Posts Tagged ‘Trafalgar Square’

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Friday, May 27th, 2022

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters – I had a long and busy day in Westminster on Wednesday 27th May 2015. It was the day of the Queen’s speech to parliament, reading out the intentions of the government’s coming session, and people and groups had come to the area to make their feelings about this clear.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

I usually avoid any occasions involving royalty who I think reflect the worst aspects of our class-based society. We got it right in 1649, when Charles I was found guilty of attempting to “uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people” and although the ‘Commonwealth’ wasn’t a great deal of fun the restoration of the monarchy was a a national tragedy even more retrograde than Brexit.

I don’t want to photograph crowds of sycophantic flag wavers – including many tourists, nor the royals themselves, who many feel are an inbred group of parasites who rose to wealth and power through the theiving, skullduggery and aggression of their ancestors, maintaining their position through a biased military, political and legal system. Certainly we would be a better and healthier nation without them and the class system they help perpetuate.

Royal occasions also bring out the very worst in our police, and this was clearly on show in their actions against Class War and some others who had come to protest at the event. Rather than upholding the law they were making it up on the spot to avoid any possible embarrassment to the Queen, forcing people to move and making arrests without any lawful basis.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Class War had come with their controversial banner showing the political leaders and I managed to get a few images of them was they held it up for a few seconds on the Queen’s route well before she was due to arrive. But they were immediately forced to take it down and told they would be arrested if they continued to protest, with the threat that the banner would be taken from them.

It was a copy of the one that police had seized at a ‘Poor Doors’ protest a couple of months earlier and held in Bethnal Green police station (where they lost it rather than hand it back when they had to admit they had no legal basis to have taken it.) Banners aren’t cheap and Class War funds are limited to a few individuals digging in their pockets, so they rolled it up and moved away.

Class War, Edna, Police And Protesters

Police then arrested two men, one holding a video camera, and another holding under his arm a small poster with a message about austerity being stupid. As my caption states “They tell the police correctly that they have committed no offence, but the police decide to arrest them anyway. Just in case.” They were released without charge a couple of hours later.

As a large group of police were following and harassing them, Class War and friends decided to leave for a nearby pub. I followed them, along with a large squad of police, and talked with them as they stood outside quietly having a drink. On the other side of the road were around 50 police standing around watching them, including a squad of TSG, looking menacing for over an hour. I was later told police kept following some of Class War for the next six hours. It all seemed a huge waste of public money.

I’d stayed with Class War so long because it looked likely that the police were going to take action, perhaps make more arrests although no offence was being committed, but also to let the crowds and policing around the Queen’s route disperse, and then made my way up Parliament Street to Whitehall where Compassion in Care were campaigning for ‘Edna’s Law’ which would make it an offence not to act on the genuine concerns of a whistleblower and protect those revealing scandals in social care and other sectors.

This would replace the Public Interest Disclosure Act which has failed to protect the public, the victims or the whistle-blowers. Compassion in Care say that the reccomendations of the then recent Francis review “will do nothing to protect whistle-blowers or encourage anyone else to raise concerns. This is because his recommendations rely on employers and regulators – which include the very same people who have “got away with” cover-ups, ignoring concerns, and victimising whistle-blowers for many years.”

I walked on up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where people were beginning to gather for a National Campaign against Fees and Cuts rally. A group of police were gathered around a man and arresting him, but refusing to answer any questions from a concerned crowd around them as to what was happening. A small crowd followed the police as they took the man to a nearby police van, where a police officer assaulted a young bystander who was then also arrested. Finally as the van drove away, an officer told us that the man was wanted for an earlier offence and the arrest was in no way related to the protest that was gathering. If the police had made this clear from the start all this could have been avoided.

Back in Trafalgar Square a man appeared with a mobile disco and crew and people began to dance. This turned out to be Lee Marshall (aka Disco Boy) who describes himself as an “entertainer prankster DJ host”, and apparently has gained a huge social media following, with his video stunts watched by hundreds of thousands of people and had come to perform in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere in Westminster. He moved off as the rally began.

There was a short rally for the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) with various groups including Class War holding banners on the plinth of Nelson’s column before they set of for the march.

Also in Trafalgar Square were Ahwazi protesters from the Hashem Shabani Action Group whose homeland, which includes most of Iran’s oilfields, was occupied by Iran in 1925. Since then Iran has attempted to suppress their heritage and identity, in part by resettling non-Ahwazi Iranians in the area.

