Posts Tagged ‘Royal Courts of Justice’

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad
January 16th 2013 was an unusually busy day for protests in London on a Wednesday, though not all were quite what they seemed.

My working day started a short walk from Notting Hill Gate station, where a small group of protesters had come to take part in an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, one of the three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral the previous February.

Alyokhina was sent to serve two years in a prison camp at Perm in Siberia, one of the Soviet Unions harshest areas and was appearing in court that day to plea for her sentence to be suspended so she could raise her son, born in 2008, until he is 14.

She was kept in prison until 13th December 2013 when she was released under an amnesty bill by the Russian Duma, and since has continued her political activism, suffering further arrests and assaults. Last year – 2021 – she served two 15 day prison sentences before being put on a year’s parole.

The protest on the main road close to the Russian Embassy which is hidden down a very private street was scheduled to last three hours, and had got off to a slow start, with some of those arriving deciding to go away for coffee and come back later. Numbers were expected to rise later, but I couldn’t wait as I was due at another protest at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

I arrived at the vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice to find there was also a second protest taking place. I had come to meet disabled protesters who were supporting a tribunal hearing of a judicial review of Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act as they are not accessible for those with mental health conditions.

Those taking part included members of the Mental Health Resistance Network, MHRN, Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, Winvisible, Greater London Pensioners Association and others, including members of the Counihan family and PCS members who work at the court.

Speakers at the rally reminded us of the special problems with the Work Capability Assessments for many with mental health conditions, as these are often spasmodic. On good days claimants may not seem very ill and seem fit for work, while on bad days they may be unable to attend an assessment and for this reason be automatically judged fit for work.

Their press release included the statement:
‘Dozens of disabled people are dying every week following assessment. Nearly 40% of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’… This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.’

Also protesting outside the courts were the ‘Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)’ who claimed that a child who has never been diagnosed with any mental illness was being dosed with a dangerous anti-psychotic drug prescribed by a psychiatrist. Wikimedia describes the group as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists’ and was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

The court backed them in the particular case concerned, though most of the information about it was confidential and the court decision may not have been confirmed by the family court.

Among those taking part in their protest was a man in a white coat at the protest holding pill bottles representing the drugs they described as redundant and unscientific and instead promoting the benefits of ASEA, which appears to be an unscientific scam, promoted by dubious means. Basically salt water, the web site ‘Science-Based Medicine’ concluded: “The only value of the product is the entertainment value that can be derived from reading the imaginative pseudoscientific explanations they have dreamed up to sell it.”

Finally I went to Grosvenor Square for a protest outside the US Embassy where protesters, including members of ‘Veterans for Peace’, were holding a vigil in solidarity with Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, on day 963 of his pretrial detention while his defence argued in court for charges to be dismissed for lack of a ‘speedy trial.’

They stood holding placards in silence while the audio of a 45 minute video, ‘Collateral Murder’ allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was played on a PA system. The video clearly shows US forces committing war crimes and has become a symbol of the need for Wikileaks and ‘for courageous whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning.’

The protest was one of a series organised by WISE Up Action, a Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and after the vigil at the US Embassy many of those taking part were going to the daily vigil outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange was then inside having been granted asylum and under threat of arrest by British police should he leave. But it had been a long day and I decided it was time for me to leave for home before ‘Collateral Murder’ finished playing.

More at:
Stand with Brad at US Embassy
Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids
Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments
Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


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Cake, Yacht and Dodo

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

The cake came outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) where PCS members who work as cleaners and catering workers were beginning the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry, demanding they be paid the London Living Wage, and get decent conditions of employment.

It was the third anniversary of the founding of the BEIS, and also the third anniversary of the campaign to get the workers there decent pay and to be employed directly by the BEIS, rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark whose only concern is cutting costs to the bone by exploiting the workers so they can undercut competitors for the contracts and make profits at the workers’ expense.

