my london diary index


Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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London March for Freedom for Tibet

Downing St, London. Sat 10 Mar 2018
Tibetans and supporters prepare to march at Downing St
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The annual Tibet freedom march in London commemorating the 59th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising, with around a thousand people, including many Tibetans and supporters gathering at Downing St before marching to a protest at the Chinese Embassy.

Before the march left there was a minute of silence for those who have died, including by self-immolation, and a long Tibetan prayer, followed by the singing of the Tibetan National Anthem.
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Against attacks on Afrin

Parliament Square, London. Sat 10 Mar 2018

People with Kurdistan flags and posters
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A row of people across the front of Parliament Square hold posters about the continuing Turkish siege of Afrin, where the local authority reports that 220 civilians have been killed and 600 injured.

The Turkish forces have taken advantage of the media concentrating on Eastern Ghouta and largely ignoring what is happening in the Kurdish area of northern Syria, where up to a million civilians are coming under attack.

Turkish forces are augmented by hard line Islamic extremists from the Free Syrian Army, many of whom fought with ISIS and al-Qaeda and are determined to have revenge on the PKK Kurdish forces which were largely responsible for their defeat.
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Sri Lankans protest Buddhist mob violence

Downing St, London. Sat 10 Mar 2018

Women on the march to the Sri Lankan Embassy
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Sri Lankan Tamils gathered for a rally at Downing St to protest against the continuing violence by Buddhist mobs in Muslim neighbourhoods around Kandy which have destroyed shops and restaurants despite the state of emergency declared last Tuesday with a curfew and the deployment of soldiers to towns in the troubled area.

In similar violence last month a mosque was destroyed. The government has also closed down social media websites which they say were used to organise the violence. The majority Sinhalese population is predominantly Buddhist while the minority Tamils include Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

As protesters left to march to the Sri Lankan High Commission there were some arguments as some men tried to force women protesters to the back of the march, but were met with some defiance. They were held back while some men with banners went to the front of the march, but soon joined it.
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Protest forcible religious conversions

Parliament Square, London. Sat 10 Mar 2018
People dressed in black wear head bands 'Free Our Faith'
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People stood in rows in Parliament Square for a protest by members of many faiths calling for religious freedom and against Coercive Conversion Programmes which attempt to forcefully change an person's belief through psychological intimidation, verbal and physical abuse.

This was a one of a number of protests around the world called by the South Korean based NGO The Association of Victims of Coercive Conversion Programmes (AVCCP) which raises awareness of human rights abuses caused by religious conflicts after the death of a Korean girl, Jo In Gu, allegedly suffocated by her parents for refusing to take part in a religious conversion programme.
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Million Women Rise

Oxford St, London. Sat 10 Mar 2018

Latin-Americans in Orchard St where the march gathered
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Women march through London against male violence against women, part of the Million Women Rise movement against the global pandemic of male violence against women.

Many carried feminist placards and there were groups from various women's organisations around the country, including from various ethnic communities. They were marching along Oxford St to a rally in Trafalgar Square.
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Unilever & Myanmar's Rohingya genocide

Unilever House, , London. Thu 8 Mar 2018

Unilever told their investments in Myanmar are supporting rape and genocide of Rohingya
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A protest on International Women's Day at Unilever House called on Unilever to disinvest from Myanmar where they have a $667 million investment as 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 to to embody principles that respect the dignity and rights of women and girls, especially in their marketing of Dove products and as 'Impact Champion' appointed by UN Women, and a company which makes the claims that "UNILEVER aims to improve safety for women and girls in the communities where they operate."

The protest was organised by Global Women's Strike in support of the call by Sisters of Rohingya for Unilever to divest from Myanmar.
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Reinstate the Royal Opera House 6

Royal Opera, Covent Garden, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018

CAIWU members outside Covent Garden Royal Opera House
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Cleaners from CAIWU were supported by a a large crowd from the London Womens's Strike in a protest outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden against the victimisation of cleaners working there for taking part in trade union activities.

In January, actions by Independent Workers Union - CAIWU (members were successful in getting the cleaning service provider Kier to pay its workers the London Living Wage. Only a month later, Kier, a company who have a record of blacklisting trade unionists, fired four cleaners and porters from their jobs for minor timekeeping misdemeanours. Another is being disciplined and a sixth is on a final written warning. All are CAIWU members and are clearly being victimised for having taken part in the successful campaign at the Royal Opera House.

