So I was finally able to afford & be able to get down to London for an Assange event. Woke up at 5.30, went out at 7.30am and was back for 7.30pm.
I got there quite early because I allowed myself a lot of time to be late. So that was good.
I didn’t take too much footage because there were a lot of people with cameras there. I noticed Activism TV, RT, and several others. I spoke to a woman from a radio station (not sure which one) and a Guardian reporter who asked for quotes. So that was interesting. I haven’t actually given any quotes to any journalists before. I also took some photos outside Australia House.
Fortunately when I arrived on the bus I saw the ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’ van straight away. So I crossed over the road and joined the other protesters about 11am.
So I wandered around and took some photos and the above footage while waiting for the march. Here’s some of the photos:
The march started and we went down the road. I was near the back-ish somewhere because I’d been over on that side and because a Guardian journalist spoke to me just before the march want off so I had to catch up slightly.
Here’s some footage from part way through the march where we stopped for a little bit.
There were a lot of people with cameras filming footage as we walked past. Including random people on their smartphones as well. Some (presumably) tourists in London were also filming from the open top buses and stuff as well.
Here’s the Assange van going round Westminster:
And a group of protesters after the event:
Rather than discuss the speeches there are streams available if you want to watch them if you weren’t there. Here’s a ruptly stream from the event for you, there may also be other streams, I’m not sure.
At 11am in Victoria Square there was the Birmingham event within the framework of the global climate strike. I took some footage from this event and will be posting it below with some brief explanations/comments.
Here is Victoria Square looked like around 11am, when the event was due to start.
Between 11.00 and 12.00 there were some speakers on the stage and I recorded some stuff from a couple of them. Firstly, here is someone from the Birmingham City Council:
And there was also a prospective Green Party MP who did a talk as well:
There were a lot of different groups represented with flags, banners, etc. at this event alongside the youth strikers. Here are some I noticed: Stop the War, Socialist Workers’ Party, International Workers of the World [IWW], a couple of other unions, Islamic Relief, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Extinction Rebellion.
Here are a couple of quick interviews i did at the event. Here’s a couple of guys from the Stop the War table:
And here’s a woman from Extinction Rebellion:
After the talks there was a march starting at 12.00pm. This lasted until 1.20pm (roughly) and it too a strange route round Birmingham City Centre, looping round a couple of areas twice. I did take footage at various parts during the march but most of this footage was unusable. The march began out the ‘back’ of Victoria Square and then went round to go past Birmingham Cathedral. This is the footage I took the first time the march went past the Cathedral:
I would try to explain the rest of the route taken by the march, but I’m terrible with directions and maps. One thing to me that was quite interesting is that we went past the Apple shop where a load of people were queuing for, presumably, whatever the latest Apple device is. Quite a surreal contrast!
This was the main part of the event that I attended and took footage from. There was a musician on stage, whom I didn’t watch to be honest. I had actually been looking for my MP, Preet Kaur Gill, who had said she was going to be in attendance but I personally didn’t see her so wasn’t able to ask her for comment. Apparently, according to the Twitter page she had been the first speaker at the event, but at that time I had been milling around talking to a few people and taking photographs/footage.
One thing I want to do with this blog is try and get to events in and around Birmingham. Hell, we all know that the mainstream isn’t going to cover or send any journalists north of the Watford Gap, that’s just the way the London Metropolitan elite works. So a few days ago on Twitter I spotted this event at the Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath [for those of you who don’t know the Birmingham area, this pub is a notable one in the area for live music].
So I thought I would go along being as Kings Heath is not too far from me.
First its necessary to discuss the context of this event by George Galloway.
Tom Watson is the Labour MP for West Bromwich East and the deputy leader of the Labour Party. He was elected to this role at the same time that Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in 2015. However, Tom Watson has been a disaster for the Labour Party, because he is more concerned with undermining Jeremy Corbyn than actually getting Labour into power.
As we all know the British electorate voted to leave the EU in June 2016. Tom Watson is one of the most vocal supporters of a second referendum. A quick scan through Tom Watson’s tweets came up with this one:
In an impassioned speech on Monday [17 June], Mr Watson called for Labour to throw its weight whole-heartedly behind the campaign for a Final Say referendum, arguing the party should be “loud and proud” in its support for remaining in the EU.
I seek to replace Tom Watson MP. I am the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for West Bromwich East constituency. I will stand as an Independent candidate supporting Brexit and the traditional values of the labour movement; the values of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Peter Shore etc.
