Posts Tagged ‘racist’

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims – 2005

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims – 2005: Events in London on 15th January 2005 connected with China and Russia.


Falun Gong Demonstrate – Chinese Torturers. Westminster – Portland Place

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims

Back in 2005 I wrote “to me, Falun Gong seems a harmless form of meditation exercises, available to anyone without charge and following the admirable principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, but the Chinese government seem to regard it as the most dangerous form of terrorism.”

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims

Now I’m less positive although still shocked by the accounts of “physical tortures, including beatings, electric shocks, immersion, chaining for hours and days and the infamous ‘tiger bench’ are used together with psychological attacks including humiliation and sleep deprivation by the Chinese government to suppress the practice.”

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims

According to Wikipedia, while Falun Gong is a new religion based on Buddhism, its founder in the early 1990s Li Hongzhi gave it some highly reactionary characteristics, such as the rejection of modern scientific ideas including evolution and medicines, racism, and opposition to homosexuality and feminism. More recently it has promoted conspiracy theories including QAnon and anti-vaccination misinformation and supported Trump and extreme-right movements in Europe.

Red Army & Chinese Torture Victims

The Wikipedia article also carries an account of a 2018 report that “highlights Falun Gong’s extensive internet presence, and how editors who have to date contributed to English Wikipedia entries associated with Falun Gong to the point where ‘Falun Gong followers and/or sympathizers de facto control the relevant pages on Wikipedia‘”. Perhaps Wikipedia has now managed at least to some extent to prevent this, but although a number of academics have criticised Falun Gong as a cult, this word and the criticisms appear nowhere in the article.

Li Hongzhi now lives with hundreds of supporters close to a 427 acre compound in New York State, Dragon Springs which is the training ground for its Shen Yen performers. The organisation describes itself as “the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company” and whose performances around the world provides significant funding for Falun Gong including a press group The Epoch Times and a PR firm.

Falun Gong has also received considerable funding from the US government particular for the development of free software intended to circumvent Chinese government internet censorship. Their activities have certainly been incorporated in the US’s fight to retain dominance over China.

More pictures


Red Square, SW1- Russian Winter Festival – Trafalgar Square

Red square, SW1 was a Russian winter festival celebrating the Russian Old New Year, January 1st according to the Julian Calendar used in Russia until the Revolution and still by the Russian Orthodox Church – which falls on 14th January for the rest of us.

This was a spectacular event, run in cooperation with Moscow city government and many Russian businesses trading in the UK, and I only photographed it for the first few hours, missing the big celebrations, the rock concert, the ice skating at Somerset House and more. As well as the audience at the event it was also going out to 20 million listeners on Russian radio, as well as to anyone who could put up with an inane presenter from some UK radio station.

Both London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Moscow’s Mayor opened the show, though I decided to take a rest at that point from taking pictures and instead try “a fine but overpriced Baltika beer, imported from St Petersburg – at a sensible price i could develop a taste for it.” But I could still hear the speeches and learn that Ken’s father had taken part in the Baltic convoys in WW2.

But for me the cultural highpoint was the performance of the Alexandrov Red Army Choir, founded in 1928 to glorify the revolution by the composer of the Soviet national anthem. Though I found little to photograph during the performance I was able to take quite a few pictures of the men later and of a Irish woman who had attended a red army choir performance in Dublin in the 1950s as a schoolgirl,and had brought a record of them from 1956 for them to sign.

The record cover had a picture of the choir and some of those who had sung on it were still with the choir 49 years later. A younger member of the choir brought some of them across, including the fantastic bass soloist who treated us to a little of his voice and signed the cover – using the Stabilo ‘Write-4-all’ pen I carried to do so on the glossy cover when an ordinary pen failed.

And in 2005 I concluded:

Oh yes, there was fake snow on the lions, some very weird folk dancing involving things that looked rather like dustbin lids wielded by fur-coated women with a lot of heavy breathing rather than singing, Russian dolls, food and more.

My London Diary

What I failed to record was that in the crush to see the Red Army Choir I had forgotten to zip up my camera bag and later found that the cheap telephoto zoom was missing from it. I wasn’t too bothered, as I had already realised it had been a mistake to buy it as it was rather a poor performer and I rather welcomed the need to replace it with something better.

I wrote rather more and there are more pictures, particularly of the choir on My London Diary


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EDL Rally Supports Israel – 2010

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

EDL Rally Supports Israel: In 2010 the English Defence League (EDL) an extreme right-wing organisation founded in June 2009 was reaching the peak of its existence and several hundred came to a protest in Kensington to show their support of Israel.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

The EDL’s support of Israel came from the anti-Muslim centre of their activities; the group was founded following their opposition to a protest at a homecoming parade in Luton by a small group of Muslim extremists against a regiment returning from Afghanistan, which was also opposed by Luton’s large Muslim community.

EDL Rally Supports Israel
Rabbi Nachum Shifren

The EDL had invited right-wing US Rabbi Nachum Shifren, part of the ‘Tea Party’ movement from California to speak at the rally outside the Israeli Embassy. As I wrote at the time, “Although the EDL claim to be opposing the rise of fascism in their opposition to Muslim extremists, they have come to a very biased view over Israel and Palestine, and have been very effectively infiltrated by bigoted Zionists.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

The EDL gathered at a pub on Gloucester Road before their march to the Embassy, filling the pavement outside. There were a number of press photographers on the opposite side of the street watching them but I decided to cross the road and talked with and photograph Rabbi Schriffin. None of the other photographers followed me.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

For some minutes before the start of the march I was able to talk with him and some of the EDL supporters and some were happy to be photographed, and even complimented me for my accurate reporting on earlier protests – while complaining bitterly about the media coverage they get. As I told them I always try to report objectively, while also making my own difference of opinion clear.

