my london diary index
 

July 2009

Save Vestas Blades
Protest Against Calais Camp Clearances
Sex Workers Masked Parade
Brixton Promenade & Urban Art
March of Repentance
Bonuses are Back Pig Party
Climate Emergency Alternative Parliament
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
London Bridge - 800
Newham Childrens' Carnival Procession
Big Brew
International Brigade Commemoration
Pride London
Climate Rush Palm Oil Gala

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Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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All pictures Copyright © Peter Marshall 2009, all rights reserved.
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Save Vestas Blades

Whitehall, London. Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Save the jobs at Vestas!
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A hundred or so people turned up at a demonstration organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CCC) outside the offices of the Department for Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall Place following the decision by some workers at Vestas Blades UK to occupy the Isle of Wight factory. They called on the Government to take action to preserve green jobs at Britain's only manufacturer of wind turbine blades. Speakers included Phil Thornhill, CCC National Coordinator, Darren Johnson, Green Party and LIberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes.

Speakers condemned the actions of the police on the Isle of Wight who have been aggresively policing the occupation and preventing suporters taking food to the workers in the factory.

The attitude of the government to the workers at Vestas was contrasted to the incredible amounts of public money given to support the banks. Simon Hughes was the subject of some vigorous heckling when he stated that nationalisation was not the answer, although he made it clear he would be happy to see the workforce being supported to take over the operation.

The factory has been successful and obviously there is a great future for the industry, but the Danish company is moving production to the USA where it can get greater government support.
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Protest Against Calais Camp Clearances

French Embassy, Albert Gate, London. Monday 20 July, 2009

Policeman warns demonstrator

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London and Brighton NoBorders groups demonstrated outside the French Embassy at lunchtime against the planned destruction of the 'jungles' housing around 1,800 migrants around Calais, expected to start the following day. Around 25 people turned up, fewer than expected as some were already on their way to protest in Calais.

The police have refused to allow humanitarian associations in Calais to provide shower facilities for the migrants in the jungles, and French immigration minister Besson has talked about the camps only being destroyed with "dignity"; protesters reply "there is no dignity in a crime against humanity."

In Calais, the banners and chalked notices read
"Arrestations
Detention
Expulsions
INDIGNATION!"

but those at the London protest were simpler; " No Deportation merci" read one held up in front of the embassy under the French and European flags.

French police are expected to hold the detained migrants in secure hostels before forcibly putting them on flights; they are expected to start with the large group of Afghans who they intend simply to dump in Kabul, where many may have no support and face dangers - some at least had very good reason to flee the country.

Police attempted to get the demonstrators to occupy a pen on the other side of busy Knightsbridge, almost out of sight and largely out of hearing of the embassy. Instead they stayed mainly in the side road containing the embassy entrance. A small group of masked demonstrators holding a black banner "NO BOMBS NO BORDERS" was moved several times under threat of arrest on various grounds, including the that of obstruction, even when they were clearly not causing an obstruction.

It was a noisy demonstration, thanks to the sound system from Bicycology which allowed a number of people to tell the French what they thought, as well as providing some rather loud music which wasn't to everyone's taste.

Police let one of the demonstrators attempt to deliver leaflets to the embassy, and although they would not take these, a diplomat did come out and talk with her for some time. And of course I photographed this, although one police officer, CW 3176, insisted on playing a silly game and standing in front of me wherever I moved to do so. As the MPS guidelines state "We (the police) should actively help them (the media) to carry out their responsibilities provided they do not interfere with ours."

A colleague at one point noticed a police photographer who was skulking behind a police van pointing a very long telephoto lens directly at the two of us. We went and challenged him, and he denied that he had photographed us and said that he had absolutely no interest in doing so.

There were indeed a number of curious games being played by the police, with one officer moving the people holding a banner on the central pavement of Albert Gate on the grounds that it was causing an obstruction, and letting them hold it - to their surprise and that of some other officers - on the roadway directly in front of the embassy entrance. I gained an impression that while some were trying to facilitate dissent within the legal limits there were others who preferred the more traditional Met approach.

The protest was scheduled to finish after 90 minutes at 2.00pm, and until very late on it seemed it would end without incident. However at 1.43pm, a team of police troublemakers in blue overalls marched in, the TSG, several of them armed with tasers.

