Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Black Lives Matter – Brixton 9th July 2016

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Five years ago on July 5th 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man selling videos outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was shot and killed by police at close range. The incident was filmed by several bystanders and their mobile phone video clip shocked and enraged viewers around the world.

The following day, July 6th, 32-year-old Philando Castile was driving with his girlfriend in a suburb od St Paul, Minnesota, when police stopped the car and asked to see his driving licence. His girlfriend video the events which ended in Castile being shot five times at point-blank range, dying 20 minutes later. The officer who fired was later charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm but found not guilty by a jury.

These two cases provoked protests around the world, including this event in Brixton. Shootings of people by police remain common in the USA at around a thousand a year and Black people are around two and a half times as likely to be shot as White. These cases stood out both because the two men shot were not involved in any crime but also because there was clear evidence from the videos that there was no justification for the shootings. Later the families were to be awarded compensation running into millions of dollars in both cases.

Although policing in this country is generally not carried out at the point of a gun, with an average of around 3 people killed by police shooting a year, there have been many cases of deaths at the hands of police, again disproportionally affecting Black people. As I wrote in my account of the protest:

Brixton Police station has been the scene of a number of black deaths in custody, including that of Sean Rigg, Wayne Douglas and Ricky Bishop, and one of the organisers who spoke wore a t-shirt listing just a few of those who have been killed by police in the UK, with young black men in particular being far more likely to die after arrest – or to be shot rather than arrested. Last year police stripped the tree in front of the police station of its deaths in custody memorials on the day of the annual march in central London against deaths in custody.

My London Diary

The crowd that gathered in Windrush Square (aka Windswept Square after Lambeth Councils re-landscaping to make it deliberately less hospitable) was largely black, and the protest had been called by local black organisers. Most of those who spoke talked about their own experiences of police racism in the local community as well as the shootings that had provoked the protest.

So many people wanted to have their say that the event continued for several hours, eventually going on to march up the Brixton Road to Brixton Police Station and bringing traffic to a standstill for several hours.

But it had come at the end of a long day for me and I had gone home well before that. Earlier in the day I’d photographed protests against the nonsensical ‘Garden Bridge’ across the Thames and the demolition of council estates by Labour Councils, both in Waterloo, in Hackney against domestic violence, at Downing St against Brexit, the scapegoating of immigrants and Islamophobia and a Green Park Brexit picnic and I was exhausted. You can find more about the Black Lives Matter protest and these other events on My London Diary.

Brixton stands with Black victims
Green Park Brexit Picnic
Europe, Free Movement and Migrants
East End Sisters Uncut-Domestic Violence
Housing Protest at ‘Progress’ conference
Garden Bridge ‘Progress’ protest


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


Inauguration Day

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Trafalgar Square, 20/1/2017

Four years ago, on 20 Jan 2017, London was protesting against another inauguration, that of Donald Trump. Commenting on those protesting outside the US Embassy – still then in Grosvenor Square I wrote:

All were appalled at the thought of a president who is a climate change denier, has a long history of racist and Islamophobic outbursts, has boasted of sexually assaulting women and has downplayed the severity of sexual violence.

Crowds protest Trump’s Inauguration

The four years that followed have confirmed most of our worst fears and in some ways gone further than we imagined, for example with disastrous polices in the Middle East and in particular over Israel and Palestine.

There will not be significant protests in London today, and even if police were not enforcing Covid restrictions particularly rigorously against protests I don’t think there would have been. We may not have any particularly high hopes for Biden and Harris, but at least they are almost certain to be better than Trump.

At least the US seems certain to re-engage with climate change – although probably still intent on keeping the US as the world’s largest polluter and allowing US companies to plunder the world for resources. And though it’s good to have a slightly saner finger close to that nuclear button it seems unlikely that the US will stop supporting corrupt fiefdoms in the Middle East and elsewhere and desist from supporting coups against popular governments that attempt to regain control over their own resources in South America and elsewhere.

Though I do hope for some positive surprises in the first hundred days, and there have certainly been rumours of some. Perhaps we will see the cancellation of some of the more environmentally damaging projects given the go-ahead by Trump. Almost certainly there will be fewer racist rants and tweets and there could even be some real progress on civil rights.

But while we may have some hopes for the United States of America, the future for our United Kingdom remains depressing. Suffering under the burden of Brexit and Covid, with a government that continually proves itself both corrupt and inept and an opposition which is ineffectual and sycophantic – and currently outclassed, outgunned and outplayed by a young footballer.

And that ‘United’ is less and less than ever appropriate; Brexit divided the country, and most of us now realise it was a terrible mistake – even increasingly more of the 34% who voted for it. It has created a border between the mainland and Northern Ireland and exacerbated the gap between England and Scotland. Even Wales seems more distant, though it has protected our relationships with those tax havens that make us possibly the most corrupt country in the world.

