Posts Tagged ‘women’

Gaza March in London 3rd Feb 2024

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Gaza March in London – Another huge march through central London called for an immediate ceasefire and for an end to the Israeli genocide against Palestinians.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024

I didn’t hear any news reports of the march, and over the past few days other events have largely pushed reporting over the continuing genocide to the edges of coverage.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

If anything the deliberate targeting of civilians in Gaza appears to have increased since the ICJ ruling calling on Israel to do all it can to prevent genocide in the area.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Israel is still keeping international journalists out of Gaza and feeding the world’s press with misleading information. The BBC have some good reporters but they cannot work in Gaza. They have had interviews with some families and doctors in Gaza – some now killed. Papers such as The Guardian also carry reports from people in Gaza – such as Mondays Gaza diary part 44: ‘The angel of death is roaming the skies, nonstop’. But to get real information about what is actually happening on the ground you need to also go to alternative news sources.

Gaza March in London
London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of those is Double Down News, who say “Far too many Journalists sit comfortably trapped in their own bubble of privilege and power, talking to each other and the so-called political class, rather than serving the people they’re meant to inform.” They aim to “prioritise people, ideas, evidence and community above all.” DDN carries no advertising but is supported by over fourteen thousand of subscribers who give what they can afford rather than being owned by governments or billionaires. And you can be one and become a part of the community equally with the others.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

One of their latest videos is ‘Israel’s AI Killing Machine‘ by Palestinian-American lawyer and activist Lara Elborno which exposes by how Israel is using modern technology to target civilians across Gaza. Like other videos on the platform it provides a chilling insight missing in the mass media.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

Before writing this a few days ago I read Al Jazeera’s Israel War on Gaza coverage, with its list of key events on day 123 published on Tuesday 6th February. Under the Humanitarian crisis in Gaza it begins its report with “At least 27,478 people have been killed and 66,835 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

It goes on to give other significant news on the humanitarian crisis, before news on Regional tensions and diplomacy and on what is happening in the Occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera was the first independent news channel in the Arab world and is funded by the Qatari state.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024.

All pictures here are from the march in London on Saturday 3rd February 2024 which was I think uneventful. It was certainly large and several streets around the BBC were densely crowded before the start. I photographed the start and then slowly went down Regent Street with the marchers, stopping a number of times to photograph them as they walked past me.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. ‘Sunak’ and dead babies.

At Piccadilly Circus I decide to wait until the end of the march arrived there, and it was a long wait. It was almost two hours after the start of the march before the end arrived, and most of that time the streets were crowded across both carriageways with slowly moving people.

London, UK. 3 Feb 2024. London Mothers and Children Say Stop Killing Babies.

It was too late to be worth trying to get to the rally on Whitehall and so I began my journey home. I uploaded 35 images to Alamy but later put these and around 35 more into an online album Ceasefire Now – Stop The Genocide In Gaza.


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Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide – 13 Jan 2023

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide: Last Saturday I photographed the march in London when over 200,000 marched from Bank calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Among those on the march, Little Amal, a 12ft giant puppet of a Syrian child refugee stood out. As usual there was a strong Jewish representation both on the main march and on a separate feeder march for families and children I photographed as they set off from outside Kings College on Strand.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide

This was the seventh large protest in London and reflects the feelings of a large majority of the British public but unfortunately this and other huge protests around the world, including in the USA, seem unlikely to have any effect on our or the US governments polices. They will continue to give support to Israel while making weak statements about the need to reduce the killing which Israel will continue to ignore while denying the effects of its actions and blaming Hamas for the death and destruction they are causing.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
The front of the march waiting to start.

The march took place on the 99th day of the Israeli attack on Gaza which has so far killed over 23,000 people, mainly civilians including more than 10,000 children, with many bodies still under the rubble. The bombing and shelling has made humanitarian aid and medical treatment impossible and widespread deaths from disease and starvation now seem inevitable.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
Doctors Against Genocide.

Israeli forces have attacked hospitals, schools, refugee camps and have killed many doctors and arrested others. Only one hospital remains operating in the whole of Gaza and there are desperate shortages of medicines with many amputations having to be carried out without anaesthetics. Few of the 60,000 severely injured so far by the Israeli attacks have been able to get proper treatment.

Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide
A few of the Palestinian press who have been killed by Israel

Gaza’s journalists appear to have been especially targeted and more have now been killed by the IDF than journalists were killed in the whole six years of the Second World War.

A man holds a bloodstained bundle representing a dead child

As well as calling for a ceasefire, protesters also demand a just solution with freedom for Palestine, an end to the military occupation of the country and an end to Israeli apartheid.

Free Palestine Hands Off Yemen

Two events in the previous week added to the demands of protesters. Some had placards praising the Houthi forces in Yemen for their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and their were chants such as “Yemen, Yemen, make us proud, turn another ship around” following the US and UK air attacks. The Houthi are now in control of much of Yemen following the October 2022 ceasefire and peace talks led by the UN began it December 2023, but they continue to be referred to in UK media as rebels or terrorists.

