Standing on the bank of the Lea Navigation we had to strain a little to carry on a conversation over the continuous noise reaching us from across the water and over the blue fence. It didn't seem that loud because our ears had attuned to it, but certainly loud enough too be annoying. Residents of Lea Bank Square have to put up with this incessant volume from early in the morning to late at night, day after day, with little chance of things improving greatly before the few days of the Olympics in 2012.
They will get little peace after that, as the property developers - probably the only group to get any long-term benefit from the vast expenditure move in. What is happening along the Lea is not regeneration, not redevelopment, but the replacement of a whole area of London by something very different, a playing and living space that will have little connection with the previous landscape, usage and population.
The vast heaps of earth are the evidence of a terra-forming and sterilising exercise (and it is the soil sterilisation that seems to be blamed for much of the noise.)
I was at Lea Bank Square to see a footbridge across the navigation being lifted by a large crane and lowered onto the Olympic site for demolition. Unfortunately the wind and other problems delayed the lift for at least several hours and I had to leave before it happened.
The bridge itself, a stark concrete structure, will be no great loss as nobody can remember when it was in use, certainly not in recent years. It was built for Gainsborough school still there beside the canal to give the students access to Arena Field on the opposite bank for games. Nobody seems sure about when it was built although it looks as if it was the 1920s or 30s.
The legacy plans show a bridge close to the current location, as well as another bridge from Wallis Road into a new housing area on the east bank.
From Hackney Wick I cycled around the north and east of the site, down through
Stratford and then back to Hackney Wick along the Greenway. Things were busy
and there was visibly more of the stadium than on my previous visit only a
couple of weeks ago.
The UK insurance industry has fought a long legal campaign to avoid having to pay compenstation to workers whose health has been damaged by working with asbestos. In 2006 they won a signifant victory in the Cout of Appeal with a majority verdict which reversed some 20 years of case law and declared that pleural plaques were not a compensatable medical condition. This was upheld by the Law Lords in 2007, and the government carried out a consultation on its response to this which closed on 1 Oct 2008.
Medical experts recognise that these pleural plaques are signs of irreversible damage to the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos. Although they are not normally themselves harmful, they do indicate exposure to asbestos which can lead to various more serious and often fatal asbestos-related conditions.
Most such exposure has been as a result of negligence by employers, which is why previously such cases had been awarded compensation under the civil law on negligence. The Law Lords decision means that compensation can only be claimed when one of the more serious conditions develops.
UCATT, along with the GMB and Unite, organised a demonstration and lobby of MPs today to ask for the Govermenment to make a prompt decision following the consultation and to restore compensation for workers affected by pleural plaques. They argue that these are clear evidence of employer neglect, and that workers also deserve compensation because of the high level of risk of developing a more serious asbestos-related disease.
Several hundred trade-unionists, mainly form the GMB and Unite, came to Parliament
to argue their case and a group of MPs came out to join them. Placards and
t-shirts called for 'Justice for Asbestos Victims' and for the House of Lords
decision to be overturned.
I got to Aldermaston far too late for the blockades that closed the main road and several gates of the Atomic Weapons Establishment for some hours (and led to over 30 people being arrested), having decided against spending the night there.
Linda and I had a beautiful morning for the cycle ride from Reading, taking the same route we had walked on the 2004 Aldermaston March (and apart from Hermit's Hill it isn't a bad ride, though a bit too much traffic - like almost anywhere in the south of England.)
Linda intended to demonstrate with Christian CND, but having decided against the overnight prayer vigil was hoping to join them for lunch at the north gate and continue on their procession of witness around the site. But they were running a couple of hours earlier than expected and were just arriving at the Construction Gate as we toiled up the hill from Aldermaston village on our own bicycle circuit of the site.
Together with several Nipponzan Myohoji Japanese Buddhists who had walked all the way to Aldermaston from the Battersea Park Peace Pagoda, they held a short service at each of the eight or so gates around the AWE. Later I also found a group of Quakers who were holding a silent vigil at the Main gate.
