March for a People's Olympics
Bow to Bethnal Green, London, Sat 28 Jul 2012
protesters at the front of the march on Roman Road
Protesters marched close to the Olympic stadium calling for an end to
the corporate takeover of the Olympics and the draconian policing and military
presence largely aimed at the protection of brands and for the games to meet
its legacy promises.
The ‘Whose Games? Whose City?’ protest close
to the Olympic site had at first been banned, and Transport for London had
refused permission for them to march along roads which are emergency backup
Games routes. Even after it had been agreed with police that they could do
so and that should an emergency arise that meant these roads were needed the
marchers could simply be cleared to the pavements, Tower Hamlets Council,
owners of Wennington Green where the march was to finish, attempted to ban
speeches or other events, and there were threats of arrest should marchers
wear political -shirts, display placards or carry of banners.
In the event the march went off without trouble, with one minor incident
close to its end in Roman Road where police seized and searched one man who
had cut a piece of police tape. Despite the attempts of stewards, most of
the marchers who had already gone past returned to support him and the police
were soon surrounded by a large and noisy crowd demanding his release. After
a few minutes he was set free without charge and the march ended quietly with
a rally in the park.
Around 500 marchers mingled with press and TV from around the world at the
starting point in Mile End Park around midday. Police came to liase with the
marchers including a number in the light blue liasion waistcoats now common
The protest had been organised by the Counter Olympics Network (CON),
although it was not an anti-Olympics march, but one that protested at the
way what should be a sporting event of noble origins has been taken over by
corporate interests. They state the event was to highlight
"the close ties between the Olympic brand and its corporate sponsors
who, despite IOC claims of vetting on ethical grounds, include serial polluters,
companies which seriously damage the environment and which wreck or take
lives, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto, BP, Dow Chemical."
Other sponsors, they continue
"G4S, Cisco, and Atos deny people their human rights in a variety
of situations while Macdonalds helps to fuel the obesity epidemic. London2012
provides benefits at taxpayers’ expense while receiving little in
CON also point out the many broken promises so far and the very doubtful
legacy the games will leave, particularly in East London.
"the lack of benefits for local people and businesses, the fantastic
expansion of security into our daily lives, the deployment of missiles and
large numbers of troops, the unwarranted seizure of public land at Wanstead
Flats, Leyton Marsh and Greenwich Park."
They go on to warn:
"These negative precedents set in so many different fields can
be used to justify further massive security operations, the deployment of
armed police and drones, the further seizure of land and the breach of planning
rules preventing development of open space."
At the front of the march were a group of people in wheelchairs from DPAC
(Disabled People Against Cuts), incensed by the way that Atos, one
of the Olympic sponsors, has been conducting tests on disabled people to determine
their suitability to work. The computer-based tests fail to take into account
the circumstances of the individual, and those conducting them are trained
to unfairly reduce the number of successful claims to a minimum - with a target
of one eighth of the current level - Atos get paid for every person they deny
benefits. Many people clearly unable to work have lost their benefits, sometimes
several times after appeals have been allowed, and some have been driven to
suicide. Among those refused are those with terminal ilnesses and 32 people
who have been denied benefits have died before their appeals could be heard.
Others who received benefits that enabled them to carry out useful and rewarding
work have had these withdrawn and can no longer continue, almost always becoming
a greater burden on the taxpayer. One of the main banners was against the
governments decision to close much of Remploy, which enables many
disabled people to do productive work.
Also on the march were a group of Circassians opposed to the Sochi 2014 Winter
Olympics. They say the Olympics in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea coast was
the site of the Circassian Genocide, where Czarist Russia killed around 1.5
million Circassians in the 1800s, will be the most corrupt Olympics ever,
costing over $50 billion and will cause irreversible damage to a UNESCO World
The march paused briefly outside the former match factory -now the Bow Quarter
gated flats -on one of the towers of which missiles are now stationed. Soldiers
on top of the tower watched the marchers and banners, and doubtless heard
the chanting of
"Hey Ho, Sebastian Coe
Get your missiles out of Bow"
Coe was also the target of another popular chant:
"Seb Coe, Get Out, we know what you're all about!
Missiles, job losses, Olympics for the bosses!"
I listened to the first few speeches at the rally and then had to leave,
although there was expected to be a short and entirely token occupation of
one of the nearby Nike sponsored playground, and unfortunately I missed speeches
by John McDonnell MP and others.
The first speakers at the final rally included Brian Richardson
of Defend the Right to Protest, Ruth Tanner of War on
Want and Chris Nineham of the Stop The Olympic Missiles
Campaign. Nineham declared that the London Olympics had already set a
number of records, including the largest ever number of arrests on the first
day, the highest ticket prices, the most intensive application of branding
rules and the highest level of militarisation of any Olympic games, with far
more being spent on security that even in China. There were, he said, more
troops in London than at any time since World War 2, and more than at any
time in Afghanistan. He made the link that having our soldiers in Afghanistan
was what made us a terrorist target and called for the immediate withdrawal
of troops as a far more effective security measure than those currently in
One of the speakers was Melanie Strickland who was among the 182 'Critical
Mass' cyclists arrested last night (someone pointed out this was another record
for the London Olympics, more arrests than Beijing) after the group of around
4-500 had disobeyed warnings not to enter the games lanes or go near the stadium.
She was arrested after she had annoyed police by giving one of those previously
arrested, a Muslim skateboarder who had been fasting all day, some water;
one of the officers had recognised her as someone who had been present at
some Occupy events and decided this was good reason for her arrest.
She was one of several speakers who mentioned the Black Power salute at the
1968 Olympics by the African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Dr Carlos spoke recently in London and got everyone present to raise their
hands and say "I am not afraid to offend my oppressor!",
and the audience at the rally repeated his message.
Cycling the Grand Union
West Drayton - Milton Keynes return. Tue-Wed 24-5 Jul 2012
Linda cycling along the tow-path a few miles south of
Each day we cycled around 60 miles, 48 of it along canal towpaths, and although
it isn't a great distance, it was heavy going in parts
Many years ago you needed a licence to cycle along canal towpaths, and after
I'd been told off quite a few times I finally got myself one - I think it
cost something like 5 shillings a year. Then the licences became free, and
finally were abandoned altogether leaving the towpaths open to all for cycling.
Many of them are useful safe cycle routes, and more would be if only the
surfaces were more cycle-friendly. In places they are very narrow (often because
hedges are not properly trimmed) and often they have deep mud ruts or half-embedded
large stones or bricks that are a real hazard to cyclists. Some of the locks
too have steps and turns that are almost impossible to negotiate on a bike,
even if you are wheeling it; worst are those that have been rebuilt in relatively
recent years; those from the old days were designed for horses and generally
much easier for bikes. I'd like to see everything being made more cycle-friendly.
My two days of riding left me with scratches and scars on legs and arms and
a possibly cracked rib - and a week later I'm still in some pain. I didn't
take many pictures because it was too painful to ride with a camera strap
around my neck as normal. There was of course too much green for my kind of
Sharing a path with people on foot was occasionally a problem too. There
are just a few people who refuse to step to one side of the path to allow
a cycle to pass them, though they would do so without thinking if a walker
was coming in the opposite direction. It's an attitude I can't understand.
Others react excessively, hiding in the bushes to the side of the path when
you are 50 yard away; less of a problem, but still somehow a little upsetting.
But generally people are fine, and sometimes surprise me with their kindness
- like the man in Kings Langley who brought me a very welcome pint of lemon
squash after I had collapsed from exhaustion on a grassy bank outside his
house or the woman who rushed to see if I was OK and help me up one of the
several times I fell off my bike.
But there were many moments of pleasure too. It was good to get away from
London (and the Olympics) for a couple of days, sometimes to ride for several
miles without seeing another living person.
Unless they upgrade some of the towpaths I wouldn't do the whole journey
again, but might put my bike on a train to cut out some of the more familiar
parts, perhaps starting from Watford. I've written perhaps a bit more about
the journey on >Re:PHOTO shortly
after getting home, when I was just not up to going out and taking more pictures.
But there are a few more pictures here.
