my london diary index
 

December 2008

Action Against State Terrorism
Solidarity with Revolt in Greece
Solidarity with Whitechapel Anarchists!
Markets, Graffitti and Parkours
Muriel Lesters Serenade Bomb Makers
National Climate March
Climate Change Cyclists
Steam at Staines

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Global Day Of Action Against State Terrorism

Wood Green Library, London 20 December, 2008
Shoot me, I'm the future
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Around eighty people attended a peaceful demonstration against Police Brutality and State Terrorism outside Wood Green Library on Saturday, called by Greek, Turkish, Kurdish and British activists in solidarity with the continuing popular youth revolt in Greece

A call for world-wide solidarity actions against state terrorism had come from those occupying the Polytechnic University in Athens, who linked their struggle to that of others around the world, "zero tolerance and repressive terrorism, wage slavery, poverty and social exclusion, exploitation, oppression and social control are not constrained by borders but neither is the struggle for freedom."

The demonstration in London also remembered the 'Massacre of 19th December' 2000, eight years ago, when Turkish troops killed 29 political prisoners and wounded many more. The soldiers went into 20 prisons to end non-violent protests against the transfer of political prisoners to new F-type prisons in which prisoners are kept either in total isolation or in isolated cells housing three prisoners. Many of the prisoners are tortured and these isolated cells have increased the abuses. A further 122 political prisoners died in the hunger strike protest that followed against these prisons.

A few police stood and watched the demonstration. One tried to talk to the organisers with little success. After an hour the demonstration dispersed quietly.
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Solidarity with Revolt in Greece

Dalston, London, Sun 14 Dec

Police ask a demonstrator to remove his mask - proving a flash point for the event
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It was in some way appropriate that a demonstration in support of Greek anarchists provoked by the Athens police killing a 15 year old youth should end up with a stand-off between demonstrators and police.

When I arrived at Dalston Kingsland around 2.30pm there were already around 50 demonstrators there, mainly those connected with Greek students and workers, but also some anarchists with several banners. They were rather outnumbered by police and community support workers and were simply waiting for the march to start, causing no problems, not even obstructing the pavement or the access to the Overground station.

Had the march been allowed to start, they and the other couple of hundred who turned up would probably have caused little trouble, other than a relatively small amount of disruption to traffic as they made their way along to the peace mural. After possibly a few speeches and rather a lot of chanting and shouting, everyone would probably have dispersed without further trouble and we would all have been on our way home before it got dark.

What completely changed the course of events was a decision by the police present to take action against people wearing scarves across their faces. This is of course a part of the anarchist 'uniform', and it does frustrate the police in their attempts to keep photographic tabs on all demonstrators (that database again.)

Section 60(4A) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, Act gives the police powers to require the removal of face coverings that an officer is satisfied is worn wholly or mainly to conceal identity, provided that an officer of or above the rank of inspector has given an authorisation for such action within a given area for a period of up to 24 hours.

Assuming that the police were following the law, the decision to take such action was made in advance. But although such powers were available it surely made no sense to use them before any trouble had occurred, when doing so was almost bound to provoke it.

A small team of officers approached one of the men holding a banner and told him to remove his scarf. A lengthy argument ensued, which ended with the man being manhandled away. At this point there was a bit of a scuffle, and police allege that another man punched a policeman (or possibly a CSW) and he was dragged onto the pavement, handcuffed and searched.

Demonstrators who had remained on the pavement outside the station while this was happening - mainly Greeks and others who had wanted to keep out of any trouble – and a few others who had returned there were then penned in by police (at around 2.43pm.)

A rather larger group of the anarchists had sensibly gone over to the other side of the street before this happened, and there were soon several hundred people watching from across the road. And things stayed more or less this way, with a few more arrests and minor skirmishes and large police reinforcements until I went home around 4.15pm when those not detained were noticeably thinning. I'm told the police held those they had penned until some time after 5pm.

What would have probably have been a short and relatively peaceful event causing short and minor disruption became a major problem, closing Dalston Kingsland station and severely affecting traffic in north London. Several shops nearby closed early. When I left Kingsland High Street - a "Red Route" - was closed to northbound traffic.

As well as the frustration of a legitimate protest, the police activity resulted in considerable inconvenience for many people not taking part, as well as costing us a small fortune in police pay. At best it was a small display of police macho, and I can't see there was any positive outcome from it at all. But perhaps it is some kind of political charade organised to increase public support for increasing surveillance and repressive legislation.
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Solidarity with Whitechapel Anarchists!

