London Grenfell fire disaster, 18 months ago


This 13 December 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

Celebrities join Grenfell United in call for national change, marking 18 months

Eighteen months on from the Grenfell tower fire that killed 72 people in central London, stars including Stormzy, Adele, Marcus Mumford and Akala have joined with Grenfell United, the survivors, and families bereaved by the fire in an appeal for national change.

Latest stats from Government show 441 buildings still have dangerous Grenfell-style cladding on them and there have been no reforms to social housing after residents’ concerns about safety were ignored by the local council and social housing provider in the years leading up to the fire.

Karim Mussilhy, vice-chair of Grenfell United said: “We are approaching the second Christmas since our loved ones died at Grenfell but we’ve seen little change on the ground and people around the country are still living in buildings with dangerous cladding. Too often, people in social housing are treated with indifference by people who have a duty to care for them.

Dangerous cladding needs to be taken off buildings and we need a new regulator for social housing to reform the system so people are listened to and treated with respect. “We lost our loved ones but it’s not too late for others. We can’t sit back while there is a risk another tragedy like Grenfell could happen again – that’s why we’re fighting for national change.”

The video – produced by survivors and bereaved group Grenfell United – brought together over 50 survivors and bereaved relatives with community supporters for the special shoot. Opening the video, Stormzy says: ‘this is not a charity film, it is a clarity film’.

Families and supporters say: ‘We are not asking for money, we are not asking for sympathy, we are demanding change. Change so families up and down country are safe in their homes. Change so that people, no matter where they live, are treated with dignity and respect.’

The appeal comes at the end of the last week of Phase One of the Grenfell Inquiry. Lawyers representing survivors and bereaved families said there was more than enough evidence to say that 72 people were unlawfully killed and urged the Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick to deliver ‘a fearless reckoning’ and call out the companies and organisations responsible for disastrous refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

Karim continues: “The Grenfell Inquiry has already shown beyond doubt that our families were neglected, ignored and given cheap materials that turned theirs homes into a death trap. 72 people were unlawfully killed and people across the country are still living in unsafe buildings, change can not wait.”

The survivors and bereaved are calling on the public to join their campaign for safe housing at: support.grenfellunited.org.

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London Grenfell fire disaster, guilty corporation lies


Marchers on the last silent walk in London, England on November 14th demanded that those responsible for the Grenfell inferno be held to account

From News Line daily in Britain:

Friday, 14 December 2018

Grenfell fire ‘could have been put out with an extinguisher’ – Outrageous claim by cladding company!

CLADDING which burst into flames up the side of Grenfell Tower ‘could have been put out with a simple extinguisher’, cladding company Arconic has outrageously told the public inquiry, to the anger of survivors.

Arconic [aka Alcoa] is the company that made the Reynobond aluminium composite panels fixed to the side of Grenfell Tower which rapidly spread the fire. The fire rose 20 storeys in just 35 minutes to engulf the full height of the tower on 14th June 2017.

Straight after the fire, hundreds of tower blocks around the country as well as hospitals, schools and libraries were identified as having the same flammable cladding. However, 18 months later and there are still hundreds which have not been stripped.

Arconic made the Reynobond aluminium composite panels which were filled with plastic that burned with an intensity that has been compared to petrol. However, in a closing statement to the inquiry Arconic had the audacity to claim that it was possible no one would have died if other aspects of the refurbishment had been different.

Stephen Hockman QC, counsel for the US industrial firm, told the inquiry chairman, Sir Martin-Moore Bick: ‘If the refurbishment of the interior window surrounds and the external envelope of the building had been carried out in a different way, it would have been possible for the firefighters to extinguish the fire in flat 16 before the fire even reached the cladding system.’

Referring to Behailu Kebede, the resident of flat 16, he claimed: ‘A simple fire extinguisher in his hands would have made a big difference to the outcome.’ From next Friday, use of combustible ACM panels such as the Reynobond PE 55 material that was used on Grenfell Tower will be banned.

However, the ban will only apply to new residential or school buildings over 18 metres tall, as well as new hospitals, care homes and student accommodation of the same height. Any building that is 17 metres tall or less can still have flammable cladding installed!

