Posts Tagged ‘racism’

October 7th 2017

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d086.jpg

On 7th October 2017 I started the day at a silent vigil for Elephants and Rhinos in Parliament Square before going on the the main event, the Football Lads Alliance and Veterans Against Terrorism rally and march. They were protesting against the recent terror attacks in the UK and Europe, remembering the victims and calling on government to take decisive action against the extremist threat, including locking up all terrorist suspects and deporting those of foreign origin.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d584.jpg

I had some slight hopes that the FLA would turn out not just to be another extreme right organisation like the EDL and the organisers had emphasised that they were opposed to all extremism and racism, but the speeches at the rally in Park Lane and the response from the crowd soon made their position clear, with demands for many thousands of British Muslims to be locked up as extremists. And as I wrote “there was a huge outcry when the name of Diane Abbott was mentioned, with a loud shout from behind me that she should be raped. It was hard to avoid the impression that it was a meeting to stir up Islamophobia, and there seemed to be a total lack of sympathy with refugees fleeing their countries to seek asylum here.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d155.jpg

Although most of the supporters were happy to be photographed with their wreaths there were a few times when I was greeted with abuse and threats and moved quickly away from some groups.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d727.jpg

More people joined the march as it moved up Picadilly and by the time it reached Trafalgar Square what had been billed as a silent march had become very noisy. There it was joined by a couple of hundred Gurkhas, many wearing medals, who marched at the front for a short distance before being overtaken by some of the organisers and fans.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d368.jpg

On Whitehall a group from Stand Up to Racism had gathered to stand as the march went past, handing out a flier ‘Some questions for the leaders of the FLA‘, which asked them to take steps to ensure their movement was not taken over by racists. The called on the marchers to stand together with the slogan ‘No to racism & Islamophobia, Football for All’.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20171007-d435.jpg


Many of the marchers took exception to this, shouting insults and threats, with some taking the leaflets and tearing them up, though there were some who seemed to take an interest and read it. Police formed a line to protect those handing out leaflets – making both handing the leaflets and taking photographs difficult, but preventing us being assaulted – and eventually forced the marchers who had stopped in a block against Stand Up to Racism to move away. Relatively few of the marchers seemed to make it to the final rally and wreath-laying on Westminster Bridge, with pubs in the area getting crowded and others hanging around in groups in Parliament Square.

Stand Up To Racism and the FLA
Football Lads Alliance March
Football Lads Alliance Rally
Silent Vigil for Elephants and Rhinos


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

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



Londoners Defeat the EDL: 2012

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Londoners came out to defeat the racist EDL when Tommy Robinson decided to hold a march to a rally in Walthamstow against Muslims and Sharia Law. The area is one of London’s more ethnically diverse, with a large Muslim population as well as others of Asian and Caribbean origin and, at least in 2012, many from Romania, Poland, Hungary and other EU countries. Roughly a quarter of the population of the borough of Waltham Forest call themselves Muslim though around twice as many identify as Christian.

The ‘We are Waltham Forest’ campaign brought together many groups from the community to oppose the march, including many from the churches and mosques in the area as well as the main political parties and trade unionists as well as more active anti-fascist groups including Unite Against Fascism.

From a well-attended rally in the centre of Walthamstow people marched to block the road along which the EDL intended to march. As they marched people came out of shops and houses to applaud them and it was clear they enjoyed wide community support.

When they reached the crucial road junction, many of them sat down on the street, while others stood and watched. A samba band played and people danced and it was clear that there were more than a thousand people determined that the EDL were not going to be allowed to pass.

I went to meet the EDL march on its way into the area, and found a group of perhaps 200 surrounded by a police escort which made taking photographs difficult. But since I was getting sworn and and threatened by the marchers the police presence was welcome, and they held back one man who made a determined effort to assault me. I followed their march for some distance; there were a few protesters at the side of the road against them, but police stopped them coming close. Along around half a mile only one person shouted support, leaning out of a first floor window, and was met with a huge response from the marchers.

Police took the EDL along some back streets that led them close to the site where they had intended to hold their rally but then kettled them. Tommy Robinson and the other EDL leaders had set up a PA system but the police held the marchers a short distance away and it soon became clear that a rally there would be impossible. Although most of the opposition was non-violent, stones and other objects were soon flying through the air, and the EDL leaders had to retreat, as I did too, watching from the sidelines.

