Posts Tagged ‘Southall Black Sisters’

Occupy, Women’s Equality and Bank of Ideas – 2011

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

I did some travelling around Central London on Saturday 19th November 2011, from the City to Westminster mainly to cover various aspects of Occupy London, but also to a march about women’s rights organised by the Fawcett Society.


Saturday Morning Occupy London – St Paul’s Cathedral, Saturday 19 November 2011

My work began at St Paul’s Cathedral, where five weeks earlier I had come with Occupy who were intending to Occupy the nearby Stock Exchange. Police had managed to deny them access to the ‘private’ public Paternoster Square in front of the Stock Exchange, and they had instead set up camp at St Paul’s, where they were still in occupation.

For various reasons, not least my age and health, I hadn’t felt able to take part in this occupation though I felt a great deal of sympathy with its aims, and living on the edge of London had not been able to commit myself to photographing it like some other photographers, but I had kept in touch and had called in a number of times at St Paul’s and to the related occupation at Finsbury Square, as well as meeting people from Occupy taking part in other protests.

There was nothing particular scheduled for my visit on this Saturday morning – it was rather more a social call and an opportunity to find out more about what would be happening later in the day. The occupation at St Paul’s continued until the end of February, and I was sorry to be on a hillside in the north of England when I got a phone call from Occupy LSX asking for me to come and take pictures of the anticipated eviction and unable to make it.

Saturday Morning Occupy London.


Don’t Turn The Clock Back – Embankment to Westminster, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

I walked from St Paul’s to Temple, where around a thousand people, mainly women, were preparing to march from Temple past Downing St to a rally next to the Treasury in King Charles St, calling to the government not to turn back time on women’s equality though the cuts they were making.

The Fawcett Society who had organised the march say the cuts will put the clock back on the advances which women have made towards equality since the 1950s, and called on those taking part in the protest to come in 1950s style, variously interpreted by those taking part from Paris fashions to carrying brushes or brooms, wooden spoons or other kitchen implements as symbols of what they felt was the only role our government can envisage for women, the “good little wife.”

When the march neared Downing Street the slogans changed to ‘Calm Down Dear!’ with the deafening response ‘No We Won’t‘, repeating David Cameron’s sexist and patronising put down directed at Labour MP Angela Eagle in the House of Commons.

There were criticisms of the press for their belittling labelling of some groups of women in public life – such as ‘Blair’s Babes’ – as well as the general predominance of semi-pornographic imagery and demeaning attitudes to women. But most of the criticism was aimed at the government for the cuts which will affect women disproportionally as many more women than men in the NHS and other public sector services will lose their jobs and women are more dependent on these services than men.

As well as the Fawcett Society, founded in 1866 to campaign peacefully for votes for women and still a powerful campaigning organisation for equal rights, many other organisations were represented on the march from across society and politics, including journalists, trade unionists, and campaigning organisations including Southall Black Sisters, UK Uncut and the Turkish and Kurdish Refugee Women’s group.

Don’t Turn The Clock Back


Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square – Sun Street & Finsbury Square, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

Occupy had set up The Bank of Ideas in a disused bank building, empty for several years, on Sun St and there I was able to listen to one of many talks taking place – an interesting and detailed presentation and question and answer session on the surveillance society.

I walked the short distance to Finsbury Square and made a few pictures of the tents in the Occupy camp there, but there were very few people around and little was happening.

I was told most of the residents had either gone to take part in events at the Bank of Ideas or at St Paul’s, where I then also made my way to.

Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square


Speakers At Occupy London – St Paul’s Cathedral, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

On the steps of St Paul’s I joined a crowd of a few hundred listening to speakers giving news from other occupations including those in New York and Bristol.

They were followed by a number of others who had come to give their support to Occupy, including among others Jeremy Corbyn, Vivienne Westwood and the now retired Methodist minister David Haslam who has been involved with many campaigns over the years.

Speakers At Occupy London


City of London Anti-Apartheid Group At Occupy London – Saturday 19 November 2011

Also visiting St Paul’s to give support were a group who had taken part in the Non-Stop Picket of South Africa House started by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group on 19 April 1986 who defied attempts by British police, the British government and the South African embassy to remove them for almost 4 years until Nelson Mandela was finally released in 1990. Over a thousand arrests were made – including of Jeremy Corbyn, but 96% of these were dismissed by the courts.

