Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Palestine & Jack the Ripper – 2017

Saturday, November 4th, 2023

Palestine & Jack the Ripper – On Saturday 4th November 2017 thousands marched through London on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration to demand the equal rights for Palestinians which are included in that declaration, but have been disregarded for 100 years. Although the declaration was being celebrated officially in the UK, many see it as shameful and responsible for the years of suffering for Palestinians.

Palestine & Jack the Ripper - 2017

The Balfour Declaration was made following several months of talks with representatives of Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, but without any consultation with Palestinians. The Prime Minister at the time, Lloyd George, clearly stated in later years that it had come about as a reward for the work on the production of acetone, vital for the war effort, by Chaim Weizmann, although some historians discount this.

Palestine & Jack the Ripper - 2017

But it was clearly seen as a gift to the Zionists, and Weizmann was one of the Zionist leaders deeply involved in the talks, and the declaration came in a letter written on November 2nd, 1917 and signed by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

Palestine & Jack the Ripper - 2017

The declaration was a single long sentence divided by commas into four clauses, the first two promising the support of the government in the setting up “in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” but it continues in the third “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine“.

Palestine & Jack the Ripper - 2017

Clearly the UK government failed entirely over the years to protect those civil rights in Palestine, and it is hard to believe that they ever seriously intended to do so.

The declaration was also clearly linked to British policy aims in the Middle East as a whole, led by Sir Mark Sykes, MP for Hull and a promoter of both Arab nationalism and Zionism who together with the French diplomat François Georges-Picot drew up a secret agreement along with the Russians for the carving up of the Middle East when the Ottoman Empire was defeated.

Sykes had visited Palestine to meed Weismann and had been converted to the Zionist cause and played a part in the drawing up of the Balfour Declaration, though he later changed his views.

The march began with a rally outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square before marching to a longer rally in Parliament Square. The speakers at the embassy were under a red canopy which bathed them in red light making colour photography more or less impossible and I converted the images to black and white for publication.

I left as the march was starting to take the tube to Tower Hill and walk to another protest.

More pictures at Equal Rights & Justice for Palestine.


Class War back at the Ripper – Whitechapel

Class War had protested at the opening of the so-called ‘ Ripper Museum’ in a shop on Cable Street and had continued to hold protests there at intervals outside the tacky tourist trap.

They and many others pointed out that the shop exploits violence against women, making money from images of sexually mutilated women, and encourages the attitudes that lead to violent sexual assaults.

One woman taking part in the protest had recently returned home late at night to her flat in Tower Hamlets to find a 17 year old young woman who had been raped several times on the street collapsed on her doorstep and had saved her from further assaults by calling the police.

They had come here again together with London 4th Wave Feminists wearing cat masks after the tourist attraction had failed to remove shutters and signage which were deemed illegal by Tower Hamlets council a year ago, including a poster which was partly ripped off the shop front in the protest. The council were criticsed for not enfrocing their decision and their opposition to the shop often seemed half-hearted.

Patrick from Class War came to the protest dressed as Father Brannigan, performed a series of exorcisms holding up a hastily improvised cross.

The shop had employed two security guards for the protest and one of them roughly pushed some of the protesters who challenged the few visitors who entered and left during the protest, mainly visiting tourists.

When police eventually arrived half an hour after the protest began they tried with little success to move the protesters further from the shop.

After an hour or so the protesters walked away, with many going to a local pub and I accompanied them. We were disturbed half an hour later by a police raid. Apparently two anti-trans feminists had come to view the protest, hoping to see a person they complained to the police had assaulted one of them at a meeting the
previous month, and had then phoned the police.

The woman behind the bar then declared herself as a special constable, brought out her warrant card and tried to stop me and others taking photographs. She failed, but I decided later not to publish them. It’s a pub I’ll never drink in again.

More pictures Class War back at the Ripper.


Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence: London is a relatively safe city compared with most large cities around the world. It’s murder rate of 1.38 per 100,000 population compares favourably with most others, and it is nowhere close to those in the top 50 -which all have rates over 28 times as high.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It is also considerably lower than any large city in the United States – which occupy eight places in the worst 50 cities for murders – with New Orleans at 70.56 near the top – only lower than some Mexican cities.