Austerity Games on Hackney Marshes
Hackney Marshes, London. Mon 23 Jul 2012
Competitors warm up for the events at the Youth for
Jobs Austerity Games
At the 'Austerity Games' on Hackney Marshes, just north of the London
Olympic site, trade unionists and youth from across Britain competed in 10
events highlighting the problems the young now face and lanuching the 'A future
for the 99%' manifesto.
Although the Austerity Games perhaps lacked some of the dedication and technical
excellence of the forthcoming major event, they were perhaps more entertaining.
There was something highly amusing about the efforts of the hand-picked athletes
taking part in the 'Deficit Discus', none of whom appeared
ever to have handled the discus in their previous lives. Only the wandering
of some spectators into the landing area a mere 250 ft or so away stopped
my demonstration of the correct technique, and although I performed in slow
motion the necessary movements, those taking part preferred to throw from
a static standing position, from which they managed to reach levels of performance
suitable for paying the hugely unnecessary bills for Trident, the troops in
Afghanistan and even occasionally the huge tax evasion.
There was rather more prior art evident in the 'Property High Jump'
though few managed to reach the income levels required to rent most property
in London, though the banker benefitted in the first round from a ladder to
get him over the bar and later from friends in the City who removed the bar
for his 'jump' and carefully replaced it after he had walked through.
Two of the photographers present (including myself) had earlier in a hors
concours preliminary event demonstrated our ability in the Student Debt
Weightlifting, but we were only performing at graduate level of around (£)30
kilos, and were put to shame later by several contestants who managed to lift
the huge debts required for masters degrees and doctorates, though not all
managed to raise these above their heads.
Although it was possible at this Olympics to see all of the events without
tickets I did miss the standing 'Job Jump' as I was busy
watching the discus. Apparently although most of the competitors managed to
reach the Workfare distance, and a few managed to gain Apprenticeship level,
none of them could make the standing jump far enough to get a job - rather
similar to real life for today's young people leaving education.
I was surprised to see the starter for the 'Race to the Bottom'
bring out a pistol to start the race, and expected to see security men parachuting
down from the airshop photographing us from above or one of the two helicopters
circling, but surprisingly nothing happened. The couple of police sent to
watch over us had parked their vehicle on the field a few hundred yards away
but by this time had gone into the changing room complex nearby to have a
cup of tea. Hackney Council had closed the place to the public and refused
permission for the Austerity Games to take place, asking the police to stop
them happening, but the police had apparently told them they could do nothing
about it. Apart from the lack of public conveniences this caused, the council
action had no effect.
There was some discussion about whether the medals for the Race to
the Bottom should go to the first or last to finish, and I'm unsure
what the final decision on this was. But as with the other events, gold, silver
and bronze medals were awarded and the winners applauded as they stood on
the podium. Things didn't quite go according to this plan in the 'Toss
a Tory (Shotput)' perhaps because there was general agreement that
the Tories were the champion tossers, and the banker competing grabbed all
I had to leave before the final Relay and closing speech, and the last event
I photographed was the Hardship Hurdles, where the competitors
had to surmount the scrapping of EMA, cuts in youth services, £9,000
a year university fees, unaffordable housing and unemployment. Since none
of these affected the banker in the race who simply ran straight through all
the hurdles, he was, as in life, the inevitable winner.
This was a fun event and on a rather smaller scale than the Olympics, costing
virtually nothing but providing considerable entertainment for those taking
part and watching. Unlike the Olympics which exist in a world of their own,
it also drew attention to the serious problems we face, and was also the launch
event for the 'Youth Fight for Jobs Manifesto', described as "A
Future for the 99%, which lays out the problems faced by young people in Britain
today and a strategy of how to get organised and fight for a decent future."
Cyclists Protest Olympic Towpath Closure
Leyton Marsh & Lea Navigation, London. Sunday 22 Jul 2012
Woman pins a small 'Open The Path' banner on a man's back by the Lea Navigation
East Londoners protested the closure of the Lea Navigation towpath alongside
the Olympic site, a vital cycle route across the area as well as a recreational
footpath, marching to the closure site and holidng a picnic there.
A vital part of London's Olympic bid was the promise that this would be the
greenest Olympics ever, and it is a promise the London games have failed to
live up to on every level. They failed to realise the opportunity of the allotments
on the site, closing them down; they failed to use the canal system to remove
waste and bring in materials; canal transport to the games will be a horrendously
expensive largely corporate jolly rather than a genuine water bus service,
and while they promoted the idea of people cycling to the games, instead they
have closed the two major cycle routes in the area, which were also widely
used by walkers.
The Greenway, used by many to travel to work as a short and direct route
from Hackney Wick to Stratford closed in May, and will at least be used by
those attending the games. As it passes between the stadium and the warm up
arena, keeping it open as a through route during the actual event would not
have been possible, although it is impossible to justify closing it over two
months in advance.
Another key route for cyclists is the Lea Navigation towpath, and there had
been an undertaking to keep that open during the games, with a 10 ft high
electrified fence having been erected between it and the Olympic site, bristling
with security cameras.
Ten days ago this too was closed, and it is not expected to be reopened before
September 12th. Alternative routes are roughly 50% longer and include cycling
on some busy roads, ending at the notorious Bow Flyover roundabout where two
cyclists have recently been killed.
The 'Open Our Towpath' campaign point out that the Olympic games web site
still shows the towpath as a route for cyclists, and say that the closure
is illegal, and ask for the path to be returned to public use. Today the held
the third weekly protest against the closure, meeting together with member
of the Save Leyton Marsh Campaign next to the 'temporary' basketball practice
site erected on Leyton Marsh, and walking from their down the towpath to the
closure a few yards south of the Eastway Bridge over the navigation.
There they set up a barbecue and held a protest picnic, having failed to
persuade the security men on duty at the gate to let them through or the two
PCSO's present to take action against what they allege is an illegal blockage
of the right of way.
Although the protest was not a huge one, in the couple of hours I was there,
literally hundreds of cyclists on their own or in small groups arrived at
the fence, expecting to be able to cycle along the towpath. Some saw the notice
and barrier and simply turned away immediately, others stopped to read the
notice and some to try asking the security men why the towpath was closed.
Many of them expressed their frustration at the closure and others asked for
help in finding a route avoiding the closed path.
The Lea Navigation is also closed, and the narrow boats normally moored just
above here have all been forced to move. The moorings have been made available
for the Olympic period at extremely high rents, and there were a few flag
bedecked boats moored there as we passed. Just above the Eastway bridge there
is a yellow barrier strung across the waterway to block the area to boats,
although the water bus service (£95 VIP return, £45 normal return)
will apparently make its way past. The protesters as well as a barbecue and
large awning had also brought along 3 inflatable padddling pools which they
could have used as primitive craft on the canal, but as they began to blow
them up a small security boat with two men on board appeared ready to repel
any nautical invasion.
A police van had come to Leyton Marsh for the start of the protest, and as
well as the two PCSOs who stood watching over the picnic for an hour or two,
there seemed to be no shortage of security men hanging around this end of
the site, with several groups seemingly totally unemployed behind the prison-like
wire fence as well as the two on the boat and five behind the flimsy fencing
across the towpath. At one point several police also turned up an peered at
the picknickers through the fence for a few minutes.
Cody Dock Open Day
South Crescent, Canning Town, London. Sat 21 Jul 2012
I visited Cody Dock in April and wrote Gasworks
Dock Revived, which tells something of the history of the dock and the
efforts being made to develop it into a real community resource, as well as
filling a vital link in the footpath along the bank of Bow Creek from Bow
Locks eventually to the Thames (there is still another gap beyond Cody Dock.
So when I got an invitation to their public Open Day I was keen to see how
the project was getting on.
Unfortunately I'd been held up by 'security' in Stratford, and arrived more
or less as the open day was ending, passing people going home from it, and
with only a few minutes to spare before rushing back to Star Lane DLR to continue
my journey. So I only had time to take just a few pictures there, and couldn't
stop to talk.
Lund Point, Stratford. Sat 21 Jul 2012
Lund Point looks out over the Olympic Park - this is
a view with a 'standard lens'
Although the BBC has taken over most of the top 5 floors of Lund Point on
the Carpenters Estate next to the Olympic park as studios for its coverage
of London 2012, there are still some flats occupied by owner occupiers in
the block. On a tour with residents group CARP (Carpenters Against Regeneration
Plans) I was invited to visit a flat on the 20th floor of this 22 storey block.
