‘TORIES out!’ ‘Resign!’ shouted angry Justice for Grenfell demonstrators on Wednesday night, lobbying the first meeting of Kensington and Chelsea Council since the fire tragedy.
RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley told the crowd that the proposed inquiry would be a ‘whitewash’. He said: ‘Where I grew up in Northern Ireland 14 innocent people were shot dead by the British Army. They had an inquiry, the Widgery inquiry and it was a whitewash. The inquiry into Grenfell is destined to be a whitewash.
‘John McDonnell’s description of social murder was right. The Tories are carrying out social cleansing, moving people out of London. And they built sub-standard houses for working class people. The fact that the council leader has resigned shows they are culpable. And the Tory government is to blame, cuts in council funding, cuts in the fire service. Politics are in the centre of this, class politics. Justice for Grenfell.’
Ladbroke Grove resident Tamasina Hessel said: ‘The ones who lost their homes still haven’t been rehoused. The council should be made to use funds to buy social housing. People can’t start healing without a base to heal from.’
Zita Holbourne, leading PCS official, said: ‘It’s clear there’s been disarray in the response to what has happened. Local residents were lobbying what was wrong before the fire. Health and safety issues should have been listened to. The Tory council refused to take responsibility. People want to get their lives back. People’s lives are upside down.
‘Most people don’t have secure housing. This is political. Everything that happened – the fire and events leading up to the fire is political. Cuts to the fire service, cutting corners by using cladding that was flammable that cost lives. The council has to take responsibility, the government must be made responsible. Where is all the money that has been collected? Why hasn’t it been distributed equally? It’s unacceptable. How is the public inquiry representative of the community?’
Workers and youth interviewed by News Line called for action. Unite community member Manjit Panesar said: ‘We need to get the Tories out. The Tory government and this Tory council are not legitimate. They don’t have a proper mandate. They failed local people, our community, and our country. Now is the time for change. Everyone now recognises there has to be a change in our country. The unions are campaigning hard, they need to take appropriate action to support our community. If that means strike action is appropriate, I support that.’
Documentary filmmaker Joan Joan told News Line: ‘I’m recording today because I don’t like the way the mainstream media portray minority groups in a tragedy. Any union which has a heart should support the Grenfell victims and survivors. The Tory council should be removed and replaced by a people’s council chosen by the community. It’s the most logical and mature option to put the people in charge who are close to the tragedy. Because they are going to make decisions with their heart and not with their purses.’
Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice said: ‘The council needs kicking out and replacing.
‘Their entire policies up to date have to change. People need mobilising. This is a fight that represents communities around the country. We still have a fragile government, the unions should take action.’
Hiba Ali, 16, from Camden, said: ‘I’m here because I think it doesn’t add up. The council want everyone to forget about it. I think they think they can get away with it. They don’t care about the working class and they underestimate the power of the working class. They do it out of capitalist greed, they don’t care about people. There has to be a big revolution throughout the country.’
Travel photographer Katrina Frazer said: ‘I came here to ask the council to resign because they haven’t done a good job. We pay our taxes and we expect a service. Before, during and the aftermath of the fire at Grenfell Tower has been a complete disaster. This proves the council is incompetent to lead our Royal Borough.
”We should have a workers’ council that knows how to talk to the people because they are the people. The Tory council cannot speak for us and haven’t done so for the past 20 years. Theresa May ran away from us. A lot of people have been moved away. They need rehousing in the area.’
Anna Khan, 41, said: ‘I live six minutes walk from Grenfell. In my school we lost ten members. The Cochair family of five members including children from the school, died. I want to know where the donated money is. £12 million was raised. For the first £2 million, £125,000 was taken by JustGiving as a fee.
‘Even though three of the Tory council leaders have resigned from the cabinet, they are still councillors and working on the payroll – how is that possible? They should be sacked and any salary and pension should go to the Grenfell victims. Those responsible for the fire should be jailed. The inquiry should be wrapped up in nine months and accountability should happen immediately. Those with blood on their hands should be put in prison. The whole council need to be sacked.’
Ameena Hassan, 20, said: ‘What happened at Grenfell was very unjust. People were allowed to die so easily. It wasn’t an accident, the funding for the fire cover went towards decorating the outside of the building and not into putting in fire alarms and ensuring safety.
‘Some of the residents called for sprinklers to be installed but they weren’t listened to. There was a report for the residents telling them to stay put during a fire and not leave their flats. It’s unfair. The council should be held accountable. Tories should face prison sentences for voting against policies that would have improved the building and prevented the fire. The construction bosses who used cheaper combustible material should face criminal charges.’
Zoe Bernard, 33, from Ladbroke Grove, said: ‘My uncle died in the fire. Whatever they do won’t bring back the lives of those who died. The damage has been done. The council needs to be shut down and start all over again. Workers should take over and workers’ unions should defend them. We need a council that acts in the interests of ordinary people, not one that’s for the rich.’
Zoe’s cousin Tony Wilson, 31, said: ‘The council are just trying to brave things out and hope what they did will be forgotten. In situations like this, the council and the government try to roll people over. They hope as time goes by people will get on with their lives and the government moves on. If people like (Kensington and Chelsea Tory Council leader) Elizabeth Campbell had lived in the tower and lost people she would understand. I lost my uncle. It’s a very serious lesson.’
Student Ira Bundy, 23, said: ‘It’s disgusting that the residents of Grenfell haven’t been rehoused yet. The manner that the Tories have tried to handle this is wrong. The policies that they put forward are directly responsible for the deaths that occurred. I don’t have faith in the Tories. I don’t think they stand for us.
‘They should be taken out of their positions and face criminal charges. The council should be taken over by the working people. It’s like what Marx said, what is needed is the dictatorship of the proletariat.’