Posts Tagged ‘UK Uncut’

UK Uncut Great British Street Party – 2012

Sunday, May 26th, 2024

UK Uncut Great British Street Party: Waterloo, Barnes & Putney

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

In 2012 public services were being destroyed by cuts made by the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats having gone into the coalition government with the Tories after the indecisive 2010 election. UK Uncut decided to hold street parties in protest on 26th May 2012 and to call for a better and different future..

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

In the 2010 election the Tories had won 306 seats and Labour 258, but with 57 seats the Liberal Democrats could have formed a coalition with either party to form a government. Although a coalition with Labour would only have included 315 MPs, less than half the total of 650, the differing positions of the 28 MPs outside of the main parties would have made this a working majority.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

Perhaps because they lied to him more effectively, Nick Clegg chose to form a coalition with the Tories. Probably the most important thing he hoped to gain from this was electoral reform – and the United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum resulted in a resounding defeat for the alternative vote system – a modified form of ‘First Past The Post’. What Clegg didn’t get was what he wanted, a referendum on proportional representation.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

With an general election coming up on July 4th again under FPTP we can again see the urgent need for electoral reform. With FPTP we are more than likely simply to see Tweedledee replaced by Tweedledum rather than the more vital changes we need to deal with the urgent changes we need, particularly to deal effectively with the climate challenge, but also to move towards a more equal and united society.

UK Uncut Great British Street Party

But for now at least we are stuck with FPTP. Possibly the rise of the Reform Party will present a real challenge to our current two party monopoly, and though I’m very much not a supporter of their policies this fragmentation would certainly improve matters. Just a shame that no similarly positive split on fundamental issues has occurred within the Labour Party which has managed to successfully marginalise its right wing – or expel them – without a similarly important alternative party emerging. Perhaps because of a much deeper loyalty on the left to the Labour movement.

Wherever we live I think the best response to the continuing use of FPTP is to vote anti-Tory – that is for the candidate with the greatest chance of defeating the Tory candidate rather than for any particular party. The best result I think we can hope for in July is one that requires a coalition of several parties to govern. Politics would then have to move into an area of cooperation and consultation rather than the adversarial nonsense which now dominates our politics.

Clegg sold the country down the river for false gold, and joined the Tories in implementing a vicious series of cuts to public benefits from central government in almost every aspect of our lives.

UK Uncut stated:

"The government is slashing our public services and making the most marginalised people in our society pay for an economic crisis they did nothing to cause. It doesn’t have to be this way. In 1948 the UK’s national debt was far larger than it is today, but instead of cutting services and hitting the poorest hardest the NHS and the Welfare State were born.

So forget the Queen’s Jubilee and join the only London street party worth going to this summer – UK Uncut’s Great London Street Party. Let’s celebrate the services that are being destroyed, take the fight to the streets and party for our future, a different future, a better future, that we can build together."

The London event was one of several street parties organised in towns and cities across the UK. In London 4 blocks, one highlighting the welfare cuts, another the NHS, a third the disproportionate effects the cuts were having on women and the last mourning the effects they are having on democracy itself, met and finally entrained at Waterloo Station, travelling either to Putney or Barnes.

The destination was kept secret, and after we left the trains we followed bloc leaders with coloured umbrellas, only finding when we were almost there that the party was to take place in the short Putney street where Nick Clegg has his London home. They were on holiday elsewhere.

Police tried to stop the protesters at various points, including on the final street, but eventually had to let the party go ahead. People taking part seemed to be careful not to cause any damage, though some were pushed into hedges by police. But the protesters kept up the party atmosphere despite considerable provocation.

Later I heard that when the party ended at 6pm and people were making their way peacefully to Putney station they were attacked by a group of police, who were perhaps frustrated by not being allowed to attack the party earlier in the day when the press was present in large numbers reporting on the event.

You can read more about the party and see many more pictures on My London Diary at UK Uncut Great British Street Party

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Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria – 2012

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria: On Saturday 28th January 2012 I photographed two major protests in London, with disabled protesters calling for the dropping of the Welfare Reform Bill and later several groups of protesters outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square arguing for various reasons against US or Western Intervention in Iran or Syria.

Disabled Welfare Reform Road Block – Oxford Circus

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, protested at Oxford Circus, chaining wheelchairs together & calling for the dropping of Welfare Reform Bill, urging savings cutting tax evasion by the rich rather than penalising the poor and disabled.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

I met with some of the protesters outside Holborn Station and others who had arrived by taxi at Great Portland Street. I’m not sure why they had chosen these two meeting points as they are both – like most Central London stations – without step-free access. London Underground has been painfully slow in providing disabled access.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

I went with them from Great Portland Street to Oxford Circus where they met up with others who had just begun to block the road, going in a line across the end of Regent Street when the lights changed to allow pedestrians to cross and passing a chain through their wheelchairs which they locked to posts on each side.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

Others walked on the road with placards and banners to support them, but there were enough police in the area to enable them to stop the protesters blocking Oxford Street.