I had a very limited time to work but managed to make a couple of panoramas
as the single images while I was there.
Police Deny Olympic Residents Access to Home
Lund Point, Stratford. Sat 21 Jul 2012
security called on police to stop this man, his family and guests going to
his flat in Lund Point.
Following a request from BBC Security, police denied a family access
to their tower block home overlooking the Olympic site in Stratford for well
over an hour, before having to acknowledge they had no power to do so.
Colin, a resident in Lund Point on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford had
invited a group viewing the estate in a tour organised by CARP (Carpenters
Estate Against Regeneration) to come to his flat to see the high standard
of accomodation in the 1966 tower block and the views across the estate. The
BBC have rented the vacant areas of the top five floors of the 22 storey block
as a base for their Olympic and Paralympic coverage. The group included a
number of UK and foreign journalists, photographers and TV crews with an interest
in the area.
At around 1.15pm we approached thw tower block to find the resident's doorway
blocked by two burly security men, employed by the BBC. We stated our intention
to visit one of the residents and were refused entry. We then visited a couple
of nearby sites before returning around 50 minutes later to find a group of
five PCSOs and a police officer assisting the security men in blocking the
We again stated our right to enter and were refused, and when Colin, a resident
of the block, tried to enter he was prevented from doing so. The policewoman
present told us she was calling for a senior colleage and refused to discuss
any reason for not allowing us to enter. When another officer did arrive,
he too refused to discuss the right of residents to enter their homes or to
invite friends to do so, but again called for further assistance, with two
police vans arriving a few minutes later.
Eventually, shortly before 3pm, the police could find no reason to bar us
from the building and let us. The reason for the BBC's reluctance to let the
press see the inside of the building was soon apparent. Although this is still
a residential building with around 30 flats still occupied, the interior appeared
to be a health and safety nightmare, with cables, desks in lobby areas and
Next we tried to visit another resident who owns a flat on the 20th floor
of the block, and again police and security at first told us this was impossible.
We took the lift to the 20th floor and were met by the two security men, who
at first blocked our way out of the lift, and then stopped us from going down
the corridor to the flat. The resident who had extended the invitation to
the group confirmed that we were welcome and finally we were allowed through.
This was in no way an anti-Olympic event, and CARP has no quarrel with the
BBC, although some of the residents had complaints about their activities
on the estate. They accuse them of various breaches of the planning agreement
for the use of the site and of a contempt for health and safety. The resident's
lift is only supposed to be used for people (the BBC have an external site
lift for materials) but one told us how he had travelled down with his kids
in a lift full of bags of waste material, which he had been appalled to find
were dangerous asbestos removed from some of the areas being used by the BBC.
Another from the neighbouring terrace pointed out the huge emergency generator
behind a fence on the grass where his kids used to play, and suggested it
had no planning permission. He also said that when running it was extremely
noisy and belched out clouds of black fumes into the neighbouring gardens.
Both residents in the block and around also said they had been worken as early
as 6am by noisy building work taking place.
Newham's Shame - Carpenters Estate Tour
Stratford, London. Sat 21 Jul 2012
Nyabango talks about the estate and the Olympic site next door from the 20th
floor of Lund Point
Newham Council plans to sell off the Carpenters Estate next to the Olympic
site to University College London and has been removing residents and boarding
up good quality housing for over six years despite the desperate housing shortage
in the area.
The Carpenters Estate was first developed by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters
in the late Victorian era, with a mix of industry and housing. Much of the
area was badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War, and the estate
was redeveloped by Newham Council in the 1960s. It was in some respects an
exemplarly development of the time, with large area of two-story terraced
housing, some maisonettes and three 22 storey point blocks. The area also
retained some of the small industrial premises and included shops, a pub and
a school, and later a community and health centre. It was and remains a popular
estate, relatively small with good communal open space and amenities, close
to the centre of Stratford and next to its station, though the closure of
the direct access to this leaves residents with an unnecessarily long detour.
But around ten years ago, Newham Council decided to run down the estate,
'decant' off as many of the residents as it could, and board up (with squat-proof
metal shutters) the good empty properties. it was a scandalous decision given
the terrible housing shortage in the area, and one that has been extremely
unpopular in the area. Even the tower blocks are pretty popular, with good
quality accomodation that a number of tenants were happy to exercise the right
In November 2011, the council, upset at the activities of local residents
who wanted to remain on the estate decided to fix the elections to the Carpenters
Tenant Management Organisation (TMO). They barred freeholders on the estate
from standing for the new board of management and 'lost' five out of the six
leaseholder nominations. At the AGM the TMO officials employed security guards
to refuse entry to all freeholders who had been invited to attend. The election
rigging enabled Newham to effectively take over the TMO and to end real participation
by tenants and freeholders in the consultations over the future of the estate.
The changes have led to a loss of confidence in the eficacy and independence
of the TMO commisioned valuation service which was supposed to stand up for
the interests of tenants and challenge the low valuations by the Council for
Compulsory Purchase Orders. Residents formed Carpenters Against Regeneration
Plans (CARP) to challenge what they say are unconstitutional decisions made
by the TMO and to get it to fulfil its duties to all residents of the estate,
and to fight for the future of the residents and for a sustainable community.
CARP also point out that by emptying useable properties on the estate the
council is unnecessarily losing income for its housing budget and that this
makes no economic sense. They also warn that tenants who take up the offer
of alternative accomodation in flats owned by the housing associaton, Genesis
Housing, are losing their secure tenancy status and becoming simply hte much
less favourable 'assured tenancies'.
The tour around the estate, one of a number arranged by CARP, starting from
Stratford Station, was led by Tawanda Nyabango who lived for many years in
one of the tower blocks, with contributions by a number of other residents,
prticularly CARP vice-chairman Joe Alexander. After a long tour of the estate
and a brief detour to see the Waterworks River along the west of the estate
it tried to enter Lund Point, one of the three tour blocks on the estate to
visit two of the flats there. BBC security (they are using some of the top
five floors for Olympic coverage) and then police stopped us from entering
for around an hour and a half, but finally had to admit us since we had an
invitation from the residents of the two flats. The pictures from this aspect
of the event are in the separate story, Police Deny Olympic
The BBC had at first wanted to use another of the point blocks, James Reilly
Point, but determined action by one of the residents there had caused them
to change their plans. At Lund Point there are certainly those who feel that
the BBC have not been good neighbours in the block, and today's action will
have reinforced that opinion.
CARP certainly has nothing against the Olympics, and is not against the idea
of regenerating the estate, but are against the secretive way that the Mayor
and council have acted. They accept that there may be a need for change, but
would like an honest and open process in which proper consideration was given
to the current residents, whether tenants, leaseholders or freeholders.
On the tour were a number of students from University College London (UCL)
with whom the council are in discussions over the takeover of the area as
a new campus, who at one point held up a banner stting their opposition to
the UCL 'land grab'. But clearly this proposal would be in line with current
Newham Mayor Robin Wales's ambition for Stratford to become 'London's Third
City', even if it would mean getting rid of many of the people who currently
Olympic Flame at Stratford Six Days Early
Stratford High St, London. Sat 21 Jun 2012
Waiting for the flame to arrive
The Olympic flame went along Stratford High St this afternoon ignoring
the Olympic site visible a few hundred yards to the north where it is not
due until next Friday.
The Olympic flame on its tour of London passed within spitting distance
of the Olympic stadium this afternoon. There were a few people on the street
to watch it, and rather more including some organised Olympic groups on the
bridge taking the path along the Greenway - which is a on the walkers' well-used
Capital Ring - over the busy road.
The footbridge here would be a genuinely useful legacy of the games for walkers
were it to be left in place, carrying the path on the Northern Outfall Sewer
across the busy dual carriageway. At present the path, a major route for people
on foot or bicycle between Hackney Wick, Stratford and beyond, is closed through
the Olympic area, but will reopen some time after the games. But at Stratford
High St there is an annoying detour to cross the road (which has a central
fence) at a pedestrian crossing, which the bridge avoids. Unfortunately it
is planned to demolish it after the games.
