my london diary index
 

April 2009

No New Coal without 100% CCS
Café Jiro Opens
International Workers Memorial Day
World Day for Animals in Laboratories
Tamil Hunger Strike Continues
175 Years of Union Organising
St George & the Dragon
England Supporters,Trafalgar Square
The George Inn, Southwark
The Lions part: St George & the Dragon
St George's Day - Trafalgar Square
Vaisakhi in Slough
Loyal Orange Lodge Parade
Dutch Stereotypes
Tamil Hunger strike Continues
Shakespeare's Birthday Coincidence
Protest Against London Police
Stop Police Brutality
Stop Sri-Lanka Genocide
In Memory of Ian Tomlinson
Tamils on Hunger Strike
Good Friday
Ponders End to Tottenham Hale
Visteon Occupation Ends, Fight Continues
Vaisakhi in Hounslow
Primark - Fashion from Sweatshops
City Walk
Solidarity at Visteon Enfield
Ogaden & Stop the War at G20
Jobs not Bombs
G20: Climate Camp in the City
G20 Meltdown - Financial Fools Day

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No New Coal without 100% CCS

Whitehall (Downing St), London. Thursday April 30, 2009

Campaigners opposite Downing St oppose slightly less dirty coal-fired power stations

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Although the government's decision to ban new coal-fired power stations without any carbon capture was welcomed by the Campaign against Climate Change, they remain concerned about the huge levels of carbon emission still involved in the proposals which still allow 75-80% of the carbon to be emitted.

Even if technology improves over the next 15 years to allow carbon capture to be increased from the initial 20-25% to a full 100%, four large power stations would still emit a massive 275 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, creating a serious risk of catastophic climate change.

There is no certainty that 100% effective technology can be developed in the next 15 years, and it is impossible to believe that if it is not available these power stations would then be closed down. The current proposals would lead other governments to begin similar massively polluting programs on what are little more than vague promises of eventual reductions, truly a recipe for disaster.

This small demonstration (publicity had been rather lacking) called for no new coal to be built without 100% CCS. Among the speakers were Joss Garman from Greenpeace and London Green Party MEP Jean Lambert.
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Café Jiro Opens

Flowers Gallery, Cork St, London. April 29.2009
Jiro Osuga in Café Jiro on Cork St - showing at Flowers until May 23, 2009
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Although it would be nice to have to have a decent café in the centre of Mayfair, Jiro's Cafe will only be there until May 23, and the food, wine and hand-painted serviettes were only for the opening night. But in place of the usually rather arid interior of a West End art gallery Jiro Osuga has created a marvelously decorated and coherent space, covering the white walls with canvases to create a space where, when filled with the opening night crowd it was sometimes hard to separate them from the figures painted on the walls.

It is a world that includes many references both to friends and to the world of art, and to the buildings fronting the street opposite the gallery, as well as to a few of the famous - with Marx, Lenin and Chairman Mao sharing a table in one corner - and doubtless many more I failed to recognise.

It's a fine piece of art and something that will appeal to all but the blind or blinkered - even causing something of a stir among other Cork St gallerists, and I hope will be shown elsewhere after it comes down in Mayfair.

Jiro and I were both involved for a dozen years or so in 'The London Arts Café', set up by Mireille Galinou, which for 12 years put on events and exhibitions related to art about cities. Mireille's original hopes to open an physical art café never materialised, though one of the shows I helped to organise (along with Jiro and others) was 'Café Life' in 2005. and we published 20 issues of the magazine 'Art and Cities'. LAC's successor is a 'Meetup group', also called Art and Cities, open to all. On the shelves of Café Jiro you can see the wine from Chateau Galinou, and Mireille's dog it tied to the sandwich board at the entrance to the café.
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International Workers Memorial Day

Tower Hill to City Hall, London. April 28, 2009

Carrying the Construction Safety Campaign banner at the head of the march
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International Workers Memorial Day, April 28, started in Canada in 1984 and is marked in many countries around the world as a day when workers "come together to remember the dead and fight for the living." Talks are taking place with the UK government over official recognition of the day, with UCATT calling for it to become a bank holiday.

Around 5000 people die in the UK each year directly from work-related causes, with asbestos still the major killer. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous, with over 2800 deaths in the last 25 years, including 72 in 2007/8. Falls, being hit by moving objects and electrocution are the most common causes.

Accident rates are increased by the use of sub-contractors, and are higher among smaller firms. Even in the few cases that result in successful prosecution, the sentences imposed are often trivial fines.

The commemoration in London, organised by UCATT and the Construction Safety Campaign was supported by other groups including the Communication Workers Union, Unite, FACK (Families Against Corporate Killers) and the Batter sea Crane Disaster Action Group.

The event started with a short rally and laying of wreaths at the UCATT statue to the Unknown Construction Worker at Tower Hill. The march then stopped briefly at Riverbank House, a Sir Robert McAlpine construction site, where 30 year old Richard Chaddock from Newark, Notts, employed by a sub-contractor, died on 19 March. After a short speech, hard hats were removed for a minute's silence.

The march was met by trade unionists from the HSE on their tea-break outside there office on Southwark Bridge Road. Speakers there pointed out that the number of HSE inspectors has dropped by around 20% since 2004, and that the number of prosecutions has dropped by around 40% in the same period, despite accident rates remaining high.

Around a hundred marchers arrived at City Hall where they were met by a socialist band and others who had come for the rally. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, responsible for some of the largest construction contracts in the UK, had been invited to attend but was unable to do so, and apparently also unable to find a representative to make the journey down from the offices.
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World Day for Animals in Laboratories

Whitehall Place, London. April 25, 2009
The rally in Whitehall Place
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April 24 is recognised world-wide as World Day for Laboratory Animals, and a national march and rally was held in London on the following day. Unfortunately I missed the march having spent rather longer than I'd intended with the Tamils in Parliament Square and arrived part way through the rally, so there was not a great deal to photograph.
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Tamil Hunger Strike Continues

Parliament Square, Westminster, London. April 25, 2009
There were perhaps a thousand Tamils in Parliament Square when I visited the demonstration again
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The Tamil demonstration against the killing of their people in Sri Lanka continues in Parliament Square. Hunger striker Subramanyam Parameswaran is weak but in good spirits after 19 days there, determined to carry on until the end. Each day a team of supporters also fast outside the makeshift tent in which he lies, and many young Tamil men have pledged to carry on his hunger protest if he dies. He has now announced his intention to stop taking water shortly if the demands for an end to the attacks are not met.

