Posts Tagged ‘RCG’

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove: Ten years ago Friday 30th May 2014 saw me rushing around London to cover four events, my day starting outside the job centre in Peckham and ending with being escorted out of the Department for Education in Westminster.


Peckham Jobcentre Penalises Jobseekers

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

People had come to protest outside Peckham Jobcentre because it removes benefits from claimants at twice the rate of other London job centres and they demanded to know why this was.

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

People are sanctioned for many reasons, often for things outside their control such as missing interviews where letters have either not been sent or not been received due to postal delays, or arriving late when trains or buses have been cancelled. Some were also being sanctioned for refusing to work without pay un unfair ‘workfare’ schemes.

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

Sanctioning leaves many job seekers destitute, without any source of income, often for three months, sometimes longer, removing the ‘safety net’ the welfare state is supposed to provide. There have long been sanctions on benefits, but the major changes introduced by the Coalition Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 have hugely increased their use, often for trivial reasons.

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

The new sanctions regime is yet another example of the failure by the Tories (and in this case the Lib-Dems too) to understand how people outside of the middle and upper classes get by; what it is like to live on benefits or low incomes with no resources to fall back on. And it shows that they just don’t care.

Peckham, Choudary, Vedanta & Gove 2014

The protest was organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group though others came to support it. Speakers used a megaphone to tell people why they were protesting and people handed out leaflets to those entering and leaving the job centre as well as those walking past. They also gave out an information leaflet about UK Borders Agency raids.

More pictures Peckham Jobcentre penalises jobseekers.


London Mosque Protest For Sunni Extremist

I left Peckham to go to the London Mosque in Regents Park where Anjem Choudary and his followers were protesting on the road outside as the crowds left after Friday prayers.

Choudary had come to call for the release of militant Islamist Omar Bakri Muhammad, held in Lebanon for his support of extremist fighters Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL.) Few in the crowds stopped to listen to him and many crossed the street to avoid him. A few came to argue with him.

Omar Bakri Muhammad claimed asylum in the UK in 1986 and came to Finsbury Park Mosque, where he built up Hizb ut-Tahrir and was one of the founders of Al Muhajiroun, banned in the UK after alleged involvement in the 2005 London bombings. He left the UK for Lebanon and was told by the Home Office he could not return here.

In 2010 he was sentenced in Lebanon to life with hard labour for acts of terrorism, but was released on bail after some retracted their testimony against him. He was arrested again in May 2014 for alleged involvement in attacks carried out by militant Sunnis in Lebanon for his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who he had called to bring their fight to Lebanon.

This was a segregated protest, with around 30 women covered from head to foot in black in a separate group holding up posters and joining in the chanting of slogans.

More pictures London Mosque protest for Sunni extremist.


African Liberation Day protest against Vedanta

African protesters were outside Vedanta’s Mayfair offices for an Afrikan Liberation Day protest over the London listed company owned by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal which has cheated both Zambia over copper and Liberia over iron ore deals.

Agarwal appears in a video where he ridicules the Zambian government over the small sum he paid to buy the Konkola Copper Mines and boasting that they made him more than US$500 million every year in profit. Other sources show he avoids paying tax on these huge profits. Vedanta were also taken to court in Zambia over massive pollution of the Kafue River and a large fine was imposed, although apparently it had not been paid.

The Liberian government sold the Western Cluster iron ore deposits cheaply to a small company Elenilto in 2009. They immediately sold 51% to Vedanta, transferring the rest in a few months.

People were slow to arrive for the protest and I had to leave before it really got going.

African Liberation Day protest against Vedanta


Gove “Read-In” protest in Department for Education

I met a ‘class’ of protesters outside the Department for Education in Great Smith Street, Westminster and walked with them into the foyer where they sat down for an ‘English lesson’ in protest against Michael Gove’s political interference in the curriculum side-lining modern US books, promoting education for the needs of business rather than people.

We had not been stopped when entering although the protesters expected to be ejected as soon as they began making speeches and displayed their banner.

Unfortunately I was asked to leave before this happened as the department were unhappy with the press taking pictures in a public building where there were surely no security implications – though perhaps a high risk – if not a certainty – of the minister and the government being embarrassed.

Although they were insistent that I leave the security staff were unusually polite and rather apologetic and I got a strong impression that they were not happy at being told to keep the press out. I had already taken a number of pictures and took a few more on my way out.

The DfE had issued a statement denying that Gove had anything to do with the decision to narrow the curriculum and promote a more narrowly nationalist agenda for education – one that will sideline not only modern US literature, but also the great wealth of writers from the Commonwealth who have enriched English literature.

They stated the change was a result of consultation with all interested parties, while teachers, examiners, education and literary professionals have launched a mass campaign against what is clearly a ministerial diktat, political interference in education. For them, the DfE statement was simply an uninspired work of fiction.

Gove “Read-In” protest in DfE


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Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – 2016

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – I celebrated 14th May 2016 with a busy day of protests around London.


