Posts Tagged ‘students’

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End – I travelled to Tottenham and Kilburn to photograph protests but fortunately the people from Ponders End had come to protest at Westminster. All three protests I photographed on Saturday 29th March 2014 were about the inhumane policies of the Tory Government.


Mothers march for justice – Tottenham

Rev Paul Nicolson
Rev Paul Nicolson

Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty, an indefatigable lifelong campaigner on behalf of the poor died in 2020, aged 87. His first job after National Service in the Army had been with the family firm selling champagne around London, but after a dozen years until he discovered a vocation to become a worker-priest and was ordained as a deacon in 1967 and then a priest in 1968. Around 1981 he became a parish priest in Turville, the location chosen for The Vicar of Dibley, making his priority the support of the poor in a area of extremes of wealth.

He resurrected the practice, now common of being a McKenzie Friend, which allowed him to stand with and represent those brought to court over debts, particularly those unable to pay the Poll Tax. His revelations on the activities of bailiffs enforcing debts lead to a Code of Practice which, at least when enforced, gives some protection to the vulnerable, and it was his initiative in commissioning the Family Budget Unit to investigate the actual costs of living that led the the UK and London Living Wage being established.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Spiderman led the march

His work in later years was largely about housing and homelessness, and I met and photographed him on many protests. He set up the charity Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) but then resigned as its chair so he could campaign politically through Taxpayers Against Poverty.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End
Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, murdered by police in front of a banner with his picture

The march in Tottenham on 29th March 2014 organised by the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty demanded living incomes and decent truly affordable homes and rejected the unfair Tory bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, which were the cause of hunger and cold homes. He spoke before the march and walked on it with a placard hanging from a string around his neck: ‘We march for Freedom from Hunger, Cold, Outrageous Rents – Fight for a Living Wage’.

Tottenham, Kilburn and Ponders End

The march was smaller than hoped, several hundred rather than the hoped for ‘1000 Mothers March for Justice’, though more were expected to turn up at Tottenham Green East for the rally at its end, unfortunately after I had left. Those on the march included representatives from many local groups as well as others around London, and they carried an impressive number of banners.

Mothers march for justice


Kilburn Uniform Day – Kilburn Square

A few miles to the west, the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community was holding a two hour protest in Kilburn Square on the main Kilburn High Road over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

In 2010 food banks were rare things in the UK, used over the year by around 60,000 people. After ten years of Tory policies this had increased to around 2.5 million, around 40 times as many. Much of that increase is a direct result of government policies, including its inhuman sanctions policy against benefit claimants, as well as of poverty wages and unfair employment practices such as zero hours contracts.

Moving people onto Universal Credit resulted in many being without resources for five weeks, sometimes considerably longer. As I wrote “Our government appear to be completely out of touch with how many people in the country live. They simply cannot comprehend what it means to be without money, or without friends or family you can rely on for a few thousand when you have a problem. Many people on low income simply don’t have any such resources – all they have is debts and bills to pay.”

Things have got worse since 2014, and soaring energy prices along with the additional National Insurance payments coming in next month will again put more families into desperate levels of poverty – and increase those evicted as they cannot pay the rent. It isn’t that the country doesn’t have the money – we are still one of the richest countries in the world – but that increasingly the already wealthy are getting richer while the poor sink into more desperate poverty.

And it’s successive governments – including New Labour – that are to blame, with a failure to build sensible amounts of social housing, the encouragement of high cost private housing and buy to rent. The wealthy have got tax breaks while many working full-time have been finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. And tax avoidance has reached huge levels thanks to a failure to plug silly loopholes and face up to the problems caused by off-shoring. We should have a zero-avoidance policy not one that encourages it.

Kilburn Uniform Day


Fellow Students Fight for Yashika – Parliament Square

The final event I photographed was a lively protest by fellow students and supporters at Parliament urged then Home Secretary Theresa May to abandon the planned deportation of 19 year old model A-level student Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius due to take place on Mothers Day.

