Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

Monday, August 1st, 2022

Reparations for Slavery, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds – the three protests I photographed in London on Friday 1st August 2014 were all related to world trade – the Atlantic Slave Trade and current devastation caused by mining industry and the diamond trade that funds Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.


Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade – Windrush Square, Brixton

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

On August 1st 1834 the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act came into force, ending slavery across the British Empire. But although the slave owners received compensation of £20 millions the freed slaves got none. They were not even freed, but converted to ‘apprentices’ who were expected to continue to work without wages for up to six years until 1838 and were unable to own land.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The payment to the former slave owners was huge – around 40% of the National Budget of the UK, and the Treasury who took out a loan to enable them to pay it. British tax payers – including many descendants of former slaves – were still paying off the debt until 2015, as a rapidly deleted tweet from the UK Treasury confirmed in February 2018.

Reparations for Slave Trade, Vedanta & Blood Diamonds

The Act abolishing slavery was designed largely to ensure that Britain’s hugely profitable sugar industry based on slavery continued after emancipation, and Britain also continued to import cotton grown by slavery in the southern states of the USA as well as sugar from slave plantations in Brazil and Cuba.

August 1st became widely celebrated as ‘Emancipation Day’ and it was the date chosen by Marcus Garvey to found the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914, and for a meeting six years later in Madison Square Gardens in New York attended by 25,000 of UNIA’s claimed membership of 4 million.

Demands for reparations to be made to the descendants of slaves have so far been met by only token measures, such as the renaming of streets and buildings and official apologies, with some legislation requiring companies to provide information about their involvement in the trade and insurance of slaves.

But since the 1990s there has been a growing movement demanding financial reparations both for slavery, particularly following the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations convened by the Organisation of African Unity and the Nigerian government and held in Abuja, Nigeria in 1993.

In the UK the movement was led by Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham until his death in 2000. Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 expressed “deep sorrow” for Britain’s role in the slave trade, saying it been “profoundly shameful”, though as Wikipedia notes this was criticised as lacking any measures of reparation. A further public apology for London’s role in the slave trade came from then London Mayor Ken Livingstone during the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the passage of the 1807 Slave Trade Act.

A case was for compensation was brought against Lloyds of London in 2004, but failed. The same year a Jamaican Rastafari call for European countries, particularly the UK to support the resettlement of 500,000 Jamaican Rastafarians in Africa in a scheme costed at £72.5 billion was rejected. Other claims have been lodged by in 2007 by Guyana, in 2011 by Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados.

On 1st August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Garvey’s setting up of the UNIA. a large group of mainly people of African and Afro-Caribbean descent gathered in Windrush Square in Brixton for several hours of speeches, celebration, drumming and dancing before they were to march to Parliament to make their demand for reparations. The march has become an annual event in London, but I had to leave shortly before it began.

Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade


Vedanta told ‘end your killing’ – Lincoln Inn’s Fields

I joined the protest outside the building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where the FTSE 250 British-Indian mining company Vedanta Resources was holding its AGM. Here and at other protests in Zambia and Odisha and Delhi in India.

Vedanta is a huge company which protesters say is “guilty of thousands of deaths, environmental devastation, anti union action, corruption and disdain for life on earth. They have become one of the most hated and contentious companies in the world.

Their activities, particularly their attempt to destroy the sacred Nyamgiri mountain in India for its aluminium ore, have led to protests around the world, and an Indian Supreme Court decision that, at least for the moment have halted the mining there.

Another setback for Vedanta was the research by activist group Foil Vedanta into their subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, accused of poisoning thousands and causing ongoing birth deformities by major pollution spills in 2006 and 2010. The research showed the company which was claiming it was making a loss and so unable to pay its fines and tax bill was actually making around $500 million a year.

Labour MP John McDonnell was among those who had become a shareholder to attend the AGM

Vedanta’s problems being made public resulted in a dramatic crash in its share price and the previous December it dropped out of the FTSE100. Billionaire owner Anil Agarwal responded by buying large numbers of the shares and was now said to own over two thirds of the company. But there were other shareholders going into the AGM, including a few activists who had bought a share to entitle them to attend and ask questions.

The activities of these activists, both inside and outside the AGM every year, were eventually were an important part in the decision four years later by Agarwal to make Vedanta a private company.

Vedanta told ‘end your killing’


Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds – De Beers, Piccadilly

Finally I made my way to Piccadilly where pro-Palestinian campaigners were protesting in front of De Beers jewellery shop, calling on people to boycott diamonds cut and polished in Israel.

Although there are no diamonds mined in Israel, according to Wikipedia, almost a quarter of Israel’s total exports come from the sales of diamonds cut and polished in the country and they account for almost one eighth of the total world production.

Israel claims that all these diamonds are covered by the ‘Kimberley Process’ which aims to prevent diamonds mined in conflict areas and sold to finance war and insurgency coming to the market. But campaigners say that this defines blood diamonds too narrowly, enabling Israel’s diamond-cutting industry to avoid attention, and the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, among others, has called for diamonds processed in Israel to be considered conflict diamonds.”

Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds


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Defend Afrin, end Turkish Attacks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

The largest protest I attended on Saturday 27th January 2018, four years ago was against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Northern Syria, then a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO member with probably the largest and best-equipped army and air force in the Middle East was taking on the small and poorly equipped Kurdish forces, and despite a valiant fight the final result was predictable, particularly once Russia, the other major player in the Syrian conflict had given them their blessing.

Turkey has continued its attacks on Northern Syria, but mainly through air strikes, but these are seldom reported in UK media although covered by specialist sources such as ‘Foreign Policy‘, part of the Slate Group.

The US gave some support in other battles fought by the Kurds against Islamic State forces, but this was always limited and mostly ended with the withdrawal of US troops which was announced by Trump in December 2018, and again in October 2019, although around 900 were still there in October 2021. Turkey has been a major source of finance for ISIS, allowing them to profit from smuggling of oil, and backing some groups which were fighting with them.

In recent days there have been short mentions on the BBC about the continuing battles being fought by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia against Islamic State in Northern Syria. The prisons and refugee camps where former ISIS fighters and supporters are held are largely in Kurdish territory and ISIS are still active and fighting to release people from detention to increase their strength.

As I wrote in 2018, “the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups – which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds – equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.”

Unfortunately there seems little chance that such a model with be adopted more widely. Turkey continues to attack the Kurdish areas and does so using weapons sold to them as a NATO member by the UK, France and UAE. Turkey claims that the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, founded in 1978 which began its armed struggle for self-rule for Kurds in Turkey 1984.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999 and the organisation has been proscribed in many countries allied to Turkey, including the USA and UK. Several PKK flags were seized by police at the start of the march.

More at Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack.


This was not the only protest in London on that day, and I also photographed two other events. African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE were outside the UAE Embassy in London protesting against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves. On Regent St, the long-running protest outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St was continuing asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company’s clothing.

Canada Goose protests continue
End UAE support for slavery in Libya


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Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea
Perhaps the only thing these three parts of London really have in common was that I photographed in them in the last few days of July 1988. The first two were on a family visit to the railway museum then at North Woolwich station, largely for the benefit on my two sons, then aged 12 and 9, and both with a real interest in railways and had decide on this as a birthday outing for the elder. I think we probably had a few of their friends with us, some in the second picture below.

Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34-positive_2400
Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34

North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35-positive_2400
North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35

And once we were in North Woolwich it would have been a shame to miss the free ride across the River Thames on the Woolwich Ferry. One of their favourite books when younger had been Alfie and the Ferryboat, by Charles Keeping, published in 1968 Keeping, born close the the Thames in Lambeth tells the story of a small boy from Woolwich crossing the river on the ferryboat to ‘the other side of the world’ in search of his old sailor friend Bunty and his dog.

Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24-positive_2400
Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24

Keeping was a superb and innovative illustrator and the book is perhaps his best work. Copies of it are now hard to find and rather expensive.

Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12-positive_2400
Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12

The ferry that Alfie took was one of the same that we took, which were introduced in 1963 – the John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman, double-ended ships with powerful diesel engines which were replaced in 2018 after 55 years on the run.

I only made twelve black and white pictures on this trip, along with three in colour, probably too occupied with herding 12 year-old boys than photography, and getting them all back to a birthday tea on the other side of London.

Moorings, River Thames,Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14-positive_2400
Moorings, River Thames, Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14

Days are long in July, and four days later I began taking pictures on Battersea Brdige and then a short walk in Chelsea.

Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02-positive_2400
Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02

Probably I had looked at pictures I had taken earlier in the year and decided there were some I would like to retake, or perhaps found some things I had missed. I spent a lot of time on researching the areas I was photographing, which was much harder before the days of the world wide web – and many of the books I had to rely on were years out of date, often pre-war or even older.

Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62-positive_2400
Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62

I think I may not have got a picture – or not one I liked of this memorial to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), an Anglo-Irish doctor and collector who travelled widely to France and the Caribbean, where he supposedly invented drinking chocolate as well as giving a harrowing account of the sadistic punishments inflicted on slaves and married the wealthy widow of one of the larger slave owners.

Her money from slavery and his income from a doctor and investments in property and slave trading companies enabled him to build up a collection of 71,000 items which he left to the British Nation. These provided the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum.

Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55-positive_2400
Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55

But after taking around thirty pictures the next (not on-line) shows a view from the back of two women on a station escalator, with the next frame on the Commercial Road in Limehouse. I think I will have taken the Underground from Sloane Square to Tower Hill and walked to Tower Gateway for the DLR which had opened in 1987 to Limehouse. But pictures from my longer walk from there will be in a further post.


Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the rest of the album.


Peace, Slavery & Social Cleansing

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Three years ago December 9th was a Saturday and people were out on the streets in at least three protests which I photographed.