Police then tried to persuade the protesters to move into the pen across the road for the remaining 15 minutes of their demonstration. One masked protester was briskly led away by three officers for 'obstructing a police officer', who was photographing the event.

The rest of the protesters were then threatened with arrest under Section 14 of the Public Order Act unless they moved to the pen. Since it was by then 1.55pm, they crossed the road and then decided it was time to go to the pub rather than into the pen.
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Sex Workers Masked Parade

Soho, London.Sunday 19 July, 2009

The parade crosses Dean St

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Sex workers and supporters held a masked parade around Soho as a part of the annual Soho Festival, thanking the community for their support in helping to keep women safe.

The noisy and colourful parade led through Chinatown and up to Soho Square stopping at intervals to address people in the streets and pavement cafes.

Attempts by the police to close down premises used by some sex workers were defeated in February with the help of local people; these were small women-run flats, which are many times safer than working on the streets, and also casue fewer problems for others living in the area. The real motive behind the attempted evictions appears to be to gentrify the area.

The masked parade was organised by 'Soho Working Girls' and the 'English Collective of Prostitutes', who exposed the false claims behind proposed legislation that allege that a very high proportion of those involved in prostitution are 'trafficked' women. They state: "Research published on 10 July proves that most sex workers are not trafficked. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, grannies, aunties struggling to support ourselves and our families, just like other women." The research referred to is the ESRC Project: Migrants in the UK Sex Industry.

The sex workers want to stop the Policing & Crime Bill (PCB) currently going through parliament. Based on the assumption that all prostitution is rape this would criminalize anyone who paid a prostitute. It also makes it easier for police to arrest women on the street, close down flats they are using for their work and seize assets and earnings. It also contains proposals for the compulsory "rehabilitation" of sex workers.

What these sex workers want is a safe working environment and legislation and action by the police that concentrates on cutting down actual rape and other violence against women - including trafficking involving coercion.

The current attempts by police and Westminster Council to close down premises increase the dangers to sex workers, and raids by immigration authorities and social services have the effect of driving prostitution underground and increasing danger to both the women and their children.

The parade stopped in Green Court outside some of the flats that the council wanted to close for a short speech before going on to take the stage at the festival in St Anne’s Gardens. After a welcome from the Soho Society there were several short speeches of support, including by the Rector of St Annes, Soho, Fr David Gilmore.
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Brixton Promenade & Urban Art

Brixton, London. Saturday 18 July, 2009

Urban Art show in Josephine Avenue
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I'd come to Brockwell Park for the annual Lambeth Country Show with Dave; its an event we've both photographed in the past, although its more than ten years since I really did much there. And walking briefly through it, neither could summon up much enthusiasm, except for a cup of tea at the cafe in Brockwell House on the top of the Hill.

It's a nice house, built in 1811-13 for the wealthy city glass maker John Blades, who was then Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1812–13 and had a good view of most of it from there, although I think the trees have been allowed to grow rather too much since. A public campaign to establish a park in Brixton at first concentrated on the site of Raleigh House on Brixton Hill, but the money raised was then diverted towards the much larger estate of Brockwell Park, which was bought as a Metropolitan Open Space in 1892, largely thanks to the work of Norwood MP Thomas Bristowe, who unfortunately collapsed and died from a heart attack during the opening ceremony.

We walked down from the house towards some of the gardens. Unfortunately the community garden was closed, but we were able to visit the Old English Walled Garden, converted from the houses kitchen garden by J.J. Sexby, the Chief Officer of Parks of the LCC, who also added lakes, waterfalls and a swimming pool - as well as establishig the first tea rooms in the hall.

It's hard to imagine, sitting in or walking around the garden that you are in Brixton, hard to think of anything further from the public image of Brixton, and good to see that people were enjoying its peace.

Dave's lived in the area all his life, and grew up on the Tulse Hill estate we came to next, a typical LCC estate started in 1939, built with an access from the park, solid well-spaced blocks completed after the war. Dave went to the same local boys school, Tulse Hill School, as Ken Livingstone, redeveloped as affordable housing where Jean Charles de Menezes was living in 2005 (the girls school, which overlooked Brockwell Park, was replaced by a luxury gated private development.)