Reclaim Holloway

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop
Jeremy Corbyn

Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network marched from rally on Holloway Road demanding that when Holloway prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

The prison is in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency and the then Labour leader turned up on his bike to speak before the march to give his support.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

There was a long rally outside the prison with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

Islington Council wanted to see the site used for social housing and in 2022 gave https://www.ahmm.co.uk/projects/masterplanning/holloway/ planning permission for a development by Peabody, who bought the site in 2019 with help from the GLA, and London Square for 985 new homes. 60% of these will be affordable, including 415 for social rent, together with a 1.4-acre public park, a Women’s Building, and new commercial spaces.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford St

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

A rolling protest outside shops which support the Israeli state made its way along Oxford St from Marks and Spencers, with speakers detailing the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It came on the day before Nabka Day, the anniversary of the ‘day of the catastrophe’ which commemorates when around 80% of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property.

The protesters included both Palestinians and Jews opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. They were met by a small group of people holding Israeli flags who stood in their way and shouted insults, accusing them of anti-Semitism.

The organisers were clear that the protest was not anti-Semitic but against Zionism and some actions of the Israeli government. Both police and protesters tried hard to avoid confrontation with those who had clearly come to disrupt and provoke.

Many UK businesses play an important part in supporting the Israeli government by selling Israeli goods and those produced in the occupied territories and in other ways, and their were brief speeches as the protest halted outside some of them detailing some of these links.

More on My London Diary at 68th Anniversary Nabka Day.

This Saturday, 18th May 2024, you can join the march in London, starting at the BBC on the 76th anniversary of the Nabka calling for an end to the current genocide in Gaza.


Vegan Earthlings Masked Video Protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans in white masks from London Vegan Actions were standing in a large circle on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, some holding laptops or tables showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. Although bright sun made the laptop screens almost impossible to see and the sound outdoors was largely inaudible the large circle of people standing in white masks did attract attention.

More pictures Vegan Earthlings masked video protest.


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Also protesting in front of the National Gallery were a small group holding posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons‘.

More pictures Refugees Welcome say protesters.


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

After Topshop suspended two cleaners who were members of the United Voices of the World trade union for protesting for a living wage and sacked one of them protests were taking place outside their stores around the country.

The UVW were supported by others at the London protest which began outside Topshop on Oxford Street by others including trade unionists from the CAIWU and Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Class War.

A large crowd of police and extra illegal security guards wearing no ID blocked the entrance to the shop stopping both protesters and customers from entering. The several hundred protesters held up placards and banners and protested noisily but made no serious attempt to go in to the store.

A man wears a mask of Topshop owner Phillip Green

Some protesters, led by the Class War ‘Womens Death Brigade’ moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes before the whole group of protesters marched to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuade them to move.

They stopped outside John Lewis, another major store in a long-running dispute with the union as it allowed its cleaning contractor to pay its cleaners low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for workers who keep its stores running.

The protest there was again noisy and there were some heated verbal exchanges between protesters and police, but I saw no arrests. After a few minutes the protesters marched off to continue their protest outside another Oxford Street Topshop branch close to Marble Arch.

More at Topshop protest after cleaners sacked.


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Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023 – October

Saturday, January 6th, 2024

Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023 – October began as just another month, but the world changed with the Hamas attack across the Gaza border with Israel on October 7th. I missed the first emergency protests against the Israeli response but the rest of my year was dominated by protests against the killing of civilians and children in Gaza by Israeli forces.

Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023
‘Stop Starmer’ Meeting Warns Us All. Camden London, 7 Oct 2023.
A day before the Labour conference people meet in Keir Starmer’s constituency to warn everyone how dangerous a Starmer-led government would be. Those present included many former Labour Party members who say he has no principles and list almost 30 pledges he has so far reneged on, including green jobs, NHS outsourcing, Lords reform, free school meals, workers rights, oil contracts, PR, childcare. Paula Peters of DPAC speaking.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023
Cancel the Debt of the Global South. Bank, London, 12 Oct 2023.
65 bags for Climate Debt against 1 for debt repayments. While the World Bank/IMF meet in Marrakesh campaigners at the Bank of England from Debt for Climate, War on Want and others join in worldwide protests for the cancellation of debts of the Global South. They are owed Climate debt for damage caused by fossil fuels 65 times as much as their debt repayments.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023
Barclays Told Drop Polluter Drax. Canary Wharf, London. 19 Oct 2023.
Axe Drax. XR and other campaigners at Barclays Canary Wharf HQ demand they end support for Drax, the world’s biggest burner of trees which now gets around £2m a day of UK climate subsidies intended for renewable energy for its highly polluting power station, and is seeking extra subsidies for an unproven and unworkable carbon capture climate scam. Drax burns wood pellets mainly made by clear felling mature trees in the USA.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023
Stand with the Palestinian Resistance! Oxford St, London. 21 Oct 2023.
Members of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism and the Revolutionary Communist Group support Palestinians resisting the Zionist state of Israel which for many years has oppressed Palestinians. They protested on Oxford Street outside British businesses, banks and institutions including Marks & Spencer which have long supported the Israeli apartheid state.
Peter Marshall
Goodbye & Good Riddance 2023
National March for Palestine – Stop the War on Gaza. London. 21 Oct 2023.
Well over 100,000 march calling for a ceasefire and an end to the violence, for a lifting of Israel’s siege and for full humanitarian aid to be sent into Gaza immediately. They called for a just peace in the Middle East and freedom for Palestine. I was too tired after standing watching the march go past for around two and a half hours that I went home rather than photograph the rally.
Peter Marshall
UFFC Annual Rally & Procession 2023. London, 28th October 2023.
The annual remembrance procession by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) marching from Trafalgar Square to Downing St for a rally with speakers from the families whose relatives were killed by police and in penal, mental health and immigration detention. They call for justice and proper investigations of the officers involved suspected of crimes.
Peter Marshall
National March for Gaza – Ceasefire Now, London, UK. 28 Oct 2023.
Many thousands march through London called for an immediate ceasefire as Israeli forces bombarded the country and cut off all communications. Thousands of children and other civilians including 110 medical staff have already been killed and supplies of water, food, medicines and fuel are running out with a with Israel denying access to all but a tiny trickle of humanitarian aid and ignoring the UN General Assembly vote.
Peter Marshall
More Pictures – Gaza Ceasefire Now! London, UK. 28 Oct 2023.
Peter Marshall
Gaza Ceasefire Now! Protest At Waterloo Station, London. 28 Oct 2023.
Several hundred protesters sat down in Waterloo Station concourse in a protest calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as Israeli forces bombarded the country and cut off all communications. Thousands of children and other civilians including 110 medical staff have already been killed and supplies of water, food, medicines and fuel are running out with a with Israel denying access to all but a tiny trickle of humanitarian aid and ignoring the UN General Assembly vote.
Peter Marshall

More from my Facebook albums for 2023 tomorrow.


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Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi – 2017

Saturday, December 23rd, 2023

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi – Six years ago Palestine was also in the news and on Saturday 23rd December 2017 I photographed three protests in London related to the country and its occupation by Israel. These were protests called at short notice and there were larger protests in the New Year.


Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine – US Embassy

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi

Outside the US Embassy – still then in Grosvenor Square – a rally by Palestinians and their supporters condemned the decision by US President Trump’s announcement that the US Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem.

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi

Jerusalem is one of the oldest of world cities and is of great significance to three major world religions. It was where Soloman built the first temple after the city had been captured by his father, King David around three thousand years ago. Here Jesus was tried and crucified around 30AD, and here that the prophet Mohammed died and ascended into heaven in 632AD, and the Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam with the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque.

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi

Jerusalem was from 1923 until 1948 the capital of Palestine, and in 1948 was declared by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 to be an international city. After the 1967 Six Day War Israel gained control of the whole of the city and in 1980 Israel passed its Jerusalem Law declaring it the “complete and united” capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council responded with ‘Resolution 478 on 20 August 1980, which declared that the Jerusalem Law is “a violation of international law“, is “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith“. Member states were called upon to withdraw their diplomatic representation from Jerusalem.’

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi

Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was a clear dismissal of this UN resolution and was condemned by those who spoke at the rally. They called for peace and freedom for Palestine and also condemned the increase in hate crimes following Trump’s announcements and the brutal repression of protests against it in Palestine, including the shooting of peaceful protesters, one in a wheelchair by Israeli forces, and the beating up and detention of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi and members of her family.

Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine


Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi – M&S, Oxford St,

The protest invited people to “discover more” about M&S and to boycott the Israeli goods they sell

The Revolutionary Communist Group held a weekly protest outside Marks & Spencer’s flagship store on Oxford Street for 13 years as a part of their ‘Victory to the Intifada‘ campaign in support of freedom for Palestine and an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

They point out that M&S support Israel by selling goods produced their including the illegal sale of some items produced in the occupied territories and urge shoppers to boycott M&S and support the growing BDS campaign – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

They say many British companies including Marks and Spencer are collaborators with the apartheid regime in Israel and call for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom are being held effectively indefinitely without trial or have been sentenced in unfair trials. Israel has reacted to the BDS campaign with a number of schemes including campaigns in both the Tory and Labour parties. Many of the controversies about anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere are a part of this orchestrated anti-BDS campaign, particularly directed against Jeremy Corbyn for his very public support for freedom for Palestine.

Today’s protest was a special one called to demand the immediate release of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, beaten up and arrested by Israeli soldiers at her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank at 4am on Tuesday 19 December.

Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi


Free Ahed Tamimi – Trafalgar Square,

Another group of protesters calling for the release of Ahed Tamimi were in Trafalgar Square to condemn the kidnap, beating up and arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi by Israeli soldiers at 4am on Tuesday 19 December, and the later arrest of her mother Nariman Tamimi and cousin Nour Tamimi, and called for their immediate release.