Much though I sympathise with the Tamils and their resistance to the Sri Lankan government attempts to marginalise them, it is hard to see much chance of a resolution to the current conflict that will offer any future to them. Military defeat of the LTTE as an army seems inevitable, along with the continuing resettlement of many Tamils in camps under government control accompanied by a new phase of guerilla combat.
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175 Years of Union Organising

Caledonian Park - Edward Square, Islington, London. April 25, 2009
Union banners commemorate the march organised to support the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834
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I was glad that I went to the TUC march and rally to commemorate the Grand Demonstration in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834, which made its way from the clock tower of the former Caledonian Market to the small park that remains of Copenhagen Fields led by the brilliant brassy sounds of the Cuba Solidarity Salsa Band. The day had started miserable and wet, but we walked down Pentonville Road in bright sun, and as we danced past the white painted buildings of the prison it could almost have been Cuba, and the trade union banners spread out behind made an inspiring display.

We were in Caledonian Park to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the great demonstration and to watch Frances O'Grady, TUC Deputy General Secretary, unveil a plaque here, where around 100,000 met in the fields around Copenhagen House at the start of the 'Grand Demonstration' organised by the Metropolitan trade unions, carrying a petition with over 200,000 signatures to Parliament demanding the release of the six Dorset farm labourers, led by a Methodist lay preacher, who had formed the 'Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers' in 1832. Forming such a trade union (it became a part of the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union (GNCTU)) had become legal when the Combination Acts were repealed in 1824. The six men were convicted not for trade union membership as such, but for having sworn an oath to each other, which they had done in forming their friendly society, and were and sentenced to transportation to Australia.

The 'Grand Demonstration' was I think the first mass demonstration by trade unions and the start of a successful popular campaign that led eventually to the mens' release - a pardon was granted in 1835 (but it was 1837 before they arrived back in the UK.) The march was an important event in the early history of trade unions, and, unlike more recent mass demonstrations - such as the many over the invasion of Iraq - particularly the massive march in Feb 2003 - it and the campaign was successful.

I don't have too much time for the cult that has grown up around six men from Tolpuddle. What they did was probably little different from what many others were doing, and what made them martyrs was the complaint on a fairly obscure point of law by a local landowner that led to their trial and transportation. What seems to me important is not these six but the solidarity and support shown by hundreds of thousands if not millions of other people around the country, something which remains at the centre of the trade union movement.

I was sorry not to stay on for the festival in Edward Square, close to a mural painted in 1984 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, leaving shortly after the event was opened by Mayor of Islington Stefan Kasprzyk and Megan Dobney SERTUC Regional Secretary. The festival there promised to be a rather more exciting event than that promoted as a late St George's Day event by Boris Johnson in Trafalgar Square. Although that also had some big names in folk on the bill, when I drifted through it a couple of times later in the afternoon it seemed very much lacking in atmosphere, and the performances I glimpsed on the giant screen didn't prompt me to stay. Boris has a lot to learn in organising such events and getting people involved.
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St George & the Dragon, Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, London. April 23, 2009

St George slays the dragon with his newspaper sword

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I'd noticed what looked like a troop of actors, standing around by the cafe at the back of the square, looking at the noisy group on the plinth. It turned out that the Suffolk Howlers had been performing in front of the Tintoretto Saint George and the Dragon in the National Gallery and having seen the youths giving their performance of English yobbiness to an audience of tourists sitting on the steps at the back of the square had decided to give them a performance of a rather different concept of Englishness, their version of the traditional 'St George & The Dragon'.

This had a little more complex plot than the version I'd seen earlier in Southwark, including Beelzebub, a doctor and a Turkish knight, with additional contributions from a couple of bystanders, one who had been imbibing from a bottle labelled Lucozade that appeared to have rather more intoxicating properties than usual, and the other the displaced street performer. While he largely draped himself over the "Please do not feed the pigeons banner', Lucozade man took a far more active role in the proceedings, giving first aid to the injured St George and executing some surprisingly nimble dance steps and generally adding a chaotic improvisation to the performance. He really deserved the applause when he took a bow with the rest of the cast at the end of the play.
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England Supporters in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, London. April 23, 2009

A rowdy group of football supporters on the plinth of Nelson's Column
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About 25 football supporters, many in England shirts were having a noisy time with Nelson, and like him the Heritage Wardens and police seemed to be turning a blind eye. Everyone seemed fairly good-natured, someone rode around on a bike doing wheelies and a football was occasionally blasted at the group, though perhaps thanks to those bottles of Becks it often went wide or over into the traffic.

With them was one of the regular street performers from the square who had given up trying to attract a crowd against this opposition. After I'd been there a few minutes he started getting some of the lads to decorate their faces with greasepaint.
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The George Inn, Southwark

George Inn, Borough High St, Southwark, London. April 23, 2009

In the courtyard of the George Inn

The George Inn seemed the obvious place to go on St George's Day, and obviously everyone thought so, as it was fairly crowded. But I was there too late to catch many of the people who had been in a procession earlier still dressed up - you can see a couple more pictures from there - and one of a woman in the audience at Southwark Cathedral at the bottom of the last page on The Lions part:
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The Lions part: St George & the Dragon

Red Cross Garden & Southwark Cathedral, London. April 23, 2009
St George gallops across Southwark Cathedral Churchyard on his horse
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Our national day was being celebrated rather more actively across the river in Southwark, and one of the livelier events was a series of performances of 'The Ballad of St George & the Dragon' by The Lions part, a group of performers associated with the Globe Theatre on Bankside.

