Posts Tagged ‘torture’

End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth 2015

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

End Immigration Detention – Harmondsworth: Saturday 11th April 2015 saw what I think was the largest protest to date outside the Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre on the Bath Road immediately north of Heathrow airport.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

Various organisations had held protests here over the years, but these had grown since Movement for Justice began organising them, bringing a large group of current and former asylum seekers out from London on the tube to Terminal 5 and then on the short bus ride to the prison. They included some who had come from other cities in the country – and even from Glasgow. Other groups at the protest included No Borders, Southall Black Sisters and Shoreditch Sisters W I.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

There are two detention prisons on the site, both surrounded by 20ft high fences with a private road to a BT site running between them. Called Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, they were in 2015 both run by Mitie’s ‘care+custody’ division, and the overall name for the centre had changed to Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre, which made clear that the government intention was to deport people rather than operate a fair asylum system.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

The Home Office has long proved itself to be both incompetent and racist, and huge backlogs have built up over the processing of asylum claims. They seem to start from the position that all asylum claims are unfounded and those making them are liars, often despite the evidence. Claims that should be processed in days take months or years – during which time people may be kept in detention centres like these generally quite unnecessarily. We should imprison criminals, not asylum seekers.

End Immigration Detention - Harmondsworth

As I commented in 2015:

these are prisons, with those inside being unable to leave; they have a few privileges denied those in normal jails, including the use of mobile phones, but some disadvantages, including that they are all on indefinite sentences at the whim of government and subject to a constant threat they will be forcibly bundled onto a plane and taken back to the country from which they have fled, often at fear of their lives. These prisons are also run by staff who often lack the basic training, supervision and accountability of normal jails.”

The majority of those who claim asylum are eventually granted leave to remain in the UK as their claims are well-founded. Some have been deported before they are given time to prove their cases to the Home Office’s satisfaction under “fast track” procedures that have been ruled illegal.

Our laws prevent them from working and contributing to our economy and society, and almost all are keen to do so and have skills which are in short supply. We need a system that gives people the medical treatment they need and gets them back into normal work and life as quickly as possible. Instead far too many are simply parked in prisons like these without proper medical care and largely isolated from those who could help them. Its both inhumane and economically unsound.

Although police and a large team of security guards stopped the protesters from going down the road toward the prison blocks, forcing them into a pen in front of the administration building at the front of the site, the loud protest could be heard throughout the site. Some of the prisoners were able to use their mobile phones to welcome the protesters and let them known about the poor conditions inside, and their calls were relayed over the public address system the protesters had brought.

Most of those who spoke at the protest had themselves been held inside these or other detention centres often for long periods after escaping from beatings, rape and torture in their home countries, and several spoke about their experiences in the system here. Some said they had been treated as troublemakers because they stood up for their rights – and that inmates who failed to do so, whatever the strength of their cases, were likely to face deportation.

I was tired after a couple of hours of the noisy protest, with chanting, singing and dancing – though mainly I had just been taking photographs, and left to catch a bus home. I could hear the protest continuing from the bus stop several hundred yards away, and when the bus came – ten minutes late – saw the protesters making their way out of the site to a public footpath which runs along the side of the Colnbrook site to continue their protest closer to those prison blocks.

Many more pictures on My London Diary at End Immigration Detention.


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Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


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Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists – 2019

Friday, January 19th, 2024

Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists: Three events I photographed on Saturday 19th January 2019.

Bread & Roses is again relevant now in January 2024, with the release of a new version of the song a few days ago by the ‘Orchestra of Cardboard‘, part of the amazing ‘Every street a POWER STATION campaign‘, a project of Walthamstow’s community interest company Optimistic Foundation CIC set up by artist and filmmaker Hilary Powell and filmmaker and musician Dan Edelstyn. The recording is a part of their fundraising campaign and your can read, see and hear more about it and their other campaigns which are already having an effect in the area on their crowdfunder page.

But back to January 2019, five years ago today.


Women’s Bread & Roses protest

Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists - 2019

Inspired by the Bread & Roses protests which revolutionised workers’ rights for women in 1912, Women’s March London marched from the BBC to a rally in Trafalgar Square against economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment and hostile environment in the UK, and called for a government dedicated to equality and working for all of us rather than the few.

Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists - 2019

The London march was part of an international day with women marching in many countries around the world, particularly in cities across the USA.

Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists - 2019

At the start of the march was opposite the BBC on the steps of Langham Place a few of the women organising the event were being directed and filmed by a BBC film crew. Supposedly this was a documentary but it seemed to be more a scripted drama closely controlled by the director and with the women involved holding orange folders from which they read.