She came here with her family who claimed asylum after physical abuse from a relative in Mauritius in 2012, but the claim was rejected and the whole family are under threat of eviction – and as she is now 19 they decided to deport her alone weeks before she was due to take her A levels in Ponders End.

We continue to see “a ‘tougher than you’ shift to the right over immigration played out by both government and opposition over the past years, each trying to outdo each other … So we get foolish and desperate measures like the immigration vans, and raids at tube stations and other public places by the Border Force based unlawfully on racial profiling.”

Migrants, including many who are here without legal right to remain, play an important part in keeping London running despite government attempts to identify and remove them. Estimates in 2014 were that there were around half a million in the city and without them, “London would grind to a halt. They do mainly the low paid dirty jobs no one else would want for pay that isn’t enough to live properly on in London – often at below the minimum wage because of their immigration status.”

The protests and a petition with over 170,000 signatures failed to have any effect on the heartless Home Office and Yashika was deported. But good news came later. Perhaps because of the huge publicity around her case she was welcomed and supported back in Mauritius and was able to take her exams there. Despite her studies having been interrupted by spells in Yarl’s Wood immigration prison she was able to gain her A levels and go on to university – and keep out of the media limelight.

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika


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Snow, Pensions & Jobs, Hunger Strikers – 2018

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Snow, Pensions & Jobs, Hunger Strikers – 2018. On Wednesday 28th February 2018 there was a blizzard in London. University and FE teachers marched through it to a rally about pay and pensions and people came to the Home Office to support hunger strikers in the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood.

London Snow

The snow slacked off a little when I was on the bus but got worse as I walked to Malet St for the start of a march. Most of the pictures I tried to take were ruined by snow flakes landing on the front of the lens faster than I could wipe them off.

London Snow

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

UCU members were on the the fifth day of their strike to get the universities to talk with them about pensions and pay, and marched from Malet St to Methodist Central Hall close to Parliament for a rally.

They were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions, and both groups were supported by large numbers of students. The snow made it difficult to take pictures, and at times it was hard to stop from slipping over on compacted snow. Fortunately it eased off a little after the march started, with just occasional showers as we walked through London.

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs

Sally Hunt of UCU speaks and Kevin Courtney NEU listens at right

Despite the terrible weather there were more marchers than expected and many were left outside the hall. I don’t usually bother to photograph at indoor rallies and haven’t really got the best equipment for it, but on this occasion I was glad to be able to get inside and warm up a little. My camera lenses were also getting a little steamed up and needed to dry out.

Frances O’Grady praises the way that Sally Hunt and the UCU are fighting to keep the pension scheme

I’ve written more about the reasons for the strikes and a little about the rally on My London Diary and won’t repeat that here. Click the link to find more.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers

I stayed longer inside the rally than intended, partly because I was reluctant to leave t he warm hall, but as it came to an end I left to walk to the Home Office, where a protest was taking place in solidarity with the 120 women and men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood who were refusing to work and had gone on a hunger strike.

Their action in Yarl’s Wood had started a week earlier and was demanding the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights, end the separation of families, end indefinite detention, with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end to re-detention of those released from detention.

The also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the country for over 10 years, a stop to deportations before cases are decided and any appeals heard, the proper disclosure of all evidence to the immigration tribunals, adequate health care, an end to detaining of highly vulnerable people, an end to employment at £1 per hour and to be treated with the dignity and respect due to all human beings.

It was a fairly large protest, supported by many groups including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Detained Voices, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, All African Women’s Group, The London Latinxs, Right to Remain, Docs Not Cops and End Deportations as well as Movement for Justice who have organised many protests outside Yarl’s Wood as well as those at other detention centres and led campaigns to close detention centres and support detainees.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel
Three protests on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now! Irish Embassy

Selma James calls for the release of Margaretta D’Arcy

I don’t think my path has ever crossed, at least not knowingly, with that of ‘Guantanamo Granny’ Margaretta D’Arcy, though Facebook tells me we have 163 mutual friends. My eldest brother, around her age but long since dead, may well have sat down with her on Whitehall with Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100 back in 1961. Her life has been “decades of playwriting, acting, pageantry, pirate radio, books, peace activism, protest and imprisonment whilst bringing up her family of boys. She addresses Irish nationalism, civil liberties and women’s rights.”