Red Cross Garden, along with the adjoining hall and cottages, was established by the social reformer Octavia Hill in 1897-90 and made a pleasant venue for this short musical variation of the traditional story. I arrived a little after it started, but fortunately after a short interval they gave a second performance. Many of the audience were children from the nearby cathedral school, and they clearly enjoyed it.

After the performance I walked with the players as they made their way through Borough Market to Southwark Cathedral to give another performance in the churchyard there.
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St George's Day - Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, London. 23 April, 2009

A few people were suitably dressed for the occasion

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Although there have been growing demands over the past few years for a proper celebration of the English Patron Saint's day, there is still relatively little happening on the day itself. I'd read there were going to be people in Trafalgar Square, but when I arrived shortly after lunch there were very few people around.

There were a few people from 'The English Democrats', a political group which campaigns for an English Parliament and for St George's Day to be made an English national holiday. An important aspect of their campaign is to reclaim ideas of Englishness and the flag of St George from racist groups including the BNP. Some of them were joined for the picture above by two women making a charity collection for 'Save the Children'. The picture reflects the inclusive nature of the English Democrats, with a Spanish and and Irish woman included in the six people in the line.

Last year, some of those present had tried to visit the National Gallery (in the background at left) and had been refused entry because they were wearing our national flag of St George. I went with them when they tried again this year and they were allowed in but were told they could not campaign or collect money in the gallery.

As well as those I photographed there were a few more who wandered into the square wearing shirts, hats or badges or wearing red roses who were obviously expecting something to be happening and were disappointed. There were not even any St George's flags visible on any of the buildings around the square. There is going to be some sort of event on Saturday, but it does seem a little odd that there is so little sign on the day itself.
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Vaisakhi in Slough

Slough, Berkshire. Sunday 19 April, 2009

Flower petals fill the air as the Guru Granth Sahib is carried out to take part in the Vaisakhi procession
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The Vaisakhi procession is a big event in Slough, and attracts large numbers of people both to participate and to watch it making its way around the north of the town. An ancient Indian festival marking the New Year, particularly in the Punjab, it first became a special day for Sikhs when the third Guru made it an annual national cultural gathering for Sikhs in 1567. But it gained in significance in 1699, when the tenth Guru founded the Khalsa by baptising five brave Sikh men who had proved themselves willing to give their lives for their religion.

That the original five, the Panj Piyare, came from different castes demonstrated the foundation of the Khalsa on social equality, and baptised Sikhs all took the names Singh (Lion) for men and Kaur (Princess) for women to show their equality. The tenth Guru was himself baptised by the five he had baptised, changing his name also, to Gobind Singh. He proclaimed the Sikh scriptures his eternal successor as the Guru Granth Sahib, so that no living person would henceforth have a superior status as Guru. Sikh congregations are democratic organisations that appoint Panj Piyare to take necessary decisions.

Sikhs believe that people of all faiths have the same human rights and should be treated with equal dignity and respect, and Vaisakhi is a celebration of this belief in equality and social justice. The procession includes the Panj Piyare and the Guru Granth Sahib, carried on a throne and treated as always with deep respect. There are also drummers and displays of martial arts, recognising that it is necessary to fight against tyranny when all other means fail. There were also a number of reminders of the many Sikh martyrs, and particularly the 1984 massacre of thousands of Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Ghandhi and the demands for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan.

Sikhs are very hospitable and generous, and I was made welcome in the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha and during the procession, and food and drinks were pressed on me. Although I very much enjoy the vegetarian food, the sweets, the tea and some other drinks are too sweet for my taste. The charity Diabetes UK (and I'm a sufferer) was giving out information packs on the route - the Sikh diet leads to cholesterol levels, coronary heart disease and diabetes above the UK average.

Although the same basic features are found in all Sikh temples and in the Vaisakhi celebrations, each Gurdwara has its own variations. You can see some differences if you compare these pictures with those I took in Hounslow a fortnight earlier.
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Loyal Orange Lodge Parade

Westminster, London. Saturday 18 April, 2009

The march forms up in Tothill St
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The Metropolitan Provincial Grand Lodge is the Orange Order in Southern England and a part of a "world-wide brotherhood committed to upholding the Protestant faith and the principle of civil and religious liberties for all" and clearly states it will not accept anyone with racist views or who do not support this principle.

It takes its name from William, Prince of Orange who landed in Devon in 1688 to restore parliamentary democracy and prevent the imposition of the Catholic religion by James II. This was the 'Glorious Revolution' which forced James II to flee and made William king as William III. It was a largely bloodless event, with few battles but some anti-Catholic riots, and was the real beginning of parliamentary democracy here. Although it led to greater freedom for dissenting nonconformist Protestants, it also passed various anti-Catholic measures, denying them the right to vote, be MPs, hold army commissions or marry the monarch - only the last of which is still in force.

Although Orangemen insist on religious liberties for all, they remain dedicated to keeping the Protestant faith free from any Catholic doctrines and practices, as well as to its serious and dedicated observance throughout their daily life and in religious attendance.

Saturday's London District LOL No. 63 Parade and Rally in central London laid wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall (where I left them to return home) and at the statue of "King Billy" in St James's Square. Made by John Bacon, this bronze was put here in the square in 1808 and shows William III as a Roman general as his is horse about to trip over the mole-hill which led to his death shortly after in March 1702. The "gentleman in black" became the toast of many supporters of the Stuarts.
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Dutch Stereotypes

Trafalgar Square, London. Saturday 18 April, 2009
Dutch toffee waffles were on sale
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In Trafalgar Square, the Dutch were holding a festival to prove their lack of understanding of popular music and to sell cheese, chips and beer. The cheese did look quite attractive. The only thing missing seemed to be a windmill, but I probably just didn't look hard enough.
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Tamil Hunger strike Continues

Parliament Square, London. Saturday 18 April, 2009

Tamils fast for 24 hour shifts in front of hunger striker Subramanyam Parameswaran
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The Tamil hunger strike continues in Parliament Square, though Subramanyam Parameswaran, looked in poor condition and lay without moving under a quilt while I was there. In front of him were a dozen or so people fasting for a day at a time with him, a different group taking their place each day, while around another 500 or so were chanting slogans to one side, calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka, with full access for the UN, the Red Cross and other agencies, as well as the international press, along with an opportunity for the Tamils in Sri Lanka to have a free and independently observed referendum on their future.

