Posts Tagged ‘sanctions’

Nakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

NakNakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils – Saturday 18th May 2013 was another busy day for protests in London and I covered a number of demonstrations.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created, Palestinians and their supporters protested outside parliament calling for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

There had been protests in Jerusalem earlier in the week on Nabka Day against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians. Many of those protesting in London from Jewish or Palestinian backgrounds and as usual these included a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who had walked down from North London; they see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism.

The speeches were continuing when I left to cover another event. More at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

On the opposite side of the River Thames thousands were gathering by the Royal Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, alarmed at the attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

Nine years later we are seeing the effect of these policies with ambulance services unable to cope with demand, lengthy delays in treating people in A&E, delays in diagnosing cancers leading to increased deaths and more. And although it was only a matter of time before we had a pandemic like Covid, and exercises had shown what needed to be done to prepare for this, the NHS had not been given the resources to prepare for this, leading to much higher death rates than some comparable countries.

Part of the problems of the NHS come from disastrous PFI agreements pushed through under the Labour government, landing NHS trusts with huge debts that will continue for many years. This forced NHS trusts into disastrous hospital closure plans, some of which were defeated by huge public campaigns. Many of those marching were those involved in these campaigns at Lewisham, Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London.

I left the march as it entered Whitehall for a rally there. More at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Other protesters outside the US Embassy included Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when they held him and was now being tortured by the Iraqis and also was on hunger strike. She has protested with her daughter Zeinab outside the US Embassy for a number of weekends and on this occasion was joined by a small group of Muslims who had come to protest against Guantanamo, appalled by the actions of the US waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Shawki Ahmed Omar is still held in Iraq; before he died in 2021 former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark recorded a video calling for his release which was posted to YouTube in with the comment by another US lawyer “This case is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.”

A few yards away, kept separate by police, a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.

More at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

I met thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK as they marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Although it was a large protest, with perhaps around 5,000 marchers I think it received absolutely no coverage in UK media, and I seemed to be the only non-Tamil photographer present. Tamils were rightly disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The march had started from Hyde Park, and I caught up with it on Piccadilly and went with it taking photographs to Waterloo Place where there was to be a rally. But it had been a long day for me and I left just before this started.

More at Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop – Six years ago, the 14th May 2016 was also a Saturday, and like today there was a protests for Nakba Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, but also several others on the streets of London which I covered.


Reclaim Holloway – Holloway Road

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that when the 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, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate then owned by HM Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold for private development.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

The Ministry of Justice sold the site to housing association Peabody for £81.5m in 2019 and their plans include 985 homes and offices, with 60% of so-called affordable housing as well as a women’s building with rehabilitation facilities reflecting the site’s history. The development stalled in February 2022 with Peabody saying they were unable to afford the money needed to fit out the women’s centre.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford Street

Protesters made their way along Oxford St from their regular Saturday picket outside Marks & Spencers, handing out leaflets and stopping outside various shops supporting the Israeli state for speeches against the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people and attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’ remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced out of their homes between December 1947 and January 1949 is commemorated annually on May 15th, but the protest was a day earlier when Oxford Street would be busier. The Palestinians were later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes or reclaiming their properties, with many still living in refugee camps.

The protesters included a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the protesters of anti-Semitism but the protest was clearly directed against unfair and illegal policies pursued by the Israeli government rather than being anti-Semitic. The counter-protesters tried unsuccessfully to provoke confrontation, standing in front of the marchers and police had at times to move them away.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day


Vegan Earthlings masked video protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large circle in Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end animal cruelty.

Vegan Earthlings masked video protest


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

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

Refugees Welcome say protesters


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

Finally I was back on Oxford St where cleaners union United Voices of the World (UVW) was holding one of protests outside Topshop stores around the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living wage; one has now been sacked. Joining them in the protest were other groups including Class War, cleaners from CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The Oxford Street Topshop was heavily defended by police, as well as by illegal extra security guards wearing no ID. Several hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police blocked the entrance to the shop, though the protesters made no serious attempt to enter the building.