Her political activities led to imprisonment in Northern India, in Armagh, in Holloway (for protests at Greenham Common against Cruise missiles.) This protest came after she was due in court after being jailed for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War against the use since 2001 of Shannon by US war planes in violation of Irish neutrality – and she served three months for refusing to sign a bond against further trespass on the airport.

The protest at the Irish Embassy called for her immediate release and was supported by organisations including the Global Women’s Strike, Troops out of Ireland, Winvisible, Women of Colour, Kilburn Stop the War, Labour Caribbean Solidarity, Payday Men’s Network, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

Students march to protect Education

London University Students held a peaceful protest to show they intend to keep up their protests for democratic, public education free from exploitation and police violence and to support university cleaners on a 3-day strike for ‘3 Cosas’ – sick pay, holidays and pensions – and for recognition of their trade union, the IWGB.

After a rally outside the University of London Union in Malet St they marched on a tour of key sites including Senate House, the University & Colleges Employers Association in Woburn House in Tavistock Square, Holborn Police station, where they protested loudly against police violence and in particular at the execution by police of Mark Duggan and ending with another short rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the Tavistock Square offices, a few of those in a black block at the front of the march made a brief token entry into the lobby, accompanied by rather more photographers and videographers, and some paint was thrown at the outside of the building, hitting several protesters and photographers.

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel

People protested close to the Israeli Embassy in response to a call by African asylum seekers for international action to support their protests against the arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of refugees inside Israel.

Tens of thousands of African asylum seekers have been protesting on the streets of Israel since the beginning of the month, holding mass rallies against their treatment by the Israeli authorities. New laws mean anyone entering the country without proper papers to be held for up to a year without trial, and for those who are already in the country to be held in infinite detention, at a detention facility in the Negev desert which like many other Israeli prisons is run by the private security company G4S.

Although there are around 50,000 African refugees in Israel, only a few hundred have had their applications processed. Most live illegally on the streets, taking whatever work is available in the ‘black economy’, with constant exploitation and threat of arrest. A recent strike by those working as cleaners, cooks, dishwashers and other low paid workers had brought many restaurants, hotels and businesses to a standstill.

Police tried to move the protesters to the opposite side of the busy main road, still further from the embassy which is in a private street, but they refused to move. Eventually police gave up and brought some cones from across the road to allow others to pass the growing protest in safety.

More on all these on My London Diary:

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel
Students march to protect Education
Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now!


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Students March Against Huge Fee Rise

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Thursday 9th December 2010 was the day of a third student protest against the three-fold increase in university tuition fees which was being debated in Parliament that day, and the scenes in the area around were probably the most confusing of any I’ve seen in London.

My account of my day on My London Diary runs to around 1,700 words, and I’ll attempt not to repeat myself here, while giving a rather shorter account. The march started outside the University of London Union in Malet St, with a crowd of perhaps 10-20,000 including many sixth-formers who would be hit by the £9,000 a year fees when they went to university as well as current students and supporters.

There was a good atmosphere as the crowd listened to speeches there from trade unionists, John McDonnell MP and two sixthformers from schools that were being occupied in protest who got the largest cheers. As usual with student protests there was plenty to photograph.

The march began well though progress was rather slow, and several hundred students decided to walk in front of the main banner and for some reason police tried to stop them. They thought they were about to be kettled and rushed off towards Covent Garden. The official march continued without obstruction along the agreed route along the Strand. It wasn’t at all clear what the police had intended, and this was something that set the scene for the day.

Many more protesters joined the march at Trafalgar Square, and rather than proceed down Whitehall, police and march organisers had agreed on a route though Admiralty Arch and down Horseguards Road, and then left into Parliament Square. The march was then meant to continue down Bridge Street to an official rally on the Embankment, but most marchers had a different idea and wanted to stay in Parliament Square, the obvious place for the protest to continue.