The press they got did reflect the behaviour of at least some of those at their protests, and if the EDL wanted to end the accusations of racism they needed to take more positive action against the kind of behaviour that makes them possible. But many of their members including leading figures had a long history of membership of right-wing racist groups, and it was clear that the claim they made “We do not support racism or intolerance of any kind” was simply window dressing.

The leaflet they handed out described themselves as “the knights of old, defending our great nation for the threat of Militant Islam” and said “All welcome no matter of colour, religion or sex” and there was at least some truth in that shown in the composition of those in the march, with certainly a number of women, some claiming to be gay but, search as I have, not a single black face in my pictures.

For once Unite Against Fascism failed to mobilise much effective opposition to this demonstration – and did not appear to have tried very hard to do so. On their web site I found the statement “UAF does not have a position on the question of Israel and Palestine – our members have many different views on this question. Instead, we unite around our common aim of opposing the rise of fascism.” And as I commented, “Perhaps on this occasion they felt that taking action might offend some of their Jewish supporters.”

Some of those Jewish supporters were there in the rather small crowd opposing the rally, and there was a more direct action by a young man in a black jacket and gloves who came and stood listening for a short while, who took out his water bottle, had a drink and then reached over and poured the rest of it over the amplifier before turning and running down the street.

The sound from the microphone cut immediately, and the people inside the pen burst into angry shouts. It took the police longer to react and by the time they were moving the man had escaped, probably disappearing into High Street Kensington to catch the tube. I’d also been taken by surprise and hadn’t managed to take his photograph. Or perhaps I’d been wondering whether I should…

Eventually the water was tipped out and the amplifier wiped dry and came back into some very crackly life. Police shut the stable door by moving everyone outside the pen away and that and the sound quality made it hard to hear much of Rabbi Shifren’s speech, some minutes of which were in Hebrew. But he made clear his opposition to Sharia Law and Muslim extremists and I think to any aspect of multiculturalism. And I think he also denied the Palestinians any right to exist in the land which had been given to Israel.

Roberta Moore of EDL’s Jewish Division

I went home rather than go on with the EDL to Speakers Corner, where they were apparently heavily heckled. Another photographer who was there told me “that a small group of EDL supporters had attacked a Muslim bookstall and the 11-year-old boy who was running it, and then turned on photographers for taking pictures of their actions.” His camera had been smashed into his face by an EDL supporter. Photographs on the web confirmed this story.

Kevin Carroll

On My London Diary I wrote at some length about my own views on the EDL and the event as well as putting far more pictures than usual online which you can view at EDL Rally to Support Israel.


Turkish Spring, Badgers and BNP – 2013

Thursday, June 1st, 2023

Turkish Spring, Badgers and BNP: Ten Years ago on Saturday 1st June 2013 Turks in London were celebrating the start of the Turkish Spring, but now they are mourning last Sundays’ election results with the Islamist dictator winning another term in office. Badger culling was just beginning and there is still no sign it will actually end and over 210,000 badgers have now been killed to little effect – and Defra is still failing to introduce more effective methods to control bovine TB. Anti-fascists managed to prevent the BNP laying a wreath to exploit the killing of Lee Rigby – but despite the family’s clearly stated wishes and MoD condemnation – racists including a leading Tory MP are still using the murder to whip up hatred.


London Supports Turkish Spring – Marble Arch

Saturday 1st June 2013

A large crowd, mainly Turks and Kurds from North London, met in Hyde Park close to Marble Arch for a march in support of the popular protests that had erupted over the previous few days over Gezi Park.

Saturday 1st June 2013

At first there had been small protests against the loss of one of Istanbul’s few remaining green spaces for a shopping mall. But brutal police repression, with tear gas and water cannon used indiscriminately on people in the area angered many and the protests grew, becoming protests calling for an end of the authoritarian Erdogan regime.

Saturday 1st June 2013

Many Turks were then disturbed at Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), abandoning the secular state established as the basis for modern Turkey in the 1920s by Kemal Atatürk towards a conservative authoritarian Islamic dictatorship.

Saturday 1st June 2013

This process has continued, and Turkey has also been involved in the supporting of wider Islamic movements in the Middle East, particularly ISIS, as well as supporting Russia in its intervention in crushing the anti-Assad revolt in Syria. Last week’s election came as a huge blow to democracy in Turkey.

The 2013 protest was high-spirited and noisy, with many young men including Turkish football supporters. Many of London’s Turkish and Kurdish community are people who had to flee Turkey for political reasons and their sons and daughters. Kurds in particular have long been subjected to huge discrimination and oppression with the Turkish government attempting to eliminate their culture.

I had to leave before the march to the Turkish Embassy were around four thousand protested in support of the ‘Turkish Spring’.

London Supports Turkish Spring


Cull Politicians, Not Badgers – Westminster

I joined a large crowd at a rally in front of Tate Modern for the National March Against the Badger Cull, where the speakers included Queen Guitarist Brian May.

Many at the protest had come up to London from country areas, particularly from the pilot areas in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset where culling was to start later in the year. Many more licences were issued in later years and culling is continuing. Detailed statistical analysis suggests in some areas culling has led to a slight decease in bovine TB but overall it has had no real effect as badgers are only responsible for a small amount of the transmission, with 94% of infection being passed from cow to cow.