Jane Nicholl of Class War poses on a BMW as they block Oxford Circus

After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade, moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuaded them to move.

UVW’s Petros Elia argues with a police officer outside John Lewis

They moved off, but rather than going in the direction the police had urged them, marched west along Oxford St to John Lewis, where they protested outside the entrance, where cleaners have a longstanding dispute. The cleaners who work there are outsourced to a cleaning contractor who John Lewis allow to pay low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for these workers who keep its stores running.

There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police but I saw no arrests and soon the protesters marched away to the Marble Arch Topshop branch to continue their protest.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


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Al-Quds Day Protests in London 2011

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

Here is a long post I wrote on My London Diary in 2011. I have made only minor changes, mainly adding more pictures. Otherwise it is as written.

Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, London. Sunday 21 Aug 2011

Muslim women show their support for Palestine
more pictures

Several thousand marched through London calling for freedom for Palestine in the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march. There were small counter-demonstrations by an Iranian opposition group and the EDL.

Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem and Al Quds Day was started by the late Imam Khomeini of Iran as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people and of opposition to the Israeli control of Jerusalem, as well as more widely “a day for the oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant.” It is on the last Friday of Ramadan which this year is 26 Aug, but the march in London took place on the Sunday before this. Most of those taking part were Muslim and were observing the Ramadan fast.

The march is organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an organisation that receives funding from the Iranian government. Despite this and the appalling human rights record of the Iranian Government the IHRC does carry out much worthwhile research and campaigning, including whole-hearted support of the Palestinian cause.

The proclamation of Al Quds day and its annual celebration have helped to revitalise worldwide interest in freedom for Palestine, and the even is supported by a number of mainstream UK campaigning organisations including the Stop the War Coalition and Ireland and Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaigns, as well as major Muslim groups including the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Council of Britain. Also backing it, and present on the march were several Jewish groups including Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and Neturei Karta UK as well as other groups supporting Palestine.

The marchers, many of whom had come in coaches from around the country, gathered on Portland Place from a little before 2pm, and many said prayers on the pavement before the march formed up.

Protesters opposite the Al Quds Day march with Free Iran flag and placards condeming Khamenei

Shortly after this, a small group of protesters against the Iranian regime began a protest against them immediately opposite on the other side of the road. As I walked across the road towards them a police officer stopped me and gave me a warning that some of them or their families might face prosecution if their photographs appeared in the press, and because of this I might not be welcome. I thanked him for the advice and continued across and it was clear that the protesters actually welcomed the attention of myself and the other press photographers present.

The two groups remained in position, chanting slogans at each other for the next hour or so, while the very much larger group on the Al Quds march waited for marchers whose coaches had been held up in traffic. Although many of the marchers carried placards with the message ‘We are all Hizbullah’ and there were chants of this along with ‘We are all Palestinians’, and their were graphic images of victims of Israeli attacks on Palestinians, the main emphasis was on the need to boycott Israel and companies that support Israel, among those mentioned being Marks and Spencer, Starbucks and Coca-Cola.

A huge cheer went up when the Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox Jews arrived, having walked from Stamford Hill. They carried placards which repeated their opposition to Zionism and support for the Palestinians, and when the march started they were more or less at the front, accompanied by several Muslim clerics. The marchers made clear that they were not anti-Jewish and welcomed the support of these and other Jewish groups present opposed to Zionism and the illegal actions of the Israeli forces.

It was an impressive march, with almost all of those taking part carrying banners, placards or small Palestinian flags. There were also several very large Palestinian flags, including a very long one carried horizontally.

The route went down Regent Street and through Piccadilly Circus to Haymarket and then on to Trafalgar Square. Several EDL supporters watched it as it came to the bottom of Haymarket and police questioned two of them briefly. As the march turned into the top of Trafalgar Square four more came to see it and I saw police briefly question two women, one of whom had stood raising a finger to the front of it. Apparently two others were also questioned briefly.