Last week South Africa stated the case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide. It got rather less attention in the UK media than the response the following day by Israel, which appeared largely a continued recital of the widely condemned attacks of October 7th and the long-discredited assertion that their actions in Gaza are self-defence. Israel also denied having bombed any hospitals and claimed they were facilitating humanitarian aid, lying in the face of mountains of evidence the world has read.

A woman holds a placard ‘Well Done South Africa’.

Many on the protest praised South Africa for taking Israel to court. The moral case seems clearly proven, but I suspect the case may be lost on some legal technicality. ICJ verdicts are in any case not binding and I think the majority of the world has already reached their conclusion.

People hold up posters showing Nazi Germany and Palestine with a poster saying ‘Signs Like These Have Been Criinalised by the Met Police

There were apparently 1,700 police on duty for the protests and a handful of people were arrested for carrying placards or handing out leaflets which the police decided were possibly “showing support for a proscribed organisation which is an offence under the Terrorism Act.” The flyer, published by the Met, stated their “unconditional and wholehearted support and solidarity for the Palestinian struggle, which is once more breaking out into armed resistance” but made no explicit mention of Hamas. Other groups in the Palestinian struggle are not proscribed in the UK.

With so many taking part, the march ended with rallies in both of London’s major central squares, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, though I only got to the first of these. I was quite tired having walked from London Bridge station to Bank and then along with the march going back and forth taking pictures and decided to get a train from Charing Cross rather than go on to Parliament Square.

There are around 50 more of my pictures from the march at Massive London Protest Over Gaza Genocide.


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Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now: Last Saturday, 6th January 2024, like many others I was watching on Twitter/X for the announcement by the Free Palestine Coalition of the starting point for their Gaza protest at 10am.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

It was with some surprise that I read it was to be at the drinking fountain in St James’ Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, a feudal remnant with bylaws against almost everything, but at least it was easy to get to, and I had plenty of time to make it by the starting time of noon, and arrived around a quarter of an hour early.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

The protest was organised and backed by Black Lives Matter UK, NMEE, Sisters Uncut, East and South East Asian Sisters, Copwatch Network, Health Workers For a Free Palestine, Queers For Palestine, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence, Palestinian Youth Movement and London Palestine Action.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

It made three clear demands; a full unconditional ceasefire NOW, the UK to stop arming Israel and an end to the Israeli Occupation of Gaza and Palestine. It had clearly been planned as a peaceful protest, although one that would cause some disruption to traffic in central London as many other events including other protests do.

Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now

There was only a small group there when I arrived, but numbers grew rapidly by the time the rally began and continued to grow for some time, perhaps increasing to a couple of thousand by the end of the event. Shortly after the rally began police approached the speaker and told her that she could not use a megaphone as it was against the Park bylaws. After a short delay she continued without it, though now the crowd was so large many could not hear. A few minutes later a public address system arrived and the speakers began to use this. After another warning by police they wheeled this out onto the pavement of Birdcage Walk.

A doctor speaks about the terrible conditions in Gaza’s hospitals, most bombed out of existence.

Here the speakers continued, with a particularly moving account by a doctor from Health Workers For a Free Palestine about the horrific conditions faced by her colleagues working in Gaza, where almost all hospitals have been bombed by Israeli forces and only three remain able to continue, facing terrible shortages which have meant amputations with no anaesthetics available and a total lack of medicines, clean dressings and antiseptics taking medical conditions back into the dark ages.

Officers come to seize the PA system

After the rally had continued for some minutes, a squad of police rushed in and seized the PA system from the pavement, forcefully pushing all those close out of their way. I was thrown aside and kicked in the shin hard enough to cause some bleeding and although not seriously injured certainly suffering from shock. I’m unsure about what happened for the next few minutes and it was almost ten minutes before I’d recovered enough to photograph seriously again.

The police appeared to have been deliberately trying to provoke the protesters and had a very large presence for what was expected to be a relatively small protest. Eventually the organisers called on the protesters who had been shouting angrily at the police for some minutes to move off and the march slowly made its way towards Westminster Bridge.

As the front of the march came to Bridge Street at the side of the Houses of Parliament there was a halt for photographs and when the march moved off a line of police across the road tried to stop them. But there were far too few officers to form a proper cordon, and I and around a couple of hundred protesters moved past and onto the start of Westminster Bridge before reinforcements arrived.

There were more police on the bridge and a line of police vans behind them, as well as more on the Embankment. Had the protesters been allowed to march onto the bridge and protest there the bridge would have been closed until the protest ended, but traffic could have continued to flow on both the Embankment and Bridge Street, which were still blocked when I left later. Protests continued on Westminster Bridge, though most of the protesters were still held on Bridge Street behind a police line. Around half an hour later police did decide to allow them to join the others, probably to make it easier for them to kettle the protest in one block rather than two.

