Archive for May, 2018

2,000 Views of The Four Fathers’ Video ‘Grenfell’, Remembering Those Who Died and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today is 350 days since the defining UK-based horror story of 2017 — the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, in west London, on June 14, 2017, killing 71 people, and leading to the death of a 72nd person this January. You can find profiles of all 72 victims here.

Last summer, I wrote a song about the fire for my band The Four Fathers, lamenting those whose lives were so “needlessly lost”, and calling for those responsible — “those who only count the profit not the human cost” — to be held accountable. We first played it live, at a benefit gig for a housing campaign in Tottenham, in September, recorded it with a German TV crew at the end of October, and released the video in December, and we have continued to play it live across the capital and elsewhere, making a small contribution to the effort to refuse to allow those responsible for the disaster to move on without a serious change in the culture that allowed it to happen. 

That culture — cost-cutting in the search for profits, rather than ensuring the safety of tenants and leaseholders — came from central government, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which had taken over the management of all the borough’s social housing, and from the various contractors involved in the lethal refurbishment of the tower, when its structural integrity was fatally undermined. Read the rest of this entry »

Protest Music Now: My Interview with London Student Magazine Artefact as Lead Singer of The Four Fathers

Mark Quiney, Andy Worthington and Richard Clare of The Four Fathers playing at a protest against the DSEI arms fair in London's Docklands in September 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

A few months ago, I was delighted to be approached by Pavel Troughton, a student at London College of Communication (LCC), part of the University of the Arts London (UAL), who was writing an article about protest music for the student magazine Artefact. I promoted it at the time via social media, but I never got round to commenting on it here, so I thought now would be a good time, as my band The Four Fathers continue to play protest music, and to try to gauge what interest there is, or isn’t, in music that challenges the political realities of modern life, via the ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ gigs I’ve been organising, our appearances with bands like the Commie Faggots, who play theatrical singalong protest music, and our recordings, available via Bandcamp.

I met Pavel Troughton at a cafe near my home in Brockley, south east London, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about the role of protest music today, which is of great interest to me, as I grew up at a significant time for protest music, as a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s, not only following punk bands, post-punk bands and the Two-Tone movement, but also drawing on protest music from the 60s and early 70s as well. 

In Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and with the counter-culture of the 60s and 70s so comparatively recent, it was difficult not to be politicised at that time. Some of the punks pretended to be apolitical, but really that was an affectation. Of course, many musicians only pretended to be political to get laid or get rich (or both), as had also been true in the 60s and early 70s (does anyone really think the colossally materialistic hornbag Mick Jagger genuinely had any interest in being a ‘Street Fighting Man’, for example?), but political engagement and counter-cultural impulses were genuine in this period, and elements of that effortlessly survived into the 90s, when, after Margaret Thatcher’s eventual fall from grace, John Major struggled to maintain control of a country in which dissent was widespread, via the iconoclastic hedonism of the rave scene and the extraordinary pagan and anarchic energy of the road protest movement. For more on the above, feel free to check out my books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield, which have chapters on this period in modern British history. Read the rest of this entry »

No Justice at Guantánamo: The Release of Ahmed Al-Darbi, and Moazzam Begg’s Reflections

Guantanamo prisoner Ahmed al-Darbi, with a photo of his children, in a photo taken at Guantanamo by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

At the start of this month, Donald Trump transferred his first prisoner out of Guantánamo, the Saudi citizen Ahmed al-Darbi, who was repatriated as part of a plea deal arranged in his military commission proceedings in February 2014. However, he did not return home a free man, as, in his homeland, he will serve the remainder of a 13-year sentence agreed in his plea deal.

As I explained in an article at the time, “Under the terms of that plea deal, al-Darbi acknowledged his role in an-Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen’s coast in 2002, and was required to testify against other prisoners at Guantánamo as part of their military commission trials, which he did last summer, and was supposed to be released on February 20 this year. However, February 20 came and went, and al-Darbi wasn’t released, a situation that threatened to undermine the credibility of the military commission plea deals.”