Hackney Million Mothers March

I’ve walked the streets of London carrying expensive cameras since the 1970s and fortunately have yet to be mugged or attacked. I have had my pocket picked a couple of times, seen drug dealers at work and refused offers from them and women offering me a good time, been threatened and assaulted by right-wing thugs and policemen (part of the job if you photograph protests) but generally London is a safe city.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It annoys me when some Americans keep asking about ‘no go’ areas in London (or other UK cities.) There are none. London is a city you can generally safely go anywhere in the public realm, though of course if you ask for trouble you can find it.

Hackney Million Mothers March

London isn’t crime-free. And there are some people who are more at risk than others. Women walking alone at night in lonely places do sometimes get attacked by male sex offenders. Many are sexually assaulted and a few are horribly killed. Some of these murders make the national headlines, such as that of Sarah Everard, killed by a police officer. But rather more women are killed in their homes, most often by men they know – a problem of male violence rather than London streets.

In one recent year there were over 18,000 reports of sexual assaults in London. But sexual assaults often go unreported, and it is difficult to know how many of these were on our streets. And although it is a disgracefully high figure it actually shows London as below the rate for the country as a whole.

Most at risk of being murdered on London’s streets are teenage males. Most are stabbed in crimes relating to gangs and drugs. There were 12,786 knife offences in London in the year ending March 2023, a little down on the figures for 2017-2020. The figures include those carrying a knife, owning a banned knife, trying to buy a knife if you are under 18, and/or threatening, injuring or fatally wounding someone with a knife. 63 of these offences killed someone in London.

Of course one murder is one too many, and all result in the waste of a life and a great deal of grief for the families and friends of those killed. There have been various local initiatives and groups set up to try to cut down the deaths, and some have at least some small effect but generally the numbers keep rising – though Covid saw a fall. Various newspaper articles and TV investigations have covered aspects of the subject, such as this in a series from Channel 4 News.

I’ve photographed a number of the protests and marches, often organised by bereaved families and its not possible to be unmoved, though sometimes I’ve felt that the solutions some of those speaking suggest would have little or no effect.

Knives are important in all of our lives, and in the average kitchen you can find quite a set of knives which could easily be used to kill. We need to change society more generally and importantly the way we raise, teach and occupy young children, giving them a better purpose in life and a sense of their own worth and abilities.

All the pictures here come from the Hackney Million Mothers March on Sunday 23rd August 2009, taking place as a part of an international peace parade to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Mothers Against Violence, mothers from bereaved families who are having a real impact in reducing gun, gang and knife crime, and to pledge action in Hackney over the issue.

The march was organised by Songololo Feet, Friend’s Charity, Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (HCVS), International Action against Small Arms (IANSA), St. John’s Church and The Crib, a local community group which “delivers creative and inspiring projects for young people in Hackney”.

More pictures at Hackney Million Mothers March. You can also read about a related event I photographed the day before this on 22nd August 2009 at LIVE & FAME Against Knife Crime.


Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14: This protest on Saturday 21st July 2018 was the 14th organised by Movement for Justice outside the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood and I think their last there. I missed the first so this was my 13th visit to this remote location, cyling uphill the five or six miles north from Bedford station. I had previously photographed a number of protests organised by MfJ outside the two immigration prisons (officially called detention centres to make it sound nicer) on the north of Heathrow airport, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, a rather easier journey.

Unlike these two prisons which housed men, Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to hold women, though there were also a few families there. The protests there had attracted more campaigners because of this, with women being seen more widely as victims than male asylum seekers. And many of those who were locked up inside were women who had been raped as well as beaten and otherwise subjected to traumatic events before fleeing their countries.

Many of the women – as too the men elsewhere – were kept locked up for many months and some for years in indefinite detention while the Home Office refused to believe their stories or to properly investigate their cases, often demanding paperwork it would be impossible for them to provide. The remoteness of the centre and only limited access to internet and telephones makes it difficult for the women to progress their cases.

Many of these are people with desperate needs for counselling and help, but instead as various investigations, official as well as undercover journalism – had shown are held under appalling conditions in this and other centres run by private companies such as SERCO, with detainees refused their human and civil rights, assaulted, sexually harassed and assaulted, denied proper medical treatment, poorly fed and forced to work for £1 an hour on menial tasks.

The protests here are greeted by the women, giving them the assurance that they have not been forgotten and that there are those outside who support them. Those able to get to the windows facing the hill on which the protesters stood so they could be seen over the tall prison fence – the lower 10ft solid steel and above that another ten foot of dense metal mesh – shouted greetings, waved and held up messages.