Bread & Roses, Morales & Russian anti-fascists - 2019

But there were a rather larger group of women (and just a few men with them) standing around outside the BBC building and largely ignoring the filming that was taking place. Many had made placards especially for the event, with some using words from the poem ‘Bread and Roses‘ written by James Oppenheim and published at the end of 1911. The phrase ‘Bread and Roses’ came from a speech the previous year by Helen Todd, speaking about the need for laws to regulate wages, working hours and conditions.

A few days later a strike was started by textile workers, largely immigrants, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The strike was organised by the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, led largely by women and they took up Oppenheims poem and sang it at their meetings and marches, as well as apparently marching with a banner ‘We want Bread, and Roses too!’ during their three-month strike.

Eventually, when the BBC had finished making their movie the women gathered for a march and I walked with them to Trafalgar Square.

Many more pictures on My London Diary at Women’s Bread & Roses protest.


Bolivians protest against Morales – Trafalgar Square

A small group of Bolivians had come to protest following a decision in December by the Electoral Commission that President Evo Morales could stand for a fourth term in office in the October 2019 elections which were starting with primaries at the end of January 2019. But I was not convinced that this was truly a protest about democracy rather than simply against his socialist policies.

Morales, Bolivia’s first president to come from the indigenous population was first elected in 2005. He supported the 2009 constitution which allowed only two consecutive terms in office but was able to stand for a third term as his first term had been before the limit was imposed. In 2016 tried to increase the limit to three terms by a referendum which was narrowly defeated. But after this the courts ruled that the limitation infringed the human rights of citizens, allowing him to stand for a further term.

Morales won the October 2019 but their were widespread protests alleging electoral fraud, although later investigations suggested he had indeed gained the 10% lead required for a first-round victory. But the protests grew and he was endangered by armed groups; eventually he resigned on 10th November 2019, fleeing to Mexico where he was granted political asylum. Allegations made against him of sedition and terrorism were later found to be politically motivated and in 2020 a Bolivian court found his rights had been violated and judicial procedures breached.

His successful policies which reduced poverty and illiteracy and combated the influence of the USA and multinational companies made him very unpopular among the middle class and particularly the groups accustomed to running the country. Many in the USA encouraged and financed the opposition to him as he was widely seen to have shown a successful alternative to the growth of international capitalism.

Bolivians protest against Morales


Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists – Whitechapel

Finally I went east to the Cable Street Mural where anarchists and anti-fascists were meeting l to oppose racism, xenophobia, fascism and the upsurge of far-right populism and to show solidarity with Russian anti-fascists who have been arrested, framed and tortured in a brutal wave of repression.

Russian and Ukranian comrades spoke at the rally. telling us of the persecution taking place. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested six in Penza in 2017, charging them with belonging to a non-existent organisation, ‘The Network’. Beatings and torture before their trial were used to make them give false confessions.

Two others were arrested in 2018 in St Petersburg and charged with belonging to the same fictional network and again tortured into making confessions and further similar arrests have followed. A total of 11 where then in prison for belonging to’The Network’, facing 5 to 25 years in jail.

The date for the protest was chosen as the anniversary of the brutal murder of two Russian anti-fascists, journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov, by fascists in broad daylight on the streets of Moscow on January 19th 2009. Russian anarchists and anti-fascists hold events to remember them on this day every year.

There was then a march to a further rally in Altab Ali Park, named for the 24-year-old clothing worker murdered in a nearby street on 4 May 1978.

More pictures at Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists.


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UN Human Rights Day 2016

Sunday, December 10th, 2023

UN Human Rights Day – On 10 December 1948 the 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and December 10th is now celebrated around the world as Human Rights Day.

The theme for the day in 2016 was ‘Stand up for someone’s rights today’ and there were a number of protests in London which did just that. This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the declaration and it seems unlikely that the UK government will be doing much celebration as it begins to try to push through a law to prevent asylum seekers from asserting their human rights.


Silent Chain for Europe – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

UN Human Rights Day

Campaigners linked arms in silent chains in protest opposite parliament and elsewhere in other towns and cities.

UN Human Rights Day

They say Brexit threatens our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, the right of free movement around Europe, to live in the EU and for EU citizens to live here, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

More pictures at Silent Chain for Europe.


BBC censors prison struggles – Broadcasting House

UN Human Rights Day

A Human Rights day protest outside the BBC highlighted the failure of the organisation to report on people wrongly held in prison in some countries around the world.

