Posts Tagged ‘smoke flares’

Defend All Migrants

Friday, June 24th, 2022

Defend All Migrants. June 24th 2016 was the day after the Brexit referendum when by a narrow majority – 3.78% – the British population voted to leave the European Union. Although it was a non-binding referendum, the government had unwisely promised they would implement the result and eventually did so in the worst way possible, leading to many of our current problems.

Of course it’s done and although we were lied to and tricked in many ways it is a decision which cannot be reversed in the foreseeable future, though hopefully a new government will abandon the current excessively combative approach and try to negotiate some more sensible ways to live with our neighbours. On many levels we remain a part of Europe and need to find policies which recognise the facts of culture and geography.

One important aspect of the campaign to leave Europe was the encouragement of racism and xenophobia particularly by the UKIP-linked Leave.EU, but also by the official Vote Leave campaign. London Mayor Sadiq Khan was one of few politicians at the time to accuse Vote Leave of promoting ‘Project Hate’ but academic research as well as Parliament’s own Digital, Culture, Media & Sport committee has shown clearly how they used TV adverts and social media to use racism to promote the Brexit vote. You can read more in Truly Project Hate: the third scandal of the official Vote Leave campaign headed by Boris Johnson.

So on the day following the referendum Socialists and anarchists held a rally in East London before marching to the offices of News International on a roundabout route for migrant rights and against racism and fascist violence. Migration and immigrants have been attacked and scapegoated not only by both Remain and Leave campaigns but by mainstream parties and media over more than 20 years, stoking up hatred by insisting immigrants are a “problem”.

As I stated on My London Diary, “The event was called by Movement for Justice, rs21, London Antifascists and Jewdas, and supported by other groups including Brick Lane Debates, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), Right to Remain, Radical Assembly, Clapton Ultras, the Antiuniversity, English collective of prostitutes, sex workers open university, lesbians and gays support the migrants, Razem Londyn, London Anarchist Federation, Kent anti-racist network, dywizjon 161, colectivo anticapitalista Londres and Plan C London as well as others who brought banners and many individuals.

Despite the large number of organisations, the actual number of people who turned up for the protest wasn’t huge, though there were probably well over a thousand in Altab Ali Park by the time the speeches began. As I wrote, ” People stood around in groups bemoaning the result of the referendum; most had either voted to remain or chosen not to vote – or had not been eligible as EU citizens or foreigners working here. They represented much of mainly young London, very few of whom voted to leave the EU, and most like me who were shocked and bitterly disappointed by the Brexit vote.

A group of three people interviewing people to camera for a right-wing US website had clearly come to provoke people, asking silly questions and appearing to gloat over the Brexit result. People told them to leave but they persisted and eventually the woman interviewer complained to police that her jokey Brexit hat had been stolen and her cameraman had been punched, though it seemed more a performance to camera than a genuine complaint. Although police talked to a few nearby protesters who failed to back up her complaints they also made sure the crew left the park rather than continue to stir up trouble.

After a number of speeches the march formed up and moved off, with the organisers apparently taking a tour of the East End and the City on the way to London Bridge. A number of smoke flares made its progress colourful and there was considerable noise from slogans and some loud music. When the march turned north rather than south on Houndsditch I decided I’d walked far enough and left it to go home and file my story.

Much more on My London Diary: Defend All Migrants.

Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood

Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood. On Saturday 12th March 2016, six years ago today, I made another visit to the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood where the Movement for Justice (MfJ) had organised another large protest.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women at the windows – one holds a bible through the narrow window opening

The Home Office no longer uses Yarl’s Wood to house large numbers of women asylum seekers, but unfortunately this does not mean their cruel and racist policies have changed. Women were at first moved out because of Covid, but Priti Patel has set up a new immigration prison, Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, to hold 80 detainees to replace it, with around 88 women being moved and locked up there for Christmas 2021.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
People march down the road to a footpath leading to Yarl’s Wood

The new centre at Hassockfield is on the site of the notorious Medomsley Detention Centre, where over 1,800 young male detainees were abused in the 1960s to 1980s, and is at at Medomsley Edge, 13 miles NW of Durham, 1.7 miles North of Consett. It has been renamed again as Derwentside, to give it a more friendly image, though the river is around a mile away as the crow flies. Almost certainly the Home Office was fed up with the protests organised by MfJ and others at the already rather remote site at Yarl’s Wood, around 5 miles outside Bedford, and thought it a good idea to move it rather further away from London, where there are many former detainees and activists who came to demonstrations.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Marching along the footpath

But of course people came from all over the country – including from Scotland – to Yarl’s Wood, and protests will continue, with an active ‘No to Hassockfield‘ local group at their centre, although it’s too far away for me to photograph them.

