Posts Tagged ‘Unite Against Fascism’

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation – 2008

Friday, June 21st, 2024

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation: Saturday 21st June, 2006. A Love Music Hate Racism/Unite Against Fascism march, a visit to the replacement allotments for the Manor Gardening Society and a curiously legal protest against deporting refugees to Iraq.


Stop the Fascist BNP – LMHR/UAF – Tooley St – Trafalgar Square

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation

The Love Music Hate Racism/Unite Against Fascism “Stop the Fascist BNP” march turned out to be a little of a damp squib, although a fairly colourful one, as only 2-3,000 people turned up to march from Tooley Street in Bermondsey to Trafalgar Square.

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation

Perhaps Stop the War’s failure to capitalise on the mass following it gained with the largest ever demonstration in the UK in 2003 had discredited the idea of huge marches. Like Stop the War, Unite Against Fascism was seen by many as being largely a front for the Socialist Workers Party. The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight had disaffiliated from them in 2005, arguing for the need for new tactics and in particular to work in communities where the BNP were exploiting real problems rather than just opposing them on the streets and calling them fascists.

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation

A bigger march would have been better, but more importantly for the audience which Love Music Hate Racism was attempting to reach it needed to be much more of a free and fun event.

Stop the BNP, Olympic Allotments, End Deportation

The band who played at the start of the march were restricted to a single number, when they could well have played much more, and there was hardly any music on the march – I only saw one small marching band. Where were the great sound systems for people to dance behind?

And as I wrote, “I was frankly appalled by the attitudes of the stewards towards photographers, almost as if the event was trying to hide from publicity. I’ve had less hassle when photographing the BNP.”

More pictures at Stop the Fascist BNP – LMHR/UAF.


Manor Gardening Society – New Allotments – Marsh Lane, Leyton

The Manor Gardens Allotments fight to stay in place for the 2012 had failed. The gardens had presented the opportunity for the Olympics to show a real commitment to green ideas – and of course they had zero interest in really doing so. Green publicity stunts and lies yes, but Green actions and real content you had to be joking.

As I wrote “London in 1948 did really put the modern Olympics back on course, and it did so on vision and a shoestring – and even ended up making a profit. 2012 will be different in every respect. A commitment to corporate profit at high cost to the public purse appears to be the only vision on display, and a legacy of debt and environmental disaster seem to be the most likely outcomes.

All tenants were evicted in late 2007 and the allotments were moved onto some common land in Leyton at a cost of £1.8 million, but the job was done terribly badly. They even took soil from the allotment site, but heat-treated it, killing all the life in it. Healthy soil is full of life – and as well as killing weed the treatment has killed off the microorganisms it needs, as well as larger creatures such as worms.

The soil was dead – and would take years to recover. Over much of the site it had been heavily compacted by heavy machinery working on the road andhad almost zero drainage. Whole areas were waterlogged. The only healthy crops I saw were in grow-bags.

I commented: “Of course it doesn’t look like the old Manor Gardens – more like some kind of prison camp, but I was pleased to see again many of those from the old site, making a good job of getting things growing again. One thing that hadn’t changed was the community spirit and the welcome – and the splendid salad and other food.”

The New Lamas Lands Defence Committee had campaigned against the loss of common land, but were assured it was only temporary – but there is now a permanent site there. In 2016 some of the tenants of the Manor Gardening Society were allowed to return to a small site at Pudding Mill, on the Bridgewater Road in Stratford. Two thirds of this site is now under threat from a development proposed by the London Legacy Development Corporation along its southeast which will put it under permanent shade.

Manor Gardening Society – New Allotments


Tent City – Stop Deporting Iraqis – Parliament Square

Voices UK had organised a 24-hour ‘Tent City’ starting at noon on 21 June, Midsummer Day as a deliberately illegal demonstration in Parliament Square, at the centre of the SOCPA restricted zone.

Much to their surprise, 4 days before it began they received an e-mail from a police office with its subject “Tent City Demonstration” and the message “I would like to inform you that an application has been received for this demonstration and it will be duly authorised“.

They had not made an application and could only think that the police had themselves applied rather than have to police an intentionally illiegal protest. Although it was now legal under SOCPA, the protest was still in breach of Westminster City Council by-laws and a couple of their heritage wardens came out to give letters telling them so – apparently accompanied by the police officer who had sent the email.

Fighting is still taking place in Iraq involving various factions as well as the occupying US and UK forces. Many Iraqis will still be at risk of their lives if they are returned.

But for the Home Office – then under Labour Home Secretary John Reid, deportations are largely a matter of numbers, not of people. Things of course got even worse in later years under Theresa May, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Suella Braverman and James Cleverly, but I expect little change whoever wins our current election.