UN Human Rights Day

They say the BBC as an institution largely or totally ignores wrongful imprisonment in Northern Ireland, including the frame-up of the Craigavon 2 and the continuing internment of Tony Taylor for legal political activities.

The Craigavon 2, John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, have been in prison since March 2009 and were convicted for the killing of police officer Stephen Carroll by a Diplock court without a jury on the basis of evidence which has been described as ludicrous. An appeal was dismissed in 2014 and at the start of 2023 Northern Ireland’s The Sunday Life newspaper revealed that MI5 had set up and operated what purported to be a human rights organisation but was actually working to subvert the campaign for their release.

Other cases the say the BBC consistently fails to report include the imprisonment of Mumia Abu Jamal on Death Row in the USA, Palestinians held in Israeli jails and victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey.

BBC censors prison struggles


Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest – Downing St

People from Balochistan in West Pakistan called on Theresa May to speak up for the Baloch people and their freedom against the Pakistan regime which they claim has a policy of genocide against the Baloch people and has killed thousands of Baloch activists and abducted more than 25,000 of them.

When Pakistan was set up in 1947, the kingdom of Balochistan became a part of it with some autonomy but a year later was merged with Pakistan. Since then various political and military separatists have emerged in the area which also includes part of neighbouring Iran.

Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest


Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo – Downing St

Also at Downing Street the Guantanamo Justice Campaign held a rally calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

Speakers at the rally included Lewes Amnesty Group Chair Sara Birch, Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain and Stop the War convenor Lindsey German. Mizan the Poet gave an impressive performance of his poem ‘1984’ against the government’s anti-Muslim ‘Prevent’ counter extremism strategy.

More pictures at Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo


Save Yazidi women and girls – Westminster

A small group of women protesters from WAVE (Women’s Action against Violent Extremism) held placards in Parliament Square before coming to protest at Downing St calling for help for the Yazidi women who were targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq.

ISIS regard the Yazidi as devil worshippers and subjected their women to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. The UN in 2014 reported that more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held.

Although in 2014 the UK government in 2014 provided some emergency aid to those who escaped to a refugee camp, few if any have been given asylum here. The Independent reported in 2018 that “some Yazidis in the UK are having their asylum denied.” When SNP Brendan O’Hara asked a question in Parliament in 2022 on how many Yazidi refugees have been resettled in the UK since 2014 he was simply told that the Home Office keeps no records of the religious or ethnic background of refugees. Others put the figure at close to zero.

Save Yazidi women and girls


Not everything I photographed in London on 10th December was related to Human Rights Day. I also found a couple of rhinos and many more Santas. You can see them on My London Diary.
Save the Rhino
London Santacon 201


Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail – 2016

Saturday, November 18th, 2023

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail – On Friday 18th November 2016 I went with members of the Independent Workers Union CAIWU to protests at three companies over their treatment of cleaners before a protest over the abduction by Israel, torture amd imprisonment of a British national father of five.


Cleaners In Lloyds Against Racist Sacking

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

CAIWU, the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union is an independent grass roots workers union helping to improve the lives of cleaners across the UK. Many of the workers who clean the offices of London’s many prestigious offices are employed by cleaning companies who pay minimum wage and treat their workers abdominally with bullying and arbitrary management and lousy conditions of service, often failing to provide safe working conditions.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

Respectable and prestigious companies who would never employ people on such terms nevertheless contract out their cleaning to companies who do so on their behalf. Many cleaners who tried joining our major unions found that these were more concerned with taking their union dues than fighting for their rights and set up several grass roots unions to represent them more actively in the workplace.

CAIWU is one of these and has had considerable success in getting workers a living wage and improving their conditions, as well as defending them against discrimination.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

Following the sacking of two members who cleaned Lloyd’s but were employed by Principle Cleaning Services, a company which Lloyd’s outsources its cleaning to, members of CAIWU went with posters, vuvuzelas and a powerful megaphone to protest noisily inside the foyer of the Lloyd’s building at lunchtime.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail
The security officer who was pushing Alberto suddenly dives to the floor, pretending he has been hit

Two black workers were disciplined and dismissed from the site by Principle Cleaning Services following a window cleaning accident. CAIWU say that white workers involved in a similar accident were left off without even a warning and that this is a clear case of racist discrimination. They also say that another African worker, a CAIWU member, was also recently dismissed for trivial reasons because of his trade union activities.