The students and some others at the NCAFC protest then set off to march down Whitehall, where police made an unsuccessful attempt to stop them, at Downing St, arresting several forcefully. There seemed to be little point as police numbers were clearly too few and many protesters were simply walking around them and the barriers as I did.

The Ahwazi protesters had marched with the students and they stopped in Parliament Square for a rally while the rest marched on peacefully around the area for some time stopping to protest outside the Dept of Work & Pensions and the Tory Party HQ before returning to protest noisily in front of Downing Street which was protected by mass ranks of police. They then marched on, I think intending to go towards Buckingham Palace, but I’d had enough walking around.

On the pavement opposite Downing St at the same time as the NCAFC march the People’s Assembly were holding a static ‘End Austerity Now’ protest. I listened to a few of the speeches and photographed them. But it had been a long and rather confusing day and it was time for home.

More on the events of the day on My London Diary
People’s Assembly ‘End Austerity Now’
Ahwazi Arabs protest Iran’s war
NCAFC March against ‘undemocracy’
NCAFC rally in Trafalgar Square
Disco Boy plays Trafalgar Square
Police arrest man in Trafalgar Square
‘I am Edna’ – protect whistle-blowers
Class War protest Queen’s speech


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St George’s Day 2016

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

April 23rd 303 was not a good day for George from Cappadocia. Diocletian, then the senior Roman Emperor had previously purged the Roman Army of Christians but had not really otherwise bothered too much about them, but he was persuaded by fellow emperor Galerius to take a harder line, and after consulting the oracle of Apollo began a general persecution across the empire on February 23, 303, which continued for the next 10 years or so.

For some reason George had escaped the previous army purge was was still serving as a member of Emperor Diocletian’s personal bodyguards. Tradition has it that he refused to recant his faith and was sentenced to death, being beheaded at Nicomedia on 23rd April. Rather different versions of his life (and death) grew up in the Greek and Latin churches. But certainly many Christians were killed by the Romans and George certainly represents one of many brave men who died rather than recant, most probably in the earlier years of Diocletian’s reign.

St George, Emperor Diocletian, the priestess or haruspex and the emperor’s daughter

Legends built up around him, few of which like that of the dragon (an 11th century addition) will have been true. It’s unlikely that he was subjected to more than twenty separate tortures over the course of seven years or that his martyrdom led to “40,900 pagans were converted to Christianity, including the empress Alexandra.” You can read more about him on Wikipedia.

His martydom began to be celebrated in Lydda in Palestine where he was thought to have died, and pilgrims came there and later to Cappadocia where he is thought to have come from. He was made a saint by Pope Gelasius I in 494, who said his was one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God“.

St George fights the dragon on the Passmore Edwards Public Library, long closed

His fame spread across Christendom, though it was only in the ninth century that the first church was dedicated to him in England – and not until 1152 that he displaced Edward the Confessor as the patron saint of England, although he had become a part of some English battle cries in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and among the Crusaders, when many went from England to fight against the Muslims in Palestine between 1095 and 1291.

St Georges Day was made a major feast here in 1415 and 1421, a holiday where church attendance was compulsory and other festivities took place. Later its celebration declined, particularly after the union with Scotland, and had more or less died out by the 20th century.

In recent years there has been something of a revival, spurred on in part by the increasing festivals of other communities, sometimes supported by local councils. There has been an increasing emphasis too on our national teams, particularly the English Football and Rugby teams, with minor fixtures being promoted through the mass media in a way that in earlier years was reserved for the major sporting events – the Grand National, the FA Cup FInal and the Boat Race.

London’s dragons are mainly Chinese

The St George’s Flag had become something seldom seen outside football matches, except in the hands of small racist right-wing groups who called themselves patriots. Unfortunately recent years have seen a growth in these, and some have organised celebrations of St George’s Day, but there has also been a growth in less political events, with even English Heritage encouraging celebrations. Radio 3 has celebrated it, and both Conservatives and the Labour Party have campaigned for it – with Labour calling for it to become a public in both 2017 and 2019 manifestos.

The pictures here are from 23rd April 2016, I started the day photographing a couple of protests over the sale of illegal ‘blood diamonds’ from Sierra Leone at Selfridges in Oxford Street and Tiffany in Sloane Square before going on take pictures about St George’s Day, beginning around lunchtime in Trafalgar Square, where despite the support of mayor Boris Johnson little was happening. I went to the Roman Catholic St George’s Cathedral in Southwark, calling in briefly at the peace garden in the Imperial War Museum across the road as I waited for people to arrive for the St George in Southwark Procession.

