Hundreds of people came from all over Britain to offer solidarity to the victims of the fire that ripped through Grenfell Tower in west London in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
They came to offer solidarity and to demand answers.
The official death toll has risen to 17. It is likely to rise to many people. One person Socialist Worker spoke to at the scene reported a conversation with a firefighter who said they had personally seen some 30 bodies.
In Ladbroke Grove on Wednesday night people were torn between bringing solidarity and raging against the negligence that led to the disaster.
“People are still in shock, they haven’t had time to think yet,” Edison told Socialist Worker. He was volunteering at the Latymer Christian Centre, around the corner from Grenfell Tower.
“I live just down the road, I came to donate clothes and water. They asked me to stay and help so I did.
“The people who refurbished the block are going to have to face justice.”
In a radio interview this morning, Thursday, David Lammy MP said the disaster was “corporate manslaughter”.
Many residents in the local area point the finger at the council and the leaders of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), responsible for social housing in the borough.
Daniel is a community worker from the area. He told Socialist Worker, “All of these deaths were preventable. This is either gross negligence, at the very least, or corporate manslaughter.”
“But the council and KCTMO should be considered as murderers—mass murderers that thought they could play a game with people’s lives and they lost. But it wasn’t them that lost—it’s the people that are dead.”
In one of his few media appearances, on Channel 4 news, Kensington and Chelsea council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown ducked questions about re-housing the survivors.
Disgracefully, he tried to skirt questions rather than take responsibility. One person heckled, “Have you got blood on your hands, Paget-Brown?”
Local activist Niles Hailstone told Socialist Worker, “Our lives are expendable to the people in power. Poor people are the ones that lost their lives—we always take the brunt.
“Serious questions need to be asked of people in KCTMO and the council.”
The council and the KCTMO have been conspicuously absent from the scene. Local people have been left to organise the relief efforts themselves.
Some people made homeless or evacuated during the fire are still sleeping in sports halls or shabby hotels.
One local activist told Socialist Worker they were ordered by KCTMO to take down a social media post advertising spare beds at a nearby venue.
But there are plenty of posh empty flats in the area—and plenty of fancy hotels in the borough. Why aren’t the Grenfell residents being housed in any of these?
Niles told Socialist Worker that so much aid was coming in that the original three sites couldn’t cope.
“We’re over capacity—we opened up this space to bring stuff in, there’s too much stuff.” Within an hour the warehouse was full of food, clothing and toiletries.
Socialist Worker spoke to people from as far away as Cardiff and Leicester who had travelled down to deliver supplies and offer help.
Iftar Haris was part of a group that came from Cardiff. “We see all people coming together—Sikhs, Muslims, Christians atheists,” he told Socialist Worker. “People care about each other, that’s what I’ve seen today.”
What else we’ve seen is the wall of silence from Kensington and Chelsea council and the KCTMO.
And the outpouring of grief, solidarity and rage from ordinary people stands in stark contrast to the silence of those responsible.