Posts Tagged ‘Trafalgar Square’

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


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.


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.


Deaths, Bedroom Tax & Feathers

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

After a day resting and recovering from our 3 day walk along the Thames Path in 2013 I was ready to go up to London again on Saturday 6th April.

Sikhs had come to London at Vaisahki for a protest against the “ongoing and, disturbing atrocities that are being committed in the Republic of India, that, infringe the basic human rights of the minority communities, which includes but is not limited to the Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Dalits (India’s untouchables).

In particular the Kesri Lehar (I Pledge Orange) campaign was protesting against the death penalty in India, with over 470 prisoners in Indian prisons on death row, though actual executions are rare. The House of Commons shortly before this protest had debated and agreed a backbench motion welcoming the Kesri Lehar petition and calling on India to abolish the death penalty.

One of those on death was Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced for his part in a suicide bomb attack which killed a former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh and 17 others in 1995. Sikhs say that Beant Singh was responsible for the extra-judicial killing of over 25,000 Sikh civilians in a brutal attempt to eliminate Sikhs calling for an independent state.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007 and was due to be hanged in 2012, but execution was stayed after some Sikh organisation appealed for clemency. But in 2013 there were renewed demands for his execution. This did not happen and in 2019 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Campaigners also called for the release of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who has been on death row in India for 18 years, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb in Delhi in 1993. They say there is no evidence to connect him with the attack. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in March 2014.

A rather smaller protest at Downing St had been organised by the Counihan-Sanchez Family Housing Campaign from Kilburn against the unfair Bedroom tax and benefit caps which are effecting so many people and called for the GLA to build more social housing. The family’s own problems with Brent Council have made them very aware of the huge problems faced by many others across London and elsewhere and how cuts and sanctions have had a cruel impact on so many.

Also at Downing St, members and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) were calling for the UK government to support an enquiry into Iraqi attacks on Camp Liberty in Baghdad where its members are held. They had been given refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein and gave up their arms when the US invaded Iraq in return for US protection. But the US hand over control of their camps to Iraq in 2009 and there have been a series of attacks on them by Iraqi security forces sympathetic to Iran, with over over 50 being killed, more than a thousand injured and many arrests.

Later in 2013 the United States organised a move of the roughly 3,000 members of the group to a new base in Albania, providing a $20 million donation to the UN refugee agency to resettle them. The USA has continued to support them as a government-in-exile for Iran and they are also apparently supported by them in covert operations continuing in Iran against the current Islamic regime. There are groups of the PMOI and supporting organisations in a number of European Countries and the UK as well as in the United States, though they are generally thought now to have little support in Iran.

It was good to leave what had been rather intense protests and go on to something in a much lighter mood in Trafalgar Square. I think the first International Pillow Fight Day was in March 2008, when I photographed it in Leicester Square. In 2013 the event, organised by the urban playground movement, was taking place in 90 cities across 30 countries.

The aim of the event is to get people away from “passive, non-social, branded consumption experiences like watching television” and to consciously reject “the blight on our cities caused by the endless creep of advertising into public space.” The organisers hope this will result in “a global community of participants, not consumers.

The authorities frown on it, possibly as a subversive activity but perhaps because it makes something of a mess, as pillows inevitably break and feathers fly, leaving the ground covered with them after the event. Or perhaps they are just killjoys. Royal Parks police had prevented a fight in Hyde Park earlier in the day but the Heritage Wardens were overwhelmed by the numbers who had come to Trafalgar Square and were unable to stop. A small group of Westminster Council workers were standing on one edge ready to clean up afterwards.

The feathers and dust do make these events something of a health hazard, and it would have made sense to wear a face mask – but back in 2013 these were only seen on Japanese tourists. Probably a once a year exposure to dust and feathers isn’t a huge risk, but this year they did rather get down my throat and I withdrew once the air was thick with them, deciding I’d taken enough pictures.

Feathers Fly in Trafalgar Square
PMOI Protest Iraqi killings
No to Bedroom Tax & Benefit Caps
Vaisakhi “Save a Live” Vigil

Just a year ago

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Just a year ago on Saturday 18th January I was going up to London as usual on a Saturday morning to photograph a number of protests. The day didn’t get off to a good start, as when I arrived at the location for the first event I was the only person there. I was a few minutes early, so I hung around, but when the actual time arrived and there was still only one person there (and even the organiser on Facebook hadn’t turned up) I gave up and left.

Before Facebook it was rather more difficult to share information about any protest, but now anyone can post an event. There is some indication of how much support any event has attracted, with Facebook showing the number of people who have clicked to show an interest or attend, but the numbers are incredibly unreliable. Interest means little or nothing, and often the great majority of those who perhaps thought on a Wednesday evening they might go change their minds if it means getting out of bed early on a wet Saturday morning. So its not unusual to find something doesn’t happen, though it is sometimes rather unpredictable.

Fortunately it was a fairly short walk to Downing St, where on the pavement opposite there was something for me to photograph. While a few of the global rich were meeting at the World Economic Forum on the exclusive Swiss mountain resort of Davos, The Equality Trust, who I’d not heard of, but get funding from the EU, together with nine other organisations were holding holding an event as part of what they described as “a mobilisation by thousands of people in more than 30 countries worldwide to demand a fairer, more equal and sustainable future.” And for once the 94 who had said they were going on FB wasn’t that far from the actual attendance.