The torch relay stopped opposite Warton Road, which leads directly to the
Olympic site, less than a quarter mile away, and the flame was passed by one
runner to the next who ran with it away from the games site.
Stop Military Brutality Against Nasa People
Colombian Embassy, Hans Crescent, London. Fri 20 Jul 2012
Proud to be indigenous read a poster, but still many
indigenous groups are persecuted
Latin American groups protested at the Colombian embassy against the
mistreatment of indigenous Nasa people by the Colombian military in the war
against the FARC, calling for the removal of military installations and personnel
from their region.
Around 50 people arrived for the protest, including a group of Peruvians
who had been protesting earlier opposite their own embassy. They held a spirited
protest with the usual chanting of slogans and short speeches (mainly in Spanish)
but enlivened both by the traditional dress worn by some of those taking part
and a great deal of live music and dancing.
A letter was read out in both English and Spanish which was to be delivered
to the embassy:
We have called for an urgent manifestation outside the embassy today
because we are extremely worried about the way the Nasa people in Cauca
are being brutalised by the Colombian military. We are here to show you
that the world is watching what happens in those isolated areas of conflict
, and that the Nasa people who historically are the real keepers of that
land deserve to be treated with respect, something that the state has failed
to do so far. As you are aware, the indigenous people and the peasants have
been in teh middle of the conflict between the FARC, paramilitaries and
the national armed forces.
They have repeatedly refused to take part in this civil war that has
lasted so many years . Thouth they reuse to take part in the war, they have
offered solutions that have been ignored againn and again by all parties.
The Nasa people have lost children, elders, women and men in the war that
they have not participated in. They are true victims here, but the stae
and the media shows them as terrorists and savages. For 500 years the indigenous
people have been on the receiving end of opporession, teuy have been assassinated,
raped, rtorturee, robbed and displaced from their lands and still they have
managed to escape complete annihilation.
The Nasa people are sacred to our country, they are the original people
of that land and therefore have the right to choose the destingy of their
teritory without the interference of outsiders. We ask that you contact
the government and let them know tha Colombian migrants in the UK and our
British supporters ask that the state removes all military installations
and all military personnel from that particular region, in respect to the
wishes of the Nasa people.
With all due respect
Latin American Liberation Front
Hands off Somalia
Colombian Solidarity Campaign
The protest was also in support of the people of Cajamarca, Ibague and Tolima
who are resisting the takeover of their territory by Anglo Gold Ashanti, the
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities displaced by El Cerrejon coal mine
and in solidarity with "all the trade unionists, human rights defenders,
students, working class and all oppressed people who continue the onslaught
No To Minas Conga in Peru
Peruvian Embassy, Sloane St, London. Fri 20 Jul 2012
Although most of the placards were in Spanish they were
generally easy to understand
Peruvians led the protest at their London embassy against the
Minas Conga gold mining project which has prompted anti-mining protests in
Cajamarca brutally repressed by government with five protesters reported killed.
The people in Peru fear that the $4.8 billion Minas Conga gold mining project
by US Newmont Mining Co will drain mountain lakes that supply their water
and replace them with large reservoirs of toxic waste. Although the project
has been supported by the national government, the provincial authorities
still oppose it.
The government have imposed a state of emergency following protests and the
deaths and police violently arrested Maro Arana, a prominent anti-mining activist
and former Catholic priest in the main square of Cajamarca.
Around 50 protesters, some wearing traditional Peruvian costumes, protested
noisily opposite the Peruvian embassy in Sloane St for several hours. Most
of the slogans on the placards and banners were in Spanish, with just a few
in English. A letter to the embassy was read out in Spanish, but there were
a few announcements in English. As the protest continued, more musicians arrived
with pan flutes, drums and guitars, and many of the people started dancing
As well as Peruvians there were also protesters from other South American
countries and South and Latin America support groups in the UK. The protest
ended shortly before 4pm, with some of those present, including myself, going
on to a protest against the brutal repression of the Nasa people in Colombia.
Cleaners Continue Fight at John Lewis
Oxford St, London. Fri 20 Jul 2012
Cleaners picketed from the early morning and held a lunchtime rally on Oxford
St outside the store
Cleaners held their second one-day strike at John Lewis's flagship store
in Oxford St, picketing from 6 am and holding a lunchtime rally. They want
to end their treatment as second-class workers to be paid a living wage and
no reductions in hours.
The cleaners who work unsocial hours, often starting in the early morning
and finishing late at night, are paid the minimum wage of £6.08 an hour.
This is over two pounds an hour less than the London Living wage, an amount
calculated by the Greater London authority to be £8.30 per hour. Both
Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron support the idea of a
living wage, and urge employers to pay it.
Talks have gone on between the John Lewis Partnership and bodies
representing the cleaners including the the London Citizens campaign for some
years, urging the partnership to treat the cleaners as it does the other workers
in the store, who are all 'partners' and share in the company's profits, but
they have made no headway. John Lewis has avoided its responsibilities towards
the cleaners by employing them through a contract cleaning company, Integrated
Cleaning Management (ICM), which the cleaners say treats them as dirt,
as "bacteria" and who pays them the minimum wage and is
currently proposing to cut the number of hours they pay for the cleaning work
by around half while expecting the same work to be completed.
The cleaners are now members of the London Cleaners' Branch of the IWW, which
has tried to negotiate with ICM and to talk to the John Lewis Partnership.
Unable to make any progress, they called a series of demonstrations outside
the Oxford St store, then balloted the members to hold a series of strikes.
As in the previous protests this was a colourful and noisy event attracting
a great deal of attention in London's busiest shopping street at lunchtime.
Many of those passing were shocked to learn how little the cleaners were paid,
and some contributed to the strike fund. The rally continued despite some
Police stood on guard outside the store to prevent the protesters entering
it as they did peacefully for a short period last week. Further protests are
planned every Friday and Saturday until a satisfactory settlement is reached,
as well as more one-day strikes.
What the Dickens Mr Cameron?
Downing St, London. Tue 17 Jul 2012
at Downing St writes 'Britain is becoming a police state' on whiteboard
A small group came to Downing St to ask David Cameron if he wants to
return to the days of Dickens and Oliver Twist with the cuts in benefits,
particularly for the disabled. Police told them they would be arrested if
they continued to protest there.
Several of those involved in the protest had earlier in the afternooon been
with a group of disabled activists who had lobbied MPs and then briefly staged
a bread and water 'Paupers' Picnic' in the Central Lobby of the Houses
of Parliament, where unfortunately cameras are not allowed.
A handful of people then went to Downing Street and began what they called
a 'Dickensian' protest, asking Mr Cameron on a portable whiteboard
'What the dickens is going on?' On the Facebook event page the organiser
"david cameron has clearly declared war on the poor. is this
man attempting to plunge is back into the days of dickens and oliver twist??
grab ya rags and ya begging bowls as we go to downing street to ask the
prime minister what the dickens is going on? "
In the event there were no rags and no begging bowls and the protest was
rather small and low-key. Shortly after I arrived a woman police came and
told the protesters that it was against the law to protest directly outside
the gates of Downing St and that if they wanted to continue they should go
across the road to the area provided for protests. The protesters made the
point that they would not be seen or heard if they protested across the road
and asked what law made the protest illegal.
The officer went to fetch a file and a minute or two later came back and
told them it was illegal under the Serious Organised Crime and Police
Act 2005. This angered the protesters and led to a new message on the
whiteboard, 'Do we look like serious organised criminals? Britain is becoming
a police state.'
SOCPA was widely criticised at the time for its attack on civil rights, and
in the last years of the Labour government there was a consultation over removing
the powers which restricted the citizen's right to protest, which had been
added to the bill in an unsuccesful attempt to end the protest in Parliament
Square by Brian Haw. Although most of the powers to restrict protest from
it are no longer in use, some have now been replaced by more draconian measures
which have allowed police to remove all tents and other forms of shelter used
by protesters in Parliament Square, despite which Brian Haw's protest, continue
after his death last year by Barbara Tucker and others, is still continuing.
