Socialist Worker

Grenfell campaigners protest as inquiry questions council and housing bosses

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2748

Protesters demand justice for the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire

Protesters demand justice for the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire 


Grenfell campaigners protested outside the public inquiry into the west London tower block fire as it moved this week to question how council and housing bosses handled residents' complaints. 

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry into the June 2017 blaze, which killed 72 people, began module three of phase two. This covers the management of the tower by the building's landlords, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council and its tenant management organisation (KCTMO).

The inquiry will look at how the bodies handled residents’ concerns and upkeep of the building’s fire safety measures.

Survivors and bereaved will give evidence.

Although the inquiry is currently being held via Zoom, campaigners said the demonstration was “symbolic” to show “they won’t forget and haven’t forgotten”. Organiser Leearna told the protest, “We will never rest until we get justice.

“RBKC didn’t think about safety, only money.”

In the opening speeches of the inquiry on Monday, lawyers accused RBKC of “neglect, indifference and discrimination”. Michael Mansfield QC said the council saw the tower block as an “eyesore which required cosmetic surgery to make it more palatable to its elegant and wealthy neighbours”.

The resident’s Grenfell Action Group raised concerns about broken fire doors, power surges, faulty lifts, ventilation and lack of access for fire engines. All these factors played a part in the deadly fire.

But concerns were dismissed by councillors as “scaremongering” and people “moaning about minor issues”.

Angry 

Leearna said the next stage of the inquiry will be “tricky and emotional”. “They labelled residents as ‘troublemakers’,” she told Socialist Worker. “It shows the little regard KCTMO has for residents.

“We get angry at the protests. But it’ll be another thing when those who got out of Grenfell by the skin of their teeth have to recall and relive their experiences.”

Inquiry lawyers also raised awareness of the neglect of residents—and said 41 percent of vulnerable residents died in the fire.

Yet KCTMO passed all blame to the flammable cladding manufacturers. Its lawyer said on Monday, KCTMO “does not accept that it ever adopted a dismissive attitude toward residents or indeed toward their complaints and concerns”.

Kensington and Chelsea—a tale of two cities
Kensington and Chelsea—a tale of two cities
  Read More

Protester Pat said the council is trying to “defray liability.” “When they are up on the stand, they will have had three years of being coached by their legal team” he said. “It’s up to us to get justice.”

Leearna added that despite the horrific events “nothing has changed”. “The council says ‘we’re listening’, but they’re not. They’ve told us they know better than we do what’s best for us,” she said.

“It told KCTMO to give the building refurbishment contracts to their preferred firms without a tender process. And it still does that now.

“This is about race and class. I’m a qualified teacher but they think we’re idiots because we’re in social housing.”

Grenfell campaigners also said the fight against the Tories’ new bill is vital for justice. Organiser Moyra told the crowd, “They are silencing any protests or opposition. But look at reactions across the country—people have said ‘we’re not putting up with this’.

“It’s been four years and we have to keep taking to the streets and make our voices heard.

“We will mourn the dead, but if we want change we must fight like hell for the living. We won’t continue to be screwed over by the system”.

Moyra told Socialist Worker that the response to the bill has given those affected by the fire what they need “to come back on the streets to resist.” “There is a lack of political will to change anything”, she said. “So how do we get change?

“We’ve had an inquiry, and nothing has been done—but it’s protests that will work."


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