Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/953/25675
Anger and grief on moving Grenfell marches
I've not seen anything quite like the march for Grenfell in Kensington on 16 June.
It was led by local working class residents, some of them still trying to find out if their families were dead or alive. They stormed the council building in the capital's richest borough with concrete demands for answers and recompense. They've already won some of them.
There was a universal understanding that the establishment politicians and company bosses were behind this - that it was about profit, that it was about class. Most of the estate's residents are black or Asian.
One lad took the megaphone and spoke about how the rich were trying to divide them but they were the majority and they all knew each other in the blocks and they could not be divided so they owned the streets and they had the advantage.
They chanted "Tories out - justice in" and "the government is guilty of murder" and "bring down the government."
Passers-by and motorists were unanimous in their support. Some were crying. Marchers stopped to hold them, complete strangers.
Socialist Party placards went in seconds. One local lad, maybe eleven years old, took half of mine to help distribute. Our leaflets, hundreds of them, calling for rent strikes until the blocks are safe - all gone. We signed some people up to find out about organising tenants' associations to fight for safe homes.
The march in Westminster, happening at the same time, observed silences with clenched fists raised.
I don't often get caught up in the moment on marches. But I have to tell you this was different. The anger, the grief, the bursting pride and sense of burgeoning power. The bosses are on the back foot, and these people understood that, and they felt ready to press their advantage even in spite of their grief.
And the tower. It looked like a burnt-out cigarette. It didn't look real.
I struggled to maintain my composure several times. Justice for Grenfell.
I attended a silent march on 19 June to remember those lost in the Grenfell fire. The only sound you could hear was from the Westway - otherwise you could hear a pin drop.
It was moving and the right thing to do. The silence gave folk time to reflect and think.
Following that came the speeches from the newly formed Justice for Grenfell Campaign. They were good - to the point, and graphically highlighting how the Tories running Kensington had time and time again ignored the concerns of the folk who lived in Grenfell Tower.
Their barrister, Michael Mansfield, also spoke. He pointed out that after the Hillsborough disaster, the initial Taylor Report forced football clubs to immediately bring in safety measures under pain of not being allowed to compete in the new season, which was just weeks away.
They all complied. So when they want, the powers that be can implement swift safety measures.
The hardest part of the event was seeing folk in the daze of crippling grief, walking around holding pictures of missing family members. They were being comforted by others.
I work near that area. There is always a buzz in that community. That buzz has gone.
But after that night, I sincerely feel the community will serve its lost ones well, and play a part in starting to transform public housing for the better. We all have to do the rest.
- Steve's tower block in Vauxhall, south London, was refurbished by Rydon - the same firm which worked on Grenfell Tower. He has been organising with other residents to fight for proper fire safety checks since long before the Kensington fire
Read more - urgent action needed
- How working class communities can organise to fight for safety
- Whole establishment exposed for role in Grenfell fire
- Massive failings led to fire - rapid, fully funded action now
- Unions call for action after Grenfell
Latest on Grenfell
- After Grenfell - fight for safe homes
- Camden evacuation - residents expose risks - Blairites duck responsibility
- Grenfell fire compounded by overcrowding: build more council homes now
- Reports: organising to fight for safe homes after Grenfell
- Council union responds to Grenfell
In The Socialist 21 June 2017:
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