This, led by led by St George, a Roman Emperor, the Mayor of Southwark and others and with a dragon at its rear made its way from the St George’s RC Cathedral to the Church of England St George the Martyr in Borough High Street.

I’d not been inside this before and went in with those taking part for a short address before we came out and the procession formed up. It wound its way through the back streets of Southwark and I was pleased as we went past the Priory on Webber Street to be able to tell the mayor something about Bert Hardy who had recently got a blue plaque there. I’d only met Hardy a couple of times, but one of my friends had worked at Grove Hardy as a printer.

The procession ended with a play in the yard beside St George the Martyr, but I left before it finished. Earlier I’d agreed to meet a couple of photographer friends at the start of the procession, but I think they had got lost on the way there, but I’d now arranged to find them on London Bridge. There seemed to be little going on at the George Inn on Borough High St, but at the King’s Head we walked into the bar and were seated by the window when St George walked in with a few mates. It obviously wasn’t the first pub they had visited. After he had got a pint I went and asked if I could take a few pictures, and he began posing, though moving rather too much in the low light.

After I had taken his picture a rather friendly dragon came up to the bar, followed by a second St George, and I photographed the two St Georges together. And as we left the bar, there in the street was the second of them with his dragon friend – and I took a few more frames.

More on most of these events and the other two protests I photographed that day:
St George in Southwark Procession
Peace Garden at War Museum
St Georges Day in London
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Tiffany
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Selfridges


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BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds. Six years ago today, on Sunday 6th March 2016, thousand of Kurds marched from the BBC to Trafalgar Square calling for an end to the silence from Turkey’s NATO allies and the western press over Turkey’s increasing war against Kurds since the political successes of the Kurdih political party and the formation of the popular progressive democracy of Rojava in Northern Syria.

Marchers sat down briefly at Piccadilly Circus

On My London Diary I posted a list of over 30 UK groups supporting in the protest including the National Union of Teachers, the PCS and RMT as well as other trade unionists and branches, the Stop The War Coalition, the Green Party, Unite Against Fascism, many left wing parties and political groups and of course Kurdish organisations.

The repression and marginalisation of Kurds by Turkey is as old as the Turkish state, formed in 1923. For many years the state even denied their existence, describing them as “mountain Turks”, and it outlawed their language and clamped down on their cultural events such their Nowruz New Year Festival and on the wearing of their traditional dress and Kurdish names. Even the words Kurds and Kurdistan were banned.

The crowd stretched some way past Broadcasting House

The 1990s and early 2000s saw some relaxation of the repression of their language and community celebrations, but it remains illegal to teach in Kurdish and there is still limited freedom of expression. In 1978 Kurds formed the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK, which launched a military freedom fight against Turkey in 1984. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in Nairobi in 1999 by Turkish agents assisted by the CIA and flown back for trial in Turkey. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penality and since then has been held in a Turkish high-security island prison.

Öcalan had argued for a political solution to the conflict since 1993 and even in prison remains the leader of the PKK. Subjected to long spells on isolation there have been periods where he has been allowed visits and has been in negotiations with the Turkish government. He has also written about the democratic confederalism which is at the heart of the constitution of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, widely known as Rojava, founded in 2012.

Rojava’s decentralised democratic form of government recognises and includes the various communities in the area – Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians and others as well as promoting the equality of women.

The main ground forces which have been effective against Daesh (ISIS) in the region are from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, men in the YPG and women in the YPJ, who with the help of US air support defeated the Islamic State in Northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG and YPJ as being a part of the PKK, regarded by them and many countries as a terrorist group and widely banned. Since 2016 it has used its overwhelming military power (supported by NATO and Russia) to try to crush the Kurds and to capture Rojava, occupying large areas. Together with Syrian allies (including some former ISIS fighters) they are carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, and have been engaged in a wide range of war crimes.

Peter Tatchell

As well as calling for an end to attacks by Turkey and for full and un-biased reporting of Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds the marchers want the UK to end its support for the Turkish aggression and also to repeal the ban on the PKK under the Terrorism Act 2000. It is banned in most other western countries including the EU, where several court verdicts have found its proscription to be illegal but it has remained.