On the bridge there were some noisy protests which forced police liaison officers to withdraw from the crowd. Some of them complained to the event stewards about the leaflets which were being distributed to the many tourist also being blocked by the police from leaving towards Parliament Square, suggesting that those distributing them might be committing an offence. I read one carefully and could find nothing anti-Semitic, nothing which I had not heard or read in the mainstream press despite their failures in reporting.

At one point people let off smoke flares in the red, green and white of the Palestinian flag. Later there was a period of silence for the victims in Palestine and those in Israel, and many sat or lay down on the roadway. A group in front of the police cordon wore masks showing Rishi Sunak, wearing tops with the messages ‘STOP ARMING ISRAEL’ ‘CEASEFIRE NOW!’holding up their hands red with fake blood which dripped down their arms.

I left as the police allowed the protesters to all join together, kettling both groups. I was tired and still a little shaken from the earlier assault by police and needed to sit down and rest on a seat on the Embankment. Eating my sandwiches for a late lunch and drinking some water helped too.

As I walked back to Waterloo the blue lights were still flashing on Westminster Bridge, and an hour later at 3.32 the Met posted “All protesters have now left the area around Westminster Bridge. Officers remain on-duty in central London and are ready to respond to any further demonstrations.” I felt their response to this one had been negative in the extreme and had made the situation worse than if they had stayed away completely. Their presence was a huge waste of public money and London really does not need police who behave as they did at this event.

The police had arrested a number of people on Westminster Bridge but later Black Lives Matter UK, one of the organisers, made the following post: “All arrestees have been released with no further action. Thanks to all who have supported the protests and taken time out to care for all those made vulnerable by the police.

More pictures in my Facebook album Free Palestine Coalition Demand A Ceasefire Now!


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Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More – Saturday 2nd November 2019 was a busy day for me and I made six posts from different events on My London Diary – and here is a little about each in the order of my day.


Day of the Dead – Columbia Market, Bethnal Green

Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More

I walked from Hoxton Overground station to Columbia Market which was holding a festival for the Mexican Day of the Dead, arriving at the time this was supposed to start. But it had been raining heavily and had only just stopped which had put off others from coming early and the streets were pretty deserted. So all I was able to photograph were the decorations on the street and on some of the shops.

Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More

Things would almost certainly have become more interesting had I stayed, but I had other things to attend and had to leave after around half an hour. I’d intended to return later but was too busy. I did take a few pictures as I walked to and from the station as well.

Day of the Dead


Against constitutional change in Guinea – Downing St

Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More

Back in central Westminster I photographed protesters from the UK branch of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) who were demanding that President Alpha Conde abandoned the constitutional chages that would enable him to seek a third term in power.

Hate Crime, Turkish Invasion, Hong Kong & More

The London protest came after massive protests in Guinea in October during which 11 people had been killed in government violence against the opposition and peaceful protesters. They called for an end to and end to the killing and the release of all political prisoners, with posters showing the victims and calling for peace and justice in their country.

Against constitutional change in Guinea


Stop Hate Crime, Educate for Diversity – Downing Street

Also at Downing Street, campaigners from Stand Up to Lgbtq+ Hate Crime condemned the increasing incidence of hate crime and bigotry against LGBTQ+ people and defended the teaching of lessons which feature LGBTQ+ families and relationships.

Their message was one of celebrating love, inclusion and diversity and say No to Homophobia, Islamophobia and Transphobia. I took some pictures and left as some began to speak about their own experience of discrimination at school before before the group marched to Eros in Piccadilly Circus for a further rally.

Stop Hate Crime, Educate for Diversity


Defend Rojava against Turkish Invasion – Marble Arch & Oxford St

The largest protest of the day was a a rally and march in support of Rojava in North-East Syria against Turkish invasion which gathered at Marble Arch.

Since soon after the start of the revolution in Syria a large area of the country had been under the de-facto control of a Kurdish-led democratic administration which has put ecological justice, a cooperative economy and women’s liberation at the heart of society, enshrined in a constitution which recognises the rights of the many ethnic communities in the area.

Many have seen this area, Rojava, as an important model for more democratic government, particularly in multi-ethnic areas, but Turkey sees it as a threat on its borders. For generations it has been discriminating and fighting against its own Kurdish population which makes up almost a fifth of the country’s population, and the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, held in prison in Turkey since he was abducted from Kenya in 1999.

In prison Ocalan continued to campaign for the Kurdish people but had moved away from militancy towards political solutions. In jail he wrote about the rights of women and developed the philosophy of democratic confederalism which forms the basis of the constitution of Rojava.

Rojava has received wide support for its principles from environmental groups, green movements, feminists, human rights supports and those generally on the left, but not from western governments who see it as a threat to capitalist hegemony.

Despite this, the Kurdish people’s defence forces in Syria with the aid of US air power led the successful fight against ISIS. Turkey had backed ISIS although denying to do so, aiding them in getting the massive funds they needed by smuggling out oil from the ISIS held regions. Again they saw ISIS as an ally in their fight against the Kurds.

