Corporation in providing disabled access.

The building later became derelict but after a strong local and national campaign for its restoration work began on its redevelopment in 2014 and it reopened again as Poplar Baths Leisure Centre and Gym, along with 100 new homes, in 2016.

Richard Green (1803-63) was a local shipowner, shipbuilder and philanthropist, supporting a Sailors’ Home, schools, an orphanage and hospitals in the area, some of which had been founded by his father, George Green. His Blackwall Yard built many ships for the East India Company and for trade with Australia and China. His company, R & H Green in 1919 joined with Silley Weir as R. and H. Green and Silley Weir, with large premises at the Royal Albert dry docks and others and continued in business until sold to become a part of the government owned River Thames Shipbuilders in 1977.

George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43-positive_2400
George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43

George Green (1767-1849) was the father of Richard Green whose statue with his dog still sits outside Poplar Baths. George married the boss’s daughter and made the reputation of the Blackwall Shipbuilding Yard, building many whalers.

As well as this school dating from 1828 on the East India Dock Road the older Green also endowed schools in Chrisp Street and Bow Lane. The current huilding from 1883 is part of Tower Hamlets College. George Green School in new buildings on Manchester Road became the secondary school for the Isle of Dogs with its first comprehensive intake in 1975.

Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44-positive_2400
Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44

The War memorial to the children of Upper North Street School is https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101065215-war-memorial-to-the-children-of-upper-north-street-school-poplar-ward Grade II* listed and includes the inscription: ‘IN MEMORY OF/ 18 CHILDREN/ WHO WERE KILLED/ BY A BOMB/ DROPPED FROM A/ GERMAN AEROPLANE/ UPON THE L.C.C./ SCHOOL UPPER/ NORTH STREET/ POPLAR ON THE/ 13TH OF JUNE 1917./ ALFRED H. WARREN O.B.E./ MAYOR/ J. BUTEUX SKEGGS,/ TOWN CLERK. ‘

There is a fuller story at the link above about the first mass German raid on London by Gotha bombers on 13 June 1917 which killed 162, including these 18 children mainly aged 5 or 6. At least 37 other children at the school were among the 432 injured by the raid.

St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45-positive_2400
St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45

St Mathias Church is also Grade II* listed, with a number of Grade II listed monuments. Poplar’s oldest church, it was built in 1766 as the Chapel of the East India Company, and became St Mathias as a parish church in 1866. You can see the company’s arms in the roof, and allegedly its columns came from wrecks of the Spanish Armada.

The exterior of the church was altered and enlarged by Teulon in 1875. The church closed in 1976 and was restored for community use by the LDDC in 1990.

Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36-positive_2400
Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36

Built in 1902–3 as an officers’ annexe to the Scandinavian Sailors’ Temperance Home, founded by Swedish Free Church missionary Agnes Hedenstrom (1849–1928) who began her mission in the East End in the 1870s, opening the home here in 1888. The mission was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1930.

This was I think the last picture I took on my way to Westferry station where I returned a couple of days later for another walk – and the subject of a later post.


Click on any image to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse other images.


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My London Diary – 25th January 2008

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

My London Diary – 25th January 2008

Here is my diary entry for the day, now 14 years ago, reproduced from the My London Diary web page. I’ve included the headings for the four events which in the original are separated from the text in a different column, and a few more of the pictures, but there are many more on the linked pages. The original format makes it more difficult to associate pictures with text, particularly on mobile phones.


Stop Kingsnorth – No New Coal

E.ON Office, Pall Mall, London.

Police kept demonstrators back against the wall and refused me permissio to work sensibly

Friday was a busy afternoon for demonstrations in London. I started in Pall Mall, outside the E.ON offices. This power company is a massive producer of pollutants, and its latest plans, recently approved by Medway Council, are for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth.

Currently this is awaiting government approval, but since it entirely contradicts their stated environmental policies it seems almost inevitable it will be given the go-ahead. When I left soon after the start of the demo there were perhaps 50 people present, but more may have come later.