Defra’s support for culling and their reluctance to bring in more accurate cattle testing, controls on the movement of cattle, vaccination, proper slurry management and other effective measures seems largely to be driven by lobbying from farmers who want to avoid more controls on their activities.

After the rally there was a short march to Parliament where some of those taking part danced on the street, with many then going on to join the protest taking place opposing the racist British National Party.

Cull Politicians, Not Badgers


Anti-Fascists Prevent BNP Exploiting Brutal Killing

Anonymous were there along with Antifa, trade unionists and the UAF to oppose the BNP hate

On May 22nd 2013, off-duty Fusilier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered on a Woolwich street, run over then stabbed by two Muslim men who tried to decapitate him. The killing was universally condemned, including by Britain’s Muslim community, and I had two days ago photographed a march and rally in East London by Muslims to show solidarity and sympathy with the family of Lee Rigby and to denounce his brutal killing, describing it as against all the tenets of Islam.

Nick Griffin answers questions under a placard ‘Hate Preachers Out’ and fails to appreciate the irony

The BNP had wanted to organise a mass protest in Woolwich to exploit the killing, making use of his senseless slaughter there to gain support for their anti-Muslim rhetoric, but police had banned their plans for a march as it would have endangered public safety, enraging many in the local area. Lee Rigby’s father had made clear that he and his family did not want his son’s death to be used to stir up hatred.

Instead, BNP leader Nick Griffin had planned to march to the Cenotaph and lay a wreath there, and had come with a small group of supporters to Old Palace Yard to start the march. It was only a very small group, even for the BNP, with perhaps as I wrote suggesting “it was something that even the ultra-right membership of the BNP could not stomach”.

Griffin himself blamed the low turnout on the police turning many of his followers away, stating that the whole area around Westminster was “a virtual exclusion zone“. I’d just walked there seeing no unusual police activity, and certainly large numbers who had come to oppose his wreath laying found no problems in getting in to do so.

Police arrest an anti-fascist

It would have been possible for anyone – BNP member or not – to go to the Cenotaph on any of the days following the brutal murder and even on this morning to lay a wreath, though not today a well-known racist face like Griffin himself. But Grffin’s intentions were not about expressing sympathy. He wanted a triumphal march with flags flying to gain support for his Islamophobic hate, and given the opposition this never seemed likely to happen.

Police tried hard to clear a way for the BNP to march, but anti-fascists held their ground and refused to move. Police told them they were acting illegally and would be arrested if they did not move – and I saw a couple of double-decker buses being filled with arrested protesters and driven away, but there were simply too many for police to arrest them all.

The protest brought back memories of Cable Street, though few if any there were old enough to have actually been there back in 1936, though rather more had been at the http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2006/10/oct.htm 70th anniversary. But as then the slogan was ‘They shall not pass’, and on this occasion there were not enough police to force a way through. After the two buses of arrested protesters had been driven away police tactics changed and they simply maintained a standoff keeping the opposing groups apart.

Police told the BNP that they expected the anti-fascists to go home and they expected be able to clear the route by half past four, but they stayed on. It was the BNP who gave up, turning around and walking back to waiting coaches and leaving. When the anti-fascists were told the BNP had gone, they marched to Old Palace Yard for a brief rally to celebrate the victory.

Much more about the BNP and the protest which stopped them on My London Diary:
Anti-Fascists Stop BNP Wreath Laying
BNP Exploiting Woolwich Killing Stopped


Shut down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Prison – 2017

Saturday, May 13th, 2023

On Saturday 13th May 2017 I put my Brompton folding bike on the train and made my way to Bedford Station via St Pancras. I was on my way the the 11th protest outside the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood in the campaign led by Movement for Justice to shut down this and other immigration prisons.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

This was the first time I’d taken a bike to get to Yarl’s Wood, although I’d been to most of the previous protests they had organised there. Before I’d ridden from the station on a coach organised by the event organisers which hadn’t always been ideal, meaning I sometimes arrived late – especially once when the driver got lost – and had to leave when the coach was leaving, sometimes before the end of the protest and sometimes when I would have liked to leave earlier. On the bike I was free to arrive when I wanted and leave when I liked.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

Yarl’s Wood is sited in an area remote for the southern parts of England, on the site of a former wartime airfield, probably chosen as somewhere people could be locked away out of sight and out of mind, on the hills around 5 miles north of Bedford. Motorists would take the A6 to Milton Ernest, the closest village, and then a mile or more uphill to the meeting point outside the Twinwoods Business Park. But I took a slightly more sensible cycle route, mainly along side roads or cycle paths, with just a short section beside the A6 into the village.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

Most of the route was uphill, climbing slowly towards the hills, then wasting the energy I’d expended in climbing with short downhill sections. But the final section from Milton Ernest was uphill all the way, long and steep, though I didn’t need to worry about traffic on it as the police had helpfully closed the road.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

My Brompton has a 3-speed hub gear and isn’t really good on hills, with the lowest of the three still being rather high when things get steep, but I managed to struggle up without having to get off and walk, though I was tired and seriously panting by the time I reached the top.

There I locked the bike to a fence and joined the thousand or so protesters who had travelled from around the country in a long line of coaches parked along the road. There were speeches and chanting for some time as we waited for others to arrive.