On to the event itself. I was the first person to arrive as usual, having the habit of being chronically early to everything. I thought at first that there was not going to be many people at the event, but around 10 to 4 the place began to fill up more and I would estimate we got about 60 people there in the end (I did a quick headcount the best I could). I thought this was pretty good for an event which as far as I could tell had been arranged at pretty short notice. I only found out about it from Twitter on I think Wednesday. One person who attended the event said to me that he had only found out about it at the last minute. The crowd seemed fairly mixed and there were also several people who appeared to be from the Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist Leninist in attendance, as they were handing out leaflets there.
The video of the speech given by Galloway can be found online here:
For those who don’t want to watch the video or don’t have time I will summarise the main points of what was said here:
The speech began by a discussion of the terrible nature of the current UK government;
Galloway started his criticism of Watson by saying that Watson was more concerned with Israel than his own constituents;
Galloway then said that Watson received £540,000 from Max Mosley, son of a Hitler supporting fascist Oswald Mosley without saying where the money went;
He then asked the question of what Watson had to do to receive that money, including the money he has also received from the Israel lobby;
He states that Watson is not representing his constituents because 68% voted for Brexit and Watson is backing a second referendum;
He concluded by talking about the victory of the Cuban revolution over Fulgencio Batista, racism and the criminal mafia [the 26th July is the anniversary of the storming of the Moncada Barracks in 1953, the first attempt by Fidel Castro and his allies to overthrow Batista.]
After this questions were taken by Galloway from the audience.
Here is a list of the questions. Refer to the video for the answers if you are interested:
Independent inquiry into Sandwell council;
Brexit referendum and second referendum;
Question about electoral tactics and possibility of splitting the vote;
Whether Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit;
Local plans for the area;
Percentage of working class MPs in parliament.
After the talk there was an opportunity to get things signed by Galloway and to buy CD/DVDs, as well as take photographs with him. I did manage to get a photograph (just about) but by the time I had approached Galloway the room had to be vacated in a couple of minutes so there was no opportunity to talk.
If you weren’t able to get to this event there will be another event in Dudley with Galloway soon:
I turned up really early (as usual) and got talking to a couple of guys outside – it turned out they were from the ubiquitous Socialist Workers’ Party. [For any non-UK readers: The SWP is a Trotskyist party that manages to turn up to pretty much everything, and they always have loads of newspapers to sell. I don’t have anything against any random individuals in the party, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of it.]
After going into the room (the Lyttleton Theatre in the Birmingham and Midland Institute) I did manage to talk to a few people from XR. I told some of them about this blog, and I was pretty impressed that they seemed to take it seriously even though I have very few readers on here. So I was at least pleased to make a few contacts in XR, even though I am useless at remembering names.
Eyeballing the crowd and comparing with the capacity of the venue, I would guess at about 100 people being there. In general the crowd had several older people in it, so it is clear from this that XR events don’t just attract millennials and younger, as this is what one would perhaps expect.
Summary of Talk by Larch Maxey
The main part of the event was taken up by a speech by Larch Maxey, an activist who said he has been doing activism on the climate for 25 years. He did a talk covering four main points: The science of climate change, the science of social change, the principles of Extinction Rebellion and future planned action.
He began the talk by saying that simply expressing the facts about climate change has not worked. People have been informed about the facts of climate change for a while now and nothing has changed. So we need to go beyond the facts and also engage the emotions when it comes to climate change. Even the most conservative estimates of climate change are pretty damning, and they do not fully take into account science that is not in the mainstream such as the delayed reactions of emissions and global dimming. He also pointed to the fact that climate change is becoming an increasingly large cause of biodiversity loss, when historically the largest causes have been habitat destruction and introduction of foreign species. He stressed the need to begin lowering greenhouse gas emissions now, and that the target of the UK government to lower emissions to zero by 2050 is far too late according to the scientific research.
He then moved on to the issues of social change and how that has occurred throughout history. He stated that revolution is portrayed in the media as an almost random event and is not analysed. His principles of achieving social change are based upon a non-violent movement, that involves disruption, that is respectful, and that involves self-sacrifice. He invoked some examples of individuals who made sacrifices during the Civil Rights struggle in America during the talk and stressed that for the movement to be effective it would probably be necessary for some people to go to prison.