Women have little to protest with and the windows only open an inch or so. They hold messages to the glass and throw out toilet paper

Hassockfield is so remote that the Home Office was unable to find law firms which would give satisfactory tenders to give legal advice there and abandoned the search – with detainees now only able to get advice by phone. Women for Refugee Women are calling for donations to mount a legal challenge over this lack of support. There is a great deal more information about the cruel and racist treatment of asylum seekers with many telling their own stories on their web site.

Yarl’s Wood like almost all of the immigration prisons is privately run for the Home Office, with companies cutting costs for profit

Back on 12th March 2016, my own journey to Yarl’s Wood didn’t go too well, with a train cancellation. But I still got to Bedford Station in a little over two hours and in time for the coach organised by MfJ to the meeting point at Twinwoods Business Park, around a mile walk from the prison. Unfortunately the coach driver didn’t know the way and police had put up large signs stating the road up from the A6 was closed (though in fact they were letting traffic to the protest to go through.) The result was a rather lengthy tour of the Bedfordshire countryside – with another wrong turning, meaning we arrived the best part of an hour late.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Protesters climb up to show placards and balloons to the women

Fortunately the event had started with a rally on the road waiting for people from around the country to arrive, and the mile or so walk to the prison was waiting for us and only just about to begin.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Battering the fence makes a lot of noise

Fortunately it was a fine day for the walk, but there had been heavy rain in previous days and some of the footpath and the field beside the prison where the protest took place was full of mud and some puddles, making it hard to move about and keep my balance. As you can see in some pictures close to the fence it was a sticky mess.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many of those protesting were former detainees, some of whom spoke at the event

The field has a fairly steep slope up from the 20ft prison fence, which does enable protesters to see over the lower 10ft of thick metal sheeting and to glimpse the women waving, shouting and holding posters at the upper floor windows inside.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women had written messages on towels and clothing to hang out through the narrow openings.

It is tricky taking pictures through the 10 ft upper section of the fence with its thick wire grid and I don’t have the kind of long and fast lenses for this. I actually declined the invitation from the organisers to photograph the first large MfJ protest here as I knew I didn’t really have the right gear, suggesting they invite a colleague. But for later protests I decided that there were many other pictures I could take and I could at least get some kind of pictures through that fence.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many reports have confirmed the abuses taking place inside Yarl’s Wood

Many of those at the protest were people who had been locked up inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres, and almost all of those who spoke had stories to tell about how their mistreatment – having been physically and sexually assaulted, locked in rooms, denied medical assistance, unable to get proper legal advice and more. Most had come to this country fleeing from violence, often from rape and in dire need of care and understanding and instead were locked up, their stories disbelieved and further subjected to hostile and inhuman treatment.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Detainees are allowed phones and some were able to speak from inside the immigration prison

At the end of the protest people let off a number of coloured flares before the long walk back to the coaches. I was rather caught in the mud and unable to get close to where this was happening. On the path and road back to the coach I tried to scrape the worst of the mud from my boots and trousers on the grass and on the kerb of the road, and found some sticks to help, but Bedfordshire mud proved extremely persistent.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Most of the speakers were former detainees and friends inside could hear them

We needed to remove our boots before getting on the coach, and fortunately I had a plastic bag to put them in for the journey, getting back into them where we were dropped off at the station. The journey home was slow but uneventful and I was exhausted and needed a good meal and a bath when I arrived – but at least unlike those detainees I was free.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood

More at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary, where you can also find accounts of other protests at Yarl’s Wood as well as other immigration prisons at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook using the site search.