Selma James speaking

Among groups supporting DPAC’s protest were UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners and the women’s groups from the Crossroads Centre in north London who had brought their public address system.

Shortly after the street band Rhythms of Resistance turned up and added their sounds to the protest.

Police had quickly managed to divert traffic on streets to get around the protest and were having discussions about how to handle the protest. A FIT team had arrived to photograph everyone (press included) and TSG officers were standing nearby with bolt cutters. But arresting people in wheelchairs is difficult as police need to supply suitable safe transport.

Eventually the officer in charge read out a statement telling the protesters their presence on the road is breaking the law – as of course they knew. He and other officers then went to ask the protesters if they would move. They didn’t and some got out their own handcuffs to handcuff themselves to the chain.

Police kept smiling and talking to the protesters, waiting for them to leave rather than trying to move or arrest them. Eventually after about an hour and a half they did so, having decided they had made their point successfully and it was time to pack up. Probably too nature was beginning to call!

The protest attracted a great deal of coverage in the press for the campaign, while earlier efforts to get their arguments against the bill including earlier less active protests have received very little publicity.

More pictures at Disabled Welfare Reform Road Block.

No War Against Iran & Syria – US Embassy

Tony Benn started the speeches. Jeremy Corbyn waits to speak

I’d left a few minutes before the DPAC protest ended to walk to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square where Stop the War were holding a protest against sanctions and war on Iran and Syria.

When I arrived I found a very confusing situation with several groups of protesters and some noisy heckling with scuffles with the Stop the War stewards.

I think everyone there was against US or Western Intervention in Iran or Syria, but some noisy protests which came to a head while Abbas Eddalat of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran was speaking, from protesters representing the Free Iran ‘Green Movement’ who wanted to make a clear statement of their opposition to the current Iranian regime with its religious bigotry and persecution.

The stewards first tried to argue with them but soon became physical, pushing them roughly away from the protest. Supporters of the Iranian regime joined in along with supporters of Syrian President Asad.

Police seemed bewildered as they tried to sort out the various groups – and there were also some Kurds with a large Iraqi Kurdistan flag.

Eventually the Free Iran protesters were persuaded to hold their own separate protest a few yards away in front of the embassy, though some of them rejoined the Stop the War protest later. Another group, Hands Off the People of Iran were also present and handing out leaflets, against Stop the War which has favoured links with supporters of the regimes in both Syria and Iran.

Police briefly held one young man who was wearing the current Iraqi flag but then released him, with a police officer trying to prevent press taking pictures, saying “He has a right to privacy” – which clearly as I told the officer he has not under UK law when protesting on the public street.

Then there were ‘Anonymous’ in their ‘V for Vendetta’ masks protesting on the other side of the hedge around the gardens to the main protest, and later Stop the War stewards again sprung into action to stop the free expression of dissent when pro-Asad Syrians began their own protest.

Various speakers including Tony Benn, Lindsey German, John McDonnell and others made a clear case against any Western intervention at the main rally – and I give some of their arguments on My London Diary.

More at No War Against Iran & Syria.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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UK Uncut At Starbucks – 2012

Friday, December 8th, 2023

UK Uncut At Starbucks – On Saturday 8th December 2012 UK Uncut protested at over 45 Starbucks coffee shops across the UK against their failure to pay their proper share of tax.

They were also in protest against the government’s continuing refusal to close loopholes and cut down on tax avoidance and the harsh impact of government cuts on women.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

UK Uncut briefly transformed the branches of Starbucks into women’s refuges, crèches and homeless shelters, which elsewhere in many places are having to close because of the cuts which would not be necessary if companies like Starbucks paid tax properly on their UK earnings.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

I photographed the protests at three Starbucks branches, beginning in the West End at Conduit Street. Here a quarter of an hour before the protest was due to start there were already police, press and a few demonstrators outside.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

A Starbucks employee was standing by the door and refusing entry to those he thought likely to be protesters, but I was not stopped and joined the queue. There were others in front of me who I thought were probabably UK Uncut supporters as well as some already seated and drinking coffee.

The queue moved slowly towards the counter and by noon when the protest was about to start I was in danger of being served, but was saved from bad coffee as one of the protesters got up and started the protest.

She read a lengthy document about Starbucks’ failure to pay tax, and how the amounts that companies including them were avoiding paying were around five times the total of the cuts in services so far made by the coalition government. Then she announced that they were setting up a crèche inside this branch to compensate for all those and other family services that the government had closed.

Starbucks staff locked the door and the protest continued with more speeches and chanting calling for Starbucks to pay up. It was a family-friendly protest with some babies and young children in families taking part and there was only any argument when staff stopped a couple of the protesters from putting their banner up in the window.