Police were being rather officious in keeping the pavement clear, impeding myself and another photographer trying to cover the event. My reminder that police were supposed to allow the press to do their job was disregarded and I was told I was not allowed to stand on the edge of the pavement in the gaps between the police, although I would clearly not have been obstructing the pavement or getting in the way of the police carrying out their duty. So much for cooperation.
more pictures

Kenyans protest against Ugandan President

Ugandan High Commission, Trafalgar Sq, London.

The demonstration was just starting as I ran by

From there I headed up to Whitehall, on my way passing the start of a demonstration by Kenyans against the Ugandan President Museveni, who has lent support to the fixing of the elections in Kenya.
more pictures

Pakistanis protest at Musharraf London Visit

Whitehall, London.

Waiting for Musharraf to arrive

In Whitehall, a number of Pakistani protesters were waiting the arrival of President Musharraf who was expected to arrive by car at the Banqueting House. I took a few pictures and then left, deciding that I was unlikely to be able to get a decent picture when he arrived given the level of security.

One of the other photographers present mentioned that he had no difficulty in photographing Musharraf in Leicester, where he was allowed to be close enough to be able to reach out and touch him. It wasn’t clear to us why photographers are thought to be so much more of a risk in London
more pictures

Feminist Fightback protest CMF Abortion lies

Christian Medical Fellowship, Southwark, London

Hanging washing on Marshalsea Street outside the CMF office

Finally I headed for the Borough, where Feminist Fightback were demonstrating outside the offices of the Christian Medical Foundation. The CMF gave misleading evidence to the Parliamentary Committee which was considering possible reforms of the abortion act last year, and a number of its members with little direct scientific knowledge also gave evidence as if they were expert witnesses. They also support (and host) the minority report, which is in part based on their unreliable evidence.

In particular the CMF is still pressing the government to reduce the current 24 week time limit on abortions. FF fixed up a washing line outside the CMF offices on which to hang cloth pieces with a number of their slogans and demands.

The CMF issued a press release stating that they welcomed the demonstrators and supported their right to protest – and also offered soft drinks and biscuits, as well as coming out to talk to the demonstrators (and film and photograph them.)

I think most of us would welcome a lowering in the number of abortions, but the way to do this is not by stricter laws on abortion. Similarly, the best approach to reducing the already small number of late abortions is to reduce some of the procedural bottlenecks that lead to delay in the system.

The practical arguments seem almost entirely on the side of the measures proposed by the feminists in simply being more effective and less hypocritical. But I also felt very much more at ease talking to the feminists than the christians, who somehow seemed to exude a self-righteousness that rather made my flesh creep. I’m with Charlotte Bronte when she wrote “self-righteousness is not religion.”

more pictures


There are more pictures on My London Diary, including a few hidden away and not covered by the text taken as I walked from Westminster to Southwark.


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel
Three protests on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now! Irish Embassy

Selma James calls for the release of Margaretta D’Arcy

I don’t think my path has ever crossed, at least not knowingly, with that of ‘Guantanamo Granny’ Margaretta D’Arcy, though Facebook tells me we have 163 mutual friends. My eldest brother, around her age but long since dead, may well have sat down with her on Whitehall with Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100 back in 1961. Her life has been “decades of playwriting, acting, pageantry, pirate radio, books, peace activism, protest and imprisonment whilst bringing up her family of boys. She addresses Irish nationalism, civil liberties and women’s rights.”

Her political activities led to imprisonment in Northern India, in Armagh, in Holloway (for protests at Greenham Common against Cruise missiles.) This protest came after she was due in court after being jailed for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War against the use since 2001 of Shannon by US war planes in violation of Irish neutrality – and she served three months for refusing to sign a bond against further trespass on the airport.