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SOAS Shut Down 2015

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Students at SOAS, University of London, occupied the Brunei Suite on the Bloomsbury campus on October 6th 2015, after a leaked management document detailed £6.5m of cuts including the loss of 186 courses, roughly a third of the curriculum.

This leak came as the latest in a whole series of decisions by management which dismissed or ignored the views of both students and staff, and led to a unanimous vote of no confidence in the management two days later by the General Assembly of the SOAS Student Union.

As well as the course cuts and problems with switching courses and choosing tutorials, they complained that management had ignored an overwhelming vote in support of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign, ignored the opposition to the outsourcing of cleaners, security staff and other workers and failed to respond to the strike by Fractional workers (who are responsible for much of the teaching) for fair pay. The students said that management were failing to deal with the gender pay gap and that institutional racism is thriving in SOAS.

They called for a restructuring of the Executive Board and Board of Trustees to give students, academic staff and support staff authority over the running of our university, and suggested that a large proportion of the savings needed could be made by the Executive Board cutting their own inflated salaries rather than making staff redundant.

The entrance to the occupation after management locked the doors

The management responded with lies and by harassing the students, including by cutting off the power on 23rd October, and when many teaching and administrative staff refused to cross a picket line they locked the doors of the university. The entrance to the occupation became through the high ground floor windows.

Sandy Nicoll, Unison Branch Secretary

After a rally held on 27th October which I had missed they tried to intimidate the trade unions by suspending Unison Branch Secretary Sandy Nicoll, falsely claiming he had let students into the main building to protest outside the offices of recently appointed SOAS Director Baroness Amos.

The protest on Thursday 29th was held to call for the reinstatement of Nicoll, and there were messages of support for Sandy from colleges and trade unions around the country as well as a long series of speakers who came to give their support in person.

It was a well-attended and noisy protest with much banging on catering pots and pans with Nicoll getting a lengthy welcome before he could speak.

At the end of the rally there was music and dancing, with people taking part in the 'Strikey-Strikey', an adaption of the Hokey-Cokey:
You put your left arm in
Your left arm out
In, out, in, out
You shake it all about
You do the strikey-strikey
And you turn around
That's what it's all about
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Knees bent
Arms stretched
Ra-ra-ra...

Things appeared to be drawing to a conclusion and I got ready to leave when things livened up a little with people setting off smoke flares as they paraded with banners in front of the occupied building to the music of a violin and drums.

The management finally backed down and reinstated Sandy Nicoll and eventually the occupation came to an end too, with management changing some of its plans but not meeting the main student demands. Dissent continued on campus and there was a further occupation in 2017. There have been some victories, and after a 12 year fight the cleaners became directly employed by SOAS at the end of August 2018.

More at SOAS Shut Down after Sandy suspended.


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Thunderbird, Olympic Park & Transphobia at the Mail

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

On Friday 19th October 2018 ‘Commander Neil Godwin Tracy’ of International Rescue came from Tracy Island carrying his ship Thunderbird 2 to the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London to offer his organisation’s assistance to produce policies which which recognise the desperate need to cut carbon emissions to avoid disastrous global warming and climate change by banning all fracking.

Campaigners say BEIS has spent more time on changing its name than developing sensible policies, and the ministry refused his generous offer of health, and security removed the International Rescue poster he tried to past to the front wall. Police requested he remove a second poster with the message ‘Fracking Awful Business’.

I had another event to cover later in the day and took the opportunity of the several hours between the two to pay a visit to the Olympic Park in Stratford, walking from the station through Stratford Westfield, a vast shopping centre I described as a 21st century version of Hell to do so.

I came out at the back of John Lewis and walked along the road towards the park, over the railway which takes Eurostar speeding through Stratford International station. There are more local trains that stop but I’ve yet to feel a need to go to either Ebbsfleet or Ashford (Kent) a place that has always seemed to me only to exist to confuse those who really want to go to Ashford, Middlesex, now called by the railway Ashford (Surrey).

The part of the park called the Waterglades was actually looking rather good, with the trees beginning to change colour, and I took rather a lot of pictures.