The demonstrators expressed their whole-hearted support of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and an independent homeland, Tamil Eelam.
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Shakespeare's Birthday - Coincidence

Cornhill, London. Saturday 18 April, 2009

A group bearing roses comes up St Michael's Alley

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Standing close to the actual place where Ian Tomlinson died, I was surprised to see a group of around 20 people, each holding a red flower coming towards me, led by a woman with a badge saying 'Steward.' I photographed them as they walked past and crossed Cornhill to the Starbucks opposite, where there were a few flowers and a picture on the window of a young woman, along with a couple of handwritten pages.

As I watched them, a young man gave a moving performance about her death, which had a vaguely familiar sound to it, though I still failed to make the connection. When the walkers had gone down the alley I asked him about it and found that this was one of around 20 groups each being taken on a guided walk around the city to various sites with similar performances to this of one of the sonnets to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday next Thursday.

The spot where the performance took place was exactly where Ian Tomlinson collapsed outside Starbucks after several assaults by police had led to his internal bleeding. They alley that they are walking up in the picture above is where he was finally treated by police medics and died. I doubt it it was mentioned in the sheets they were carrying or if any of them even knew.
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Protest Against London Police

City of London Police HQ, Wood St, London, Sat April 18, 2009

Black eye and cuts at demonstration against police violence
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Around 50 demonstrators and almost as many of the press gathered outside the Wood St HQ of the City of London Police on Saturday morning to protest at the policing of demonstrations, particularly on April 1 in the City of London. Speakers told of their experiences, being prevented from leaving the area, pushed around and hit by police while protesting peacefully. As well as posters and placards, the 'Four Horsemen' which lead the separate marches to what protesters had intended to be a carnival protest were on the pavement outside the police station.

While the vast majority of protesters on April 1 were peaceful, police chiefs and politicians had spent the previous week ramping up the temperature and predicting violence. Many of the police, particularly the TSG, came along to the event psyched up and spoiling for a fight - whether or not they were met with violence. Complaints were voiced about the failure of some officers to wear their ID number and their refusal to give their number when asked. The TSG in particular came in for criticism, being seen by many as simply a trained group of thugs, with far too many officers who clearly enjoyed beating people up.

Rather than concentrate on the small and readily identifiable minority of protesters who came prepared to cause mayhem, the police attitude serves to radicalise and provoke others to violent action. It was surprising that so few of those there did allow themselves to be provoked, and the videos taken of the police attacks on crowds show most of those being attacked simply holding up their arms to protect themselves as police assault them with batons and riot shields used as weapons, people standing there and chanting "We are not a riot" and "Shame, shame, shame on you."

Today the demonstrators called for the police to remember that they are there to serve the public not to control people by violent means, for an end to the wholesale "kettling" of demonstrations, for the disbandment of the TSG, and for proper training of the police in relating to demonstrations, with the enforcement of proper discipline and regulations by senior officers who should enforce an end to other officers turning a blind eye when police behave illegally.

The death of Ian Tomlinson, though a tragedy, was only a symptom of a much greater failure by the police in the proper conduct of their duties. At the end of the protest I walked along to the memorial to him set up where he was assaulted by police a minute or two before his death - and where police failed to give him the medical attention that some of the demonstrators clearly thought he then required. By the time they did take his injuries seriously and attempt treatment a few yards down Cornhill it was clearly too late.
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Stop Police Brutality

New Scotland Yard, Westminster, London. Thursday April 16, 2009

'Stop Police Brutality' 'Protest is not a crime' Are the Met working for a safer London at demonstrations?
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Demonstrations continue as more and more allegations about police violence against demonstrators emerge in the mainstream press. Many of the videos, images and allegations began to appear immediately in blogs and web sites and following further revelations about the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson have finally begun to make their way into the mainstream media.

But there is certainly more to come. This was a demonstration with roughly 50 protesters and about the same number of media people, including several photographers who were assaulted and injured during the protest - because at times the police specifically targeted photographers. A number of cases are expected to be taken to the courts which have yet to be mentioned in the papers.

They also tried to remove photographers from an area at Bank, with an officer beginning to address them as "Ladies and Gentlemen of the press" and telling them that either they moved or they would be arrested. Later the police had to back down over this illegitimate attempted use of the Public Order Act - and they then denied they had actually been talking specifically to the press - but the video now on the Guardian site is crystal clear.

At the Climate Camp they waited until the mainstream media had gone home before wading in and assaulting peaceful demonstrators.

Among the speakers was MP Jeremy Corbyn who has begun to ask questions about the incidents in Parliament, which returns from its recess on Monday.

Given it was not in session it was perhaps surprising that one of the reasons given by police for asking that the protest move from the wide, empty pavement outside Scotland Yard where there was plenty of room for it to the opposite side of the road which has a very narrow pavement was that its presence might impede the passage of MPs on their way to parliament. The centre of the road is apparently the boundary of the zone defined in SOCPA, and since this demonstration had not applied for permission it was illegal - whereas on the other side it would have been lawful.

The request to move was put to to a show of hands by the demonstrators. Unsurprisingly no one appeared to be in favour, and the "illegal" protest continued.
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Tamils March - Stop Sri-Lanka Genocide

Temple to Hyde Park, London. Sat 11 April, 2009

Stewards hold back enthusiastic Tamil demonstrators

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When even the police give an estimate of numbers as 100,000 you can be sure it is a very big march, and as the crowds were generally pretty solidly packed there seems little reason to question the independent estimates of around 150-200,000 people.