A powerful public address system meant those inside could hear the speeches, some by former inmates of Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres, and some by those inside, relayed by mobile phone to the amplifier, as well as by some leading MfJ members.

Most of those inside will eventually be released, the majority getting leave to stay in this country. Some are taken to be deported with the MfJ and other organisations then working desperately and often successfully to stop their deportation flights back to terror and violence in their home countries.

This was by far the smallest of all the protests at Yarl’s Wood organised by the MfJ, following complaints made against the organisation by a former member who appears to have been treated badly by them. But however justified her personal complaint, her comments revealed little or nothing about the nature of the group which was not already on Wikipedia or otherwise common knowledge. But the dispute led to many other groups ending their support for protests organised by the MfJ, some organising their own protests but with very limited success.

Mabel had been held in Yarl’s Wood for a day or two less than 3 years

Other groups were and are working – as MfJ still is – to support detainees. The MfJ has played a major role in protests against our racist immigration detention system and in actions to prevent deportations. It still seems to be supported by many former detainees who have always played a leading role in the protests both at Yarl’s Wood and at Harmondsworth.

The Home Office finally decided it was too easy for protests to be organised outside Yarl’s Wood and moved the women – many of whom were released at the start of the Covid epidemic – up to an even more remote location in the north-east, with Yarl’s Wood being used to house those who had crossed the Channel in small boats.

The Illegal Immigration Act finally passed a few days ago intends to deport almost all migrants and asylum seekers (other than those coming under special schemes for Ukraine, Hong Kong etc) to Rwanda without any consideration of their asylum claims. Efforts to persuade the government to set up safe routes for those claiming asylum were rejected by the government in the latest ratcheting up of its racist policies, justified by them through the doublespeak of “compassion” while showing not the faintest scintilla of any real compassion.

More on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14.


International Day in support of victims of Torture

Monday, June 26th, 2023

International Day in support of victims of Torture: The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force internationally on 26 June 1987, and in 1998 the UN declared the 26 June of every year to be the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Over the years I’ve photographed a number of vigils and protests marking the day in London by various groups concerned with human rights, mostly organised by the London Guantánamo Campaign but often joined by others.


No to Torture Vigil – Trafalgar Square, London. Tue 26 June 2012

Supporters of the The London Guantánamo Campaign and other human rights activists held up placards saying “NO to torture” in over 30 languages. Other protesters against various human rights violations joined in the protest, including campaigners calling for an end of the Iranian executions of the Baloch people, those against the extraditions of Babar Ahmer, Talha Ahsan and others to the US and the Free Mumia campaign.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

More on My London Diary at No to Torture Vigil.


Say No To Torture – Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 26 Jun 2013

International Day in support of victims of Torture

The London Guantanamo Campaign which has been active in calling for the closure of Guantanamo and other prisons including Bagram in Afghanistan since 2006 again held a vigil in Trafalgar Square.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

Some wearing orange Guanatanamo-style jump suits and black hoods, they stood in a lin in front of the National Gallery, calling for the release of London resident Shaker Aamer and the other detainees held and tortured without trail. Shaker, along with most of the other prisoners was on the 141st day of a hunger strike, being subjected to regular beatings, being brutally forcibly fed and held in solitary confinement – which also constitues torture under the UN definitions.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

Among those taking part in the vigil was veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent. The ‘Say No To Torture’ protest overlapped with another human rights protest over Balochistan, a ‘nation without a state.’ Balochs live mainly in Pakistan and have been subject to arrests and other human rights violations including torture by the Pakistan authorities for campaigning for independence.

More on My London Diary at Say No To Torture.


Torture Solidarity Vigil – Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 26 Jun 2014

In 2014, Kashmiris wore black hoods and headbands with messages ‘Mutilated’, ‘Raped’, ‘Tortured’, ‘Executed’ and waved Kashmiri flags to protest at the widespread human rights abuses by the 7,000 custodial killings and torture of prisoners by the Indian state Indian state in Kashmir- 1 in 5 Kashmiris is a torture victim.

Also in Trafalgar Square was a vigil by the The London Guantanamo Campaign with people holding posters and blindfolded or gagged, calling for the release of prisoners from the US prison camp and an end to impunity for torturers.