The lake was looking a very bright green. Soon I found I was at a dead end and needed to retrace my steps to cross the River Lea and make my way towards my destination through some of the more arid and desolate areas of the park.

There is a useful bridge now across the Lea Navigation to Hackney Wick where I had time to wander round and photograph some of the graffiti as I made my way to Fish Island and then on over the East Cross Route to catch a bus on Old Ford Road to Bethnal Green tube station.

Sister Not Cister UK had organised a protest outside the Daily Mail building in Kensington after articles demonising trans people, particularly trans women, in The Metro which they publish, and their printing an advertisement campaign for the hate group, “Fair Play for Women”.

The protesters, including many trans people, say that these attacks on the trans community will hurt the most marginalised – trans women, working class trans people and trans people of colour – who are also the most likely to be in need of the services that such hateful campaigners seek to deny them. More were arriving to join the protest when I decided I needed to leave for home.

Mail group end your transphobic hate
Olympic Park walk
BEIS refuse International Rescue help


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More From May Days: 2017

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Class War put in a strong presence at Clerkenwell Green both with banners and with a newspaper, rather more interesting than many left-wing publications. Numbers of marchers were down after the previous year’s Corbyn-inspired peak, with the usual representation of communist groups from London’s immigrant communities, various left groups and trade unionists with banners. There were perhaps rather more from the trade unions and left as this march was also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution.

As usual when the march began I tried to photograph as many of the banners as I could as they came down the road, and there is a large selection of them on My London Diary. Although there were a few anarchist groups on the march I wasn’t surprised that Class War, always dismissive of A to B marches, had stayed behind and were now in the pub, where I joined them.

The plan had been for them to make their way by tube to Trafalgar Square, but it’s always difficult to leave a good pub, and by the time a small group had dragged themselves out carrying a rolled up banner they were running rather late. The journey took rather longer than I expected, as having been in the pub they decided on a route via Baker St, one of the few Underground stations with a public toilet, and by the time we arrived in Trafalgar Square the rally was rather past its peak, though I was pleased to be able to photograph Mark Serwotka speaking.

People were meeting in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel under Waterloo Station for the May Day F**k Parade, and I was pleased to find some familiar faces among the crowd. There isn’t a huge amount of light in the tunnel, and I was mainly working at shutter speeds of around 1/25s or a little faster, and quite a few pictures were blurred by people moving. I took a few using flash, but couldn’t really get what I wanted with it.

I was pleased when the parade moved off and there was more light. People were celebrating and there was a good atmosphere, at least until it got to Waterloo Bridge. Here’s my description from My London Diary for what happened there:

“On the bridge a black-clad protester set off another flare, and I heard a police officer shout ‘Let’s go and get him’ or something similar. I was pushed to one side as police rushed past me and a crowd of them surrounded a protester and grabbed him, throwing him to the ground.

The mood of the crowd changed instantly and some tried to grab their friend back, but police piled into them, some clearly enjoying the opportunity of a little rough handling of the public. Fortunately no one seemed badly injured.

As usual police tried to hide what they were doing to the man on the floor, standing around him to try to stop people seeing and photographing. There did seem to be some excessive use of force and the usual unnecessary painful forcing of his arms up behind his back as he was led away.

I was surprised by this sudden use of force against people who had really been causing no harm. There seemed to be no good reason for it, and it rather seemed as if the police simply wanted a bit of action and perhaps to intimidate the protesters who included a number of young children. And perhaps the fact that there were few if any other people on the bridge meant they felt they could get tough with the parade.

May Day F**k Parade

There had been a number of flares set off earlier – and more later in the event – which police seemed to ignore, so it was hard to see why they decided to act on this occasion.

Eventually the parade moved on across the bridge and then up through Covent Garden Market (with more flares) and then on to Leicester Square. By now the light was fading and so were my legs, and I left for home.

May Day F**k Parade
May Day F**k Parade Meets
May Day Rally
May Day March
May Day March Gathers


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.


