Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners – On Wednesday 13th July 2016 I photographed two protests about the inadequate and badly run Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, a protest supporting a cross-party bill to save the NHS from privatisation, a party against replacing Trident and the longest running strike in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback at Vauxhall – Vauxhall

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The hardest part of photographing the protest at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre was actually finding the place, hidden away in a back street. This was one of around 20 protests around the country at the centres where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The assessments are almost solely designed to save money for the DWP, enabling them to ignore medical evidence of need and are carried out by people who are given a financial incentive to fail claimants. They often mean that genuine claimants lose essential benefits for months before they are restored on appeal. They have led to many becoming desperate, with some needing hospital treatment and a few have committed suicide after being failed.

PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood was later in the day presenting a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles.

People from various campaigns had come out to support the bill, which although it had no chance of progressing into law did lead to a greater awareness of the privatisation which is slowly but apparently inevitably putting our NHS into the hands of private, mainly American, health companies, and eroding its basic principles.

Among those who came out to speak was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott.

NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster

Campaigners from Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies along with ATOS responsible for carrying out the shoddy cash-saving PIP assessments.

In particular these assessments are unfair on many claimants whose conditions vary day to day including many with mental health issues. The assessments make no allowances for this and fail to take any account of the medical evidence in coming to their conclusions.

After protesting for some time on the very busy pavement where there were a number of speakers, Paula Peters of DPAC led the group out into the the middle of Victoria Street where they stood with banners and in wheelchairs blocking traffic.

They then marched the short distance to the DWP headquarters in Caxton St, holding a further protest with speakers in the road outside.

Finally they marched past the Houses of Parliament to College Green where the media had set up their ‘Westminster village’ crowded with cameras for Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Police stopped them as they tried to go onto the grass in front of the TV cameras, and for some time they stood along the side before finally ignoring the police and going on to the green. Where the TV crews ignored the protest.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Square

CND members and supporters were today lobbying MPs against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

In Parliament Square they had organised a ‘Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party’ and there were various Christian groups with placards placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement, with Buddhists from the Battersea Peace Pagoda adding their support.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St Cleaners – City of London

Finally I went to the heart of the CIty of London where a rally was taking place in support of cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE.

By 13th July this had already become the longest-running strike ever in the City of London and it continued into August. The UVW say:

As days became weeks, the inconvenience for white-collar workers at 100 Wood Street rightly turned into a major embarrassment for their employers, and especially for CBRE, the managers of the building. City of London police were called many times, security staff were intimidating, and the tenants were barely coping with a trickle of the former cleaning operation. Eventually, after a surprise flashmob in the CBRE’s lobby, and then a big march to mark the 50th consecutive day, the decision was taken after 61 days to raise all their pay to the London Living Wage!

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/100-wood-street/

Many more pictures at Solidarity for Wood St cleaners.


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Freedom and the Law

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Freedom is something we almost universally value, but which is often hijacked by various groups, particularly on the extreme right to support particular causes which have little real connection with our undamental rights. Freedom is certainly not the freedom to do what we like regardless of the effect it has on others.

Freedom is not the right to own and carry guns or other weapons. It isn’t the right to spread disease we may have by not taking sensible precautions such as wearing a face mask in crowded places. It isn’t the right to increase the risk of others getting lung cancer or to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Arguably the most important of our freedoms is the right to hold and express political and religious ideas and to express these. But that is not absolute, and rightly there are laws against hate speech and incitement to others to commit criminal actions or threaten the lives of others.

Back in 2005, the Labour government brought in a law to criminalise protest in Parliament Square. It was clearly a law which imposed unnecessary restrictions on our freedom and one which was brought in for a trivial reason, to end the embarrassment to the Labour ministers of one man, Brian Haw, continuing to protest, particularly over Iraq war and its disastrous consequences. That Tony Blair was annoyed by a regular reminder of his lies was not a suitable basis for legislation.

A regular series of harassment by police and others – almost certainly at the urging of the Home Secretary – had failed to shift this persistent protester, and civil servants were ordered to add a section to the bill which became the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to make his protest illegal. In the event the act failed to apply to his protest and I wondered if this was a little deliberate subversion by at least one of those responsible for its drafting rather than simple incompetence. Because his protest had begun well before the SOCA law came in on 7th April 2005, it was apparently not covered by it. As I commented, “rather a lot of egg on government faces there.” This initial ruling by the High Court of Justice was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal and these sections of the law were replace by other restictive laws in 2011.

On Sunday 7th August 2005, protesters came to Parliament Square to deliberately disobey the law, and the police came, some rather reluctantly, under orders to arrest them. The protestors argued that protest is a human right and cannot be restricted by law in a free society.

Brian Haw was there, but protesting legally as it appeared that the act didn’t include him. He held up a placard with the words from a speech in Boston by US Scretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”
interleaved with his own comments on Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Belmarsh and the Iraq war and more.

The police swooped on a few of those with posters or placards and arrested them, leading them away but their heart was clearly not in it and the great majority of the protesters were untouched, though
they were warned that their protest was illegal. As I commented: ” I saw five people arrested for simply peacefully holding banners supporting the right to protest. It happened on the square opposite our Houses of Parliament, and it made me feel ashamed to be British.”

When the protest in Parliament Square ended, protesters were invited to take part in another illegal protest inside the one km restricted zone around Parliament, but on Westminster Bridge. Again taking their lead from Boston, though this time from 1773, and tipping tea into the water, campaigners calling for a low-level tax on foreign currency exchange transactions, as proposed by Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin in 1978. This would deter speculation on currency movements, giving governments greater control over their fiscal and monetary policies, and reducing the power of speculators to affect the markets.

The connection between the tea bags torn to tip tea into the Thames, produced by large multi-national companies who are among the currency speculators, and the Tobin Tax, seemed a little weak – as doubtless was the brew in the river – though it did all alliterate nicely for the Westminster Tea Party – Time for Tobin Tax.

We are now seeing a law going through Parliament which will even further restrict our right to protest, increasing discriminatory policing, criminalising some traditional ways of life and seriously restricting and controlling protests in a huge shift further towards a police state. Unfortunately a large Conservative majority makes it seem inevitable that our freedoms will be significantly reduced.

More on My London Diary for August 2005.


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