On 15 October, comrades from the RCG joined a variety of pro-Palestine activists on a picket of Marks and Spencer's flagship shop on Oxford Street. The picket, called and organised by the RCG campaign 'Victory to the Intifada', was held weekly for thirteen years in previous Palestinian intifadas (uprisings), and for three months in 2014 following the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza. M&S is one of many British businesses which sell huge amounts of Israeli produce, but it also offers political support to Zionism. The Palestinian people called for a 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' (BDS) campaign against Israel in 2003. With the Palestinian people rising up against the Zionist occupation once again, in what many are calling the 'Third Intifada', the picket took the message of support for the Palestinian resistance to the streets, and called for a boycott of M&S and all companies supporting Israel. The response was overwhelming, with chants of 'Free Palestine!' drowning out the tiny but aggressive Zionist counter-picket. End British support for Israel!
The Revolutionary Communist Group joined the Focus E15 campaign on the streets of Stratford, east London, on Saturday 19 September, for the March against Evictions, marking the second anniversary of the campaign. The RCG banner read ‘Housing is a right, not a privilege!’ - and that is the message that the march put across as around 700 people joined the march from Stratford Park to the Carpenters Estate.
At the rally before the march, members of the campaign told the crowd about the reality of the housing crisis for working class people - Ibtisam and Fathiya, residents of Focus E15 hostel where the campaign began, facing eviction by 30 November when East Thames Housing Association and Newham council wash their hands of the hostel's supported living scheme. Fathiya, due to have her baby in the next week, was sent to view a property in Southend. She said no as her support is in Newham. Now she is not sure what future awaits her and her new baby. Ghassem from the Asylum Clinic spoke about the racism and discrimination in housing facing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.The speakers were rounded off by a comrade from the RCG who spoke of the role of the organisation in Focus E15 campaign, and the role communists must play in making the links between the vicious policies of Labour in Newham and the bigger picture of capitalism and imperialism, austerity at home and wars and plunder abroad.
Marching alongside Focus E15 and RCG/FRFI banners, were people, placards and banners from Eviction Resistance Network, Boleyn Development 100, Action East End, Clapton Ultras, Class War, TUSC, Left Unity, SWP, Newham Green Party, Lesbian and Gay Men Support the Miners, Sisters Uncut, Eirigi, Class War, National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, Advisory Service for Squatters, Friends of the Joiners Arms, London Teachers Housing Campaign, Lewisham People Before Profit, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Grenfell Action Group, Architects for Social Housing, Radical Housing Network, East London Radical Assembly, Feminist Fightback, Digs, Sweets Way and the Aylesbury, Take Back the City, Young GMB, Streets Kitchen, Newham Monitoring Project and wonderful drummers who kept the chanters in rhythm.
Estate agents Foxtons represent gentrification and are known for their high rents and high letting fees and aggressive punitive attitude towards tenants. They are legitimate targets of the housing movement and as the march passed the Stratford branch, marchers,led by Class War comrades, entered the shop and staged a short occupation.
The march ended at the Carpenters Estate, the site of the Open House occupation one year before. Three of the original mothers from Focus E15 hostel who started the campaign - Sam, Jasmin and Tresha - spoke. Jasmin contributed on behalf of the RCG talking about the issue of housing in the context of the war on the working class and cuts in education and health and linking the fightback here to the international struggle for socialism. Balloons were released to represent the 50,000 families who have been moved out of borough and out of the city in the last three years.
For Stratford, the Olympic legacy is luxury apartments for the rich and social cleansing for the poor, while the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes that the council have decanted families from over the last ten years and now leave empty. Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, recently asked for £10,000 more on his pension, while he and the Labour council, continue to ship people out of the borough and ask the electorate to help decide where to cut £50m from public services over the next year. The campaign has a lot of work to do!
Join our comrades on the streets every week with the Focus E15 campaign, Saturdays 12-2pm on the Broadway, Stratford E15, outside Wilkinson’s for the lively campaign stall.
London RCG branches joined the 'Solidarity with Refugees' march in central London on Saturday 12 September. We marched with the Asylum Clinic from West London, and the Focus E15 housing campaign from East London. Assembled behind a banner which read: 'Fight Britain's racist immigration laws!' we made clear that any movement which fights in solidarity with refugees must also fight British imperialism and its racist state. Our militant and lively contingent operated an open mic for all to speak out about the crisis and how we can build a movement in this country against racism and imperialism.
On Sunday 12 July supporters of the Focus E15 campaign for decent housing, including RCG comrades, were subject to intimidation and harrassment by members of the Labour council, by private security firm APS and the police, when they attended the ‘Mayor’s Newham Show’ at East Ham’s Central Park (supposedly a family fun day) to distribute materials exposing the social cleansing being conducted by Newham’s Labour council.
At last year’s show the Labour Mayor, Robin Wales, physically attacked and swore at campaigners (see FRFI 243) and was eventually found guilty of breaching Newham council’s own code of conduct.
This year, upon arrival at the park, campaigners were searched, resulting in a banner, some leaflets and Robin Wales masks confiscated. They were followed around by both plainclothes and uniformed security guards and volunteers for the event, including Labour councillors.
At the appearance of the Mayor, who is on upwards of £80,000 basic pay for his role in the social cleansing of Newham, campaigners began chanting ‘Robin Wales, get out, we know what you’re all about…’ and displayed placards highlighting the homelessness in the borough and Robin Wales’s role in the sell-off of social housing in the interests of private capital.
In response, APS security guards were set on the campaigners. Several FE15 supporters were violently ejected from the event by a large group of private security guards who taunted and swore at them; one male comrade was dropped on his neck and a female comrade was manhandled and left with two damaged fingers. Several campaigners were left covered in deep marks and bruises, including fingernail marks, as the police looking on passively.
Among the police officers present was one who had been involved in the unlawful arrest of campaigner Jasmin Stone at Focus E15’s ‘Jane Come Home action’. That incident was clearly politically targeted and the collusion of the council is indisputable.
Having been evicted from the Mayor’s Show, campaigners, some still dressed in ‘Mayoral’ costumes, put up banners and placards and continued to distribute leaflets to people in the streets and talk with them about how to solve their housing problems and what the council has been doing to cause them. Robin Wales mask ‘selfie sticks’ were handed out, encouraging people to photograph themselves and post online with the hashtag #ImRobinNewham. However, people who took the leaflets and then entered the park for what was supposed to be a family fun day, were intimidated by security guards who, without any justification, confiscated the leaflets and other materials from them.
The campaign continues to fight on against this opportunist Labour council’s social cleansing. We will not be intimidated by their violence and harassment as we continue to build resistance to austerity, evictions and home losses.
Agitate! Educate! Organise!
Decent housing for all!
Join the Focus E15 campaign on our stall outside Wilkinson’s on the Broadway in Stratford every Saturday, 12-2pm.