Matthew Steeples reports on the strength of feelings shown at the Kensington Town Hall demonstrations and suggests tension will only rise unless figures in authority communicate
Yesterday, over 350 people gathered outside Kensington Town Hall to voice their frustration at the council’s failure to communicate with them in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy on Wednesday 14th June.
Organised by Mustafa al-Mansur – whose sensible speech focused on requesting rehousing for victims, a release of funds to help victims, calls for a public inquiry, the release of a full list of victims and a request for an investigation into safety in all similar buildings in the borough – this was a meeting that reflected the ethnic mix of the tower itself. Mr al-Mansur spoke to the assembled media about how a family friend had died on the 23rd floor of the building and repeatedly called for calm amongst those present.
Alongside working class white mothers stood young Moroccan students; old ladies and local businessmen joined them and pop singer Lily Allen, “rather predictably” several present told me, put in an appearance also. Press representatives asked questions and though a number of placard carrying individuals chanted loudly, this was nothing but a group of people sharing a moment of intense grief.
Later, in spite of Mr al-Mansur sharing perfectly reasoned comments on what was an essentially peaceful protest on Facebook (available in full below), The Telegraph bizarrely opted to portray him as “a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting political activist who was once arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences”. Though they also reported that he had later been released without charge, their angle did not reflect the man I saw present. Here, instead, was an individual rightly seeking answers simply because he felt the authorities were failing to communicate with those they are meant to serve. Mustafa al-Mansur should have been saluted instead of vilified.
Pictured above: A child holding a #JusticeForGrenfell poster alongside Mustafa al-Mansur.
Comments from Mustafa al-Mansur (shared on his Facebook page, Friday 16th June 2017:
In support of the victims of Grenfell tower, over a thousand people turned up at the peaceful protest outside Kensington Town Hall today at 3pm.
The people had 5 clear demands from the council, including:
Formal commitment from the council to re-house the victims of the tragedy, within the borough.
Set up an independent public inquest to identify the criminals behind the gross negligence that lead to the tragedy and bringing them to justice.
No one from the council was available to comment, but the Head of communications, Martin Fitzpatrick, handed me a piece of paper with the council’s formal response.
The protesters are not satisfied with the response and demanded that the council sends someone down with straight answers to the demands.
The protest was all peaceful and there was NO raid of the council building as claimed by some media outlets (with the Telegraph leading the lies).
Some protesters went into the reception area of the great hall and were chanting “we want justice”, “justice for Grenfell residents” without any aggression or violence, until 20+ police officers in high visibility jackets actually stormed into the foyer and tried to create a barricade between the protesters outside the building and those inside the building but ended up pushing and shoving people around. This lead to some verbal exchange between the police and a few members of the public and a few scuffles broke out as a consequence.
Other police officers arrived on horseback and we even had a helicopter circling the building from above. Some demanded to know where the helicopters were when the poor residents of Grenfell Tower were being incinerated in the fire!
Then these police pushed people out of the building and disappeared. There was no violence, no raiding of the building by the public and pictures published by the Daily Mail are doctored to portray the public in a negative light.
Some media outlets are a shame and embarrassment to our democracy, what can one say!
Otherwise the event was overall very well covered and the people will continue to protest and demand their rights until they are met.
It is time we started the end the gross discrimination against the poor and disadvantaged in our country. It is time we all stood together and not let ourselves be divided by the politics of fear.
Our love and our solidarity is our strength.