After a brief protest inside the building in which a security guard began to assault some of them and then dived to the floor claiming falsely he had been hit they left and continued their noisy protest outside.

More at Cleaners in Lloyds against racist sacking


Cleaners at Mace protest Dall nepotism

Next the CAIWU group made its way to Mace in Moorgate, where they again rushed into the lobby for a protest against the cleaning contractor there, Dall Cleaning Services.

Here they complained about nepotism with a cleaning supervisor roster made up of five members of the same family. The also say that after Dall had promised cleaners the London Living Wage they promptly reduced the working conditions and also dismissed two cleaners without notice or proper procedures. They had come to demand the reinstatement of the two workers dismissed and also proper conditions of service and working conditions.

Again after a brief protest inside the lobby they left and continued the protest outside for a few minutes before catching a bus to Holborn.

More at Cleaners at Mace protest Dall nepotism.


Cleaners at Claranet for Living Wage – Holborn

Again at Claranet’s offices CAIWU briefly occupied the lobby for a brief protest leaving when security began pushing them around to continue their protest on the pavement outside.

The cleaners here are employed by NJC under a contract by Claranet, and both NJC and Claranet have ignored the union’s attempts to negotiate for the London Living Wage and have confirmed they have no intention of considering to pay this.

The union has called on Claranet which claims to be an ethical company to insist the cleaners are paid the London Living wage now.

More at Cleaners at Claranet for Living Wage.


Release British father from Israeli Jail – G4S HQ, Westminster

Protesters pose for a selfie with Laila Sharary, wife of the British father held by the Israeli military

Human rights group Inminds were protesting outside the headquarters of British security company G4S over the abduction by Israel and subsequent torture of British national and father of five, Fayez Sharary.

The protest took place at G4S because the company trains Israel’s police forces and was at the time responsible for the security of Israel’s prison. Protests like this and pressure by the BDS movement led to G4S ending its contracts with the prisons in December 2016 and in June 2023 the world’s largest private security company Allied Universal, which owns G4S, announce it was selling all its remaining business in apartheid Israel.

An image projected on the neighbouring building shows Fayez Sharary with his daughter

Sharary had gone to the West Bank for a family visit and was arrested by Israeli forces when leaving on 15th September and tortured for 3 weeks by Israeli secret police Shin Bet to force a confession.

Laila Sharary and their 3 year old daughter were also arrested but released after 5 hours

At a military trail an Israeli judge declared this confession worthless and pointed out that several of the charges against him were for activities which were not illegal, ordering his release. But he was instead held in a G4S secured prison and a few days later the military returned him to court and got the judge’s order set aside.

Torture is not a crime in Israel and the insist the UN Conventions Against Torture which they have signed do not apply to Palestinians. The UN treatment centre for victims of torture in the occupied Palestine territories treated 845 Palestinians in 2014, including 317 women and 135 children.

Laila Shahary reads out a statement

Sharary is a British citizen who has lived in this country for over 23 years but he has received no support from the British Embassy and had no legal support at either of his military trials.

More at Release British father from Israeli Jail.


Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14: This protest on Saturday 21st July 2018 was the 14th organised by Movement for Justice outside the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood and I think their last there. I missed the first so this was my 13th visit to this remote location, cyling uphill the five or six miles north from Bedford station. I had previously photographed a number of protests organised by MfJ outside the two immigration prisons (officially called detention centres to make it sound nicer) on the north of Heathrow airport, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, a rather easier journey.

Unlike these two prisons which housed men, Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to hold women, though there were also a few families there. The protests there had attracted more campaigners because of this, with women being seen more widely as victims than male asylum seekers. And many of those who were locked up inside were women who had been raped as well as beaten and otherwise subjected to traumatic events before fleeing their countries.

Many of the women – as too the men elsewhere – were kept locked up for many months and some for years in indefinite detention while the Home Office refused to believe their stories or to properly investigate their cases, often demanding paperwork it would be impossible for them to provide. The remoteness of the centre and only limited access to internet and telephones makes it difficult for the women to progress their cases.

Many of these are people with desperate needs for counselling and help, but instead as various investigations, official as well as undercover journalism – had shown are held under appalling conditions in this and other centres run by private companies such as SERCO, with detainees refused their human and civil rights, assaulted, sexually harassed and assaulted, denied proper medical treatment, poorly fed and forced to work for £1 an hour on menial tasks.

The protests here are greeted by the women, giving them the assurance that they have not been forgotten and that there are those outside who support them. Those able to get to the windows facing the hill on which the protesters stood so they could be seen over the tall prison fence – the lower 10ft solid steel and above that another ten foot of dense metal mesh – shouted greetings, waved and held up messages.