When Trump withdrew US troops from Syria, Turkey took advantage of this to invade areas of Syria controlled by the Kurds, and to encourage and aid Islamic groups to join them in their attacks. Turkey as a member of NATO has been encouraged and helped to develop its armed forces and is second only to the USA within Nation and is said to be the 13th largest military power in the world.

The Turkish invasion threatened the existence of Rojava, who had been forced to go to both Russia and President Asad of Syria for support. Obviously this threatens the future of the area and its constitution and its long-term hopes of autonomy in the area.

I left the protest on Oxford St on its way to the BBC who they accuse of having failed to report accurately on what is happening in the area. There had certainly been very little coverage of the recent events and a long-term failure to address issues of discrimination against the Kurds in Turkey.

Defend Rojava against Turkish Invasion


March for Autonomy for Hong Kong – Marble Arch & Oxford St

Also meeting at Marble Arch were protesters, mainly Chinese from Hong Kong living in the UK, and in solidarity and supporting the five demands of those then protesting in Hong Kong. Many wore masks to protect their identity, either because they may return home or fear their families there may be persecuted.

They demanded complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill, a retraction of characterising the protests as riots, withdrawal of prosecutions against protesters, an independent investigation into police brutality and the implementation of Dual Universal Suffrage.

More pictures at March for Autonomy for Hong Kong


Queer Solidarity for trans and non-binary – Soho Square

Bi Survivors Network, London Bi Pandas, Sister Not Cister UK, BwiththeT and LwiththeT held a rally in Soho Square pointing out that the newly announced LGB Alliance’, which claims to be protecting LGB people is actually a hate group promoting transphobia.

They pointed out that trans and non-binary people have always been a part of the gay community and played an important part in the fight for gay rights and in particular Stonewall, and there is no place for such bi-phobic and gay-separatist views in the gay community.

More pictures: Queer Solidarity for trans and non-binary



Dear Suella, Please Resign

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Dear Suella, Please Resign – I and I think most of the British public have had enough of your hate speech, and your latest tirade against the half million or so people who came out onto the street to call for a ceasefire in Gaza plumbed new depths in hypocrisy.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

Those hundreds of thousands who marched last Saturday – and I was there – were marching for a ceasefire to end the humanitarian catastrophe which is underway in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have already died through Israeli attacks and more will do so if the attacks continue from bombing and shelling, the lack of food and clean water and the almost complete breakdown of medical services.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

There was no celebration of Hamas on the march and certainly none for the particularly barbaric actions in Israel on October 7th. Nor for the taking of hostages, although some on the march will certainly have felt it was the only way that Palestinian prisoners in Israel might be freed – over 4,000 of them, many locked up without charge, including (April 2022 figures) 32 women and 160 children. The continuing attacks on Gaza also threaten the lives of the hostages held by Hamas and appear to have stopped for the moment negotiations which would have led to further releases.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

Together with the BBC and some other news media you continue to collude to suggest that people at these protests shouted for Jihad. As you well know, these shouts took place at an entirely separate protest by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, an extreme Islamic organisation calling for the establishment of a caliphate, whose protests I have covered since 2004. Their protest was not for peace but was calling upon Muslim Armies to liberate Palestine. To use their activities to denigrate those taking part in the huge protests for an end to the fighting and occupation in Palestine is dishonest in the extreme.

Dear Suella, Please Resign

The world needs peace in Palestine and so does Israel as well of course as the Palestinians. We have seen over the years since Israel was set up that war is not the way to achieve this.

As the UN Secretary General made clear when condemning the Hamas attack, it did not take place in a vacuum. It took place after years when Palestinians have been forced out of their homes, their lands occupied, and they have been subjected to arbitrary military rule under an apartheid regime with Gaza held under siege. Years in which the peace process has been put to one side. The only hope for peace is if Palestine is allowed to grow and to flourish rather than continue to be oppressed.

I grew up in a country which prided itself for its sense of fair play and decency, even though this ideal was not usually extended in practice to those we colonised.

We were a country that led the way in the establishment of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions.

Now we seem to be a country that is ruled by politicians that have no real regard for human rights and the rights of asylum seekers, that are massively incompetent and put their own personal aggrandisement before the national interest, and are directed by corporate interests rather than those of the people or the planet. With some politicians from both main parties claiming huge expenses and often fiddling unnecessary second homes and increasingly frequent sexual scandals.

Government ministers and shadow ministers alike seem prepared to come onto the media and bluster and lie for the party, backed up by an electoral system that fails to provide any real democracy. Our current parliamentary election system is actually rather less democratic than the system that brought Hamas to power in 2006 – despite considerable interference by the US and Israel in the electoral process, though since Hamas took over Gaza completely by military force in 2007 and there have been no elections there.

The Covid inquiry continues to reveal government failures which led to many early deaths and its now clear that our current government have decided to abandon any real attempt to slow down or reverse our excessive global heating despite almost daily scientific evidence of the increasing risks – and the evidence we all fell as our weather becomes more and more chaotic. And rather than try to deal with the many problems that various protests bring to the fore, successive governments have enacted laws to restrict the right to protest and free speech and have encouraged police to prevent protests and courts to impose harsh ‘exemplary’ punishments.

