Socialist Worker

Shouts of 'murderers' from Grenfell survivors as council leader elected

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2563

Demonstrating outside the council meeting

Demonstrating outside the council meeting (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, treated with contempt by Kensington and Chelsea council for over a month, had a chance to speak last night, Wednesday. They did not hold back.

It was the council’s first full meeting since the fire.

The mood inside the meeting was furious—boos and shouts of “shame on you” and "murderers" rang out from the chamber as Elizabeth Campbell was formally elected new council leader after being nominated by the Conservative group. 

Campbell is notorious for saying that she has never been inside a high-rise council block in her own borough.

Mahboubeh Jamalvatan, a resident of the third floor of the tower, held up the key to her flat as she addressed councillors in Farsi through an interpreter.

“I beg you, do not play games with us. I beg you, do not tell us lies. I beg you, do not waste our time,” she said.

A public gallery packed with former Grenfell Tower residents and an over-spill room containing at least 150 community members and volunteers were present in addition to the full council.

In a particularly traumatic moment, survivors had to shout and complain when they discovered that a fire escape had been locked.

The Grenfell Action Group wrote to the council in 2010 to oppose plans to build a school next to the tower in a space where emergency vehicles could have parked.

“We said if you build this building you’ll be putting people’s lives at risk,” said Edward Daffran from the group, addressing the assembled councillors. “You ignored us. We were all nearly burned to death in 2013.”

Edward described how “councillor Faulkes accused me of trying to make political capital out of the fire” on the morning after it happened.

The families of the deceased “are being treated like cattle”, a woman said

Campbell used her first speech as council leader to promise that “things will change” and that “this is a new leadership team”.

But she was a part of the cabinet when many of the decisions that led to Grenfell were taken. And she presided over vicious cuts to local services in her previous role.

One speaker from the floor described how she had sent a letter to Campbell to “address this role with humility and humanity. You have yet to dignify my letter with a response.”

Another speaker described how he, his wife and three children are sharing a one bedroom hotel room. “We have one double bed between all five of us,” he said.

“I was forgotten about,” he explained.

The main problem residents were facing was a lack of action, he said.

“You know who has done something for us?”, he asked. “The residents of north Kensington. Our community. Our neighbours.”

The families of the deceased “are being treated like cattle”, a woman said as she took the microphone.

Justice

Outside the town hall some 500 people gathered to add their voices to those of the survivors inside.

Moyra Samuels from the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign said, “There’s no longer any trust. Their time’s up. We’re going to have to keep fighting for justice.”

Survivors of the fire and trade unionists also spoke at the rally. “They saw the real estate and didn’t see the future,” said community worker Daniel. “All of their calculations added up to Grenfell Tower.”

Grenfell fire victims take their rage to top cops and council
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Local residents came on the protest. Kelvin told Socialist Worker, “If they build luxury blocks on the site of Grenfell people will rise up. We’ve been ignored for long enough as it is.

“There needs to be a basic level of respect for survivors.”

Inside the meeting petitions were delivered calling for a vote for residents over redevelopment projects and a call on the council leadership to stand down.

The contributions from survivors lifted the lid on the raw anger and emotion the council wants to keep behind closed doors. One speaker said, “There’s a little girl that has been orphaned by your system, your greed.”

Many others have been murdered too. The fight for justice for all of them and for the survivors is just starting.

 


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