Tag Archives: Trafalgar Square

Global Day for Kobane – pics and report from London 1st November

Several thousand London Kurds and their supporters gathered in Trafalgar Square as part of a worldwide protest against what is happening to Kobane, an amazing autonomous Kurdish community in Northern Syria, which is under siege and attack by Islamist fighters.

00 kobane

Kobane has become a rallying issue for many progressive groups, including anarchists, because of their model and refreshing system of democracy and decision-making, which strives for equality and defends women’s rights.

01 kobane

While Islamic State fighters commit massacres and rapes, the West, and particularly Turkey are giving little or no support to the besieged Kurdish people, who rely on their own ‘People’s Protection Units’, the YPG, and the women fighters of the YPJ, to keep the attack at bay. These soldiers are widely recognised in the region as a democratic people’s army, and they hold internal elections to appoint their leaders.

02 kobane

The three-hour rally attracted a wide range of support from dozens of speakers, and kicked off with performer/activist Mark Thomas who was unequivocal in his support of the Kurds and the need for action against ISIS.

06 kobane

He also called for an immediate lift on the ban on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, (the PKK) who have been conveniently proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the West (including NATO), but whose Turkish-jailed leader has given up the original Marxist-Leninist armed struggle and has helped establish the almost utopian Democratic Confederalist system in place in Syrian Kurdistan while striving for a political solution.

Mark’s calls were echoed by human rights lawyer, Margaret Owen.

07 kobane

She also described Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) as a utopia of equality, providing support and sanctuary for internally displaced people including Christians, Armenians, Turkmen, Arabs, and others, and she spoke of the extraordinary tenacity and bravery of the women fighters of the YPJ.

03 kobane

Green MEP, Jean Lambert announced she would be visiting Istanbul next week and pushing hard for the PKK ban to be lifted. She also mentioned Qatar’s role in supporting ISIS and buying black market oil from them, something that Turkey is also accused of.

The huge crowd listened to speaker after speaker throughout the sunny afternoon.  Radha d’Souza from the Indian Association of Lawyers condemned Turkey’s aspirations to a new Ottoman empire, and spoke of solidarity from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

10 kobane

Roman Catholic Priest Father Joe Ryan, co-ordinator of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission described Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, as the Nelson Mandela of the Kurdish people, and called for his release (for a decade from 1999, he was the sole prisoner on an island prison in Marmaris, echoing Mandela’s plight).

11 kobane

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell drew ‘just war’ comparisons with the struggle against Spanish fascism, and the war against Nazism. He called for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against ISIS leaders, and against Assad, and for Turkey to be suspended from NATO for its support of ISIS despite the massacre of Kurdish people. He also highlighted the immediate need for air dropped supplies of food, medicine and arms to the people of Kobane.

Tamil activist, Karthick, alluded to the French Revolution and other workers’ revolutions, and said that Kobane would go down in history as one of the most important revolutions in the 21st Century.

12 kobane

He said that the YPG and YPJ gave hope that peace, justice, and women’s rights were all possible, and he condemned Turkey for killing protesters and supporting ISIS.

A speaker from the Spanish Basque Society offered solidarity, as did Islington Labour leader, Richard Watts. Labour activist Norah Mulready spoke about the YPJ and said that an attack on one woman was an attack on all.

14 kobane

Speaker after speaker condemned Turkey and ISIS and honoured the Kurdish struggle and the democratic society of Rojava. Among them were Steve Hedley from the RMT, who said the PKK were a national liberation army, Trevor Rain (Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism) who said the Kurds and the Palestinians were the two great losers in the Middle Eastern imperialist carve-up, with the UK having a special responsibility, and political writer Sukant Chandan, who described ISIS as NATO death squads, or hitmen for international capital.

The crowd then listened to a live telephone call from Kobane, by Asya Abdullah, a co-chair of the People’s Democratic Union Party.

05 kobane

She thanked the rally for being part of a historic global day of resistance, and categorised ISIS as the enemies of women, humanity and culture. She described the horrors of 48 days of resistance in Kobane with the deaths of hundreds and thousands of men and women, but called it a global resistance, saluting the international grass roots solidarity.

08 kobane

With police pressuring organisers to meet a 5pm deadline to finish the rally, there were short messages of support from a whole swathe more speakers, and there was a powerful air of global solidarity as we heard of similar huge rallies around the world, in Rome, Bremen, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Ankara, Istanbul, Bilbao, Orlando, Bombay, Vancouver, Stockholm, Dusseldorf, Honduras, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Rio, Washington, Liverpool, Houston, and dozens more cities.

15 kobane

16 kobane

Mark Thomas is organising a Kurdish Red Crescent benefit night at the Bloomsbury on 23rdNovember with a fantastic line-up of top comedians and special guests.