Brick Lane, London, Sun 14 Dec

Distributing the WAG newsletter in Brick Lane

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The full range of police units seemed to be out around Brick Lane on Sunday - and even at least one man who works for MI6 was claimed to have been spotted watching from a distance and making a phone call - but he may just have been out doing his Christmas shopping.

Members of Whitechapel Anarchist Group were harassed by police while distributing their newsletter last Sunday and had put out a call for support, and around 20 people turned up to stand around on the rather cold street near the bagel shops. This week the police were there again, but mainly stood back and watched from across the road, a police officer taking pictures of all who were there with a very long lens. Many of those walking along Brick Lane seemed interested in the WAG newsletter and took a copy from the dozen or so people handing them out.

The police group with the photographer moved across the road and stood on the corner of Brick Lane. Apparently one young man, urged on by his friends, went and stood in front of the officer taking pictures, and was hauled off a few yards down Bethnal Green Road. I followed and took pictures keeping out of the way as the police questioned him and several of the anarchists questioned the police over their action while others took pictures of them from a closer range. After a few minutes the young man was marched across the road and taken away in a waiting police van.

The police were obviously there expecting trouble, but there wasn't anything happening. People do find their photographic activities a harassment, and they do provoke sometimes rather silly retaliation, but the issue of the country becoming a surveillance society is an important one. In a recent court case involving one of those present on Brick Lane the police admitted to compiling and keeping a photographic database in which they could look up people and see which demonstrations they had attended.

Of course I publish a list of my own such activities myself, though that doesn't stop them repeatedly taking my picture, rather than simply looking on My London Diary!

Clearly their activities around Brick Lane today were a waste of public money, and worse than that. They don't make us any safer and were not combating any real threat to public order. If they have an agenda it seems purely political.
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Sunday Morning: Markets, Graffitti and Parkours

London, Sunday 14 December, 2008

Plenty of miseltoe at Columbia Market
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A few things caught my attention as I made my roundabout way from Waterloo to Brick Lane on Sunday morning. First, next to the roundabout at Waterloo were a number of youths jumping athletically around the entrances to the subway; I stopped for a couple of minutes to watch and take a few pictures before scurring across Waterloo Bridge to the bus stop and catching a No 26 to take me up to Bethnal Green.

There I had time for for a leisurely stroll through Columbia Market, packed with people buying Christmas trees, decorations and flowers. Plenty of oppourtunites for pictures, but the bulky, noisy Nikon isn't a camera I like for candid portraits and I took only a few more distant images - like the one above.

I was still early when I got to Brick Lane, and as always my eye was drawn to the graffitti. Somehow the people seem less interesting than in the old days, less eccentric and dodgy characters, and,except on the very fringes, the market seems rather more commercial in character.

My head was getting cold and I put my hand in my pocket for my wooly had, to find it missing. A couple of stalls along I found a new one for a quid, with a label calling it a fashion hat and a £9.99 price tag. And there were fancy chocolates like the ones I couldn't bring myself to pay the ridiculous prices in Waitrose going for around a quarter of the cost... A pity I couldn't carry stuff around with me.
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'Muriel Lesters' Serenade Bomb Makers

Lockheed Martin, Carlisle Place, London. Fri 12 Dec, 2008
A man sprawls in memory of the many deaths caused by atomic weapons; security men look bored.
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Ten activists turned up in Victoria, London on Friday for a festive protest outside the offices of the US company behind the production of the UK's nuclear weapons and the huge expansion of bomb production facilities at Aldermaston - costing £6,000,000,000 - which has never been debated or approved by Parliament.

They were the 'Muriel Lesters', a London affinity group of Trident Ploughshares; dressed in Santa suits, white nuclear inspector overalls and festive hats they called for an end to bomb production at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE).

Appropriately, their renditions of festive songs and carols with modified anti-nuclear lyrics were largely less than tuneful (one taking part was hear to say "I'm a Quaker, we don't sing" and who could contradict him?) They called for a stop to the illegal activities of these companies in making weapons.

First to be serenaded by the group were the offices of the US arms giant Lockheed Martin, makers of 'bunker buster' and 'cluster' bombs, the worlds largest exporter of weapons and the leading member of the consortium set up to produce the nuclear warheads for the UK Trident replacement at Aldermaston.

After an hour or so of leafleting and displaying banners on Vauxhall Bridge Road just around the corner, the group moved to the front door of the building housing Lockheed Martin and several other companies in Carlisle Place for their half hour carol 'concert'. It was a site I knew from the 'Merchants of Death' tour by CAAT earlier in the year. A number of people came in an out of the building while this was going on and some took leaflets while others hurried past, often to waiting taxis.