The two younger women had earlier slapped Israeli soldiers in their occupied village of Nabi Saleh when their 14 year old male cousin was shot in the face by Israeli soldiers. Among those taking part in the protest were some who knew Ahed and her family personally and had visited them in their village of Nabi Saleh where regular protests are brutally repressed by the Israeli army.

Ahed’s father Bassem Tamini was also in some of the photographs the protesters held and he has been detained by the military many times in the past.

This was a fairly small protest in front of the National Gallery and had been going for some time when two men turned up to shout at the protesters and disrupt it.

They tell the protesters that Palestine will never be free and that Israel has offered peace, but the protesters reply that Israel has never been prepared to make a serious offer of peace with justice. When a two state solution seemed possible following the Oslo accords, Israel prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated for having signed them and Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, both opposed to the peace, took power in Israel, and the building of settlements on occupied land tripled.

The two men told the protesters they should “go home” which seemed a peculiarly stupid and insensitive comment as some of those present had lost their homes in Palestine when they were forced out of them by Israel.

Both of the men were well-known Zionists who have attempted to disrupt other protests calling for boycotts of Israel and supporting Palestine. Their shouting and disruption had the effect of calling more attention to the protest calling for the release of Ahed Tamini. After some minutes they were joined by a third Zionist, and angry woman who joined them to scream a message of hate and then left.

Eventually police arrived and told two men that they should behave themselves and suggested they leave. They didn’t go but quietened down considerably. The following year after even more aggressively disruptive behaviour at a pro-Palestine protest one of the two was fined and issued with a restraining order under the Public Order Act.

One of the protesters complained to the officers about the racist comments the two had made to him, but the police showed no interest. The protest continued but it was soon time for me to catch my train home.

Free Ahed Tamimi



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Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana 2014

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana: The Marikana massacre when 34 striking mine workers were shot dead in South Africa took place on 16th August 2012, so today the 11th anniversary will be marked in London by a commemoration beginning at 16.00 outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square. You can read more about the massacre and these commemoration in my post last year, London Solidarity with Marikana Miners.

Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana

On Saturday 16th August 2014 I attended the event on the Second Anniversary of Marikana Miners Massacre and you can see more pictures from this on My London Diary.

But the Marikana commemoration was not the only event on that day, and here are also some of the other things I photographed.


Boycott Israel – Boycott M&S – Brixton

Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana

Protesters outside M&S in the centre of Brixton argued that the store legitimises the illegal occupation of Palestine and supports Zionist racism and brutality by selling Israeli goods and called for a boycott in solidarity with the people of Gaza. I made a brief visit as the RCG picket was beginning and then took the tube to Bond Street.

More pictures at Boycott Israel – Boycott M&S.


R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres – South St, Mayfair

Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana

Marchers met at the Egyptian Embassy to march to Downing St on the anniversary of the massacres by Egyptian forces at Rabaa and Nahda squares on 14th August 2013 in which over 2600 were killed, 4000 injured and many arrested.

Israel, Egypt, ISIS, Sewol & Marikana

The Rabaa hand sign with four fingers extended and the thumb pressed into the palm was adopted in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters following the overthrow of President Morsi by a military coup. After his election Morsi had given himself unlimited powers to make laws and moved the country towards an Islamist state, eventually leading to mass protests which led the army to move on 3 July 2013, deposing him and suspending the new constitution. Pro-Morsi demonstrations were brutally dispersed with Human Rights Watch documenting over 900 deaths.

More pictures at R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres.


March against ISIS massacres – Portland Place

The Kurdish People’s Assembly and others met in front of the BBC to march against the attacks on Kurds, Shia, Sufi, Christian and Yezidi communities in Iraq, calling on the UK government for greater action including pressure on Turkey and Qatar to end support for jihadism.

They met in front of the BBC to emphasise the lack of proper reporting of what is happening in Iraq and as one poster said, ‘Your silence is Killing people‘. The BBC has failed to report on the support that Turkey with its increasingly Islamic regime has given to the Islamic State jihadist forces. ISIS relies on oil exports smuggled through Turkey to support its existence and murdering attacks.

Our government keeps quiet about Turkey and refuses to condemn its activities as Turkey is a key member of NATO, and as in so many areas, the BBC toes the government line. While it employs many fine journalists they are constrained by their editors and managers up to the highest level and not allowed to report impartially, particularly on the UK domestic channels. Sometimes the World Service does rather better.

More pictures at Kurds Protest against ISIS


Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act – Trafalgar Square

Koreans had been holding regular silent vigils in Trafalgar Square since the Sewol ferry disaster in April that year when schoolchildren on board were told to ‘Stay Put’ below decks and drowned.

The protest on 16th August was part of global day of support for the Sewol Tragedy Victims’ Family Committee petition, already signed by around 4 million, for a special bill to investigate the deaths of 304 people, mainly high school students in the ferry disaster.

Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act


Second Anniversary of Marikana Miners Massacre

Taking place later in Trafalgar Square was the commemoration of the Second Anniversary of Marikana Miners Massacre mentioned at the start of this post.

Among those taking part was mime protester Charlie X, who came with a poster of the constitution of the Republic of South African and stood holding this and with a miner’s lamp in front of the locked gates of the embassy.


