Posts Tagged ‘victimisation’

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from May Days: 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2020

My May Day started as usual with the march from Clerkenwell Green, dominated visually by members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities and with the usual mix of trade unionists and left-wing groups, perhaps even more international in nature than in previous years.

The march to Trafalgar Square was made a little livelier than usual by the presence of Class War and other anarchist and anti-capitalist protesters, some of whom took over the whole of the road rather than keep to one carriageway. Police tried hard to control them and made at least one arrest, which led to some scuffles.

One issue that dominated the rally in Trafalgar Square was the strike against privatisation at the National Gallery which overlooks the square, and in particular the victimisation by the management of Candy Udwin, the PCS rep there.

Later in the afternoon anti-capitalist protesters met up at Tower Hill, and led by lass War and their Lucy Parsons banner went on to block Tower Bridge this afternoon and blocked traffic, calling for social housing rather than social cleansing for Londoners and an end to cuts in foundation courses and other aspects of education. It was a lively event, and I left them when they marched off along Tooley St past London Bridge to protest in Westminster.

I walked back across Tower Bridge and on to Aldgate where Class War were organising their ‘Reclaim the Beats’ “epic street party” outside the tower block where they had held around 30 weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against the separate entrance down a side alley for the social housing tenants in the block.

A huge cheer went up as they unfurled a new banner showing leading politicians with the message “All Fucking Wankers”, a replacement for that seized by police at an earlier protest. Although it had later been judged to be an acceptable political comment, the police contrived to lose it rather than face the indignity of returning it to Class War.

A few minutes later a mobile sound system in the form of a small house on wheels with ‘Affordable Housing’ across its roof and the party really kicked off. After a few minutes people moved out to block the main road and then to march off to protest at Tower Bridge and in Bermondsey. I was too tired to go with them and instead went down the stairs into Aldgate East tube.

‘Reclaim the Beats’ at ‘Poor Doors’
Anti-Capitalists block Tower Bridge
May Day Rally supports National Gallery
May Day march against austerity and racism


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.


WeWork doesn’t pay

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

I’d never heard of WeWork before I received an Facebook post inviting me to photograph a protest outside one of their London premises in Shoreditch. The company began in 2010, has its HQ in New York and provides flexible working spaces for companies from 1 to 500 people, equipped, serviced and ready to move in. In London alone it has 49 locations providing shared facilities.

When we started WeWork in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’. A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.

But community doesn’t extend to all that work there, and in particular not to the cleaners who keep these shared office and community spaces beautiful. WeWork outsource their cleaning to cleaning company CCM.

Outsourcing is always a bad deal for workers. The companies bid for contracts almost entirely on price, and they pare down prices by screwing the workers. Low pay, high workloads, the legal minimum terms and conditions and often a lack of equipment and concern over safety combined with bullying management enable outsourcing companies to keep costs to the bone and profits to the company owners.

Trade unions are anathema to such companies, and also to many US based firms, and grass roots unions such as CAIWU who manage the difficult job of unionising marginal and often immigrant workers find it hard to get basic rights for their members. Workers who stand up for their rights get victimised, and CAIWU were protesting here as five CAIWU members have been dismissed here in the past few months, with Wework staff members involved in getting CCM to dismiss them.

The loud protest outside the offices attracted a great deal of attention, with one local business owner coming to ask them to keep quiet and one man stopping to argue with the protesters, getting quite angry and pushing some of them. But these were the exceptions and many others read the fliers that the protesters were handing out and expressed support, including one team of workers who came out from the building and join the protest.

More at: Wework stop victimising cleaners


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.


Hackney Housing

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

I took a short walk in Hackney before the protest outside the town hall to remind me exactly where Marian Court was, just behind the rather empty ‘fashion village’, an implant into the area with government money, £1.5m of Boris Johnson’s regeneration funding after the 2011 riots. It seems if anything to have been an expensive way to prove that gentrification isn’t an effective way to combat racist policing with a shoot to kill policy, and has failed to generate the promised jobs.

Marian Court appears to have been a well-designed small estate built for the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in the late 1950s. It was built to the standards of the time and was in need of modernisation, and had been allowed to deteroriate. But as on many other council estates, rather than investing in the relatively modest cost of the necessary refurbishment, the council decided on an expensive scheme involving total demolition and the building of roughly twice as many housing units on the site by private developers, with a large proportion for sale at high market prices and others also at high prices as ‘affordable’ or shared ownership properties. Reports say that despite the roughly doubling of the number of units there will be 40% less social housing than at present.

The replacement flats in such schemes are almost always built to lower space standards than the existing properties, and demolition and rebuild involves an enormous environmental impact. Given our current problems with global warming and the impending threat of human extinction unless we take urgent actions to avoid this, demolition of existing buildings such as this should now be a rare last resort.

The human impact is of course also huge, with the estate being emptied. Those in social housing will have been offered rehousing, but usually in far less convenient places than this, targeted in part because of its central location and close transport links, and also probably with less security of tenure and higher rents. Leaseholders typically get compensation at far less than the cost of a similar property in the same area – or the new properties.

Schemes such as this effectively lead to social cleansing, despite the promises often made (but seldom kept) by local councils about residents being able to stay in the area or move back into the redeveloped properties. Those on low incomes are forced to move to the peripheries of the borough, to outlying borough or sometimes well outside London, away from jobs, schools, friends and other links in the community.

The protest at Hackney Town Hall, organised by East End Sisters Uncut and London Renters Union was over the failure by Hackney Council to provide suitable rehousing for two families remaining in Marian Court, both of whom attended and spoke at the event, and who seem to have been victimised because they particular housing needs and have stood up for their rights. You can see more about both of them and their issues with the council at Hackney don’t victimise housing activists.

And a few pictures of the area including Marian Court in Hackney


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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.