Posts Tagged ‘Sentencing and Courts Bill’

Happy New YEAR? We Can Hope

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

London, UK. 1st May 2021. Several thousands held a rally in Trafalgar Square before marching past the Ministries of Justice, DWP and Education to the Home Office against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which will ban effective protests, criminalising many and create new offences with heavy sentences, discriminating against Gypsy, Roma and Travellers and expanding racist stop and search powers. Peter Marshall

Happy New YEAR? We Can Hope. We can only hope 2022 will be a better year than 2021, though despite everything I found plenty to enjoy in the last year. But I’m not making any resolutions, other than to try and keep going as best I can.

Some Thoughts on 2021

The first few months, still under lockdown and largely isolating at home were dull. When a trip to the dentists is the highlight of your week you know there is something seriously wrong.

London, UK. 1st May 2021

But the vaccinations – my first at the end of January and the second in mid-April – were very welcome. I’ve no sympathy for those who refused them, their arguments are entirely specious – like those for not wearing masks – apart from a very small group with genuine medical reasons.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

I was fortunate not to have more than a little soreness from the needle for the day or two after the injection. Though I was rather disappointed when a few weeks later a lateral flow blood test for antibodies gave a negative result, though these tests are apparently even less reliable than those for Covid – where I’ve been pleased so far to always get a negative.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

But a couple of weeks after the second dose I felt confident enough – despite my advanced years and diabetes – to go up to London rather than miss another May Day. Although the official May Day March was cancelled there was a large protest taking place. The pictures here are all from that day.

London, UK. 1st May 2021

Of course I wore a mask – as did many of those in the protest against the Tory bill attempting to seriously limit our rights to protest also did, even though we were out of doors. It did after all get quite crowded on the streets. Even some of the police wore masks.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

It was good then and on later days when I went up to London to meet many I’d not seen for over a year, though sad to remember there are some I won’t see again, largely victims of the Boris Johnson’s failures to bring in effective measures in time.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

As the year went on I continued making occasional visits to London to photograph events, though many were still cancelled. I decided also to cut down on the number of events I attended, concentrating on those I felt more strongly about that were taking place on Saturdays, seldom covering things during the week. And although I’ve not posted these on my own web site, pictures are available on Alamy. You can go to my Alamy portfolio page to see them all.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

I also began occasionally meeting socially with family and a few friends – though still rather cautiously and keeping in mind the need to avoid too much risk. We kept mainly outdoors and mainly ate in near-empty pubs.

But then came Omicron, since when things for me have rather closed down again, even though I got my booster early. We had Christmas and Boxing Day meals with only two of our immediate family and I’ve again stopped going to London.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

On the plus side, the hiatus since early March 2019 has given me the time to get to grips with digitising and posting online many photographs from my early years – now almost to the end of 1992 with the black and white work. Now I have over 18,000 images on-line in albums on Flickr, mainly black and white images of London – but also Hull and Paris and a few other places, and some in colour.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

So far those images have generated over 4.5 million views and a considerable amount of feedback, though rather to my surprise much of this has been about the cars on the streets in some pictures rather than the buildings or people I was photographing.

London, UK. 1st May 2021.

I think though I’ve not checked that I’ve also managed to put a post here on >Re:PHOTO for every day in 2021, something I can’t promise to do for 2022. It takes up quite bit of my time, though it helps that I can write the posts a day or two in advance and schedule them to be posted.


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UVW at Wood St – 29 June 2016

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

The strike and protests organised by the United Voices of the World union against anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning who employed the cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices in the City of London, managed by CBRE and mainly let to Schroders and J P Morgan is a good example of one of the things the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is aiming to prevent.

The UVW use loud rallies and protests outside workplaces (and sometimes in their foyers) to shame employers who are exploiting low paid workers, many migrants, into talking to the union. These workers, often employed by small and intensely anti-union companies, are often on minimum legal rates of pay, well below the London Living Wage and usually on the statutory minimum (and minimal) conditions of service – and sometimes even have problems getting these.

Outsourcing of low paid work such as cleaning is widespread, and contractors get the contracts by cutting costs – such as wages and conditions of service – and also by using bullying management to over-work their employees. Often too they cut costs by ignoring safety issues and failing to supply protective clothing and other essential safety material.

The UVW strike at Wood St was the longest industrial dispute in the history of the City of London, and it continued after Thames Cleaning had agreed to pay the London Living Wage for some days until they also agreed to re-instate the two workers who had been sacked. These pictures come from a rally on day 22 of the 58 day strike.

The strike was only successful because of the continuing pressure provided by loud protests such as this one, which made the companies working in the offices very aware of what was happening and made them and the building owners put pressure on the contracting company to meet the union and agree to their demands. Protests such as these, by the UVW and other grass-roots unions including CAIWU, the IWGB and a few branches of major unions have been successful in getting many of London’s lowest paid workers a living wage.

The PCSC bill, if it becomes law, will make these activities illegal. Already under existing laws, the company was able to take legal action to try and get an injunction to stop the strike. Although this failed it did get strict conditions put on the UVW’s actions at Wood St, and landed the union with crippling legal costs. Fortunately many supporters came forward with donations.

I came to take pictures on a number of occasions during the strike, which you can find on My London Diary. These pictures are all from Day 22: UVW Wood St Strike continues.

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

May Day #KillTheBill

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

May Day 2000

Unfortunately May Day is not a public holiday in the UK, and when I was in full time teaching it was usually just a normal working day for me and I was unable to celebrate it except in those years where it fell at a weekend. Even when I cut my teaching to 30% for a few years, that 30% seemed always to include May Day, and it was only from 2003 that I began to attend May Day in London every year – until 2020, when it went online.

This year, when May Day is on a Saturday, the official May Day celebrations are also taking place online, but May 1st is now a nationwide day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 with which the government is attempting to severely limit the right to protest and in particular to criminalise “noisy” protests and prosecute people in the Gypsy and Roma communities. Noisy protests shaming businesses have been vital in recent years in gaining better wages and conditions for low paid workers particularly in the City of London.

The Bill will give the police much greater powers to place conditions on protest – and to make it a crime to break these conditions if they “ought to have known” they were in place but didn’t. They introduce a new offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which can lead to a sentence of up to ten years.

Police also gain greater powers to stop and search on the streets under a new Serious Violence Reduction Order, an arbitrary power that removes even the need for any suspicion and will doubtless lead to an even more racist implementation of stop and search, worse than the old ‘Sus’ law that led to the Brixton riots 40 years ago.

As a knee-jerk reaction to Black Lives Matter protests there is a new offence of causing damage to statues and memorials which could also lead to sentences of ten years, twice the maximum sentence for assault causing actual bodily harm.

The bill also seeks to create a wide “controlled area” around parliament where protests would not be allowed – and so MPs and ministers would no longer be made aware of any public opposition to their actions. Many see the bill as denying our right to freedom of assembly and association under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

A long list of organisations are coming to Trafalgar Square at noon today for a MayDay #KillTheBill protest (and to similar protests in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.) They include Sisters Uncut, Women’s Strike Assembly, Black Lives Matter UK, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Docs not Cops. With the current large Tory majority in the House of Commons the bill is likely to pass with only minor amendments, and the fight will move to the streets where with strong opposition much of the new law will be unenforceable.

Seconds later an officer knocked this man offering plants flying

Pictures are from 21 years ago, May Day 2000. There are some black and white pictures from the same day on My London Diary.


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.