The protest at the Irish Embassy called for her immediate release and was supported by organisations including the Global Women’s Strike, Troops out of Ireland, Winvisible, Women of Colour, Kilburn Stop the War, Labour Caribbean Solidarity, Payday Men’s Network, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

Students march to protect Education

London University Students held a peaceful protest to show they intend to keep up their protests for democratic, public education free from exploitation and police violence and to support university cleaners on a 3-day strike for ‘3 Cosas’ – sick pay, holidays and pensions – and for recognition of their trade union, the IWGB.

After a rally outside the University of London Union in Malet St they marched on a tour of key sites including Senate House, the University & Colleges Employers Association in Woburn House in Tavistock Square, Holborn Police station, where they protested loudly against police violence and in particular at the execution by police of Mark Duggan and ending with another short rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the Tavistock Square offices, a few of those in a black block at the front of the march made a brief token entry into the lobby, accompanied by rather more photographers and videographers, and some paint was thrown at the outside of the building, hitting several protesters and photographers.

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel

People protested close to the Israeli Embassy in response to a call by African asylum seekers for international action to support their protests against the arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of refugees inside Israel.

Tens of thousands of African asylum seekers have been protesting on the streets of Israel since the beginning of the month, holding mass rallies against their treatment by the Israeli authorities. New laws mean anyone entering the country without proper papers to be held for up to a year without trial, and for those who are already in the country to be held in infinite detention, at a detention facility in the Negev desert which like many other Israeli prisons is run by the private security company G4S.

Although there are around 50,000 African refugees in Israel, only a few hundred have had their applications processed. Most live illegally on the streets, taking whatever work is available in the ‘black economy’, with constant exploitation and threat of arrest. A recent strike by those working as cleaners, cooks, dishwashers and other low paid workers had brought many restaurants, hotels and businesses to a standstill.

Police tried to move the protesters to the opposite side of the busy main road, still further from the embassy which is in a private street, but they refused to move. Eventually police gave up and brought some cones from across the road to allow others to pass the growing protest in safety.

More on all these on My London Diary:

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel
Students march to protect Education
Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now!


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A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination
Three of the protests I photographed four years ago on Saturday 20th January 2018.

US Embassy first protest – No to Trump’s racism

The US decision to move their embassy out of Grosvenor Square in central London to the rather more obscure area of Nine Elms was at least in part thought to be their hope that it would attract fewer protests and that these would be given less media coverage.

So I was very pleased to photograph what was I think the first protest at the new site, on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. It was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’.

His use of this word provoked offence and outrage around the world, and was a new and more offensive aspect of the racist attacks on black communities, migrants, refugees and the Muslim community.

Through Trump’s campaign and first year of office he has kept up his racist demands for a wall to be built along the Mexican border to keep out migrants (and demanding that Mexico pay for it.) Stand Up to Racism called for a wave of protests across the country on the anniversary to ‘knock down the racist wall’. They built a wall in front of the new US embassy which opened for business earlier in the week and at the end of the protest they knocked this wall down.

Trump had earlier announced that he had cancelled his visit planned for the following month to open the embassy – which would have attracted massive protests. And as I commented, ” Few doubt that it was this that caused him to cancel his visit, though Trump tweeted that it was a lousy building in the wrong place – and with his usual accuracy blamed Obama for a decision that had been taken by Bush.”

Architecturally I think Trump perhaps had a point. Basically the building is a cube with a few plastic bits hanging on three sides, perhaps its main redeeming feature its moat, though being only along one side this is not particularly functional. Though the mediocrity of the luxury flats around it which will doubtless largely be overseas investments rather than homes does make it stand out. The Grosvenor Square building by leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen was London’s first purpose-built embassy when opened in 1960 and attracted almost universal criticism when built, but was considerably worsened by the 2008 security additions, now being removed as it is turned into a luxury hotel.

Break UK silence over Iran uprising

The anti-government protests which took place in Iran in December 2017 were the biggest since the crushing of the 2009 Green Movement by security forces. Protesters opposite Downing St called on Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Unfortunately Britain has little or no influence on the Iranian government and has for years slavishly followed the US lead in relations with the country. Our relations with the country since oil was first discovered (and exploited by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 51% owned by the British Government which much later became BP) have often been doubtful both before and after the 1979 revolution, which arguably came about largely as a consequence of US/UK policies.

