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Bingo and Dancing for Elephant & Castle

Southwark Council offices,London. Tue 30 Jan 2018
Dancing in front of the banners form the Latin community
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Campaigners Listened to speeches, danced and played bingo outside the Southwark Council meeting which was to vote on plans by developer Delancey and the council which would destroy the Elephant & Castle centre and the community around it.

The Elephant & Castle centre includes a Bingo Hall and is the the heart of a vibrant Latin American community. Although Delancey have promised concessions, the written proposal under consideration by the council remains unaltered, and the protesters want a solution which will serve the needs of the community rather than expensive flats for overseas investors, many likely unoccupied.

Speakers included local housing activists, students and trade unionists from the University of the Arts who occupied the college against its backing for the proposals which would renew and enlarge its campus and representatives of the traders who would lose their businesses and the Latin community. Piers Corbyn told us of his brother Jeremy Corbyn' concern about the scheme which like others in Southwark and elsewhere in London fail to meet the current Labour Party guidelines for regeneration.

After the protest had been continuing for around an hour, those outside heard that the motion to turn down the application had not been put, and the council had voted to put off the decision until a further meeting to give Delancey time to submit a revised proposal.
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Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack

BBC to Downing St, London. Sat 27 Jan 2018
Rojava's constitution liberates women and gives all ethnic groups equal treatment
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Several thousand people, mainly Kurds, march through London from outside the BBC to a rally opposite Downing St, calling for an end to the attacks by Turkish forces on the Afrin Canton of Northern Syria, now a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

The area is one of the most peaceful in Syria and the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups - which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds - equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.

Turkey is using weapons sold by the UK, France and UAE and the protesters say that the British government has contributed to the basis of this war and call on it to oppose Turkey's invasion of Syria and attempt to destroy the Kurdish forces that have been most effective in the fight against ISIS. The Kurds also point out that Erdogan has provided ISIS with most of its funding by allowing it to smuggle oil out through Turkey.

Turkey appears to be taking advantage of its position in NATO and the threat of closer relationships with Russia to eliminate the Kurds on its borders, who it alleges are a part of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish nationalist organisation regarded by Turkey and its allies as a terrorist organisation, which has been in armed conflict with Turkey since 1984, demanding equal rights and Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. Its leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999. Turkey is also getting support from some opposition Syrian forces who see the Rojavan Kurds as too closely aligned with the Assad regime.

The PKK is a proscribed group in the UK and the police apparently seized a few PKK flags at the start of the march, although at least one was still being carried among hundreds of others at the end of the march.
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Canada Goose protests continue

Regent St, London. Sat 27 Jan 2018

Protesters outside the Canada Goose store with a toy dog and a banner with bloody fur
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Protesters were again outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company's clothing.

An injunction against the protesters was amended in December to increase the number of protesters allowed and to allow loud-hailers to be used between 2 and 8pm. The protests now continue on Saturdays and at least one day during the week and are said to be having an effect on sales at the store.
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End UAE support for slavery in Libya

UAE Embassy, London. Sat 27 Jan 2018

People hold African Lives Matter posters at the protest
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African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE protest at the UAE Embassy in London against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves.

The protest also called for an end of the human trafficking of African migrants to and from Dubai and for help to be given for slavery victims in Dubai to return to their families in Africa.
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Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music

Royal College of Music, London. Thu 25 Jan 2018

Protesters with placards in the foyer of the Royal College of Music
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Independent Workers Union of Great Britain members and supporters swarmed into the foyer of the Royal College of Music in an unannounced protest this evening in support of the cleaners there.

A bus had taken the protesters from an earlier protest outside Senate House at the University of London to a 'secret location' for another protest, and it turned out to be the Royal College of Music. The bus dropped the protesters and several journalists around the corner a short distance from the college, and everyone got out and prepared for the protest. Two people went on a little in advance to hold the doors open while the rest followed in silence a short distance behind, running for the doors as they were opened and pushing their way into the foyer.