I’d decided long ago that I was not prepared to wear the kind of protective armour that many photographers use to cover protests – including various kinds of helmet, bullet proof vests, shin pads and more. Fortunately such things are seldom needed at protests in the UK, though photographers have often been targets, particularly at extreme right protests. Here it was the anti-fascists who were throwing things, not at photographers but towards the EDL, but many were falling short.

It seemed to me that a stalemate had been reached and that nothing of interest was likely to happen and I decided to go home. For once I was right – often my leaving seems to be a signal for things to kick off – but this time little more happened. Eventually the police escorted the kettled EDL march away to an Underground station so they could safely leave the area.

More about the event and many more pictures at Waltham Forest Defeats the EDL.


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.


Edinburgh against Fascism: 2013

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I seldom photograph protests outside London, and I hadn’t gone to Scotland to take photographs, but we had been invited to spend a week there during the Edinburgh festival. We’d never been to the festival before, and had timed our two previous stays in the city deliberately to avoid it, but decided to go and see what it was like. We did actually enjoy the week, but haven’t felt it was an experience we need to repeat.

On Saturday 17th August we rushed out after breakfast to attend a play about a male clergyman and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion; clever and quite funny but it was too early in the morning for me. However it was conveniently close to where Unite Against Fascism and others were gathering to oppose a march by the fascist Scottish Defence League, and while Linda went to listen to a classical concert I made the short walk to cover the protest – my first in Scotland.

Like many such events in London it was slow to start. The assembly time was a couple of hours before the SDL were expected to march and the Scottish police were determined to keep the two groups as far apart as they could. But it gave me more than enough time to take pictures of the marchers and their banners and placards.

At the time all of my work on protests was made using Nikon DSLRs, but I’d left them at home when I came away for a week’s holiday, and all of these pictures were made using the relatively light and compact Fuji X-E1 and a single lens, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom. It was the first time I’d used the Fuji camera for a protest, and I did it a little less responsive than the Nikon, with slower auto-focus and sometimes a perceptible lag between shutter press and picture-taking.

The electronic viewfinder couldn’t match the Nikon’s optical one either for clarity, and sometimes was noticeably slow to react when I moved the camera or zoomed the lens. And having just an equivalent focal length of 27-83mm I found limiting, missing both the extreme wide-angle and longer telephoto I usually worked with. But despite this I was reasonably pleased with the pictures from the day.

Eventually the march moved off and was escorted by police who kept them well away from the SDL as they marched to a large pen on Horse Wynd at the back of the Scottish Parliament. Approaching a thousand people had come to oppose the racist march.

There was still no sign of the SDL, but I avoided the pen and walked back up Canongate to meet them coming down. Through a tight police cordon around the group of around a hundred I saw quite a few faces familiar from EDL protests in London – and some of them obviously recognised me and made threatening gestures.

Once police had led them into a separate pen far enough away from the anti-fascists to prevent the two groups throwing missiles at each other but within shouting distance, it got a little easier to photograph some of the EDL. Although there were police lines stopping either fascists or anti-fascists from getting closer to each other a few anti-fascists found their way though the entrance area to Hollyroodhouse and were then arrested as they approached the EDL.

I left as the two groups were still shouting at each other to go to the Postgrad show at the College of Art before it closed, then on to a comedy show and finally to a meal with the dozen of us who were sharing a large flat at a convenient Thai restuarant. We were up early the next morning to catch a train back to London.

SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

Close Down Yarl’s Wood: 2015

Sunday, August 8th, 2021

I’m not sure what is happening at Yarl’s Wood now. Temporary huts were erected there to house destitute asylum seekers at the beginning of 2021, but abandoned in February by the Home Office after a legal challenge and a local and national outcry. In 2020 it’s purpose was changed from holding women to holding men, and there were reports that most of the women had been removed, but according to the Asylum Information Database there were 238 asylum seekers still held there at the end of 2020. Both Home Office and Serco web sites appear to lack any information. Six years ago today, on 8th August 2015 I attended a protest there and wrote the following report, illustrated here with just a few pictures from the many in the original My London Diary post.


Yarl’s Wood Immigration prison, Bedford. Sat 8 Aug 2015

Around a thousand protesters in a field adjoining the detention centre joined with detainees locked up in Yarl’s Wood to demand an end to immigration detention and the whole racist system which locks up migrants and asylum seekers without trial, subjecting them to abuse and sexual harassment.

