Posts Tagged ‘stay put’

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

Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I hadn’t expected much of the official report into the Grenfell fire, but was still shocked when details of it were released that is was so clear and determined an attempt to shift blame onto the London Fire Brigade. Monumental scapegoating is no way to get at the truth, and hindsight is always cheap.

Had the LFB known what people in the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council responsible for the cladding and the failure to properly maintain the building knew – and that the complaints by residents about fire safety had been ignored – or worse, they could be blamed for incorrect advice. But the council had deliberately hidden the truth about the building.

The Tory government too had played its part, cutting what it described as “red tape” over building regulations and allowing private companies to carry out essential safety inspections at cut price, which at best meant cutting corners and at worst simply not doing the job.

It was Boris Johnson as London Mayor who made sweeping cuts to the LFB, severely diminishing their capability to deal with fires such as this. Despite the number of high rise properties in London the service had to call on Surrey for an engine capable of dealing with a building of this height. Firefighters protested on the streets against the cuts to their capabilities driven by a Tory government and the Mayor.

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

You can read the comments of an experienced and now retired fire-fighter on the “Stay Put” policy, who states he has attended “dozens upon dozens of fires in high rise residential buildings.” These buildings are designed to contain any fire within one flat, and would normally burn themselves out even without the fire brigade turning up. It didn’t work at Grenfell mainly becuase the building had been covered by cladding which some have described as “like petrol“. But the LFB didn’t know that. SteveDude68’s post includes a telling photograph of a serious high-rise fire he was in command of tackling in Bow in July 2018, “much more serious at the outset (than Grenfell) but extinguished within 20 minutes. ” Flames and a huge plume of black smoke pour out of the windows of the one flat, but nothing from the rest of the tower. Contrast this with the pictures of Grenfell.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to get at the truth about the fire – and of course it didn’t. Architects for Social Housing released their report The Truth about Grenfell Tower around 5 weeks after the disaster, and little has changed since then. After a similar fire in Japan, those responsible were in court just over a month later.

I’ll end with a quote from a comment today from the Facebook group Grenfell – The truth is out there :

Please remember the names of those directly responsible for what happened:
RYDON
ARCONIC
EXOVA
CEP
KCTMO
Please remember that the residents warned the KCTMO for years about their concerns.


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.

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