Fortress democracy: all residents are searched on the way into council meetings
Report on RBKC council meeting, 24 Jan 2018
24 Jan 2018 - West London RCG and supporters attended the latest full council meeting at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) town hall, where the Council was due to give an update on its response to the Grenfell fire. Over previous months RCG members have collected 1,500 signatures from the people of Kensington, demanding for survivors to be re-housed immediately, for criminal charges to immediately be brought against those responsible, and for a People’s Inquiry led by the local community. We came to the council meeting to submit the petition on behalf of the many who signed it.
Maintaining and building protest at these meetings remains crucial. According to the North Kensington Law Centre, more than seven months after the fire, only 54 households made homeless now have permanent accommodation, and 98 households are still in emergency accommodation. This is despite the famous pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May that they would be rehoused within three weeks.
- at Marchmont Street Community Centre, 62 Marchmont St WC1N 1AB
Demonstrate outside the Public Inquiry
Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st January, 10am
Holborn Bars EC1N 2NQ
We will also continue to be on the streets of West London every Saturday outside Ladbroke Grove Tube Station from 1pm to 3pm.
The National and Local Government have continued to show contempt for the community of Grenfell, survivors and relatives. The majority of families still have not been offered appropriate and safe accommodation in their borough. The request that for the Public Inquiry to have a diverse decision-making panel has been rejected outright by Theresa May.
Meanwhile across London social housing is being sold off and demolished by both Labour and Tory councils in the midst of a housing crisis, leaving people in unsafe, neglected accommodation. We must build a movement to defend social housing and to fight for justice for the community of Grenfell.
We'd love to see you at the events! Don't just get angry, get active!
Thursday 14 December marked six months since the tragic fire in Grenfell Tower. During the day there was a memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral, which was followed in the evening by the monthly Silent Walk.
Members of the RCG attended the Silent Walk. Up to 2,000 people attended – survivors, families of the bereaved, community members and supporters, some holding green candles, others photos of the victims, giant green hearts and placards with various slogans. Outside Ladbroke Grove station fire fighters from Red Watch, North Kensington fire station lined the streets and were thanked by the crowd.
Since the Grenfell Tower fire six months ago the Revolutionary Communist Group has maintained a regular presence on the streets of north Kensington in solidarity with the demands of survivors and local residents. Without real pressure built on the streets, Kensington and Chelsea Council will continue to get away with murder. We have held an open mic on our weekend stalls outside Ladbroke Grove and Shepherd’s Bush stations, and protests outside the monthly meetings of the criminal Kensington and Chelsea Council. We have held demonstrations outside not only KCTMO – the management company that oversaw the lethal and cut-price refurbishment of the block – but the homes of individual councillors who have consistently failed the survivors of the disaster. Through these actions we have stood in solidarity with those who have lost everything and who continue to demand decent, local rehousing, criminal charges against those responsible and accountability for the systematic destruction and neglect of council housing in the borough.
Time after time, we have been told by local people how much they appreciate the chance to express their anger. After six months, the majority of those who lost everything in the fire on 14 June have still not been rehoused, and are living in inadequate temporary accommodation, much of it hostels and B&Bs - that figure includes more than 200 children. Now the council is saying it does not expect to find adequate new homes for everyone for at least a year, maybe longer.
On 22 November, at an RCG public meeting held at the Maxilla Walk social club, local people made it clear that what they wanted to see was more action on the streets to put real pressure on the local council. The meeting called for a protest outside the full council meeting at Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall on 6 December. In a belated but welcome move, Justice 4 Grenfell – the SWP-led group that styles itself as the ‘official’ movement – subsequently also announced they were calling a protest for the same day. Justice 4 Grenfell had not mobilised for or attended the previous two council meetings, where protests were held the by local residents, the RCG, Class War, and others.
On the evening of 6 December, comrades from the RCG set up a stall and an open sound system right outside the council building. We were joined by local residents, comrades from Class War and other political groups and supporters. There were local housing campaigns such as the Genesis and Notting Hill Trust campaign, and activists from across London including the Focus E15 campaign from Newham in East London. Later a contingent marched from Maxilla Walk and the Memorial Space to join the protest.
Yet as soon as organisers from Justice 4 Grenfell arrived, we were confronted by one of its leading members, the SWP’s Moyra Samuels, and Brian Richardson, another SWP member from Stand Up to Racism. Samuels told us to move our stall as we were not the ‘official’ movement – they questioned our very right to be there. As they set up their sound system and closed list of speakers they attempted to silence and isolate us. While we were censored, Labour MP speakers including Emma Dent Coad and Edmonton MP Kate Osamor, were welcomed onto the Justice 4 Grenfell platform – to heckling and anger from those who are all too aware of the appalling role of Labour councils across London in accelerating the destruction of council homes. The same week, in Haringey, 'anti-HDV’ Labour 'left' councillors had scabbed on local residents by staying away from the council meeting where a vote on an estate demolition was being held in order not to breach the Labour whip and lose their position! In Lambeth, in south London, Labour councillors this week told campaigners fighting for a ballot to save their homes in Cressingham Gardens that – despite Corbyn’s commitment at the Labour Party conference – there would be no implementation of a ballot policy on regeneration until Labour were in power. These are not the forces that are going to build a movement in solidarity with Grenfell residents and survivors or anyone else fighting for decent housing. On the contrary, Justice 4 Grenfell and the SWP are deliberately promoting the very forces who are going to hold such a movement back and ensure that the state is allowed to get away with yet another whitewash.
The sectarianism of the SWP and its allies is unacceptable. They are not attempting to build a movement on the ground and we will not allow them to silence those who are. We have seen these tactics time after time from those who continually limit all demands for resistance to what is acceptable to the electoral aspirations of the Labour Party. We know that is a dead end. And so, despite the blatant hostility and censorship of Justice 4 Grenfell organisers, we refused to be moved. We are not going anywhere. We will not allow the charlatans and criminals on Kensington and Chelsea Council to get away with murder. We will continue to mobilise and organise in every way we can alongside local residents in north Kensington to support their demands for justice including:
immediate rehousing of all survivors now
criminal charges against the councillors and KCTMO who bear direct responsibility for the Grenfell fire
a people’s inquiry, not a public inquiry whitewash
Across London, we will continue to fight to expose the thoroughly reactionary role being played by Labour councils in the destruction of social housing and attacks on their working class residents.
*This article was amended on 19/12/17 to make clear that the councillors who stayed away from the Love Lane vote were not newly-selected.