Shut down Yarl's Wood Immigration Prison

The gates of the business centre were locked and protesters are prevented from taking the shortest route to the prison (there is also a more direct private road from the south closed to the public.) But a public footpath runs beside the 20ft fence around it. To reach it the campaigners first march a few hundred yards along the road, then turn down one footpath to reach a bridleway before going a few hundred yards along this to the path leading to the prison.

Its not a great distance, a little over three-quarters of a mile, but much of the way is on paths often muddy and full of puddles, and the Brompton is not happy off-road. I ended up pushing it much of the time, occasionally carrying it along with my camera bag, though some of the protesters did give me a hand so I could take some photographs.

Outside the prison the protesters marched into a field on the north side where a small hill rises to give a limited view over the solid lower half of the 20 foot metal prison fence. Their shouts and noise were greeted by those inside the centre who had managed to get to the windows on that side.

The prison windows have very limited opening, but enough for some of the women inside to get their arms through and wave, often holding items of clothing, or sheets of A4 paper with messages calling for freedom and for justice. Our view of them from the hill was only through the wire mesh of the upper 10 feet of the 20 foot fence which made taking pictures difficult.

From most places we could only see the two upper floors of the building, but at the very highest point the upper part of some ground floor windows was also visible. These rooms are used to house families being detained and although Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to detain women there were a few men here as well.

Most of the protesters stood up on the hill holding banners and placards but others were at the bottom, some banging or kicking the metal fence which resonates to make a terrific racket. Others wrote slogans on the fence, though these were only visible to us outside. People climbed up on ladders or other people’s shoulders or used long poles to hold banners, posters and placards in front of the upper mesh where the detainees could see them.

Movement for Justice had brought a public address system and there were speeches, mainly from former detainees, including several women who had been held at Yarl’s Wood. One who spoke was Mabel Gawanas who had been recently released a after a few days short of 3 years inside. A few detainees were also able to speak from inside over mobile phones, amplified by the PA system.

The protests at Yarl’s Wood have been important in gaining publicity for the terrible way in which the UK treats asylum seekers, particularly women who are locked up in this ‘racist, sexist hell-hole’ which has been exposed by various reports. They have an enormous morale-boosting affect on the prisoners who feel isolated and forgotten inside.

But the government’s response has been to re-purpose Yarl’s Wood as a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat in December 2021 and to set up a new immigration detention centre for women in an even more remote location in County Durham, where it is much harder for the women to organise and argue their cases. Almost certainly a part of this decision was to try to avoid further protests such as this one.

More recently the Home Office has started indefinitely detaining women at Yarl’s Wood again, although the numbers are much smaller. No official announcement was made of this reversion.

Much more at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison on My London Diary.


MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

Saturday 3rd December 2016 saw the 10th protest organised by Movement for Justice at Yarl’s Wood, the immigration prison on an isolated wartime RAF base around five miles north of Bedford. Around 2000 protesters made there way there to call for the closure of Yarl’s Wood and all immigration detention centres.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Because of heavy security inside the prison there were fewer women to greet them at the windows than on previous protests, but those who were able to make it greeted them enthusiastically, shouting and waving from the prison block behind the high fence, hindered by windows that open only a small crack.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Several of those held inside were also able to speak to the protesters using their mobile phones, which detainees are allowed to have as they are essential in communicating with their lawyers. Conditions in immigration detention are different from those in our normal jails, but those held are still prisoners. And unlike most in normal jails, they are held in indefinite detention, never knowing when they will be released, with no limit on how long they can be held. One woman who spoke to us from inside had been held without any charge or trial for over two years.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Those imprisoned at Yarls Wood are almost entirely women, with just a few family groups also being held there. The women who spoke, along with other former inmates who were taking part in the protest outside told grim and shameful stories of their detention. They told of assaults and abuse by Serco security guards who today had locked many in other wings to stop them seeing the protest and threatened those who greeted the protesters.

70% of Women in Detention are Survivors of Sexual Violence

One of the many complaints by those who are locked up in this and other immigration detention centres has been over the lack of proper access to medical treatment and it was worrying to hear from inside that there were now cases of TB in Yarl’s Wood. There have been some cases of death in detention when the staff have refused to take detainees health complaints seriously and have only called for medical assistance too late.

The complaints about abuse by security guards have been confirmed in reports in the mass media, including testimony and recordings made by an investigative reporter who worked as a security guard for several months there, revealing a horrific story of abuse.

Yarl’s Wood was temporarily closed down at the start of Covid with women being released or moved elsewhere. Most of the women who are held there are eventually released, most granted asylum or leave to remain. Some are simply released and disappear into the community and a few are actually deported.

It is a wasteful system in every way, particularly wasteful for the women who are confined there, often in great need of proper medical treatment and care for the trauma they escaped from with threats, beatings and rapes in their own country. But also wasteful for the taxpayer, both in paying the private companies that run these prisons and also in losing the positive contribution these women could be making if they were allowed freedom and able to work – and pay taxes rather than be a burden on them.

Yarl’s Wood is now being used to house some of those who have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats. A new asylum detention centre for women has been opened up in an even more isolated location, a former youth prison in County Durham, removing them even further from their legal advice and from protesters.

The protesters stood on a small rise in the field outside where they could see the upper two floors of the prison over the tall metal fence through the 10 feet of open metal grid above the 10 feet of solid metal panels. Photographing through the metal grid was possible but not easy. Some protesters went up to the fence and banged noisily on the panels, while others held posters on tall poles or climbed ladders against the fence so that those on the ground floor could see their banners, and there were also a number of flares let off to give large clouds of coloured smoke.