Frankly Suella, you and your government are a disaster. And you are the leading edge of that disaster. The sooner you all go the better for Britain. Resign Now.

Pictures here are from London last Saturday, 28th October 2023. You can see more of those I made during the protest at:
National March for Gaza – Ceasefire Now, London 28 Oct 23
More Pictures – Gaza Ceasefire Now! London 28 Oct 23
Gaza Ceasefire Now! Protest At Waterloo Station, London 28 Oct 23


Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14: This protest on Saturday 21st July 2018 was the 14th organised by Movement for Justice outside the immigration prison at Yarl’s Wood and I think their last there. I missed the first so this was my 13th visit to this remote location, cyling uphill the five or six miles north from Bedford station. I had previously photographed a number of protests organised by MfJ outside the two immigration prisons (officially called detention centres to make it sound nicer) on the north of Heathrow airport, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook, a rather easier journey.

Unlike these two prisons which housed men, Yarl’s Wood was mainly used to hold women, though there were also a few families there. The protests there had attracted more campaigners because of this, with women being seen more widely as victims than male asylum seekers. And many of those who were locked up inside were women who had been raped as well as beaten and otherwise subjected to traumatic events before fleeing their countries.

Many of the women – as too the men elsewhere – were kept locked up for many months and some for years in indefinite detention while the Home Office refused to believe their stories or to properly investigate their cases, often demanding paperwork it would be impossible for them to provide. The remoteness of the centre and only limited access to internet and telephones makes it difficult for the women to progress their cases.

Many of these are people with desperate needs for counselling and help, but instead as various investigations, official as well as undercover journalism – had shown are held under appalling conditions in this and other centres run by private companies such as SERCO, with detainees refused their human and civil rights, assaulted, sexually harassed and assaulted, denied proper medical treatment, poorly fed and forced to work for £1 an hour on menial tasks.

The protests here are greeted by the women, giving them the assurance that they have not been forgotten and that there are those outside who support them. Those able to get to the windows facing the hill on which the protesters stood so they could be seen over the tall prison fence – the lower 10ft solid steel and above that another ten foot of dense metal mesh – shouted greetings, waved and held up messages.

A powerful public address system meant those inside could hear the speeches, some by former inmates of Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres, and some by those inside, relayed by mobile phone to the amplifier, as well as by some leading MfJ members.

Most of those inside will eventually be released, the majority getting leave to stay in this country. Some are taken to be deported with the MfJ and other organisations then working desperately and often successfully to stop their deportation flights back to terror and violence in their home countries.

This was by far the smallest of all the protests at Yarl’s Wood organised by the MfJ, following complaints made against the organisation by a former member who appears to have been treated badly by them. But however justified her personal complaint, her comments revealed little or nothing about the nature of the group which was not already on Wikipedia or otherwise common knowledge. But the dispute led to many other groups ending their support for protests organised by the MfJ, some organising their own protests but with very limited success.

Mabel had been held in Yarl’s Wood for a day or two less than 3 years

Other groups were and are working – as MfJ still is – to support detainees. The MfJ has played a major role in protests against our racist immigration detention system and in actions to prevent deportations. It still seems to be supported by many former detainees who have always played a leading role in the protests both at Yarl’s Wood and at Harmondsworth.

The Home Office finally decided it was too easy for protests to be organised outside Yarl’s Wood and moved the women – many of whom were released at the start of the Covid epidemic – up to an even more remote location in the north-east, with Yarl’s Wood being used to house those who had crossed the Channel in small boats.

The Illegal Immigration Act finally passed a few days ago intends to deport almost all migrants and asylum seekers (other than those coming under special schemes for Ukraine, Hong Kong etc) to Rwanda without any consideration of their asylum claims. Efforts to persuade the government to set up safe routes for those claiming asylum were rejected by the government in the latest ratcheting up of its racist policies, justified by them through the doublespeak of “compassion” while showing not the faintest scintilla of any real compassion.

More on My London Diary at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14.


Wedding ‘Die-In’ Against Afghanistan Massacres

Saturday, May 27th, 2023

Wedding ‘Die-In’ Against Afghanistan Massacres: It was a cool and damp morning when I got on my bike to cycle the 19 or so miles to Northwood station on Wednesday 27th May 2009, my route though the outer western suburbs of London. I locked my bike at the Metropolitan line station and joined around 30 protesters, including two couples dressed as bride and groom waiting for the start of the march, watched by rather more police.

Wedding 'Die-In' Against Afghanistan Massacres

Two years earlier, on 27th May 2009, US forces had bombed a wedding party at Haji Nabu in Afghanistan killing 47 civilians; this was just one of a number of wedding parties massacred by NATO or US forces who killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan – and three weeks before the protest another attack in Farah province had killed around 120 people, mainly women and children. Gatherings of civilians for any reason were too often misinterpreted as a threat to the occupying forces.