And though it wasn’t the most exciting protest I’ve covered it was certainly hard to disagree with what they were calling for:

  • good quality education, accessible housing, decent jobs and healthcare for all
  • an end to poverty wages, cuts in public spending and the decimation of social rights
  • an end to hunger and homelessness in the world’s sixth-largest economy
    fair and progressive taxation and an end to tax breaks for the wealthy
  • a wellbeing economy that serves people and planet, instead of profiting from environmental destruction.

As often when I’m covering a protest at Downing St, there was another taking place that I hadn’t been aware of, with a small group of protesters against Brexit calling for the release a report that had been completed before the December election but was held up by Boris Johnson because it revealed important Russian interference in UK politics including large donations to the Conservative Party and pro-Brexit campaigns.

From Downing St I walked up to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where two events were taking place. Since the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16 2014 there have been regular vigils in memory of the 304 victims, including the 250 high school children who were drowned after being told to ‘stay put’ on a lower deck. These silent vigils, mainly by Koreans or those with Korean relatives took place monthly for several years but are now quarterly.

Also on the north Terrace, elaborate preparations were taking place by Anglo-Iranian Communities in the UK and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran’s National Council of Resistance of Iran for a rally in support of the anti-regime protests following the admission that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane. These protest in Iran have been suppressed with illegal force by the clerical regime. I was unable to wait for the start of the protest as I wanted to cover another event, and later abandoned my plans to return.

At Oxford Circus I joined protesters from Earth Strike, organised by the Revolutionary Socialist Group, who were handing out leaflets before their series of protests along Oxford Street outside banks and stores involved in the exploitation of the Global South and the destruction of the environment.

I went with them as they walked up and down Oxford St, stopping outside shops including HSBC, H&M, Microsoft, ee, McDonald’s and Zara for short speeches about the particular contributions these companies are making to climate change and how they exploit workers and resources in the South.

By the time it had got too late to be worth returning to Trafalgar Square and instead I went west to a protest close to the Russian Embassy in Kensington. Russia’s support has saved President Assad in Syria and they were protesting the war crimes of Assad and Putin against the people of Syria in Idlib province.

Russian support, particularly air support has enabled Assad to defeat and drive back the Syrian rebels who would otherwise probably have driven him from office and set up a more democratic government. Since mid-December Assad has waged a brutal and unprecedented military campaign with air raids that have targeted hospitals and markets and killed hundreds of civilians. Over 500,000 have fled from their homes but are unable to escape as the Turkish border is closed.

I talked with the protesters, many of whom I recognised from earlier Syrian protests. The situation in Syria is desperate and the Syrians, given hope in the early years by Western countries, have now been abandoned by the international community. One of the women had been saying her prayers at the protest, and unfortunately as I said to her there seems now to be little else we can do but pray and hope.

Against war crimes in Idlib
Earth Strike Oxford St rolling protest
‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Support for Anti-regime Protests in Iran
Release the Russia Report
Fight Inequality Global Protest


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.


More Santas

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

I think this may be my final post this year about Santacon, the “non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical Christmas parade” which I first photographed in London in 2006, though I think it had been taking place here for some years.

The first Santacon was in Copenhagen in 1974, begun by a street theatre group as a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas, when the Santas went into department stores and handed out presents from the shelves to customers – and were arrested.

A Santa on the plinth of Nelson’s column bats back brussel sprouts thrown by elves.

It became popular in the USA following a 1994 article about the Cophenhagen event which appeared in the magazine Mother Jones leading to a repeat performance in in San Francisco in 1995.

From there Santacon spread to other cities in the US and then to over 40 other countries as a fun day out wearing Santa costumes and roaming the city drinking on the street with friends. The largest Santacon, in New York, by 2012 had an estimated 30,000 people taking part, and it was condemned by most of the media, with the New York Times criticising it (quoted on Wikipedia) for “sexism, drunkenness, xenophobia, homophobia and enough incidents of public vomiting and urination to fill an infinite dunk tank” and saying it contributed nothing to the areas where it takes place. The organisers pointed out that in 2013 it raised $60,000 for New York charities and donated around 3 tons of canned food to a New York food bank.

Since then the city authorities in New York and also in London have clamped down on Santacon in various ways, and what was a largely autonomous and unplanned event has been forced to organise and toe various lines.

The London 2018 Santacon had raised over £15,000 for the charity Christmas for Kids. But there was no official event in London in 2019 bacause the organisers were unable to attract sufficient volunteers to organise the 2019 event and satisfy the requirements for them to police it. They issued a statement on their Facebook page dissociating themselves from those who they encouraged to organise their own celebrations to avoid possible prosecution.

Nothing official will be announced from Santacon London this year, if you see an event called Santacon it’s not us and remember Santacon is meant to be free (with the exception of charity donations) and never includes a Santa costume. Santa makes their own (or put their elves to work).

Santacon London FB page

Despite the lack of any official event, several thousand Santas still took part in 2019, most ending up – as in previous years – in Trafalgar Square, though I had other things to photograph. And although Covid restrictions will certainly mean there is no official event this year, I suspect quite a few Santas may have made their way to Trafalgar Square last Saturday.

More from 15 December 2012 on My London Diary: Santacon Comes to Town


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.