My MfJ organised coach back to Bedford Station was leaving shortly before the protest ended, and as I boarded it, half a mile away as the crow flies though nearer a mile along the public footpath and road, I could still clearly hear the noise of the protest. Those women locked away from the block facing the protesters will certainly have been able to hear it too. It had been a powerful protest but at the end I felt an intense sense of shame for the way this country treats asylum seekers and our clearly racist immigration system.

Much more at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 10 on My London Diary.


Saturday 27th October 2007

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

One of my busier days in London was Saturday 27th October 2007, when I began with a trip to Hoxton to collect and take home some pictures from a group exhibition, then travelled back into the centre of London for a number of events. The main protest I covered was the annual UFFC march against deaths in custody, but there were also Kurds protesting against Turkish army attacks on them in Northern Iraq, campaigners calling for a Brexit referendum, an anti-abortion rally and peace protesters around Parliament where I also photographed a new statue in Parliament Square. I ended my working day with a Halloween Zombie Crawl.

Here’s what I wrote back in 2007, with minor corrections including normal capitalisation and some changes of tense – and I’ve included some headings and pictures. As usual there are many more pictures if you follow the links to My London Diary.


On saturday, everything was happening. I had to run around to start with to collect my unsold pictures from the City People show at the Juggler in Hoxton. Fortunately I’d sold one of my four pictures, so that made them easier to carry, but it was a rush to be back in the centre of London and I had to more or less miss the demonstrators who wanted a referendum on leaving the European Union.

Protest Against Custody Deaths – Trafalgar Square & Whitehall, Saturday 27 Oct, 2007

Instead I started at Trafalgar Square, where the annual event remembering those who have died in custody was taking place, organised by the UFFC, families and friends of those killed.

It’s an occasion that always shocks me by the sheer number of people who have died in such disgraceful or suspicious circumstances, in police cells, in prisons and elsewhere. It’s an event I sometimes find it hard to photograph, both emotionally and physically – thankfully autofocus works even when your eyes are filling with tears.
more pictures

Kurds Demand – Stop Turkey – Trafalgar Square, London. 27 October 2007

While that demo was getting ready to march, a large crowd of Kurds swarmed into Trafalgar Square and held a short rally, protesting against the Turkish government’s approval of incursions into Northern Iraq to attack the PKK there. Both the Kurds and the Armenians have suffered greatly at the hands of the Turks (who in turn have been rather screwed by the EU over Cyprus.)

It was a typically exuberant performance, and one that I enjoyed photographing, but rather a distraction from the family and friends event.
more pictures

Pro-referendum on Europe Rally – Old Palace Yard, Westminster. 27 October 2007

There seems to be hiatus in the UFFC demonstration, so I caught a bus down Whitehall. Walking along to Old Palace Yard I passed a few of the pro-referendum demonstrators, though some others had stayed to join in the anti-abortion protest.
a couple of pictures

Anti-Abortion (Pro-Life) Rally – Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Saturday 27 October, 2007

This was rather smaller than I’d expected, perhaps around 500 people, although it was the only event that made the BBC news bulletins I heard when I got home later in the day.
more pictures

Lloyd George – Parliament Square, London. Saturday October 27, 2007

I listened a little to the speeches, but then went to Parliament Square to take a look at the new statue of Lloyd George – which failed to impress me. Of course he was long before my time – although I did have a landlady as a student in Manchester who had worked as a secretary for him – but somehow I feel the statue trivialises him, looking rather like an enlarged version of a plastic figure you might find in a box of cornflakes rather than a statue of a Prime Minister.
another picture

Peace Train – Parliament Square, Westminster. Saturday October 27, 2007

The Peace Train is beginning to form a protest in Parliament Square and I go along to talk to them and take a few pictures.


I rejoin the ‘Famiilies and Friends’ march now making a considerable protest opposite Downing Street, where a delegation has permission to deliver a letter to the prime minister’s residence at No 10. It takes a lot of argument before the police let them in despite this.

For some reason the police decide not to allow those with press cards into the street in the normal way. I don’t like going in – the security checks are a nuisance and being restricted to a pen on the other side of the street is normally hopeless, but I think its a matter of principle that access should not be unreasonably prevented – as it was for this event, even if personally I don’t particularly want to take advantage of it.

By the time the deputation emerge, the mood on the street is getting rather angry. One young policeman is getting surrounded and insulted and is trying hard to ignore it. A few minutes later a motor-cyclist foolishly stays in the route of the march, and is soon surrounded by angry people. He has to be rescued by his colleagues.

There are police who are racist, who are thugs, who are bullies. Too many who have got away with murder, often thanks to covering up or a lack of diligence in investigation by their colleagues. If it were not so, there would be no demonstration. But there are also officers who do their best to carry out a difficult and necessary job in a decent, reasonable and even-handed way – even though they may sometimes get disciplined for doing so. Those who bear the brunt of considerable and understandable hate directed against the police at a demo like this are not necessarily the guilty.
more pictures


Crawl of the Dead IV – City and Southwark, London. Saturday October 27, 2007

It’s time for me to leave and make my way to the City of London, where this year the zombies are starting their walk at a pub on Ludgate Hill. I go into the pub and talk to some of them and take photographs, and am gratified to find that quite a few have seen my pictures from around Oxford Street last year.

By the time they emerge from the pub it is getting dark, and my flash by now is refusing to work at all. I have to make do either with available light (and there isn’t a lot) or the pretty useless camera built in flash, but I still manage to get a few decent pictures, even though some are rather noisier than I’d like.