It’s hard to understand why either police or march organisers had thought people would march on rather than stay outside Parliament – and probably many on the march had simply assumed it would end there. And soon police were actually preventing any who wanted to go on by blocking all the exits from Parliament Square except that into Whitehall (which they later decided to block.)

I managed to move around thanks to my press card, but even with this I was often refused access through police lines even in calm areas, and had to move along and find other officers in the line who would let me through, or take a longer walk around to get to where I wanted. The police didn’t appear to know what they were supposed to be doing and at one point I was being crushed by the crowd against the barriers in front of the riot police who were threatening us with batons unless we moved back – which was impossible because of the crush. Several press colleagues did get injured.

Late in the day students who wanted to leave were told by officers they could do so by going up Whitehall – only to be stopped by other police who were closing the street off. We were pushed back into Parliament Square by riot police and police horses. Police told protesters they were not being detained although they were not being allowed to leave, a kind of police logic most of us find infuriating.

Kettling like this is used by police as a kind of minor but arbitrary punishment, and as in this case it often leads to violent incidents and arrests which are then used to retrospectively justify police actions. After I had managed to get through one of the police lines and catch a bus away from the area I heard that Police had pushed a large group into a very confined space on Westminster Bridge with a total disregard for their safety, with some needing medical treatment for crushing. As I pointed out “there could easily have been more serious or fatal injuries and people pushed into the freezing river below.”

Of course protests like this need to be policed to avoid serious disorder. But the confused and sometimes unnecessarily violent way it was done on this occasion seemed to create most of the problems of the day.

As well as a long account of my day there are many more pictures on My London Diary in Students Against Cuts – Day 3.


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Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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Armistice Day – November 11th

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

Poppies in Trafalgar Square. 11 Nov 2006

When I was young everything still stopped for two minutes at 11am on Armistice Day although the main remembrance events had been moved to Remembrance Sunday in 1939 so as not to interfere with the war effort. But traffic still pulled into the side of the road here. In France the Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale is still a national holiday.

Paris lle, 11 Nov 2008

I’m not a pacifist, but I am firmly opposed to most wars, both historic and current. The First World War was clearly a disaster that should not have happened, a family quarrel that should not have resulted in such incredible suffering and loss of life largely with people killing others who they had far more in common with than with those who sent them into battle.

Clearly US war in Vietnam (and earlier the French in Indochina) was wrong as was the invasion of Iraq. And equally clearly we as a nation should not be wasting money on pointless nuclear weapons and selling arms to promote wars around the world such as that in Yemen. And so on.

Remembering Animals Killed in War, Park Lane, 11 Nov 2006

But while it seems clear that America should not have been fighting in Vietnam, it seems clear that the Vietnamese had to fight against them, just as it seems clear that Cubans were justified in fighting against Batista and US imperialism – and the same applies to other struggles against colonialism and for national liberation.

School Students Against the War, Oxford St, 11 Nov 2006

I’ve recently re-read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and although Stalinists contest his view of events it remains powerful both as a personal account of the war in Spain and makes clear the main reasons why the democratically elected government was defeated by the fascists – and Stalinist Russia’s contribution along with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to that defeat, which made a wider war inevitable. If you’ve not read it, this is a book I highly recommend – and there is an excellent article ‘Orwell and the Spanish Revolution‘ by John Newsinger in International Socialism Journal which explains Orwell’s position and deals with some of his detractors.

Staines, Nov 11 2007

I grew up in the years following the Second World War and had my share as a wolf cub and boy scout of standing in short trousers with the bitter November wind blowing up them at Remembrance Sunday parades at local war memorials. Of course we should remember those who died, but not in the kind of militaristic and often jingoistic fashion that most or all such events have in England. The best way to honour their sacrifice is surely to work for peace. In Germany they have a day as a peace celebration.