The great majority of them were Tamils, with only a few hundred white faces. There didn't seem to be a great deal of media interest, and I saw no photographers from major newspapers or news agencies and no cameras from major UK TV stations. It was such a large event that I could have missed them, but usually there is a crowd of media at the front of such marches as they start, while on Saturday there was me and three other photographers, none of whom get regular work for the mass media. However it was reported by some of them, including the BBC where three very short paragraphs and an indifferent photo accompany a longer piece on the two Tamil hunger strikers in Parliament Square. That event does seem to have attracted considerably more media interest.

The march was also very much a family event - at one time I found myself facing a row of around 20 push chairs, and they were many children carrying placards and being carried on shoulders, as well as crowds of young people and students, as well as adults of all ages, including some who looked old enough to be my mother or father.

Marchers were united of course in their opposition to the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka, but also the vast majority of them in some way expressed support for the LTTE, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A few carried actual tigers, fortunately only large toys, but many more wore the colours or carried flags or portraits of the founder and leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Pirapaharan (sometimes spelt Prabhakaran.)

In the UK, the LTTE has been a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 since 2000. This makes it a terrorist offence for a person to support the group or wear clothing which arouses the "reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation." Police sensibly made no attempt to arrest the 200,000 marchers on Saturday despite their clear breach of the law.

Although enthusiastic, the Tamils had no intention of causing serious trouble in London and only three arrests were reported. I saw only one small incident, where police prevented marchers from carrying a dummy with a photograph which of Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa as its face. Once this photograph was removed they allowed them to continue.

It takes only a few seconds to use this form to send an e-mail letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about the Tamil crisis and there is also a petition form which can be downloaded on the Tamil Writers Guild for filling in and faxing to your MP or Gordon Brown.
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March in Memory of Ian Tomlinson

Bethnal Green Police Station & Bank. Sat 11 April, 2009

Marchers with flowers to remember Ian Tomlinson (Marina Pepper at left)
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Several hundred marchers, some carrying flowers, and almost as many photographers and videographers turned up at Bethnal Green Police Station for the start of a memorial march for newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson. The march was called by G20 Meltdown, and Professor Chris Knight and Marina Pepper were among those who led the march. They had planned a carnival party of protest at the Bank of England on April 1, but police turned it into something far more sinister, which ended with many demonstrators being assaulted by police and Tomlinson's death.

At the Tomlinson family's request, the march was peaceful, silent and respectful. Although the family did not take part in the march, stepson Paul King spoke briefly at the start from the steps of the police station, surrounded by a five-deep semicircle of cameras. He described the family's trauma from the tragic death of his step-father, a "much-loved and warm-hearted man," and pain at seeing the video of the assault, and hoped that the investigation would be full and that "action will be taken against any police officer who contributed to Ian's death through his conduct." Short speeches from the organisers called for a fully independent enquiry into police violence surrounding the G20 protests and for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.

Leaflets were distributed for a new campaign to end violent police tactics at peaceful demonstrations. There is a No to Police Violence web-site and also a blog, Once Upon A Time in Hackney. Today the police were solicitous, on their best behaviour, clearly wanting to avoid any friction; the officer in charge was one of those who had been in charge at Bank on the day the incident happened.

Some marchers carried flowers to lay close to where Ian Tomlinson was the victim of an unprovoked attack from behind on the corner of Royal Exchange Buildings. Here there were more speeches, which I missed, having left to photograph the Tamil march. Among those marching were some of Sean Rigg's family, and his sister was one of the speakers at Bank, talking about his death in police custody after being taken ill at Brixton Police Station on Thursday 21 August 2008. His family also took part in last year's annual United Friends and Families march along Whitehall in October and the Justice 4 Ricky Bishop march in south London in November.

Chris Knight had announced he would be making a vigil at Royal Exchange Buildings in memory of Ian Tomlinson over the Easter weekend, and invited people to come at any time, but in particular to join a candlelit vigil at 8pm. I couldn't make that but I did call in the afternoon and photograph him and the flowers at the scene.
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Tamils on Hunger Strike

Parliament Square, London. Friday 10 April, 2009

One of the two young men on hunger strike is supported by his friends
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Tamils staged an unofficial protest on Westminster Bridge last Monday evening, closing it and making headlines. Some have remained in Parliament Square since then, supporting two men on a hunger strike. The men, both in their twenties, are students in south London.

There have been repeated allegations of police misconduct and attacks on the Tamils during their continuing demonstration, but although there was a very strong police presence they were simply standing around and watching while I was there. The protest is unlawful as permission required under SOCPA was not sought.

There were two hunger strikers, both of whom looked to be suffering from their ordeal without any food or fluids since early on Tuesday morning, and medical advice was that their condition was now critical. Earlier in the morning both had agreed to accept water for the first time. One of them suspended his hunger strike on the day after I took these pictures to speak at the rally and to travel to talks at the UN in New York together with MPs Simon Hughes and Des Browne, but will return to continue the hunger strike unless the genocide in Sri Lanka is stopped.
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Good Friday

Waterloo Station & Victoria St, London. Friday 10 April, 2009

Carrying a cross along Victoria Street
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Christians celebrate Good Friday and the crucifixion of Christ with public events in different areas of London (and of course elsewhere.) This year I stopped briefly at the public service on the concourse at Waterloo Station to take pictures and sing a couple of hymns with the congregations from North Lambeth who had previously held a procession of witness around the area.

One of the larger Good Friday events in London is the annual 'Crucifixion on Victoria Street' in Westminster which links three large and imposing churches. Methodist Central Hall is a vast neoclassical building from the early 20th century and on its side has a plaque reminding us that it was here that the United Nations were inaugurated, with the first meeting of the UN General Assembly here in 1946.