Tent City – Stop Deporting Iraqis


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EDL Rally Supports Israel – 2010

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

EDL Rally Supports Israel: In 2010 the English Defence League (EDL) an extreme right-wing organisation founded in June 2009 was reaching the peak of its existence and several hundred came to a protest in Kensington to show their support of Israel.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

The EDL’s support of Israel came from the anti-Muslim centre of their activities; the group was founded following their opposition to a protest at a homecoming parade in Luton by a small group of Muslim extremists against a regiment returning from Afghanistan, which was also opposed by Luton’s large Muslim community.

EDL Rally Supports Israel
Rabbi Nachum Shifren

The EDL had invited right-wing US Rabbi Nachum Shifren, part of the ‘Tea Party’ movement from California to speak at the rally outside the Israeli Embassy. As I wrote at the time, “Although the EDL claim to be opposing the rise of fascism in their opposition to Muslim extremists, they have come to a very biased view over Israel and Palestine, and have been very effectively infiltrated by bigoted Zionists.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

The EDL gathered at a pub on Gloucester Road before their march to the Embassy, filling the pavement outside. There were a number of press photographers on the opposite side of the street watching them but I decided to cross the road and talked with and photograph Rabbi Schriffin. None of the other photographers followed me.

EDL Rally Supports Israel

For some minutes before the start of the march I was able to talk with him and some of the EDL supporters and some were happy to be photographed, and even complimented me for my accurate reporting on earlier protests – while complaining bitterly about the media coverage they get. As I told them I always try to report objectively, while also making my own difference of opinion clear.

The press they got did reflect the behaviour of at least some of those at their protests, and if the EDL wanted to end the accusations of racism they needed to take more positive action against the kind of behaviour that makes them possible. But many of their members including leading figures had a long history of membership of right-wing racist groups, and it was clear that the claim they made “We do not support racism or intolerance of any kind” was simply window dressing.

The leaflet they handed out described themselves as “the knights of old, defending our great nation for the threat of Militant Islam” and said “All welcome no matter of colour, religion or sex” and there was at least some truth in that shown in the composition of those in the march, with certainly a number of women, some claiming to be gay but, search as I have, not a single black face in my pictures.

For once Unite Against Fascism failed to mobilise much effective opposition to this demonstration – and did not appear to have tried very hard to do so. On their web site I found the statement “UAF does not have a position on the question of Israel and Palestine – our members have many different views on this question. Instead, we unite around our common aim of opposing the rise of fascism.” And as I commented, “Perhaps on this occasion they felt that taking action might offend some of their Jewish supporters.”

Some of those Jewish supporters were there in the rather small crowd opposing the rally, and there was a more direct action by a young man in a black jacket and gloves who came and stood listening for a short while, who took out his water bottle, had a drink and then reached over and poured the rest of it over the amplifier before turning and running down the street.

The sound from the microphone cut immediately, and the people inside the pen burst into angry shouts. It took the police longer to react and by the time they were moving the man had escaped, probably disappearing into High Street Kensington to catch the tube. I’d also been taken by surprise and hadn’t managed to take his photograph. Or perhaps I’d been wondering whether I should…

Eventually the water was tipped out and the amplifier wiped dry and came back into some very crackly life. Police shut the stable door by moving everyone outside the pen away and that and the sound quality made it hard to hear much of Rabbi Shifren’s speech, some minutes of which were in Hebrew. But he made clear his opposition to Sharia Law and Muslim extremists and I think to any aspect of multiculturalism. And I think he also denied the Palestinians any right to exist in the land which had been given to Israel.

Roberta Moore of EDL’s Jewish Division

I went home rather than go on with the EDL to Speakers Corner, where they were apparently heavily heckled. Another photographer who was there told me “that a small group of EDL supporters had attacked a Muslim bookstall and the 11-year-old boy who was running it, and then turned on photographers for taking pictures of their actions.” His camera had been smashed into his face by an EDL supporter. Photographs on the web confirmed this story.

Kevin Carroll

On My London Diary I wrote at some length about my own views on the EDL and the event as well as putting far more pictures than usual online which you can view at EDL Rally to Support Israel.


EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown – 2013

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown: On Saturday 7th September 2013 after photographing the EDL attempting to march into Tower Hamlets and the people coming out to stop them I went on to the Excel Centre in Newham where East London Against Arms Fairs were holding a Musical Protest against next weeks DSEi arms fair. And on my way home I took more pictures.


EDL Try To March Into Tower Hamlets

EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown:
Whitechapel says ‘Take Your HATE Elsewhere’

I started the day in Bermondsey were around a thousand EDL supporters were gathering for a march across Tower Bridge to Aldgate High St.

EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown:

Police had laid down very strict conditions for the march, specifying the exact route and timings and more, which where specified on A4 sheets they handed out to protesters and were also broadcast every few minutes from a loudspeaker van where the marchers were gathering.

EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown:

There was a very strong police presence on the streets with police on all sides around the marchers and some mingling with them. The EDL were also on their best behaviour, with many posing for photographs. A couple who arrived in pig’s head masks were forced by police to remove them and hand them over.

EDL Stopped, Musicians at Arms Fair, Silvertown:

There was still a great deal of racism and hate in the comments that were being made and when the march got under way the majority took up the usual Islamophobic chants including “Allah, Allah, who the f**k is Allah“.

There were a small number of anti-fascist protesters in the area, and police tried to keep them well away from the march, although EDL stewards who led away one man with a bleeding face from the crowd alleged he had been hit by a bottle thrown from across the road.

As the march set off, police moved photographers well away, and police handlers with dogs walked in advance of the marchers. Later I was able to get a little closer.

After crossing Tower Bridge I saw red smoke in the distance coming from the ground in front of a row of police vans in Mansell St and rushed there to find a group of around 50 anti-fascist protesters, mainly dressed in black, with red and black flags and a few with Unite Against Fascism placards.

The EDL march stopped for a couple of minutes opposite them and the two sides shouted insults at each other with the police keeping them well apart before the march moved on to Aldgate High Street without further incident. I later heard that the anti-fascists here had been kettled for some hours before many of them were arrested.

I photographed Tommy Robinson addressing the rally, then made my way to where a counter-protest was being held by the community of Tower Hamlets, united in opposing the EDL. I had to go through several lines of police, showing my Press Card. A few officers refused to let me through, but I was able to walk along the line and make my way through.

As I commented, “It was a remarkable change in atmosphere from the feeling of hate and Islamophobia that filled the air with gestures and chanting from the EDL to the incredible unity and warmth of the several thousands largely from the local community who had come out to oppose them and make a statement based around love and shared experience of living in Tower Hamlets with people of different backgrounds and religion.”

There was clearly a determination in Whitechapel, as there was in the 1930s at the Battle of Cable Street which had taken place not far away of a community that had decided that ‘They shall not pass’. And although most had come to protest peacefully, had the police not kept the two sides well apart, the EDL would have been heavily outnumbered by local youths angry at their presence.

I’d left the EDL rally before Tommy Robinson was arrested for incitement, apparently for suggesting that people break some of the restrictions that police had imposed on the EDL march and rally. The police presence had prevented any large outbreaks of public disorder and although the EDL were up in arms over the arrest of their leader had protected them from a severe beating.

More on My London Diary at:
Tower Hamlets United Against the EDL
Anti-Fascists Oppose EDL
EDL March returns to Tower Hamlets


Musical Protest against Arms Fair – Excel Centre, Custom House

I didn’t stay long in Whitechapel but took the tube and bus to Custom House where on the walkway leading the the ExCel Centre East London Against Arms Fairs (ELAAF) were holding a Musical Protest against next weeks DSEi arms fair with a big band and singers and others handing out leaflets opposing the event.

THe DSEi arms fair, held every other year at the ExCel Centre in London Docklands attracts buyers from all over the world, including those from many countries with oppressive regimes. It’s a showcase for the weapons they need to continue to oppress their populations and to wage war on their neighbouring states and others.

There were more and larger protests in the following week against the arms fair.

More at Musical Protest against Arms Fair.


Silvertown

Although the DLR wasn’t running on the branch leading to Custom House, there were trains running on the branch through Silvertown and I walked to there across Victoria Dock on the high-level bridge, taking a few photographs.

The gates to the London Pleasure Gardens which had closed recently only a few weeks after its opening were locked but I was able to take pictures through the gates. I walked on to the elevated Pontoon Dock DLR station and made some panoramas from there before catching a train.

For once the DLR train had a very clean window and I took advantage of this to take some more pictures on the way to Canning Town where I changed to the Jubilee line.

More pictures: Silvertown


Chelmsford & Marikana

Friday, August 18th, 2023

Chelmsford & Marikana – On 18th August 2012 I travelled out of London to Chelmsford where an extreme right march was protesting against the building of a mosque, with a rather larger protest opposing them. I travelled back into London where a protest had been arranged at short notice against the shooting of striking miners by police in South Africa.


EDL Outnumbered in Chelmsford – Essex

Chelmsford & Marikana

I think this was my first visit to Chelmsford, the county town of Essex although it is only around 30 miles northeast of London and the journey from Liverpool Street station takes just over half an hour. But I didn’t much enjoy my time there and though I’m sure its an interesting place I’ve not been back since.

Chelmsford & Marikana

My day started fine as I walked from the station to the Unite Against Fascism rally in the middle of the city and mingled with the crowd there taking pictures. Everyone was friendly and I had no problems taking photographs.