Police escort EDL from Trafalgar Square to the pen set aside for them
more pictures of the EDL

The police had provided a small pen for the EDL on the south side of Pall Mall at the mouth of Spring Gardens, where they were almost invisible to the marchers who were turning into Trafalgar Square. It seemed to them – and I could only agree – to have been an unacceptably distant location.

A few of the EDL were standing closer, quietly watching the march and one was taking photographs. The police appeared not to recognise them. Later a number of them walked into Trafalgar Square and walked quietly around, but other photographers reported a small incident where one man who police had previously asked to leave the area returned and was apparently arrested.

A few minutes later a small group of EDL appeared with an EDL flag on the North Terrace balcony. They were soon surrounded by police who escorted them back down to the pen amid their complaints that British people should be allowed to demonstrate on the British soil of Trafalgar Square and show their English flag there. In all there seemed to be around twenty EDL supporters present.

Short speeches from several of those present stated that they were opposed to the Al Quds march because it supported Hizbullah, an illegal terrorist organisation, and restated their position that they were non-racist and not opposed to Muslims in general only to Muslim extremists. They insist that they are standing up for England and our English freedoms and have no problems with other people living here as long as they respect our way of life. There were a few moments when individuals started some of the chants which others object to, including ‘Muslim bombers off our streets’, but while I was there others present quickly told them to “shut it.”

The group continued to protest noisily but were too far away to be heard by the several thousand at the rally in Trafalgar Square.
more pictures

EDL pictures


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.


BDS and Gaza: London 2nd August 2014

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Wood Green

Many of the protests I photograph are in Westminster and concentrated around Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. There are obvious reasons for this, particularly during the week when Parliament is in session, though on Saturdays there are few people around other than tourists, with MPs back in their constituencies, government offices closed and the Prime Minister seldom if ever at home and these locations are purely symbolic.

Brixton

Trafalgar Square is a good site for large rallies, and often the end point for larger marches, though this century has seen the epicentre for protest move to Parliament Square, I think influenced by the permanent presence there for around ten years of Brian Haw’s Parliament Square Peace campaign. It can I think hold larger crowds than Trafalgar Square and Jeremy Corbyn drew them there on various occasions and issues, though of course Hyde Park is on a very much larger scale.

Brixton

But protests do take place elsewhere across London and over the years I’ve travelled to most London boroughs to cover them, thanks to London’s public transport system, which also brings me into the capital from my home on its western edge. On Saturday 2nd August there were two protests I wanted to cover, one in South London and the other at its northern end, connected both by the underground and in that they were both related to the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

I met with protesters outside Brixton Tube where they were gathering to march to the Sainsbury’s store half a mile to the south. I could have chosen several other locations in London and others around the country as this was a part of protests at a number of Sainsbury’s locations around the country because they sell products produced in illegal settlements inside the occupied Palestinian areas. I’d chosen Brixton partly because I expected there to be a slightly larger protest than some other locations, but also because it was beginning at a convenient place, two stops on the tube from Vauxhall where I could travel direct from my home.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest was a part of the ongoing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign, the protesters also wanted to show their anger and disgust at the horrific attack on Gaza then taking place, in which by this date over 1200 Palestinians, mainly innocent civilians including many children, had been killed by Israeli forces.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest – along with those at other Sainsbury’s branches – had been widely publicised in advance and both police and store staff were waiting for the protesters, and the few that managed to walk inside the shop were soon asked to leave. The manager came out to talk with the protesters, telling them they had to leave the ramp in front of the store, which prompted them to hold a sit-in.

I had to leave before the protest ended to get back to Brixton tube station and make my way up to Turnpike Lane station in Haringey, where a larger protest was gathering on Ducketts Common opposite the station for a rally and march to show their anger over the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the killing of civilians including many children. I arrived shortly before the march began.

Haringey

Haringey is one of London’s most ethnically diverse areas, with around 65% of the population in non-white-British ethnic groups. Many are of Cypriot or Turkish origin, including Kurds, but there are also large Black African and Black Caribbean populations. The crowd that came to the rally reflected this and the strong local trade union movement led by the Haringey Trades Council.