Tenon FM took over the cleaning contract at the RCM and decided to unilaterally cut hours in half and change shift times, telling the cleaners they must work at times most already have other cleaning jobs, and they are now threatened with dismissal for refusing to accept the new hours. The RCM and Tenon have refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who have launched a collective grievance and the cleaners have balloted for strike action; the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

The protesters waved IWGB union flags and placards, banged drums and shouted slogans but were careful to avoid any damage, and left when requested to do so by police who arrived after 12 minutes and ordered them out. They were still continuing their protest on the pavement outside when I left.
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End Outsourcing at University of London

Senate House, London. Thu 25 Jan 2018
A samba band comes to support the workers
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Striking security officers and receptionists from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain picketed Senate House and were joined by supporters for a noisy rally at the gates. Cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff are all demanding that the university ends discriminatory employment practices and makes them all direct employees.

Outsourced workers get far worse pensions, holiday entitlements, sickness entitlements, and maternity and paternity leave than in-house employees, and are often bullied and overworked and may be paid several months late. The workers also want an end to zero hours contracts and increases in pay they were promised.

Following earlier protests the University is considering bringing some of the workers in-house, but they and their union, the IWGB, insist that all should be put onto the university payroll.

Supporters arrived to protest with the workers who had been picketing all afternoon and soon there was a large and noisy crowd around the gate. There had been a sound system and some drums and vuvuzelas but things got louder still with the arrival of the samba band. After they had played several numbers cheers encouraged them to play an encore, after which there were speeches from some of the union leaders including IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez and a number of supporters, including United Voices of the World General Secretary Petros Elia, who encouraged the strikers with news of another campaigning success, where after a noisy protest outside the offices last month the company had agreed to pay cleaners the London Living Wage.

Finally, IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee announced that a double-decker coach had arrived and would take IWGB members and any more they could fit in to a surprise protest at another London location.
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Protests continue for Grenfell victims

Kensington Town Hall, London. Wed 24 Jan 2018

Andrew Cooper stands with his banner for Grenfell on the town hall steps
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Most of those who had come to protest went into the council meeting and only a handful were left to protest outside the council offices where the Kensington and Chelsea Council were meeting.

They put up banners and used a small projector to display slogans, at first on the brick wall, but then on a small improvised white screen. They had brought two PA systems and while I was there one person made a short speech.

The protest called for all survivors and those evicted because of the fire to be rehoused in the area in appropriate housing and for those in the council and the council's TMO to face criminal charges, along with Rydon who made the flammable cladding and others involved. They say protests will continue until there is a real inquiry led by the community which gets at the truth and those responsible are brought to justice.
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US Embassy first protest - No to Trump's racism

US Embassy, Nine Elms, London. Sat 20 Jan 2018
Paula Peters of DPAC in front of the new US Embassy at Nine Elms
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Stand Up to Racism held the first protest outside the new US Embassy in Nine Elms on the anniversary of President Trump's inauguration. The protest was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as 'shitholes'.

This word caused offence and outrage around the world, and was a new and more offensive aspect of the racist attacks on black communities, migrants, refugees and the Muslim community and his demands to build a wall to keep out migrants which have been a consistent feature of Trump's campaign and first year in office.

Stand Up to Racism had called for a wave of protests across the country today to ‘knock down the racist wall’, and the protesters had built a wall in front of the new US embassy which opened for business earlier in the week in Nine Elms. At the end of the protest they knocked this wall down.

A few days earlier Trump had announced he would not be coming to open the embassy, as had been planned for late February, a visit that would have been met by massive protests. Few doubt that it was this that caused him to cancel his visit, though Trump tweeted that it was a lousy building in the wrong place - and with his usual accuracy blamed Obama for a decision that had been taken by Bush.

The embassy in Grosvenor Square, despite its Grade II listing in 2009, remains one of London's least liked eyesores. Designed by leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen it was London's first purpose-built embassy when opened in 1960 nd attracted criticism from both modernists and traditionalists. Saarinen had apparently intended it would become less blunt with the effect of London's sooty air, but the Clean Air Act has kept it in its raw state, although the 2008 perimeter security project with two entrance pavilions and ugly fencing completed before its listing worsened its appearance.

The new building is rather more interesting, and stands out among the mediocrity of the surroundings of luxury flats apparently built at low cost which will doubtless largely be overseas investments rather than homes. There will be more pictures of the building and some of those around in the London Images section.
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Break UK silence over Iran uprising

Downing St, London. Sat 20 Jan 2018

A man holds up two large photographs at the protest
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Protesters opposite Downing St urged UK Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence over the uprising in Iran and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

The protest was organised by the French-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the associated PMOI/MEK, an Iranian political–militant organisation in exile, and claimed to represent 40 Anglo-Iranian communities. There were a wide range of speakers including several MPs. After I left those taking part in the protest were to march to the Houses of Parliament.
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Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence

Parliament Square, London. Sat 20 Jan 2018
Some banners & posters showed Dr Ambedkar, India's great statesman and author of the Indian constitution
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A protest organised by the Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB and supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations, the South Asian Solidarity Group and others met in Parliament Square to march to the Indian High Commission in protest against the attacks on the Dalit community by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination.