The march sat down for a few minutes stopping traffic at Piccadilly Circus, then went on the a rally in Trafalgar Square, where I left them. There were no reports of the march on the BBC or in other UK mass-media, though I think it was covered by some foreign news services and our minuscule left-wing press.

More at Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds.


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Catalonia & Levitation

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

I began work on Saturday October 21st 2017 with a large group of Catalans at Piccadilly Circus, demanding immediate release of the political prisoners Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, and end to the repression and the start of dialogue to accept the electoral mandate of the Catalan Referendum.

After several speeches they set of to march to Trafalgar Square for photographs and then on to Downing St where they called on the UK Government to condemn the violence towards civilians during the referendum vote in Catalonia and to support a democratic solution.

In June 2021 the nine separatist leaders who had been jailed for sedition in 2017 were released, and talks finally restarted in September, with the Catalan government demanding an amnesty for the many pro-independence politicians still facing legal action over their part in the 2017 independence referendum and for the Spanish government to acknowledge their right to hold a referendum on self-determination, both demands still resisted by the government.

March in Solidarity with Catalonia


I left the Catalans at Parliament Square, where it wasn’t clear if their protest was ended but I was on my way to meet Class War’s Levitation Brigade of Ian Bone and shaman Jimmy Kunt (aka Adam Clifford) who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Yippee levitation of the Pentagon during anti-Vietnam War protests with a similar action at Kensington Town Hall.

Standing on the steps of the entrance to the town hall of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the council responsible for the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower, Adam called out the demons of councillors including Nicholas Paget-Brown, Rock Feilding-Mellen & Elizabeth Campbell and attempted to levitate the town hall to a height of over 70 metres. “Out, demons, out! Out, demons, out!

A security officer told them that they couldn’t do that here, but they told her it wasn’t possible to stop a levitation or exorcism and the ceremony went ahead.

Afterwards Ian Bone repeated a well-known quote from 1967 “You mean you didn’t see it, man?”

Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall

Flushed with success the Levitation Brigade decided to cross Kensington High St and repeat the exorcism and levitation at the offices of the Daily Mail, standing on the pavement outside between the offices and a highly polished Rolls-Royce.

Security staff there reacted angrily to Class War calling out the demon of Paul Dacre and their attempt to raise the building by over 70 metres, perhaps fearing it might damage the Rolls-Royce parked outside, but the levitation ceremony went ahead despite considerable interference.

Class War levitate the Daily Mail

Security here reacted rather more aggresively, coming to push the crew away and telling me I could not take photographs. I was standing on the pavement and told them I had every legal right to photograph whatever I chose, but had to move back rahter smartly to avoid getting fingerprints on my lens.

Class War of course found the over-reaction by the Daily Mail extremely amusing and continued to bait the security for some minutes after the levitation before leaving as you can see on My London Diary.

Class War levitate the Daily Mail
Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall


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Dovehouse Green, Chelsea Square & Upper Cheyne Row 1988

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

Millars Obelisk, Dovehouse Green, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5i-54-positive_2400
Millars Obelisk, Dovehouse Green, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-54

Dovehouse Green was the name given to the King’s Road Burial Ground on the corner of Dovehouse St and King’s Road when it was improved by the Chelsea Society and Kensington & Chelsea council to celebrate the the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the Golden Jubilee of the society in 1977. The area was given to the parish by Sir Hans Sloane in 1727 and opened as a burial ground in 1736. Chelsea soon outgrew this small area and a new burial ground was opened on the east side of Sydney St in 1812 and there were no more interments here other than in existing family tombs.

The Millar Obelisk which became the centrepiece of this small public park was erected in the old burial ground in 1751, by the wealthy leading bookseller and publisher Andrew Millar to mark the family burial place. Buried close to it were three of his children who died before it was erected and Millar himself who died in 1768 and his wife who outlived him by 20 years. You can read more at Millar’s obelisk, a post by Baldwin Hamey on London Details.

The park has been refurbished a couple of times since I made this picture, but its basic layout remains. On the other side of Dovehouse St is Chelsea Fire Station with its tower. If Crossrail 2 is ever built this may be the site of a station on it. Dovehouse street got its name around 1880, having previously been called Arthur St; I think the name was probably ‘borrowed’ from an early Dovehouse Close some distance away on the other side of King’s Rd. Just to the north of the burial ground was the workhouse for St Luke’s Parish, Chelsea, demolished in the 1970s.