Around ten minutes later a police officer arrived and wrongly accused the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers. They had behaved politely and there was clearly no intimidation, and they had not even been asked to leave by the store manager.

Despite this, the police told them this very well ordered protest was a disorderly protest and that they would be arrested unless they left, though he failed to say under what law.

Customers who were not protesting – though some had been interested by the protest and asking to know more about Starbucks failure to pay taxes, along with some of the protesters and some of the press, myself included, then left the store, walking through a large and noisy protest by those who had not managed to gain entry earlier.

The protest inside continued, and in the next five minutes or so that I was outside there appeared to be no arrests. But I decided then to take the short walk to the Vigo Street Starbucks to see what was happening there.

The Vigo Street protest had also begun at noon and although I was unable to go inside I was able to photograph the ‘Women’s refuge’ that had been set up through the large glass windows, as well as the large crowd protesting outside. A few minutes later, having been inside for over half an hour the protesters inside walk out to take part in the rally outside.

Here we were told some of the tricks that Starbucks uses to avoid tax. One is to use a Starbucks company in a tax haven to lend them money at 4% above the LIBOR rate to fund their UK operations. This excess interest reduces the profit of the UK company but transfers large amounts to them in the tax haven. They also buy their coffee beans at inflated prices from a subsidiary in Switzerland which reduces the tax they pay from 24% to 5%, and pay 6% of their sales as a royalty to their Dutch company which has a secret low rate tax deal with the government there.

Tricks like these used for corporate tax avoidance are caluclated to cost the UK £70 billion in lost tax revenue – far more than the £15 billion of benefit cuts.

Later in the day I went to the Euston Road branch of Starbucks where the Labour Representation Committee together with UK Uncut briefly occupied the store.

The LRC at the 2010 Labour conference had put forward a motion calling on the party to mount a campaign to highlight tax avoidance which had been passed overwhelmingly but so far the party had failed to take action. It now seems unlikely that should we get a Starmer government any real moves will be made in this area.

The LRC had called for the action to take place at 2pm, but when they had failed to show up fifteen minutes later the UK Uncut supporters went in and began to occupy. Some people from the LRC arrived shortly after but by then Starbucks staff had locked the doors and they were unable to enter.

Police arrived and came and talked politely with staff and protesters who agreed they would leave and continue the protest outside when they were requested to do so – which shortly after they did.

More had now turned up for the protest which continued for around half an hour outside the store.

More on My London Diary:
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks
Starbucks Euston Road – LRC

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in: 2011

Sunday, February 26th, 2023

Libyan Embassy Protests – Knightsbridge

On Saturday 26th February 2011 we were in the heady days of the Arab Spring, and two groups of protesters came to the Libyan Embassy to call for Gaddafi to go.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had tried to prevent the movement spreading to Libya, reducing food prices, purging the army leadership and releasing some political prisoners, but major protests had still begun across the country on February 17th. Gaddafi had not quite been the evil dictator that the Western press portrayed him as, but there had been extensive corruption and patronage and unemployment had reached around 30%.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had begun to use the army to hunt down the protesters and hundreds had been shot, shocking many of the countries leading politicians some of whom defected to the rebels who by the end of February were in control of many of the major cities including Benghazi, Misrata, al-Bayda, and Tobruk.

On the day I photographed these protests were taking place outside the London embassy the UN Security Council passed a resolution suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, implementing sanctions and calling for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the killing of unarmed civilians.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Around 200 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters had arrived first to protest and had occupied the pavement opposite the embassy, with a large orange banner ‘ ‘Arab-Muslim Rulers Are Traitors’. Many of the men waved large black flags with white Arabic calligraphy, but there were also placards in English, calling for an end of Western interference in Muslim countries.

There were a few women too, in a separate pen to once side, many of whom appeared to take little part in the protest, though some did join in the chanting of slogans. Hizb ut-Tahrir were calling for the replacement of Gadaffi by a Muslim caliphate, although there was apparently little support for this in Libya.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Coming later, a number of Libyan students and supporters wanted to make clear they were separate from this Islamic protest. They went into Hyde Park to protest from a low grassy bank above the other group. They were at pains to make clear that the last thing that they wanted would be Islamic rule, which, as several pointed out has created a similar tyranny in Iran to Gaddafi’s Libya.

Later NATO intervened, supplying air cover for the rebel forces and launching air strikes against Gaddafi’s army. He was forced to flee, recording a farewell message and returning to his home area. Taking refuge from an air strike on a construction site, sheltering inside a drainage pipe, he was taken prisoner and killed by militia.

After his death, while Western leaders were triumphant, many across the rest of the world mourned him as a hero (as the Wikipedia article makes clear.) The future for Libya looked brighter, with trade unions legalised, press freedom and elections. But things have not gone smoothly since, as the UK government’s advice indicates:

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all travel to Libya. This advice has been in place consistently since 2014. If you’re in Libya against this advice, you should seek to leave immediately by any practical means. …

The political situation in Libya remains fragile and the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Uncertainty about when postponed Libyan elections will take place is likely to heighten tensions throughout the country, which may lead to security incidents such as inter-militia clashes and oil blockades.