After a short service facing here, the procession formed up and made its way down Victoria St to Westminster Cathedral for more hymns, readings and prayers on the steps there. In his short address, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor was visibly moved as he reminded us all that this would be the last time he would appear during this occasion.

The procession then returned along Victoria St for a further service in Westminster Abbey, where I left it to come home.
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Ponders End to Tottenham Hale

Lea Navigation, London. Thursday 9 April, 2009

Visteon (Ford) works from across the canal at Ponders End

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After leaving Visteon's Morson Rd factory, I took the opportunity for a walk by the Lea Navigation, first going to look at one of the many areas I'd photographed in the 1980s (and at various times since) just to the north, then returning south past the back of the factory and on for the several miles to Tottenham Hale.

Despite the overcast sky with occasional light rain it was a pleasant way to fill the time before I was due to meet with friends at a Fleet Street pub later in the afternoon and to record some of the changes in the area. In recent years - along with many other photographers - I've concentrated more on the lower Lea and the area immediately around the Olympic site, but this area also offers considerable scope for regeneration. Many of its former industrial sites have fallen out of use, and some area already re-developed.
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Visteon Occupation Ends, Fight Continues

Ponders End, Enfield, London. Thursday 9 April, 2009

Students raise fists in support of Visteon workers shortly before the end of the occupation

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Emotions ran high as the workers occupying the Visteon factory in Enfield came out in compliance with the court order at mid-day on Friday. They were embraced by Unite convener, Kevin Nolan and others and cheered by a crowd of several hundred who had come to give support. Robert Benham emerged holding his 35-year long service award, received last September - for most of which time he was employed directly by The Ford Motor Company before they devolved their activities at Enfield to Visteon which was set up as a part of Ford. After all the workers had come out, Nolan was carried along the street on the shoulders of two men.

The occupiers thanked the many students, trade unionists and others who had supported them throughout, and announced their plans to keep up the fight by continuous picketing of the two factory gates in an attempt to prevent administrators KPMG from gutting the factory and selling its high-tech machinery to China.

Unite has given full support to the Visteon workers, and joint general secretary Derek Simpson met with Ford's European Chairman and also flew to America with Nolan and others for meetings with Visteon senior management earlier in the week. Further meetings with Visteon are expected next week in an undisclosed location, and there are hopes of progress then to reaching a satisfactory agreement. The workers are demanding the terms that they were promised by Ford when Visteon was established.
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Vaisakhi in Hounslow

Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Alice Way, Hounslow. Sunday 5 April


The Sikh flag bearers and the Panj Pyare in the worship hall before the procession

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One of the great things about photographing Vaisakhi is the welcome and co-operation that you get from everyone at the Gurdwara. I have a great respect for the Sikhs and Sikhism, which embodies principles that we can all strive for, whatever our religion, or living honestly, treating people equally and fairly, serving others and being generous to those less fortunate.

Vaisakhi celebrates the day in 1699 when the 10th Sikh Guru initiated five faithful Sikhs to become the first Khalsa or Pure. These original Khalsa are represented in the event by the Five Beloved Ones (Panj Pyare) in saffron robes carrying ceremonial swords.

The 10th Guru also appointed the teaching in the Sikh scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib, as the eternal spiritual guide (Guru) for Sikhs, and it occupies a position of great respect both during the ceremonies in the worship hall and on a throne in the decorated lorry which travels behind the Panj Pyare in the procession.

Although the basics have been the same at the five Gurdwara at which I've photographed Vaisakhi, there are significant differences between them. Perhaps most obvious the two times I've been to Hounslow is the important place in the procession and the stewarding taken by young women.

My thanks to the Sikh photographer who suggested I follow him and thus not miss significant parts of the ceremonies.
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Primark - Fashion on the Cheap from Sweatshops

Oxford St, London. Saturday 4 April, 2009


War on Want and No Sweat hold a fashion show outside Primark Oxford St with models in chains
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I've never seen myself as a fashion photographer, but today I photographed a fashion show. But this was no ordinary fashion show, and the catwalk was on the pavement, outside Primark's flagship Oxford Street store. War on Want and No Sweat were drawing attention to Primark profiting by selling clothes made by sweated labour in Bangladesh.

The models were in chains to symbolise the slave labour conditions of the Bangladeshi workers who make the cut-price fashions on sale at Primark. Workers who make the clothes earn as little as 7p an hour and work up to 80 hours a week.

Primark opened the Oxford St store two years ago, and are one of the few businesses to have flourished in the recession as people turn to cheaper suppliers - their profits in the year to last September were up by 17% at £233 million.

Primark have a notice in their window saying they care about the conditions of the workers who make their clothes, but the reports by War on Want tells a very different story. These clothes are only cheap because those who make them get poverty pay, work long hours and get sacked if they try to organise or ask for improvements in their dangerous and unhealthy working conditions.

No Sweat's Primark campaign is in solidarity with the Bangladeshi National Garment Workers Federation. You can find more facts on the No Sweat web site,
and the War on Want web site where you can also download their updated report, Fashion Victims II.

Two years since their first Fashion Victims report, despite the protestations of Primark that they ensure their clothes area produced fairly, this new report "shows workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda are still being exploited, despite promises from companies to improve the lives of their workers. In fact, given the damaging effects of the global food crisis, workers are now in an even worse position than they were before."

According to Paul Collins of War on Want "Gordon Brown's claim that the G20 summit deal will tackle global poverty ignores the reality that UK companies such as Primark are trapping people overseas in dire hardship. Unless he regulates British firms, growing numbers of the poor will pay a terrible price for the world economic crisis."