Chelsea Square, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5i-42-positive_2400
Chelsea Square, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-42

Chelsea Square is a couple of hundred metres to the northwest of Dovehouse Green, though a little further to walk. It was developed as Trafalgar Square in 1810, five years after the battle, with houses around a garden designed to encourage wealthier people to move to Chelsea, then something of a slum. The area came to the Cadogan estate when the lease ran out in 1928 and they redeveloped the area replacing the existing houses from 1931 and building on around a quarter of the garden. New houses were according to the Victoria County History, “designed in early Georgian style by Darcy Braddell and Humphrey Deane, and built of pinkish stock brick, with bright red brick dressings and green-glazed tiles.” and “neo-Regency villas in white stucco… designed by Oliver Hill and built in 1930 and 1934.”

Chelsea Square, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5i-55-positive_2400
Chelsea Square, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-55

Presumably to avoid confusion with the rather better known Trafalgar Square in Westminster it was renamed Chelsea Square in 1938. Many other duplicated London street names were also replace at the time.

Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5i-61-positive_2400
Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-61

Designed by Edward Goodie, this Grade II listed Roman Catholic church opened in 1895. It gained the dedication to St Thomas More after he was made a saint in 1935. Damaged by bombing in 1940, it was repaired after the war. Much internal work was carried out in the 1970s.

The Studio,  Upper Cheyne Row, Lawrence St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5i-62-positive_2400
The Studios, Upper Cheyne Row, Lawrence St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-62

Upper Cheyne Row is sometimes referred to as Millionaires’ Row, though that would now apply to most London streets. One house here was recently on the market for £22m. The sign ‘The Studios’ on No 27 has now gone.

Chelsea Pottery, plaque, Lawrence St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-63-positive_2400
Chelsea Pottery, plaque, Lawrence St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5i-63

The LCC square blue plaque which can just be seen on 16 Lawrence St has the message ‘CHELSEA CHINA WAS MANUFACTURED IN A HOUSE AT THE NORTH END OF LAWRENCE STREET 1745-1784
TOBIAS SMOLLETT NOVELIST ALSO LIVE IN PART OF THE HOUSE 1750 TO 1762′. You can read more about Lawrence St from the article on ‘A London inheritance’ Lawrence Street And Chelsea China.


Click on any of the images above to go to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse other images in the album.


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Deaths in Eritrea & the UK and a Peace March 2017

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Most embassies are in the most expensive parts of London, with a large number around Belgrave Square and others in Mayfair. Eritrea’s is in Islington and I can only recall once having been to a protest outside it. There should be more, particularly by jounalists, as Eritrea, a one-party state ruled by presient Isais Afwerki since independence in 1993, has one of the worst human rights records and, according to Reporters Without Borders, has the worst press freedom in the world. In 2001 all independent media in the country were banned and politicians and ten leading journalists were arrested and thrown into isolation without charge, without trial and without contact with the outside world. Nobody knows their whereabouts and only four were thought to be still alive in 2017.

Those still alive are still in jail and have now been held for 20 years, along with other journalists imprisoned since then. Very little is known about most of them with no official information being released, other than government denials that some have been tortured, which are widely disbelieved. They are held in jails where torture is commonplace. In December 2020, 28 Jehohova’s witnesses, some of whom had been in jail for 26 years were released, raising hopes of the families of journalists, but there have been no further releases.

On Thursday 21st September 2017 there were 12 chairs set out at the protest across the street from the Eritrean Embassy, one four each of the journalists jailed in 2001, with photographs of them all. Protesters sat on four of the chairs, representing those thought still to be alive.

I went to another protest about deaths in prisons, this time in the UK. It was called at short notice after a Chinese man in Dungavel immigration detention centre. This followed the death earlier this month at Harmondsworth detention centre of a Polish man who took his own life after the Home Office refused to release him despite the courts having granted him bail. There have been thirty-one deaths in immigration removal centres since 1989.

Britain is the only EU country which holds refugees and asylum seekers to indefinite detention, and both official reports and media investigations have criticised the conditions at these immigration prisons. The protest outside the Home Office called for an end to immigration detention, which is inhumane and makes it difficult or impossible for asylum cases to be fairly assessed.