Libyan Embassy Protests

UK Uncut Lecture in TSB – Oxford St

From the Libyan Embassy close to Hyde Park Corner I made my way to Oxford Street to join around 70 UK Uncut protesters who were taking part in one of around 50 protests around the country against RBS/NatWest who had been bailed out in the banking crisis with £20 billion of public money – so we now owned 84% of it. But despite which it didn’t seem to be behaving in the public interest.

The Nat West branch in Regent Street where the protesters had intended to protest had shut down completely for the day, and after a short protest outside it, the protesters announced we would be moving fast to another location, and the mainly young protesters set off at a jog.

I managed to keep up with them – and was actually a few yards ahead when suddenly they turned and swarmed into a Lloyds TSB branch. I turned round and followed them in. There they began a series of lectures on the failures of the banking industry, tax avoidance and the alternative’s to the public sector cuts.

After around 25 minutes the police and branch manager came to ask the protesters to leave, warning them they would otherwise face arrest.After a short deliberation they went outside and continued the lectures on the pavement, and I left for other protests.

UK Uncut Lecture in TSB

Freedom For All Arab Nations! Trafalgar Square

The main event I wanted to be at next was in Trafalgar Square where around 200 people took part in an Arab unity demonstration.

This had been called at at short notice by British Libyans and friends demanding freedom for all Arab nations. Heritage Wardens forced them to move from the main square where protests need permission from London’s Mayor to the North Terrace, still officially a public highway although pedestrianised.

It was an animated protest, with a number of emotional speeches, mainly in Arabic and calling for Gadaffi to go, and there were plenty of placards, poster and banners for me to photograph.

More on My London Diary at Freedom For All Arab Nations!

I also photographed a couple of small protests taking place at the gates of Downing Street:

9/11 Truth Protest at Downing St
Hands Off Our NHS

Saturday 17th December 2011

Saturday, December 17th, 2022

Although I’ve been photographing protests in London for many years it was only after I left a full-time teaching job in 2000 that I was really able to photograph more than the occasional event, and only after I began to use a digital SLR camera at the end of 2002 that pictures from them appeared regularly in My London Diary. For a couple of years after that I was still using both film and digital, largely because I only had one Nikon lens and it was a few years before I got a real wide-angle for digital, but the on-line posts were almost entirely from the digital images.

Saturday 17th December 2011

But the huge growth in internet use as people organising protests more and more began to put details on their web sites, use e-mail and Facebook meant that with a few hours searching each week I was able to find more and more events to photograph. Before it had only been easy to find out about the protests organised by groups I was a member of and major national organisations. Some I found from fly-posted notices in parts of London, and others from a little intelligent guesswork based on events in the news, anniversaries and other significant dates. And back then and still now, if I’m in London I’ll take a look at places like Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Parliament Square and find things I had now prior knowledge of taking place.

Saturday 17th December 2011

By 2011 there was a great deal of information on-line and I think I took the train to London with a list of all the events I managed to cover that day, three by UK Uncut, Kurds and Congolese protesting at Downing
St, Iraqis, Syrians and supporters of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning at the US Embassy, and Egyptians at their Embassy. I sent pictures on each to Demotix (no longer with us) along with a story and later wrote a total of nine posts on My London Diary, possibly a record for any single day for me – peak protest!

Saturday 17th December 2011

With so many protests I’m not going to write much about any of them today – but you can click any of the links to read the roughly 2700 words I wrote about the nine events in 2011. All of the pictures in this post are from Saturday 17th December 2011.

UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett – HMRC, Parliament St

Saturday 17th December 2011

UK Uncut brought a Christmas present to Dave Hartnett, the UK’s top tax man, shortly to retire with a massive pension despite a huge series of blunders. And he had also let major companies off paying huge amounts of tax they owed – including £4.75 billion for Vodaphone and around £8 million for Goldman Sachs.

UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett

UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop – Oxford St

A group from UK Uncut protested briefly inside the Oxford Circus Topshop at the failure of Arcadia group to pay UK tax on its UK earnings, continuing their protest with others on the pavement outside until cleared away by police.

UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop

UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone – Oxford St

UK Uncut moved to Vodaphone to protest about their dodging of UK tax. Police kept them a few yards from the shop but otherwise did not interfere with the peaceful demonstration.

UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone

Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres – Downing St, Whitehall,

The Syrian Kurdish community protested at Downing St as massacres continue in Syria, calling for Britain to help to stop them. They want freedom for Syria and also for Kurds in Syria in a federation to replace the Assad regime.

Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres

Congolese Election Protests Continue – Downing St, Whitehall

Congolese continued their protests in London against the election fraud, rapes and massacres and called on the British government to withdraw its support from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities and voted out by the people.