Housing Crimes Exposed

Wednesday, June 14th, 2023

Housing Crimes Exposed: On the 14th June every year now our thoughts turn to Grenfell and the terrible fire there in 201. I wrote about this here a year ago in Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice.

We still haven’t seen justice, and the delays in investigation caused by the inquiry increasingly make it seem that once again our legal and judicial system have successfully kicked justice into the long grass. There are people who should have been in jail and organisations which should have been facing huge fines within a few months of the tragic but predicted event. The fire wasn’t an accident but the result of crimes.


Advance to Mayfair – London Real Estate Forum – Berkeley Square, Mayfair

There are other crimes around housing in the UK, and in particular around social housing, and people were protesting about these before Grenfell. On Thursday 16th June 2016 I photographed one of these protests, and two days later a second also in Mayfair, an appropriate location as these are crimes of the rich against the poor, coming from the Thatcher crusade to enrich the rich at the expense of the poor, rewarding the wealthy and retreating from the welfare state which had supported the poor.

Housing Crimes Exposed

Housing was one of the main areas of policy, along with privatisation which sold off key services and industries to private investors – and for which we are now seeing the results in high energy prices, sewage in rivers, high cost transport and huge subsidies to shareholders, with much of the costs of our NHS now going to supporting healthcare companies and their owners.

In housing Thatcher decided we should be a nation of home owners. Until then many of the working class had either been council tenants or were aspiring to be so while living in often poor and cramped accommodation provided by private landlords. Thatcher changed that, partly be selling off council properties to tenants at knock-down prices, but also by making it difficult or impossible for local authorities to build new council properties or properly maintain existing ones. It was a very popular policy with those who got their properties on the cheap, though many found they couldn’t afford to keep them and before long they were bough up as ‘buy to let’ properties by those rich enough to get mortgages and bank loans.

Housing Crimes Exposed

Under New Labour, the Labour Party took up many of the worst of Thatcher’s policies, and the ‘regeneration’ schemes Labour councils came up increasingly amounted in a huge loss of social housing, replacing huge estates with largely homes for private sale with some as largely unaffordable “affordable housing” and shared ownership. More and more of the housing associations, many of which had taken over social housing estates from hard-pressed local councils began to look more and more like commercial property owners.

In 2021 government funding to housing associations to build affordable housing was reduced by 60% and funding for new social rented housing was stopped altogether. Since then they have built many houses for sale and rent at market levels, partly to provide cash for some social housing.

London’s councils, largely Labour run, have been among the worst offenders. As I wrote in 2016:

Under the guise of New Labour regeneration, Southwark spent large amounts of council money in demonising the Heygate Estate, employing PR consultants to invent surveys, deliberately moving in problem tenants, running the estate down both physically and through the media to justify its demolition. A highly awarded scheme with its trees coming to maturity, and popular with many residents despite the lack of necessary maintenance was emptied over a period of years and finally destroyed. It took years to get some residents to move, as few were offered suitable alternative accommodation and the compensation on offer to leaseholders was derisory.

But this scheme turned into “something of a financial disaster for Southwark council (though doubtless not for some councillors) and certainly for the people of Southwark, as the Heygate, built with around 1700 social housing units has been replaced by Elephant Park, with less than a hundred, along with a large number of high price apartments which very few locals can afford.”

Undeterred, Southwark proceeded to apply similar methods to other estates, notably the neighbouring Aylesbury Estate, “converting public assets into private profit, with yet more Southwark residents being forced to move out to cheaper areas on the outskirts of London or beyond, in what housing activists describe as social cleansing, driving ordinary Londoners out of the capital.

Similar polices were being applied under Mayor Robin Wales in Newham. They began emptying out the Carpenters Estate, a well-liked and successful estate close to the great transport links of Stratford station, in 2004. Many of the homes on the estate have been empty since then despite huge housing problems in the borough. A scheme to sell the estate for a new campus for UCL was defeated by protests both by local residents, led by Focus E15 and by students and staff at UCL.

Focus E15, a group of young mothers faced with eviction from their Stratford hostel when Newham announced they would no longer pay the housing association which ran it, engaged in a successful campaign against the council’s plans to relocate them separately to private rented accommodation in distant parts of the country, and brought housing problems in Newham and elsewhere onto the national agenda.

Focus E15 were among other groups, including Class War, the Revolutionary Communist Group and protesters from the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark who came to Berkeley Square to protest outside the London Real Estate Forum. Many Labour councils – including Southwark and Newham – were at the event, conspiring with estate agents and property developers to sell public land and transform estates which now house those on low incomes into homes for the wealthy. Councils now “appear to regard the estates they own as liabilities rather than seeing them as providing vital homes meeting the needs of the people who elect them. “

A few of those entering or leaving the event stopped to engage with the protesters, mostly trying to justify their activities. One man photographed the protest and engaged in homophobic abuse, but police who had been trying to move the protesters refused to take action.

You can read about the protest on My London Diary at Advance to Mayfair.