Al-Darbi’s transfer saved the only functioning part of the otherwise broken military commission trial system, which is incapable of delivering justice in an actual trial, given that the men in question, although accused of serious crimes, were lavishly subjected to torture over a number of years, and the use of torture, to be blunt, fundamentally undermines any possibility of a fair and just trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Eddie Daffarn, Who Foresaw the Grenfell Tower Fire, Interviewed by Channel 4 News as the Official Inquiry Begins

Photos of 21 of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2017, in which 71 people are acknowledged to have died - and a 72nd victim died of injuries sustained in January 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

This has been a significant week for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire last June, when 72 people died in a disaster that should never have happened. On Monday, the official inquiry began, with survivors’ testimony that has been taking place all week after the inquiry’s chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, called the fire “the single greatest tragedy to befall [London] since the second world war”, and “pledged that survivors’ testimony would be treated as ‘integral evidence’ in proceedings which could run into 2020”, as the Guardian described it.

The Guardian’s detailed coverage of the hearings this week is here — Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four and Day Five — and, from the beginning, the testimony was extraordinarily powerful.

As the Guardian described it, “Marcio Gomes, the father of Logan Gomes, the disaster’s youngest victim who was stillborn after his mother went into a coma, showed the several hundred gathered survivors, support workers, lawyers and journalists an ultrasound scan of his son and told them how he had been left ‘broken.’” Read the rest of this entry »

The Horrors of Guantánamo Eloquently Explained By A High School Teacher to Readers of Teen Vogue

Former Guantanamo prisoners Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir, photographed with their sons in 2011 and 2012.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Last week, a powerful and eloquent condemnation of the prison at Guantánamo Bay was published in Teen Vogue. As a lawyer friend explained, “For the past couple of years, Teen Vogue has been doing a fantastic job reporting on political and social issues — their election and Muslim ban coverage was and is excellent.”

The article, which we’re cross-posting below in the hope of reaching a slightly different audience, was written by Dan Norland, a high school history teacher who knows how to talk to young people, and who, like Teen Vogue’s editors, understands that young people are often much more capable of critical, open-minded thought than their elders — something I perceived in relation to Guantánamo many years ago, as discussed in my 2011 article, The 11-Year Old American Girl Who Knows More About Guantánamo Than Most US Lawmakers.

Dan is not only a high school teacher; he also helped two former Guantánamo prisoners — two Algerians kidnapped in Bosnia in 2002 in connection with a completely non-existent terrorist plot — write a searing account of their imprisonment and torture, Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo, which was published last year, and for which I was delighted to have been asked by the publishers to write a review, which I did. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years After His Release From Guantánamo, Sami al-Hajj Publishes His Compelling Memoir, ‘Prisoner 345,’ Free Via Al-Jazeera

'Prisoner 345': the front cover of Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj's account of his six and a half years in US custody in the "war on terror," in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Just over ten years ago, on May 1, 2008, one of the better-known prisoners at Guantánamo, the Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj (aka al-Haj), was freed from the prison and repatriated to his home country of Sudan. I meant to mark the occasion with an article, but, at the time, I was caught up in issues involving my campaigning for social housing in the UK, and the local government elections that took place on May 3.

Now, however, belatedly, I’m getting round to it, as I want to promote ‘Prisoner 345: My Six Years in Guantánamo,’ Sami’s powerful and emotional account of his capture and imprisonment, which is available for free as a PDF via Al-Jazeera.

Sami’s story was of particular interest during his imprisonment because he was working for Al-Jazeera as a journalist and cameraman at the time of his capture, and his captors quite shamelessly tried to get him to work for them instead — as well as very publicly threatening the Qatar-based channel by imprisoning, without charge or trial, one of their journalists. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: The Powerful Grenfell Protest Outside Parliament, May 14, 2018, and Updates About Safety Concerns

Four of my photos from the Grenfell protest outside Parliament on May 14, 2018. Clockwise from top left: Natasha Alcock of Grenfell United, Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell, Diane Abbott MP and Grenfell community organiser Niles Hailstones.See my photos on Flickr here! And please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Please also check out ‘Grenfell’ by my band The Four Fathers, and please mark the following date in your diary: Saturday June 16, ‘One year on: Justice for Grenfell Solidarity March’, organised by Justice4Grenfell, starting outside 10 Downing St at noon.

Monday May 14, 2018 marked eleven months since the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, killing over 70 people in an inferno that should never have occurred, and, to mark the occasion, survivors, members of the local community and supporters from across London converged on Parliament as MPs were preparing to debate the government’s response to the disaster, as I discussed in my previous article, Grenfell Campaigners Mark Eleven Months Since the Disaster That Killed 71, As MPs Debate the Government’s Response, written after I had attended the rally in Parliament Square

I also took photos, featuring representatives of survivors’ groups and the local community (including Justice4Grenfell and Grenfell United), which I have just posted to Flickr, so the purpose of this article is to provide a link to the photos, but also to provide some important updates on the Grenfell story that have emerged over the last few days.