Congolese Protests Continue

Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US Embassy – Grosvenor Square

Iraqis met to celebrate their defeat of the occupation on the day US troops left Iraq, and called for the mercenaries to go too, as well as for proper coverage of Iraq by the BBC. They were joined by Syrian supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, at the embassy to demand no US intervention in Syria.

Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US Embassy

Bradley Manning Birthday Demo – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Supporters of Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning) held a vigil at the US Embassy on Saturday afternoon, his 24th birthday, and on the second day of his pre-trail hearing, calling him an American Peace Hero.

Bradley Manning Birthday Demo

Egyptians Protest Against Attacks on Protesters – Egyptian Embassy, Mayfair

News of the deaths and injuries in Cairo as armed forces attacked protesters prompted Egyptians to protest at the London Embassy, calling for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to halt the attacks and hand over power.

Egyptians Protest At Embassy

Occupy, Women’s Equality and Bank of Ideas – 2011

Saturday, November 19th, 2022

I did some travelling around Central London on Saturday 19th November 2011, from the City to Westminster mainly to cover various aspects of Occupy London, but also to a march about women’s rights organised by the Fawcett Society.

Saturday Morning Occupy London – St Paul’s Cathedral, Saturday 19 November 2011

My work began at St Paul’s Cathedral, where five weeks earlier I had come with Occupy who were intending to Occupy the nearby Stock Exchange. Police had managed to deny them access to the ‘private’ public Paternoster Square in front of the Stock Exchange, and they had instead set up camp at St Paul’s, where they were still in occupation.

For various reasons, not least my age and health, I hadn’t felt able to take part in this occupation though I felt a great deal of sympathy with its aims, and living on the edge of London had not been able to commit myself to photographing it like some other photographers, but I had kept in touch and had called in a number of times at St Paul’s and to the related occupation at Finsbury Square, as well as meeting people from Occupy taking part in other protests.

There was nothing particular scheduled for my visit on this Saturday morning – it was rather more a social call and an opportunity to find out more about what would be happening later in the day. The occupation at St Paul’s continued until the end of February, and I was sorry to be on a hillside in the north of England when I got a phone call from Occupy LSX asking for me to come and take pictures of the anticipated eviction and unable to make it.

Saturday Morning Occupy London.

Don’t Turn The Clock Back – Embankment to Westminster, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

I walked from St Paul’s to Temple, where around a thousand people, mainly women, were preparing to march from Temple past Downing St to a rally next to the Treasury in King Charles St, calling to the government not to turn back time on women’s equality though the cuts they were making.

The Fawcett Society who had organised the march say the cuts will put the clock back on the advances which women have made towards equality since the 1950s, and called on those taking part in the protest to come in 1950s style, variously interpreted by those taking part from Paris fashions to carrying brushes or brooms, wooden spoons or other kitchen implements as symbols of what they felt was the only role our government can envisage for women, the “good little wife.”

When the march neared Downing Street the slogans changed to ‘Calm Down Dear!’ with the deafening response ‘No We Won’t‘, repeating David Cameron’s sexist and patronising put down directed at Labour MP Angela Eagle in the House of Commons.

There were criticisms of the press for their belittling labelling of some groups of women in public life – such as ‘Blair’s Babes’ – as well as the general predominance of semi-pornographic imagery and demeaning attitudes to women. But most of the criticism was aimed at the government for the cuts which will affect women disproportionally as many more women than men in the NHS and other public sector services will lose their jobs and women are more dependent on these services than men.

As well as the Fawcett Society, founded in 1866 to campaign peacefully for votes for women and still a powerful campaigning organisation for equal rights, many other organisations were represented on the march from across society and politics, including journalists, trade unionists, and campaigning organisations including Southall Black Sisters, UK Uncut and the Turkish and Kurdish Refugee Women’s group.

Don’t Turn The Clock Back

Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square – Sun Street & Finsbury Square, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

Occupy had set up The Bank of Ideas in a disused bank building, empty for several years, on Sun St and there I was able to listen to one of many talks taking place – an interesting and detailed presentation and question and answer session on the surveillance society.

I walked the short distance to Finsbury Square and made a few pictures of the tents in the Occupy camp there, but there were very few people around and little was happening.

I was told most of the residents had either gone to take part in events at the Bank of Ideas or at St Paul’s, where I then also made my way to.

Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square

Speakers At Occupy London – St Paul’s Cathedral, Saturday 19 Nov 2011

On the steps of St Paul’s I joined a crowd of a few hundred listening to speakers giving news from other occupations including those in New York and Bristol.

They were followed by a number of others who had come to give their support to Occupy, including among others Jeremy Corbyn, Vivienne Westwood and the now retired Methodist minister David Haslam who has been involved with many campaigns over the years.