The protest was so large that it blocked Drury Lane for some time before returning to Covent Garden Market. Police came and talked briefly with both the protesters and those inside the Royal Opera House, then came out, removed all the posters and fliers from the police car, got in and drove away.

The campaign against victimisation is continuing with a whole series of protests scheduled for later in the month at times when customers will be going in to performances there.
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Solidarity with Yarl's Wood hunger strikers

Home Office, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018
A group from Manchester at the London protest with a Shut Down Yarl's Wood banner
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Protesters come to the Home Office to show solidarity with those held in Yarl's Wood on International Women's Day, and in particular with those who 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 this has gathered momentum and escalated into an all-out strike: work strikes, occupations, and a general refusal to co-operate, and long lists of the detainees demands have been published by Detained Voices.

So far the Home Office has issued denials that the action is taking place and has sent those taking part letters threatening them with accelerated deportation because of their actions. The protesters call for an end to all immigration detention. Hundreds of people including some at this protest were fasting today for International Women's Day in solidarity with those inside Yarl's Wood.
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London Women's Strike

Russell Square, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018

A woman holds red roses and a poster about smashing the patriarchy
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Over a thousand people, mainly women, are at the London Women's Strike in Russell Square on International Women’s Day.

There were a series of speeches, singing and events to mark the day of strike by women, refusing to do work either paid or unpaid, including housework and domestic work. The organisers say 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."

Here is a part of one of their statements:

• For every woman who is sick to death of being sexually harassed and bullied at work.
• For every woman who is hungry and unable to heat her house.
• For every woman suffering because of benefit cuts or poverty wages.
• For every woman who is expected to earn less than her male colleagues and then come home and start a second shift of cooking, cleaning and caring.
• For every woman who is kept powerless by whore stigma.
• For every woman of transgender experience who is subject to violence and whose womanhood is denied by the state, her doctor, her employers, and those around her.
• For every woman who is told she is just going through a phase, that she's too pretty to be a lesbian or too ugly to be straight and has endured homophobia, biophobia or queerphobia at home, at work and in the street.
• For every woman who has worked herself to the bone to keep the national health and education systems functioning and yet has not received a pay rise in years.
• For every woman who has suffered violence at the hands of partners, friends, colleagues or bosses and is not believed.
• For every woman who faces violence at the hands of the state through immigration raids, mass incarceration and racist policing.

Groups of those on strike took part in a number of events 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.
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Family Courts put on Trial

Old Palace Yard, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018
A finger points at one of the two judges the protesters say are stealing children from families
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Global Women's Strike mock trial of the Family Courts in an International Women’s Day protest in front of Parliament. Speakers included mothers who have had children unjustly removed and others who read out their statements as well as the shocking comments made in court by judges as well as those from groups which assist women to try and keep their children or who have had children taken without good cause.

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

They say that poverty, often a result of benefit cuts and sanctions, and lack of proper housing is often mistaken for neglect and that instead of help being provided as the 1989 Childrens Act instructed, children are taken into care and then put up for adoption when they have mothers or grandmothers who are capable of good parenting and only need support.

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.

The campaigners want hearings with proper public scrutiny, an end to the gagging of mothers and families, the greater use of kinship carers (only 9% of looked after children are placed with these in the UK, compared to almost half in Spain) and the proper implementation of the 1989 Children Act, and the Care Act 2014 which entitles disabled mothers to extra help.
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Shut Guantanamo at new US Embassy

US Embassy, Nine Elms, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018
London Guantanamo campaigners in front of the new US Embassy
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The London Guantánamo Campaign held the first of their monthly protests outside the US Embassy calling for the US prison camp to be shut down and the remaining 41 prisoners to be released.

They have protested at the Grosvenor Square US embassy every month since 2007 and will continue outside the new embassy until the illegal and immoral camp is closed down. They say that with President Trump's plans to keep Guantanamo open and possibly send more people there it is important to continue to stand against this shameful injustice. There is no evidence against most of those held and tortured there which would stand up in a court of law, and some were simply foreigners in the region seized by merely to gain cash rewards from the US forces.