The protesters were then informed by the officer that if they continued to
protest they would be arrested. After a brief discussion, a final message
was written on the whiteboard, 'Fascists! can't protect you Dave!',
and after a minute or two calling the police 'fascists' the protesters dispersed.
Cabbies Zil Lane Protest Halts Traffic
Parliament Square, London. Tue 17 Jul 2012
A driver in Parliament Square holds up the TfL instructions
and gives his opinion
London taxidrivers 'mass ply for hire' halted traffic around Parliament
Square for over an hour in the first of 3 protests at taxis not being allowed
to drive, pick up or set down passengers in 60 miles of Olympic lanes in London.
Hundreds if not thousands of London's 'iconic' taxis came to central London
today and took part in a 'Mass Ply for Hire' demonstration where with 'For
Hire' lights on they drove slowly down Whitehall and around Parliament Square,
soon creating gridlock which brought traffic through Westminster to a half
for around an hour.
TfL estimates of numbers given to the press seem obviously low and intended
to play down the protest, organised by the United Cabbies Group (UCG) but
also supported by some other London taxi organisations including the RMT London
Taxi branch against the widespread banning of taxis from driving in the Olympic
lanes in London. Except in a few stretches, taxis cannot even go into them
to pick up or set down passengers. Most of the bus lanes in central London
are being turned into 'Zil' lanes and taxis are banned - and face a £130
fine if they enter them.
Cabbies are particularly annoyed as the London black cabs featured strongly
in the bid for the Olympics, but they feel they are now being left out in
the cold, with the restrictions making it impossible for them to earn their
living for a couple of months. Consultations between road users and the games
organisers have led to some relaxation of the overall restrictions which would
have kept the games lanes operational for the entire period and made some
journeys virtually impossible because right turns across the lanes are banned.
During the actual periods of the games and paralympic games, they feel the
restrictions will remain an almost insurmountable obstacle to taxi movements
The increased journey times - in some cases expected to be several times
as long, with a similar increase in fares - and the inability to set passengers
down or pick them up where they want to go will particularly impact on disabled
users, many of whom are reliant on taxis for mobility. There are 44 nearside
games lanes and taxis will only be permitted to access 2 of these.
The UCG balloted their members after exhaustive negotiations with the organisers
had gained only minor improvements, and 87.4% were in favour of immediate
demonstrations. Today's event was the first of these and appears to have been
extremely succesful. Two further similar protests in as yet unnamed venues
have been announced, for Monday 23 July and Friday 27 July. Some other organisations
of London cab drivers, including Unite, the LTDA and LCDC have apparently
been satisfied by the concessions obtained from LOCOG, the ODA and TfL.
The organisers want to keep the protests legal and to maintain good relations
with the police. There was an unfortunate incident at a previous taxi driver's
protest - the first organised by the UCG several years ago - when a driver
was dragged out of his cab by an officer, thrown to the ground and handcuffed
with his wrist being broken in the process after he had objected to being
abused by an irate motorist. So far as I could see there were no such problems
on today's protest.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Clerkenwell, London. Sun 15 Jul 2012
Two pigeons flew up immediately while one stayed in
the priest's hands
The procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the first Roman Catholic
event on English streets for 349 years when Queen Victoria allowed it in 1883,
took place in Clerkenwell today, 149 years after the founding of St Peter's
The procession required special permission from the police, granted by Queen
Victoria in 1883, when the Clerkenwell area in which St Peter's Church is
was known as 'Little Italy', home to many refugees and immigrants from Italy.
They needed a Catholic Church in which they could worship in their own language,
and on the 16 April 1863, St Peter's Italian Church was consecrated.
The annual festival is one of London's oldest and most colourful religious
festivals, with the various statues from the church being carried around the
local area and the clergy and congregation following behind them. Nowadays
Italians have moved out to many other areas of the country, and groups from
Italian associations across the South East as well as Manchester, Cheltenham,
Birmingham, Peterborough and Gloucester come back to join in the procession.
This year the special guest at the proceedings was the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop
One of the special features of the procession is the release of three white
doves by the clergy at the start and finish of the event. This year the doves
at the start made their way skywards at a great rate and only one of my photographs
caught a couple of them in flight. By the time the procession came back down
the Farringdon Road towards the church I was already in a local pub and I
Later I went back to the festival or Sagra which had started around lunchtime
in Warner St at the bottom of the hill below the church, with stalls selling
Italian food and drink - pizza, bread, wine, ice cream and more - and various
cultural artifacts as well as music and dancing. It's a good place to meet
old friends, and there was a great deal of conversation in Italian. By the
time I finally left the dancing was really getting into swing and everyone
was having a good time.
John Lewis cleaners step up protest
Oxford St, London. Sat 14 Jul 2012 Cleaners
respond vigourously to speeches outside John Lewis on Oxford St
Around a hundred cleaners and supporters protested noisily for two hours
at the Oxford St store calling for recognition of their work as partners in
the company and the London living wage, watched by many shoppers, police and
John Lewis management.
Today's protest came after the one-day strike by the cleaners yesterday,
which was follwed by a rally and a brief invasion of the store. Police arrive
in rather larger numbers a few minutes after the protest started and small
groups were stationed at the various shop entrances.
Around a hundred people turned up, despite the poor weather. Severe congestion
in central London and the closure of the Victoria line meant that many (including
myself) took longer than expected to get to John Lewis's flagship store in
Oxford St, and the protest started a little later than planned, and others
were still arriving an hour or so after in began.
A number of men including one the cleaners identified as one of the John
Lewis's senior management watched the protest from a few yards back inside
the store; he turned away when he saw my camera pointing at him through a
door as customers walked out, but not before I had photographed him.
Despite talks that have dragged on for some years, John Lewis still refuses
to accept that it should treat its cleaners with the same decency as its other
workers. Instead it uses another company, Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM)
to employ them under inferior conditions and on the minimum wage, more than
two pounds an hour below the London living wage, a figure representing the
minimum needed to live in London, backed by the GLA, London's Mayor Boris
Johnson and our prime minister, David Cameron.
The cleaners also complain about discrimination and abuse at work, and are
currently threatened by a 50% cut in their hours. They are staging another
strike next Friday when they also intend to protest again and will also continue
to protest each Saturday afternoon.
Solidarity with the Bahraini prisoners
Bahraini embassy, Belgrave Sq, London. Sat 14 Jul 2012
wave Bahraini flags opposite the embassy at the back of the protest
Protesters gathered opposite the Bahraini embassy to call for the release
of prisoners in Bahrain, to condemn the killing of Mohammad Rahdi Mahfoodh
and attacks on his funeral, and for an end to the puppet regime of the Bedouin
Al Khalifa tribe.
Unfortunately I had to leave for the cleaners' protest in Oxford St before
things really got going and before the speeches from Jeremy Corbyn MP and
PETA 'Spare the Bears' March
Marble Arch, London. Sat 14 Jul 2012
Bears pose at the end of the march calling for the MoD to stop using real
bearskins for ornamental headwear
Around 500 PETA supporters in black with bear masks carrying teddy bears
marched from Waterloo to Marble Arch demanding a stop to killing of bears
for the Queen's Guards' ceremonial headwear. It takes the skin of a whole
black bear to make a busby.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) state:
It can take the entire hide of one Canadian black bear to make just
one cap. Bears can be shot several times before they die, and some escape
and bleed to death. In some Canadian provinces, there are no restrictions
on the shooting of mothers who have nursing cubs, leading to the slaughter
of entire families during hunts.
We need to send a clear message to the Ministry of Defence that the
slaughter of wildlife for The Queen's Guards' ceremonial headwear is unacceptable
and that the time has come for them to go fake for the bears' sake.
I went to the starting point of the march next to the Shell Centre at Waterloo,
but it was then raining steadily and I could see nothing worth photographing,
so decided to meet them again at the end of the march at Marble Arch, where
they arrived half an hour later than I expected, but at least the rain had
more or less stopped by then.
Tenants Protest Letting Agents Scam
Drivers & Norris, Holloway Rd, London. Sat 14 Jul 2012
The protest outside Drivers & Norris on a very wet
Harringey Private Tenants Action Group protested at letting
agents Drivers & Norris on Holloway Road, condemning them for taking over
£300 from home seekers and providing nothing return but refusing to
return the payment.