Speakers At Occupy London

City of London Anti-Apartheid Group At Occupy London – Saturday 19 November 2011

Also visiting St Paul’s to give support were a group who had taken part in the Non-Stop Picket of South Africa House started by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group on 19 April 1986 who defied attempts by British police, the British government and the South African embassy to remove them for almost 4 years until Nelson Mandela was finally released in 1990. Over a thousand arrests were made – including of Jeremy Corbyn, but 96% of these were dismissed by the courts.

The picket gained widespread support around the world but were attacked and disowned by the official leadership of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, because of their support for revolutionary movements other than the ANC, and because the official movement wanted to avoid confrontation with the UK government. The group had been expelled from the AAM around a year before their long non-stop protest began, after carrying out a number of shorter protests. The group came and spoke about the protest and also sang – singing played an important part in keeping up their four year non-stop vigil outside South Africa House.

City of London Anti-Apartheid Group

One Law For the Rich

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

One Law For the Rich

On Saturday 5th October 2013 protesters marched from the Old Bailey to the Royal Courts of Justice in a protest against proposed cuts to Legal Aid. They accused Justice Secretary Chris Grayling of perverting the course of justice by these cuts and held a trial blocking the Strand outside the courts which found him guilty.

One Law For the Rich

Grayling’s cuts mean that justice has become largely only available to the very rich, with one law for the rich and another for the poor.

One Law For the Rich

Legal Aid enabled people without personal fortunes to fight unjust arrests, to challenge incorrect decisions by councils and much more. It was never a perfect system, but did at least provide some justice for those without huge incomes, which has now in many cases disappeared.

To claim legal aid you must pass two tests. The first is one of the ‘Interests of Justice‘, which largely restricts legal aid to those with charges against them which could result in their being sent to prison.

The second test is a means test. If you are on benefits such as income support you are likely to qualify, but if you or your partner have a joint income of over £21,000 you are unlikely to qualify. And if you are single the income limit is just over half that. These limits are considerably less than earnings of people in full-time employment on the current minimum wage.

The English legal system has developed through years of tradition and restrictive practices into a highly inefficient and expensive level with only the wealthiest able to afford many of the more highly qualified and experienced to argue their case. It has long been highly stacked against all those unable to afford the most expensive lawyers, though there have always been some distinguished figures ready to fight for some underdogs, at times without payment, as a matter of principle.

But there are still great areas where only the very wealthy can afford the law, and only the very rich are able to defend the case. Journalists may find themselves gagged, small businesses may be forced to desist because they do not have the resources to fight, even though they may have an excellent case. Our laws, largely enacted to protect the rights of the ruling class, have always favoured the interests of the wealthy.

The march gathered outside the Old Bailey, but it soon became clear that we were heading for the Royal Courts of Justice, though perhaps it was this slight subterfuge that enabled some protesters, headed by wheelchair users from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) to block the road in front of the Royal Courts of Justice shortly before the main march arrived to join them.

Police quickly arrived to try to persuade the protesters to clear the road, but they were not moving, and after a few minutes began a mock trial of Chris Grayling, present as a man in a mask of his face with a dock around his waist.

The evidence was presented and witnesses cross-examined by wigged protesters before the larger than usual jury of protesters was invited to give its verdict. Unanimously they found Grayling guilty and the time came for his sentence was pronounced. There seemed to be no agreement about a suitably severe punishment, with most of those suggested no longer being available under UK law. The prisoner was led away (though unfortunately only to the pub opposite rather than prison) and the protest continued noisily, still blocking the road.

Police had been harassing protesters throughout, trying to get them to clear the road, and threatening arrest, though I think most people just moved to another part of the protest to avoid this. They had managed to clear one carriageway, but were still blocking this with a police van. Eventually DPAC came to a decision that the protest had been successful and it was time to bring it to an end. They told the police they would stay for another five minutes, and at the end of this did so triumphantly.

More about the protest and many more pictures at UK Uncut Road Block for Legal Aid.

Music, Spoken Word and Protest

Saturday, August 20th, 2022

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Cosmo sings at the Jack The Ripper protest, 2015

Music, Spoken Word and Protest. A week or two ago I received a Facebook invitation suggesting I listen to a monthly radio show on Riverside Radio, the Colin Crilly Takeover, a monthly show with hosts Andy Bungay and Colin Crilly. In this edition they were to “be playing SONGS with a political/social angle, and discussing the issues raised.”

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Adam Clifford performs at Class War newspaper launch, White Cub, Bermondsey, 2017

Colin Crilly is someone I’ve often met and photographed on protests in London and who has on occasion asked me to be interviewed for the show, but I’ve never done so. Radio isn’t really an ideal medium for photography.

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Different Moods play at Poor Doors protest, 2014

Riverside Radio is a local station covering a wide area of southwast London, mainly the boroughs of Wandsworth, Richmond and Merton but available to everyone on the web. I didn’t log on to the live show live as it airs for two hours from 11pm on a Saturday night, a time when I’m usually exhausted and only ready to fall asleep. Or if I’ve had a particularly busy day covering events I might still be editing the work.