Andrew Morris, Assistant General Secretary of the NEU union: ‘It is incomprehensible that there will not be a ban on combustible cladding on school buildings. The government has ignored the NEU’s calls for urgent checks on all schools to look for combustible cladding and for a timeline for its removal. The government should take action to ensure that combustible cladding will never again be used in any school building.’

See also here.

Stopping British deportation of refugees ‘terrorism’, people protest


This 11 December 2018 video from London, England says about itself:

Thousands Turnout to Support the Stansted 15 – Home Office Protest 11.12.2018 (full event)

Today over 300 people including politicians, artists and academics have signed a letter in support of the #Stansted15 and nearly 5000 people protested outside the Home Office.

Read it and share.

If you didn’t get a chance to sign the letter there’s a petition now up and running which you can sign here.

Campaigners for the release of the Stansted 15 – convicted of ‘terrorism offences’ they now face lengthy prison sentences for non-violent defence of refugees

This photo shows campaigners for the release of the Stansted 15 – convicted of ‘terrorism offences’ they now face lengthy prison sentences for non-violent defence of refugees.

London Grenfell Tower fire, still no justice


This June 2018 video says about itself:

Grenfell Tower, One Year On: A Crime Against Humanity

Journalist and Broadcaster, Sonia Poulton, explores the events following the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017.

By Paul Bond in England:

Still no justice as phase one of Grenfell Tower fire inquiry closes

8 December 2018

Almost 18 months after the Grenfell Tower fire of June 14, 2017, which resulted in the deaths of 72 people, the warnings of the Socialist Equality Party and the Grenfell Fire Forum that the official inquiry would be a whitewash have been confirmed.

Phase one of the inquiry, taking witness and expert testimony regarding the night of the fire, will complete within days, more than a year after its first hearing in September 2017. It has been a harrowing experience for those who gave evidence and anyone following proceedings—except for the guilty who should have been forced to hear this testimony before a judge and jury.

Since the fire, there have been 13 convictions for fraudulent appropriation of funds, with an additional six people arrested and charged on suspicion of a public order offence in relation to a vile video in which an effigy of the Tower was set alight on Bonfire Night. In relation to the fire itself, however, not a single person has been charged or even arrested.

In July, it was reported that the police had interviewed under caution a grand total of three people. This is despite the fact everyone knows that the fire was accelerated by the flammable cladding on the building, commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to cut costs. The resulting rapid spread of the fire meant that standard firefighting operational procedures for tower blocks, including the “stay put” policy advising residents to remain in their apartments, were fatally undermined.

It has subsequently emerged that the safety certificates issued for the building were factually incorrect. Evidence continues to mount of corporate criminality and culpability, with accusations that insulation manufacturer Celotex “knowingly misled buyers” about the safety certification of its products.

Robert Black, head of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)—that managed Grenfell on behalf of RBKC—sent a memo to his colleagues at 6 a.m. on June 14, 2017, as the Tower was still burning, saying, “We need to pull some of this together pretty fast in terms of health and safety compliance. We need all the information about the refurbishment as this will be a primary focus.”

The Conservative government promised after the fire that it would do whatever was necessary to make the UK’s tower blocks safe. Last month, it finally announced regulations banning the use of combustible materials on new buildings over 18 metres high and powers for local authorities to remove aluminium composite (ACM) cladding from private high-rise buildings, the cost to be reclaimed ultimately from building owners. However, this regulation does not cover existing buildings or new hotels and hostels meaning that the fixtures, fittings, sealants and glues used on Grenfell Tower can continue to be used.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has made recommendations on sprinklers, alarms and escape routes for all residential high-rise buildings that have also not yet been considered. This follows considerable evidence to the inquiry pointing to major health and safety shortcomings of the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, which contributed enormously to the disaster.

No funds have been made available to councils to install sprinkler systems, and many councils have not been provided with funding to remove and replace highly flammable cladding from tower blocks. Instead, the government is calling on councils already facing devastating budget cuts to spend millions on remedial works to private buildings. It has promised to meet the costs if private developers will not, but no funding has been allocated and there are no timeframes in place. No penalties have been introduced to ensure the action is taken seriously.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has committed to financial support for councils acting against private owners to remove ACM cladding. But freeholders look likely to challenge legally new costs for removing cladding because the previous building guidance was unclear.