My day’s work began at the Ministry of Defence, where peace campaigners celebrated the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with a die-in on the steps.

ICAN was awarded the prize for its role in pushing for a United Nations global nuclear ban treaty which was approved by 122 nations at the UN General Assembly in 2017. In October 2020 Honduras became the 50th country to ratify it and will come into force on 22 January 2021. The UK government refused to take and part in the negotiations and has refused to sign the treaty and the award of the Nobel prize hardly got a mention in the UK media.

None of the main nuclear powers has signed the accord, and the protesters including members of ICAN UK, CND, Medact and WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, urged the UK to sign up and scrap Trident replacement. Bruce Kent made a presentation of a large cardboard Nobel Prize to ICAN UK, and handed out small ‘Nobels’ (gold-covered chocolate coins) to all who come up for them. After a few speeches there was then a die-in on the steps of the ministry.


A large crowd had gathered in Belgrave Square for the National Anti-Slavery March, organised by African Lives Matter after the news that African migants detained in Libya were being sold as slaves by Arab slave traders.

They marched to Knightsbridge and then along to Hyde Park Corner, going around the roundabout and then back along the other carriageway of Knightsbridge to the Libyan Embassy where there was a lengthy rally, including an African priest leading a libation ceremony in memory of the many Africans who have fought for their people against enslavement and colonialism; people in the crowd shouted out names for him to honour with pouring water onto the ground.

As well as demanding the closure of the Libyan detention centres, action by African governments to rescue people detained in the camps and condemnation of the slave trade and murders of migrants by all African leaders and the UN, calling on Libya to make and enforce laws that prevent these crimes against humanity, many also demanded reparations for the historic slave trade and the continuing despoliation of African resources by imperialist nations including the UK.


I had to leave before the rally ended as I was beginning to shake and feel unwell, weak and dizzy, the signs of an diabetic hypo, and I walked a short distance away to sit down eating one of the snacks I carry to give a rapid boost of my blood sugar. Soon I was feeling well enough to eat my lunch and take the tube to my final event of the day, a vigil outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton against the heartless policies of Lambeth Council.

Lambeth are one of the London Labour councils who are pursuing a policy of social cleansing under the guise of regeneration, realising the asset value of council estates by demolition and rebuilding with only small provision of social housing, resulting in many local council tenants and leaseholders being forced to move out of the area.

Lambeth have also made drastic cuts, shutting down community centres, cutting services for the disabled, those with mental health problems, young people and social services generally; although the Council claim these actions have been forced on them by Tory government cuts, the protester point out that Councillors’ expenses and allowances keep on growing and they have spent over £150m on a new Town Hall.

The vigil included a tribute to Cressingham Gardens resident and leading campaigner Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months continuing the fight to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

More from all 3 events on My London Diary:

Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil
National Anti-Slavery March
ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In


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.


Afrikans demand reparations

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Time for a little more colour on >Re:PHOTO, and looking back to warmer and sunnier weather at the start of August last year.

The Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March has been an annual event in London http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2014/08/aug.htm#rastafari since 2014, which was the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. Garvey had spent the previous two years working as a journalist and studying in London and founded the UNIA as as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into “one grand racial hierarchy.” The organisers of that first march intended it as a one-off event, but others took over insisting it should be annual. This was the first time I’d managed to cover it since 2014.

Garvey chose the date as 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire. Claims for reparations for descendants of those enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade came to the fore in 1999 when the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years, and in 2004 a case was brought and lost against Lloyds of London and Jamaican Rastafarians made a claim for £72,5bn for Europe to resettle of 500,000 Jamaicans back in Africa which was rejected. Other claims have been lodged on behalf of Guyana, Antigua, Barbuda and Barbados.

I felt a little apprehensive at photographing this event, and just a few people have shown a little hostility towards me, though many more have been welcoming. Anyone who has grown up white in the UK has obviously benefited from the historic proceeds of slavery (as so do those of any other origin living here) but I’m fairly sure that my ancestors were not among those carrying out and profiting from the trade. They will have been being exploited by that same class that was enslaving Africans; some thrown off their lands by the Highland Clearances to make way for sheep. Others will I think have been at the heart of the emancipation movement. They will have received nothing of the huge financial compensation that was paid to the enslaving class, which created a debt which members of the British public were paying off through taxation until 2015.

This year the march was divided into 9 blocs, although in practice there was a great deal of overlap. One of these was the Ubuntu – Non-Afrikan Allies Bloc which included Extinction Rebellion XR Connecting Communities.

While I think there is a firm moral case for reparations, I think the demands are unlikely to impress European or American governments, certainly not on the scale being claimed. And I wonder if the demand actually deflects from a more important need for decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean as well as other areas of the majority world, reclaiming national assets from the various multi-nationals that are now continuing the exploitation of the continent.

I left the march as it made its way through Brixton towards Parliament where there was to be another protest rally in Parliament Square.

Afrikans demand reparations


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