By now the main attraction was also at the Main Gate, where the mobile bicycle-powered Rinky-Dink sound system and musicians were entertaining a small crowd. Seize the Day's great Guantanamo number ‘Club X-Ray' soon had everyone doing the 'Shackle Shuffle' to its Latin tinge.
Afterwards I followed Rinky-Dink down to the Tadley gate, where the Christian CND were completing the final stage of their liturgy, before we all started to make our way home.
The ride through Burghfield seemed to be downhill all the way, though the
bridge over the M4 past there seems unnecessarily steep for cyclists. Soon
after we turned off along the Kennett and Avon canal, part of National Cycle
Route 4. Like most cycle paths, it’s not a route to take if you are
in a hurry, as the poor surface on much of it severely cuts your speed, but
it was traffic-free, and there were very few walkers to slow us down, although
a couple of gates that seemed designed to prevent bikes going through seemed
rather unfriendly for a national cycle path.
Several hundred people, including many family members and friends of those who have died in suspicious circumstances in police custody, prison and 'secure' mental health facilities, marched at an appropriately funereal pace through the centre of London this afternoon. It took 44 minutes to cover the 500 metres to Downing St.
Police stood well back and left the conduct of the demonstration almost entirely to the stewards, stopping traffic in both directions on Whitehall for the march.
For many of us there was this year an added sadness and grief in the absence of a dedicated campaigner on this issue, Pauline Campbell, who devoted herself to the cause after her daughter died because of the neglect of the authorities in Styal prison in 2003.
Many of us heard Pauline speak at previous annual marches organised by the United Families and Friends and had come to know and respect Pauline through her single-minded campaigning.
News of her suicide at her daughter's grave this May came as a shock (but not a surprise) and it was appropriate that she was remembered at the start of the march in Trafalgar Square. Pauline was one of many whose name was not listed among the over 2500 people who have died in care of police and prison staff, either through violence or neglect, but her and many other deaths are also very much a result of their actions.
Despite the publicity acheived by this campaign, and various investigations by the media, inquest verdicts and other enquiries that have made the damning evidence crystal clear, nothing seems to have changed. Racism, the lack of a proper culture of care and an almost complete lack of accountability mean that healthy people, mainly but not all black, continue to die in police and psychiatric custody and in prisons and there is no justice for them. In the past year there were 182 such deaths.
The march made its way in silence down Whitehall to Downing Street where, in a surreal manifestation of anti-terrorist paranoia the bouquets were subjected to a police examination, before family members were allowed to come forward and fix them to the gates. Police had agreed they would be allowed to stay until the protest ended.
Among those taking part were the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, The inquest on his death continues. The CCTV footage from Stockwell station, although only covering the entrance hall and escalator, presents chilling and conclusive evidence of events there, giving the lie to various police attempts to cover up the terrible blunder that led to his cold-blooded murder by CO19, Met's specialist armed police unit.
Outside Downing St the marchers were encouraged to give vent to their feelings
and make a great noise, before continuing to march, now chanting, to Parliament
Square where there was a rally at which a number of people whose family members
had been killed made pleas for justice to be done.
Around thirty people turned up at short notice to a demonstration opposite the Colombian Embassy in London at 4.30pm on Thursday, The protest, called by the PDA on the day of the General Strike in Colombia, was held to support the Colombian indigenous people, the sugar cane cutters on strike and the Colombian social justice movement.
Events in Colombia are difficult to follow with much disinformation, particularly from Colombian goverment sources. Protests by indigenous people began two weeks ago, and a march, joined by other campaigners for social justice, had been making its way for several days towards Cali, the third largest city. Over a thousand indigenous people have been killed since 2002.
On Wednesday President Alvaro Uribe Velez admitted that a special police command opened fire last week on a rally killing three and injuring many others. A video taken by a protester and shown on CNN shows a policeman firing three shots.