A powerful public address system meant those inside could hear the speeches, some by former inmates of Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres, and some by those inside, relayed by mobile phone to the amplifier, as well as by some leading MfJ members.

Most of those inside will eventually be released, the majority getting leave to stay in this country. Some are taken to be deported with the MfJ and other organisations then working desperately and often successfully to stop their deportation flights back to terror and violence in their home countries.

This was by far the smallest of all the protests at Yarl’s Wood organised by the MfJ, following complaints made against the organisation by a former member who appears to have been treated badly by them. But however justified her personal complaint, her comments revealed little or nothing about the nature of the group which was not already on Wikipedia or otherwise common knowledge. But the dispute led to many other groups ending their support for protests organised by the MfJ, some organising their own protests but with very limited success.

Mabel had been held in Yarl’s Wood for a day or two less than 3 years

Other groups were and are working – as MfJ still is – to support detainees. The MfJ has played a major role in protests against our racist immigration detention system and in actions to prevent deportations. It still seems to be supported by many former detainees who have always played a leading role in the protests both at Yarl’s Wood and at Harmondsworth.

The Home Office finally decided it was too easy for protests to be organised outside Yarl’s Wood and moved the women – many of whom were released at the start of the Covid epidemic – up to an even more remote location in the north-east, with Yarl’s Wood being used to house those who had crossed the Channel in small boats.

The Illegal Immigration Act finally passed a few days ago intends to deport almost all migrants and asylum seekers (other than those coming under special schemes for Ukraine, Hong Kong etc) to Rwanda without any consideration of their asylum claims. Efforts to persuade the government to set up safe routes for those claiming asylum were rejected by the government in the latest ratcheting up of its racist policies, justified by them through the doublespeak of “compassion” while showing not the faintest scintilla of any real compassion.

More on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14.


International Day in support of victims of Torture

Monday, June 26th, 2023

International Day in support of victims of Torture: The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force internationally on 26 June 1987, and in 1998 the UN declared the 26 June of every year to be the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Over the years I’ve photographed a number of vigils and protests marking the day in London by various groups concerned with human rights, mostly organised by the London Guantánamo Campaign but often joined by others.


No to Torture Vigil – Trafalgar Square, London. Tue 26 June 2012

Supporters of the The London Guantánamo Campaign and other human rights activists held up placards saying “NO to torture” in over 30 languages. Other protesters against various human rights violations joined in the protest, including campaigners calling for an end of the Iranian executions of the Baloch people, those against the extraditions of Babar Ahmer, Talha Ahsan and others to the US and the Free Mumia campaign.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

More on My London Diary at No to Torture Vigil.


Say No To Torture – Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 26 Jun 2013

International Day in support of victims of Torture

The London Guantanamo Campaign which has been active in calling for the closure of Guantanamo and other prisons including Bagram in Afghanistan since 2006 again held a vigil in Trafalgar Square.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

Some wearing orange Guanatanamo-style jump suits and black hoods, they stood in a lin in front of the National Gallery, calling for the release of London resident Shaker Aamer and the other detainees held and tortured without trail. Shaker, along with most of the other prisoners was on the 141st day of a hunger strike, being subjected to regular beatings, being brutally forcibly fed and held in solitary confinement – which also constitues torture under the UN definitions.

International Day in support of victims of Torture

Among those taking part in the vigil was veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent. The ‘Say No To Torture’ protest overlapped with another human rights protest over Balochistan, a ‘nation without a state.’ Balochs live mainly in Pakistan and have been subject to arrests and other human rights violations including torture by the Pakistan authorities for campaigning for independence.

More on My London Diary at Say No To Torture.


Torture Solidarity Vigil – Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 26 Jun 2014

In 2014, Kashmiris wore black hoods and headbands with messages ‘Mutilated’, ‘Raped’, ‘Tortured’, ‘Executed’ and waved Kashmiri flags to protest at the widespread human rights abuses by the 7,000 custodial killings and torture of prisoners by the Indian state Indian state in Kashmir- 1 in 5 Kashmiris is a torture victim.

Also in Trafalgar Square was a vigil by the The London Guantanamo Campaign with people holding posters and blindfolded or gagged, calling for the release of prisoners from the US prison camp and an end to impunity for torturers.