Chelmsford & Marikana

But then I went to the pub where the English Defence League (EDL) wer gathering for the start of their march, where I was met with abuse and threats and one man complained to the police about my taking pictures. Some others more happily posed for me, making V signs but I was pleased the pub railings were between them and me, and when the police, who had told the complainant that I was within my rights to take photographs, politely asked me if I would move away to to avoid further upsetting the EDL I was pleased to do so.

Chelmsford & Marikana

I crossed back to the opposite side of the road where over photographers and TV crews were standing, and photographed the EDL Essex Division spokesman Paul Pitt who was being interviewed, polite and smiling for the camera, denying that the EDL were racist and promising “there will be no violence from us.

As the march formed up behind several banners I stayed in front of them with the other photographers, not getting as close as I usually like to do to avoid any further trouble. Despite Pitt’s claims the marchers were singing some of their usual Islamophobic EDL songs, and as the march moved off a rather large and fat marcher came towards me as I was taking pictures and said: “I hope all your family die of cancer.

I left the EDL march as it turned into the street leading to where they were to hold their rally and returned to the UAF rally, passing a huge police presence with various fences and cordons across roads to ensure the two groups were kept apart.

The UAF were in the middle of the busy shopping area and as soon as the police had sealed off the street where the EDL were holding their rally the UAF were allowed to march, going around the outside of that area.

The atmosphere on the UAF march was very different. It was several times as large with many more placards and banners and much louder, with almost continuous chanting calling for an end to the racist provocations of the EDL, though usually rather less politely. And the people were certainly much more friendly.

Two EDL supporters appeared at one point and began to loudly shout ‘EDL!, EDL!’ but police quickly moved them away and held them until the march had passed, warning them not to interfere with it again.

More about the march and many more pictures on My London Diary at EDL Outnumbered in Chelmsford.


Solidarity with Marikana Miners

I went back to the station and caught the train back to London and then got on the tube to Hyde Park Corner where, close to the station, a small group of protesters had gathered outside building where Lonmin, the owners of the Marikana mine, then had offices.

The killing of the 34 miners at Marikana in South Africa two days earlier had appalled many around the world and this emergency protest had been called as the news broke. But it was too short notice to draw a large crowd.

Lonmin, previously even more infamous as Lonrho, only occupied a small suite on the top floor of this recently refurbished office building. The building seemed empty and was firmly locked when the protesters arrived and there was nothing on the outside or visible through the glass doors of the lobby to indicate that this was the base of one of the world’s larger platinum mining companies, listed on the London Stock Exchange, with a revenue in 2014 of US$ 965 million.

After protesting outside the offices for around an hour the group decided to walk to South Africa House in Trafalgar Square and hold a rally there.

A speaker on the pavement in front of South African House told us how the massacre at Marikana fitted in to the pattern of exploitation and oppression that has characterised the mining industry in Africa. Conditions in many of the mines are terrible, with little or no attention to health and safety issues, and miners are on low wages.

One of Lonmin’s board members at the time of the massacre was Cyril Ramaphosa, who a few months later became Deputy President of South Africa and in 2018 President. Many blamed his emails putting pressure on the police to intervene for the shooting.

The older South African National Union of Mineworkers, a member of the Congress of South African Trade Unions COSATU which has strong links to the governing African National Congress (ANC) is seen by many workers to have done little or nothing to improve pay and conditions in the mines. Many miners including those at Marikana had joined the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) which represented over 70% of the Lonmin workers and had led the strike.

Solidarity with Marikana Miners


Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Saturday, April 1st, 2023
Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Saturday 1st April 2017 turned out to be a busy day in London, though the buses in my picture on Westminster Bridge were not then going anywhere – and the driver of the No 12 at the front of this row was taking a rest from his seat. Various protests and the police had brought traffic to a stop. As in many other months you can see more of my pictures taken as I travelled around in a London Images section.


Motorcycle Theft Protest Ride – Westminster

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

I’d vaguely wondered about paying another visit to the Ace Café on the North Circular Road at Stonebridge, but not riding a bike I would have felt something of an outsider, and the journey back to central London by the Bakerloo line wold have taken me around 40 minutes and I would have missed other things that were happening.

Organised gangs are still making rich pickings around the whole of London – and one of my neighbour’s had his bike targeted a few months ago, but the two men cutting through a substantial lock were spotted from the house opposite, and ran away when they were challenged halfway through.

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

In 2017 there were reported thefts in London of 8,131 motorbikes, 4,121 moped and 3,218 scooters, a total of almost 15,500 thefts. That amounts to one for every 7.5 powered bikes registered in the city. Motorcyclists came with a petition to the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary to give the police greater resources to tackle this crime, and for them to give it higher priority, for more ground anchors in bike parking bays and for tougher sentencing of offenders.