More from May Days: 2016

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Clerkenwell Green was more packed than ever for May Day 2016, with the big attraction being a rally before the start of the march with Jeremy Corbyn as the main speaker, along with TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

While the event usually attracts little media attention, TV crews and photographers were out in force, with a crowd of photographers around the open-top bus from which he was speaking, and mobbing him as he arrived and left. The stewards became rather heated and there were some who threatened the photographers and a considerable amount of pushing from both them and the photographers. I was glad I had decided to keep well clear.

The march was much as usual, and I tried to photograph all the banners – and most of them are on My London Diary.

Having had the main speakers before the march started, the rally which followed was perhaps something of an anticlimax, though there was perhaps a wider range of speakers than usual having got the political big guns out of the way earlier. The event was enlivened by a colourful protest by Ahwazi Arabs against their repression over many years by the Iranian regime which has stolen their land and is trying to eradicate their culture.

I left for Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, where the Bangladeshi Workers Council along with Red London, trade unionists, labour movement, political and community activists had organised a rally to commemorate and celebrate May Day.

 I met up with a small group from Class War at a pub in Aldgate and walked down with them to 1 Commercial St, the ‘Poor Doors’ tower block where the fourth in a series of anti-capitalist street parties organised by anarchists in East London was to start.

Several hundred turned up, some in fancy dress and others in black and the party got started. After partying and blocking Whitechapel High St the set off to protest elsewhere, first outside the sleazy misogynistic Jack the Ripper tourist attraction in Cable St, and then on to block Tower Bridge for a few minutes, where as well as the usual smoke flares we also get a show of fire breathing.

As they paused by the Southwark Council Offices in Tooley St I kept walking. I’d been on my feet for far too long and needed to rest on a train home. I had to take several days off before getting back to taking pictures.

F**k Parade 4: Ripper & Tower Bridge
Anti-Capitalist May Day Street Party
May Day Rally & Gonosangeet
May Day Rally
Ahwazi Protest at May Day Rally
May Day March
Day at Clerkenwell Green


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LAFA halt Free Tommy

Thursday, January 30th, 2020
LAFA set off flares as they approach the Free Tommy protest

‘London is Anti-Fascist’ says the banner of the London Anti-Fascist Assembly, and I’m fairly sure that this is a true reflection of what most Londoners think, though few of them actually get out onto the streets to say so. Most Londoners are busy getting on with their lives rather than coming out onto the streets, but when the EDL tried marching into Whitechapel a few years ago their was a pretty impressive community mobilisation, if not quite on the scale of Cable Street in 1936 or Bermondsey the following year.

Masked protesters and a placard ‘British State Racist State’

As in the 1930s there are many among the wealthy who still run the country who hold right-wing views, though they largely avoid the obviously racist expressions of the extreme right on our streets. But they pander to them, with clearly racist immigration legislation and enforcement by the Border Agency and police and the increasing refusal to accept refugees or beleive asylum claims. Some of this came to a public notice with the ‘Windrush’ scandal, and this still continues and we see another manifestation in the ridiculous hoops some EU nationals are now having to jump through to remain in the UK.

People carry poles to protect the side of the march

The legal case against ‘Tommy Robinson’ seems 100% clear. He was arrested for a contempt of court that he admitted when brough to court, and which could have predjudiced the trial outside which he was live-streaming. It was nothing to do with ‘freedom of the press’ or ‘freedom of speech’ but all about threatening justice and a fair trial.

A protest holds a list of convicted EDL and Far Right Sex Offenders

And as many have commented, Robinson has had nothing to say about white pedophiles, many from extreme right groups. Antifa were handing out a long list of EDL and Far Right convicted sex offenders at the protest.

Smoke flares draw attention to the Antifa protest

The ‘Free Tommy’ protesters were greatly outnumbered by Antifa, and also by the police who kept the two groups apart, pushing back the anti-fascists. At first there were little more than a handful of them, though later a small march of perhaps 50 people arrived from Downing St with a larger police escort to protect them. A rather larger group from Stand Up to Racism also arrived to join the Antifa protesters – along with just a handful more police.

A ‘Free Tommy’ protester shouts at Antifa protesters. Police warned her about her language.

I hung around for an hour or two, then went to photograph a protest a few hundred yards away at the Polish embassy before returning to find the situation was much the same stalemate