The UK has failed to take proper action over allegations of prisoner abuse by the British military in Iraq and Afghanistan and has continued to be involved in the “rendition” and torture of British and foreign nationals abroad. Our government prevents violations becoming public knowledge, relying on secret courts and partial and biased investigations.

More on My London Diary at Torture Solidarity Vigil.


UN Day for Victims of Torture – Trafalgar Square, London. Fri 26 Jun 2015

The London Guantánamo Campaign and others were back again in Trafalgar Square in a solidarity vigil in recognition of the suffering and rights of victims and survivors of torture, calling on those in positions of power able to put an end to the use of torture.

Obama had promised in 2010 to end the shame of Guantanamo, but the detentions and torture continued throughout his presidency, though there were some releases.

More on My London Diary at UN Day for Victims of Torture.


Here are links to further protests I covered in recent years on 26 June against torture, in Trafalgar Square in 2016, at the US Embassy in Nine Elms in 2018 and by Balochs in Trafalgar Square in 2019. In 2017 I had a day off work for medical tests, and in 2020 there was no vigil because of the lockdown.


Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Saturday, June 10th, 2023

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds – Events in London on Sunday 10th June 2018


End Government Killings in Nicaragua – Trafalgar Square

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Nicaraguans protested in Trafalgar Square against the violence in their country where since the 19th of April police had killed over 100 protesters and a injured more than 600, and many have been unjustly detained, tortured and raped.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

President Daniel Ortega first came to power during the Nicaraguan Revolution as a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front which ousted the US-supported Samoza dictatorship, becoming leader of the ruling junta which replaced them in 1984 and getting a large majority in the country’s first free and fair presidential election in 1985. His government then implemented a number of leftist policies despite widespread campaigns against him by the US who supported rebel forces and imposed a full trade embargo on the country, even mining its ports.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Massive US interference in the 1990 Nicaraguan general election led to his surprise defeat and he also stood and lost in 2001, but was returned to power following the 2006 elections, though on a much lower vote than in 1985 against a very split opposition.

Nicaragua, Votes for Women & Al Quds

Since coming to power in 2007, Ortega has abandoned most of his leftist principles, becoming increasingly dictatorial and alienating many of his earlier supporters. Popular protests which began in 2018 against his social security reforms which increased taxes and reduced benefits were violently repressed and further measures have included closing down newspapers, universities and NGOs. Leaders of the political opposition including some former colleagues were jailed for the 2021 election.

This repression has led to many fleeing the country, particularly to neighbouring Costa Rica where over 30,000 Nicaraguans have claimed asylum. Ortega remains in power, with his wife Rosario Murillo as Vice President since 2017.

End government killings in Nicaragua


100 years of Votes for Women

Women marched through London in three strands wearing head scarves in one of the purple, white and green suffragette colours to celebrate a hundred years since the 1918 act gave wealthier older women the vote.

The 1918 Act brought the vote to all men over 21, as well as those like my father over18 serving in the armed forces, but women had to be both over 30 and meet a property requirement. It was another ten years before my mother and other women could vote on the same terms as men with the Representation of the People Act 1928.

Under the 1918 Act, “Women over 30 years old received the vote, but only if they were registered property occupiers (or married to a registered property occupier) of land or premises with a rateable value greater than £5 or of a dwelling-house and not subject to any legal incapacity, or were graduates voting in a university constituency.”

Around 8.4 million women in the UK got the vote in 1918, but there were still around 5 million of women over 21 without a vote – and there were still around 7% of the population, mainly male middle-class university graduates who had an extra vote either in university constituencies or in the constituency where they owned business premises.

Sadly when my mother did get the vote she used it to support the Conservative Party, displaying their poster in our front window at every election. My father, who kept quiet about his politics to avoid conflict at home, went into the polling station every time to cancel out her vote with one for Labour.

Many more pictures at 100 years of Votes for Women.


Al Quds Day Protests – Saudi embassy, Mayfair

A large crowd squashed into barriers on the street in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy for a rally in support of the oppressed people of Palestine and others around the world.

The event, organised by the Justice for Palestine Committee, was supported by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and a wide range of pro-Palestinian organisations, and opposed by the Zionist Federation and some right wing hooligans, who were stopped from attacking the peaceful event by a large police presence in the area.

The official Zionist Federation protest which was perhaps a little smaller than in some previous years kept behind the barriers provided for them a short distance from the Palestinian protest, and the two groups shouted insults at each other.