Sugar cane cutters have been on strike for around 6 weeks against their conditions of work and service - described as an example of modern slavery. The government has arrested six of the leaders.
The director of the government internal security agency has just been forced to resign after her department was shown to be monitoring Gustavo Pedro of the 'Alternative Domocratic Pole' (Polo Democrático Alternativo - PDA), the leader of the major political opposition party in the country.
On Thursday 23rd, the Central Workers Union organised a one day general strike bringing out many public sector workers to protest about salaries and other issues.
The Colombian government's response to all demands for social justice seems to be to blame the activity on "terrorists" and to step up repression, both by the police and army and also through covert groups. Yesterday there were six small bombs set off in Bogota. They are likely to be used as justification by the government for further repressive measures (and this may well have been the aim of whoever set them off.)
In February this year I photographed many Colombians marching through London
and other cities as a part of a 'Great
World Rally Against the FARC'. Their time would have been better spent
organising to get the Colombian goverment to take social justice for the whole
Colombian people seriously. If they did so, FARC would lose the remaining
support it still has.
Around 20 people, many of them Roma, met at the gates of the Italian Embassy in London at Friday lunchtime (17 Oct) to protest against the human rights abuses in Italy which constitute ethnic cleansing of the Roma. A deputation of four, including Pete Mercer, MBE, the Chair of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups were allowed into the Embassy to give their views. Catherine Beard of the UK Association of Gypsy Women and European Forum delegate had brought back a distinctive green 'Against Ethnic Profiling' t-shirt from Europe.
After the vigil outside the embassy, a number of the protesters went on to a meeting at the House of Lords. The protest was supported by Global Womens Strike and Payday men's organisation who wrote an placard in Italian for the demonstrators.
You can read more about the persecution of the Roma in Italy on >Re:PHOTO
Perhaps the most surprising thing about 'Art in Marylebone' is that it existed at all, and certainly it did so on a lavish scale, with a budget that would be the envy of some major cultural institutions for an event lasting only three days after the opening evening.
Of course, St Marylebone is not an area short of money, and as this event shows it is not short of artists either. But this is still very much a community show, with a whole range of work from those that might normally only be shown in dingy church hall amateur art club shows to others that would not be out of place on the walls of major galleries, and including an excellent children's art competition. And since this is Marylebone, I was not surprised to hear that this was judged by a major British artist (who I hope responded positively to those Wellington boots that gave my heart a little lift), or that the show itself was opened by Nicholas Parsons (whose speech reminded me why I so detest 'Just a Minute', though it lasted rather longer and people seemed to like it despite his hesitation, repetition and considerable deviation) and Peter York.
It was also a show with some fine works at low prices, with one of my favourites images at well under a hundred pounds. Fortunately given the current state of my bank account, someone else had already bought it by the time I saw it. In fact there did seem to be a curious inversion, with some of the highest prices being asked for work I completely failed to appreciate. It was also good to see a very high standard of work (and again some very reasonable prices) in the work by St Maylebone School Teachers, on sale here to get money for a printing press.
As a photographer I hesitate to write in any detail about the work in other
media, but I was particulalry impressed by the clear and relaxed colour portraits
by Canadian photographer Daron A D'Souza in his project 'Missing
Survivors' which looks at the families of missing persons - there are over
13,000 of them - in Bosnia and Herzogovina. There is a straightforward approach
which doesn't sensationalise but allow his subjects their space and very much
their dignity in his images. The stories behind them, which I only read later,
are harrowing. It's unfortunate that so far D'Souza appears not to have his
work on the web.
Exactly 100 years ago, more than 40 women were arrested in the 'Suffragete Rush' as they attempted to enter The Houses of Parliament. To mark this centenary, women concerned with the lack of political action to tackle climate change organised and led a rally in Parliament Square, calling for "men and women alike" to stand together and support three key demands:
Those attending were asked to wear white, and many dressed in ways that reflected the styles of a century ago, and wore red sashes with the words 'Reform Climate Policy', 'No New Coal' 'Climate Code Red' and 'No Airport Expansion', with campaigners against a second runway at Stansted having their own 'Suffrajets' design. We were also offered fairy buns with 'Deeds Not Words' and 'Climate Bill Now'.