Stop Killing Londoners blocked traffic briefly in a carefully planned operation in Trafalgar Square, which involved the simultaneous stopping of traffic at all five entrances to the road system. As in previous events, it was a token block, holding up traffic for less time than it gets halted by congestion on some busy days, and around ten minutes after it began they moved off the road, returning a few minutes later for a short ‘disco protest’, dancing on the road on the east side of the square for a few minutes until police asked them to move.

The protest was to publicise the illegal levels of air pollution in the capital which result in 9,500 premature deaths and much suffering from respiratory disease. It was one of a series of similar protests in various areas of London.

I hurried down from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Bridge, going across it just in time to meet the World Peace Day Walk as several hundred campaigners walk arrived having walked beside the Thames from Borough Market carrying white flowers. The London Peace Walk was one of a number takeing place in Barcelona, Paris and other cities around the world on World Peace Day.

The marchers wore black and walked in silence to grieve for the recent loss of precious life due to violence in all forms, including terrorist, state, corporate, domestic. They stated that there can be no peace without justice, equality and dignity for all and that “We stand together against the forces of hate and division – for peace.” At the end of their march they went onto Westminster Bridge and threw flowers and petals into the Thames.

More at:
World Peace Day Walk
Trafalgar Square blocked over pollution
No More Deaths in immigration detention
Free forgotten jailed Eritrean Journalists


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Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

London 14 May 2016

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Class War at UVW protest against Topshop sacking and suspensions of cleaners

May 14 has always been a special day for me, and five years ago I celebrated my birthday on the streets of London photographing various protests around town before going home to a more private event. The day’s work ended for me on Oxford St, where the United Voices of the World union were protesting against Philip Green’s Topshop after members who work as cleaners were suspended and one sacked for their union activities – demanding the London Living Wage. The protest was supported by other groups including Class War, cleaners from the CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Although Philip Green makes millions, the cleaners were on the national minimum of £6.70 per hour, nothing like a enough to live on in London.

Police were out in force to prevent the protesters entering the Topshop store and there was a noisy protest on the pavement for some time facing the line of police before Class War led the protesters into the centre of the road to block Oxford St.

Police tried to clear the road, and began threatening arrests and the protesters decided to march west down Oxford St, briefly blocking Oxford Circus

before stopping to protest outside John Lewis, where the UVW have been campaigning for several years to get the cleaners recognised as a part of the workforce with similar respect and conditions of service to other John Lewis staff.

There were heated arguments as police manhandled some of the protesters there, but things calmed down a little and the campaigners moved on for a final protest outside the Marble Arch Topshop.

Things seemed to be coming to an end and I was late for dinner so I hurried away.

My day’s work had begun in Holloway, where Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network were holding a rally and march to HMP Holloway, demanding that when the prison closed the site be used for much-needed social housing and community facilities, rather than for expensive private flats. Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn rode up on his bike to speak at the rally.

I moved on from the rally at the end of the march outside Holloway Prison to Oxford St, where the Revolutionary Communist Group and friends were reminding shoppers of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The rolling picket urged shoppers to boycott stores which support and fund Israel, including Marks and Spencer, and stopped for brief speeches in front of some of them for short speeches.

A small group of militant Zionists had come along to wave Israeli flags and shout insults at them. The protesters (who included several Jews and some Palestinians) made clear that this was not an anti-Semitic protest but against some actions of the Israeli government and it took place the day before Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering when roughly 80% of the Palestinian population were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. This year the attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem have largely been precipitated by the continuing attempts by Jewish settlers to displace the Palestinian population of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Founded in 1865, the area became home to Jerusalem’s Muslim elite, but in 1948 became home to Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem.

Vegans had come to Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets and wearing masks to show the film ‘Earthlings’ which includes scenes of horrific cruelty to animals and calling for an end to the farming and eating of animals. Some also pointed out the contribution that becoming vegan could make towards solving the climate crisis as Vegan dietts use less water, land and grain and produce less CO2.

Also on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square were a small group of protesters standing in front of the National Gallery who held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

More about all these protests on My London Diary:

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Reclaim Holloway

May Day #KillTheBill

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

May Day 2000

Unfortunately May Day is not a public holiday in the UK, and when I was in full time teaching it was usually just a normal working day for me and I was unable to celebrate it except in those years where it fell at a weekend. Even when I cut my teaching to 30% for a few years, that 30% seemed always to include May Day, and it was only from 2003 that I began to attend May Day in London every year – until 2020, when it went online.

