‘WE WANT PROSECUTIONS! – We want to see the guilty behind bars’ – say Justice for Grenfell demonstrators

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YVETTE WILLIAMS (centre) carrying the Justice for Grenfell banner accompanied by firefighters’ banners from London, East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside

TODAY is the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, when 72 Kensington and Chelsea Council tenants and residents were burnt to death in their homes as a result of criminal actions by businesses and public bodies.

Six years on – 72 months, one month for each of the 72 victims – there have been no prosecutions, no charges brought, no jailings, no justice for Grenfell.

Yvette Williams, from Justice for Grenfell, spoke to News Line on Monday:

‘Six years feels like a long time for some things but I can actually remember it as if it was yesterday. You never un-see it.

‘But then you think about what has happened in those six years – and what hasn’t happened.

‘We still haven’t seen justice.

‘The final report for the public inquiry has been delayed, they are not reporting until next year now.

‘Then there’s the whole cladding fiasco with people still living in dangerous homes.

‘There’s not a clear sign that any prosecutions are likely.

‘Also, we need to think about what we get from public inquiries.

‘We’ve just seen this happen with Boris Johnson and the Covid 19 inquiry.

‘When something appears to be criminal the corporates should be treated like everyday people and not be allowed to hide behind corporacy.

‘It’s almost as if they have preferential treatment.

‘Suella Braverman, the attorney general at the time, granted them immunity from the oral evidence they gave at the inquiry.

‘We’ve seen that play out at Hillsborough too, after they got off when the judge ruled that although they had changed the evidence it was okay for them to do so.

‘It means that you can say what you like, and if they threaten prosecution you can make a completely different statement and get away with it.

‘It’s the Orgreave anniversary during the miners strike this weekend too.

‘They have been asking for a public inquiry since 1984 and have never been granted one.

‘I think if they prosecute anyone they will try to get away with just prosecuting a minion.

‘But we can’t accept it. They must prosecute the decision makers, the owners and the politicians, both in local and central government.

‘Thatcher’s whole idea around privatisation of public services was the road that led to this.

‘And then it was developed further by Cameron under his attacks on health and safety and his “bonfire of red tape”. He boasted that for every three regulations they threw out they only put one back in.

‘Then you had deregulation, so fire safety tests for buildings were taken away from the fire brigades and put into private hands.

‘And then the council alleviated their responsibility for social housing by setting up tenant management organisations and making tenants believe that they were in control of their housing, but really they just became private enterprises.

‘And then we can link it to what is happening today in terms of strikes and stuff, in particular with the public sector, with the fire service.

‘In London I think it’s ten fewer fire stations now, closed under Boris Johnson, and less firefighters and fire engines – and they still have to go on strike to get decent pay.

‘We have got very close relations with the FBU since the fire. We have had to explain to the community the difference between the fire service and the FBU.

‘The FBU members are working people who came out to do a job that night, they were not the decision makers.

‘Still, safety is only secondary as far as the decision-makers are concerned.

‘They decided not to make personal evacuation plans for the disabled mandatory, probably based on cost, and also on don’t care indifference.

‘You can have restricted mobility or be a wheelchair user and there is no statutory law that says that special arrangements have to be made for you to be evacuated.

‘So, literally, you are at the mercy of your neighbours.

‘I knew Moses, who was one of those on the 24th floor who died that night

‘My daughter lost a school friend who we won’t name.

‘We know many people on the estate who have lost loved ones.

‘My friend who lived in the walkway underneath the tower called me that night when she was evacuated and I didn’t expect to see what I saw.

‘When I went to pick her up the fire was probably five floors up and didn’t look devastating. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would have unfolded the way that it did.

‘There must be Justice for Grenfell and that means prosecutions.

‘The report comes out in 2024. It was due out in October this year but it was put back. I think they will put it back again, they will find a reason.

‘However, we will keep on fighting until we win.

‘We want prosecutions and we want to see the guilty behind bars.’