Motorcycle Theft Protest Ride


Flowers for London Victims – Westminster

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Ten Days after the Westminster terror attack by a deranged driver, people were still stopping to look and and photograph the flowers for the victims, around the lamp standards on Waterloo Bridge, along the whole of the front of Parliament Square and in front of New Scotland Yard in its new building on the Victoria Embankment, where an eternal flame also remembers all police who have died while doing their duty.

There was a long strip of tributes along the front of Parliament Square opposite were PC Keith Palmer was killed to him and the others who died.

More pictures Flowers for London Victims.


Youth protest over housing benefits loss – Parliament Square

A grass roots group of young people, ‘#1821Resist’, were in Parliament Square to protest against the scrapping of housing benefit for young people which coming into force on this day.

They say that under Tory rule since 2010 homelessness has doubled and that this change will continue to leave vulnerable people without homes, making it almost impossible for them to get into work or education.

Youth protest over housing benefits loss


Iraqis protest US killing in Mosul – Downing St

Iraqis, mainly women dressed in black, were protesting opposite Downing St against the killing of civilians by US and Iraqi forces during the assault on Mosul. Attacks on the city, then held by the Islamic State (ISIL) begun in October 2016 and continuing until ISIL were defeated there in July 2017. According to Wikipedia (and the BBC) “The battle was the world’s single largest military operation since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was considered the toughest urban battle since World War II.”

The women said that hundreds have been killed by US air strikes after being told to stay in Mosul; people were stopped from leaving were then bombed. The protest was organised by a group of Iraqi women, one of whom told me a nine-year old relative in Mosul had died earlier today. The photographs they held up showed some of the results of the US bombing.

Iraqis protest US killing in Mosul


Britain First & EDL exploit London attack – Westminster

Extremist right-wing groups including Britain First and the EDL (English Defence League) were quick to exploit the London terror attack to fuel their anti-Muslim and anti-migrant racist propaganda, both organising marches. Police had imposed restrictions on both marches confining them to particular short routes to rally points on the Emabankment. London Antifascists and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who had come to opposed them were only allowed to hold a static protest.

I was able to photograph Britain First at their designated meeting point in the taxi area outside Charing Cross station where their leader Paul Golding arrived with a van full of flags and handed them out, while his deputy Jayda Fransen was busy talking to the media.

The EDL were supposed to be meeting in Trafalgar Square, but were actually gathering in their usual pub, Lord Moon of the Mall, close to the top of Whitehall. Police were busily and rather forcefully keeping back a crowd of antifascists against the shops on the opposite side of the road, injuring a few of them in the crush. Police behind them were shouting at them to go forward, but police in front were preventing them from doing so.

I photographed the EDL on the pavement in front of the Lord Moon of the Mall over the shoulders of a line of police protecting them, but left as police pushed them back inside the pub and returned to Britain First at Charing Cross station where they were getting ready to march.

There were few people on the street as they marched down to the Embankment for a rally, but a couple of women shouted at them calling them racists. Police stopped the marchers from moving towards them, but they had to refuse a Britain First fake-news team who tried to stop them for an interview.

I listened to the rally for a few minutes then tried to go back up Northumberland Avenue to photograph the EDL march, but it was hard to see for police surrounding it. The police quickly went to grab one woman who started to shout at this march.

But the police relaxed their cordon when the marchers reached their rally pen on the Embankment and I was able to walk past them and began to take pictures.

But after a couple of minutes one of the stewards saw me and objected to me being their and called on the police to remove me, after which I had to photograph over the shoulders of the police. One of the officers came to tell me off for having been in with the marchers, but I simply told her I had every right to be there. Shortly after I decided to leave as I had taken enough pictures, and I decided to go to photograph the counter-protesters.

More at Britain First & EDL exploit London attack.


UAF protest extreme right marches

Police had decided that the UAF could only hold a static protest on the Embankment rather than their intended and already advertised march to there from South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, despite ‘facilitating’ the two extreme-right marches. The UAF had turned up at South Africa House on the morning and police had slowly with unnecessary force pushed them down the march route as I’d witnessed earlier in the day.

From the EDL rally I could see and just hear the Unite Against Fascism rally taking place perhaps a hundred yards away down the Embankment, shouting ‘Fascist Scum off our streets’ and other slogans. From the speeches I had heard at the two right-wing rallies both groups were clearly racist and Islamophobic and among the marchers I recognised many faces from clearly fascist organisations I had photographed in the past.

I could see and hear that there were speeches at the UAF rally but not make out what was being said from the distance and over the noise. I tried to walk down towards the UAF but police would not let me take the short direct route despite my showing my press card.

I had to walk back and out onto Whitehall and then around to get to be back of the UAF rally, and by the time I got there many of the counter-protesters had left for home and the speeches had ended, though there were still rather more around than at the two right-wing rallies combined.

