Posts Tagged ‘student fees’

Christmas Is Coming – 2014

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Three of the four posts I made on December 6th 2014 had a Christmas theme, with two of them around the then annual Santacon event in London. In 2014, around a thousand Santas were gathering on Clapham Common and more at two other locations in East and North London, along with the odd elf, reindeer to start to a day-long alcohol-fuelled crawl through London, eventually meeting up somehere in the centre of the city in the early evening.

I followed them for a short distance, but I’d actually come to Clapham for an entirely different event, the South London March for Free Education, part of a national day of education activism against tuition fees, where students and supporters including Lambeth Left Unity and South London Defend Education were meeting to march to a rally in Brixton.

It was a rather smaller march than anticipated – perhaps many students were in Santa costumes on another event, or busy with Christmas shopping but I marched around a mile with them taking pictures before getting the tube into Central London.

The Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest! in the area between Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall was organised and performed by Christian Climate Action and Occupy London, and was an entertaining if rather amateur performance starring Westley Ingram who wrote the play and performed as the Angel Gabriel, and George Barda of Occupy who played Joseph with his child as the baby Jesus. It was part of a continuing campaign to get churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.

From Westminster I set off in a bus towards north London in search of Santas, jumping off when I saw a red cloud of them in the distance. Or rather ringing the bell and fortunately it was not far from a stop where the driver would open a door. I don’t at all mind wearing a mask for Covid, but still feel something of a loss of freedom over the loss of open-door hop-on, hop-off buses.

Thousands in Santa suits and other Xmas deviations, police trying hard to keep smiling, cans of beer, doubtfully soft drinks, just a few Brussel sprouts in the air, crowded bars, sprawling mass of mainly young people having fun on the streets of London. Santacon!

I’d met a couple of photographer friends also out photographing the Santas and they packed up and left as the light fell, while I continued working with flash for another quarter of hour or so, until a phone call alerted me to a pint awaiting me in a local pub. I’d been photographing people drinking for hours but all that had passed my lips to that point was water, and I was ready to break that particular fast with a little Christmas celebration.

Santacon North London
Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest!
South London March for Free Education
Santacon Start in Clapham

State Opening, Class War and Student Protests

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

I usually make a point of keeping away from the big occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, but made an exception on Wednesday May 27th 2015, partly because I had been told that Class War were planning to come and protest, but mainly as there were other events I was intending to photograph later in the day.

Class War arrived too late to reach the centre of Parliament Square where they had hoped to display their banner and the area was already tightly sealed off by police. Police security for royal events is always very tight and as on this occasion often goes well beyond what is legal. So although they managed to briefly display their banner well before the Queen’s coach arrived they were quickly forced to take it down and pushed away. Around 50 police then followed the dozen or so as they made their way to a nearby pub and a few more supporters, and stood around for an hour or so looking as if arrests were imminent before most of them moved off, but police continued to follow the group until they left Westminster. Two other people who had been showing posters against austerity in Parliament Square were arrested despite their actions being perfectly within the law; they were released without charge a couple of hours late.

I walked from the pub up to Downing St, where a line of people from Compassion in Care where holding up posters and calling for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it a criminal offence to fail to act on the genuine concerns of a whistle-blower, and would make the state protect whistleblowers rather than them having to spend thousands of pounds on taking their cases for unfair dismissals to industrial tribunals. They say current law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. So far nothing has changed.

As I arrived in Trafalgar Square where people were gathering for a protest against education fees and cuts there was an angry scene when a squad of police surrounded and arrested a man, refusing to talk with any of those in the crowd around about their actions. Had they explained at the time that the man being arrested had been identified as someone who was wanted for an earlier unspecified offence and was being taken in for questioning, it would have defused the incident, but this was only revealed after the man – and one of the protesters who had questioned the police about their action – had been put into a police van a short distance away and driven off.

Back in Trafalgar Square there was music as we were waiting for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts protest to begin, provided by ‘Disco Boy’ Lee Marshall from Kent who had brought a mobile rig to Trafalgar Square. Apparently as well as running local discos he has a huge social media following.

Finally the NCAFC protest got under way, with a good crowd of mainly students in Trafalgar Square and speakers on the plinth of Nelson’s Column.

Class War came along (still followed by police) and there were cheers as they displayed their several banners; also taking the stage and marching with the students were the Hashem Shabani group of Ahwazi Arabs, who later held their own protest.

After the speeches in Trafalgar Square the NCAFC protesters set off to march to Parliament. Police tried to stop them with a line of officers and barriers at Downing St, but there were too few officers and many of the protesters walked around them and the barriers. Police apparently randomly picked on a few of the demonstrators and tackled them with unnecessary force making several arrests. The protesters continued marching around Westminster for some hours, but I left them at Parliament Square.

I finished my day’s work in Parliament Square with the Ahwazi Arabs who protested there against the continuing Iranian attacks on their heritage and identity since their homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oil was occupied by Iran in 1925. The occupation was important in protecting the interests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, effectively nationalised by the UK government in 1914 (later it became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then in 1954, BP) and even after the nationalisation of Iran’s oil, BP remained a leading player in the consortium marketing Iranian oil.