There were approaching a thousand people in the square for the speeches by Rosie Boycott, Joy Greasley (Vice-Chair of the Women's Institute), a Muslim lawyer (I didn't catch her name) and Green Party MEP and leader Caroline Lucas. As she finished speaking most of the crowd, led by Tamsin Osmond and friends, walked and ran across the road towards the main door into Parliament, chanting the Suffragette slogan 'Deeds Not Words'. The campaigners pushed through the police who made only a token attempt to stop them on their way, falling back to protect the door itself with several lines of police, and preventing any protesters entering the building. Two women got loud cheers and applause when they got over the wall and walked down a ramp inside, but they were soon brought back.
There was a long melee outside the door, with police picking up demonstrators
and throwing them back. I saw no violence by demonstrators towards the police,
they were just trying to move forwards towards the door. Eventually the area
became so crowded that little movement of any kind was possible, and for a
short time the protesters sat down. The standoff was still continuing when
I left at 7pm although people were drifting away. Later reports state that
half a dozen arrests were made, including Tamsin Osmond, who was in breach
of her bail conditions following the 'Plane Stupid' roof-top protest
at the Houses of Parliament in February.
All over the centre of London there were people giving out leaflets about the growing problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, where they allege a program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by the government. International media are banned from the Tamil areas of the country and NGOs have been ordered out of some areas, so there are few reports of the war. The Tamils allege that over 100,000 Tamils have been killed, over a million have fled the country and another half million have fled their homes inside Sri Lanka - half of these in the last three months. Some of the were taking a rest around the statue of Mandela in Parliament Square when I arrived there. The are calling for an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
Elsewhere in the square, one of the Tamil demonstrators was talking to demonstrators from 'London Against Detention', a group oopposed to the detention fo asylum seekers and campaigning to close down the detention centres.
Facing Parliament, Brian Haw's peace protest continues - he has been there for almost 2700 days - over 7 years - and it will soon be his 60th birthday. Brian says that now the police seem to have largely abandoned attempts to get rid of him legally there have been a number of odd attacks against him and others in the square - which the police have ignored. I took some time talking to a man who smelt of alcohol, was talking nonsense and acting unpredictably - and who then went and started to insult Brian. One of the other demonstrators stood between him and Brian who was filming him. I put down my bag as I took photographs in case I needed to step in and help, but fortunately he eventually moved away.
I was told the same man had come a caused a nuisance in a similar way the previous day - and indeed had come back earlier today to 'apologise' - before making a nuisance of himslef again. Other incidents have involved actual assaults or attempts at assault with various weapons including a cricket bat.
I'd wanted to come to the square today particularly to photograph the two Bens from the 'Still Human Still Here' campaign dedicated to highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are being forced into abject poverty in an attempt to drive them out of the country. They have spent two weeks in a tent in the square living on the emergency rations that the Red Cross will supply to these inhumanely treated asylum seekers.
Ben and Ben of 'Still Human Still Here'
As I walked away,a man lying on the grass called out to me, asking me to take his picture too. He has also been protesting in Parliament Square, been on hunger strike for two weeks, drinking water and chewing gum but not eating. The details of his story were not too clear to me and I've been unable to find out more. He claims to have been abused by police and social services following an incident in which as a seven year old child in Llanelli he was implicated in the death of a baby brother, and is protesting about his lack of success in attempts to get his case investigated.
Today he didn't feel up to sitting where he normally does with his placards, undedr the statue of Churchill, but he posed of a couple of pictures in front of his tent. He says he has written a letter the Home Office and intends to continue his hunger strike until he gets an answer.