On a rainy Saturday morning a dozen or so members of HPTAG stood outside
estate agents Drivers & Norris on Holloway Road with banners and placards
calling for an end to scams by letting agents. Some of those present had applied
to them and had been asked to pay an upfront fee of over £300 cash to
secure a new flat. Although the company had failed to provide them with any
offers of accomodation they had refused to return the fee.
In the leaflet they were handing out, HPTAG state:
Agency 'fees', reference 'checks', admin 'fees', leaving 'fees' are
all costs that have been created over the past few years by and for Letting
Agents like Drivers and Norris, to increase their profits and exploit the
basic nee of tenants to find a home. We, as private tenants, will not accept
this anymore. We have a right to really affordable, secure and decent housing
just like anyone else.
HPTAG's investigations show that the cost of the reference checks that the
company use to justify these large upfront fees are around £19. The
fees are simply a scam to increase the company profits at the expense of poor
and vulnerable people in need of housing.
A police van with a handful of police came to the scene of this entirely
peaceful protest. Officers tried to persuade the protest to stop on the basis
that it might cause accidents by distracting drivers on the busy main road.
The protesters told them that they had a right to protest and that if the
police seriously thought there was a danger to traffic they should divert
it away from the area. It was simply a clumsy attempt by the police to suppress
Agents have profited greatly from the lack of affordable housing in the London
area, with property prices well above anything that anyone on an average wage
can afford. Coupled with a systematic attack by successive governments on
the security of private tenants and on the provision of social housing over
more than 30 years this has resulted in a dire shortage of housing for ordinary
people in London and the south-east. Even where housing developments are taking
place in London, the properties are often many bought by overseas investers
interested in high profits in an overheated housing market.
Cleaners Strike at John Lewis
Oxford St, London. Fri 13 Jul 2012
Striking cleaners make their presence felt outside the store
Cleaners today went on strike at the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford
St, the first strike in the history of the John Lewis Partnership. Ironically
it was the last strike at the company in 1920 that led to the reorganisation
of the company as a partnership, while one of the issues at stake in the current
dispute is the refusal of the company to accept its cleaners, vital for the
running of the store as partners.
Cleaners picketed outside from 5.30am, and were joined by supporters including
branch representatives and other trade unionists from the PCS, UCU, Unite
and RMT for a rally in solidarity at lunchtime. The John Lewis cleaners have
wide-ranging support, and so far 21 MPs, mainly Labour, have signed a Parliamentary
Early Day Motion 301 put forward by John McDonnell in support of their claims.
The cleaners have also received support from some of the partners who work
in the store who wonder why the cleaners, whose work is essential for the
running of the store, have not been brought into the partnership.
The strike followed the failure of talks that have gone on some years without
progress between the London Citizens campaign and John Lewis to bring the
cleaners into the partnership and to pay them the London Living Wage, currently
£8.30ph. Currently they are paid on the minimum wage, and the strike
was precipitated when Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM), the company who
employ them on behalf of John Lewis, announced there would be a 50% cut in
jobs and hours to clean the store, and refused to pay the living wage. ICM
also refuse to recognise the IWW, officially recognised as a trade union in
the UK in 2006, for collective bargaining, although almost all the cleaners
now belong to it. Today's strike was supported by 90% of the cleaners in a
ballot with an 80% turnout, and the IWW has made it clear that further strikes
will follow in July and August unless ICM are prepared to meet their demands.
Chris Ford, the IWW regional secretary who was at the protest stated:
"John Lewis needs to take responsibility for those who work in
their store and stop behaving like Pontius Pilate washing their hands of
the situation. We have had an overwhelming call from our members for action.
It is unfair to expect cleaners at the flagship store to accept less staff,
more work and live on even less than the poverty wages they currently earn.
This is not a model for the economy it is a moral outrage"
The rally outside the main entrance of John Lewis on Oxford St heard speeches
of support from a number of trade unionists, including Steve Hedley of the
London Region RMT as well as IWW cleaners' branch secretary Alberto Durango.
After the rally on the pavement had been going for around 40 minutes, a group
of the supporters walked into the John Lewis store and held a short rally
in the entrance. A few John Lewis employees tried to remonstrate with them
briefly as they walked in with posters and IWW flags, but then withdrew to
stand in a line between the protesters and the rest of the shop. After around
5 minutes a PCSO arrived and talked to them. Several of the protesters spoke
on megaphones inside the store, telling the shop workers and customers, many
of whom clustered around the balconies above, why the cleaners were striking
and calling on John Lewis to pay its cleaners a decent wage and give them
proper working rights and conditions.
A few minutes later the protesters made their way out of the store, to be
greeted by cheers from the picketing cleaners who had stayed outside on the
pavement. Around ten minutes later a few police officers arrived. One of them
had a brief word with IWW regional secretary Chris Ford, and three officers
then formed a line in front of the doorway into the store. The rally by now
was coming to an end, and Durango thanked everyone for coming and giving their
support, and the striking cleaners for their action, reminding us all that
there would be another protest outside the store tommorrow, and that the cleaners
would be back again striking and protesting until they were fairly treated.
The London Living Wage was established by the Greater London Authority and
is reviewed by them annually. It was supported by all the major candidates
in the mayoral election with Boris Johnson promising he would more than double
the number of companies paying it during his term of office. David Cameron
has called the living wage "an idea whose time has come." At £8.30
an hour it is still a low rate of pay, with small flats in the cheaper areas
of London now costing well over £1000 per month.
ICM is part of the Compass Group, and the IWW point out this had pre-tax
profits £581 million in the last year and paid its chairman Sir Roy
Gardner £477,000 pa. They also state that Gardner is a major donor to
Conservative Party funds, and gave £50,000 to Cameron's election campaign.
Sacrifice For Spain Remembered
International Brigade Memorial, London. Sat 7 Jul 2012
David Loman unveils the new plaque in Jubilee Gardens
David Loman an 18 year old Jewish lad from the East End who went to fight
in Spain in 1936 unveiled a new plaque to the International Brigades at the
76th anniversary commemoration in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank.
There was music, speeches and wreath-laying at the annual International
Brigades Commemoration at Jubilee Gardens today, 76 years after the
start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, attended by several hundred people
including many whose relatives fought in Spain. Among the performers were
folk musician Ewan McLennan, performance poet Francesca Beard, singer-songwriter
Paco Marin and folk duo Na-Mara, but the star of the occasion was David Loman,
born in 1918 and a member of the Jewish ex-servicemens association AJEX.
In 1936, David Soloman, then 18 years old, volunteered to fight
in the British Batallion on the side of the Republican Spanish government
against the Nationalists under General Franco. Because it was illegal under
the Foreign Enlistment Act, he changed his name to David Loman (or
Lomon.) He was captured by Italian soldiers during the 1938 Republican retreat
and spent some months in a prison camp before being repatriated. Later he
served during theh Second World War in the Royal Navy. Along with other surviving
members of the International Brigades he was awarded Spanish nationality in
2007 for his services to the Spanish nation and presented with a Spanish passport
Lomon at a sprightly 94 is one of only two remaining British veterans of
the war, along with Lou Kenton who is now 103. Altogether there are thought
to be 18 still living around the world who fought on the Republican side and
nine from the Nationalist forces. At the event he laid a wreath at the International
Brigades memorial and later pulled aside a cloth to reveal the new plaque
presented by the International Brigades Memorial Trust with its text explaining
and commemmorating the International Brigade volunteers.
Portman St & Westminster. Sat 7 Jul 2012
Amnesty group with placards 'Love is a Human Right'
This year's 25th Pride in London on foot without the many floats of recent
years was perhaps because of this a more impressive, lively and intimate
event as many thousands walked, strutted and danced through the West End.
Financial problems meant that this years Pride Parade in London was replaced
by a procession without the lorries and floats of recent years. To hold a
parade, Pride London was for the first time this year asked in late June to
supply financial assurances ahead of the event to agencies including the GLA,
Met Police, Westminster Council, London Fire Brigade and Transport for London.