Municipal Journal Awards – Hilton Hotel, Mayfair

Two days later on Thursday 16th June 2016 I joined many of the same protesters and others outside the Hilton Hotel with Architects 4 Social Housing protesting noisily outside the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards at the Hilton Hotel castigating the nomination of Southwark and Newham for awards.

They complained that Southwark was nominated for ‘Best London Council’ despite having demolished 7,639 units of social housing, sold off public land to developers, and evicted people unlawfully and accused Newham of social cleansing, rehousing people in distant parts of the country while council properties remain empty, and of causing mental health problems through evictions, homelessness and failure to maintain properties.

These were awards not for housing the workers in their areas, many of whom are on pay close or at the minimum legal levels. Not even for key workers such as teachers and nurses, few of whom can now afford properties in the areas close to where they work, but to attract high paid workers and provide profits for overseas investors, many of whom leave the properties empty all or most of the year, watching their profits grow as London’s high property prices increase.

They are awards too for contributing to the huge profits for the developers who are now building a new London, providing poorly built properties, often to lower standards of space than those they replace, and with design lives sometimes expiring much earlier. And because we have not seen the changes in building regulations and safety standards that Grenfell exposed as necessary, some at least may be the Grenfells of the future.

More about the protest and many more pictures at Municipal Journal Awards.


Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Friday, September 30th, 2022

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Five years ago on 30th September 2017 United Voices of the World, a grassroots trade union for low paid, migrant and precarious workers, protested in South Kensington against luxury car dealers H R Owen who had suspended their two cleaners without pay for asking to be paid a living wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

The UVW has many members among London’s low paid minority ethnic communities, particularly Spanish speakers, and has led successful campaigns to get them better treatment at work and to be paid the London Living Wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

In this and other protests they have been supported by other groups, particularly Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group and there were a number from these and other unions at the protest.

Angelica Valencia

The Ferrari showrooms have only two cleaners, Angelica Valencia and Freddy Lopez, and they were then employed at the minimum wage by cleaning company Templewood, who the UVW also say have made unlawful deductions from their wages and are in breach of the minimum wage legislation.

Freddy Lopez, speaking in Spanish, with Claudia ready to translate

Almost a hundred supporters met outside South Kensington Station in the late afternoon and then marched to the Ferrari showroom. On their way they paused briefly to protest at H R Owen’s Lamborghini showrooms and then the entrance to their offices.

They stopped outside the showrooms on the Old Brompton Road for a long and noisy protest, with speeches, chanting, drumming and ending with dancing on the roadway.

Ian Bone of Class War waves his stick at a branch of Foxtons

Loud peaceful protests such as this attract a great deal of local attention to the disputes and shame employers into meeting the demands of low paid and badly treated workers. They are effective in persuading the owners of businesses to lean on outsourcing companies to treat their staff better.

Although outsourcing companies are only concerned with exploiting their workers for greater profits, businesses such as H R Owen are very much aware of the negative publicity from the exploitation on their premises being made public.

The success of protests like this, particularly against some of the leading companies in the City of London, by the UVW and other active grass roots unions is doubtless one of the reasons that led the government to enact the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which gave the police powers to act against noisy protests. It remains to be seen how the police, and the Met in particular, will make use of these.

Jane Nicholl makes her opinion clear

The amount of money involved in paying decent wages to the two cleaners is clearly miniscule compared the the price of the cars being sold in the showrooms. The web site tells me that in 2022 the Ferrari range is priced between £166,296 – £263,098.

Class War had brought some ‘DO NOT ENTER CRIME SCENE’ tape and some of the supporters of the cleaners had come carrying mops which they waved at the people inside the showroom.

Victor of the UVW speaks with his usual passion

As the poster states, both of the cleaners voted for strike action in the workplace ballot, giving this a 100% vote. Most if not all the strikes by the UVW have had very high levels of support among workers. The poster also points out that H R Owen are making £400 million a year but the strikers were only paid £7.50 an hour. Paying them a living wage would have a totally insignificant impact on company profits but make a huge difference to the cleaners.

Police talked to the protesters and tried to keep traffic flowing along the road, though there was very little of it and little disruption was caused. But Class War did hold up a few cars for a minute or two with their banner.

The peaceful protest ended with music and dancing – and some more speeches. On their web site, the UVW state:

“In a David vs Goliath battle, UVW members Freddy and Angelica, friends from Ecuador, took on luxury car dealership HR Owen and beat the odds; overcoming intimidation and suspensions, they won the London Living Wage. Their victory was a testament to the power of UVW’s worker-led direct actions.”

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/hr-owen-ferrari-dealership/

You can see many more pictures of the successful protest at Cleaners at luxury car dealers HR Owen.


NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014


Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday – Whitechapel

The National Health Service came into operation in the UK on 5th July 1948, established by a Labour government despite considerable opposition from the Conservative Party and some doctors’ organisations. In most recent years there have been protests marking the anniversary against the increasing privatisation of the system, large parts of which have now moved away from being provided by the NHS itself to being provided by private companies, motivated by profits rather than public service.