The UK has failed to take proper action over allegations of prisoner abuse by the British military in Iraq and Afghanistan and has continued to be involved in the “rendition” and torture of British and foreign nationals abroad. Our government prevents violations becoming public knowledge, relying on secret courts and partial and biased investigations.

More on My London Diary at Torture Solidarity Vigil.


UN Day for Victims of Torture – Trafalgar Square, London. Fri 26 Jun 2015

The London Guantánamo Campaign and others were back again in Trafalgar Square in a solidarity vigil in recognition of the suffering and rights of victims and survivors of torture, calling on those in positions of power able to put an end to the use of torture.

Obama had promised in 2010 to end the shame of Guantanamo, but the detentions and torture continued throughout his presidency, though there were some releases.

More on My London Diary at UN Day for Victims of Torture.


Here are links to further protests I covered in recent years on 26 June against torture, in Trafalgar Square in 2016, at the US Embassy in Nine Elms in 2018 and by Balochs in Trafalgar Square in 2019. In 2017 I had a day off work for medical tests, and in 2020 there was no vigil because of the lockdown.


Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Saturday, June 10th, 2023

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds – Events in London on Sunday 10th June 2018


End Government Killings in Nicaragua – Trafalgar Square

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Nicaraguans protested in Trafalgar Square against the violence in their country where since the 19th of April police had killed over 100 protesters and a injured more than 600, and many have been unjustly detained, tortured and raped.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

President Daniel Ortega first came to power during the Nicaraguan Revolution as a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front which ousted the US-supported Samoza dictatorship, becoming leader of the ruling junta which replaced them in 1984 and getting a large majority in the country’s first free and fair presidential election in 1985. His government then implemented a number of leftist policies despite widespread campaigns against him by the US who supported rebel forces and imposed a full trade embargo on the country, even mining its ports.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Massive US interference in the 1990 Nicaraguan general election led to his surprise defeat and he also stood and lost in 2001, but was returned to power following the 2006 elections, though on a much lower vote than in 1985 against a very split opposition.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Since coming to power in 2007, Ortega has abandoned most of his leftist principles, becoming increasingly dictatorial and alienating many of his earlier supporters. Popular protests which began in 2018 against his social security reforms which increased taxes and reduced benefits were violently repressed and further measures have included closing down newspapers, universities and NGOs. Leaders of the political opposition including some former colleagues were jailed for the 2021 election.

This repression has led to many fleeing the country, particularly to neighbouring Costa Rica where over 30,000 Nicaraguans have claimed asylum. Ortega remains in power, with his wife Rosario Murillo as Vice President since 2017.

End government killings in Nicaragua


100 years of Votes for Women

Women marched through London in three strands wearing head scarves in one of the purple, white and green suffragette colours to celebrate a hundred years since the 1918 act gave wealthier older women the vote.

The 1918 Act brought the vote to all men over 21, as well as those like my father over18 serving in the armed forces, but women had to be both over 30 and meet a property requirement. It was another ten years before my mother and other women could vote on the same terms as men with the Representation of the People Act 1928.

Under the 1918 Act, “Women over 30 years old received the vote, but only if they were registered property occupiers (or married to a registered property occupier) of land or premises with a rateable value greater than £5 or of a dwelling-house and not subject to any legal incapacity, or were graduates voting in a university constituency.”

Around 8.4 million women in the UK got the vote in 1918, but there were still around 5 million of women over 21 without a vote – and there were still around 7% of the population, mainly male middle-class university graduates who had an extra vote either in university constituencies or in the constituency where they owned business premises.

Sadly when my mother did get the vote she used it to support the Conservative Party, displaying their poster in our front window at every election. My father, who kept quiet about his politics to avoid conflict at home, went into the polling station every time to cancel out her vote with one for Labour.

Many more pictures at 100 years of Votes for Women.


Al Quds Day Protests – Saudi embassy, Mayfair

A large crowd squashed into barriers on the street in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy for a rally in support of the oppressed people of Palestine and others around the world.

The event, organised by the Justice for Palestine Committee, was supported by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and a wide range of pro-Palestinian organisations, and opposed by the Zionist Federation and some right wing hooligans, who were stopped from attacking the peaceful event by a large police presence in the area.

The official Zionist Federation protest which was perhaps a little smaller than in some previous years kept behind the barriers provided for them a short distance from the Palestinian protest, and the two groups shouted insults at each other.

