Socialist Worker

Grenfell—anguish turned to fury and protest

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire thousands took to the streets to express their rage and frustration at the Tory council and government

Issue No. 2559

Thousands marched through central London, as well as Kensington and Chelsea, outraged at the Grenfell Tower fire

Thousands marched through central London, as well as Kensington and Chelsea, outraged at the Grenfell Tower fire (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A cry of rage ripped through west London last night, Friday, as people marched to demand justice for the dead of Grenfell Tower.

Some 3,000 people marched from Kensington and Chelsea town hall in west London to Latimer Road, near the tower. Some protesters stormed the town hall.

On the town hall steps people spoke to the crowds about the horrific fire they witnessed early on Wednesday morning.

One young person, crying, told the crowd, “My dad got me out. I called my friend up, I've known her my whole life. She was told to stay inside.

“This government thinks about money first, they think about rich people—they don't care about us.”

One marcher, Rydar, told Socialist Worker, “People are pissed off. They had a disabled woman on the 21st floor. The stairwell's supposed to protect people from smoke but people died there.

“How are you going to spend £10 million on refurbishing the tower but didn't install fire alarms?

“I got evacuated. They put me, my mum, dad and two sisters on the street. It's a good thing we had my nan's house to go to.”

Shameless Tory Kensington and Chelsea council won’t take any blame
Shameless Tory Kensington and Chelsea council won’t take any blame
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Another speaker told the crowd they had to keep fighting for justice. “We didn't just sit down and shut up—we’re going to do something about it”.

Cries of “Theresa May—got to go!” rang out at the town hall protest. May's leadership is looking increasingly shaky.

Earlier that day May went to a church close to the scene of the fire to meet residents and victims.

But she had to hide behind lines of police as a crowd of angry local residents heckled and shouted at her.

One man told the police, “She shouldn't have come. What did she expect was going to happen?

He added, “What did she bring, what useful things did she bring? The tower block is more strong and stable than her government.”

The mood on the march from the town hall was furious. One marcher said, “What happened here is not just a tragedy—it’s a crime.”

May has announced that £5 million will be set aside to compensate victims. But people said that's nowhere near enough.

“That's nothing,” one marcher told Socialist Worker.  “If you consider there were 600 people living in that block. That works out at £10,000 each. You need to be paying £125 million. At least.”

There was a furious mood on the protest in Kensington and Chelsea

There was a furious mood on the protest in Kensington and Chelsea (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The march in west London was later joined by some of the 2,000 people who had begun marching earlier that day from outside the home office in central London.

They marched on Downing Street before blocking the road at Oxford Circus, then into west London.

Jahrain Lamb from nearby an estate close to Grenfell came with her six year old. She told Socialist Worker, “Every one of us has been ignored—it’s because of where we are in terms of class.

“We’ve had enough. We want justice for everyone killed”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) blamed “years of deregulation, outsourcing and privatisation” for the fire.

He said the FBU would put its expertise to use and "work hand in hand with the residents of Grenfell”.

“We are not going to let this rest,” he said.

Moyra Samuels, a local resident and activist who lives close to Grenfell Tower was one of the organisers of the central London protest. She told marchers, “We are sick of the inequality we face in north Kensington.

“There will be lots of campaigns and lots of demonstrations following Grenfell. I suspect there are lots of potential Grenfells right across the country.”

She demanded that residents should not be forced out of the area, and that the people to blame for the poor protections in the tower are “held culpable”.

Murderous contempt for poor   people’s lives goes to the top
Murderous contempt for poor people’s lives goes to the top
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“We will not have any whitewashing of what happened at Grenfell. We demand an inquest,” she said.

Many people on the central London march were black, working class people from west London. They were worried for their own flats—but were also furious about the wider issues that Grenfell has raised. And they were determined that they would be heard.

Amber who lives around the corner from Grenfell Tower said, “I live on an estate they've been trying to 'regenerate' for ages—really they just don't want us in the area.”

Addy from west London said, “Its utterly disgusting what they've done to us.

“They don't give a shit about the poor, they don't give a shit about Muslims, they don't give a shit about refugees. If you're working class you can burn."

Some 200 joined a vigil on Monday evening, while 500 more marched in west London on the same day.

Some journalists and politicians will denounce marches and militant campaigning.

They don’t want victims to be angry and on the streets. They prefer victims to be “dignified” and quiet–because that way it’s easier to ignore them.

Grenfell was a crime against the working class, a murder. There must be arrests, trials and jailings for the politicians and bosses responsible. The whole working class movement must demand justice for Grenfell—and organise to drive May out.


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