Coaches came from around the country to drop protesters outside the business estate on a former aerodrome in the middle of the country around five miles from Bedford, and a coach from Bedford Station made two journeys from there to bring myself and the others who had arrived by train. Others made their journey there by taxi, car and bicycle, and a few by bus, which dropped them at the centre of a village around a mile away.

The protest was organised by Movement for Justice and there is a long list of other groups that supported it and the campaign to close detention centres, though I think there were also others present: Women for Refugee Women, Right To Remain, CheltFems, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, All African Womens Group, Refugee Support Devon, Exeter City of Sanctuary, London Palestine Action, Diásporas Criticas, South London Anti Fascists, No One Is Illegal, Jewish Socialist Group, Left Unity, CUSU Women’s Campaign, Freedom Without Fear Platform, Black Dissidents, Feminist Fightback, Women’s Association for the Guild of Students, University of Birmingham, Unite Hotel Workers Branch, Plan C, Birmingham, Leeds Feminist Network, Sisters Uncut, SOAS Unison.

The protest started next to the road at the front of the estate to give time for all the protesters to arrive, and then walked along a public bridleway which goes close to the detention centre. The protesters were allowed into a field which ran along the side of the high fence around the centre for today’s protest – at a previous protest they had pushed down fences and breached barbed wire to get to the fence.

There was a rapturous welcome from the women inside the prison, who came to the windows, shouting and waving and holding up signs. Protests like this really give the prisoners hope, and show them they have support and are not forgotten. Together, inside and out people chanted slogans ‘Shut Down Yarls Wood’, ‘Detention Centres, Shut them Down’ and more.

A small rise in the field help us see the windows on the first floor and above despite the fence, solid for around 10ft with another 10ft of mesh on top. People banged it to make a noise, kicked it, and banged it with pots and pans, and some climbed on others shoulders to lift up banners and placards so those inside could see.

Then a group of people wearing face masks began to write slogans on the fence, and soon a long length of it was covered with them ‘No Borders’, ‘No One is Illegal’ ‘#SetHerFree’, ‘Shut it Down’, ‘Gaza 2 Yarls Wood Destroy Apartheid Walls’, ‘Racist Walls’ and more.

Inside the women waved. The windows open to a small gap and one woman waved her leg though it, decorated with paper tied around. Others waved clothing and held up signs, some with slogans like those held up and shouted by the people outside. One carefully drawn one read ‘We Want Freedom – No Human Is Illegal – Close Yarls Wood’ while another simply read ‘Help’.

The organisers had mobile numbers for some of those inside – and others inside wrote theirs large and held them up in the window. We were able to hear greetings and reports from some of those inside, their voices on the phone amplified on the megaphone.

They too could hear the speeches from outside, including several by women who had been held with them inside the prison. Many are held for long periods in this and other detention centres, never knowing when they might be let out – or an attempt made to send them back to the country they were desperate to escape from.

Too soon we had to leave. And they had to stay. As I walked away to catch the coach back to Bedford station I felt ashamed at the way that my country treats asylum seekers. They deserve support and humanity and get treated worse than criminals.


Many more pictures at Close Down Yarl’s Wood.


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.


End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out! 2016

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Five years ago the People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism organised a march through London as a response to the referendum campaign conducted by many Brexit campaigners on an anti-immigration platform which had provoked an upsurge in racism and hate attacks on Black and particularly Muslim people online and on the streets of Britain.

The marchers met outside the BBC, as I wrote ” in the forlorn hope that they might for once cover a protest in Britain properly” but of course they ignored the thousands on their doorstep. Probably they were too busy giving Nigel Farage a quite disproportionate amount of publicity and air-time, along with the Labour plotters against Jeremy Corbyn – who sent a message of support to the marchers and like them showing solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers.

This banner and the placards for me summed up the message of the march, a demand for ‘Hope Not Hate’ and for people of all backgrounds to join hands in love and respect and say ‘No Racism’. We’ve recently seen a huge backlash against racist remarks against footballers in the English team showing that people across the country oppose racism, whether from the far right or Tory ministers and MPs who denigrate footballers who ‘Take the Knee’.

Later I managed to get to Parliament Square for the rally at the end of the march with speakers from many organisations, including an asylum seeker as well as politicians and activists. It was a sunny day and there was a warm and pleasant atmosphere in the large crowd listening and applauding the speakers.