The protest was organised and largely attended by members of the PMOI/MEK, an organisation which began in 1965 in opposition to the US-supported Shah and formed an armed militia. After the revolution it refused to take part in the constitutional referendum and in 1981 it was banned. The MEK sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) and many MEK members were arrested, tortured and executed in the 1980s culminating in mass executions in 1988, when around 30,000 people were killed. MEK camps were bombed by the US during the invasion of Iraq and they were forced to surrender and disarmed, confined to a camp in Iraq. It was MEK provided information – some deliberately false – about the Iranian nuclear weapons programme – apparently given to them by Israel – that led to sanctions against Iran.

Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence

The Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB organised a march from Parliament Square to the Indian High Commission which was supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations, the South Asian Solidarity Group and others following attacks in India on the Dalit community by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination there.

Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of a historic victory by Dalit soldiers fighting for the East India Company in the Battle of Koregaon on January 1st 2018. The victory has been celebrated since 1927 when celebrations at the memorial pillar erected by the British were inaugurated by Dr Ambedkar, the principle architect of the Indian Constitution, which made caste discrimination illegal in India. This year’s celebration was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists with many injured and one boy killed and the unrest and attacks spread to Mumbai.

Caste-based attacks on Dalits have increased greatly since the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP party under Narendra Modi, whose central vision along with the linked violent Hindu Nationalist RSS movement is for Dalits to remain at the bottom of Indian society. Lobbying mainly by wealthy Hindus in the UK led the UK government to abandon a 2013 promise to include caste as an aspect of race under the Equality Act 2010.

I also photographed a protest similar to that described in yesterday’s post about 19th January 2019 by Bolivians against Evo Morales being allowed to run for a fourth term as President.

More on all these in My London Diary:
US Embassy – No to Trump’s racism
Break UK silence over Iran uprising
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy


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Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity
Saturday 19th January 2019 was another day of protests in London.

Women’s Bread & Roses protest

Inspired by the Bread & Roses protests which revolutionised workers’ rights for women in 1912, Women’s March London marched from the BBC to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The march was a part of an international day with women marching in many countries across the world and particularly in the USA.

Women were marching against economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment and hostile environment in the UK, and they called for a government dedicated to equality and working for all of us rather than the few.

It began rather oddly outside the BBC with a carefully organised and scripted rally by a TV crew working for the BBC to produce what they called a documentary, though it seemed to have little real connection with the event that was taking place.

I walked with the women photographing them as they marched to another hopefully less scripted rally in Trafalgar Square where I left them to go to another event.

Bolivians protest against Morales

While in Trafalgar Square I photographed another protest taking place on the North Terrace, where Bolivians from the 21F movement had gathered against the ruling by Bolivia’s Electoral Tribunal that President Evo Morales could stand for a fourth term in office. Morales was first elected president in 2005, and supported the 2009 constitution which only allowed two consecutive terms in office. But later he tried to change this and the matter was put to a national referendum on 21st February 2016 which narrowly rejected the change.

Morales then went to the courts and they ruled that the limitation to two terms was an infringement on human rights and allowed him to stand again,, and he won a third term in office. The protesters were from the 21F movement, named from the referendum debate who accused him of corruption and interfering with the court system and say he is behaving as a dictator by trying to remain in power for a fourth term. He stood and won in October 2019, but a coup attempt in November 2019 forced him to flee the country, though he was able to return after MAS candidate Luis Arce won a clear victory in the 2020 general election and was sworn in as President.

Morales, the head of the Movement for Socialism party (MAS) while in office implemented leftist policies, reducing poverty and illiteracy and combating the influence of the United States and multinational corporations in Bolivia which has made him very unpopular with many of the middle class who were used to running the country – as well as the USA who have encouraged and financed opposition to him. Perhaps the 21F protest was really more about his policies than a concern for the integrity of the constitution.

Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists

From Trafalgar Square I made my way to the Cable Street Mural on the former Stepney Town Hall in St George’s Gardens Shadwell, where Anarchist and Anti-fascists were gathering to march to oppose racism, xenophobia, fascism and the upsurge of far-right populism and to show solidarity with Russian anti-fascists who have been arrested, framed and tortured in a brutal wave of repression.

There were speeches by Russian and Ukrainian comrades and a message from some of those under arrest in Russia. Six were arrested in 2017 by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and charged with belonging to a non-existent organisation, ‘The Network’. They have been and beaten and tortured in the pre-trial detention facility using electrical torture and hanging them upside down to get them to sign confessions, which they were forced to memorise.

Five more anti-fascists have been arrested since and also tortured to admit they were members of ‘The Network’, which the FSB claims were planning explosions during the Russian presidential elections and the World Cup. They could be jailed for up to 20 years for membership of the fictional group.

Stanislav Markelov, murdered by fascists in broad daylight on January 19th 2009.

January 19th was the 10th anniversary of the brutal murder on a Moscow street in broad daylight of two Russian anti-fascists, journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Russian anarchists and anti-fascists hold events to remember them on this day every year.

From the fine mural celebrating the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, when the East End rose up to fight the police who tried to force a way for Mosley’s Blackshirts to march through the Jewish East End, the protesters marched to Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, re-named after a young Bengali textile worker, 24 year old Altab Ali, who was murdered here on May 4th 1978 in a brutal unprovoked racist attack by three teenage boys as he walked home from work.

More on all three protests on My London Diary:
Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists
Bolivians protest against Morales
Women’s Bread & Roses protest


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Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

Gaza, Syria, Anons & Israeli Pinkwashing: 18/01/2014
Another busy day for protests in London seven years ago.

Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary
A large crowd protested on Kensington High Street opposite the private gated and guarded road containing the Israeli embassy five years marked 5 years after the end of the 2008/9 massacre in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, in which around 1,400 Palestinians were killed, many of them unarmed civilians.

Among those taking part were a number of Palestinians and Jews, who have been prominent in calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The protest was supported by many groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, British Muslim Initiative, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,
Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al-Aqsa UK, Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine, War on Want, Unite the Union, Public and Commercial Services Union, Amos Trust and ICAHD UK.

Anonymous March For Freedom UK

Following their large protest on November 5th, Anonymous supporters arranged a another wide-ranging protest against privatisation, cuts, environmental and other issues, calling for the people to claim the country back from those who are destroying it.

This was rather smaller with perhaps a little over a hundred people, some wearing Anonymous masks meeting in Trafalgar Square and then marching down to Parliament, although as it was a Saturday there would be no politicians there.

Standing around the square were quite a number of police, including Police Liaison Officers in their blue bibs as well as a FIT team with a police photographer. But the police seemed much less confrontational than in November and actually helped them to march down Whitehall to Parliament – and when no one seemed then to have any idea what to do next actually made some sensible suggestions.

Eventually the police persuaded the protesters to move off the road and on to the pavement outside Parliament where they held a rally. There were a number of speeches than the protest rather ground to a halt, with some suggesting that they party in Parliament Square. I left at this point, walking past enough police vans to hold several times as many officers as protesters as I did so.

Peace vigil for Syria

In Trafalgar Square Syria Peace & Justice were holding a peace vigil ahead of the Geneva 2 peace talks. They called for immediate humanitarian ceasefires and the release of all political prisoners and an inclusive Syrian-led peace process.

Unfortunately although the USA and western countries who had encouraged the Syrian rebels made supportive noises, they failed to come up with any real support. It was left to Russia who came to Assad’s aid and ensured the continuation of his regime, with some help from Turkey, who despite their membership of NATO colluded with both Assad and ISIS as well as Russia.