There were also a number of well-known Zionist protesters along with some right-wing football supporters active in the EDL and other racist organisations wandering the streets of Mayfair. Police made an effort to keep them away from the Palestine protest, and at one point this involved some fairly forceful policing as the thugs were taken away. Not all of the right-wing are thugs, and later when I went home I was pleased to meet a man who knew me and walked with me to make sure I didn’t get troubled by any of the others still around.

As a colleague remarked to me, there may well have been more Jews taking part in the pro-Palestine rally than opposing it, as the Al Quds day event was supported by several groups and numerous individuals from the Jewish left as well as the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta, who as always attracted a great deal of venomous anti-Semitic shouting from the Zionists.

Celebrated in many countries, Al Quds Day, established by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, has been marked in London for over 30 years.

This year’s event was a gesture of defiance to the demonisation campaign and the ongoing murders by Israeli troops of innocent Palestinian protestors in the Gaza Strip commemorating 70 years since Israel was formed on expropriated Palestinian land.

More about the protest and many more pictures on My London Diary:
Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day
Zionists protest against AlQuds Day


NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Wednesday 24th April 2013 was a busy day for protests in Westminster. And there was one in the City.


Protest the Privatisation of NHS – Old Palace Yard

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

The House of Lords was debating NHS regulations which imposed full competitive tendering on the NHS, a key part in the escalating backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

Unite had set up a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ game show hosted by people wearing ‘David Cameron’ and ‘Jeremy Hunt’ masks and listing the likely costs of various procedures due to the tendering system. They feared “that the coalition’s NHS policies, including a multi billion pound funding squeeze coupled with a massive reorganisation, will destroy the 65 year old health service, paving the way for a new marketised system where paying up to £10,000 for maternity costs or £13,450 for a new hip is the norm.”

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unite said that already more than £20 billion of health costs go to private companies, who take their decisions on the basis of profit rather than the interests of patients. The Lords were debating a motion for the annulment of the regulations on the grounds that Parliament had been assured “that NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients“.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS


Bring Shaker Aamer Home – Parliament Square

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Following a petition with 117,387 signatures to bring Shaker Aamer home from Guantanamo, a debate had been held that morning by MPs in Westminster Hall, where most of the 17 MPs who spoke called for his release, including Shaker’s own MP, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison, who also came out to speak with the protesters.

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unfortunately such debates, although they do increase pressure on the government to take action have no actual consequences. But perhaps it did help to persuade the government that it had to ignore the embarrassment of British agents at being complicit in his torture by the US and make clear to the US government he should at last be released after being held for 12 years, long after he had been cleared of any involvement in terrorism. As I noted, “The facts about torture are now largely public and totally indefensible and it is time for justice to be done.”

Bring Shaker Aamer Home


Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet – Princes St, CityDrax AGM, wpp

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaking at the protest

I had to take the tube to the City to attend a protest outside Gocer’s Hall where the AGM of Drax, the huge coal-burning power station near Selby in Yorkshire was being held. Drax was planning to convert half its capacity to bio-mass and become the largest biomass-burning power station in the world, using 1.5 times the total UK wood production per year.

The wood pellets would come mainly from devastating clear-cutting of highly diverse forests in North America, and although re-grown will eventually remove the same amount of carbon this will take a hundred years or more – during which time the carbon Drax emits – roughly 50% greater than burning coal – will be contributing to disastrous global warming.

Drax already has a disastrous impact in South America were land is being grabbed from traditional communities for open cast coal mining, usually with complete disregard for their human and civil rights, cleared of its biodiverse forests and diverted from food production – often in places where food is desperately needed. Conversion to wood-burning at Drax will result in even more environmental and social destruction.

The incentive to change to wood-burning is that under current government policies Drax will receive huge government subsidies from funds intended to promote renewable energy, diverting funds from schemes for energy production and conservation that actually will help to combat climate change.

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet


Gurkhas Call for equal treatment – Old Palace Yard

I returned to Westminster, where Several hundred Gurkha pensioners and supporters were holding a rally on the 198th anniversary of the first recruitment of Gurkhas into the British Army to deliver a petition to David Cameron asking for equal treatment to other British Army ex-soldiers.

British Army Gurkhas who retired before 1997 were granted the right to settle in the UK in 2009, but their pension remains only a fifth of that of other British soldiers, and is impossible to live on in the UK, being based on the cost of living in Nepal.

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment


UK herbalists Want Regulations – Old Palace Yard

Also in Old Palace Yard were UK herbalists, both traditional and Chinese, protesting against the failure of the government to bring in the statutory regulations they had promised to do by 2012.

