Socialist Worker

Sorrow and anger on the streets of North Kensington one year on from Grenfell

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2609

A silent march for Grenfell on Thursday attracted thousands of people

A silent march for Grenfell on Thursday attracted thousands of people (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The mood was sombre in North Kensington on Thursday as people remembered those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Over 5,000 people marched in silence along the now-familiar route, beginning at the Maxilla Social Club.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent-Coad joined the protest.

Memorial services ran throughout the day, with people speaking from a makeshift stage set up underneath the Westway motorway.

“As I look at the tower it brings back memories of that night,” said one local resident. “As a mother of two children it breaks my heart to think of the anguish of families that have been separated.”

The area surrounding the tower was covered in green on Thursday as a symbol of commemoration. Under all the sorrow lies a deep anger – and it’s easy to see why.

On Wednesday at prime minister’s questions Theresa May said, “Let me again reassure the House that we are doing everything that we can to see that the survivors of Grenfell get the homes and support that they need and the truth and justice that they deserve.”

That is not true. The Tories could rehouse everyone tomorrow if they wanted. Instead they drag their feet.

Jeremy Corbyn on the silent march on Thursday

Jeremy Corbyn on the silent march on Thursday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


And the consequences of their inaction stretch far beyond people’s immediate housing needs.

The manager of the Grenfell health and wellbeing adults service Ross O’Brien said the community is still in a “crisis period”. He said delays in rehousing people have added to that.

The Tories have deliberately confused the issue. Some 203 households need to be rehoused. Housing minister James Brokenshire has said 198 have “accepted offers” of either permanent or temporary housing. Of these, 134 households have actually moved in, and a large proportion of these are still only temporary.

This is creating more mental health problems.

Solidarity

The anger is not just restricted to the immediate area. There were over ten solidarity events in towns and cities across Britain on Thursday alone. More are planned for this Saturday, including one starting at 12 noon at Downing Street in central London.

Moyra Samuels from Justice4Grenfell is one of the organisers of Saturday’s protest. “Today we mourn and honour those who died in the fire,” she told Socialist Worker. “The bereaved have had to struggle and fight over the last year.

“We’ll all take that fight to Downing Street on Saturday with solidarity from trade unions, housing campaign groups and other people concerned about housing and safety.”

Firefighters joined the silent march for Grenfell

Firefighters joined the silent march for Grenfell (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Across Britain people understand that what happened at Grenfell Tower could have happened anywhere, and still could happen.

Annie came to Wednesday’s protest from Harwich. “This is the first time I’ve come down to one of the silent walks,” she told Socialist Worker. “On the night of the fire a year ago, it was hard to take it in.

“But when I think of the people who died it’s traumatic. I live in a housing association tower block and some of the flats have wooden wall panels and floors. We’ve complained about safety but nothing’s been done yet.”

In Glasgow some 50 people attended a solidarity event, including firefighters in the FBU union. In Leeds 150 people attended a solidarity event.

If any more reasons were needed to be furious about the legacy of Grenfell, here’s one more. Notting Hill Housing (NHH) association boss Kate Davies held the launch of her new book on Thursday. NHH tenants died in the fire. The title of Davies’ new book is Making Life More Beautiful.

And two residential blocks caught fire earlier on Thursday, one in Glasgow and one in Lewisham, south London. In Lewisham some 180 people had to flee the fire, which broke out in a block on Elmira Street.

A sprinkler system stopped the fire from spreading. The Tories have blocked retrofitting of sprinkler systems in blocks despite repeated warnings that this would save lives.

The turnouts on the events and protests this week show that wide layers of people are determined to fight for truth and justice over Grenfell. They will need to keep up the pressure to get it.


York and Edinburgh silent protests highlight class contempt

Around 60 people attended a silent march in York on the year anniversary of Grenfell. Fasil Damash, BAME officer for Momentum, spoke of the authorities’ “lack of respect for communities and for basic human rights”.

Jane Carter from York Stand up to Racism said, “Grenfell residents had cladding so they looked prettier for the posh residents across the road”. Rachael Maskell MP said, “If the prime minister cared she would have acted.”

She added, “Some people belong to a class where they believe they have a right to do what they want and ignore the voices of ordinary people.”

Julie Forgan


Some 200 people assembled at Edinburgh’s Mound over the Grenfell atrocity on Thursday. After a silent vigil there were powerful speeches from housing campaigners, politicians and a Kensington resident.

A speaker from the FBU union denounced the press witchhunt designed to distract from cuts in firefighter numbers, deregulation and austerity. The biggest applause was for those who pointed to the indifference of the Tories and the rich to working class and black people.

Donny Gluckstein


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.