As I was talking to Danny, another group of people hurried along the street opposite carrying placards. Later I caught up with them again at the top of Whitehall and found that they were Obama supporters hoping to persuade Americans they met to register and vote in the election.
The Rosary Crusade of Reparation is one of the larger walks of public witness by Catholics in London, although a rather low-key event compared to the annual festival at the Italian Church. It follows a tradition established in 1947 in Austria where the Franciscan Fr Petrus Pavlicek prayed for his country to be freed from the communist occupiers whose zone occupied much of the country after the German defeat. He started the rosary campaign which grew to over half a million members and played a part in the Russian decision to allow Austria its independence in 1955. The first annual parade with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1948 in Vienna on the feast of the Name of Mary, Sept 12, which had been established by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 when Turkish invaders surrounding Vienna were defeated by Christian armies who had prayed to the Blessed Virgin.
The final appearance of Our Lady at Fatima in October 1917, close to the end of the First World War, was accompanied by a miracle in which those present saw the sun dancing around in the sky, and she promised peace and an end to war if men showed contrition for their sins and changed their lives. The London procession takes place on the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of that event.
This was the 25th procession in London, starting from Westminster Cathedral and making its way to a service at Brompton Oratory. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was carried by the Catholic Police Guild and two thousand or more Catholics walked behind saying Rosary and singing hymns devoted to Mary.
Priminent in the procession were a number of members of the Knights
of Malta (the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem
of Rhodes and of Malta) and this years crusade had as its special theme
atonement for the Human Fertilisation and Embroyology Bill currently
passing through Parliament.
Britain is not the only country where government controls are on the increase, and Freedom not fear 2008 events were taking place in over 20 countries today to demonstrate against excessive surveillance by governments and businesses, organised by a broad movement of campaigners and organizations.
In the UK the main event was outside New Scotland Yard in London, largely directed at the restriction of the right to demonstrate under SOCPA, the intimidatory use of photography by police FIT squads, the proposed introduction of ID cards, the increasing centralisation of personal data held by government, including the DNA database held by police, the incredible growth in surveillance cameras, 'terrorist' legislation and other measures which have affected our individual freedom and human rights.
Among organisations represented there were People in Common and FitWatch.
The police were in friendly mode, handing out SOCPA notifications to some
of those protesting, but seemed to be making it clear that they were unlikely
to make any arrests, and there were no problems at all in the three-quarters
of an hour I spent at the demonstration.
Iraq's oil has been under national control for over 30 years, providing 95% of the goverenment revenue. Since the invasion, Britain and the USA have put great pressure on Iraq to hand over most of the oil reserves to foreign companies, particularly Shell and BP, by passing a new oil law.
This giving away of Iraq's key natural resource is opposed by Iraqi trade unions and oil experts, but strongly supported by expert consultants supplied by the UK and US who previously worked at a high level for companies like Shell and BP. They drafted the bill which is expected to go through the Iraqi parliament. The Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al Shahristani is due in London on Monday to discuss further progress on the give-away plans.
The demonstration marking the start of the final 100 days of the Bush adminstration was organised by 'Hands of Iraqi Oil', a coalition whose members include Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want and supported by the Stop the War Coalition and others.
A samba band, 'oil workers' and other demonstrators accompanied by a huge
started outside Shell's UK headquarters at Waterloo where I photographed
them, before leaving to go through the centre of London via BP's main offices
in St James's Square to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
Several hundred people, mainly students took part in a lively anti-capitalist demonstration about the financial crisis in the centre of the City of London this afternoon.
They attempted to storm The Royal Exchange, long simply a prestige shopping centre, and the Bank of England but were quickly repulsed by police. They then went on a tour of nearby streets. There was a short sit-down as the protesters reached Bishopsgate, but most of the time they simply pushed through the rather thin police lines.
Apart from a few instances of individual tempers being lost by police, the atmosphere generally remained relatively calm, often resembling more a rather rough body-contact game such as a rugby scrum than anything more confrontational. Some of the press covering the event had a few tricky moments when they were trapped behind police lines and pushed around by police as they attempted to leave. I got a few bruises and my glasses were damaged when police rushed in as I was taking pictures in Lombard St.