Wedding 'Die-In' Against Afghanistan Massacres

‘HMS Warrior’, the land-based Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood in London is the command centre for British and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Voices in the Wilderness UK, Justice Not Vengeance and London and Oxford Catholic Workers had planned a ‘die-in’ as an act of non-violent civil disobedience at its main entrance.

Wedding 'Die-In' Against Afghanistan Massacres
John McDonnell MP speaks before the start of the march

Negotiations with police took place and eventually the police allowed the marchers to proceed along the roads towards the military base. The marchers were stopped several times on the way and had to threaten to block the road with a die-in if they were not allowed to proceed.

Wedding 'Die-In' Against Afghanistan Massacres

Around 200 metres from the main gate the road was firmly blocked by a line of police and the organisers decided to hold the die-in on the road there. Around half the protesters lay down on the road. Fortunately the organisers had come with a supply of black bin bags to put on the wet surface, but it was still cold and uncomfortable, and the rain, although light, was steady.

The rest of the protesters stayed on the wide verge and began reading out the names of civilians killed in Afghanistan. Among those taking part in the protest were Maya Evans and Milan Rai who were arrested in 2005 for reading out the names of Iraqis and British soldiers killed in the Iraq War, opposite the Cenotaph in Whitehall. For this Rai became the first person to be convicted under SOCPA for organising an unauthorised demonstration in the vicinity of Parliament. Also at the protest was Hillingdon MP John McDonnell.

Hertfordshire police had previously given the protesters a warning under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. They gave a further warning once people had ‘died’ on the roadway, but stood watching. After around 15 minutes, a second officer gave a warning that unless people cleared the road they would be moved, and said that they had 5 minutes to decide.

Twenty minutes later a final warning was issued, and then groups of police moved to each protester on the road in turn. Each was told they were committing an offence and that unless they moved they would be carried to the side of the road, and that if they attempted to move back on to the road they would be arrested.

At this point some protesters got up an moved, but most waited for the police to remove them. Most went limp and were fairly carefully lifted and deposited on the verge with a warning they would be arrested should they return to the road. I saw one man being arrested and taken away when he did so and was later told that there were five other arrests.

When the road was clear the press was also threatened with arrest and could only cover the event from the side of the road. Previously we had been allowed to cover the event without much interference, as I commented “For once I was only told to get out of the way when I was really in the way. There were some FIT officers from the Met present – let’s hope they take some intelligence back to their force about how to police protest.”

The protesters had only intended for the die-in to last an hour, and it was three-quarters of an hour before the road was finally cleared. After a short delay the police allowed the remaining protesters to march back down the road to the station. It was still raining as I unlocked my bike and rode home.


March 8th – Women Strike And Protest

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

March 8th – Women Strike And Protest. Last year on International Women’s Day I published a long post, International Women’s Day Marches with images from my coverage of them from 2002 until 2020. This year I look back five years to Thursday 8th March 2018 when I covered a wide range of protests, most of which were linked to International Women’s Day


Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy – US Embassy, Nine Elms

This was the first protest outside the new US Embassy where they intend to continue the regular monthly protests which they have had outside the old embassy in Grosvenor Square since 2007 until the illegal and immoral US prison camp is shut down and all the prisoners released.

Normally these protests take place on the first Thursday of every month, but in March 2018 the protest scheduled for March 1st was postponed for a week because of snow. Because of the change of date some regular protesters were unable to attend and the protest started a little later than usual as some had problems finding the new location. This was the only event not connected with International Women’s Day I covered on the day.

In March 2018, 41 prisoners remained held at Guantanamo. There was no evidence against most of those held and tortured there that would stand up in any court of law, often simply a matter of suspicion or hearsay or desperate statements made under extreme torture. Many were simply foreigners in the region seized to gain cash rewards from the US forces.

Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy


Family Courts put on Trial – Old Palace Yard

March 8th - Women Strike And Protest

Global Women’s Strike had organised a mock trial of the UK Family Courts in an International Women’s Day protest in front of Parliament.

March 8th - Women Strike And Protest

Among those who spoke were mothers whose children had been unjustly taken away, and statements from others were also read out, along with some shocking comments made in court by judges.

The UK has the highest rate of adoptions in Europe, almost all without consent of their birth family. Families of colour, immigrants and disabled are all disproportionately affected and in some working class areas 50% of children are referred to social services.

Poverty, often the result of benefit cuts and sanctions and poor housing conditions especially in temporary accommodation is often mistaken for neglect and the help mandated under the 1989 Childrens Act is seldom available. Children are often simply taken into care and then put up for adoption even though they have mothers or grandmothers who are capable of good parenting and only need support.

The campaigners say that victims of domestic abuse are often accused of ‘failing to protect’ their children and vague charges such as putting children at risk of future emotional harm and neglect are used by the secret courts to remove children from mothers and grandmothers. They want hearings with proper public scrutiny and an end to the gagging of mothers and familys, a great use of kinship carers and the proper implementation of the 1989 Children Act, and the Care Act 2014 which entitles disabled mothers to extra help.