UAF protest extreme right marches


UN Anti-Racism Day 2017 & 2023

Saturday, March 18th, 2023

UN Anti-Racism Day 2017 & 2023

Today, 18th march is the UN Anti-Racism Day, and in 2017 it was also a Saturday, and tens of thousands marched through London, starting as they will today outside the BBC and ending with a large rally in Westminster.

UN Anti-Racism Day 2017 & 2023

Today’s march, as in 2017, is organised by Stand Up to Racism, Unite Against Fascism and Love Music, Hate Racism and the TUC and supported by many other groups, including football fans from around the country who will be wearing team colours.

UN Anti-Racism Day 2017 & 2023

This years march is perhaps even more important, with the UK Government pursuing clearly racist policies against immigrants in last year’s Nationality and Borders Act, its attempt to deport refugees to Rwanda and Suella Braverman’s recently announced Illegal Migration Bill.

Phyll Opoku of PCS ‘Stand Up to Racism’

Football fans have been energised by the BBC’s reaction to Gary Lineker’s tweet. He was clearly correct in observing the hostile anti-refugees language used by the government to language used in Germany in the 1930s. They say the government are trying to stir up division and racism to deflect attention from their multiple crises and turn refugees into scapegoats.

Unfortunately it isn’t just the government, but also the official opposition who continue to up the ante over immigration, refusing to stand up to the government with any real attempt to improve our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Real opposition to racism has been left to a few increasingly isolated figures on the left of the party – including many of those who have been ejected for supposed anti-semitism, increasingly being used to expel Jewish members who support the Palestinian people. And of course left to footballers or former footballers.

Even Theresa May, who the 2017 march was strongly opposed to for promoting racist measures against immigrants and in particular Muslims in concert with Donald Trump has found Braverman’s latest proposals which will break international law on the human rights of migrants a step too far.

The 2023 march organisers say:

In Britain we face a crisis-ridden government attempting to use racism to make ordinary people pay for the cost of living crisis. The ‘Rwanda plan’, the Nationality and Borders Act, racist deportations and the hostile environment for refugees and migrants are all about divide and rule.

The government deny the reality of institutional racism – despite massively disproportionate deaths in black communities during the pandemic – and the reality of deaths in police custody, racist stop and search and discrimination across society.

Internationally we are seeing the growth of the racist and fascist right and an alarming rise in Islamophobia, antisemitism, Sinophobia, anti East/South East Asian racism and attacks on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Despite a rail strike this Saturday I hope to be there later today, again taking photographs and marching with many thousands of others.

Much more from the 2017 march and rally on My London Diary: Thousands March Against Racism.


Funeral for Cyclists, Against Islamophobia, Iranian Repression

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

London, Saturday 13th October 2018


National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist

I’ve been a cyclist since my sixth birthday, when my parents bought me a second-hand two wheeler to replace the trikes I’d been on since before I could walk. By the end of the day I could ride it, if rather unsteadily, along the pavement of our street.

The bicycle gave kids like me a new freedom, and within a couple of years I was riding miles either on my own or with a couple of mates to play both in local parks and green spaces and further afield. We cycled away from our dusty streets into the countryside, often going along some of the busiest roads in the country, the A30, A4 and A3 out west from our grey suburbs.

We didn’t think much about safety back then, and though traffic was heavy, vehicles were smaller and speeds were lower. Drivers were I think more considerate back then, and almost all will have been cyclists before getting behind the wheel. So I survived, though there were a few close shaves, later mainly thanks to teenage stupidity.

Over seventy years later I still ride a bike, though with rather larger wheels, and usually just to the local shops, but I feel less safe on the roads. I’ve been knocked off it a couple of times in the past twenty years or so, both times by drivers who were extremely apologetic and confessed they hadn’t seen me as they drove out onto a main road or came up behind me on a roundabout. I was lucky and only sustained minor cuts and bruises and the motorists paid for the repairs to my bike.

During the first Covid lockdown the roads were almost empty and I went out each weekday morning for a ten-mile ride to keep fit. But then traffic began to come back and the fumes and too many close passes put me off the roads again.

In the past few years we seem to have come out of the long era where cyclists were almost completely disregarded in terms of traffic planning (and pedestrians too) but still we are largely failing to get the kind of separate provision to make cycling more safe that we see in some European countries.

Some councils are still dementedly anti-cyclist, and too many drivers see cyclists as an impediment to their progress rather than as fellow road-users. Some still accelerate past me then cut in across me to turn left at junctions, some pass where there is clearly not enough room to do so safely and some even shout insults as the drive past.

Cycling is good for individual health and for the health system as a whole, though less than it should be because of the pollution from traffic. By reducing car journeys it is good for the environment too, and good for motorists as people switching to bikes cuts congestion in cities. As a country we should be spending far more to encourage it and make it safer. In particular that means more separate provision – fears over safety when bikes are on busy roads is one of the main things that stops many getting on bike, but also driver education and improvements in vehicle and road design.