Violence erupted on January 1st this year when thousands of Dalits from all over India marched to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a historic victory by Dalit soldiers fighting for the East India Company in the Battle of Koregaon where under British command they routed a 50 times larger army of Peshwa Banirao II. Dalits began commemorating this victory under the leadership of Dr Ambedkar in 1927 at the memorial pillar erected by the the British in 1851.

This year's bicentenary celebration was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists and many were injured and one boy killed. Unrest and attacks spread to Mumbai. Caste discrimination is outlawed by the Indian constitution, written for independence in 1947 by Dr Ambedkar, but together with caste based attacks on Dalits has increased greatly since the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP party under Narendra Modi, whose central vision along with the linked violent Hindu Nationalist RSS movement is for Dalits to remain at the bottom of Indian society.
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Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy

Parliament Square, London. Sat 20 Jan 2018

The protesters brought many Bolivian flags and shouted 'Bolivia dijo NO!', Bolivia said NO!
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Bolivians protest in Parliament Square against President Evo Morales having won a Supreme Court appeal which will allow him to run for a fourth term in 2019.

In a referendum on 21st February 2016 the Bolivian people voted just over 51% against a constitutional change to allow Morales to stand again had voted down the constitutional change, but the government argued it had lost because of an illegal defamatory campaign against Morales. He is the country's first indigenous leader, in office since 2006, and says he needs more time in power in order to consolidate his party's programme of of social reforms. The protesters accuse him of wanting to be a dictator and abandoning democracy. The protest also condemned the revised penal code signed in December. Among other things this provides provision for legal abortions, but journalists fear it endangers their freedom of expression and some other professions are worried about the sanctions it provides against professional misconduct.
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Stop Turkey's invasion of Afrin

Turkish Embassy, London. Fri 19 Jan 2018

Kurds say that Turkey is ISIS, whose funding came from oil exported through Turkey
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Kurds protest outside the Turkish embassy as massive Turkish forces gather on the border with Syria and are shelling Afrin, a Kurdish canton of Rojava in north-western Syria which is defended by the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia.

The YPG which has been given support from the USA has been the most effective group in the fight against Islamic State forces which the Kurds say are supported by President Erdogan of Turkey. Erdogan claims the YPG are a terrorist group allied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned in Turkey, and has said he will attack and destroy what he calls a "nest of terror" on Turkey's borders.

Syria has called the threat to attack across their border a blatant disregard of their sovereignty, and the US has refused to give help to the YPG against Turkey. Britain sees Turkey as an important NATO ally and has expressed support for Turkey's fight against the Kurds. Russia appears at the moment not to be shooting down Turkish aircraft over Afrin, and there are reports it has withdrawn its observers from Afrin to avoid Turkish bombs. It currently looks as if the USA has decided that the YPG have outlived their usefulness having defeated ISIS and are not willing to help them against Turkey.

Afrin is one of the three self-governing regions of The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), better known as Rojava, which gained de-facto autonomy in 2012 with a poly-ethnic population and secular constitution based on democratic socialism, gender equality and sustainability and is widely regarded as a model for a modern federal state. It's loss would be a great setback to any promise of a peaceful settlement in Syria. But it is of course not certain that Turkey, although they have one of the most powerful armies in the world will be able to defeat the much smaller Kurdish forces.
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Vigil for 10 Million Congolese killed for minerals

Belgian Embassy, London. Wed 17 Jan 2018
Maurice Mpolo was killed along with Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first president and Joseph Okita
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On the 57th anniversary of the assassination of Congo's first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, a protest by African Socialist International and the Patrice Lumumba Coalition opposite the Belgian Embassy remembered the over 10 million Congolese killed since 1998 over theft of Coltan, Cobalt and other minerals to make smart phones, electric cars, etc and demanded an end to Belgian military support for the Kabila regime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Congo gained independence from Belgium on June 30th 1960 with a democratic government led by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Within days Belgium was sending forces to back the secession of mineral rich Katanga and after USA and the UN failed to help, Lumumba turned to the USSR who sent planes to transport his troops.