Families of Servicemen Killed in Iraq, Cenotaph, Whitehall. 11 Nov, 2006

After briefly photographing the event at the Mairie in the 11th arrondissement – I’d rushed out from a café when I saw the event happening – we strolled the short distance to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Père-Lachaise, Paris lle, 11 Nov 2008

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Sparks and Students – 10 Years Ago

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Police surround a grass roots rally before the main Union rally by electricians at the Shard


Ten years ago today on 9th November 2011 my work began at The Shard next to London Bridge, where ‘sparks’ (electricians) were protesting over plans by 7 major employers to tear up national agreements and impose worse conditions and pay cuts of at least 26 %.

Electricians listen to Unite union speakers

Before the official rally by the Unite union where speakers included several of the union’s leading officials as well as General Secretary of Unite Len McCluskey there was a separate rally with grass roots speakers. Numbers grew as the official rally began and there were over a thousand when it set off to march to another rally at Blackfriars.

I left the march on Borough High St and headed north over the river to join a large march by student protesters against fees increases and cuts in services. Police had shut down most of central London before this started and there were no buses running and I had to walk around two miles to meet the marchers.

Students were angry about the cuts, particularly about the loss of the Educational Maintenace Allowances but the policing seemed completely excessive. I wrote: “There were perhaps 5000 students, but as the march approached me coming down Shaftesbury Avenue they were largely hidden by the police, with a row of mounted officers leading, followed by several further rows of police in front of the marchers. More police walked along each side of the march, and others stood on the pavement, with lines blocking side roads and others in the doorways of offices, banks and some shops.”

The mood of the marchers seemed to me to be rather cheerful and relaxed, and this was reflected in the humour in many of the posters. Although there were a number of provocative actions by police – including a snatch squad rushing in to grab several marchers – which injured me and some other marchers, as well as various occasions on which they slowed or halted the march, eventually bringing it to a complete stop and ‘kettling’ it in Holborn, which caused it to get a little heated.

Marchers chant “Free the Sparks”

The protesters had been angered to hear that six hundred electricians who had tried to cross the river after their rally in Blackfriars to join the student protest had been stopped at Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

The police seemed to get completely disorganised at this point and I was able to walk past a police line along with several hundred of the protesters while the officers grappled with a few holding them back before more police arrived. After waiting for some time in the hope that others would join them, they continued the march to its intended destination at the Moorgate building of London Metropolitan University where they danced to the sound of a bicycle-hauled sound system while I walked a little further to Finsbury Square where Occupy London had been camping since 21st October.

People in Finsbury Square were worried that the the 4000 police officers in London from the march would turn their attention to trying to evict them. I told them it was unlikely they would make an attempt with so many students on the street. Later I saw videos of students being kettled at Moorgate and individuals being attacked by snatch squads of plain clothes police who had posed as protesters but there was no action against Occupy London.

The huge policing of the two marches was clearly a reaction to the criticism of their failures at Millbank and Tottenham, but it came at a considerable cost, bringing movement in much of central London more or less to a halt for most of the day. Much of the City was still closed as I walked along Old Street with traffic outside the area moving at rather less than walking speed. Policing by consent has to involve letting peaceful protest continue and here was clearly an attempt to prevent it.

Students March Against Cuts & Fees
Sparks At The Shard

Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business

Thursday, November 4th, 2021

Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business was the call by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) on their march through London on Wednesday 4th November 2015 against the abolition of maintenance grants and demanding free education without fees and huge student debts and an end to turning higher education into a market system impoverishing staff and students.

The march began in Malet St outside what had been the University of London Union, founded in 1921 as the University of London Union Society and was run by students for students. In 2013 the University of London decided to close ULU, taking over the building and running it as ‘Student Central’, now managed by the university, though continuing to offer similar services and resources for the 120,000 students, including bars, restaurants, shops, banks, a swimming pool and a live music venue – though some of these were on a reduced scale. But in 2021 it was announced that Student Central was to close and the building would become a teaching space for neighbouring Birkbeck College.

There were some speeches in Malet St before the march began, with speeches from several student representatives from various universities around the country, teaching staff and some fighting words from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also marched with the students.

Antonia Bright of Movement for Justice spoke about the UK’s racist immigration policies and invited students to protest at Yarls Wood on the following Saturday.

