Archive for November, 2018

Lewisham Council’s Self-Inflicted Woes Increase: Chaos Over Tidemill Eviction Costs, and the Sacking of CEO Ian Thomas

Campaigners with the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign outside Lewisham Council's HQ in Catford on November 28, 2018 (Photo: Bridie Witton).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

What a disgrace Lewisham Council are. With Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners and numerous local people putting the council under ever-increasing pressure to explain how much money has been squandered on the eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden a month ago, the subsequent cost of maintaining a security presence 24 hours a day (which we believe, on the advice of Corporate Watch, to be around £1m), and why they are still not interested in an alternative plan for the site that will spare the garden and Reginald House and do something to salvage their increasingly tattered credibility, they responded, as a FOI request revealed that £105,188 had been spent on the eviction alone, by using that as an opportunity to blame campaigners for it.

The council issued a press release (helpfully posted here by the Deptford Dame), in which Cllr. Paul Bell, the Cabinet Member for Housing, after complaining about campaigners and members of the Old Tidemill Garden Group occupying the garden, stated, with a cynical use of the Labour Party’s tagline under Jeremy Corbyn (“for the many, not the few”), “Our housebuilding programme is for the many, not the few, and we won’t let the actions of a small number of people stop us providing decent, secure, social housing for those who need it.”

At the same time as issuing the press release, the council also launched a video, ‘No Place Like Home’ (and a page on their website), dealing with homelessness and the council’s alleged dedication to providing new housing, with the tagline, ‘Why Lewisham Council is making social and truly affordable housing a priority.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Periodic Review Boards: The Escape Route Shut Down by Donald Trump

Four of the Guantanamo prisoners currently going through the Periodic Review Board process. Clockwise from top left: Omar al-Rammah, Moath al-Alwi, Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abd al-Salam al-Hilah.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Anyone paying close attention to the prison at Guantánamo Bay will know that its continued existence, nearly 17 years after it first opened, is largely down to the success of some wildly inaccurate claims that were made about it when its malevolent business first began — claims that it held “the worst of the worst” terrorists, who were all captured on the battlefield.

In fact, as my research, and that of other researchers has shown, very few of the 779 men held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002 can realistically be described as having had any meaningful involvement with al-Qaeda or the Taliban; perhaps just 3 percent, and certainly less than 5 percent. No one was captured on the battlefield, and the majority were either foot soldiers for the Taliban in an inter-Muslim civil war that predated 9/11, or civilians swept up in ill-advised dragnets. Many, if not most of those who ended up at Guantánamo were sold to the US by their Afghan and Pakistani allies for bounty payments, which averaged $5,000 a head, a huge amount of money in that part of the world.

Just 40 men are still held at Guantánamo, after George W. Bush released 532 men, and Barack Obama released 196. Nine men died, one was transferred to the US, to face a trial in which he was successfully prosecuted, and one more was reluctantly released by Donald Trump, or, rather, was transferred back to Saudi Arabia for ongoing imprisonment, as part of a plea deal negotiated in his military commission trial proceedings in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

The Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and the Mainstream Media’s Inadequacy in Reporting Stories About “Social Homes” and “Affordable Rents”

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden as viewed from the top balcony of Reginald House in Deptford on November 21, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




Today it’s 25 days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, by bailiffs from the brutal Bexley-based firm County Enforcement, employed by Lewisham Council. In the battle for hearts and minds, it seems pretty clear that the council is losing locally — Corporate Watch helped us estimate that the council has been spending at least £35,000 a day guarding the garden from the community since the eviction, meaning that they have now spent close to £750,000, and everything about this hideously costly exercise continues to alienate local people — the presence of weird bailiffs 24 hours a day, as well as the daunting militarised atmosphere around the garden, the permanent barking of dogs, the floodlights at night, the vehicles parked up in the garden and the sporadic destruction of the structures built during its two-month occupation by its defenders.

And the antagonism was ramped up this week by the arrival of tree-killers hired by the council, from Artemis Tree Services, who began enraging campaigners by starting to cut down trees, even though we had had it reported from the council that the trees wouldn’t begin to be cut down until after our legal challenge against the council was concluded. Yes, you read that right. The council evicted the garden while an outstanding legal challenge was underway — our appeal against a decision by a judge to turn down our application of our judicial review of the legality of the council’s plans.