I’d waited on Regent St as the march set off for some time until the last of the several thousand marchers had passed me, then hurried off to the HQ Offices of CBRE in Henrietta Place, where cleaners from the strike at 100 Wood St, managed by CBRE, had broken away from the march to stage a flash mob, along with supporters including United Voices of the World General Secretary Petros Elia and Bakers Union (BFAWU) National President Ian Hodson.

I’d arrived too late to go with them into the foyer, whose large glass doors were firmly locked when I arrived, but after a few minutes photographing through glass the doors were opened I was able to take a few more pictures as they got ready to leave. They went on to rejoin the march, but I went off to look for the English Defence League whose protest had been called to oppose that by the People’s Assembly.

I don’t like photographing extreme right-wing groups such as the EDL. It gives them publicity, which they don’t deserve as it exaggerates their importance. Generally their protests are small and their extremism represents a very small fringe of our society, though racist attitudes unfortunately are much more widespread. But rather more directly they are generally not nice people to be near. They shout and scream messages of hate, often in vile language, and routinely threaten me as I take photographs. I’ve been spat at and even, fortunately not often, grabbed, pushed and punched.

While with most protests I can move freely through the event, at these I need to keep a safe distance away. I’m usually glad that police are present, and without them I would be assaulted and my equipment smashed, but police sometimes make any photography virtually impossible. While I’d managed to cover the march I could only see brief glimpses of the rally which followed through several lines of police with several hundred of them surrounding perhaps a hundred protesters. I gave up then and took the tube to cover the anti-racist rally.

EDL march and rally
Cleaners Flash Mob at CBRE London HQ
End Austerity, No to Racism, Tories Out!


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.


Unite Against Racism

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Two years ago today, 27 April 2019, I joined with a large crowd in Southall remembering the murders there of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and Blair Peach, calling for unity against racism.

The march took place on the Saturday after St George’s Day, and marked the 40th anniversary of Blair Peach’s murder by police officers. Several thousand police had packed the town to defend the National Front who were holding a meeting at Southall Town Hall. A large group of the local community and supporters from across London had come to oppose the meeting, and and police rioted and attacked what had been a determined but largely peaceful protest. Wikipedia has a long and well referenced article on the murder from which many of the facts below are taken, though speeches at the 2019 protest also included some eye-witness accounts. Peach was a member of my own union at the time, the NUT, which also made me very aware of the events and was prominent in the fight to see justice.

Blair Peach was in a group of friends who tried to escape the violent police attacks on Southall Broadway and make their way home down a side street, but unfortunately this led nowhere and the police Special Patrol Group drove up in several vans and began attacking the crowd there, who responded with bricks and bottles. Witnesses, including residents on the street say the police were hitting everybody and fourteen saw a police officer hitting Peach on the head.

People obseve a minute of silence where Gurdip Singh Chaggar was killed

Forensic evidence found he had been hit with an illegal weapon, probably a lead-filled cosh or pipe, and searches of the lockers of the SPG unit involved found 26 illegal weapons. None of the witnesses were able to identify the police officer involved – perhaps because one officer had shaved off his moustache and another grew a beard and refused to take part in the identity parades. Many also had their uniforms dry-cleaned before the police investigation inspected them.

Although the police investigation had produced a great deal of evidence against the SPG, the DPP decided it was insufficient to justify a prosecution. The report was kept secret, though parts appeared in the press early in 1980, and the inquest was hampered as the legal team acting for the Peach family were not allowed access to it. The verdict of the inquest, ‘death by misadventure’ was widely considered – even by The Times – to have been inappropriate. The coroner afterwards wrote an article including his comments that some of the civilian witnesses had lied as they were “politically committed to the Socialist Workers Party” of which Peach was a member and that some Sikh witnesses “did not have experience of the English system” to enable them to give reliable evidence but was persuaded not to publish it.

At Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara


The fight to get justice over the murder continued, but none of the officers involved was ever brought to trial. Apparently all left the police force shortly after the investigaton. Peach’s family were awarded £75,000 compensation in a tacit admission of police guilt by the Metropolitan Police in 1988, but requests for a public inquiry were turned down by the Home Office. The SPG was disbanded in 1987, but replaced by a very similar Territorial Support Group. It was only following a member of the TSG killing newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson as he was walking home past the G20 protests at Bank in 2009 that the report of the police investigation into Blair Peach’s death was finally made public.

The 2019 march and rally in Southall convened close to where Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18 year old student, was murdered by racist skinheads in June 1976 as he left the Dominion Cinema and began, at the request of his family with a karate display. It paused for a minute of silence where his was killed before moving on to stop at the Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara which the Chaggar family attend, where prayers were said.