In June, the government announced a joint expert inspection team to assist councils because of the slow progress of repairs of towers in the private sector. This week, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire admitted that taskforce has not started work yet and will not begin until next year. Of 183 private high-rise blocks found to have unsafe cladding, only five have so far been repaired. There are still no clear plans for 50 buildings considered unsafe. All 27 hotel towers with ACM cladding remain untouched.

This has all taken place as the “full, independent public inquiry” promised by Prime Minister Theresa May, that “needs to produce an interim report by the end of this summer [2017] at the latest,” has been in session.

… The inquiry was called under the 2005 Inquiries Act, which stipulates, “An inquiry panel is not to rule on, and has no power to determine, any person’s civil or criminal liability.”

Its chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, stated that it would be “limited to the cause, how it spread, and preventing a future blaze”—providing “a small measure of solace.” He recommended excluding issues of a “social, economic and political nature” and May was only too happy to accept. Phony “consultation” meetings were held in advance to legitimise the inquiry. Asked about prosecuting the guilty, Moore-Bick said “An inquiry is designed to find out what happened. I have no power to do anything in relation to criminal responsibility.”

Moore-Bick then rejected submissions to appoint a local resident as assessor to the inquiry on the grounds that it would undermine his impartiality! In contrast, KPMG, one of the world’s biggest business restructuring and advisory firms, was forced to step down a month into the inquiry from its role as the inquiry’s project management adviser. KPMG had previously acted as auditor to three of the bodies under investigation, RBKC, Rydon, the main contractor on the refurbishment of the Tower in 2015/2016, and Celotex.

The SEP described the Grenfell Tower fire as an act of “social murder.” We repeat our insistence that those guilty of social murder at Grenfell Tower must be arrested and charged. Those instrumental in the decision to add the cladding to Grenfell must also be arrested and charged. We demand:

• Justice for Grenfell means no cover-up and no inquiry whitewash!

• Arrest the political and corporate criminals responsible!

• Stop the scapegoating of firefighters!

• Quality public housing is a social right!

London anti-racist demonstrators interviewed


This 17 November 2018 video from England says about itself:

Thousands in London March Against Racism and the Far Right

Thousands took to the streets of London to protest xenophobia, and linked the rise of the far-right with austerity.

From the World Socialist Web Site in England:

Capitalism is causing the problem with refugees and making them the scapegoat”

London demonstrators speak out against racism and fascism

By our reporters

19 November 2018

Socialist Equality Party members and supporters distributed thousands of copies of the World Socialist Web Site perspective “French President Macron hails fascist dictator Philippe Pétain” article at the demonstration in London on Saturday. A WSWS reporting team spoke to some of those who attended the protest.

Elliott, aged 35, attended the march from Kentish Town, London. He was originally from Nottingham where he was homeless for many years and currently works at a YHA youth hostel.

Elliott

“In this age we all need to be linked and working together and we need to be united. Jobs, housing, the little things we take for granted, they are being taken away and so easily.”

In July, Elliott marched against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK. He said the recent attack on the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh was “a shocking event. It’s happening more and more in America and Trump and other politicians just turn a blind eye.”

Elliot said immigrants and workers in America and Britain face a common plight: “It’s really stressful for normal, average working people. It’s the same here, where people are going to food banks. The other day I saw the queen giving a speech about the poor when she was wearing all those jewels and stolen diamonds from Africa, portraying that she cares about poor people!”

Describing the wars waged since 9/11 as “pointless senseless wars that didn’t need to happen”, he said governments in the UK and the US were “killing people and then moaning about people trying to escape from there and come into this country. To be honest, you had the First World War and the Second World War, but the war hasn’t stopped, has it? And we’re in the 21st century now. There is no end to it all, apart from World War III which we don’t want. People want change.”

Students from Barnet in North London

Joe joined the rally with his friends from Barnet, North London. He said, “It’s terrible to see the rise of the far-right. We seem to be going backwards in time and we just can’t let it happen. We have to learn from our mistakes.”

His friend Ben agreed, saying, “Capitalism is causing the problem with refugees and making them the scapegoat. … I particularly didn’t like the comments of Trump that if the Tree of Life synagogue had been armed, they could have stopped the attack by a fascist. Jewish people are being scapegoated and after everything that happened with Nazism, you would think that people would learn from it.”