The fashion show attracted the attention of passers-by, who took leaflets about the shocking conditions that are behind the high profits in selling cheap clothes. It need not be so. Primark and others could still have a moral and reasonably profitable business if they restrained their greed and ensured that the workers who make their clothes worked in reasonable conditions and got a living wage - which in Bangladesh is only around £45 a month. But that is over three times what workers making clothes for Primark are currently paid.
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City Walk

Bank and Bishopsgate. Saturday 4 April, 2009

At Bank - 'No to Violent Police Tactics'

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I got back from Enfield too late to photograph one of the several marches in memory of the newsvendor Ian Tomlinson who died of a heart attack minutes after being attacked and violently pushed to the ground in an unprovoked attack by a riot policeman (Guardian video), although I could see and hear the police helicopter following the small group on its way to Bethnal Green. The video also shows him clearly in a confused condition after the assault and absolutely no attempt being made by officers standing around to help him, although a couple of the demonstrators do so.

Although there were windows being replaced at the RBS, there was otherwise very little damage visible - clear evidence that those demonstrating had not been intent on causing damage. The City still seems to be in a remarkably good state, with new buildings continuing to be built. Although some of the people working there have lost their jobs, it still seems very much a bastion of wealth and privilege.
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Solidarity at Visteon Enfield

Visteon, Ponders End, London. Saturday 4 April, 2009

Sacked Visteon workers in occupation of the factory building

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In 2000, the Ford Motor Company separated off its supply arm as Visteon - one of the signs on the plant still reads "An Enterprise of Ford Motor Company Limited." Workers were given contracts mirroring those they had had from Ford and were reassured that they would receive the same pensions and redundancy arrangements they had enjoyed previously. For the workers at Visteon's three UK plants - Belfast, Basildon and Enfield - these promises have turned out to be worthless.

Workers at Visteon's plants, some of whom had been working for Ford for 30 or more years, were told on 31 March that they were out of a job. The meeting lasted just over 5 minutes and they were given an hour to take any personal possessions and leave work immediately - without pay.

Workers at the Belfast and Enfield plants have occupied them and are refusing to leave until they get what Ford and Visteon promised them. Their Union, Unite, has already met Ford's European chairman, but the company has issued a statement denying any responsibility in the matter.

On 31 March, Jim Tucker and John Hansen of KPMG were appointed joint administrators of Visteon UK Ltd and immediately issued redundancy notices to around 565 or Visteon UK's 610 employees, keeping on the remainder to oversee an orderly wind-down of the business.

The workers occupying the plant have claimed rights as squatters on the property, although KPMG has already secured a court order for repossession and the leader of the occupation will appear in court on Monday morning. The sit-in was started by workers in Belfast, with those in Enfield joining in on April 1 as soon as they heard the news.

Several hundred trade unionists and others turned up on Saturday for a demonstration outside the plant to show their support. Workers at Ford will be asked to take action to support the former Ford workers if the company fails to meet its moral obligations to them.

Several of the speakers had organised collections for the occupiers in their workplaces, reporting unanimous support for the dismissed workers. The occupation desperately needs practical support - sleeping bags, food and money - to continue.
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Ethiopians & Stop the War protest at G20

Excel Centre, Victoria Dock, London. Thursday 2 April, 2009

Demonstrators call for Ethiopian dictator to be tried for war crimes against Somalis in Ogaden

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While the G20 were in session at London's Excel conference centre, the three closest stations on the DLR were all closed, and everyone had to walk from Canning Town Station. It wasn't a very long walk as we weren't allowed close to the actual centre, but behind a double block of barriers guarded by a long line of police on one of the entrance roads at the west end of the dock. It wasn't even possible to see the Excel Centre - around half a mile away - from there.

I'd expected a much larger protest, but perhaps too many were still recovering from yesterday's baton thrashing by riot police in the City, or simply were intimidated by it or the reports about it.

The largest and most vocal group there were Ethiopians protesting about the killing and repression in Ogaden and Oromo. Ogaden was the site of a conventional cold-war conflict between Somalia (backed by Russia and Egypt) and Ethiopia (backed by the USA) in 1977-8. In April 1977, Russia changed sides, supporting Ethiopia, and the USA then switched to support Somalia. The war ended with a victory for Ethiopia and Somalia abandoned its attempt to capture Ogaden, but a guerilla battle continued between Ethiopian troops and the WSLF, (Western Somali Liberation Front) based in Ogaden.

In 2007, the Ethiopian Army began a major campaign in Ogaden against the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a Somali group led by Mohamed Osman, killing and torturing many Somali civilians and nomads living there - as documented by Human Rights Watch.

Ogaden is important to Ethiopia because of the vast reserves of oil waiting to be exploited there. The ONLF have attacked some oil exploration sites and urged the international oil companies not to sign agreements with the Ethiopian government.

The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia - about a third of the population and mainly live in the centre and south of the country (and in northern Kenya.) They are thought to be the oldest civilisation in the world and have lived in the area since before the start of recorded history, the first people to develop the use of tools and domesticate animals. In Ethiopia they are split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims. The Oromo Liberation Front, established in 1973, is one of several political and military Oromo organisations, and aims to establish an independent Oromo state.

One of the banners on display was from the African People's Socialist Party, founded in the USA in the 1970s and a part of the Uhuru movement, which "is committed to the total liberation of Africa and African People everywhere."

The demonstration claimed that the Ethiopian regime is the most brutal in the world and called for an end to British financial support for the Ethiopian war on the people of Ogaden. They called for The demonstration claimed that the Ethiopian regime is the most brutal in the world and called for an end to British financial support for the Ethiopian war on the people of Ogaden. They also want Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi to be tried by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Other demonstrators included a number from CND and Stop The War, as well as smaller groups including the International Bolshevik Tendency and a guy protesting about the forgotten genocide in the DR Congo which has killed 8 millions. But there were probably as many media people than demonstrators - which resulted in the protests about Ogaden and Oromo getting an unusual amount of media attention.
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Jobs not Bombs

US Embassy and Trafalgar Square, London. Wed 1 April, 2009
The march gathered for a noisy protest at the US Embassy
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Stop the War, along with CND, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the British Muslim Initiative had decided to have their own demonstration well away from the happenings in the City of London, picking as their starting point the US Embassy. This made sense in that they were demonstrating calling for an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza, as well as an end to the senseless spending on bombs, particularly on the Trident replacement.