There were also a number of well-known Zionist protesters along with some right-wing football supporters active in the EDL and other racist organisations wandering the streets of Mayfair. Police made an effort to keep them away from the Palestine protest, and at one point this involved some fairly forceful policing as the thugs were taken away. Not all of the right-wing are thugs, and later when I went home I was pleased to meet a man who knew me and walked with me to make sure I didn’t get troubled by any of the others still around.

As a colleague remarked to me, there may well have been more Jews taking part in the pro-Palestine rally than opposing it, as the Al Quds day event was supported by several groups and numerous individuals from the Jewish left as well as the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta, who as always attracted a great deal of venomous anti-Semitic shouting from the Zionists.

Celebrated in many countries, Al Quds Day, established by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, has been marked in London for over 30 years.

This year’s event was a gesture of defiance to the demonisation campaign and the ongoing murders by Israeli troops of innocent Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip commemorating 70 years since Israel was formed on expropriated Palestinian land.

More about the protest and many more pictures on My London Diary:
Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day
Zionists protest against AlQuds Day


One Billion Rising, Chaplin & MI6

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Three sets of photographs I made in London on a wet day nine years ago, Friday 14th February 2014.


One Billion Rising – End Violence Against Women – Trafalgar Square

One Billion Rising, Chaplin & MI6

This was the second worldwide annual ‘One Billion Rising’ with events taking place in 168 countries and women had come to Trafalgar Square to strike, dance and rise in defiance against the injustices suffered by women around the world.

One Billion Rising, Chaplin & MI6

In England and Wales, the Home Office reports that there are an average of 85,000 women raped each year, and 400,000 women sexually assaulted. They report that 1 in 5 women (aged 16 – 59) has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

One Billion Rising, Chaplin & MI6

I arrived in time to photograph the start of the event, and stayed to watch a little dancing on the stage. The dancers there were under a canopy but I and much of the audience got rather wet watching. I wasn’t sorry that I had to leave shortly for an appointment at Downing Street.

One Billion Rising, Chaplin & MI6

More at One Billion Rising – End Violence Against Women.


Charlie Chaplin Climate Chaos – Downing St

My Downing Street appointment was not with the Prime Minister David Cameron, but with a rather better known figure, Charlie Chaplin, or rather his look-alike mime and activist Charlie X.

Given the weather he had abandoned the black trousers for waterproof yellow ones, but otherwise the was dressed as usual with his whited out face, small moustache, bowler hat, black bow tie and jacket. Sensibly as well as his walking stick he had brought an umbrella and had some hazard tape to keep his bowler in place in the high winds.

He was there to make a one-person silent protest over the failure of governments including our own to take real measures to combat carbon dioxide emissions which are causing global warming and climate chaos. At the time many of us across the country were suffering from flooding, with my own home having been under severe threat for almost a week – and left without mains drainage we were having to walk several minutes to a friends to wash and use a toilet that could still be flushed.

Charlie X was also there to draw attention to the dangers of fracking in the UK and show solidarity with communities who are fighting against it in their area. His mimed protest called on Cameron to act green not just talk green and stop listening to the highly funded lobbying by the dirty fuel companies.

Charlie Chaplin Climate Chaos


‘Justice Demands the Truth’ Vigil – MI6, Vauxhall

I was pleased to be able to dry out slightly and get just a little warmer on the bus to Vauxhall were I joined the Save Shaker Aamer campaign who where protesting opposite the well-known MI6 offices there on the 12th anniversary of the British resident’s illegal rendition to Guantanamo in February 2002.

On My London Diary I give more details of the case of this Muslim charity worker who was kidnapped by bandits and sold to the US army and tortured before being taken for rurther torture at the prison camp.

MI6 officers were present during some of the torture and his return to this country would be embarrassing for them. They were widely thought to have been secretly briefing against his return and telling lies to Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary from 2001-6 and later Secretary of State for Justice which he apparently or perhaps conveniently believed.

Shaker’s release to the UK would also embarrass the US security agencies responsible for his continuing torture at Guantanamo where he stood up for his rights and those of other prisoners. Although the US security agencies including the CIA, State and Defense Departments cleared him to be released six years ago, they wanted to release him to his native Saudi Arabia, knowing that as a former dissident he would quickly disappear there without trace.