Among the marchers was a ‘black bloc’ carrying red and black anarchist flags and including Class War carrying their ‘WE HAVE FOUND NEW HOMES FOR THE RICH’ banner, along with a ‘book bloc’ carrying large polystyrene padded posters with the names of left wing and anarchist classic books on them or slogans such as ‘Rise, Riot, Revolt.’

The march went through Russell Square Square and down to High Holborn where it turned west and then took Shaftesbury Ave and the Charing Cross Rd to Trafalgar Square.

From there it went down Whitehall to Parliament Square where I left it briefly to photograph campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign who had mounted a weekly vigil for his release from Guantanamo and were holding a ‘Welcome Home Shaker’ celebration.

I caught up with the marchers again at the Home Office, where there was a great deal of noise, confusion and coloured smoke before the marchers turned around and walked back towards Victoria St.

They gathered outside the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills, where a black clad block charged the mass of police protecting the building, but were forcefully repelled. More police arrived and started pushing everyone away, including peaceful protesters and photographers. I was sent flying but fortunately into some of the protesters rather than to the pavement.

Eventually the pushing stopped and the police set up lines across the street which prevented the more peaceful protesters leaving the area. I tried to leave, showing my press card. After some minutes of being refused I found an officer who let me through and I walked along the street to rest and wait to see how the situation would develop. Eventually the students managed to break through the police line and run along to join the others already there, and they moved off. I decided I’d had enough and made my way to Victoria station to catch a train.

More pictures:

Students at Home Office and BIS
‘Welcome Home Shaker’ celebration
Free Education – No Barriers, Borders or Business


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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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A Busy 10th October – 2014

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

NSSN, TUSC and Southwark Unison protested at the Care UK offices in Southwark during the nation-wide day of solidarity with Doncaster Care UK workers who had been on strike for 81 days after huge cuts in pay and services by a private equity company taking over a part of the NHS, part of the continuing largely hidden privatisation of our NHS.

This protest was one of many around the country outside offices of Care UK and Bridgepoint, the private equity firm that owns Care UK, as well as at shops including branches of Fat Face and Pret a Manger also owned by Bridgepoint. As I wrote:

Their strike is not just about their own cuts in wages, but a stand against the principles involved and the whole idea of a values-based health service. The workers at Care UK are no longer able to proudly address the needs of those with learning disorders in their own community, but are simply required to meet minimum needs at the lowest possible cost – and the greatest profit to Bridgepoint and the company to which they will be sold on once the private equity company has slimmed services and pay to the bone.

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

Protesters at outside SOAS called for the release of former SOAS Law student Ghoncheh Ghavami, held in prison for 104 days and on hunger strike for 10 days after being detained in Iran with other women after she went to watch a volleyball match. Among those who spoke at the protest was Ghavami’s brother.

According to Wikipedia, “Ghavami was released on bail on 23 November 2014. She was sentenced to a one-year jail term and a two-year travel ban.”

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

City Panoramas

I had a little time to spare between events and took a short walk in the City, including along one of the remaining areas of ‘highwalk’ at the southwest of the Barbican site, part of the post-war plan to segregate pedestrians from traffic.

The Museum of London had decorated the wall at left with characters related to an exhibition about Sherlock Holmes.

This large building site was on what used to be St Alphage Highwalk. The ambitious post-war plans to separate pedestrians from traffic in the City were never really practical on a large scale and large sections such as this have been demolished, although there are still some highwalks including throughout the large Barbican estate.

City Panoramas

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

The Palestinian Prisoners Campaign continued their campaign against Hewlett-Packard, which boasts of ‘a massive presence’ in Israel and are the IT backbone for the Israeli war machine with a picket outside their London offices in Wood St in the City.

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts organised a protest at the Chinese Embassy in solidarity with the ‘umbrella revolution’ of the students and workers of Hong Kong in their fight for democracy. Many of the protesters carried umbrellas and others had small yellow paper umbrellas as well as their posters and placards.

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.