Horsham Solidarity Silent Walk – 14th July 2018

All across the country on the 14th of every month communities are organising walks to pay respect to those who died in the Grenfell fire and also raise awareness of the campaign for justice for their families and those who have been displaced as a result of this tragedy, many of whom still remain without a permanent home.

In response to the call for communities to join in solidarity with the Grenfell community, Horsham held its first silent walk on Saturday 14th July. The objective of these walks is to maintain a focus on Grenfell to ensure that those responsible are brought to account and those effected are appropriately compensated and receive justice as soon as possible.

Walkers processed silently from the Friends Meeting House through the town centre to Horsham’s council offices where in his supporting speech, David Hide, Chair of Horsham Labour Party, highlighted the need for those in power to always fully address their responsibilities to those to whom they owe duty of care.

Commenting afterwards David Hide said,

“We hope to organise a monthly event until such point the review delivers a satisfactory outcome for the Grenfell community. We would like to build this into a silent walk supported by all communities within Horsham. The next silent walk is planned for Tuesday 14th August at 7pm meeting outside the Friends Meeting House, all groups and individuals who share the objective of delivering justice for grenfell are welcome.”

‘The Two Steps to Justice’ by J4G Guest Writer David Lammy MP

David Lammy MP is the Labour MP for Tottenham.

Securing justice for the catastrophic Grenfell fire has two key components. First, those responsible for the gross corporate negligence and manslaughter need to be identified, arrested and sentenced. Second, the government needs to take steps to ensure that no tower block fire on the tragic scale of Grenfell is repeated. Over recent days, we have had progress on both of these counts, but over a year since 14th June 2017, full justice remains a long way off.

The Met Police has revealed that the Grenfell fire investigation has now moved onto a new phase. People will be interviewed under caution, as detectives consider who is responsible for “gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety Act.” I see it as vital for the victims and for faith in the police that the individuals responsible are punished, as opposed to limiting retribution to fines for corporations. It is understandable that the police take their time to untangle the thousands of pages of evidence, but the perpetrators must be brought to justice as soon as possible.

On the second aspect of justice for Grenfell, the government is right to ban flammable cladding on new high-rises. However, this does not go nearly far enough. Why should residents in existing buildings, with similarly dangerous cladding, be expected to live under the spectre of fear? How are they expected to sleep at night?  The construction industry needs to be forced to wake up after Grenfell. A new era of construction, which prioritises fire safety, is vital, unless this industry wants even more blood on its hands.

By David Lammy MP For Tottenham

J4G’s Questions To The Inquiry

This week, at the Inquiry, we heard further evidence from fire fighters who attended Grenfell Tower on 14th June 2017 and also evidence from Jo Smith, Senior Operations Manager, who attended the Control Centre after 2.00am on the night and on hearing the emergency calls from residents, indicated to the call handlers to tell residents to ‘leave the building’.

An apparent emerging theme this week was the inadequacy of communication methods and equipment available to our emergency services.

Additionally, this week, bereaved families have complained about the cramped conditions, with little sunlight at Holborn Bars. Again, paramedics had to attend to treat someone who fainted.

J4G questions to the Inquiry this week:

  • Why in 21stCentury Britain do we have an emergency service still reliant on outdated radio equipment?
  • Is it an indictment on government that our Fire Service had to rely on white boards, pens and ‘scraps’ of paper to record and communicate where residents were and what the conditions were in the Tower?
  • Why don’t our fire service have mobile phones that can record dialogue and be linked to an electronic recording system?
  • Should the Fire Service’s training budget be increased immediately?
  • Have the firefighters and officers who have given evidence so far; received adequate counselling for PSTD and trauma?
  • Is the Venue at Holborn Bars suitable for the Inquiry hearings?

‘The Grenfell Inquiry needs to reflect it’s diversity’ By Guest Writer Kate Osamor MP

The community living in Grenfell tower was representative of London in it’s wonderful diversity. Like many, I have been moved by the stories of people from all over the world who had made London their home and gave this city their hard work, love and solidarity. I, too, have been shocked by this devastating fire and the loss of so many lives, but I have also been amazed by the extraordinary spirit of community and togetherness that came out of it.

When marching with survivors on the anniversary of the fire on the 14th of June this year, some of whom lost friends or family members, I felt nothing but utter admiration for the courage and solidarity they showed.