Because of the continuing rain, after posing for photographs and a short vigil in front of the MI6 building the protesters moved a little further away for a rally on the pavement under one of the railway arches before going to try and hand in a Valentine card for the head of MI6, Sir John Sawer, which stated:

MI6, we would love you to … help us bring Shaker Aamer home. Shaker Aamer, unlawfully imprisoned and tortured in Guantanamo for twelve years – he faces no charge or trial- he has been cleared since 2007 to leave Guantanamo. So why is Shaker Aamer still there? Shaker Aamer would love to be at home with his wife and family in the UK. M16, you could help. Tell the truth about torture! MI6 have a heart, don’t block Shaker Aamer’s release to the UK from Guantanamo.”

Security on the gate refused to accept the card, but eventually the protesters simply pushed it through a gap in the gate and left for a final protest opposite the building.

More at ‘Justice Demands the Truth’ Vigil.


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.


Gender-based Violence, Arming Israel, Trans Pride, Anti Racism

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

Protests in London three years ago today on Saturday 14th September 2019 all with some connection to human rights violations.


Criminal Abuse of Women in South Africa – Trafalgar Square

People, mainly women and including many South Africans, dressed in black to protest in Trafalgar Square following the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana and many other women in South Africa.

Protests were taking place across South Africa calling for the government to declare a state of emergency over gender based violence, and to protest against gender-based violence across the world.

After speeches and silences on the North Terrace they moved to light candles for the victims at the entrance to South Africa House.

Criminal Abuse of Women in South Africa


HSBC Stop Arming Israel – Oxford St

Protesters led by Young London Palestine Solidarity Campaign took part in a National Day of Action outside the Oxford St branch of the HSBC Bank calling on it to stop its support of military and technology companies that sell weapons and equipment to Israel to be used against Palestinians. The bank had closed for the protest.

Although HSBC had divested from Israel’s largest private weapons company, it still owned shares in Caterpillar whose bulldozers are used to destroy Palestinian homes and construct illegal apartheid settlements, BAE Systems whose fighter jets attack Gaza and Raytheon which suppliers the ‘bunker buster’ bombs used to target Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Stop Arming Israel HSBC Protest


London’s First Trans+ Pride March

People met at Hyde Park Corner for this first march in the city to celebrate trans, non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming individuals and to protest against the continuing discrimination here and around the world against them.

As well as many from the trans+ community there were family, friends and other supporters taking part in an event which aimed to increase the visibility of trans+ people.

Recent years have seen an increasing transphobia in the British media with considerably publicity being given to the views of anti-trans activists. There has been an increase in attacks attacks on trans people on the streets, hate speech by trans-exclusionary feminists, and by right-wing national and state governments around the world.

Too often trans+ people around the world are subject to human rights abuses. They have always been an integral part of the gay community and at the forefront of the fight for gay rights – from the Stonewall rebellion on.

There were a few short speeches before the march set off, going along Piccadilly to a rally in Soho Square. I marched with them as far as Green Park where I caught the Underground for a protest in Brixton.

London’s First Trans+ Pride March


Brixton Anti-Racist March

Movement for Justice and Lambeth Unison Black Workers’ Group were protesting in Brixton against the continuing persecution of Windrush family members and other migrants, calling for freedom of movement, the closure of immigration detention prisons, and an end to Brexit which they see being used to whip up immigrant-bashing and nationalism by Boris Johnson.

The event began in Windrush Square, where one of the speakers was Eulalee Pennant, a Jamaican great-grandmother who has been fighting the Home Office for 16 years against deportation. Here uncle was one of the Windrush generation, her grandfather had served in the UK armed forces for his working life, and her cousins, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandson were British. She had worked and paid tax here for many years but was detained days before her 60th birthday and locked up in Yarls Wood, where she contracted a serious stomach infection. She was still vomiting blood when the Home Office tried to put her on a deportation flight.

Eulalee had tried to regularise her and her son’s immigration status with the Home Office in 2003, and among the documents she sent was her passport. The Home Office kept claiming they did not have it, and it was only in court 15 years later they finally admitted they had failed to send in back. Her son spent five years fighting his case to stay in the UK but was deported to Jamaica in 2008, and was murdered there the following June. Her fight against deportation has cost many thousands in legal fees and she has been unable to work since 2003.

There had been relatively few at the gathering in Windrush Square but there was a larger audience when the group marched to Brixton Market to continue the protest there and Green MEP for London Scott Ainslie also came to speak about his LDNlovesEU campaign.