There were perhaps a thousand or two for the start of the march at the US Embassy, although more would have joined them from the Bank of England had they not been penned in there. One of the few who did manage to get away and attend the rally at Trafalgar Square, Ernest Rodker, was clearly horrified and gave a graphic account of the violent police attacks on penned demonstrators that were taking place there.

There were very few police around for this large official demonstration, and they concentrated on traffic control to allow the march to pass through the centre of London. Of course Stop the War are noted for their tough stewarding - and at one point I had to grab hold of a steward as otherwise I would have gone flying backwards as he and others changed direction and pushed me over-firmly out of the way. It was an uncalled for assault, but hardly unexpected.

Numbers had picked up a bit for the rally at Trafalgar Square, which was reasonably full to hear the speakers, including Tony Benn - who got a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for his 84th on 3 April. Perhaps the only surprise for me was the appearance of King Arthur, leader of the Socialist Labour Party. Mr Scargill, a good friend of Benn, is only a spritely 71. The rally gave a strong message of support to Dr Daud Abdullah, Deputy General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain who is currently the subject of an unprecedented attack by the British government, which has also severed relations with the MCB. Other speakers included Lindsey German, Betty Hunter, Louise Christian, Bruce Kent and Low Key, who spoke and rapped. As I left to go home, Julie Felix was on stage and I was back in the sixties.
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G20: Climate Camp in the City

Bishopsgate, London. Wed April 1, 2009

Setting up tents in the middle of Bishopsgate

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I arrived dead on 12.30 as the Climate Camp Mass cyclists came up the road and people emerged out of corners to start to pitch tents on Bishopsgate. Soon there was a real carnival atmosphere with dancing and music, and people were getting down to picnicking on the street.

Although within the Climate Camp on Bishopsgate things seemed to be going well with a very positive atmosphere - and it was good to find a few MPs who had come along to see what was happening, at the edges things were starting to break up. A line of police across the junction with Camomile Street and Wormwood St were clearly looking for trouble. I was pushed back quite forcibly when they wanted to clear the road for a bus to pass, when a simple polite request would have been appropriate, and there was soon a line with police confronting demonstrators.

There seemed to be no particular reason for this aggressive approach by the police. Then some scuffles started when police grabbed hold of people wearing face masks who had refused to remove them - again I could see no reason to start trying to get people to unmask when there was no public disorder - it seemed as if police just wanted to pick a fight with the protesters.

At this point I left to go and photograph the Stop the War demo starting at the US Embassy. Later there were more reports and videos of police attacks on these peaceful protesters, with riot police moving in and attacking people who raised their hands in the air and chanted "this is not a riot." Later police got even more out of hand, wantonly smashing property and people. A number of those who tried to defend themselves were arrested. Watching the videos and seeing the photos is sickening, and a terrible indictment of the kind of police state we now live in. Only a few years ago we would have viewed scenes like this from overseas and said (perhaps rather smugly) to ourselves thank goodness we live in a democratic country where justice prevails. No longer.

There was a report at 9.35 of a photographer being threatened the recently enacted anti-terror legislation that prohibits photography of police, which I think is the first time police have used this. This came despite earlier police promises that the G20 demonstrations would be dealt with under public order legislation and would not be another example of the inappropriate use of anti-terror laws.

Late at night there were still around 2000 people inside a police 'kettle' at the Climate Camp, with police attempting to force people out of the area one or two at a time, demanding that people give their names and addresses.
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G20 Meltdown - Financial Fools Day

City of London, April 1, 2009

Capitalism isn't working - Another World is Possible
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A crowd of around 500 had gathered by 11am outside Cannon St station where the Black Horse, one of four 'Horsefolk of the Apocalypse', against land enclosures and borders (today was the 360th anniversary of the Diggers occupation of land at St Georges Hill in Surrey) was to start its march to the Bank of England for the G20 Meltdown 'Banquet at the Bank'.

By around 11.15, some of the anarchists present had got fed up with waiting for the official start and decided to make a move, but were stopped by police. Despite the protests of one of the G20Meltdown organisers they then surged away down a side street in the opposite direction to the bank.

The police followed, but made no real attempt to stop them, and after some fairly random wandering - none of those leading the marchers knew the way - found someone with a map and made their way by a rather roundabout route to the Bank.

I left them there and walked down towards London Bridge, to meet the Silver Horse against financial crimes, which was accompanied by perhaps fifteen hundred demonstrators in a rather more mixed and colourful procession, and joined them to go back to Bank.

By now others were also arriving, and soon the whole open area between the Mansion House, Bank and Royal Exchange was crowded with demonstrators, media and police, but not a great deal seemed to be happening. There were a dozen or so people watching from the roof of the bank, but its doors were firmly closed. I tried to make my way down Threadneedle St, but a little way past the doors of the Bank I gave up as the crush was too tight and returned to Prince's Street.

Police by now had decided to stop people entering or leaving the area, at least along Prince's Street, although there didn't seem to be any good reason for this - there seemed to me to be absolutely no issues of public order or safety - although there were crowds, people were just standing around, or listening to the samba band or watching street theatre.

They had also asked TfL to close Bank Station, another over-reaction. Obviously some of the exits actually at the Bank needed to be closed but some in neighbouring streets could have been kept open as well as allowing interchange between lines and exit via Monument. While I was around there seemed to be little reason to close the exit in Poultry either - so little need to close the Waterloo and City. This seemed to be a deliberate decision by the police to cause as much disruption to the underground system and inconvenience to the travelling public as possible.

Fortunately although the police had sealed off the area they were letting press through, so I was able to leave and walk up Lothbury and Throgmorton St, then across Old Broad St and through the alley into Bishopsgate.

Later in the day, long after I left, police charged the penned-in demonstrators. Police horses were used as well as baton charges, and a man was killed.
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