Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

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.


UAF, EDL and Pride – 2013

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

UAF, EDL and Pride : Ten years ago on Saturday 29th June 2013 my work began in Hyde Park where anti-fascists had gathered to oppose an EDL march – for which very few had arrived. I left to photograph the 2013 Pride London event.


UAF Oppose, EDL Don’t Come – Hyde Park

UAF, EDL and Pride - 2013

Police had banned the EDL from marching past the East London Mosque in Whitechapel and from any assembly or procession in Woolwich where Lee Rigby had been cruelly slaughtered under the Public Order Act.

UAF, EDL and Pride - 2013

Instead they had allowed a march by the EDL from Hyde Park to a rally near Parliament, and had also allowed Unite Against Fascism to march in protest against the EDL.

UAF, EDL and Pride - 2013

But the two EDL leaders, Stephen Lennon and Kevin Carrol had called themselves ‘charity marchers’ and had turned up in Tower Hamlets and been arrested by police. This news was relayed to the UAF supporters in Hyde Park and they gave a loud cheer. There were at most a hundred of them, and they had intended to march to the starting point of the EDL march, but none of the EDL had turned up. I left to photograph Pride.

More at UAF Oppose, EDL Don’t Come.


Pride Celebrates Love and Marriage – Baker St – Trafalgar Square

UAF, EDL and Pride - 2013

Over 150 groups had turned up for the 2013 Pride Parade to welcome the equal marriage Bill in England and Wales and celebrate the love that binds the London LGBT+ community together and links it with the wider community.

They included many of the figures I had photographed at previous Prides over the years – such as ‘The Queen’ , including some I had photographed back in the 1990s.

As always, some of the costumes were spectacular, while others were, frankly, just very odd. But variety is of course the spice of life, and there was certainly no shortage of spice.

My pictures show many of the individuals taking part, as well as smaller groups, but no the more commercial aspects of the parade which now tend to dominate. And I also like to show those using the occasion to make a political point. Pride is still for some a protest.

After photographing the marchers at the start – always where the most interesting photographs of the event can be found, I made my way to Trafalgar Square to photograph people arriving at the end of the parade.

By the time the march ended I’d been on my own feet too long and went home.

Many more pictures at Pride Celebrates Love and Marriage.


Tibet, Syrians, Nuclear Melt-Down, Islamophobia & Lions

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

Tibet, Syrians, Nuclear Melt-Down, Islamophobia & Lions. Saturday 15th March, seven years ago was another typically varied day of protests on the streets of London which I covered.


London March for Freedom for Tibet

Every year Tibetans and supporters in London protest around the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, ten years after the Chinese invasion of the country. In 1959 the Dalai Lama and 120,000 Tibetans escaped to India and established the Tibetan Government in Exile.

In 2014 they met at Downing St for a march to a rally outside the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place, calling for Tibet to be free and in charge of its own destiny again and for an end to the illegal Chinese occupation. They say China is destroying Tibetan culture, and Tibetans are rapidly becoming a minority in their country as thousands of migrants are brought in. Peaceful protests by Tibetans are met by arrests, torture, death and lies, and China’s economic power means western countries adopt what they have called a policy of ‘constructive engagement’ with China, effectively turning a blind eye to the occupation and to human rights abuses in Tibet.

I left the Tibetans shortly after their march went through Trafalgar Square to photograph another protest.

London March for Freedom for Tibet


Syrians March for International Action

I had met the Syrians before the start of their march close to Hyde Park corner and had left them as they began their march along Piccadilly on the third anniversary of the start of their fight for freedom. I met them again as they came down Whitehall for a rally at Downing St to show their commitment to the cause and their solidarity with fellow Syrians inside and outside Syria.

The marchers from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the UK Syrian community called for Assad to go and were appealing to the Britain and the international community to help them to get rid of him. Unfortunately although western leaders condemned the actions of the Syrian government they were not prepared to back up their words with action, and it was left to Russia, who backed Assad to determine the future of the country. Few can doubt that the weakness shown by the west over Syria was not a major factor in Putin thinking he could successfully invade Ukraine.

Ukraine is not of course Syria, but it is hard to read the statement made by the Syrians I quoted in my post without seeing some parallels: “Syria, once proud of its contribution to culture, its distinguished history and its beautiful mosques and churches has been overwhelmed with a brutal dictatorship. Syrian homes have turned to rubble, echoing the unheard screams of its inhabitants. The regime has tried to silence the call of freedom by murdering over 150,000, injuring 500,000, imprisoning 250,000, making 1.5 million refugees and caused over 4.5 million internally displaced people within Syria, and recently started using chemical weapons…” Putin in Syria saved a brutal dictatorship, while in Ukraine it seems his aim is to impose a different regime on the country, perhaps less brutal but requiring similar means for it to be imposed.

Syrians March for International Action


Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered

Earlier I had been at Hyde Park Corner where protesters had gathered on the third anniversary of the nuclear melt-down at Fukushima to march through London, first to the Japanese Embassy and then on to a short stop at Downing St before a rally in Parliament Square.