A crowd of around a hundred supporters was there to cheer the strikers when they came out of the BEIS to begin their strike and there were speeches from trade unionists including PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, and UCU’s Jo Grady as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and some of the BEIS workers. I did manage to get a piece of the cake before I had to leave for the Royal Courts of Justice.

Extinction Rebellion had brought the yacht to to court to begin their ‘Summer Uprising’, another series of protests in five major cities against the criminal inaction by the government on climate and ecological collapse. The yacht was named Polly Higgins after the Scottish barrister who fought for years for an Ecocide Law and had died of cancer 3 months earlier, only 50.

When I arrived some kind of new age ceremony was taking place with people bringing water from across the country to pour into a large bowl and a Druid celebrant in long white robes. It’s one of the kind of things that makes it hard for many to take XR seriously as a movement.

But of course it is serious and the crisis that we face is existential. An ecocide law would be a powerful way to restrain some of the worst excesses of companies that are driving us to extinction. There were some good speeches at the event, with some very clear thinking, but also a few which made me cringe a little.

Eventually it was time to march, with the pink Dodo and the yacht, making our way across the river towards Waterloo where XR was to set up a camp on Waterloo Millenium Green.

There really is a climate and ecological emergency, with too many species going the way of the dodo, and we do need governments to tell the truth and make real and difficult actions to halt what seems an inevitable slide into irreversible heating which will make the world uninhabitable for many species, probably including our own. It’s time to end the kind of lip-service which has our government setting targets long into the future while ramping up disastrous policies like Heathrow expansion, road-building and coal mines.

The yacht went with them at the back of the procession, which halted for some time to block Waterloo Bridge, remembering the many arrests there in the previous XR protests, before continuing. It was then stopped by police on Waterloo Rd, causing far more rush hour traffic chaos than necessary by completely blocking the Waterloo roundabout. Eventually they were allowed to continue and occupy the green space they were heading for, but by that time I had left and walked into Waterloo station to catch my train home.

XR Summer Uprising procession
XR call for Ecocide Law
BEIS workers begin indefinite strike


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


The Spice of Life

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve found about the last eleven months has been the lack of variety. I’ve been fortunate to probably avoid the virus – I was quite ill early in March 2020 but my symptoms didn’t match those then thought to typify Covid-19, though they did match some of those being reported by Covid sufferers – and none of my family or close friends have died from it.

But days mainly spent at home in front of a computer screen have followed days mainly spent at home in front of a computer screen relentlessly, though I have tried to get out for walks or bike rides most days. As someone of an age and medical condition that makes me vulnerable I decided not to travel up to London on public transport, although as a journalist I count as a key worker and could have done so. Apart from usually solitary exercise (occasionally a walk with my wife on Sundays) I’ve made a couple of trips out for pub meals with family or friends when these were allowed, and a few short journeys for medical and dental appointments – including most recently my first Covid vaccination.

There’s Zoom of course, and I hate it, though taking part in a few regular events. It’s a little better on my desktop computer which hasn’t got a camera, but on the notebook or tablet I find it disconcerting to see myself in close-up (and sometimes move out of frame and sit in a more comfortable chair watching the screen from a distance.) It’s perhaps more seeing the others, mainly in head and shoulders close-up that makes me uncomfortable with Zoom; in real life we would be sitting around at a sensible distance, seeing each other at full length and as a part of the overall scene, looking away when we want to at other things. Not those relentless talking or muted full-face heads.

Tuesday 24th February 2009 wasn’t a typical day, and that’s really the point. Few days then were typical. I caught the train to Waterloo and took a bus across to Aldwych, a short journey but faster than walking. A short walk then took me to the Royal Courts of Justice where protesters were supporting the application for judicial review by Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s activities in Palestine.

It was Shrove Tuesday, and from the Royal Courts another bus took me on one of my favourite central London bus journey, up Fleet St and Ludgate Hill to Bank, from where I hurried to Guildhall Yard to the Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Races. It perhaps wasn’t one of my better attempts to photograph the event, perhaps because I tried too hard to show the actual running and tossing of pancakes.

I couldn’t stay for the finals of the pancake race but hurried down to Mansion House for the District and Circle Line to Westminster to meet postal workers as they came out of a rally at Methodist Central Hall to protest at government plans to part-privatise the postal service and then proceeded to a short protest in front of Parliament.

There was nothing in my diary for the next few hours, so I took the opportunity to jump onto the Jubilee Line to Stratford and then walk towards the Olympic site for one of my occasional reports on what was happening in the area – which I had been photographing since the 1980s.

I made my way through the Bow Back Rivers, photographing the new lock gates at City Mill Lock. The Olympic site was sealed off to the public by the ‘blue fence’ but I was able to walk along the elevated path on the Northern Outfall Sewer to take a panoramic view of the stadium under construction. It was rather a dull day and not ideal for such wide views with such a large expanse of grey sky.

I took the Central Line back to Oxford Circus for the March of the Corporate Undead, advertised as a “Zombie Shopping Spree” along Oxford Street from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch, complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

I left the zombies at Marble Arch where they were hanging an effigy of a banker and hurried to my final appointment, a London Bloggers Meetup. The evening’s meeting was being sponsored by Bacardi who were supplying free drinks, including blue and green Breezers which I thought would have been rather suitable for the zombies, but fortunately there was also free beer. I probably took a few pictures, but haven’t published them.

All just a little more interesting than staring at a screen, though there was rather a lot of that to do when I finally got home.

March of the Corporate Undead
Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans
Keep the Post Public
Poulters Pancake Race
Al-Haq Sue UK Government


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


We need an Ecocide Law

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Though I fully support the aims of Extinction Rebellion I do have some issues about the way they go about things. I’ve mentioned before some of the odder ‘New Age’ baggage, and that was very much to the fore when I arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice with some kind of druid presiding over a ceremony with people bringing water from rivers around the country (and some overseas) to tip into a large cauldron.

And then there’s the yachts. I just don’t inhabit the kind of milieu where people have yachts, though I did once own a canoe, or rather a kayak. I built it myself as a teenager in the pre-glass fibre era, a wooden framework over which some kind of rubberised canvas was fixed. It’s construction took several years,mainly because I had to save up the cash to buy every next step of the construction, first the plans, then the wood and ply and the canvas.

I was proud when I had it finished, built in my father’s large shed – where he and his father had made carts and other horse-drawn vehicles. But I’d run out of money and couldn’t afford a paddle and it was a long way to any water and I had no means to transport the canoe even to the nearest stream where it could be floated.

It was I think around 18 months later that a relative kindly strapped it to the roof of his car and we made our way the the Thames at Runnymede, along with single paddle handmade from a couple of pieces of wood (again from my father’s shed.) Although I’d been in rowing boats and possibly larger Canadian canoes as a Sea Scout, I’d never been in a kayak before, and it wasn’t longer before I wasn’t in it any more, but looking up at it through perhaps ten feet of murky Thames water from the bottom of the river. I think that was the end of my canoeing project, and after that I stayed on dry land and rode my bike.

So my relationship to water was not perhaps the most sympathetic as I watched those people coming towards the cauldron to add their half pint, and things got worse when people were invited to stir the water and make wishes and then to add flowers and other stuff before the cauldron was carried towards the court and then a token libation poured on the ground.

Of course there were other things going on, including speeches (some very sensible and to the point), music etc. But when a man came to speak about how uplifting his experience of being arrested had been and to encourage us all to do it, again I was rather turned off. Too many of my friends over the years have been harassed by police, fitted up and assaulted; arrest isn’t generally a very positive experience, particularly if you are poor and or from an ethnic minority. Like much about XR I think it is very much a class thing.

But of course we should have strong laws that protect the environment – including the Ecocide Law that Polly Higgins, after whom the pink yacht here was name, fought to get accepted for many years. More generally we need laws that get away from the idea of the land as private property and recognise it as a community resource with which we are entrusted rather than we own.

XR call for Ecocide Law


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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