The Parliamentary debate was taking place because, after the fire, Theresa May had announced the launch of an official inquiry, but campaigners wanted representatives from the local community to be involved, and launched a petition demanding this from the government, which secured the 100,000 signatures that made it eligible for a Parliamentary debate after grime star Stormzy promoted it to his many followers in February. Read the rest of this entry »

Grenfell Campaigners Mark Eleven Months Since the Disaster That Killed 71, As MPs Debate the Government’s Response

Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell speaking at the rally in Parliament Square on May 14, 2018, marking eleven month since the entirely preventable fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London, killing 71 people (Photo: Andy Worthington). Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist, and check out ‘Grenfell’ by my band The Four Fathers.

 

Please also mark the following date in your diary: Saturday June 16,
One year on: Justice for Grenfell Solidarity March’, organised by Justice4Grenfell, starting outside 10 Downing St at noon.

Yesterday marked eleven months since the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, killing over 70 people in an inferno that should never have taken place. Flats in tower blocks are designed to resist the onslaught of even a serious fire until the emergency services can arrive, but the cladding which had been applied to the tower, to make it look more attractive, was flammable, and in the process of installing it the structural integrity of the tower had been fatally compromised.

We know this from the warnings published by tenants, the Grenfell Action Group, on their website, but shamefully ignored by Kensington and Chelsea Council, and by the management company responsible for their homes, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, as I made clear immediately after the fire, in an article entitled, Deaths Foretold at Grenfell Tower: Let This Be The Moment We The People Say “No More” to the Greed That Killed Residents.

We have also had it confirmed, just last week, in a leaked report prepared as part of the Metropolitan Police investigation into the fire, by fire investigation experts BRE Global Ltd., which concluded that “the original concrete building was transformed from a safe structure into a tinderbox by the refurbishment between 2014 and 2016.” Read the rest of this entry »

Torture on Trial in the US Senate, as the UK Government Unreservedly Apologizes for Its Role in Libyan Rendition

Sen. John McCain gives his reason for refusing the nomination of Gina Haspel as the next Director of the CIA (graphic by CBS News).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In the last few days, two very different approaches to torture have been on display in the US and the UK.

On Wednesday, the US Senate conducted confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel, Donald Trump’s nomination as the next Director of the CIA, who has attracted widespread criticism since her nomination was announced back in March, for two particularly valid reasons: firstly, because, towards the end of 2002, she was in charge of the CIA’s first post-9/11 “black site” in Thailand, where several “high-value detainees” were held and tortured, and secondly because, in 2005, she was involved in the destruction of videotapes documenting the torture of prisoners, even though a court had ordered the tapes to be preserved.

At the time of her nomination, we signed up to a letter from a number of rights groups opposing her nomination, and also published an article on our website, entitled, The Torture Trail of Gina Haspel Makes Her Unsuitable to be Director of the CIA. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating One Year of My Photo Project ‘The State of London’; Now For An Exhibition and a Book!

Images from the last 16 days of the first year of my photo project 'The State of London.'Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, photographer, commentator and activist.

 

Exactly one year ago, I began posting a photo a day on a Facebook page I had just established — ‘The State of London’ —  from my archive of tens of thousands of photos taken of London, in all 120 of the capital’s postcodes, as well as some of the outlying boroughs, that I had built up over the previous five years.

I haven’t advertised ‘The State of London’ via Facebook, which some people suggest is a good way of getting supporters, but I’ve steadily built up a following over the last year of people who like my photo-journalistic take on the capital — photos, often accompanied by short essays, of the good, the bad and the ugly of London in the second decade of this tumultuous century. Someone more objective than me can probably analyse my taste, but I know that I’m bewitched by the light and the changing seasons, that I love catching photos on those outings when I get caught in storms or showers or torrential rain, that I love the river and its tributaries, and London’s canals, that I love the capital’s hills, its park, its trees, and that I also see almost everything with a political eye.

On my endless, restless journeys, I see everything that is happening with the built environment, but when I started in 2012, in the year of the Olympic hype, in which big money was savagely reshaping the Lea valley, I was appalled by the jingoism and empty patriotism, but I didn’t fully comprehend how, in the years that followed, the broken capitalist model that had almost killed itself through 2008’s self-inflicted global economic crash would end up working out that the only way left to guarantee huge and unjustifiable profits for the lazy rich was for the UK establishment, and those who aspire to it, to cannibalistically feed off its own people, through housing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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