Through the estate we walked along and up to Josephine Avenue, where the annual outdoor Urban Art fair was taking place, London's largest such event. The late nineteenth century development of this road, formerly a part of Rush Common was governed by Lambeth Manor Inclosure Act of 1806 which prohibited building within 150 ft of the road. Houses on both sides are set back by this distance, with a wide path designed for carriages immediately in front of them and then an area now largely divided into individual gardens between that and the road, with an iron fence. The street side of this is covered with paintings, prints and drawings - and a few photographs - as pitches for the artists taking part in the fair.

These often neglected gardens made the street notorious in the recent past, with kerb crawlers and prostitutes taking advantage of its relative isolation from the houses - and some carrying out their trade alfresco in its bushes. An active residents group has done much to clean up the area - including the organising of the Urban Art fair and more recently, a small community garden adjoining the 'Poet's Tree'.

Local legend that Queen Elizabeth I came up the Rvier Effra by boat to meet with Sir Walter Raleigh here under this ancient oak is almost certainly without any foundation, as the Effra was almost certainly not navigable to this point (Henry Hastings, the first Baron Loughborough, who leased the manor of Lambeth Wick got an Act of Parliament to make the Effra navigable from Brixton Causeway to the Thames years later in 1664, but died before he could do so) and although there was a Raleigh House nearby on Brixton Hill (where Raleigh Gardens is now) there appears to be no known connection between the man and Brixton. But he certainly was a poet - as well as a courtier, explorer and pirate.
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March of Repentance

Hyde Park, London. Saturday 18 July, 2009

Prayers for the nation
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Described on the web site as a "humble call out to our nation for change, with one message Repentance", the march was organised by "a concerned and growing group of believers across the denominational divides crying out for Godly change in the Church and in our Nation."

The march was a call to the church and to the nation to turn away from false gods and to turn around "towards what is good which is God, in order to put the 'Great' back into Great Britain." You can read more about the event on their web site

Before the march to a rally in Traflagar Square, those taking part gathered in Hyde Park, forming small groups standing on the grass below the statue of Achilles, praying for repentance. Some prayed fervently and loudly, others more privately, and a few were speaking in tongues, with one or two falling to the ground as the spirit moved them.

Although the stewards welcomed us to the event, it was a little difficult to photograph, not wishing to be too obtrusive. After around half an hour of prayer the group, by this time perhaps around 500 people, came together and were led in singing before walking out of the park and under Park Lane to the assembly point. More people joined them here, and by the time the Shofar (ram's horn) was blown into the megaphone to signal the start of the march, there were around a thousand setting off to Trafalgar Square. I left at this point to go elsewhere
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Bonuses are Back Pig Party

Royal Exchange, Bank, London, Friday 17 July, 2009

Pigs wallow in the bonus trough, watched by Miss Piggy
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Despite everything that has happened over the past year, bankers are still getting bonuses, often at quite obscene levels, far in excess of most people's annual incomes.

City pigs are truly back with their snouts in the trough, and to celebrate this, Chris Knight and others from the 'The Government of the Dead' came into the heart of the City of London tonight for a 'Bonuses are Back Pig Party', wearing pig masks and setting up a trough with 'Pig Pounds' mixed with pig swill and getting snouts down and bottoms up to wallow in it.

Camilla, Tim, Simon and others had reworded some well-known pig songs for the occasion, including a number of hits by Miss Piggy, Pinky and Perky, The Simpsons and Piggy Pie, and in between sessions at the trough the pigs danced, sang and mimed to the tracks.

Familiar to all with is 'Lets Twist Again', once recorded by Pinky and Perky but which now became:

"Come on let's scam again
Like we did last summer
Come on let's scam again
Like we did last year
Come on let's scam again
Scamming time is here."

Chris Knight treated (if that's the correct word) us to his singing of the traditional labour movement song, 'The Man Who Waters the Workers Beer' but fortunately mainly kept to shouting out the news that 'Bonuses are Back' and inviting the homeward workers to come and swill in the trough, all provided at the taxpayers expense thanks to Gordon Brown.

City workers on their way home stopped in amazement and some tourists donned the latex masks provided and joined in while others simply photographed one of the slightly more unusual sights of London. The City of London Police (given the occasion it would be confusing and unfair to call them pigs) stood back and watched. Like most demonstrations it was unlikely to create any threat to public order without their intervention, and when I left around an hour and a half after the event started, there had been absolutely no problems.
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Climate Emergency Alternative Parliament

Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London. Wed 15 July, 2009

The protest took place opposite the Houses of Parliament
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In response to the muddled and inadequate response of the UK Government over the challenges of climate change, an emergency session of an alternative Parliament was held by the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) on Wednesday evening, 15 July, in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament. Around 150 people turned up to stand in the intermittent rain, some taking advantage of the shelter of the plane trees to the side.