There are quite a few people around as we go over the Millennium bridge, and more in front of Tate Modern, where zombies decide to play dead for a while. Then we visit the famous crack in the turbine hall, coming out towards the Founder’s arms, where I made my goodbyes and turned for home.


More pictures on all these on My London Diary:

against deaths in custody
kurds demand – stop turkey
for a euro-referendum
anti-abortion (pro-life) rally
lloyd george statue
peace train
crawl of the dead iv


Racist UKBA & 3 Cosas

Monday, October 24th, 2022

Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA – Eaton House, Hounslow – Thu 24th Oct 2013

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters speaking in front of the Hounslow Reporting Centre

Although I grew up in Hounslow, ten miles west of the centre of London, I’ve not often returned there in recent years, and the protest organised by Southall Black Sisters outside the Hounslow Reporting Centre on Thursday 24th October 2013 was the only one I’ve so far photographed in the town.

The UK Borders Agency reporting centre is at the western edge of the town, opposite Hounslow Heath where highwaymen once roamed and was the aerodrome from where the British Empire’s first scheduled daily international commercial flights took off in 1919. The large brick block once housed the UK laboratory and factory of US chemical manufacture Parke-Davis, once the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, now a subsidiary of Pfizer, who had set up a dyestuffs factory here before the first world war, though the Research and Administration building in front of which the protest was held only dates from 1954.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) say that after the Refugee & Migrant Forum East London (RAMFEL) succeeded in its legal challenge over Theresa May’s Home Office advertising vans (which were also criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority) “the UKBA has shifted the ’Go Home’ message to reporting centres in Glasgow, Croydon and Hounslow.”

Their protest against the Government’s anti-immigration campaigns outside the Hounslow reporting centre stated “We will not tolerate underhand tactics used to instil fear and divide us. Let us return to the streets and make our voices heard. We need to fight for our rights.”

I joined the group of around 30 people, mainly SBS members, most wearing t-shirts with the message ‘Do I look illegal?’, but they were joined by others from Sol-Fed and other groups who had brought a large banner with the message ‘F**K ALL RACISM – NO ONE IS ILLEGAL’.

And no person is illegal, but those called it lack permission to be here, though many will in time be granted it. In France, such people are said to be ‘without papers’, but none of us in the UK needs papers to live here, so an appropriate but less biased term might be ‘without status’. The term ‘illegal immigrants’, a deliberately biased description of people who do not currently have a legal right to live in this country.

The protesters blew plastic horns and whistles and generally made a lot of noise, as well as shouting a number of chants including ‘Theresa May, drop the pretence, Go home vans cause offence’, ‘We are humans not illegal, We want justice for our people’ and ‘Money for jobs and education, Not for racist deportation.’

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave. You can see more about it on My London Diary at Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA.

3 Cosas Defy London University Protest Ban – Senate House, Thu 24th Oct 2013

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign is for sickpay, holidays and pensions for all workers at the University of London, where many low paid workers are outsourced to companies who employ them often in the legal minimum wage and conditions of service, and also often employ bullying managers to overwork staff. They often fail to provide proper safety equipment to do the job.

The workers, many of whom are Spanish speaking, have for some years been demanding they should be directly employed by the university where they work rather than these contracting companies, and there have by now been many long and successful campaigns to achieve this.

The University management in 2013 had responded to their campaign with a ban of protests in and around Senate House, and threatened to bring police onto campus to prevent further protests and to bring charges of trespass against any protesters. This was seen by workers and staff and students as an attempt to prevent free speech and freedom of assembly at the university similar to that of of authoritarian regimes overseas, rightly condemned across academia and the rest of society.

On Thursday 24th October, staff students, the IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) trade union which represents many cleaners and other trade unionists defied University management ban of protests by holding a noisy protest in and around Senate House.

After protesting on the streets around the Senate House, some of the protesters walked in around another building while others scaled the gates to protest at the bottom of Senate House. Eventually police came and tried to stop them walking out. But there were too few of them to be effective. The protesters walked out and ended their protest in front of SOAS.

More on My London Diary at 3 Cosas Defy London Uni Protest Ban.


Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood

Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood. On Saturday 12th March 2016, six years ago today, I made another visit to the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood where the Movement for Justice (MfJ) had organised another large protest.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women at the windows – one holds a bible through the narrow window opening

The Home Office no longer uses Yarl’s Wood to house large numbers of women asylum seekers, but unfortunately this does not mean their cruel and racist policies have changed. Women were at first moved out because of Covid, but Priti Patel has set up a new immigration prison, Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, to hold 80 detainees to replace it, with around 88 women being moved and locked up there for Christmas 2021.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
People march down the road to a footpath leading to Yarl’s Wood

The new centre at Hassockfield is on the site of the notorious Medomsley Detention Centre, where over 1,800 young male detainees were abused in the 1960s to 1980s, and is at at Medomsley Edge, 13 miles NW of Durham, 1.7 miles North of Consett. It has been renamed again as Derwentside, to give it a more friendly image, though the river is around a mile away as the crow flies. Almost certainly the Home Office was fed up with the protests organised by MfJ and others at the already rather remote site at Yarl’s Wood, around 5 miles outside Bedford, and thought it a good idea to move it rather further away from London, where there are many former detainees and activists who came to demonstrations.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Marching along the footpath

But of course people came from all over the country – including from Scotland – to Yarl’s Wood, and protests will continue, with an active ‘No to Hassockfield‘ local group at their centre, although it’s too far away for me to photograph them.