The principles and demands were then listed: I will just link these from the XR website. He talked more about the demands for a Citizen’s Assembly and invoked the example of the use of these in Ireland. He also stressed that the methods of Macron – his introduction of a fuel tax which triggered the Gilets Jaunes movement – was flawed as it was a top down approach and people thus rebelled against it. He then spoke of the need to disrupt London as this is where the MPs and also the financial sector of the UK is, and that the UK is a very London-centric country.
After the Talk
After the talk forms were given out for people to volunteer to take part in Extinction Rebellion and to express their views on which roles that would like to play in the movement. A contact form for XR Birmingham can be found here for anyone who is interested. Then people were asked to speak if they were willing to go to prison in order to help the movement (this was one of the questions on the form). A few people spoke up about this and then after that the event had to finish because the group had to leave the room. I didn’t attend the group moving on to the pub afterwards because I had no money.
On April 11 2019, a new Primark store opened in Birmingham, which has been certified as the largest fashion store in the world. For those not familiar with the city of Birmingham, this was what used to be there. At various points there have been some quite big shops in there – several years ago the HMV store used part of all four floors. Most of the top floor was called ‘The Loft’ and offered around 10 different booths to buy food and drink with a large amount of seating taking up a large part of the 4th floor. There have been other little or medium shops in there over the years as well. The main point is – a Primark taking up all of that space really is huge.
The location for the protest was outside this huge Primark building, as of course Primark is one of the prime promoters of fast fashion, given the endless amount of cheap stuff it manages to churn out.
We [that is, me and my mother] went into the area around 2 o’clock when the protest was scheduled to start. We knew about it but were not officially part of it. At first we could not see anyone except a few people with tables, who looked to be not officially part of Extinction Rebellion [they were from the ubiquitous Socialist Workers’ Party and a couple of others I noticed on the way out were from the Revolutionary Communist Group]. Then while we were looking around the high street the protesters emerged from an adjacent street. It may have been pretty surprising if you didn’t know that Extinction Rebellion were going to be there. Here is some footage shot by myself of their march:
[This was probably the best footage I managed to get as a complete amateur. I apologise for the fact that you can hear me say ‘I’m a journalist’ near the end of the video. That was my mom winding me up. Lesson learned: don’t take your mom to a protest if you want to be a serious journalist.]
The protesters passed through the high street until they settled in front of the huge Primark store as can be seen in the above photograph. There were a couple of different leaflets handed out by the protesters. For those who have an interest in those, here are scans of them:
Following on from this one woman made a speech about fast fashion. I tried to record some of what she was saying, but unfortunately it was difficult to hear well what was said. Neither me nor the camera (i.e. my ancient tablet) did a very good job of picking up what she was saying.
After the speech there was a fashion show of sustainable designs modelled by a range of people. A fair crowd of ordinary people did have a look at the protest and fashion show. The fashion modellers walked down the pink aisles that can be seen in the top photograph. There were a range of designs that were showcased. A few that stuck out were one lady in a lovely yellow dress that had a vintage feel to it; a couple of men in block pattern dresses, one of whom was rather flirty; a man in a bright pink outfit including in his beard. After the fashion show the protesters in the designs gathered at the front with the pink and black Extinction Rebellion flags. The lady in the pink in the top image was at the front with the Extinction Rebellion symbol. If you want to see images from this they are available on this Facebook link.
I would like to conclude by talking more about the theme of the protest – that is the fashion industry and the effect that it has on the environment. In general – though I will confess to not being 100% perfect – I tend to wear clothes until they have holes and don’t buy too many frivolous ones that I don’t need. I still have plenty of t-shirts I still wear that I bought when I was 16/17 (mostly band t-shirts). I’m a charity shop scavenger as well – though mainly not for clothes – I have 2 clothing items from charity shops. However the main reason I do the charity shop approach to buying a lot of things (books, old video games, CDs, unwanted craft bits mainly) is because I hate the wasteful nature of society and like to rescue stuff other people don’t want in order to reduce landfill a bit.
I was aware like most Westerners of the terrible working conditions in the industry and how most of these inexpensive clothes are made by people being paid very poor wages in China, Bangladesh and so on. I mean, that on its own is enough of a reason to combat this industry. To be honest, I hadn’t really considered the impact of the fashion industry on climate change. I had no idea that it was so bad for the environment as to be worth specifically protesting against. It’s not an immediately obvious target like oil and gas or meat. So hopefully this protest informed more people about the terrible nature of fast fashion for the environment and encouraged more people to think twice before considering the new Primark in Birmingham a cause for celebration.