Parliamentary officer Black Rod sent police to try to shut down the protest, but the organisers showed them documents to say they had permission for the protest and to use a megaphone. They seemed puzzled but left.

Family Courts put on Trial


London Women’s Strike – Russell Square

This was the big event of the day and included speeches about a wide range of causes. As the organisers said the “Women’s Strike is a strike for solidarity between women – women of colour, indigenous, working class, disabled, migrant, Muslim, lesbian, queer and trans women” and “is about realising the power we already hold – activating and nourishing resistance.

Many of the women present went on to other protests elsewhere including several protests in support of cleaners at the TopShop and The Royal Opera in Covent Garden, and cinema workers at Picturehouse, calling for an end to immigration detention an in solidarity with the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers, for Unilever to withdraw its investment in Myanmar where its presence supports a government that has brutally raped, tortured and killed many Rohingya, and supporting sex workers by calling for the decriminalisation of prostitution and I also went to cover some of these

Much more about this event on My London Diary: London Women’s Strike.


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

At the Home Office protesters showed solidarity with those held in Yarl’s Wood on International Women’s Day, in particular with those who had began a hunger strike 15 days ago against their imprisonment and the conditions and treatment by the detention centre staff and the Home Office.

Since then the strike has gathered momentum and escalated into an all-out strike: work strikes, occupations, and a general refusal to cooperate, and long lists of the detainees demands have been published by Detained Voices.

More at Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood.


Reinstate the Royal Opera House 6 – Royal Opera, Covent Garden

Six members of grassroots independent workers union CAIWU were fired by cleaning services company Kier for their jobs at the Royal Opera House, another disciplined and a sixth was on final written warning. They were clearly being victimised folloing successful trade union action which had forced Kier to pay its workers there the London Living Wage.

The large and loud action with union members augmented by women from the Women’s Strike blocked Drury Lane for some minutes. Police arrived, talked to the protesters and then went inside to talk to the managers inside before emerging, carefully removing poster and fliers the protesters had left on their car before driving off. The protesters later moved back into Covent Garden Market leaving the road free.

More at Reinstate the Royal Opera House 6.


& Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide – Unilever House

Women from the Women’s Strike called on Unilever to disinvest from Myanmar where they have a $667 million investment.

The military government there are committing systematic rape and other torture with total impunity as part of their genocide against the Rohingya people. Unilever claims, especially in its marketing for Dove products to respect the dignity and rights of women and girls and says it “aims to improve safety for women and girls in the communities where they operate.”

More at Unilever & Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide.


MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

Saturday 3rd December 2016 saw the 10th protest organised by Movement for Justice at Yarl’s Wood, the immigration prison on an isolated wartime RAF base around five miles north of Bedford. Around 2000 protesters made there way there to call for the closure of Yarl’s Wood and all immigration detention centres.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Because of heavy security inside the prison there were fewer women to greet them at the windows than on previous protests, but those who were able to make it greeted them enthusiastically, shouting and waving from the prison block behind the high fence, hindered by windows that open only a small crack.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Several of those held inside were also able to speak to the protesters using their mobile phones, which detainees are allowed to have as they are essential in communicating with their lawyers. Conditions in immigration detention are different from those in our normal jails, but those held are still prisoners. And unlike most in normal jails, they are held in indefinite detention, never knowing when they will be released, with no limit on how long they can be held. One woman who spoke to us from inside had been held without any charge or trial for over two years.

MfJ At Yarls Wood Again

Those imprisoned at Yarls Wood are almost entirely women, with just a few family groups also being held there. The women who spoke, along with other former inmates who were taking part in the protest outside told grim and shameful stories of their detention. They told of assaults and abuse by Serco security guards who today had locked many in other wings to stop them seeing the protest and threatened those who greeted the protesters.

70% of Women in Detention are Survivors of Sexual Violence

One of the many complaints by those who are locked up in this and other immigration detention centres has been over the lack of proper access to medical treatment and it was worrying to hear from inside that there were now cases of TB in Yarl’s Wood. There have been some cases of death in detention when the staff have refused to take detainees health complaints seriously and have only called for medical assistance too late.

The complaints about abuse by security guards have been confirmed in reports in the mass media, including testimony and recordings made by an investigative reporter who worked as a security guard for several months there, revealing a horrific story of abuse.

Yarl’s Wood was temporarily closed down at the start of Covid with women being released or moved elsewhere. Most of the women who are held there are eventually released, most granted asylum or leave to remain. Some are simply released and disappear into the community and a few are actually deported.

It is a wasteful system in every way, particularly wasteful for the women who are confined there, often in great need of proper medical treatment and care for the trauma they escaped from with threats, beatings and rapes in their own country. But also wasteful for the taxpayer, both in paying the private companies that run these prisons and also in losing the positive contribution these women could be making if they were allowed freedom and able to work – and pay taxes rather than be a burden on them.