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing

Nearby in Villiers St, there were protesters outside the Gay Star Beach Party LGBT tourism promotion, which received money from the Israeli Tourism Board to encourage gay tourists to holiday in Tel Aviv.

The picket outside the event asked people to boycott Israel until ends human rights abuses and recognises the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and complies with international law, and handed out ‘No Pinkwash’ cards which they say persuaded a number of people not to attend the event. Very few appeared to actually attend the beach party.

They also highlighted Israel’s racist treatment of African people following the protests in Tel Aviv last week by 30,000 African asylum seekers and refugees. These demanded that all African refugees imprisoned in Israeli prisons and detention centres be freed and that their rights as asylum seekers and refugees be recognised.

More on all four protests on My London Diary:

Israeli Gay Tourism Pinkwashing
Peace vigil for Syria
Anonymous March For Freedom UK
Gaza Massacre 5th Anniversary


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Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014

Monday, January 17th, 2022

Focus E15 Mothers and children party in the show flat – 17th January 2014

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014
Housing remains one of London’s larger problems, with sky-high house prices and market rents. At the start of 2022 the average flat rent in London is over £360 per week – around £19,000 per year, while the average property price according to Zoopla is £681,427.

Housing has always been a problem in London, but in the 1950s, 60s and 70s things were beginning to improve, largely due to both Labour and Conservative councils building council houses and flats. By the 1960s over 500,000 new flats were added in London and nationally around a third of UK households lived in social housing.

The government’s minimum wage for 2022 will be £9.50 per hour from April – an on that rate you would need to work for around 38 hours a week just to pay for a flat – and of course would have no chance of ever buying a flat or house. Things have got considerably worse since 2010, and in boroughs like Newham average rents now are 65% of average wages.

The building programme slowed down in the 1970s as governments made it more difficult for councils to build, but the real watershed came with Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act which gave council tenants the right to buy their properties at between 33-50% of market value – and stopped councils from using the proceeds to built more properties.

Further housing acts under Thatcher led to the transfer of much social housing to housing associations, which were allowed to access private finance while councils were very much restricted in their borrowing. Housing associations continue to build some new properties, but the numbers are small in relation to demand, and much lower than those built by councils in the 1950s-70s. Official figures for 2019 show only 37,825 new homes built for letting at below market rents while over 1.1 million households are on housing waiting lists – around 30 times as many.

So it is not surprising that councils such as Newham have a huge housing problem, and the council says it has the highest levels of overcrowded housing in the country, one of the highest proportion of people living in insecure private rented homes and in houses of multiple occupation and the largest number of homeless people – including those in temporary accommodation.

Newham was one of the first councils to get an elected Mayor in 2002, and Robin Wales held that post until 2018 when he was deselected as candidate. Many blame him for the particular failures over housing in the borough and point to properties on the Carpenters Estate in particular, some of which have been deliberately left empty for around 15 years.

The first group to organise and call out the council on their failures over housing were young single mothers who were threatened with eviction after Newham Council removed funding from East Thames Housing Association’s Focus E15 Foyer in Stratford. Newham Council had tried to get them to move well away from London, in Hastings, Birmingham and elsewhere, away from friends, families, colleges, nurseries and support networks. These offers were for private rented accommodation, with little or no security of tenure and would leave them at the mercy of often unscrupulous or uncaring landlords.

For once the group stood together and determined – helped by friends – to fight the council, not just for their own cases, but also for others whom Newham is failing to provide accommodation. Though they attracted national publicity and won their fight to stay in the London they continue to hold a weekly protest and advice stall in central Stratford every Saturday – I visited it again in late 2021. Their fight exposed the failures of Robin Wales and was certainly one of the factors in his losing support in the borough.

You can read more about the protes when a group of the mothers with their children went into the East Thames offices and held a party in their show flat on on My London Diary in Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction. The East Thames staff who came to talk with them were generally sympathetic and attempted to reassure them but told them it was the responsibility of the council and not the housing association to rehouse them.


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