The group then set off to march noisily around central Brixton, returning to Windrush Square for some final speeches.

Brixton anti-racist march


Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka – On Saturday 23rd August 2014 I photographed four protests in Westminster, one against an aspect of our racist immigration policies, the second against the UK selling arms to Israel which have been used in attacks on Gaza (along with a counter demonstration), the anniversary of chemical attacks by the Syrian regime and a protest calling for UK support against the continuing genocide of the Tamil nation.


Divided Families protest over cruelty – Downing St

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

The cruel and unfair immigration rules set up by the Home Office under Theresa May mean that anyone earning less than £18,600 was unable to bring a non-EU spouse into the country (Brexit means that similar rules now apply to most EU countries.)

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

This income requirement discriminates against women, the retired and disabled young and many minority ethnic people who have on average lower incomes than the general population. For couples with children, the income limit is even higher, and to secure visas for a spouse and two children you would need an income of £24,800.

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

Fees for applications are also expensive – from £1048 to £1538 per person and applicants may also need to pay a healthcare premium of from £1560 to £3120 for adults and around three-quarters of this for each child. For applications made in the UK there is an extra £800 if you want a faster decision. And applicants also need to supply a great deal of documentation.

The policy, which also includes tougher English Language tests, a proof of greater attachment to the UK than of any other country and extending the probationary period from two to five years, is in direct contradiction of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states:

‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’

Universal Declaration on Human Rights

People at the protests included many whose families were divided as they were unable to meet the income levels, as well as a number of parents and friends of divided families.

Many carried placards with images of the divided families, along with captions such as ‘I WANT MY DADDY TO CUDDLE ME NOT SKYPE ME’. I felt deeply for those caught by what seem to be vindictive, unnecessary and totally insupportable polices. It was impossible not to agree with the placards with messages such as ‘WHY IS LOVE DIVIDED BY LAW? THERESA MAY HAS NO HEART!!! THE LAW NEEDS TO CHANGE….’

Divided Families protest over cruelty


Gaza Protest – Stop Arming Israel – Downing St

A large rally at Downing St called on the UK to stop selling arms to Israel, and for an end to Israeli war crimes. Among the protesters were many Jews from various Jewish groups, including the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta who had walked down from north London to support the protest.

Israel had carried out air strikes on Gaza in July 2014 following a number of incidents including the shooting by the IDF of two Palestinian teenagers and the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. There were other incidents including house demolitions and the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth. Hamas replied to air strikes with rocket fire on Israel.

The Israeli invasion of Gaza began in earnest on 20th July and the ground war was still continuing though on a lesser scale when this protest took place, with a ceasefire being agreed and coming into effect on 26th August.

There are more details about the invasion in the Wikipedia Timeline, which states “2,256 Palestinians and 85 Israelis died, while 17,125 Palestinians, and 2,639 Israelis suffered injuries.”

At the protest there was a row of black boxes representing coffins and the names of children killed, and some people carried ‘bloodstained’ bundles representing dead children

Three people came to wave Israeli flags across the road and were led away for safety by police.

Earlier one of the Palestinian protesters had tried to seize one of the flags and was dragged away by police. At the end of the rally opposite Downing St some of the protesters marched around London and I went with them as far as Trafalgar Square where I had another event to cover.

More pictures: Gaza Protest – Stop Arming Israel


Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary – Trafalgar Square

A rally marked a year after the Ghouta massacre of 21/08/2013 when Assad regime forces outraged the world by using Sarin gas, killing 1,477 residents including over 400 children in this Damascus suburb. The world failed to act against Assad.

One man was wearing wolf head with bloody hands and placard ‘I AM CHEMICAL BASHAR AL ASSAD AND ONE YEAR ON I AM STILL GASSING SYRIAN CHILDREN. THANK YOU FOR UN VETO’

After an hour-long rally in Trafalgar Square the protesters, who were mainly Syrians, marched along the pavements to Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing St, where they laid flowers in memory of the dead.

More pictures: Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary


Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killing – Downing St

Also present when I returned to Downing St were Tamils protesting over the continuing genocide of the Tamil nation, calling for a UN investigation and referendum on Tamil Eelam.

Placards called for an end to the use of rape to destroy their nation and sexual violence against children.

More pictures: Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killing


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.