This also, of course, should have been a pretty compelling reason for the council not to evict the garden’s occupiers until after the legal process was complete, but they clearly wanted to make a point about their “ownership” of the garden — one that, to date, has cost them £750,000, and, in addition, has been a disastrous piece of PR. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners is Bad for Them – and US Security

Four prisoners released from Guantanamo who have ended up in very different circumstances following the closure by Donald Trump of the office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Clockwise from top left: Abu Wa'el Dhiab, Omar Mohammed Khalifh, Abd al-Malik al-Rahabi and Ravil Mingazov.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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article, as “Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners Endangers U.S. National Security,” 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.

The presence of Donald Trump in the White House has been an unmitigated disaster for anyone concerned about the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and any notion of justice regarding those held there, or, indeed, those freed from the prison over the years.

For Trump, the notion that there might be anything wrong — or un-American — about imprisoning people forever without any meaningful form of due process clearly doesn’t exist. Since he took office nearly two years ago, only one prisoner has been released, out of the 41 men still held at the prison when Obama took office; and that man, Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi, was only released, and transferred to ongoing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, because of a plea deal he agreed to in his military commission trial proceedings back in 2014.

Trump, clearly, has no desire to meaningfully continue the parole-type process — the Periodic Review Boards — that Barack Obama initiated to release lower-level prisoners who could demonstrate that they didn’t pose a threat to the U.S. Indeed, his contempt for the process is such that he has shut down any possibility of the two men whose release was approved by Obama’s PRBs, but who didn’t get released before Obama left office, being freed by shutting down the State Department office that dealt with resettlements — the office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure. Read the rest of this entry »

Broken Britain: UN Rightly Condemns Eight Years of Tory Austerity, But the Labour Party Is No Saviour; Try Extinction Rebellion Instead

Anti-austerity protesters, and the Extinction Rebellion logo.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Britain, is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed — and also deeply divided. Philip Alston, an Australian-born human rights lawyer, and the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has highlighted both these problems in his newly-issued report on the impact of eight years of savage austerity policies by the Tory government.

Alston pulls no punches. After spending two weeks travelling the length and breadth of the UK, and meeting people at the sharp end of austerity, as well as meeting government ministers, Alston notes how, in “the world’s fifth largest economy”, it “seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Alston also explains how, during his visit, “I have talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future, young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose support, against their doctor’s orders.” Read the rest of this entry »

Just Updated: Parts 4-6 of My Six-Part Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List

Close Guantanamo protestors outside the Supreme Court, January 11, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Last month, I published an article linking to the first three parts of my six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, which I had just updated, and I’ve now updated the fourth, fifth and sixth parts — Part Four (covering prisoners with the Internment Serial Numbers 497-661), Part Five (covering prisoner numbers 662-928) and Part Six (covering prisoner numbers 929-10029). The six parts of the prisoner list provide details of all 779 prisoners held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened, with references to where they appear in the 2,232 articles I have written about Guantánamo over the last ten and a half years, and where their stories are told in my book The Guantánamo Files.

As I explained in my article last month, my book, published in 2007, was the result of over a year’s research and writing — as a full-time unpaid freelance researcher and author — in which I told the stories of the majority of the men held at Guantánamo, analyzing where they were captured, telling their stories, and, as I put it,  “demonstrat[ing] how few of them seem to have had any genuine connection to al-Qaeda or any form of international terrorism, and how they were overwhelmingly either just foot soldiers in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that preceded the 9/11 attacks, or, in many cases, civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, cynically picked off by officials or warlords looking to make some money off the US’s commitment to paying bounty payments for any Muslim who could be passed off as a ‘terror suspect.’”

Today the shameful prison at Guantánamo Bay — where 40 men continue to be held, mostly without charge or trial or anything resembling due process — has been open for 6,152 days — 6,152 days in what I described last month as a prison “set up to be beyond the reach of the rule of US law, where men could be — and were — tortured and subjected to human experimentation; where nine men have died, and where there is still no end in sight for this legal, moral and ethical abomination”, because of Donald Trump’s vileness and stupidity. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 550 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The latest photos from Andy Worthington's photo-journalism project, 'The State of London.'Please feel free to make a donation to support my photo-journalism via ‘The State of London’, for which I receive no funding and am reliant on your support.