Giacomo, aged 20, is from Italy. He joined the rally after attending a similar protest in his native Turin two weeks ago: “The situation in Italy now is bad. [Italian fascist Interior Minister Matteo] Salvini is blaming everything on refugees and the atmosphere is hateful. Many young people like me think the same. But many also think like Salvini. There are no longer any right or left parties. They are all the same and they don’t care about working people. It is the same in every part of Europe.”

Giacomo

Young people in Italy have no future under the present system, with many forced to leave Italy in search of work. Giacomo expressed his agreement with the fight to unite the working class across Europe and internationally against capitalism and said he would read the World Socialist Web Site.

Ali travelled to the march from Southampton as part of a delegation from the Unite union. He said, “The far right has got to be stopped. It’s growing in Europe and spreading hate and is growing in the UK at an alarming rate. It’s politicians and governments who are scapegoating immigrants and refugees, but it’s the governments that are causing the wars, selling arms to countries like [Saudi Arabia for war in] Yemen. Where are people supposed to go when we’re bombing their countries? It’s the elite at the top that are for fascism. They want us to fight amongst ourselves rather than stand together.”

Victoria, a University of Southampton student, said, “I agree [with the WSWS] that there are parallels with the 1930s with right-wing parties’ views becoming more mainstream. … The media are responsible for the spreading of right-wing views.”

Victoria and Kendall

Stephanie, from Queen Anne University, also said there were parallels with the 1930s: “I definitely see the tactics they are using are more open. There has been a spike of far-right speakers in university campuses. This was seen with Steve Bannon speaking at Oxford University. We have had [Tory right-winger] Jacob Rees-Mogg at our university. It emboldens the fascists already in society.”

She said governments “put themselves under the banner of nationalism, but it’s leading to fascist ideologies. The way politicians use data and statistics on immigrants and migrants as their tools to win support in general elections, pulling in a wider group of people who may not be racist but are being taken on the wave of anti-immigrant ideas, which then emboldens the far right.”

Stephanie

On the Labour Party she said, “Jeremy Corbyn has conceded on so much because of the inherited problems within Labour. I don’t think he has stood up for far-left ideas. I am not happy about his role. Corbyn presented a voice for socialism, but has gone back on a lot of the promises he made. Support for him is on a very loose thread.”

Samuel is a journalism student from Southampton. On parallels with the 1930s he said, “In Britain it could easily get that extreme with the way things are going very quickly. Everyone needs to stand to fight together against racism. I think there is the false narrative that the working class is racist, but that is not the case. The working class are the people standing up to racism today!”

Lena and Caitlin are students originally from Iraq. Lena said, “There is a lot of ignorance and people are not being educated to see what the cause of social problems is. They are particularly targeting Muslims with the Islamophobia.

Theresa May and all the governments are corrupt. They do not represent anyone except the rich.”

Caitlin said, “I see some comparisons with the 1930s in terms of the scapegoating of migrants and refugees and Muslims. The media whips it up. When a white supremacist carries out a massacre in a church or synagogue, they say it is just the product of individual mental illness. However, when it is [what they call a] a terror attack [if the perpetrator is a Muslim] they blame all Muslims and Islam.

“People need to be educated. The main problems in society are caused by the government and the economic and social system we are living under, which favours the wealthy.”

Neal

Neal, from Kent, said, “The far-right use immigration and poverty to whip up hatred. We are seeing history repeat itself, which is very frightening. I support a humane society that does away with borders and boundaries. Why do we need them in the first place? We are one world. If a richer nation is able to produce more food, capital and so on then we should be able to share. We throw so much away and destroy so much when people are starving and struggling in the world.”

Kevan, from Kings College London, said, “What we see now is a general discontent with capitalism. There is austerity, neo-liberalism, laissez-faire capitalism, which was rampant in the 1930s. Far-right sentiments arise from this discontent with the economic situation. The establishment has generated this crisis.”

Deep-sea worm lives inside its enemy


This 19 November 2018 video from England says about itself:

Would you live with your enemy? | Natural History Museum [in London]

Deep in the ocean a species of polychaete worm is living life on the edge, making its home inside an animal that could eat it.