Flowers were handed out which were then laid at the street corner where Blair Peach was murdered before we moved on to a rally outside Southall Town Hall where the National Front held their meeting. Peach’s murder inspired the formation of both the anti-racist grassroots group The Monitoring Group, whose founder and director Suresh Grover introduced the event and of Southall Black Sisters, whose founder Pragna Patel who was one of the speakers, along with other community leaders and anti-racists.

Perhaps surprisingly absent was the local Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, who in 2019 lost a vote of no-cofidence by the local party apparently due to his low attendance at party meetings, slow responses to constituents and failure to campaign over local redevelopment issues. John McDonnell, Labour MP for a neighbouring constituency and then Shadow Chancellor was there from the start of the march and made a powerful speech.

More about the event and many more pictures: Southall rally for unity against racism

Reclaim Brixton 2015

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Brixton has been in the news again recently, with various analyses published on the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton uprising (aka Brixton riots) which began on 10th April. Official reports put the 3 days of unrest which caused £7.5m of damage and left almost three hundred police (and an impossible to estimate number of the local community) injured down to poor housing, unemployment, and police harassment.

It was largely the actions of the police that led to the events. Their failure to effectively investigate the arson attack on a party in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981 scandalised much of the nation and the racist reaction of the mass media to a protest march about this raised tension, exacerbated by the police arrests of the march organisers who were charged with riot – and later acquitted. But the final straw was when police at the beginning of April began ‘Operation Swamp 81’ with large numbers of officers coming into Brixton and stopping an searching almost a thousand people – almost entirely African-Caribbean – under the ‘Sus law’, the 1824 Vagrancy Act which allowed police to stop and search anyone they believed was acting suspiciously.

Little changed after the official reports came out, and it was only 19 years later, following another scandalous police failure to properly investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 that the Macpherson report found that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Although some changes have been made, there are still plenty of signs that this continues to be deeply embedded in the ethos of the force.

The publication of ‘The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ on 31st March this year (2021) came at perhaps a particularly insensitive time for a report that is widely seen as a whitewash by a commission set up to reflect particular views. Set up in opposition to the protests by the Black Lives Matter movement over the death of George Floyd (and three weeks before the trial of his killer ended in three guilty verdicts) it evoked fury from many experts in the field as well as the millions who still experience discrimination.

More recently is has been condemned in remarkably forthright terms by the independent experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council who state “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent” and call on the British government to categorically reject its findings.

Brixton has changed since 1981 and some of those changes are very much for the worse for the local population. There were further riots, and there have been deaths at the hands of police – such as those of Ricky Bishop in 2001 and Sean Rigg in 2008 – but the main threat facing the local communities is gentrification as Brixton is changing from a working class area home particularly to migrant communities to a trendy up-market suburb. Its a change which is in part inspired by the vibrant communities which it is displacing, but also driven by the excellent transport links the area enjoys.

25 April 2015 saw Reclaim Brixton, a day long protest against gentrification which saw several thousands gathering at various events in what is still so far as I’m aware the largest protest of its kind. One major blow to local people has been the decision by Network Rail, backed by Lambeth Council to redevelop the railway arches in the centre of the town, home for many years to some of Brixton’s best loved – and cheapest – businesses. The current tenants, one of which came here in 1932 – are being evicted and after renovation the rents will be triple and their places largely taken by the same chains and franchises that we see in so many other high streets.

Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window at Foxton’s estate agents, going into Brixton Village with their banners and briefly occupying Lambeth Town Hall.

More at:
London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton ‘march
Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton
Take Back Brixton against gentrification
Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

Yarl’s Wood 2016

Friday, March 12th, 2021

Since it opened in 2001, Yarl’s Wood, then the largest immigration detention centre in Europe has been an active demonstration of the racist nature of the UK and its attitudes to those seeking asylum here. Yarl’s Wood was used to house refugee women and a few families and soon gained a reputation for hostile mismanagement, which led to a number of incidents including a serious fire which burnt down the building in 2002.

Things were not improved by handing the contract for running the centre to Serco in 2007 and there were a number of hunger strikes by groups of detainees over the following years, complaining about lack of medical treatment and other mistreatment including well corroborated allegations of sexual assaults by staff, many of whom were male on the women in the centre, many of whom had left their countries to seek asylum because of violence and often rape.