Yarl’s Wood is now being used to house some of those who have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in small boats. A new asylum detention centre for women has been opened up in an even more isolated location, a former youth prison in County Durham, removing them even further from their legal advice and from protesters.

The protesters stood on a small rise in the field outside where they could see the upper two floors of the prison over the tall metal fence through the 10 feet of open metal grid above the 10 feet of solid metal panels. Photographing through the metal grid was possible but not easy. Some protesters went up to the fence and banged noisily on the panels, while others held posters on tall poles or climbed ladders against the fence so that those on the ground floor could see their banners, and there were also a number of flares let off to give large clouds of coloured smoke.

My MfJ organised coach back to Bedford Station was leaving shortly before the protest ended, and as I boarded it, half a mile away as the crow flies though nearer a mile along the public footpath and road, I could still clearly hear the noise of the protest. Those women locked away from the block facing the protesters will certainly have been able to hear it too. It had been a powerful protest but at the end I felt an intense sense of shame for the way this country treats asylum seekers and our clearly racist immigration system.

Much more at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 10 on My London Diary.


Students March against Fees and Cuts – 2012

Monday, November 21st, 2022

A student displays the #DEMO2012 t-shirt

One of the main issues that led to a huge slump in votes for the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 General Election was their support as a part of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government for increasing student fees. In 2010, there were 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, but their number fell to 8 in 2015, and has only recovered slightly in the two following elections, with currently 11 MPs. Of course the drop is exaggerated by our first past the post electoral system which is grossly unfair to minority parties, but it still reflects an enormous drop in public confidence in the party.

Students March against Fees and Cuts - 2012

Before the 2010 election, the Lib-Dems had been seen as a moderate centrist party opposed to both Tories and Labour, but their actions in the coalition shifted perceptions; in many eyes they became seen as simply a rather lightweight branch of the Conservative Party and certainly no longer a credible opposition.

Students March against Fees and Cuts - 2012

It was the Labour Party who had introduced student tuition fees under Blair’s New Labour government in 1998, setting them at £1,000 a year. New Labour again raised them in 2006 to £3,000. But in 2012 the Tory Lib-Dem coalition tripled them again, to £9,000 – so totalling £27,000 for a normal 3 year course. The fees were stated to be a maximum, but it was soon what almost all universities were charging.

After World War 2, most local authorities had provided maintenance grants for students, enough to cover their living costs for the roughly 30 weeks a year of most courses. The 1962 Education Act made this a legal obligation; the grants were means-tested with a minimum of around a third of the full grant, with wealthier parents being expected but not obliged to make up the difference. But all of us from poorer families got the full grant.

When the Tories under Mrs Thatcher replaced these grants with student loans in 1980 there was an immediate fall in university applications – the 1981 figures showed a drop of 57% from 1979. The loan system was a boon to students from wealthy homes, taking the obligation from their parents for supporting them – and at the start the terms of the loans made it an advantage for rich students who had no need for them to take them out. Since then the terms of the student loans have worsened considerably.

Many have since found that with rising costs the maintenance loan available isn’t enough to pay for their accommodation and food and some need to take out more expensive loans than the student loan to keep alive during their course. I’ve seen too the long queues for the free food offered by Hare Krishna in Bloomsbury at lunchtimes, and students have also had to go to food banks and other places offering support.

Many students now work during term-time, some putting in long hours in bars and other part-time work which must affect their studies. When I was a student, taking paid work could have led to me being thrown off my course, although of course I did work during vacations, and needed to, as these were not covered by the grant.

Higher education students are not the only ones who were suffering from the cuts made by the Coalition government. Younger students, 16-18 year olds still in schools, sixth form colleges and FE, were angry at the loss of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of up to £30 per week, which many needed to pay their fares to college and to buy midday meals while studying.

And as I pointed out “Students are also concerned about other cuts being made by the government which will affect them, and also by the increasing efforts to privatise the education system at all levels. There were also many placards pointing out the class-based nature of our education system and our government, with a cabinet stuffed with privately educated millionaires who appear to have little idea of how difficult times are for ordinary people and no real sympathy for them.”

Since the student protests of November and December 2010 the police had become very worried about the possibility of violent scenes – often provoked by police action – at student protests, and were out in force. The march organisers too had agreed a route with the police which would cut down the possibilities, taking the marchers across Westminster Bridge to end with a rally in Kennington Park, well away from any government ministries and Tory and Lib-Dem party headquarters. This was a peaceful protest although the roughly 10,000 attending were clearly very angry and small groups who attempted to break away from the protest in Parliament Square where the march stopped for a photocall and many sat down on the road were fairly soon moved on.

There were still a few sitting on the road or standing around outside parliament when I decided to leave; it was raining slightly and dark clouds suggested a downpour was on the way. I decided nothing more was likely to happen at Westminster and that a rally in pouring rain was unlikely to be of great interest and started on my way home.

More at Students March on Parliament.