There is one small glimmer of hope, apart from the vaccinations that may just eventually allow us to gain some accommodation if not exactly control over Covid. Last Sunday saw the inauguration of the Project for Peace and Justice, founded by Jeremy Corbyn, an international campaign which describes itself as “a hub for discussion and action, building solidarity and hope for a more decent world.”

F**k Trump
Crowds protest Trump’s Inauguration


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


Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Thursday, January 16th, 2020
The Mayor of Camden Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust lays the first wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree

Back on the 8th of August 1967, that year’s Mayor of Camden Cllr Millie Miller planted a cherry tree in Tavistock Square in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima twenty two years earlier on August 8th 1945. A second bomb was dropped two days later on Nagasaki.

By then Japan had lost the war and surrender could only have been a few days away. There was no pressing military reason to use these monstrous weapons, but they had been under development in the Manhattan Project which began in 1939 but only got into full swing in 1952. The scientists had developed two different types of bomb, a uranium-235 bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’ and the plutonium based ‘Fat Man’.

Baroness Jenny Jones

The ‘Fat Man’ device, involving an explosion to compact a plutonium sphere to provide the critical mass for an explosion was complex, and it was decided a test was necessary to determine if it would work. This test, the world’s first nuclear explosion, took place on the 16 July 1945 in a remote desert area in New Mexico.

Planning for dropping the two bombs began in serious in November 1943 and was complex. Specially modified aircraft were needed because of the size of the bombs and a special base was built for the missions on a Pacific island. Originally Kyoto had been selected for a target for the first bomb, but the US Secretary of War ruled it out because of its cultural and historic significance and Hiroshima was selected in its place.

Shigeo Kobayashi, Japan Against Nuclear, reads the English translation of today’s speech by the Mayor of Hiroshima at the commemoration there

The Hiroshima bomb was the logical end of years of planning and scientific effort and was needed more to validate that whole process than for any particular military purpose. There was even less reason for the second bomb on Nagasaki given the destruction the first bomb had caused. Over two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings had been destroyed, almost a third of its population killed immediately and another third injured. More were to die later from radiation.

Nagasaki was not even the intended target for the second bomb; cloud over Kokura saved it from destruction and instead ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. It was roughly 1.5 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb but hills protected parts of the city and the destruction and death toll were lower with an estimated 35,000–40,000 people killed and 60,000 injured.

Rev Gyoro Nagase, Buddhist monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda

The commemoration takes place every 6th August in Tavistock Square, with Camden’s Mayor taking part, as well as peace activists. It is the largest of several events in London and I now usually attend and have photographed it a number of times.

Hiroshima Bomb victims remembered


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

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Not Window Dressing

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

I’ve never worked in the United States (or as they call it, America) or at least only digitally, having been on contract serially with three major US companies over a period of around 7 years. It started well, but ended sadly, at least in part because I wasn’t from the States.

During those years I sometimes had to write about the USA as if I was located there, taking a lively interest in exhibitions at US museums, reporting on some US events and US institutions, and about the US photography culture in general (and more difficult, on Thanksgiving and Independence Day.) In later years I even had to use ‘American English’, though I made no secret of being British and continued to try adopt an international approach, introducing my readers to photography around the world.

There were many ways in which photographers working in the USA had things rather better than us in the British Isles, and perhaps the basis of all these was a culture that took photography much more seriously than here, something that was perhaps most apparent in the number of museums and galleries and in the US press.

And generally books, magazines and papers were happy to pay usage rates that were considerably above those in the UK. I remember getting one request from a left magazine with a profuse apology for what little they could offer me for a picture which was at least twice what a more mainstream British publication would have paid, and was annoyed a few years later when a UK agency sold a picture for text book use at just under a third of the payment I had negotiated directly with the publisher for a previous edition (and then took 50% of that meagre fee for their efforts on my behalf!)

One of the reasons for these differences is the presence of strong organisations representing photographers, one of which is the National Press Photographers Association, NPPA. Of course we have organisations here, but good as some are, none has the same clout.

Newspapers across the USA are now suffering with competition from the web (and some have very fine web sites themselves) and many have made drastic cuts in staffing, with many photographers being ‘let go’, leaving many, particularly the smaller regional and local papers that are much more important in the US than here, without staff photographers and with very limited budgets for pictures. As of course we’ve seen in the UK.

It’s a situation that led Jaymie Baxley , a reporter working for The Pilot in Southern Pines, North Carolina to take pity on his fellow journalists and help them by “creating a resource for reporters in small newsrooms that no longer have visual journalists“, setting up a website offering his own editorial photographs for free.

As you can read on the NPPA web site in a post by Sue Morrow,
Pictures are not window dressing. In fact, pictures are the window, this did not go down well with other photographers. And the NPPA got on the case, explaining their position to Baxley, who quickly took down the website.

Under Morrow’s article is a post by NPPA President Michael P King which makes a great case for professional photography, starting from the premise ‘Photography is valuable‘ and giving some reasons why.

It’s a statement I think is worth reading and which makes a great case for using professional photography – by staff or freelance photographers. As he says it’s a matter of trust and legality and of retaining credibility for news organisations.