President Eisenhower feared that the control by US banks and mining companies of the Congo economy and resources was under threat and sent in the CIA to back Congo's army head Joseph Mobutu against Lumumba in their longest and largest campaign anywhere. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to eliminate Lumumba, and there were several unsuccessful attempts on his life before a plot by the CIA and the Belgians aided by MI6 led to his assassination along with his aides Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okita by by Katangan and Belgian army officers on 17th January 1961. The three men were taken and shot, their bodies dismembered and then dissolved in an acid bath provided by the CIA.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is now ruled by Joseph Kabila, essentially an appointee of western interests, which are still looting the mineral wealth of a country which based on its natural resources should be one of the richest in Africa but ranks as the poorest in the world with an average annual income of around $400.
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Don't destroy Elephant & Castle

Southwark, London. Tue 16 Jan 2018Protesters outside Southwark Council offices
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Local residents, including many from London's Latin American community and housing activists marched with traders and LCC students from the Elephant & Castle to Southwark Council's offices in Tooley St to demolish the shopping centre.

Southwark Council and the University of the Arts have both backed Delancey's plans to replace the current centre and London College of Communication campus which is home to Walworth residents, traders, the Latin American community and LCC students with luxury flats, a new university campus and shops but with only 3% of 'so-called' social housing and 5% of affordable retail units which is projected to give £154m profit to its offshore managers.

Delancey and Southwark are keeping secret the viability assessment that would allow the developers to avoid any commitment to actual social housing in the scheme, instead offering a small number of properties they would manage with rents they claim would be close to social rents. Under pressure from the protesters Delancey revised their plans shortly before the Planning committee meeting to include more low cost housing, but came nowhere near meeting the objections of local residents and businesses currently using the centre.

Marchers included students and workers from the London College of Communication which has lent support to the scheme and where students have occupied part of the building in protest.

I left as the Planning Committee meeting started, and it was a long one. After several hours of discussion the members narrowly voted to overthrow the officers recommendation and turn the plan down, but this was not the end of the matter. The meeting then went into a private session where it was agreed that there would be another meeting to consider the development plans on Jan 30th, and the meeting finally ended around 1 am. Fourteen councilors have signed an open letter against the scheme, citing “unacceptable” social housing provision and inadequate protection for traders, and opposition appears to be growing.
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Around the Elephant

Southwark, London. Tue 16 Jan 2018

Elephant and Castle shopping centre
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I took a few pictures on my way to join a protest against plans to demolish the Elephant & Castle.

I took a few pictures on the bus from Waterloo to the Elephant, and as I had arrived a few minutes early, took some of the area which is threatened by redevelopment. The shopping centre with its office block was built in the 1960s and most people agree it is in need of modernisation and perhaps a total replacement.

But despite a rather dilapidated condition, it is a well-used local community asset, with many small local businesses including market stalls and a bingo hall. In more recent times it has been greatly enlivened by the many Latin Americans who live in the area around, and is home to many businesses owned by them.

The proposals for development seem based almost entirely on profit rather than on the needs of the local people. Few would ever be able to live in the the development and none of the businesses have been given any promises about being able to return to the new centre, where most rents would probably be prohibitive. The current Elephant is a thriving community and one which gives the area an identity, and any development should have the needs of that community at its heart.
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Stop the Massacres in Syria

Russian Embassy, London. Sat 13 Jan 2018

A woman makes an impassioned speech calling on the Russians to stop bombing civilians in Syria
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Protesters opposite the Russian Consulate called for an end to the massacres taking place now in Syria.

Russia and Assad's forces are bombing civilians in Idlib, Hama and Eastern Ghouta, specifically targeting medical workers and facilities, with 8 hospitals in Idlib bombed since the start of December.

Around a half of those still in Idlib are civilians previously displaced from other areas by attacks by Assad and his allies Russia and Iran. The protesters called on Russia to stop the bombing and end the sieges of these areas and to make serous attempts to make the peace talks succeed rather than use them as a pretext to prevent any intervention while they complete the destruction of all groups opposed to the Assad regime and bomb or starve to death the civilian population in areas held by opposition forces.
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Free Ahed Tamimi & all child prisoners

US Embassy, London. Sat 13 Jan 2018

Protesters at the front of the embassy call for Ahed and all child prisoners to be released
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Protesters at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square call for the release of all child prisoners held in Israeli jails, including Ahed Tamimi, held for slapping an Israeli soldier who came into her family's garden shortly after she had learnt that a relative had been shot by Israeli forces. She is one of the thousands of Palestinian children have been detained by Israel, since 2000 in a systematic policy which the UN has said includes abuse and ill-treatment.

