AN ANGRY demonstration of 2,000 demanding ‘Justice for Grenfell’ marched through central London on Friday night.
The protest began at the Department for Communities and Local Government in Marsham Street before marching to demonstrate outside Downing Street shouting ‘May must go’ and ‘Justice for Grenfell, No Justice No Peace’.
A number of trade union banners were on the march from Unison, NUT and the UCU. At a rally outside the Home Office, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack was greeted with loud applause.
He told the rally: ‘I, along with many of the firefighters who threw themselves into the fire to save lives, have been deeply affected by the horror of what was an avoidable and preventable disaster. ‘I am sick of hearing those saying we must learn the lessons – we learned the lessons 40 years ago and we want to know why they have not been applied.
‘What we have seen during the last 30 years is more deregulation, outsourcing and privatisation.
‘Fire service cuts have meant two thirds of posts have gone. We have a world class knowledge of fire protection and prevention so how could this happen in one of the wealthiest countries?
‘We want to work side by side with the tenants and residents of Grenfell Tower. Working people are being driven out of London. It is a situation that has to change. We are not going to let this lie and no stone will be unturned.’
A speaker from Southwark Tenants told the rally: ‘Tenants die because landlords don’t listen.
‘Because of the privatisation of building control, did you know that contractors can choose their own control?’
Green chair of the London Assembly’s housing committee Sian Berry said, ‘Residents don’t get any say in the management of their estates.‘We have to change attitudes to social housing.’ An angry resident from North Kensington held up a picture of one of the young victims of the fire and said this little girl is now missing and it’s all for the sake of this as he held up a piece of charred cladding used on the outside of Grenfell Tower.
‘£5,000 is all it would have taken to prevent using this flammable insulation,’ he said. We can’t bring back people who have been murdered but we can bring down Theresa May,’ said Weyan Bennet from ‘Stand up to Racism’ to loud cheers. ‘Kick her out,’ shouted the crowd.
‘When there’s an act of terrorism they have days of mourning and half-mast flags – why is that not happening now? It’s because we’re working class. We can come together or we can blame each other. The 1 per cent own 80 per cent of the wealth.
‘They’ve all got more than one home, we’ve only got one and we want it to be safe. Imagine poor refugees coming all the way from Syria to lose their lives in the richest borough in England. This government isn’t weak and wobbly, it’s vicious and vindictive.’
As the march set off towards Downing Street, News Line spoke to some of those taking part. Mathew Weinreb lives only a few hundred yards from Grenfell Tower. He said: ‘People are being dehumanised by this system, because everything is judged by cost.
‘The Tories need to be brought down and replaced by a government that puts people first. I saw the tower smoking as I got home on Tuesday evening. I’ve done a collection at work and brought stuff down the next day.’
Student Aisha Khatun said: ‘I want to see justice for people who lost their lives. I know a family from Grenfell who perished in the fire. They have not got justice. The government should not be allowed to withhold information.’
Frank James came up from South London with his wife and said: ‘We have come to show solidarity with people who have lost their lives. This was a preventable tragedy. Those people who died were poor, innocent victims of capitalism. It often takes a horror like this to produce a real change and some good.’
Another student Nowsheen, from Twickenham, came to Downing Street with her friends Kulsum and Nazifa. Nowsheen said: ‘This tragedy is another example of the ridiculous inequality which is the effect of May’s austerity measures and constant cutting of public expenditure. It’s always the poorest who are hit the hardest.’
Richard Apemten told News Line: ‘Today is a reckoning for a long history of policies that have marginalised the poor. We need a government that understands the value of human dignity. The government is directly responsible for this tragedy which is a direct result of poor social housing.’
Earlier in the afternoon protesters from a thousand-strong demonstration entered Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall at about half past four. They were demanding that a senior council leader come to speak to them. Instead, the council’s Head of Communications gave them a written response.
One of the demonstration organisers, Mustafa Mansour, addressed the crowd through a loudspeaker. He said he had just met with the council’s head of communications and asked for reassurances that those hundreds left homeless would be housed within the borough. The council had said it would rehouse people ‘as locally as possible’, he told the crowd.
As he spoke, chants began of ‘not 17’ – questioning the death toll clearly unhappy with that response. Lily Allen was among the protesters demanding ‘justice’ for the victims of the Grenfell Tower block fire. The singer previously spoke out about the incident, where she accused the government of trying to ‘micromanage’ people’s grief.
‘Seventeen? I’m sorry but I am hearing from people the figure is much closer to 150 – and that many of those people are children. They are off-the-record numbers I have been given from policemen and from firemen.’
She’s also stated on Twitter why she’s ‘politicising’ the Grenfell Tower block fire, saying it’s ‘governmental policies that have led to so many unnecessary deaths’. In addition to the survivors from Grenfell Tower, hundreds of residents in adjacent properties have been displaced.
A resident of Thessaly Walk, adjacent to Grenfell Tower, Najar Bashir told News Line after the fire broke out, ‘I had to stay with a friend for four nights. I returned last night but there is still a problem with the water. My friend who lives nearby has been told by the tenant management organisation we move back at our own risk!’