The opposition to Aneurin Bevan’s plans in the 1940s led to a number of compromises, but the NHS was launched with three basic principles – to meet the needs of everyone, to be free at the point of delivery, and to be based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay. Although those principles remain, there are some respects in which they are not entirely met.

Prescription charges – currently £9.35 per item – were introduced in England in 1952, removed from 1965-8 but then re-introduced, remaining free for under-16s and over 60s, with some other exceptions. And we pay too for NHS dentistry, and many people find it impossible to get dental treatment under the NHS as no practice in their area will take them on.

Access to GPs and other services at surgeries around the country is also much more difficult for many, and it can be difficult or impossible to get an appointment in a timely fashion. Many services dealing with relatively minor medical issues are no longer available, and people have either to pay for them or continue to suffer. Some of these problems have been exacerbated by the take-over of many surgeries by healthcare companies as a part of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Twenty years ago, when I had a hospital stay of several weeks, hospitals have been forced to put some essential services – such as cleaning – out to tender, resulting in two of the three hospitals I was in being in filthy conditions.

In 2014, cuts in funding were threatening the closure of surgeries in Tower Hamlets as they failed to pay for the extra needs faced in inner-city areas. Local hospitals were also threatened, particularly because of the huge debts from PFI contracts for the building an management of new hospitals. The deals with the private sector made under New Labour have left the NHS with impossible levels of debt – and the companies involved with high profits, continuing in some cases for another 20 or 30 years.

After a short rally with speakers including the local mayor and MP as well as health campaigners including local GPs, there was a march by several hundreds to a larger rally in Hackney. But I left the marchers shortly after it passed Whitechapel Station.

Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday


Focus E15 March for Decent Housing – East Ham

Earlier I had been to photograph a march through East Ham and Upton Park in a protest over the terrible state of housing in England, and in London in particular. The event had been organised by Focus E15 Mums with the support of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, but included many other protest groups from Hackney, from Brent and from South London on the march as well as groups including BARAC, TUSC and others.

They included a number of groups who had stood up and fought for their own housing against councils lacking in principles and compassion who had suggested they might move to privately rented accommodation in Birmingham, Hastings, Wales or further afield, but who had stood their ground and made some progress like the Focus E15 Mothers.

Many London councils are still involved with developers in demolishing social housing and replacing it with houses and flats mainly for high market rents or sale, with some “affordable” properties at rates few can afford, and with much lower numbers than before at social rents. Many former residents are forced to move to outer areas of London in what campaigners call ‘social cleansing’.

Families that councils are under a statutory duty to find homes for are often housed in single rooms or flats, sometimes infected by insects or with terrible damp, often far from their jobs or schools. Councils are under huge pressure and funding cuts sometimes make it impossible for them to find suitable properties, though often there are empty properties which could be used, particularly on estates such as the Caarpenters Estate in Stratford which Newham had been emptying since around 2004 in the hope of redeveloping.

Government policies and subsidies for housing have largely been a way of subsiding private landlords, and we need national and local governments – as I worte ” determined to act for the benefit of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing, removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give them decent security – and criminalising unfair evictions.” Housing really is a national emergency and needs emergency measaures.

Much of what is currently being built in London is sold to overseas buyers as investments and often left empty as its owners profit from the rapid rises in property values in London. We need to make this either illegal or to impose heavy duties on overseas owners including increased council taxes on empty properties.

The march attracted considerable attention on the streets of East London, and as I note several motorists stopped to put money in the collection buckets – something I’ve never seen happen before. I left the march as it reached East Ham Station to go to the NHS event.

Focus E15 March for Decent Housing


Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell.
Protests in London on 14th April 2018 calling for Land Justice, against Turkey’s support of Assad in Syria and ten months after the Grenfell fire.


The Landlords’ Game – Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

I photographed a tour of London’s wealthiest areas led by the Land Justice Network which reminded us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

This unequal ownership of land is the basis of our class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

The tour began in Mayfair, where the land is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with much more of the London borough, although the family’s Grosvenor Group Limited has diversified and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosvenor_Group according to Wikipedia also owns properties in other parts of Britain and Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Asia Pacific region and parts of Europe.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell
British Virgin Islands is an offshore tax haven where 23,000 properties in England and Wales are registered as a tax scam

From a rally at its meeting point in Brown Hart Gardens where there were songs and speeches by the Land Justice Network, the Landworkers Alliance, the tour including activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group marched to Grosvenor Square where we listed to a surprisingly lucid account of the anti-Vietnam war protest there on 27th October 1968. I think I was there too, but other than a vague recollection of wildly charging police horses and panic can remember little – and in those days I didn’t even have a camera that worked.

We moved off, stopping briefly at a house known to have been left empty for around 15 years, one of many such empty properties in a city with a huge housing shortage to call for councils to be able to levy truly punitive council tax or requisition long-term empty properties.

A short distance along the road we stopped at ‘Grouse House’ owned by Odey Asset Management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds for what is wrongly called sport.