Four bills were debated at this parliament, calling for immediate 10% cuts in carbon emission by the end of 2010, the creation of 1.5 million new green jobs, an end to airport expansion and a ban on domestic flights, an end to the road programme and the introduction of an overall 55 mph speed limits as well as an informed government campaign about the effects of climate change.

The sitting of the emergency parliament was opened and closed by the 'Green Queen' and presided over by a speaker who lost his wig when Colin Challen MP, one of the speakers, pointed out that there had been a recent change to this effect in proceedings in the House over the road.

Other speakers included Darren Johnson, leader of the Green Group in the London Assembly, John Stewart of HACAN, Tim Helweg-Larsen, Director of the Public Interest Research Centre, Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Deepak Rughani from Biofuelwatch.

Drew, a former worker from Vestas Blades UK Ltd on the Isle of Wight talked about the impending closure of the UK's only wind turbine manufacturing plant there with the loss of 700 jobs. The company is making profits here but is moving production to the USA to take advantage of the greater support from the US government under Obama.

The final session was a spirited call by Climate Rush’s Tamsin Omond, wearing her suffragette 'Deeds Not Words' sash, for everyone to join in and occupy Parliament at the end of the National Climate March on Dec 5 which was followed by CCC National Co-ordinator Phil Thornhill, who stressed the importance of the clearly argued political approach and mass demonstrations which the CCC has been organising for more than ten years. On the CCC site it says:

The Climate Emergency should be the overriding priority of every politician and to which all available human and material resources should be immediately directed. Those in power, however, are not currently acting with anything approaching the degree of urgency and resolution required by the circumstances – until they do it is the duty of each and every one of us to do our utmost to influence them to do so. If they will not declare a Climate Emergency and act accordingly then we have to do everything possible to communicate that sense of emergency to others and to push for the action that it demands.

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Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

St Peter's Italian Church, Clerkenwell, London. Sun 12 July, 2009

One of the doves flew straight at me - this is the full width of an ultra-wide angle image
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The annual Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, first made its way around Clerkenwell from St Peter's Italian Church in 1883, twenty years after the church was consecrated. It was the first Roman Catholic event allowed on English streets for around 350 years after Henry VIII broke from Rome and created the Church of England in 1534, and the local police were given special permission by Queen Victoria for it to take place.

Then the church was surrounded by the small crowded streets of Saffron Hill or 'Little Italy' in which much of the country's Italian population lived. Few now live in the neighbourhood, but many return from all over London and towns and cities across England for the annual procession. It became increasingly colourful in postwar years with many on foot wearing biblical costumes and colourful floats carrying tableaux of biblical scenes, as well as various associations carrying banners, images and statues of the saints around the area. There is also a group of first communicants as well as the priests and other clergy.

A lively Italian festival - the Sagra - with food, drink, dancing and more - fills a street below the church, and thousands turn up to watch the procession and enjoy the atmosphere. I've been going there for a dozen years or more and try to get there each year. You can see pictures from 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003 on this site.

At the start of the procession, three white doves were released by the clergy, including on this occasion Bishop Alan Hopes. One of them flew directly at me and I felt the beat of its wings through my hair just after I had taken its picture.

The clergy join the procession in front of the last float, which carries the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and a large crowd of parishioners follows after it.
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London Bridge - 800

London Bridge, City of London. Sat July 11, 2009

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Somewhere recently I've written before about the history of London Bridge, from the first bridge (or bridges) established in Roman times, though various Saxon and Norman attempts that we know very little about, and were generally only recorded when they were destroyed, either deliberately in the fight against the Danes, or by storm or fire.

I'm not clear why all these early bridges were wooden. The Romans certainly built stone bridges, some still standing, with pretty impressive arches, both semicircular and segmental. Their acheivments were only really surpassed relatively modern times. But for some reason - perhaps the lack of suitable local stone or related to the shifting and tidal nature of the river - London only qualified for a wooden structure.