Julie Felix at CND protest, 2007

But a few days later, Colin sent me a link to a recording of the show on MixCloud and I began to listen to it. I’ve not managed to hear the whole two hours and I found MixCloud a frustrating experience as, perhaps because I haven’t subscribed, I couldn’t skip forward and when I took a rest it reverted to the start of the track. Since radio doesn’t come with pictures (except in the mind) I’ve added some of my own to this post.

Billy Bragg supports IWGB strikers 2018

It was good to hear a track by Anne Feeney, the late great US folk musician, singer-activist and lawyer who died in 2021. Her ‘Have You Been To Jail For Justice?’ and her lines “A rotten law stays on the books til folks like us defy it, The law’s supposed to serve us, and so are the police, And when the system fails, it’s up to us to speak our piece …” are very relevant now. It led to some interesting discussion by Colin and Andy, but perhaps it could have been related rather more to the approaches of groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain in the UK.

Sheffield Samba Band on march to Aldermaston, 2004

Next up was Paul Hardcastle’s ’19’, about the Vietnam War, but released in 1985, which apparently made a huge impression on a then-young Colin. It really was a ground-breaking release in several ways, but like the interview with John Lennon which followed – and preceded his ‘The Fool On the Hill’, did give the show seem rather an academic and historical approach to the subject.

Samba band, Carnival Against Capitalism, 1999

I didn’t get much further in listening – and I think these were the only songs in the first hour of the show, though I might have fallen asleep a bit – there was a lot of long discussion. George Michael on BBC Hard Talk in 2002 came into it. It’s perhaps a shame that there wasn’t a playlist on the MixCloud page.

Samba – UK Uncut, 2011

Among the hashtags there was #london and I didn’t think I’d heard much about London or protests there in the part of the show I heard. Nor did I get to hear the promised Wood Guthrie, whose songs I used to play and sing badly from a much dog-eared paperbook in my youth, though fortunately seldom in public.

But many of the protests I’ve attended over the years have included performances by singers as well as spoken word performers, and of course the sound of almost all marches in recent years has been the samba band. How or if the recent act designed to prevent effective protest alters this remains to be seen.

Cosmo at Poor Doors protest, 2014

I’ll just mention a few of those I’ve been impressed by – and have photographed in London. On his web site is this description of Cosmo, based in Wales as well as a number of music videos featuring him and his friends.

Cosmo is “a one-man folk-punk phenomenon.” (Miniature Music Press). Over the course of 14 albums and 30 years of touring, he has established himself as a formidable voice on the UK and international underground.

He has appeared at Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe and other major UK festivals, as well as touring across the UK, Europe, North and South America and the Middle East. In that time, he has shared stages with Billy Bragg, Frank Turner, Grace Petrie, John Cooper Clarke, Mark Thomas and more. Cosmo has won awards at the Edinburgh fringe and Hay fringe festivals.

An activist as well as a musician, Cosmo has also performed at countless picket lines, protest camps, rallies and demos, as well as being involved with community organising.

I’ve photographed Cosmo several times, particularly at protests with Class War and always been impressed by the lift he gives to protesters.

Grim Chip (left) outside the TUC, 2017

Quite a few rappers and poets have also performed at events I’ve photographed. Poetry on the Picket Line does exactly what the name suggest. Poets in the group, including hip Hamer, Janine Booth, Nadia Drews, Joe Solo, Tim Watts, Tim Kiely, Owen Collins, Repeat Beat Poet, Mark Coverdale, Lantern Carrier and Michael Breen, reading their work in the spirit of solidarity
on picket lines and at rallies.

Potent Whisper performs ‘Estate Of War’ at Class War’s Newspaper Launch at the White Cube 2017

Georgie, a London based rapper and spoken word artist performs as Potent Whisper. Dog Section Press published his ‘The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain‘ including the text of nine full-length pieces, I think all of which I’d heard him deliver at various demonstrations as well as in videos, including The Rhyming Guide to NHS Privatisation, Estate of War and Grenfell Britain. The book is worth getting if you can find a copy. An article by him in the New Internationalist includes a link to his ‘You’ll Never Edit Grenfell‘ and you can view more on his YouTube channel.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

Monday, May 30th, 2022

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers – Saturday May 30th 2015 was another varied day of events and protests across London.

Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail to apologise – Kensington.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I began the day travelling to High Street Kensington, just a short walk from the offices of the Daily Mail. It has the largest circulation of any UK newspaper but is also the UK’s least reliable source of information. Recently The Factual analysed 1,000 articles from each of 245 major news sources from around the world although mainly from the USA and including international news organisations such as Reuters and AP. The Mail came out with the third lowest score of any with a Factual Grade of 39.7% compared to the average of 61.9%. In a table listing all the results, even The Sun does a little better, as do the Daily Express and RT News, though all of these are way below average while The Guardian was above average along with the BBC, though neither among the top scorers.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

We don’t have a free press in this country, we have a press largely controlled by a small number of billionaires who, as these figures show, use it largely as a source of disinformation and the promotion of their prejudices – including homophobia, racism and misogyny. Articles are more generally written as click-bait rather than with any desire to inform or educate, and it was hardly surprising when in 2016 it was sanctioned by the International Press Standards Organisation for violating professional norms for accuracy and in 2017 Wikipedia editors decided it was a “generally unreliable” source.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I was there for the start of a long protest by Filipino health workers outside the Daily Mail over its reporting of the Victoriano Chua case which insulted Filipino NHS workers as a whole despite the vital contribution they make to the NHS. The demanded the Daily Mail apologise for its racist comments and to recognise the contribution that they make, keeping our NHS afloat. As someone who a dozen years earlier had been looked after in intensive care by a Filipino nurse I feel very grateful to them, though angry at the UK government for not training enough nurses and doctors – and in particular for removing the training bursary for nurses which has now made the situation much worse. But I did feel they were asking the leopard to change its spots.

Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise

Walking the Coal Line – Peckham

Rye Lane

I left the Filipinos as their protest was still building up and journeyed across London to Peckham Rye where we were invited to take a tour of the proposed Peckham Coal Line elevated linear urban park between Peckham Rye and Queens Road Peckham stations as a distant part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival events – something vaguely related to the annual flower show.

The Coal Line was frankly hugely over-hyped, particularly in comparing it to New York’s ‘High Line’, and the walk was largely close to but not on the actual proposed line. The former coal sidings on the viaduct which inspired the project are next to a working rail line and could only be seen looking down from neighbouring buildings.

As I commented: “The walk is essentially an urban linear park that would make a useful short cut for some local walkers and cyclists, and could also be a part of a longer leisure walk from Brixton to the Thames. I hope it comes into existence, as the cost would be relatively low and it would be a useful addition to the area.

But I still enjoyed an interesting walk, visiting both the Bussey Building in the former industrial estate Copeland Park south of the line and the multi-storey car park to the north which now houses a cafe, a local radio performance space and another rooftop bar next to the Derek Jarman memorial garden and has good views of Peckham and central London. And having followed the official route to Queens Road Peckham I walked back a different way vaguely along the Coal Line at ground level, finally travelling more closely along it in an Overground train that took me to Canada Water and the Jubilee Line to Waterloo.

Walking the Coal Line

UK Uncut Art Protest – Westminster Bridge

UK Uncut met outside Waterloo station for their mystery protest taking direct action at an undisclosed location. Police liaison officers tried to find out where they were going and what they intended to do, but nobody was talking to them. Finally they set off and marched the short distance to Westminster Bridge where they spread a large piece of cloth on the roadway and painted a banner telling Parliament that collecting dodged taxes would bring in more than cutting public services.

They lifted up the banner and then ‘dropped’ it over the side of the bridge. It was a long run to take a picture of it hanging from the bridge, and I’m not sure worth the effort. It would have been better to have lowered it on the downstream side so as to get the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Another group of protesters in Parliament Square were protesting against the plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act, and some of the UK Uncut people had joined them before the end of the ‘Art’ protest. In May 2022 the government announced it was getting rid of the act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ which will allow the police to “perform freer functions“, Leading charities concerned with human rights have condemned the changes as affecting “the ability of individuals to hold the government and public bodies to account by bringing cases when their human rights have been breached.” They state “The Human Rights Act has greatly benefited a vast number of people from across society, improving their health and wellbeing; ensuring their dignity, autonomy, privacy, and family life; and overall improving their quality of life.” Many see the changes as yet another move towards fascism and a police state.

UK Uncut Art Protest

Biafrans demand independence – Trafalgar Square.

Biafra came from the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation.

Biafra was incorporated into Southern Nigeria by the colonialists in the 1884 Berlin Conference and then became part of the united Nigeria in 1914. Biafrans declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, but lost the long and bloody civil war that followed, with many Biafran civilians dying of starvation.

Biafrans demand independence

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers – Trafalgar Square

After a large rally in Trafalgar Square, National Gallery staff striking against privatisation marched towards the Sainsbury Wing, holding a sit down and short rally outside after police blocked the doors to the gallery. The gallery doors were then locked.

Candy Udwin, a PCS rep at the National Gallery had been sacked for her trade union activities in connection with the plans to privatise gallery staff and the opposition to it by staff. Exhibitions in the Sainsbury wing have already been guarded by privatised staff, and the security there is also run by the private company. After 100 days of strike action the dispute was finally resolived in early October 2015 after the appointment of a new gallery director with terms and conditions of service protected and Udwin returning to work.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers