Grenfell: RCG joins North Kensington residents in mobile street action against RBKC councillors

Local residents confront Cllr David Lindsay           Photo: Peter Marshall, MyLondonDiary

On Monday 27 November RCG comrades organised with local residents of North Kensington and allies from Focus E15 and the campaign against the Notting Hill Housing/Genesis merger to conduct a mobile protest of the homes of several councillors of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). Around 50 people participated, bringing with them banners, placards, pots, pans, fairy lights and an open microphone to mount a loud street action demanding criminal charges for those responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire and the immediate rehousing of survivors, the majority of who remain in inadequate temporary and emergency accommodation almost six months on. The protest was organised at a meeting with local residents the week before.

Two residents, including a mother living on the Lancaster West estate whose children lost friends in the disaster, gave impassioned speeches before the march set off. ‘Today is about getting answers. We want to see charges for what happened… this didn't affect [the councillors], they're more interested in money, money, money.’

The lively procession wound through the streets of North Kensington, stopping to protest outside the upmarket properties of councillors. The group chanted, ‘Justice for Grenfell – criminal charges now!’ Car drivers and bus drivers waved and pipped their horns in support, and a number of people joined the protest spontaneously.

Our first stop was the home of Cllr Rock Fielding-Mellen, former deputy leader of the council and Cabinet Member overseeing properties and regeneration, who was ultimately responsible for the refurbishment which turned Grenfell Tower into a deathtrap. Fielding-Mellen resigned from these positions shortly after the fire, and though he remains a councillor has failed to attend council meetings since then. As expected, we arrived to find the councillor had hastily renovated his property and vacated the area. More aware now than ever of his landlord's pariah status, the tenant in the property asked what he should do if more people come angrily to his door thinking Fielding-Mellen still lives there. 'Put up a sign saying "down with Rock Fielding-Mellen" and you will get no trouble,' a comrade advised.

The protest marched on to the home of Cllr David Lindsay, Lead Member for Finance and Corporate Services at RBKC. The councillor arrived at his house shortly after we did and was challenged to speak on the microphone and answer the crowd's questions: why had it been left entirely up to the community to provide support on the ground after the fire? Lindsay said that he and his wife had volunteered at the Clement James Centre in the aftermath, and that he 'had no position of authority'. A protestor replied: 'Then join the protest!' Lindsay declined to do this. Why haven't the survivors been rehoused yet? He said that the council is spending 'hundreds of millions of pounds buying housing' and that it had promised to rehouse survivors 'on identical terms'. What has he done personally to hold the other council members to account for their role in the refurbishment, which was not approved by the residents? Why are the people responsible still getting paid? His answer, that 'a good number of council colleagues… are not standing for re-election next year', was met with groans of derision. Shouts of 'criminal charges now!' went up.

Shortly we were on the move again to visit a further two properties: those of Cllrs Julie Mills and Warwick Lightfoot. Neither councillor showed themselves while rallies and speeches were held outside each location. The protest concluded outside Cllr Lightfoot's house with final speeches from the residents calling for further action and urging 'No justice, no peace!' They implored everyone to be at the next council meeting. The residents of flats opposite Lightfoot's house cheered from their balconies.

Politicians and businesspeople are not afraid of public inquiries, least of all the official public inquiry into the Grenfell fire. It is still unknown when the inquiry will start its first hearings. The guilty have had six months to prepare their defence and will have months more to do so. The inquiry will be conducted by people just like them – local government executives and property developers. They know what they will be asked and what they won't be asked. What they do fear is direct action – people uniting to confront them directly, when they least expect it, demanding real action and real answers.

The Revolutionary Communist Group will again be joining allies at the next meeting of the RBKC, taking place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 6 December at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 7NX. Join us there to keep up the pressure.

*The inquiry recently announced the appointment of Joe Montgomery CB as one of its assessors, who acted as director for regeneration at Lewisham Council, where the redevelopment of Deptford and New Cross has met with accusations of social cleansing (Why are Labour councils being accused of social cleansing? Kirsty Major, The Independent, 3 November 2017). He was also appointed as non-executive director of Re, the joint venture through which Barnet Council has privatised most of its services (Outsourced and unaccountable: this is the future of local government, Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian, 15 December 2014)


Photos: Peter Marshall, MyLondonDiary

Join us for actions in solidarity with Grenfell survivors - hold those responsible to account!