It was Peter de Colechurch who decided a wooden bridge would be a better bet well over a thousand years after the first bridge, and started building one in 1176. It was a lengthy job, and was only finished 33 years later, and it was also very expensive. To get back the cost houses were built on the bridge (as well as a chapel in the middle) and it soon became a thriving medeival shopping centre. There was actually very little space left for traffic to get across it, traffic moving in both directions on a 12 foot wide roadway (and in 1722 we got our first Higway Code, with the Lord Mayour laying down that carts coming from Southwar should stick to the west side, and those going south from the City drive on the east.) You can get a good idea of its width from going to the church of St Magnus the Martyr, as its entrance porch is the only remaining part of the bridge, and if the church is open you can go inside and view (sometimes through a rather thick haze of incense) a large model of the whole bridge.

Peter's bridge - with pretty well constant repairs and several major disasters - lasted until 1831 when a new bridge designed by John Rennie opened for business, around 100 ft upstream. Alcoves from the old bridge are in Victoria Park and Guy's Hospital. That bridge was sold to a US millionaire in 1968 and the outer cladding of it shipped to Arizona as a feature for an English theme park, though most of the stone was dumped in a Devon quarry, and one span remains at the south end over Tooley St. The current bridge opened in 1971.

I arrived just a few minutes before the event to celebrate 800 years finished, thanks to the closure of both the District and Jubilee line for planned engineering works almost cutting off Newham from central London.
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Newham Childrens' Carnival Procession

East Ham, London, Sat July 11, 2009

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Newham Carnival seemed rather smaller than when I photographed it in 2007, but it was still a lively procession, with lots of kids having fun. The Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, came and joined in, though I found his performance rather embarassing. He is one of only 13 elected mayors in the country and has held that post since 2002, although he has been leader of the council since 1995.

Newham had the first Labour council in the country, and the first Labour MP - Keir Hardie. I'm not convinced it's a good advertisment for the party - and Stratford centre is certainly one of the worst developments of its kind, although Stratford City and the Olympic site look set to be even more disastrous.

Newham has long had some of the poorest areas of London. I wrote more about part of the borough - Canning Town - when I led a walk around the area in 2007. As well as an account with directions there are more pictures on My London Diary. The borough also features in many contributions here about the Olympic site and other pages, and in my site on the Lea Valley.

My route back took me (slowly by bus) to Canning Town station which following the demolition of Pura Foords now has an unobstructed view across Bow Creek to Canary Wharf. Unfortunately the riverside walk built around ten years ago, in part to give easier access to the station from housing and offices across the river in South Bromley, remains firmly closed.
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Big Brew

Finchley and Edgware, London. Sat July 11, 2009

Give it some heart
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Anglican churches across Greater London organised events on July 11, giving away fairly traded tea and coffee. The Diocese of London organised the day to promote Fairtrade and to emphasise the role of churches in encouraging others to buy fairly traded products, but individual chruches though up their own ideas to innvolve the local community.

I photographed the Bishop of Edmonton, The Right Revd Peter Wheatley, visiting two of the seventy or so events. At St Mary's Finchley, tables were spread on the pavement serving tea coffee and a large assortment of delicious looking cakes, and Barnet Mayor Councillor Brian Coleman as well as the leader of the opposition came along too. Children from the church's lively drama group held a 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' and there were waitresses in caps and aprons and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

At St Margaret's Edgware, as well as tea and coffee in the church visitors, who included local MP Gareth Thomas could also try their hand at ringing the church bells. Unfortunately neither the bishop or I could stay long as we both had other events to attend.
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International Brigade Commemoration

Jubilee Gardens, London. Sat 4 July 2009

There are still a few alive who went to Spain - Lou Kenton, now 101, was an ambulance driver.

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I was pleased to be able to get to this year's event, having missed it last year, although I was held up and arrived late. Every year there are fewer and fewer of those who went to Spain to fight or work in the medical services, all now in their 90s or older. And every year a list of those who have died in the past year.

One of those who died in the last year was of course Jack Jones, and I was moved as was everyone else by the tribute to him given by Sam Lesser, still going strong at 94. Others who died in the past year and were also remembered were Bob Doyle, Bernard McKenna and Rosaleen Ross (Rosaleen Smythe when she went to Spain.)

Earlier this year, those still surviving were given Spanish passports, and the Spanish Ambassador again took part in today's ceremony, conveying his nation's gratitude to these brave volunteers, who, as C Day Lewis wrote in his 1938 poem 'The Volunteer' quoted on the memorial went because their "open eyes could see no other way."
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Pride London

Baker St to Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 4 July 2009
HM Prison Service: "Banged to Rights"
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I first photographed the LGBT Pride march in London in the early 1990s, when it was very much a personal and a political event. Then it took some courage for some of those present to come out on the street, and they were sometimes wary of being photographed. Things have changed pretty dramatically over those 15 or more years, and Pride is largely a very different event, much more of a corporate than a personal or political one. Of course the LGBT community being what it is there is still plenty of room for the unusual, the eccentric,the flamboyant, the spectacle. And even, though perhaps rather more at the edges, the political.

Some of the organisations are of course political - most obviously those such as the trade unions and organisations such as Stonewall and other campaigning groups including Amnesty, but at Pride their contributions are generic rather than specfic.

Outrage! was of course different, with placards demanding gay marriage - and making particular reference to the Brown family - the PM's wife was in the parade, although I didn't bother to go to the press call where she met Peter Tatchell, as I wanted to attend another event then. There was also a smallish anarchist presence near the back of the parade, as well as a few individuals scattered through it.

As usual there were a number of Christian groups taking part in the event (as well as some from other religions) and on the corner as the march turned into Pall Mall, a small group of Christian fundamentalists in Waterloo Place preaching hell-fire against the event in what the United Protestant Council describe as their "annual witness against New Sodom, parading its shame on the streets of London." Police kept the public and photographers at a safe distance from them.

The same group, led by Pastor David Carson of the Zion Tabernacle in Chester, were also in Trafalgar Square on June 13, holding one of their irregular Gospel witnesses - the first for two years - when hundreds of naked men and women rode by on bicycles in "yet another demonstration of the depths of depravity which is so rampant in our nation." There are unfortunately no pictures of this on their blog, but you can see plenty on My London Diary. As well as of course more pictures from London Pride.
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Climate Rush Palm Oil Gala

Millennium Hotel, Mayfair, London. Wednesday 1 July, 2009
Rushers outside the doorway of the Millennium Hotel - with a well-known police photographer
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The Climate Rush held a Gala Dinner and Dance outside the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London as a protest against the deforestation of tropical forests to grow biofuel crops. A jazz band played, and suffragettes and orangutans danced in the street outside as profiteers from global despoliation were having their own party inside.

Tropical forests are being felled, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, to grow biofuel crops such as palm oil. Palm oil production is causing particular problems in Indonesia, where indigenous people have seen their traditional lands taken over by companies for palm oil production under unfair laws. The forests were their land and their living, and those moved out are finding it hard to survive, often being left without proper clean water supplies in marginal areas. Many have been violently attacked by armed security forces and police. The promises made by the palm oil companies to the people have not been kept, and the regulations which offer them some very limited protection have not been enforced.

Replacing natural forests by palm oil plantations causes pollution and problems of flooding, as natural drainage is disrupted. Most of the wildlife is eliminated as its habitats are destroyed, and species including the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger are under threat. A detailed report for 'Friends of the Earth', 'Losing Ground', looked in particular at the human rights issues and concluded that "The EU target to increase agrofuel use is misguided, risking environmental damage and human rights abuses on an even bigger scale."

The Climate Rush flyer for the event states, "90% of orangutans have disappeared since the Suffragettes first appeared 100 years ago."

The event started with a picnic in the park, the garden of Grosvenor Square opposite the hotel. Then the jazz band began to play and people moved out onto half of the street, rejecting the pen police had created "for your safety." Unlike many other occasions, the police made no attempt to force demonstrators into the pen, and while keeping a close eye on the event (and filming and photographing) they concentrated on protecting the hotel with a small line of officers.

After dancing on the street for around half an hour there was a "rush" across the street to the hotel doorway, which made little impression on the row of police across its front. Many of the police seemed rather amused throughout the event, although there were one or two who slightly lost their temper in the rush itself, and at one point two people were rather roughly thrown to the ground by a small police charge. Both were helped up by other demonstrators and neither seemed badly injured.

Following this, a number of the demonstrators sat down on the road in front of the doorway for a while. While at other demonstrations sit-downs have generally led to police attempting forcible removal of people from the roadway, at this event the police de-escalated and half of them police withdrew around 100 yards down the road as it was clear that the demonstrators were no longer attempting to enter the hotel.

Eventually people got up and briefly danced a conga, before deciding to go back into the park to continue their picnic, and I felt it was time to go home for my own dinner.
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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2009; 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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