Activists dance at BP Big Screen event

Yesterday evening, activists from @BPOutOfOpera targeted a ‘BP Big Screen’ event at Trafalgar Square, London.

Minutes before the Royal Opera House live broadcast, they performed a symbolic dance in which culture eventually overcomes oil sponsorship.

The action passed off peacefully and got a warm reception from the audience in the packed square on an Indian Summer evening.

‘BP Out of Opera” are one of many groups targeting BP’s greenwash sponsorship of the arts.

For much less money than the equivalent in commercial advertising, oil companies plaster their logo over exhibitions and events (last night giving everyone a free and brightly logo-ed baseball cap), while also cleaning up their image by associating themselves with public art.

Meanwhile those same corporations dodge tax and receive public subsidies on a huge scale – money that would easily cover the sponsorship deals many times over and help pay for education, welfare and health.

Art institutions are very secretive about the level of sponsorship they receive, and currently there is a high court case against Tate to try to uncover the figure, thought to be as little as half a per cent of the gallery’s budget.

BP has recently been declared guilty of ‘gross negligence’ by a US judge over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused huge environmental damage and killed 11 workers.

By showing up at galleries and events, groups like BP Out Of Opera remind the public that BP are not such nice art sponsors, and that the Arts would be better off without them.

Heritage Wardens in Trafalgar Square hassle student film-makers

Two years ago I was hassled by Heritage Wardens on Parliament Square and told to stop taking photographs.

At the time, I interviewed the manager of the Wardens, Mr. Dean Eardley, who claimed that even for non-commercial use, there was a list of websites I could/could not publish to.


My film and story was taken up by the NUJ, the BPPA and ‘Peace News’. Because Ed Sterns at Scotland Yard had given an assurance, when new bye-laws were introduced, that this sort of thing would not happen, the head of the BPPA took the matter up with them. MP John McDonnell agreed to table an Early Day Motion in Parliament over the issue. The NUJ also approached the mayor’s office.

In the end, the GLA offered an apology that stated unequivocally that the Heritage Warden had “overstated his authority and misquoted the bye-laws”. They said that “action would be taken to address this lapse of standards”.

In a public statement, the GLA apologised for the incident and clarified that “There are no restrictions on photography or filming for private or amateur use.” They stated that prior authorisation was required for “commercial filming”, but they clarified that “commercial photography or filming is that which is done for financial gain”, that there are no other restrictions and that “what someone does with their photographic or video material is entirely a matter for the person taking the image or recording”.

The Support Services Manager, Chris Harris, who gave all these public assurances, said that the issues I’d highlighted “had been taken very seriously and that action had been taken to address them”.

You would think then, wouldn’t you, that Mr. Eardley would have been told of this apology, and re-educated about his interpretation of restrictions on filming, but not only does he claim (at the end of yesterday’s new footage) that he knows nothing about any apology, but also, he is seen happily defending his wardens behaviour of hassling student film-makers, asking for their ID, and telling them to stop filming.

The new incident began yesterday afternoon when, passing through Trafalgar Square, i caught a Heritage Warden interfering with two small student groups, the first interviewing people about extremism, the other filming a small-scale drama project with one actor. Both were told they couldn’t film on the square, and the first lot were asked for their IDs.

When questioned, the Heritage Warden I spoke to at first said it was the Bye-Law. I asked him to show it to me. He told me I could look for myself on the boards around the Square – these boards DO list the Bye-Laws, but I wanted the Warden to show me which law he was enforcing – he refused. He then said it wasn’t a Bye-Law, but was the “protocols”. I asked whether this had any legal authority, and he couldn’t understand what I meant, telling me it was just his job. I asked to see a copy of the protocol, and he went off for a while, but came back with nothing, saying the printer wasn’t working. I asked to speak to his manager, and was told I’d have to wait a few minutes. Then I was told the manager wouldn’t speak to me but I could phone a number.

Soon after, I spotted Mr Eardley. The interview with him makes up most of the short film I’ve posted. He admitted that the Wardens were not relying on Bye-Laws at all, but on a “student protocol” which he claimed was set by the GLA who would be able to supply me with a copy. He also claimed that his staff were not “directing” students to stop filming, but “advising” them. This is not what three different students told me.

I don’t yet know whether the whole thing is another of Mr. Eardley’s fanciful ideas (like the list of approved websites he invented in 2012), or whether the GLA are reneging on all the assurances they have given about freedom to film, but either way, this interference with people going about their private business is intolerable and must stop.

I’ve asked for a copy of the “protocols” from the GLA and contacted the NUJ again. This post will be updated as the story unfolds.