I photographed them again at Downing St, but had to leave as they marched away to their rally.

Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered


English Volunteer Force march in London

The English Volunteer Force is a coalition of various far-right groups and described the protest on Facebook as “highlighting multiple issues from immigration, Islamic hate preachers, sharia law, Sharia zones, Sharia patrol groups, banning the Burhka!, Halal meat, endless applications for more mosques etc.”
They insist that they are ‘patriotic’ and are not racist, and claim not to be against Muslims but simply against Muslim extremists, though I found this hard to take seriously.

The march started outside the Lord Moon of the Mall pub close to the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall where people were just coming out of the pub as I arrived. Police were taking a great deal of trouble to keep anti-fascist who were intent on stopping the march from getting close to it, but were unhelpful when I complained about an assault by one of the protesters who shouted at me and pushed my camera into my face.

A few minutes before the assault I’d mingled with the protesters as they walked down to Downing St, joking with some I knew from earlier right-wing protests I’d covered previously. They seemed pleased that I was covering the event – and although they were clear we differed greatly in our views had personally invited me to some cover some ‘patriotic’ events as they trusted me to report accurately on them.

There were several groups of counter-protesters but generally they were kept apart by police – and by stewards in an official protest area against the EVF opposite Downing St. There were a few arrests both of anti-fascists and of EVF marchers who tried to attack them, and one of the larger groups of anti-fascist was kettled by police on Parliament St.

English Volunteer Force march in London


Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting

Finally I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where hundreds had come for the Global March for Lions, marching from different starting points to meet and call for a ban on the ‘canned’ hunting of captive lions by wealthy trophy tourists.

Legal but unscrupulous, ‘canned hunting’ is big business in South Africa, with more than 8,000 lions in captivity, bred on lion farms. Rich visitors pay large sums to take part in lion shoots, where the targets are unable to escape, often raised to be tame and used to human presence and drugged to make them easy kills. Over 160 lion killing camps have been set up in South African in the last 15 years.

As I commented: “It is a terrible way to treat a wild and noble animal, but it also greatly threatens the wild lion population. To prevent the inbreeding that is rife in captive lion populations, wild lions continue to be captured, while the growth in the Asian lion bone trade increased poaching.”

Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting


More about all these events on My London Diary:
Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting
English Volunteer Force march in London
Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered
Syrians March for International Action
London March for Freedom for Tibet


Past Time To Act On Climate Change?

Monday, March 7th, 2022

Past Time To Act On Climate Change? Seven years ago on Saturday 7th March 2015, 20,000 or so protesters marched through London to remind government and the nation it was Time to Act on Climate Change. Seven years on, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released a week ago warns “that climate breakdown is happening faster than expected and that the window to take action is closing fast. The report is a call to governments and private sector players to take drastic action against climate change.”

It’s a report that has largely been lost to public sight, pushed together with the stories about Tory sleaze and lies out of the news by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, though it has even more far-reaching implications. Not that I want to in any way minimise Putin’s criminal action and its terrible consequences for the people of Ukraine, largely innocents caught up in a situation of others’ making.

Of course the invasion of Ukraine has now raised the spectre of a nuclear war, which would almost certainly lead to mass extinction rather more rapidly than climate change, but the very dramatic prospect fortunately makes this almost unthinkable. Were it to happen it would almost certainly be by accident, something we have come close to several times in the past. Even our maddest politicians realise there is nothing to be gained by mutually assured destruction, and there would be no profits in it for the oligarchs or billionaires.

Climate change doesn’t happen in a massive flash, but is relatively slow and insidious. Even in the richer countries we are just beginning to feel its effects, and some in the Global South have long been suffering extreme hardship. But unless we heed the report and take drastic action without delay it will be too late to stop; many systems are coming close to their tipping points, past which there is no chance of recovery.

Scientists have been warning about the dangers for many years. Even 50 years ago when I was a student I spoke about the need to change the way we used the Earth’s resources and move to renewable systems of energy and agriculture, as many aspects of our current way of life were unsustainable.

Over 50 years ago it was clear to me that we needed to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, not just because of the carbon emissions and other pollutants, but also because thinking in the longer term it seemed a waste to burn what was a limited resource and an important chemical resource for plastics and other materials. I sold the only car I’d owned in 1967 or 8, because we needed to move away from a society based around private cars. It was clear too that we needed to farm in ways that conserved the soil and that many modern agricultural practices destroyed it – my father had joined the Soil Association which was established in 1946.

But of course there were huge profits to be made from fossil fuels and other industries that were driving up global emissions – and huge campaigns of obfuscation and lobbying. Most politicians in most countries were doing very nicely out of exploiting our natural resources – and the workers, who needed to be kept happy by more and more consumer goods as well as a huge and almost universal media promoting consumerism. Bread and circuses is of course nothing new.