The first damning official report into allegations of racism, abuse and violence at the centre came in 2003, and over the years there was a steady procession of them, and in 2015 the chief inspector of prisons described Yarl’s Wood as a “place of national concern” , calling for decisive action to ensure women were only detained there as “a last resort”. In fact detention was both routine and open ended. Four out of five women held there were eventually released, and allowed to remain in the UK, and in 2018 only one in 7 of those released was deported. But the average time they were held in what is essentially a prison was over three months, and in one case a woman was only released after detention for a couple of days less than three years.

Covid brought about a huge drop in the number of women being detained, their release demonstrating that detention was always unnecessary. While at the start of 2020 there had been over 120 women detained, by August there were fewer than 20. The Home Office had been using detention both as a punishment for people coming to seek asylum and as a way to dissuade those considering coming to the UK.

The Home Office announced that Yarl’s Wood was not to close but would instead be used as a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat. It is also now again in use – though without any official announcement – for the indefinite imprisonment of around ten women asylum seekers.

The latest development came on the heels of public scandal over the use of former military barracks in poor conditions to house men seeking asylum. The Home Office announced that they were to house around 200 of them in temporary prison-style accommodation to be erected at Yarl’s Wood, using emergency powers to construct this without planning permission. After considerably outcry from campaigners including MPs and religious leaders and legal challenges the Home Office dropped the plans, saying they had sufficient capacity elsewhere.

The protest outside the immigration prison on Saturday 12 March 2018 was organised by Movement for Justice which has been one of the leading campaigns against immigration detention, mobilising many of those who have previously been held in Yarl’s Wood and the other detention centres. Getting over a thousand protesters to the remote location around 5 miles north of Bedford involved hiring coaches from cities across the country as well as a shuttle service from Bedford Station which I made use of – and whose local driver got lost on the way there. Reaching the field next to the centre then involved walking over a mile along the road and a public footpath that runs past it.

Surrounding Yarls Wood is a 20ft high fence – this is a serious prison. The first 10ft is solid metal but above that is another 10ft of wire mesh, though which, from a small hillock we could see the upper floors of one of the prison blocks. Detainees have limited freedom of movement within the centre, and some were able to come to the windows facing the field we were in and shout and wave and display hand-written messages, including some phone numbers through which a few could talk, their words relayed by a public address system MfJ had carried to the protest. A number of former asylum seekers also spoke at the protest, along with some of the organisers.

Those who have been held in this and other centres speak of feeling they are locked away and forgotten and protests such as these give them hope. MfJ and other groups also try to keep in contact with those inside and offer advice, and there are others who go into the centre weekly as visitors, ‘befrienders’ who offer emotional and practical support to a detainee.

Detaining people cuts them off from friends and communities and makes it much harder for them to make their cases for asylum – and also considerably slows the official processes involved in examining their claims. There are a very few cases where detention could possibly be justified on grounds of national security, but these apart no need to lock up the vast majority who have been held in these immigration prisons.

More on My London Diary: Shut Down Yarl’s Wood


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.


A Busy Monday

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Kashmiris call for independence

Monday 11th of February 2019 was an unusually busy day for me covering protests in London, with several unrelated events taking place across Central London.

My day began outside in Marsham St, where groups outraged at the callous hostile environment introduced by Theresa May as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016 and carried on by her successors Amber Rudd and Sajid Javid (and of course from later in 2019 by the despicable Priti Patel) held a mock trial of the the Home Office.

The Home Office were represented by a figure in Tory blue

The Home Office runs a violent, racist, colonial, and broken asylum, detention and deportation regime which treats refugees and asylum seekers as criminals, judged guilty without trial and often faced with impossible hurdles as they attempt to prove their innocence and claim their rights. It puts pressure on police and the CPS to launch false prosecutions – such as that of the Stanstead 15 who peacefully resisted an asylum flight and were charged and convicted under quite clearly ludicrous and inapplicable terrorism laws – and whose conviction was recently quashed on appeal.

Two years ago I wrote:

There were testimonies from individuals, groups and campaigns about suffering under the vicious system of rigged justice, indefinite detention, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest and deportation. Two judges watched from their bench and those attending were members of the jury; I left before the verdict, but it was never in doubt.