 

Yesterday marked 550 days since I began posting a photo a day on Facebook from the tens of thousands of photos I’ve taken on daily journeys by bike around London, beginning in May 2012, and I’d like to thank the thousands of people following the project on the dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter, as well as on my own Facebook and Twitter pages. I’m very grateful that my photos, my subject matter and my commentary have struck a chord with so many people. 

You can see all the Facebook photos here, and there’s an embryonic website here, which I’m hoping to work on soon.

I started posting a photo a day on Facebook on May 11, 2017, and I chose that date because it was the fifth anniversary of when my photo-journalism project began, as an antidote to a major illness and too many years sitting at a computer writing about Guantánamo without taking exercise. I’ve been cycling as long as I can remember (I think I started when I was four years old), but I had let it slip as a regular pastime for some time until 2012, when I started cycling around my local neighbourhood in south east London, often with my son Tyler, until eventually, on May 11, I decided that I would formalise my renewed enthusiasm by cycling around the capital taking photos of whatever interested me as an actual project. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: I Discuss the Tidemill Eviction, the Broken ‘Regeneration’ Industry and Sadiq Khan’s Stealthy Elimination of Social Rents

A screenshot from a video of Andy Worthington discussing the housing crisis outside City Hall on November 3, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

On Saturday, I was interviewed about the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, and broader issues relating to the housing ‘regeneration’ industry after a rally at City Hall, ‘No Demolition Without Permission’, that was set up primarily for tenants of council estates facing demolition, who have not been given ballots on the future of their homes, despite it having been official Labour Party policy since last September. One of the 34 estates affected is Reginald House in Deptford, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats, which the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is determined to save, along with the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

The 15-minute video, posted below, was shot by Bob Robertson of Ladywell Labour Party, who I first met earlier this year, when I was on a Saturday stall in Deptford Market with other Tidemill campaigners, spreading the word about the need to preserve the precious and irreplaceable community garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats of Reginald House, next door, and for Lewisham Council and the developer, Peabody, to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community on new plans for the Tidemill site, which includes the old Tidemill primary school as well as the garden and the flats.

Bob was very supportive, and spoke frankly about efforts within the Labour Party in Lewisham to shift the political focus away from the corporate-focused ‘regeneration’ frenzy that took place under Steve Bullock — and that we are now seeing replicated under the new Mayor Damien Egan, and his Cabinet, including the Member for Housing Paul Bell — but he acknowledged, of course, that it is an uphill struggle to change those in charge, even though the membership of the party is more solidly left-leaning than it has been for some time because of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader three years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: The Peaceful Occupation and Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford

A photo by Anita Strasser of th eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018.

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Today marks six days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which campaigners, myself included, had been occupying for two months to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council for a housing development — one that could be built elsewhere in the borough if the will existed to do so.

Throughout the occupation, and for many years before it, we have endlessly tried to impress on the council that it is unacceptable to destroy the garden, a vital community green space, and a hugely significant environmental asset, which mitigates the worst effects of pollution on nearby Deptford Church Street, which regularly reaches six times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety levels, and that it is also unacceptable to destroy Reginald House, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats next door. The council, however, has never shown any interest whatsoever in engaging with us or in listening to our demands for them to go back to the drawing board, and to come up with new plans that spare the garden and the flats.

Unusually, I haven’t published anything here on my website for five days, since I posted my immediate impressions of the eviction the day after, in an article entitled, The Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden: Lewisham Councillors Make Sure They Will Never Be Welcome in Deptford Again.

It’s fair to say, I believe, that myself and other campaigners have been struggling to cope with the fallout from Monday’s violence. We have no intentions of giving up, of course, but we’ve all been emotionally drained, so as I continue to recover I’m posting below, via YouTube, a 12-minute film of the occupation and the eviction made by the Peckham-based Rainbow Collective, which, at the time of writing, has had nearly 4,000 views on Facebook. 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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