Countries around the world, whatever their politics, are almost entirely run by politicians who have prospered from ‘business as usual’, and usually business corruption which they have colluded in by allowing money laundering, allowing huge tax avoidance and evasion and more. They have now learnt to talk the talk about climate change, but, as Greta Thunberg pointed out, it has been all “blah, blah, blah”, promises but little or no action.

There were many different groups taking part in ‘Time To Act on Climate Change’, including the Campaign Against Climate Change who have organised regular protests in London since 2002, Friends of the Earth who I’ve supported since the 1970s, the Green Party, anti-fracking protesters including the fabulous ‘Nanas’ of Frack Free Lancashire, campaigners against Heathrow expansion – and I list a few more in Climate Change Rally, which also has pictures of some of the speakers.

At the end of the rally I went on to photograph a protest by ‘Art Not Oil’ who invaded the steps of Tate Britain with their ‘longship’ and ‘oil spills’ in a protest demanding the Tate give up taking sponsorship from BP, who used their support of the arts to give themselves a positive public image despite the pollution and climate change their activites cause. It’s time to end this ‘greenwashing’.

Viking longship invades Tate steps has a few pictures of the event. The Longship first sailed to the British Museum where BP had sponsored a show on the Vikings. As I commented, the plastic oil spills used by the protesters “are a lot easier to clean up than the real ones BP has created such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and which could be truly catastrophic in the Arctic.”

More on all these on My London Diary:
Viking longship invades Tate steps
Climate Change Rally
Time to Act on Climate Change


Anti-Putin protests over Ukraine and Syria 2014

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Anti-Putin protests over Ukraine and Syria 2014. On 22 Feb 2014 the small regular protest opposite the Russian Embassy in Kensington was joined by several hundred Ukrainians supporting the Maidan coup in their country and calling for an end to Russian interference in the Ukraine.

Ukrainian Orthodox priests lead a service of mourning for those killed in the Maidan revolution

President Yanukovych was removed from his post by a vote in the Ukraine parliament on the 22 Feb, although he called the vote illegal as it did not follow the procedures of the Ukrainian Constitution. He fled as the new government raised criminal proceedings against him.

Syrians were also protesting against Putin opposite the Russian Embassy

There were Antimaidan protests in Ukraine, particularly in the southern and eastern areas, and there was considerable public support in the Crimea for the invasion by Russian troops which began on 26th February. There appears to have been considerable public support in the Crimea for the Russian action and a referendum, declared illegal by the EU and USA, on Crimea joining the Russian Federation had an official turnout of 83% and resulted in a 96% vote in favour.

Ukrainians march from a nearby cultural centre to the Russian embassy

On 22 Feb 2014, deputies at the Congress of the Southern and Eastern regions declared, accordint to Wikipedia, they were “ready to take responsibility for protecting constitutional order in their territory” and they rejected the authority of the Ukraine government. Demonstrations and clashes followed with opinion polls showing most people rejecting both the regional and national governments as illegitimate but fairly equally divided as to which they supported and separatist militia took control of large areas.

The Minsk summit in February 2015 brought a ceasefire between the Ukraine government and the militias but has failed to unite the country. When I drafted this post a few days ago Russian forces were massed on the borders of Ukraine and it seemed inevitable some would soon cross the border to come to the aid of their comrades in the breakaway areas as they now appear to be doing.

Fortunately I don’t suffer the same hawkish advisers as NATO – or at least like to add a pinch of salt as they more or less monopolise the BBC airwaves. This isn’t a second Cuba missile crisis (and I remember that vividly) but may possibly bring some resolution to an unsatisfactory situation in the area which the West has failed to properly grapple with since Minsk. At least I hope so. Nobody – not even the Russians – wants another war, and it would be disasatrous for the Ukraine.

Russia has interpreted (probably correctly) the large flow of arms and training by the west into the country as a build up for a Ukrainian government attack to retake Eastern Ukraine – where apparently over 600,000 people are of Russian heritage and still have Russian passports. It still it seems most likely to me that the Russian action will be confined to establishing clear borders for the breakway republics rather than a full-scale invasion of the country, and the end result will be a smaller but more united Ukraine in the remaining areas.

If Russia remains inside the new republics it has recognised, the Ukraine that remains, like the protesters in 2014, will be a strongly Orthodox country. After the protest opposite the Russian embassy they left and marched to the statue of St Volodymyr, ruler of Ukraine 980-1015, erected by Ukrainians on the corner of Holland Park in 1988 to celebrate the establishment of Christianity in Ukraine by St Volodymyr in 988.

The statue was surrounded by flowers, photographs and tributes with hundreds of burning candles to the many pro-opposition protesters who have been killed in Kiev and elsewhere in the Ukraine. Two Ukrainian Orthodox priests presided at a service to remember all those who have died to establish a free and independent Ukraine.

More about the 2014 protests in London on My London Diary:
Ukrainians Protest, Celebrate and Mourn
Syrian Peace Protest at Russian Embassy