This year, when May Day is on a Saturday, the official May Day celebrations are also taking place online, but May 1st is now a nationwide day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 with which the government is attempting to severely limit the right to protest and in particular to criminalise “noisy” protests and prosecute people in the Gypsy and Roma communities. Noisy protests shaming businesses have been vital in recent years in gaining better wages and conditions for low paid workers particularly in the City of London.

The Bill will give the police much greater powers to place conditions on protest – and to make it a crime to break these conditions if they “ought to have known” they were in place but didn’t. They introduce a new offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which can lead to a sentence of up to ten years.

Police also gain greater powers to stop and search on the streets under a new Serious Violence Reduction Order, an arbitrary power that removes even the need for any suspicion and will doubtless lead to an even more racist implementation of stop and search, worse than the old ‘Sus’ law that led to the Brixton riots 40 years ago.

As a knee-jerk reaction to Black Lives Matter protests there is a new offence of causing damage to statues and memorials which could also lead to sentences of ten years, twice the maximum sentence for assault causing actual bodily harm.

The bill also seeks to create a wide “controlled area” around parliament where protests would not be allowed – and so MPs and ministers would no longer be made aware of any public opposition to their actions. Many see the bill as denying our right to freedom of assembly and association under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

A long list of organisations are coming to Trafalgar Square at noon today for a MayDay #KillTheBill protest (and to similar protests in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.) They include Sisters Uncut, Women’s Strike Assembly, Black Lives Matter UK, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Docs not Cops. With the current large Tory majority in the House of Commons the bill is likely to pass with only minor amendments, and the fight will move to the streets where with strong opposition much of the new law will be unenforceable.

Seconds later an officer knocked this man offering plants flying

Pictures are from 21 years ago, May Day 2000. There are some black and white pictures from the same day on My London Diary.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


St George

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

The details of the life and death of St George (as you can read in Wikipedia) are recorded in accounts dating back to around 1600 years ago, though details vary and the Pope in 494 CE who officially made him a saint called him one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.

According to the early texts, George was born in Cappadocia, now a part of Turkey, where his father came from, but his mother was a Palestinian Christian. Cappadocians were generally historically regarded as Syrians, though St George’s family are usually said to be of Greek descent. St George became, like his father, a Roman soldier, becoming a member of the elite Praetorian Guard, and was beheaded in the eastern capital of the Roman Empire on 23 April 303CE, 1718 years ago, during Emperor Diocletian’s purge of Christians who refused to recant the faith.

His behaviour and suffering apparently convinced one prominent Roman woman, Empress Alexandra of Rome, possibly the Emperor’s wife – to become a Christian – and to share his fate. The purge failed to have its intended result, and around 21 years after George’s execution, Christianity became the preferred religion in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine.

George’s body was buried in Lydda in Palestine and Christians there soon became to regard him as a martyr. Some legends say that his martyrdom resulted in the conversion of not just the Emperors’s wife but 40,900 other pagans.

The dragon came along considerably later, only appearing in legends around 700 years after his death, apparently terrorising the city of Silene in Libya, which there is no evidence that St George ever visited. The dragon in my picture above, from a St George’s Day procession in Southwark, seems to have come from Chinatown. But dragons can fly.

The traditional patron saint of England was the last king of Wessex, Edward the Confessor who died in 1066, and it was only in 1552 that as a part of the English Reformation that St George officially became the only saint recognised in England, although along with various other countries English armies adopted him during the crusades and in our battles with the French in the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453. Surprisingly we didn’t drop St George although we lost rather badly.

St George’s Day remains an official feast celebrated by the Church of England, usually, though not always, on April 23, as Easter sometimes interferes. Rather more is made of it by some other countries and churches.

The St George’s cross, widely used by football supporters and right-wing extremists in England, comes from the 10th century in the city of Genoa in Italy, becoming used in England in 1348 when Edward III founded the Order of the Garter and made St George its patron saint. It has never been officially adopted as the national flag, though now widely used as such. It is of course a component of many other flags, including the UK’s national flag.

Over the years I’ve photographed many different celebrations of St George’s Day in and around London, and the pictures come from a few of these in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

2005 St George’s Day
2009 St George & the Dragon
2009 England Supporters,Trafalgar Square
2009 The George Inn, Southwark
2009 The Lions part: St George & the Dragon
2009 St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square
2011 St George’s Day in London
2016 St George in Southwark Procession
2916 St Georges Day in London


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.