There was a speech by Private Eye journalist Richard Brooks who with his colleague Christian Eriksson set about untangling the great offshore corporate web that covers the country – and you can download his report Tax Havens – Selling England By The Offshore Pound from the Private Eye web site.

Kat from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) also spoke, reminding us that the CIty of London is a huge3 tax haven and the money laundering capital of the world.

The tour continue to Park Lane, where there was a short protest outside estate agent Foxtons which sells and rents some of the most expensive property in London, and Class War were prominent in pointing out that both the Tory government and the Labour local authorities have relied on estate agents to direct their housing strategies.

The tour stopped again on Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel, the venue for the notorious annual Property Developers Awards before crossing into Hyde Park, open to the public since 1637, but where we were reminded of the battles to make many other parks public, and how now many have only been saved by the growth of groups of volunteer ‘Friends’. We also heard a plea for more free public toilets. Many were closed in the 1980s because of a ‘gay scare’ and others such as those at Hyde Park Corner now charge for use – 50p a visit here.

Across Knightsbridge we walked along one of the most expensive streets in Britain, Grosvenor Crescent to a statue of the first Marquess of Westminster on the corner of Belgrave Square, which has a plaque stating the family came here with William the Conqueror. He divided out the conquered land and many great estates date from then, though the Grosvenor Estate holdings in London came to them when 3rd Baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, the heiress to the 500 acre Manor of Ebury in 1677. He was 21 at the time, but she was only 12. The estate, then largely swamps later became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia.

A left the tour here for a few minutes to photograph the Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest outside the Turkish Embassy, but rejoined it later at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate which includes the wealthiest parts of Kensington & Chelsea. Much of the money which enabled Sir Hans Sloane to buy the Manor of Chelsea came from African slave labour on sugar estates in Jamaica. His daughter Elizabeth Sloane married Charles Cadogan in 1712.


Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey – Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, Sunni Muslims who call for the restoration of the Muslim caliphate which whose armies conquered much of the Middle East in 632-661CE, were protesting against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests and calling for Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who “are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime.”

Women were strictly segregated from men at the protest and some stewards were unhappy for me to photograph them.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state “whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine” and call on “Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE.”


Grenfell – 10 months on – Kensington Town Hall

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

A large crowd was assembling at Kensington Town Hall for the monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster. They hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

Five years later a public inquiry is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, and there have been no prosecutions of those responsible for approving and installing the highly dangerous cladding on the tower block, for cutting costs, for failing to install the cladding properly, for governments cutting out essential safety regulations which their friends in the building industry thought were ‘red tape’ hampering profits and it looks unlikely if there will ever be justice. Instead we have seen politicians trying to blame the residents for not leaving the building and almost entirely unjustified criticism of the fire service.

There were some speeches, poetry and music before the silent march began, and then a very noisy protest by bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

The long silent walk towards Grenfell Tower began immediately after the bikers left, and I followed it for a short distance before turning away and leaving to make my way home.


More at:
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


Housing Awards – 2016

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

A resident of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark speaks about the council’s terrible record

Most people have never heard of the annual Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, a kind of self-congratulatory back-slapping beanfeast for local authorities on the lines of the Oscars and a dinner at the Hilton, doubtless on our council tax.

Protesters ignore hotel staff and police who tell them they must move

The news in 2016 that two of London’s councils with the worst records for housing were nominated for awards angered London housing protesters and Focus E15, the Revolutionary Communist Group, Class War, Architects 4 Social Housing and others organised a protest outside the Park Lane Hilton including a rather different awards ceremony.

Protesters from Newham blame Labour Mayor Robin Wales ‘Robin the poor’

They pointed out that Southwark had by 2016 demolished 7,639 units of social housing, sold off public land to developers, and evicted people unlawfully and accuse Newham of social cleansing, rehousing people in distant parts of the country while council properties remain empty, and of causing mental health problems through evictions, homelessness and failure to maintain properties.

Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing objects to being assaulted by a police officer.

Police tried to move the protesters away from the hotel entrance and across the service road, but most resisted and held their ground, with police keeping the entrance clear, A few did move across the road were they could hand out flyers people arriving by taxi. There were a a few minor incidents when police pushed a protester holding a banner and again when several protesters held banners and placards in front of the restaurant windows.

Class War had brought their banner with a quote from US anarchist Lucy Parsons “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” particularly appropriate for a protest in Mayfair and outside the Hilton. Police made a rather unwise and ineffectual attempt grab this from them but soon gave up.

People continued to arrive for the event and to walk past the protesters. Many had come from towns and cities across the UK for the event and where probably not particularly away of the situation in London boroughs.

I played around a little with the reflections in the polished metal canopy above the Hilton entrance, which was doing a good job in keeping the light rain off most of the protesters, though I was getting a little wet.

Looking up from the service road we could see those attending the awards ceremony talking and drinking before the dinner, while outside the protesters were beginning their own awards.

There were quite a few speeches from various of the activists, and Southwark won the award as London’s worst council, with Newham a close second.