Women have little to protest with and the windows only open an inch or so. They hold messages to the glass and throw out toilet paper

Hassockfield is so remote that the Home Office was unable to find law firms which would give satisfactory tenders to give legal advice there and abandoned the search – with detainees now only able to get advice by phone. Women for Refugee Women are calling for donations to mount a legal challenge over this lack of support. There is a great deal more information about the cruel and racist treatment of asylum seekers with many telling their own stories on their web site.

Yarl’s Wood like almost all of the immigration prisons is privately run for the Home Office, with companies cutting costs for profit

Back on 12th March 2016, my own journey to Yarl’s Wood didn’t go too well, with a train cancellation. But I still got to Bedford Station in a little over two hours and in time for the coach organised by MfJ to the meeting point at Twinwoods Business Park, around a mile walk from the prison. Unfortunately the coach driver didn’t know the way and police had put up large signs stating the road up from the A6 was closed (though in fact they were letting traffic to the protest to go through.) The result was a rather lengthy tour of the Bedfordshire countryside – with another wrong turning, meaning we arrived the best part of an hour late.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Protesters climb up to show placards and balloons to the women

Fortunately the event had started with a rally on the road waiting for people from around the country to arrive, and the mile or so walk to the prison was waiting for us and only just about to begin.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Battering the fence makes a lot of noise

Fortunately it was a fine day for the walk, but there had been heavy rain in previous days and some of the footpath and the field beside the prison where the protest took place was full of mud and some puddles, making it hard to move about and keep my balance. As you can see in some pictures close to the fence it was a sticky mess.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many of those protesting were former detainees, some of whom spoke at the event

The field has a fairly steep slope up from the 20ft prison fence, which does enable protesters to see over the lower 10ft of thick metal sheeting and to glimpse the women waving, shouting and holding posters at the upper floor windows inside.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women had written messages on towels and clothing to hang out through the narrow openings.

It is tricky taking pictures through the 10 ft upper section of the fence with its thick wire grid and I don’t have the kind of long and fast lenses for this. I actually declined the invitation from the organisers to photograph the first large MfJ protest here as I knew I didn’t really have the right gear, suggesting they invite a colleague. But for later protests I decided that there were many other pictures I could take and I could at least get some kind of pictures through that fence.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many reports have confirmed the abuses taking place inside Yarl’s Wood

Many of those at the protest were people who had been locked up inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres, and almost all of those who spoke had stories to tell about how their mistreatment – having been physically and sexually assaulted, locked in rooms, denied medical assistance, unable to get proper legal advice and more. Most had come to this country fleeing from violence, often from rape and in dire need of care and understanding and instead were locked up, their stories disbelieved and further subjected to hostile and inhuman treatment.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Detainees are allowed phones and some were able to speak from inside the immigration prison

At the end of the protest people let off a number of coloured flares before the long walk back to the coaches. I was rather caught in the mud and unable to get close to where this was happening. On the path and road back to the coach I tried to scrape the worst of the mud from my boots and trousers on the grass and on the kerb of the road, and found some sticks to help, but Bedfordshire mud proved extremely persistent.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Most of the speakers were former detainees and friends inside could hear them

We needed to remove our boots before getting on the coach, and fortunately I had a plastic bag to put them in for the journey, getting back into them where we were dropped off at the station. The journey home was slow but uneventful and I was exhausted and needed a good meal and a bath when I arrived – but at least unlike those detainees I was free.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood

More at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary, where you can also find accounts of other protests at Yarl’s Wood as well as other immigration prisons at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook using the site search.


Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg. Three years ago on Tuesday 26th February I spent the morning photographing several protests against outsourcing, had a rather late pub lunch, then went to North Woolwich for a short walk before rushing back to meet Class War who were protesting outside a Palladium show by Jacob Rees-Mogg.


Rally for an end to Outsourcing

A legal challenge was taking place at the High Court on this day to extend the employment rights of the 3.3 million workers whose jobs are outsourced from the companies where they work to contracting companies which then sell them back to their place of employment at cut rates.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

The contractors do this by cutting wages, trimming things such as pensions, maternity pay and holiday pay to the bare legal minimum, increasing workload and reducing hours of work and often bullying managers. Outsourced workers generally have little job security and are often denied necessary safety equipment and not given proper safety training.

Workers, mainly migrants who work for the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London were taking part in a one day strike in a coordinated action by the UVW and IWGB trade unions and the BEIS PCS branch to demand an end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes. They had started their march at 8.00am at the University of London and after a rally outside the High Court had marched to Parliament Square where I met them at 11am.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing


Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

From Parliament Square the marchers went on to hold a further rally outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Victoria St. Those striking at the BEIS included catering and security staff who are members of the PCS and are demanding the London Living Wage as well as end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes.

The PCS strikers led a lively rally with plenty of singing, dancing and shouting of slogans expressing their demands, which was followed by several speeches, including from Labour MP Chris Williamson, who brought messages of support from Labour shadow cabinet members and promises that a Labour government would end outsourcing.

Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS


Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

The marchers continued the short walk to the Ministry of Justice in Petty France, where low paid workers belonging to the United Voices of the World union at the Ministry of Justice have been campaigning for some time to get the London Living wage, but the Justice Minister has refused to talk with them. Many wore t-shirts calling it the Ministry of Injustice.

During the rally outside the building some of the UVW workers who had already been on strike for 24 hours went back into the ministry to resume work, to cheers and hugs from those on the street outside. The rally ended with music and dancing on the pavement, and I left for a rather late pub lunch in Holborn.

Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


North Woolwich

I’d been intending to walk a short section of the Capital Ring, mainly beside the River Thames, for some months as it had been quite a few years since I’d last been there and wanted to see how it had changed. I had an afternoon with nothing else I needed to photograph and although the sunny weather with clear blue skies was not ideal it seemed a good opportunity.

Panoramic photographs almost always have large expanses of sky, and on days like this it tends lack interest, as well as often giving unnatural looking variations in tone when getting closer to the sun. Getting to North Woolwich should have been simple and reasonably fast, but unfortunately there was trouble on the DLR and I had to make a less direct route, so had to rather rush on the walk and leave it half-finished. It was a few months later before I found time to go back and complete it.

North Woolwich


Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

I find it hard to understand why anyone should want to come and listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg, let alone pay £38 for a ticket to do so at the London Palladium.

So too did Class War, and with Jane Nicholl dressed as a nun, Mother Hysteria, and Adam Clifford as Jacob Rees Mogg they loudly asked why people had come to listen to him “spout homophobic, transphobic, racist, pro-hunting, misogynist, classist, privileged” nonsense.

Their show on the street outside was almost certainly a better show than anything that would take place later inside the venue, and all for free. Police spent a considerable amount of public money on harassing them, and provided their own rather hilarious input by searching Mother Hysteria and threatening to arrest her for carrying offensive weapons after some novelty stink bombs were found in her handbag. When I left the officer who had stopped and searched her had already spent 20 minutes trying to write her notice of stop and search, probably at a loss trying to find some way to put it that doesn’t make it sound incredibly stupid.

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show


Flowers to Yarls Wood – 2017

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Four years ago on Saturday 18th November saw Movement for Justice’s 12th protest outside the immigration detention prison up a hill around 6 miles north of Bedford, calling for this and the other immigration detention centres to be shut down. On this occasion many took flowers to pin to the upper section of the fence where they could be seen by the women inside.

The whole system of immigration detention seems to have been designed as a deterrent to asylum seekers coming to the UK, though unsuccesful in doing so. People who had fled their countries because they were in fear of their lives and had often been subject to violent attacks and rapes were thrown into jail while there cases were being considered. Often their imprisonment made it very much harder for them to provide the evidence demanded by the Home Office of the danger they had been in and their suffering, and official reports and journalistic investigations, some by reporters who had taken jobs at the centres, both revealed the callous and often illegal treatment they received from the staff in these privately run centres, including sexual assaults and violence.

Mabel Gawanas who was held inside for a day under 3 years speaks to her friends still inside

The accomodation provided is poor and the food is of poor quality and often fails to meet the relgious ordietary needs of the detainees, and there have been numerous reported cases where necessary medical treatment has been either refused or excessively delayed. But the major problem is that immigration detention is of indeterminate length, with some detainees serving perhaps a few weeks and others up to three years. Unlike in a normal jail there is no known length to the time people serve and no way that they know when they may be released or deported. And there is no process for them to appeal their detention. The government like to pretend it isn’t a prison, and there are some differences in the routines, but those held inside cannot leave and are often restricted in their movements inside the buildings.

The windows only open a few inches

There are currently in 2021 seven ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ in the UK as well as a number of short-term holding facililites. All but one of the seven are run by private companies, Serco, Mitie, G4S, a Capita subsidiary and Geo, and they are run to make profits. The less they spend on food, staffing and facilities the more the companies make – and the more those detained suffer. In 2015 the Chief Inspector of Prisons labelled it ‘a place of national concern’.

Yarl’s Wood is in an isolated location, hidden away from roads on a former wartime airfield. As I found cycling from Bedford Station it is on the top of a hill and rather windswept. From where the protesters coaches and cars can park it takes aroud a mile walking along public footpaths to get to the field next to the prison where the protests take place. The prison is surrounded by a 20 ft high metal fence, the lower half with metal panels and the upper half with a thick wire grid material that allows the upper storeys of the building to be seen from the top of a rise in the field.

It’s difficult to take pictures through this screen, but not impossible. I’d taken with me a Nikon 70-300mm lens and was working with the D810 in DX mode which converts that into a 105-450mm equivalent and still provides a 16Mp file. Focussing was tricky as the autofocus was very good at focussing on the wire, leaving the building behind well out of focus, and although it would sometimes focus on a window frame, it was far easier to use manual focus.

I also took some pictures on a 28-200mm (equivalent to 42-300mm) which was better when I wanted to include any foreground detail, but the windows became rather small. Even at 450mm any one of the pair of windows only filled around a sixth of the frame, and some of the images have been cropped.

For photographing the protesters as well as that highly versatile 28-200mm used both as a X lens on the D810 body and a full-frame lens on the D750, I also had a 28-35mm lens for use on the D750.

Many of the exposures I made where not quite sharp. It was November and the light dropped off fairly dramatically towards the end of the protest and by 3pm I was having to work at 1/250s at the full aperture of F5.6, not really fast enough a shutter speed for a 450mm lens. So camera shake added to my focus problems. At 3.30pm the protest seemed to be nearing its end, I was getting too cold and decided it was time to get on my bike and return to Bedford Station. Fortunately except for a short steep slope it was more or less downhill all the way.

In August 2020 the Home Office announced it was ‘re-purposing’ Yarl’s Wood, which became a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat. But by November 2020 it had also been brought back into its previous use with around ten women then being indefinitely detained there.

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 12