They were unable to do so, and so that the event could go ahead, instead decided
to stage a ‘peaceful protest’ march or 'procession' specified
as a democratic right under the Public Order Act 1986.
According to the organisers this meant that they were unable to include any
vehicles in the event, although traditionally many processions have included
these, and it is not at all clear that the Public Order Act gives the police
power to impose such a condition on a procession or under what power the Mayor
imposed this restriction.
Until perhaps a dozen or fifteen years ago, the annual Pride event in London
was a procession through the capital in which many came out to 'come out'.
For many taking part was a significant step in affirming themselves as gay
and standing together against the predjudices of a society which was only
just beginning to accept that being gay was not a perversion.
Although this remains the case for a few communities in this country, and
as some of those taking part including campaigner Peter Tatchell remind us,
people in some other countries are still being killed for being gay, things
in general in the UK are very different, and Gay Pride has lost much of its
political edge, becoming a carnival of different lifestyles and a commercially
sponsored jamboree, with large and expensive floats. For many of us the lack
of these in today's procession made the whole event more intimate, with everyone
getting down on the street together.
There were several heavy showers as people were supposed to be gathering
for the event, and although the organisers had insisted that everyone arrive
by 10am, an hour before the procession was due to start, relatively few took
them at all seriously, and at 10.30am it was looking as if it might be a washout.
But at the start time approached, more and more people flooded in to join
it in Portman St, and they kept on arriving for the next hour. I'd photographed
the front of the march, a few yards from Oxford St, a few minutes before it
was due to start, before walking slowly through the at times tightly packed
street to Baker St, where people were still arriving to join the end of the
procession, just a short distance down the road, almost an hour later, and
others were still sitting at cafe tables having a coffee before they started.
The end of the procession was still arriving at Trafalgar Square when I decided
I'd been standing on my feet taking pictures for too long and left around
A Wet Walk in Bucks
Downley on the Common, Bucks. Fri 6 Jul 2012
It was raining but we still walked around 5 miles before a pub lunch
It had been raining most of the week and the ground was pretty wet, but at
least the mud was fairly sandy and didn't stick much on our boots. We parked
by the common and walked down the track past the pub then on a couple of miles
to have coffee at Hughenden Manor, coming back by a slightly shorter route.
There are some fine woods to walk through, and the Le De Spencer Arms is a
friendly pub with decent home cooked food, better for not trying to be fancy,
and some good beers. Fortunately I wasn't driving.
Old St, Barbican, Kings Cross, Big Ben, London. Thu 5 Jul 2012
I was up in London to do a few errands and see a few show, and of course
I took a camera with me, and spent a few minutes wandering around a few areas
of London I was visiting. From Old Street I took a bus a few stops towards
the Barbican, then the Metropolitan line took me to Kings Cross and I walked
on to King's Place. Frome there I went to visit the former Kings Cross goods
yard, now reopened in part as a university campus, and then walked on by the
canal to the old St Pancras churchyard, where I again photographed both the
Soane tomb and the Hardy tree, though not as well as I did years ago in black
and white. The tube took me to Charing Cross and just at the south of Trafalgar
Square we now have a small and not too accurate model of Big Ben, presumably
for tourists who can't be bothered to walk down Whitehall for the real thing.
Pensioners Protest at Westminster
Westminster, London. Wed 4 Jul 2012
Federation of Occupational Pensioners (NFOP) protest about the elephant in
Two groups of pensioners held protests in Westminster today, the National
Federation of Occupational Pensioners (NFOP) at the Dept of Health and the
Equitable Members Action Group (EMAG) outside Parliament.
The National Federation of Occupational Pensioners is campaigning
for reform to funding social care following the cross party consensus in favour
of the Dilnot Report. They are concerned that the government is delaying the
publication of the Social Care White paper and delivered a petition with almost
15,000 signatures to Paul Burstow, the Care Minister at the Department of
Health in Whitehall.
The NFOP, founded in 1930, is the oldest and largest occupational pensioner
organisation in the UK with around 18 branches. Their 'Funding for Social
Care' campaign aims to tell the Government that it is time to address the
Elephant in the room that is social care funding, and they had brought a paper
elephant covered with their petition postcards along with a stack of boxes
containing the signed petition cards with them to Richmond House.
The campaign's slogan is 'Doing Nothing is NOT an Option', and they point
out that at least 20,000 of the elderly are forced to sell their homes each
year to pay for care costs, with pensioners being impoverished simply for
Outside the Houses of Parliament, wearing pink shirts with the slogan 'Your
pension is not safe! Ask me why..." where the members of EMAG, policyholders
with the collapsed life insurer Equitable Life. Although this happened
in 2000, most of the pensioners are still waiting for any payment, and the
Government has missed its deadline of making the first payment to with profits
annuitants by 30th June; it was also expected to be sending details of the
amount of the compensation that they will be receiving to the other 945,000
other policy holders, but these notifications are now expected to take up
to a year to arrive. Payments too will be spread out
The whole story is a sorry one, with the Parliamentary Ombudsman finding
the Labour government guilty of wholesale maladministration, and while the
coalition has come forward with compensation, although those holding annuities
will get full payment, other policy holders will only receive 22.4% of the
amount lost (or, according to EMAG, that percentage of a rather smaller figure
than their losses.) Even worse, 10,000 of the oldest pensioners will get nothing
at all. 30,000 have died since the collapse without receiving anything, and
for those who now will get something it will be spread over as long as 5 years.
EMAG is continuing its fight to get a fairer settlement for all of the pensioners
and policy holders who have lost out.
Right To Work: Downing St and Barclays
Westminster, Wed 4 Jul 2012
protester on the floor of Barclays in a sleeping bag holds a poster 'Cardboard
City - Never Again'
As Westminster waited for Bob Diamond, 'Right to Work' occupied
the nearby Barclays in protest. Earlier they had protested at Downing St against
David Cameron's 'insane and vindictive' proposals on housing benefit and other
The group of around 20 protesters gathered with sleeping bags, cardboard
boxes and banners opposite Downing St, where there were a few short speeches
of protest at Tory plans to cut housing benefits, including all those to under
25s, which will make many homeless.
They then moved across the road to the fortress-like gates of Downing St,
guarded by armed police and staged a protest outside these gates, with one
protester getting out his sleeping bag and getting inside it on the pavement,
holding up a notice reading 'Cardboard City - Never Again'. A police officer
asked them to move away as protests are not allowed here, but was ignored,
as the protest went on with several short speeches. A few minutes later more
police turned up and one tried to find out 'who was in charge', but of course
nobody was. A few minutes later, having been informed yet again that they
could not protest in this place, although police indicated they could continue
on the other side of the road, the protesters decided that they had made there
point and would move on, rather than risk arrest.
The group crossed the road and continued with their banner, placards and
cardboard boxes down Whitehall towards Parliament Square. Here they paused
briefly in front of the vehicle entrance to the House of Commons before being
moved on by police as a car made its way in. The pavement here was crowded
with tourists as well as some pension protesters and didn't seem a good place
to continue the protest, so they moved on past Westminster Abbey and out of
Parliament Square to Victoria St.
Here on the corner is the Westminster Branch of Barclay's Bank, and they
came here because Barclay's former boss, Bob Diamond, was expected shortly
in Westminster to testify at a House of Commons committee about his bank's
lying over interest rates - something that made millions if not billions for
the bank and huge bonuses for individuals working for it.
At the bank around half of the protesters walked in the main doors and began
another protest there, again with the same man getting onto the floor in his
sleeping bag while others made short speeches about why they were protesting.
It was an entirely orderly and peaceful protest, although the protesters ignored
the efforts of the security guard to prevent them. Using the megaphone they
made clear that it was not a protest directed at the staff of this branch,
but against those at the top of the bank - including Bob Diamond - who had
profited immodestly from the banking crisis and their lies while the rest
of us had now to suffer for their crimes. At one point the security man tried
to turn off the megaphone, but his hand was pushed firmly but carefully away.
After a few minutes, when the protesters felt they had made their point (and
we had taken our photographs) they left the bank of their own accord, continuing
the protest on the pavement outside with those who had remained outside with
the banner. The branch is only a couple of minutes walk from New Scotland
Yard, and several bank staff appeared to be making frantic phone calls during
the occupation and we had passed many police on our way to the bank, but none
had appeared by the time I decided to leave for home around 15 minutes later.