Justice for Grenfell

On 22 November, the Revolutionary Communist group held its third public meeting since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in June this year. The meeting was held at the Maxilla Social Club in north Kensington. This venue has opened its doors to every kind of gathering for the last six months and we like to thank Joe Walsh for his kindness and support.

Of course, this is not the only meeting place. Notting Hill Methodist Church is a centre of support for the neighbourhood. So also, is a large area under the railway bridge and Westway overpass, opposite the burnt-out Grenfell Tower. This has been cleaned and furnished as a permanent social space. It was established by local people as an area of remembrance and for candle-lit vigils. It has a huge Wall of Truth with statements from the community, a Garden of Remembrance, refreshments, seating, warm clothes, pianos and a library as well as an altar and several large and beautifully painted murals.

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RBKC council meeting 25/10/17 - Justice for Grenfell!

On Wednesday 25 October, comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) joined members of Class War and opponents of the proposed merger of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis to protest outside the meeting of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council at the Town Hall in Kensington. Despite the gravity of the situation, the meeting had a low attendance, as did the demonstrations outside. The continued neglect and contempt for the needs of survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire by the council demands strong opposition, which makes the lack of political organisation by left-wing groups and activists particularly striking.  

This is partly due to the demoralising nature of the council meetings themselves, which have been consistent in providing little by way of answers to concerns and demands made by residents. At this latest meeting, councillors Rock-Fielding Mellon and Nicholas Paget-Brown, who bear responsibility for the fire, didn’t even bother to attend, despite continuing to collect exorbitant salaries. Residents in attendance noted the lack of publicity given to locals about the scheduling of the meetings, and that little notice is given to them about their having a right to speak at them. Many argued that this is part of a deliberate plan to limit the community’s ability to confront the council as it continues to shirk its responsibilities to those who have lost everything. To add further insult, attendees are forced to navigate barricades at the entrance to the town hall, and are subjected to full body searches, under the watch of a large number of security guards and police officers.

Over four months on from the fire, the vast majority of survivors made homeless are yet to be rehoused, no criminal charges have been laid against those responsible, no commitment to provide social housing has been made, and there has been no progress made in the hopelessly limited Public Inquiry. As residents left the meeting, several made use of the RCG open microphone to share how the meeting had been a waste of time, and how the council continues to fail the people it claims to represent at every turn.

One might think that the Labour Party would be capitalising on the chance to score points against the Conservatives and their inability to provide any meaningful answers or support in the wake of such a crisis, but to do so would be to engage in rank hypocrisy, in light of the fact that Labour councils all over Britain are equally guilty of sell-offs, demolitions, and social cleansing. Those who demand social housing for all must not wait for cues to be delivered by the Labour Party or Jeremy Corbyn, as they may find themselves waiting a lifetime. The struggle for justice for Grenfell is the struggle of all those fighting for safe, decent social housing for all, and it is imperative that those who are committed to the winning of this work to put political pressure on the RBKC council, and all opponents of building and providing social housing. What is necessary is a resolute, mass militant campaign, led by the working class, in order to apply political pressure and achieve radical change.

Whilst there are concerns that public attention towards Grenfell is fading, the silent marches, held on the fourteenth of every month to commemorate the fire, continue to build in numbers. These marches are a chance for those standing in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the fire to come together, pay respects to those who perished, and promise to campaign for justice. Though the ruling class uses many tactics to divert attention away from its crimes against the working class, Grenfell Tower is too large a crime to ignore. It must be a wake-up call to all those fighting for a world that is run for people, not profit.

1917 conference: Days that shook the world

1917 conference

On Saturday 14 October an educational event organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group and Rock Around the Blockade (RAtB) took place at Student Central, near Russell Square.

The event was held to commemorate the immense revolutionary achievements of the past 100 years and to help support ongoing efforts around the world, with five speakers and rounds of discussion and debate.

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