Among those at the protest were a number of families whose members had been killed on our roads, including some from Tony Spink’s family. He was killed cycling through Wakefield city centre by a lorry driver who didn’t stop, dragging him under his lorry as he hung onto the windscreen wipers and thumped on the side of the truck. His mangled bike was pulled from the lorry by the driver at a layby and then dumped in bushes miles away. The driver was jailed for two years. This was an extreme case but the sentence seemed risibly short, as are many of the sentences given to drivers who kill both cyclists and pedestrians.

Protests by Stop Killing Cyclists such as this National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist have publicised the problem and the organisation lobbies for £3 billion a year to be invested in a national protected cycling network and for urgent action to reduce the toxic air pollution from diesel and petrol vehicles which kills tens of thousands of people every year, and disables hundreds of thousands.

Several hundred protesters on bicycles met in Lincolns Inn Fields before riding in a funeral procession behind a horse-drawn hearse to Westminster where instead of following the route the police wanted across Westminster Bridge they turned into Parliament Square and staged a 10 minute die-in before proceeding to a rally in Smith Square.

National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist


Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA – Parliament St

I left the National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist as it went on to Smith Square and walked up Parliament Street to a rally opposing the racist, Islamophobic Democratic Football Lads Alliance who were ending their march with a rally at Downing St.

Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism had organise a rally here, but the DFLA marchers had not arrived at the expected time. Far fewer than expected had turned up for their march, and it had been blocked for some time by more militant anti-fascist protesters on the route.

Some of the DFLA had given up and gone to pubs along the route, but a few had walked across St James’s Park to Parliament Square from where they shouted for a while at the SUTR/UAF protest as police stopped them from getting closer, and after a while persuaded them to move away. The number who finally arrived for their rally was rather small and it didn’t seem worthwhile to take a long walk around the police barricade to try to photograph them.

Rally opposes Islamophobic DFLA


Ahwazi protest Iranian repression – Parliament Square

Instead I went back to Parliament Square where I met Ahwazi protesters marching into the square carrying Ahwaz independence flags. They protested noisily facing the Houses of Parliament calling for Iran to end the repression of their people and to get out of their land.

Al Ahwaz, the oil-rich northern side of the Persian Gulf was under British control until 1925, with the population enjoying considerable autonomy as Arabistan. The emirate was dissolved by the Persian regime following a rebellion in 1924 and the area occupied by Persian troops, and a process of ‘Persianisation’ imposed on the area, attempting to destroy its Arab culture. They renamed the area Khuzestan.

Discrimination against the Ahwazi increased under the Islamic Regime, impoverishing the area which contains much of Iran’s natural resources and there has been widespread civil unrest since 2015, with massive protests in April 2018 on the anniversary of the 2011 Ahwaz Day of Rage, itself an anniversary of the 2005 unrest. In September 2018 militants from the
Ahwaz National Resistance attacked an Iranian Revolutionary Guard parade in the city of Ahvaz, killing 25 soldiers and civilians.

Ahwazi protest Iranian repression


BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

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

Marchers sat down briefly at Piccadilly Circus

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

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

The crowd stretched some way past Broadcasting House

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Tatchell

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

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

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


Edinburgh against Fascism: 2013

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I seldom photograph protests outside London, and I hadn’t gone to Scotland to take photographs, but we had been invited to spend a week there during the Edinburgh festival. We’d never been to the festival before, and had timed our two previous stays in the city deliberately to avoid it, but decided to go and see what it was like. We did actually enjoy the week, but haven’t felt it was an experience we need to repeat.

On Saturday 17th August we rushed out after breakfast to attend a play about a male clergyman and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion; clever and quite funny but it was too early in the morning for me. However it was conveniently close to where Unite Against Fascism and others were gathering to oppose a march by the fascist Scottish Defence League, and while Linda went to listen to a classical concert I made the short walk to cover the protest – my first in Scotland.

Like many such events in London it was slow to start. The assembly time was a couple of hours before the SDL were expected to march and the Scottish police were determined to keep the two groups as far apart as they could. But it gave me more than enough time to take pictures of the marchers and their banners and placards.

At the time all of my work on protests was made using Nikon DSLRs, but I’d left them at home when I came away for a week’s holiday, and all of these pictures were made using the relatively light and compact Fuji X-E1 and a single lens, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom. It was the first time I’d used the Fuji camera for a protest, and I did it a little less responsive than the Nikon, with slower auto-focus and sometimes a perceptible lag between shutter press and picture-taking.