Haringey

As the march walked up through the Wood Green shopping centre one Jewish man came to shout his support for the Gaza invasion – and police stepped in to shield him from the marchers – who included many Jews, some of whom came to argue with him. But there were many others who stopped to applaud the march, which was greeted at one location on its route by a group of Turkish Popular Front members.

Haringey

The march was again fortunately a short one and ended around three-quarters of a mile with a rally opposite the Haringey Civic Centre on Wood Green High Road. After listening to a few of the speeches I only had a quarter of a mile to walk to Wood Green Station to start my journey home.

More at:

Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Sainsbury’s protest at illegal Israeli Goods


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


End Workfare & more – 3rd March 2012

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Workfare is a controversial policy first begun in the UK in the 1990s by the Conservative government of John Major, although it developed from earlier schemes which put active pressure on claimants to seek work. Under various different programmes and names workfare continued under New Labour, but it was under the Tory-led coalition in 2011-2 that it came into widespread use.

Workfare is used to describe schemes where in order to receive unemployment benefit people have to undertake unpaid work, either in the commercial or public sector or for charities. In 2011 the coalition government announced that those who had failed to find jobs after being unemployed for some time would have to work unpaid for 30 hours a week for six months, setting up a number of schemes to this end.

THe proponents of ‘workfare’ say that those forced to take part in these schemes benefit from the experience or working and that it will prepare them for paid work and that the experience will make it easier for them to find employment. They say it isn’t unfair to ask people to do something in exchange for the benefits they receive.

Academic studies by the DWP of international workfare schemes had shown that these claims were unsound. There was little evidence that workfare increased the chances of finding work, and that it might even reduce this, firstly because if people were on workfare they had less time to look for jobs, but also because workfare placements seldom provided the kind of skills and experience that potential employers were looking for.

Trade unions and others point out that every person on workfare actually cuts out a job that would otherwise be carried out by a paid employee – so there are fewer jobs for those seeking employment. Workfare is largely a subsidy to employers, supplying them with free labour – essentially a form of slave labour. Workfare schemes – whether in the private sector or public or charity work – fail to provide any of the employment status and protection that employees or workers receive.

Strong negative reactions to these schemes – such as those demonstrated by the Boycott Welfare protest in Oxford St, London I photographed on Saturday 3rd March 2012 – led to many companies withdrawing from the scheme, and others ending talks with the government about taking part in it. According to Wikipedia, the campaign group ‘Boycott Welfare’ ‘very successful in making companies and charities pull out of “workfare”.’ By August 2016, “more than 50 organisations have ended their involvement in workfare, because of negative publicity.”

But workfare still continues, and as Boycott Welfare write on their web site, “Workfare forms a key tool of ‘compliance’ with the regime of Universal Credit, and is enforced via sanctions.” As well as Universal Credit, workfare also continues under the government’s Sector-Based Work Academies, Work and Health Programme and Youth Obligation schemes.


Also on the same day I photographed other events. Firstly the Million Women Rise March, a women-only march through the centre of London against domestic abuse, rape and commercial sexual exploitation and for the prevention of abuse and support and protection for women. I was shocked to learn from a member of one of the more active women campaigning groups that has been the among the leaders in previous celebrations around International Women’s Day and had taken part in previous years that they had been told they were not welcome on the march, though I think they have taken part in more recent years.

I left that march as it went down Oxford St on its way to a rally at Trafalgar Square and took the tube to St Paul’s where Greeks were protesting in solidarity with students and workers in Greece against the austerity measures being imposed as a part of the Eurozone rescue package for the country. They had planned to protest at the Occupy London camp, but that had been cleared a few days previously, but some of the occupiers had returned to hold a general meeting on the St Paul’s Cathedral steps.

More on these events from Saturday 3rd March on My London Diary:
Greeks Protest At St Paul’s
Million Women Rise March
Boycott Workfare – Oxford St


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.