Half way through the performance, a police car pulled up and dropped off two constables who came to talk to the protesters. They asked who was in charge (and of course nobody was) and for a mobile number they could use to contact the group, saying "it's standard practice for protests". Oh no it isn't! They were handed a leaflet with the Norwich details of Trident Ploughshares, but that wasn't what they had in mind.

The police were informed that the real criminals were in the Lockheed Martin offices, carrying out the vast expansion in UK nuclear arms, a breach of the UK's obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that they were involved in an illegal conspiracy some groups we could name down the road in Whitehall. The police chose to ignore this vital evidence but eventually they went away, reminding the protesters that while they supported the right to demonstrate, it was important to keep the pavement clear.

As they left, one member of the group stretched out "dead" on his back on that pavement as a symbol of the many victims of nuclear weapons, including those killed in nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, "bomb test veterans, and victims of leukaemias, lymphomas and cancers caused by exposure to radioactive discharges from AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield in Berkshire, Sellafield in Cumbria, Rolls Royce Raynesway in Derby and other sites"

I left the group as it packed up and decided to take a short break before going on for a similar protest at the London offices of Jacobs Engineering and Fluor Corporation, two other US companies who are competing for the stake in the AWE bomb-making contract currently filled by the British Nuclear Group. The third player in the contract – the only remaining UK involvement - is SERCO.

(Muriel Lester, (1883–1968), born in Leytonstone, was a leading Christian peace campaigner and writer. Among many other things she founded Kingsley Hall in Bow, was a friend of Ghandi, Traveling Secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and was detained for ten weeks in Trinidad and then several days in Holloway Prison for her activities during the Second World War.)
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National Climate March

London, Saturday December 6th 2008

Climate marchers reach Parliament Square
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America got an easy ride in this year's National Climate Change march despite it starting in Grosvenor Square, as hopes are still high that Obama - unlike Bush - will respond to the climate crisis. So there was no Uncle Sam or Statue of Taking Liberties that we've seen in previous years among this years villains on parade. Its a hope likely to be dashed as US oil will almost certainly continue its dominance of the country whatever puppet is in the white house.

The largest puppets in this year's march were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, challenging the Campaign against Climate Change logo globe in a greenhouse in the unphotographability stakes. Fortunuately there was no shortage of other interest, with posters reflecting the four major themes - no coal-fired power stations, no airport expansion, no agrofuels and a big yes to a renewable energy revolution and green jobs. But perhaps the biggest banner was that proclaiming 'Capitalism Isn't Working' surrounded by a group of anarchists.

Other groups on the march included vegans, reminding us of the great environmental advantages of eating vegetables rather than meat, and the Heathrow 'No Third Runway' campaigners along with a bewildering assortment of other environmental groups. Around 3-4,000 took part in the march, perhaps slightly more than last year, but there had seemed to be rather less publicity this year.

The rally in Parliament Square was a little disappointing, with two main speakers having to cancel at the last minute. But there were still some good speeches, particularly (as usual) from London's Green MEP Caroline Lucas, and Nick Clegg appeared for the Lib Dems. Music was provided by Seize the Day, and again I suspect it was another nod to Obama that - at least while I was there we didn't get their Club X-ray.
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Climate Change Cyclists

Holborn, London. Saturday 6 December, 2008

Cyclists demonstrate for a green future
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Steam at Staines

Staines, Middx. Wednesday 3 Dec, 2008
A steam special goes over the River Thames at Staines
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Usually I just hear the whistle and the sound of the steam pushing the pistons from my house a few hundred yards away from the track as a steam hauled train calls in at Staines to pick up passengers for an expensive day out on the railway. But this time the local paper had given the time that the train was to arrive, so I decided to go and take a few pictures.

I'm not sure whether the paper had simply got it wrong (like it does most things) or the times had been changed, but when I arrived at Staines station there were a dozen or so people waiting to see it but no train - and station staff were able to tell us it would come a bit over an hour later. So I went away and did a bit of shopping before coming back - and more or less dead on time a plume of smoke appeared around the bend.

The engine was the preserved ex-LNER streamliner, Sir Nigel Gresley, and it stopped for some minutes at Staines station, while several hundred people boarded and around 50 had now gathered to watch. Unfortunately our vision was a little restricted by a more modern train on the other platform, leaving for London.

The engine seemed noisier than I remember, and the platform was wreathed in steam and smoke - I think driver and fireman were putting on a little of an act for the crowd. Having taken a few pictures - along with lots of railway photographers - at the station I got on my bike and rode down to the towpath, in plenty of time to watch the train go across at some speed.

More about trains and Staines on >Re:PHOTO
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All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2008; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

 

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