People’s Trial of the Home Office

I left early to cover a protest at India House in Aldwych by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front calling for freedom, there on this day as it was the 35th anniversary of the hanging by India of Maqbool Bhat Shaheed in 1984. The population of Jammu and Kashmir is around 12.5 million, and India has over 800,000 troops in Kashmir, who shoot to kill, torture, rape and burn homes with impunity, killing over 100,000 Kashmiris since 1988. More recently India has even tightened its control over Kashmir, getting rid of the constitutional limited autonomy of the area, politically integrating it with India although this seems unlikely to lessen the continuing fight of the Kashmiri people for independence.

Later I photographed a protest by a second group of Kashmiris, the Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party UK, calling for the remains of Maqbool Bhat Shaheed to be released and for independence for Kashmir.

In late afternoon, private hire drivers came to London Bridge in their cars to protest against the decision by Transport for London (TfL) to make them pay the London congestion charge. London’s traditional Licenced Taxis – ‘black cabs’ – will remain exempt in what clearly seems unfair discrimination.

Minicab drivers have been organised by the International Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) into the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) which includes the British Bangladesh Minicab Drivers Association, the Minicab Drivers Association and the Somali All Private Hire Drivers, SAPHD. Most private hire drivers are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups while black cab drivers are almost entirely white and the UPHD claim that TfL’s decision is a case of race discrimination.

London’s Licensed Taxi system dates back to the era of horse-drawn vehicles (Hackney Carriages) and seems largely inappropriate now in the age of smart phones and sat navs. ‘Plying for hire’ creates both congestion and pollution on our overcrowded city streets, and is now unnecessary when cars can be summoned by phone, and good route-planning software with real-time traffic information out-performs the archaic ‘knowledge’ routes.

The drivers parked on London Bridge and blocked both carriageways, then locked their vehicles to march along the bridge and hold a rally, then marched to hold a noisy protest outside City Hall. From there some went to Tower Bridge to block that, but were persuaded by the UPHD stewards to leave and return to their vehicles.

UPHD drivers protest unfair congestion charge
Kashmir Awami Party call for Freedom
Kashmiris call for freedom
People’s Trial of the Home Office


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.


November 2014 (4)

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

One of the more disturbing trends in Britain over the past ten years has been the rise of fascism, both in mainstream politics and also in the rise of various extreme right groups. We have a government which is increasingly prepared to act outside the law – prime examples including the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ set up by Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s attempt to close down Parliament and more recently to renege on parts of our agreement with the UK – and whose actions have encouraged extremist overtly racist and Islamophobic groups. But it isn’t just in the UK, and Germany, Poland and Greece are among other countries to have seen similar movements on a larger scale.

One of the nastier to crawl out from under the stones is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, where 50 leading members were then on trial in Athens for violent attacks, firearms and other offences. In the UK, New Dawn was set up in 2013 in support of the Greek organisation and, together with Polish neo-Nazis in the UK and British ‘White Pride’ supporters they had planned to march in London to the Greek Embassy to call on the Greek government calling on them to drop the charges and release the Golden Dawn leaders.

Their march was facilitated by the police and opposed by UK anti-fascist activists including Antifascist Action for Greece, Unite Against Fascism and many trade unionists, who gathered opposite the Greek Embassy an hour before the Golden Dawn supporters were due to arrive.

I don’t enjoy photographing extreme right groups, who tend to be hostile, and as usual I was threatened and spat at, though the police presence prevented any physical violence and stopped the press getting really close to the protesters. As a journalist I would have liked to have been able to talk to some of them, but this wasn’t possible, and their approach to the press generally is to shout insults and complain the press treat them badly by reporting their actions. I think we generally report accurately and if reports are bad it is because their actions are reprehensible.

Both police and protesters tried to prevent me and the other photographers taking pictures and, not unusually, I and others were threatened with arrest. A videographer with the protesters made a point of recording those of us who were taking photographs. Those of us who report on right-wing protests have become used to having our pictures posted on the web with the intention of provoking violence against us.

The main speaker at the event was Peter Rushton of the England First Party, associate editor of its magazine, Heritage and Destiny. According to Hope Not Hate he was expelled from the BNP in 2002, joining the more extreme White Nationalist Party, and later the British People’s Party. Reputed to be one of Britain’s leading Holocaust deniers they say he was a close friend of the banned terror group National Action.

I left after photographing Rushton speaking, walking through the police lines to make my way to Holland Park underground station. I thought it wise to leave the area before police allowed the New Dawn protesters to leave.

More at Neo-Nazi ‘Free the Golden Dawn’ Opposed.