Among those leading the protest was Nana Hourriyah, a cousin of Bassem Tamimi, who is Ahed's father, and there were others present with family links to Palestine and who had spent time in the country. One of the speakers was Robert Inlakesh who had returned recently from three months spent there staying with Palestinian families, and who was deported by the Israeli authorities for having taken part in a peaceful demonstration. He had stayed with the family of another child prisoner, Abdul Khalik, before his arrest and knew him well.

In the over an hour I was with the protest there was a single counter-protester in a pen at the end of the street waving an Israel flag and shouting that everything the protesters were saying was lies. A few of them went up and shouted back at him, some telling him that if like them they had been there then he would know what was happening rather than parroting the Zionist lies. After I left a second counter-protester arrived with a Saudi flag, joining the man with the Israeli flag in what Inlakesh called "the Terrorist Coalition".

Israel is an apartheid state, with very different laws and police treatment for Palestinians in the West Bank who are subject to Israeli military law and dealt with in military courts which offer little or no chance of justice.
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Guantanamo Vigil Marks 16 years

US Embassy, Grosvenor Sq, London. Thu 11 Jan 2018

It proved very difficult to get all of the roughly 90 candles burning brightly at the same time
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A Candlelight vigil outside the US Embassy marked the 16th anniversary of the illegal torture camp at Guantanamo bay where 41 prisoners are still held. Most are being held indefinitely without charge or trial and have permanent injuries from torture that would make their release embarrassing to the US (and possibly UK) authorities.

Protesters lit candles in front of the embassy fence spelling out 'GITMO' and then stood holding candles and large photographs of the 41 remaining detainees, most showing them more than ten years ago at the start of their illegal detention. The vigil called for the immediate closure of Guantanamo and for freedom for the detainees.
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Close Guantanamo - 16years

Trafalgar Square, London. Thu 11 Jan 2018

The protesters stood in the cold light rain for two hours
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Protesters in orange jump suits and black hoods stand in a square for a two hour vigil at Trafalgar Square marking 16 years of the illegal detention and torture camp at Guantanamo Bay.

The names of the 41 remaining detainees were read out, many held indefinitely without charge or trial, almost all who were sold to the US by Afghan militias and the Pakistani military for cash bounties with no real evidence of terrorist involvement, but whose torture in CIA secret prisons across the world before arrival at Guantanamo as while as throughout their detention there makes their release too embarrassing to US authorities.

THere were also a number of speeches, including one outlining the previous history of the US in running similar illegal detention schemes at Guantanamo, an area of Cuba it continues to occupy under an agreement reached over a hundred years ago and now longer recognised by the Cuban government following the Cuban revolution, who have refused to accept the annual cheque for $4,085 sent by the US authorities since 1959.

The US has long been in default of the 1901 agreement which stated that the base at Guantanamo Bay was only to be used as a coaling station to refuel Navy ships. But their immense shame around the world because of Guantanamo is not over their breaking of the agreement, but for the illegality and torture that have taken place at the camp there, chosen for the purpose precisely because the US Justice Department had advised the Pentagon that it was ideal as it was outside the reach of US law and it was unlikely US courts would grant detainees there habeas corpus rights.
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Capital Ring

Wimbledon Park to Richmond, London. Mon 1 Jan 2018

Almost the end - Richmond Bridge
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As often, we began the year with a walk, though this time there were only the two of us.

With the days still around their shortest we decided on a short walk - though long enough to make my legs feel the pain, a section of the Capital Ring from Wimbledon Park to Richmond. Though we've only ever done a few little bits of the Capital Ring, mainly walking together further out from Central London, almost all of this was familiar ground - and we had made a very similar walk from Putney Heath only a few years ago - with a larger family group.

That time we had enjoyed a dusting of snow, but today we got some light rain and drizzle, and many of the paths were rather muddy and slippery, particularly coming down the hill from Richmond Park to Petersham, where Linda lost her footing. At least by that time the drizzle had stopped and the sun had come out.
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London Images

Jan 2018

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