The picket gained widespread support around the world but were attacked and disowned by the official leadership of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, because of their support for revolutionary movements other than the ANC, and because the official movement wanted to avoid confrontation with the UK government. The group had been expelled from the AAM around a year before their long non-stop protest began, after carrying out a number of shorter protests. The group came and spoke about the protest and also sang – singing played an important part in keeping up their four year non-stop vigil outside South Africa House.

City of London Anti-Apartheid Group


Racist UKBA & 3 Cosas

Monday, October 24th, 2022

Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA – Eaton House, Hounslow – Thu 24th Oct 2013

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters speaking in front of the Hounslow Reporting Centre

Although I grew up in Hounslow, ten miles west of the centre of London, I’ve not often returned there in recent years, and the protest organised by Southall Black Sisters outside the Hounslow Reporting Centre on Thursday 24th October 2013 was the only one I’ve so far photographed in the town.

The UK Borders Agency reporting centre is at the western edge of the town, opposite Hounslow Heath where highwaymen once roamed and was the aerodrome from where the British Empire’s first scheduled daily international commercial flights took off in 1919. The large brick block once housed the UK laboratory and factory of US chemical manufacture Parke-Davis, once the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, now a subsidiary of Pfizer, who had set up a dyestuffs factory here before the first world war, though the Research and Administration building in front of which the protest was held only dates from 1954.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) say that after the Refugee & Migrant Forum East London (RAMFEL) succeeded in its legal challenge over Theresa May’s Home Office advertising vans (which were also criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority) “the UKBA has shifted the ’Go Home’ message to reporting centres in Glasgow, Croydon and Hounslow.”

Their protest against the Government’s anti-immigration campaigns outside the Hounslow reporting centre stated “We will not tolerate underhand tactics used to instil fear and divide us. Let us return to the streets and make our voices heard. We need to fight for our rights.”

I joined the group of around 30 people, mainly SBS members, most wearing t-shirts with the message ‘Do I look illegal?’, but they were joined by others from Sol-Fed and other groups who had brought a large banner with the message ‘F**K ALL RACISM – NO ONE IS ILLEGAL’.

And no person is illegal, but those called it lack permission to be here, though many will in time be granted it. In France, such people are said to be ‘without papers’, but none of us in the UK needs papers to live here, so an appropriate but less biased term might be ‘without status’. The term ‘illegal immigrants’, a deliberately biased description of people who do not currently have a legal right to live in this country.

The protesters blew plastic horns and whistles and generally made a lot of noise, as well as shouting a number of chants including ‘Theresa May, drop the pretence, Go home vans cause offence’, ‘We are humans not illegal, We want justice for our people’ and ‘Money for jobs and education, Not for racist deportation.’

The protest was still continuing when I had to leave. You can see more about it on My London Diary at Southall Black Sisters Protest Racist UKBA.

3 Cosas Defy London University Protest Ban – Senate House, Thu 24th Oct 2013

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign is for sickpay, holidays and pensions for all workers at the University of London, where many low paid workers are outsourced to companies who employ them often in the legal minimum wage and conditions of service, and also often employ bullying managers to overwork staff. They often fail to provide proper safety equipment to do the job.

The workers, many of whom are Spanish speaking, have for some years been demanding they should be directly employed by the university where they work rather than these contracting companies, and there have by now been many long and successful campaigns to achieve this.

The University management in 2013 had responded to their campaign with a ban of protests in and around Senate House, and threatened to bring police onto campus to prevent further protests and to bring charges of trespass against any protesters. This was seen by workers and staff and students as an attempt to prevent free speech and freedom of assembly at the university similar to that of of authoritarian regimes overseas, rightly condemned across academia and the rest of society.

On Thursday 24th October, staff students, the IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) trade union which represents many cleaners and other trade unionists defied University management ban of protests by holding a noisy protest in and around Senate House.

After protesting on the streets around the Senate House, some of the protesters walked in around another building while others scaled the gates to protest at the bottom of Senate House. Eventually police came and tried to stop them walking out. But there were too few of them to be effective. The protesters walked out and ended their protest in front of SOAS.

More on My London Diary at 3 Cosas Defy London Uni Protest Ban.