Eventually a short rally with speeches was held on the corner of London Wall and Bishopsgate, after which the demonstrators slowly dispersed. I didn't see any arrests and the police seemed fairly relaxed at the end of the event.
Contrary to reports elsewhere on Indymedia and some blogs, the demonstrators
- perhaps surprisingly - were at no time anywhere near the Stock Exchange,
around half a mile away in Paternoster Square. Perhaps like the IRA many years
ago they simply didn't know where it was.
I had a few hours to fill between the demonstration and my next appointment and thought it was time for another trip to view (as best one can) the Olympic site and see how work is proceeding there.
It has always been an interesting walk through Stratford marsh on top of the Northern Outfall sewer, although rather more so in the past when there were so many places one could leave it to explore further rather than coming up against the big blue fence.
It's rather galling to read in the plans for the area after the Olympics that after having destroyed most of what made the area of interest they will be opening up this previously inaccesible area to the public. There have always been footpaths through it, along one side of most if not all the waterways, as well as a number of unenclosed areas. The councils actually cleared many of them and signposted them in the 1990s as well as re-branding the Northern Outfall as the Greenway, though some of the other paths had been closed again even before the mass Olympic closure.
Things are continuing to change on the Olympic site, although there are still
few things recognisable as buildings, and still a lot of cleared ground and
earth being moved. But certainly both walking on the 'Greenway' and taking
the train back from Hackney Wick to Stratford there were many signs of fairly
frenzied activity visible.
I hadn't heard of Lytchett Matravers before this demonstration, but it is one of several villages on the outskirts of Bournemouth and Poole that are threatened with excessive development. The idea of a Green Belt, brought to this country from Germany in the 1930s was to put an end to the unplanned sprawl of ribbon development along major roads leading out from all our cities, and it has made a valuable contribution to improving the quality of life in our towns and villages and to conserving the countryside.
Currently the pressure for green field development, particularly in the South-East has led to calls for a relaxation of the planning controls on Green Belt land. Many of us feel that the whole of the current planning structure works against sensible and ecological development, but the answer to this is not to relax planning controls but to bring in improved - and in some respects tighter - controls.
Proposed develpments in Dorset have attracted widespread local opposition, with over 400 Dorset Residents. attending a Green Belt Protest Rally in Bournemouth held to challenge the dictation by Hazel Blears, Secretary of State, that Dorset must build a New Town at Lytchett Minster and over 7,250 houses in the Green Belt around Poole & Bournemouth.
The demonstration in Whitehall was rather smaller - about a coachload of
people coming down on a Thursday lunchtime - but they brought with them
a petition with a large number of signatures to hand in at Downing St.
October 9 is Uganda Independence Day, but for gay Ugandans in particular there is little to celebrate. Around 50 people met in a demonstration sponsored by the NUS outside the Ugandan Embassy in Trafalgar Square at noon on Ugandan Independence Day, Oct 9, to protest against human rights abuses in Uganda.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and the penalty can be imprisonment for life, and gay rights campaigners have been imprisoned and subjected to torture. The Ugandan Anglican church is a leading force in anti-gay campaigns.
Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have documented the government's use of torture and intimidation, and the LGBT community is excluded from healthcare.
British arms sold to Uganda include armored vehicles from compnies owned by BAE Systems which have been used against civilians, killing at least three demonstrators.
Because of the human rights situation in Uganda, many Ugandans seek asylum
in the UK. Most are forcibly sent back to a very uncertain future in Uganda
without proper consideration of their cases under our "fast-track"
process. Far too many of them are also ill-treated and abused by police
and private immigration escorts employed by the Home Office, who refuse
to investigate seriously any complaints made. A report by Medical Justice
and others on the treatment of asylum seekers has produced damning evidence
of some of these abuses.