Either the bank had decided Barclays was already in the news enough and not
to call the police or the police had decided they didn't want anything to
do with Barclays today.
The protest was organised by the Right To Work campaign which was set up
to oppose the cuts, "defend public services and the welfare state and
fight for every job." Like many others they feel that those who had least
part in causing the economic crisis are being asked to take far more than
a fair share in getting us out of it. The poor - low paid, unemployed, students,
pensioners and those who depend on the NHS and public services - are suffering,
while bankers still get obscene salaries (and severance payments) and the
rich are still allowed to evade or avoid billions in taxes. Right To Work
is backed by many affiliated unions and union branches and anti-cuts and other
On 25 June, David Cameron gave a chilling view of the cuts to the welfare
system that a future Tory government would bring in, suggesting that almost
all under-25s would lose housing benefit and that couples with three or more
children would be penalised under the benefits system. Single lone parents
with more than one child would also be targeted for cuts.
Although the harsher excesses of Tory benefit cuts will have to be delayed
until the party is in power on its own, as they are unacceptable to their
Lib Dem coalition partners, we have already seen some drastic cuts from the
coalition with the imposition of an unrealistic cap on housing benefit for
those under 35 renting from a private landlord, which at least in high cost
areas such as Greater London will make many homeless. It will not only hit
the unemployed - the great majority on housing benefit are working in low
paid jobs. It is hard to see how London will keep working if a great mass
of the low waged who perform essential jobs are no longer able to afford to
live in London. Already many face long bus journeys to and from work from
the cheaper areas around the capital.
The protesters see these proposals as clear evidence of how out of touch
Cameron and the other wealthy cabinet members are with the problems faced
by ordinary people, with millions living in poverty or on the edge of poverty
and likely to be pushed into it by the benefit reforms.
There are of course problems with housing benefit, which actually works as
a subsidy for wealthy landlords rather than those to whom it is paid. They
have to have homes, and the problem is that there are virtually no affordable
homes, at least in London or the South-East. Prices are not driven up - as
the government suggests - by the existence of housing subsidy, but by the
shortage of housing. Many houses and flats that are to rent specifically exclude
people on housing benefit (perhaps the government is not aware of the significance
of the message 'No DHSS' on many adverts, as the DHSS is long gone.)
For various reasons, including the 'right to buy' but also the bias of central
government against local government over the past 35 years, there has been
little or no building of the low cost social housing that we need. Although
some building schemes now include an element of 'affordable' housing, this
is now priced at a level that puts in out of reach for those on lower pay
- and it will be above the level allowed by housing benefit.
Cuts also affect some groups dispropotionately, and will hit hardest on the
disabled who rely heavily on the services which are likely to suffer. The
disabled are also suffering from badly designed and poorly administered tests
which are supposed to assess their ability to work, but seem largely to be
aimed at reducing the number who can claim benefits and the amount of benefits
people receive. Already the tests have led to a number of suicides as well
as a greatly reduced quality of life for many disabled; perversely the reduction
in support for some has meant that they are now unable to work.
Strengthen Tower Crane Safety Rules
DWP, Westminster, London. Tue 3 Jul 2012
Liliana Alexa of the Battersea Crane Disaster Action
group at the DWP
Safety campaigners demanded that Minister for Employment Chris Grayling
should strengthen rather than scrap safety regulations on tower cranes and
other aspects of work. Deaths at work increased by 16% in the first year of
the current government.
Around 50 people came to protest outside the Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP)
in Westminster including supporters of FACK (Families Against Corporate
Killers), Battersea Crane Disaster Action group and Construction
Safety Campaign to demand that the Tower Crane Regulations which came
into force in 2010 as a result of their campaigns following a number of deaths
from tower crane accidents, including the Battersea Crane collapse of 2006
in which two men, crane operator Jonathan Cloke, 34, and passer-by Michael
Alexa, 23, were killed after the company operating the crane erected it wrongly
are not scrapped. The event came the day before the end of a consultation
period on the Government's plans under Minister for Employment Chris Grayling
to drastically cut the rules and enforcement of safety at work.
The government intends to scrap 14 sets of regulations on safety at work
including the Notification of Tower Cranes Regulations, Construction Head
Protection Regulations and the Dock Regulations. They have also are drastically
reduced Health and Safety enforcement, banning most proactive inspections
from March 2011 and will downgrade Approved Codes of Practice - which have
a formal legal status - to guidance, which does not. Under the government's
proposals, employers in 'low hazard' sectors and larger employers will be
responsible for ensuring that their own workplaces are safe rather than having
inspections by the Health and Safety Executive, who will only be allowed access
to investigate after workers have been killed or seriously injured - too late
to prevent accidents. The DWP's assesment of 'low hazard' industries include
many that have notoriously poor safety records and death rates that show they
are high risk, among them quarries and docks. The docks were one of the areas
where Grayling's ban on proactive inspections came into force last year, and
deaths have already risen; removing the Dock Regulations and ACoP will surely
lead to even higher death rates.
The 2010/11 HSE report shows an increase in deaths at work since the government
came to power of 16% - and of 20% in the construction industry. Among those
attending the protest were Liliana Alexa who played an active role in the
campaign for the Tower Crane Regulations after her son was killed by a collapsing
crane in Battersea, and several others whose husbands or sons had died at
work. Few if any such deaths are 'accidents'; they invariably result from
negligence, the imposition of unsafe working practices and a lack of proper
care shown by management.
A small group including family members of those who have been killed went
to the door of the DWP to ask if they could see the Minister for Employment
but were informed that he was not in the building. But the protesters say
that he has always refused to meet with any of the families of victims from
workplace deaths. I photographed them while they were asking to go in, and
was asked by the man in charge of the G4S security personnel not to photograph
them. One of the security guards became quite angry with another person who
was taking pictures, and threatened that he would take the camera and smash
it. I asked the manager to prevent his staff from making threats, and he lied
to me, saying that nobody had been threatened. G4S certainly need to give
their staff some proper training, both in the law and in relating with the
There were speakers from the three groups involved, as well as from construction
union ACATT and other trade unionists supporting the protest, although the
main speeches were to be later in the afternoon at a meeting to lobby MPs
in the House of Commons.
Linzi Herbertson whose husband was killed when he fell from incorrectly
erected scaffolding, said:
“We set up FACK up in 2006 to campaign for improvements in the
inadequate system of enforcement, regulation and punishment of safety criminals
that killed the people we love. But now this government wants to slash to
pieces even that inadequate safety net, based on the lies that it’s
a ‘burden on business’ and it is over enforced. We are here
to say no one we loved was killed due to too much regulation or enforcement
but the complete lack of either, and the real burden is on us. "
She went on to point out that as well as bearing "the heartache
of someone being killed by their employers’ negligence", the
families also bear the majority of the financial costs involved, with the
negligent employers bearing less than a quarter of them.
Another FACK member, Dawn Adams, stated:
"My son was killed when an unrestrained 18 stone barrier fell
on him at a newly opened shopping centre, in contravention of the Construction
Design and Management Regulations. FACK deplores the loss of any construction-related
regulations, and is also shocked that the Dock Regulations could even be
considered for scrapping as the death rate there is now running at up to
20 times the national average."
The government's rationale that cutting safety inspections and regulations
will improve productivity is undermined by recent research from Harvard Business
School, where a study by Professor Michael Toffel published this May concluded
that surprise visits by official safety inspectors are good for both jobs
and profitability. But even if this were not the case, the levels of injury
and death at work, particularly in areas such as the docks and construction
are currently far too high, and breaches of the safety regulations and codes
of practice are treated far too leniently in the courts, often to the consderable
frustration of the Health and Safety Inspectors who find their long attempts
to bring irresponsible employers to justice either fail or result in insignificant
fines. We need tougher regulation and enforcement in this area rather than
the removal of regulations and the failure to enforce them that Mr Grayling
is pushing through.
As the protesters stated (though some put it rather more strongly): "You
Lie: We Die - so stop it, you’re killing us!"
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