The protests normally take place on the first Thursday of the month, but March's protest was postponed for a week because of last week's snow. This meant that some regular protesters were unable to attend, and the protest started a little later than usual as some had problems finding the new location. I had to leave after a few minutes to photograph another event and more people may have turned up later. more pictures

Embassy Quarter

Nine Elms, London. Thu 8 Mar 2018

The US Embassy has a 'moat' water feature in front of it
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I walked from Vauxhall to the US Embassy for a protest, but was a few minutes early (or the protesters were late) so had time to take a few pictures of the embassy and its surrounds in what estate agents call the Embassy Quarter.
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IWGB protest at Graduation Dinner

Chi swell St, London. Tue 6 Mar 2018

A woman holds a baking tray with the message 'No To Outsourcing - Keep Us In
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Outsourced workers, including cleaners, security officers, receptionists, porters and gardeners who keep the university running smoothly protested noisily outside University of London Vice Chancellor Sir Adrian Smith's graduation dinner, calling on the university to employ them directly, for an end to zero hours contracts and to implement promised pay rises.

Currently they are employed by contractors under worse holiday entitlements, sick pay, pensions and paternal leave than university employees, and are often subjected to discrimination, bullying and unfair deduction of wages.

The university management has repeatedly refused discussions with the workers and their trade union, the IWGB, who are this week balloting for further strike action after months of campaigning.

The workers and supported marched from Barbican station to the dinner venue and watched by police and security staff as they held a noisy protest and handed out flyers to those attending the dinner.
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More Staines

Staines, Middx. Sun 4 Mar 2018

Former gravel pit, Church Lammas, Staines
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It was late afternoon when we set out for a walk - I'd been working at the computer all day and needed some fresh air and a little exercise.

We walked down to the Thames and then along what used to be the tow path upstream to the Lammas Park. From 1812 to 1885 there were bitter and sometimes violent battles over the enclosures of common land around Staines, and particular resentment when John Ashby (whose family owned among other things Staines' leading brewery) bought and enclosed this area. The resentment didn't go away, even when the area was donated as a park to the town in 1922, and although officially then called the Ashby Recreation Ground, locals refused to use that name, and 71 years later the local council capitulated and changed it back to The Lammas. Hopefully it won't take quite so long for the council to change the official name of the town back to Staines, from the asinine Staines-upon-Thames.

Walking through the Lammas we crossed the road to another area of the Lammas fields now called Church Lammas Lakes, as the fields were dug up for gravel in the 1980s and 90s. Rather than restoring them to fields the pits were left and at fairly minimal expense (a couple of gates, a few paths and benches) turned into a nature reserve open to the public. The borough has far too many such former gravel pits - and of course also large areas of water in a number of reservoirs.

At the west of the site is a small ditch, the COunty Ditch, which forms the boundary of Middlesex - and now of the Borough of Spelthorne, and we walked by its side t the northwest corner of the reserve by the Staines Aqueduct, where we turned east to go to a footpath leading over the aqueduct and then under the bypass and across a field to Moor Lane, turning south on that to come back under the bypass and over the aqueduct again, then taking a footpath that leads to Vicarage Lane and on to Church St, returning to the towpath by Bridge St to make our way home. By that time is was getting seriously dark.
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No More Deaths On Our Streets

London. Sat 3 Mar 2018

Police stop the march briefly close to Piccadilly Circus
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Supporters from March With The Homeless - #solidaritynotcharity, Streets Kitchen, Homeless Outreach Central, and London: March for the homeless gathered at Downing St after rough sleepers have died on the streets of London in the recent cold snap to say enough is enough - no more deaths on our streets.

After blocking Whitehall for a short time they marched along the Strand and through Covent Garden before making their way towards Piccadilly Circus and then on to the squatted Sofia House which is offering shelter and food to the London's street homeless.

Police made several attempts to stop their march with a small force of officers including two poorly controlled horses who endangered the public on some of the crowded West End streets. They kept trying to stop the march going where it intended and making it go back to Downing St, but there were not enough of them to stop people simply walking around their various cordons.

Eventually at the top of Haymarket the police appeared to come to some agreement with the marchers that would allow them to proceed, and I left for home

Protesters blame the government for failing in its duty to provide social housing and to look after its citizens, and that government cuts in benefits and money for welfare services are killing people who are poor, disabled or suffering from mental health conditions. They say the authorities should take over some of the many empty properties to house the homeless - there are around ten times as many empty homes in the UK as there are homeless families.

There are also many large empty commercial properties like the one that some of those on the march have squatted in Great Portland St and made into a temporary refuge. Without people making initiatives such as these and the work of groups like Streets Kitchen feeding the homeless many more would have died, particularly in the cold nights and snow of the past week. The squat provided food and overnight shelter for around 30 people on the night of the march.
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