The electronic viewfinder couldn’t match the Nikon’s optical one either for clarity, and sometimes was noticeably slow to react when I moved the camera or zoomed the lens. And having just an equivalent focal length of 27-83mm I found limiting, missing both the extreme wide-angle and longer telephoto I usually worked with. But despite this I was reasonably pleased with the pictures from the day.

Eventually the march moved off and was escorted by police who kept them well away from the SDL as they marched to a large pen on Horse Wynd at the back of the Scottish Parliament. Approaching a thousand people had come to oppose the racist march.

There was still no sign of the SDL, but I avoided the pen and walked back up Canongate to meet them coming down. Through a tight police cordon around the group of around a hundred I saw quite a few faces familiar from EDL protests in London – and some of them obviously recognised me and made threatening gestures.

Once police had led them into a separate pen far enough away from the anti-fascists to prevent the two groups throwing missiles at each other but within shouting distance, it got a little easier to photograph some of the EDL. Although there were police lines stopping either fascists or anti-fascists from getting closer to each other a few anti-fascists found their way though the entrance area to Hollyroodhouse and were then arrested as they approached the EDL.

I left as the two groups were still shouting at each other to go to the Postgrad show at the College of Art before it closed, then on to a comedy show and finally to a meal with the dozen of us who were sharing a large flat at a convenient Thai restuarant. We were up early the next morning to catch a train back to London.

SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

One Law for All

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

Islam is now the UK’s second largest religion, with 2018 Office of National Statistics figures for Great Britain of 3,372,966, around 5.2% of the population, still considerably lower than the 36 million who declared themselves Christian in the 2011 census.

Along with the rise in numbers we have also seen a dramatic rise in Islamophobia, partly driven by the exploitation of the fear and hate against the terrorism of small groups of extremists here as well as in the US and France, and more recently by the rise of ISIS in Syria – where many of those who fought against and defeated ISIS there were also Muslims.

The ‘Prevent’ strategy introduced by the Labour Government after the London bombings as an aspect of counter-terrorism was essentially aimed at de-radicalising young Muslims through community-based programmes. It stigmatised the entire Muslim community – and did so at a time when extreme right-wing organisations were growing strongly and provoking racial tensions, and removed any real attention from their illegal behaviour – and the terrorist threat they posed.

The coalition government changed ‘Prevent’ radically. No longer was it concerned with attempts to promote integration though community programmes but shifted to a police-led system to indentify individuals who might be vulnerable to ‘radicalisation’ and to provide intervention packages for them. Unfortunately there seem to be no reliable indicators of such vulnerability.

The 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA) made it a legal duty for “teachers, doctors, social workers and others to monitor and report people they consider vulnerable to extremism, embedding discrimination in public services.” As https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/fundamental/prevent/ Liberty point out, “The definition of extremism under Prevent is so wide that thousands of people are being swept up by it – including children engaging in innocuous conduct, people protesting climate change, and a nurse who began wearing a hijab.” They say the Prevent duty must be scrapped.

One Law for All, a campaigning organisation against religious based laws and in defence of equality and secularism, and in particular calling on the UK government to put an end to all Sharia courts and religious tribunals, and had organised a rally opposite Downing St om Sunday 20th June 2010.

Although the Church of England’s courts are now restricted to matters inside the church, courts based on Islamic Sharia Law and Jewish Beth Din courts still have official recognition as arbitration tribunals, particularly related to marriage. The Jewish courts work under the principle that “the law of the land is the law”, giving precedence to English law, but this is not always the case with Sharia courts.

A small group of Muslims dressed in black with a very powerful public address system had come to oppose the One Law for All protest. The claimed to be ‘Muslims Against the Crusades’ or ‘Muslims Against Crusaders’, a group widely thought to be a reincarnation of the banned ‘Islam4UK’ (itself a relaunch of the banned Al-Muhajiroun.)

Maryam Namazie of One Law for All made clear they were not anti-Muslim:

“The battle against Sharia law is a battle against Islamism not Muslims, immigrants and people living under Sharia law here or elsewhere. So it is very apt for the Islamists to hold a counter-demonstration against our rally. This is where the real battleground lies. Anyone wanting to defend universal rights, secularism and a life worthy of the 21st century must join us now in order to push back the Islamists as well as fringe far Right groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party that aims to scapegoat and blame many of our citizens for Islamism.”

And around 20 members of that fringe right-wing group the EDL were there to protest against the Muslims.

After a while police took them to one side and searched them, threatening me with arrest when I went to take pictures, before leading them away.

Half an hour later several hundred young British Asians arrived from a rally in Whitechapel against the EDL – but they were too late to confront them as the EDL had already been removed by police.

Soon the One Law for All rally ended and they marched off towards the Iranian Embassy in Kensington. I walked with them to Victoria and then went home.

UAF Arrive to Oppose EDL
EDL Oppose Muslims Against Crusades
Muslim Crusaders For Sharia
No Sharia – One Law For All