Highlighting Newham's empty homes

On Sunday 10 July, comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Group from all over London joined Focus E15 campaign on an exciting action to expose Newham's Labour council's housing situation.

Congratulations to the Balcony 4 who successfully dropped banners from the disused, sold off and boarded-up police station in East Ham, London E6, opposite the town hall.

This action took place on the second day of the Mayor’s Newham Show 2016, to let people know what is really happening in the Labour borough of Newham with Mayor Robin Wales at the helm. As the Mayor's Newham Show took place, this action unfolded.

The banners fluttering from the building read – 'Hundreds of empty homes'; 'Room for everyone, No room for Racism'; 'Stop social cleansing, keep us in London'. This was timed to coincide with the busiest time of coming and going to the park for the mayor’s show, many cars hooted and passers-by joined in the protest, took leaflets. These points needed to be made on a day when Robin Wales and his entourage are having a party in the park, when the reality for thousands of people in the borough is no fun at all, with rising rents, loss of council homes, empty buildings, and a borough with more people in overcrowded appalling-condition temporary accommodation and more people facing eviction out of the borough than any other borough in London. 35% of Newham residents earn below the London Living Wage, yet the mayor has a salary of £80,000 and last year the same again was spent on his expenses.

Robin Wales has not been happy with being exposed at the Newham Show in the past. In 2014 he reacted badly to young mothers talking about rights to housing and after a complaint was lodged, he faced the Newham Standards Committee and was found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct (watch from 1.45:

In 2015, Robin Wales’ got his private security to stop campaigners handing out leaflets and had them ejected from the park

The previous day, Robin Wales was at the Labour Party's Progress Group conference, entitled, 'Governing for Britain: local answers to national questions'. He opened the conference, speaking in the session: 'Learning lessons: what can local government teach the Labour Party?'. Comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Group and Focus E15 campaign joined other local campaigners outside that conference to protest at the cuts being implemented by Labour councils. 

The Balcony 4 came down at end of the protest to cheers from the campaigners on the ground. Speakers gave facts about Newham and housing, about the LOBO loans scandal and increased debt, about austerity and the £50m cuts to public services and against the Housing Act and Immigration Act, that will increase the racist discrimination in housing. The protest extended our support and solidarity to the Black Lives Matter protests going on in Britain and the US.

Alongside the RCG, were supporters and speakers from Feminist Library, Boleyn Dev 100, Newham Green Party, Tower Hamlets Renters and East End Sisters Uncut – who have just started an occupation in Hackney to highlight the cuts to services for domestic violence and the closure of refuges.

Another successful day challenging Newham Labour Council.

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! No social cleansing! Open up the empty buildings!

Black lives matter! Solidarity on the streets of south London

On Saturday 9 July, RCG comrades and supporters were amongst the thousands of protesters who joined a rally in Brixton’s Windrush Square in south London as part of a series of Black Lives Matter protests called over the weekend. There were other organisations there, such as London Black Revs, which originally called the protest, and Movement for Justice, but the majority of people were local individuals, spurred to come out onto the streets in opposition to the appalling police murders in the United States of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.

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These judicial lynchings have sparked fury that, more than a century after the repeal of the notorious Jim Crow laws, more black people were killed last year by police than in the worst years of segregation and lynchings in the United States. In 2015, 258 black people were killed by US police – more than a quarter of all deaths at the hands of law enforcement. Within the first six months of this year, US police have shot dead 509 people, of whom 123 were black. The outpouring of anger and solidarity by black people on the streets of London this weekend reflects the continuing racism and police violence experienced here in Britain.

Our ‘Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! End police brutality!’ banner was welcomed by the crowds, as was our banner of the great Burkina Faso revolutionary Thomas Sankara reading ‘imperialism is racism’. Many people flocked to use the open mic we set up, first in Windrush Square and later outside Brixton police station, where the black musician Sean Rigg died in police custody in 2008. RCG comrades spoke on the sound system, making clear the links between racism and imperialism, the connection between the fight against racism in Britain and the struggle in the United States. From the police station the march continued through local estates, where people leant out of their windows to wave and shout their support; cars beeped their horns in solidarity and a fire engine sounded its siren, as one young black firefighter leant out to high-five the protesters. Many bystanders came over to join us, swelling our numbers to well over a thousand. At one junction with Coldharbour Lane, protesters sat down in the busy road, bringing traffic to a halt. For more than six hours, Brixton belonged to those fighting against racism and for justice and solidarity. This truly was people power in action.

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Free Tony Taylor

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined London Supporters of Tony Taylor in a picket of Theresa Villiers MP surgery on Saturday 2 July. As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Villiers is responsible for the revoking of Tony Taylor’s license from an earlier conviction.

Taylor, a Republican activist from Derry was seized while out shopping with his family and sent to Maghaberry Prison without questioning, charge or trial, having been denied legal representation. Following his release from Maghaberry in 2014, Tony Taylor was active in community and prison welfare issues and involved in rebuilding the Republican Network for Unity party in the Derry area.

His internment is clearly an abuse of power by the British state and an affront to human rights. Theresa Villiers refused to accept a letter from the picket on the grounds that she was not there as Secretary of State. This is not good enough and is clearly a piece of the political dodging and weaving we have been exposed to in recent months.

The Campaign for Tony Taylor will return. The use of internment as a weapon against the people must end.

Fight for social housing! RCG takes to the streets and estates

Over the weekend of 18/19 June, the RCG and its supporters in London were active on numerous events in defence of social housing. In many ways what we experienced reflected the rift that is opening up in the housing movement between those stuck in a path of parliamentary pressure and safeguarding a relationship with the Labour Party, on the one hand, and new forces involved in struggle, many on working class housing estates across London whose immediate enemy is… that same Labour Party.

The march called by the Axe the Housing Act movement was a straightforward and sterile affair, consisting of a few hundred activists who gathered at Hyde Park corner in Central London. Some people within the movement had called for the march to go to Savills estate agents, whose headquarters is is located near the start of the march. Savills is currently involved in the sell-off and valuation of thousands of council homes, and the estate agent of choice for Labour councils such as Lambeth and Southwark. Savills works with Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis and others involved in drawing up housing policy for London. But in the event the route of the march took it through empty streets to an equally empty Parliament Square. The RCG marched with a noisy, militant contingent from the Focus E15 campaign, which heckled the speaker from Southwark Labour council over its sell-off of nearly 8,000 council homes. Comrades from Focus E15 and the RCG spoke on the platform, exposing the role of Newham Labour council – and called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to take a principled stance opposing austerity rather than writing to Labour councils instructing them not to set no-cuts budgets.

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