Under EU regulations from 2004, traditional remedies then in use could continue to be provided until 2011, but after that had to be covered by national policies to regulate their safety and effectiveness. Although the government had promised to set this up, it has so far failed to do so, and they are now unable to prescribe many commonly used and effective common herbal remedies.

UK herbalists Want Regulations


Get Britain Cycling Report Launch – Parliament Square

Finally, in Parliament Square, Christ Boardman, a gold medal cylist in the Barcelona Olympics posed with MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to launch their report ‘Get Britain Cycling.’

This calls for more to be spent on supporting cycling and that it should be considered in all planning decisions. They want more segregated cycle lanes and for the 30mp urban speed limit to by reduced to 20mph. Children should be taught to ride a bike at school and the government should produce and annually report on a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan. Cycling has enormous advantages both individually and for us all in better health and reducing pollution with reduced health spending.

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch


Palestine, Syria & the NHS – 2018

Thursday, April 13th, 2023

Palestine, Syria & the NHS – 2018:
I’m not really a superstitious person and though five years ago it was Friday 13th April 2018 this didn’t worry me at all and I worked exactly as usual, photographing protests in London.


Palestinian Prisoners Day protest – South Bank

Palestine, Syria & the NHS - 2018

Palestinian Prisoners Day, established by the Palestinian National Council in 1974 as a national tribute in solidarity with the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli occupation prisons and supporting their legitimate right to freedom is actually 17th April every year. This protest was held on the closest Friday to that date.

Palestine, Syria & the NHS - 2018

The location on the South Bank made this rather more visible to visitors and tourists who walk along by the river and visit attractions such as the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall where this vigil was taking place.

Palestine, Syria & the NHS - 2018

Some of those taking part were those who regularly protest with the organisers, the Inminds human rights group, outside companies that support the Israeli state, including G4S and HP who are both heavily involved in running prisons in Israel, but for this event they were joined by a number of others, speaking, handing out leaflets, holding flags and banners and talking with people about the situation in Palestine.

Palestine, Syria & the NHS - 2018

Under Israel’s ‘apartheid’ system, Palestinians are not tried by the Israeli civil courts but by military tribunals with a 99.74% conviction rate. Since 1967, roughly 1 in 5 of the entire Palestinian population have been held in prison at some time. Physical torture during interrogation is standard practice, even for children, and many are sexually abused; since 1967, 72 prisoners have been tortured to death.

Palestine, Syria & the NHS - 2018

In two months this year alone 1319 were imprisoned, including 274 children, 23 women and four journalists. Over 500 of these prisoners are currently held indefinitely without charge or trial under administrative detention orders.

Palestinian Prisoners Day protest


Don’t Bomb Syria protests – Downing St

There were a number of protests here against the UK’s plans, along with the USA and France, to bomb Syria after the Assad regime had carried out chemical attacks there.

Stop the War were joined in a rally by other activists, including some from CND and Veterans for peace. They had come with a letter signed by MPs, trade unionists and others to hand in at Downing St, but they were refused entry at the gate. Only Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad was allowed through the gate as an MP to deliver the letter.

After the Stop the War rally ended people from the South Bank Palestinian Prisoners Day vigil who had arrived at the protest provided provided a PA system for the protest to continue.

Syrians began to arrive early for a protest organised by a UK based Syrian surgeon which was due to start at 6pm and joined them. Protesters crossed to the gates of Downing Street and then briefly blocked traffic in Whitehall in both directions. Police fairly quickly cleared the south-bound carriageway, and the Syrians were eventually forced onto the pavement but other protesters continued to block the road, sitting down on it.

The road was still blocked when I left, but many more police had arrived and it looked as if the road would soon be cleared.

Don’t Bomb Syria protests


Ditch the Deal say NHS Staff – Department of Health

I left Whitehall although the protests were continuing there as I was late for a protest with NHS staff from hospitals across London at the Department of Health in Victoria St. Despite running most of the half-mile there I arrived just in time to see them in the distance walking into the foyer and followed them in.

They were being told they could not protest inside the building – but they were doing so – and although I was almost certainly told I couldn’t take pictures, I did. Though perhaps they would have been better had I been less out of breath.

They were protesting against the proposed NHS pay deal for all staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers which will mean a pay rise well below expected inflation levels, while also bringing in a new appraisal process before staff can progress to their next pay point. The proposals have also been criticised by shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

After sitting in the foyer for a few minutes they posed in front of pictures on the screens in the foyer of Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and then left for more photos on the pavement outside.

Ditch the Deal say NHS Staff