The very least I expected from the Government after this tragedy, was for them to ensure that those who lost their homes were rehoused, that tower block residents across the country would be safe, and that the survivors and bereaved families could have full confidence in the ongoing public inquiry.

Over a year after the tragedy, only 39% of households have been rehoused permanently and the same cladding is still used in 470 high-rise blocks across the country, turning a tragedy into an outright scandal.

An Inquiry has finally been called, the first part of which started at the beginning of June. After strong public pressure and a hard-fought campaign by survivors and bereaved families, the Prime Minister agreed that a panel of experts with decision-making powers should be appointed to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick. It was a very obvious requirement and I wish that families who had lost a loved one would have been left to grieve instead of being made to fight for fairness.

I have since been approached by members of the Grenfell community and they have one more request. They want assurances that they will all be heard, no matter where they come from or if they have the right papers. They want to be consulted about an event that changed their lives forever. They want justice.

By Kate Osamor MP – Kate Osamor is the MP for Edmonton and the Shadow Secretary of State for International Develeopment.

‘Let’s not forget the control workers’ By Guest Writer Lucy Masoud

As the Grenfell Inquiry enters it’s second month, each day and with every witness, we understand more the full extent of what actually took place on June 14th 2017. We have seen firefighters breakdown in tears as they describe the impossible situation they were in and the unimaginable sights they witnessed.

We are, of course, all united in our support and admiration for the brave men and woman firefighters who entered the Grenfell Tower  that night in order to save lives. But let us never forget the work of the control workers who took the emergency calls on that evening, and who although not physically present, nevertheless experienced the horrors of that night in the same way as the firefighters.

This week the first of the control workers to give evidence at the inquiry has taken the stand. As with previous witnesses, they will no doubt conduct themselves with dignity and pride. Many of the control workers on the night of Grenfell took multiple calls and would have heard unimaginable and extremely harrowing calls.

Lets hope the control workers receive the same respect and admiration shown to them as the firefighters have so far.

By Lucy Masoud – London Fire Brigade’s Union Treasurer & Head of FBU Discipline

‘Everywhere I Look’ by Mrs Murray

Mrs Murray was a resident of Grenfell Tower. Thankfully, she and her family made it out in the early hours of that morning. Mrs Murray has written a powerful poem, and she’d like for us to share it with  you.

Everywhere I look
They can’t hold us down when we stand together,
we march in silence no matter the weather,
no matter the season,
We stand United,
together for a reason.

No, we’re not savage and no, we won’t scrap.
We’re smart,
you know we already know the hap,
The 411;
what’s going on.

You want us to act out dumb
so you can paparazzi that and show us to be wrong.
Try escape your fate, try deny us justice.
Do you really think we’re gonna have this?
Do you think that’s gonna fly?
Do you really think we’re gonna give u a bly?

When we gather in respect on these roads
that are scarred and coated by the dust of the bones.
The ones we lost, you could never replace,
you can see it from the mourned out looks on our face.
On our faces.
Different skin tones, all different types
but all of us, the human race.

How many of us have you left displaced?
Diaspora in our own land,
feeling like an outsider with my own brand,
Survivor chic donations old and new;
we are grateful for those who rode through.
The ones who still stand, forever we thank you.
We bear our scars inside and out,
Thank God from us who made it out.

‘Survive and rise’ is what is going on,
and if you try stop it, we will remain together strong.
We march together, in respectful silence.
Justice our quest,
And until it is delivered, none of us shall rest.
None of us shall play,
none of us will ever just get on with our day.
Forever changed from that day forward in solace,
as we are taunted by the memory,
we see the event on replay.
Behind our eyes, inside our minds.
Sometimes there’s a reprieve for a sec when I
see my kids play.

But then it rushes back and its back to that day.
Back to the start.
Back to hearing every beat of my heart.
Back to the stairs,
back to the fear,
my heart and feet pounding in my ears.
Pulsating adrenaline giving me strength
to carry my child and run with my fear.
Run for my life.
Run down the stairs.
Cant find the right door.
Can’t escape.
How can I see myself outside of myself
feeling so helpless this way.
Follow my husband.
He leads the way.
Those flashing lights.

The fire brigade are here,
I think it’s gonna be alright.
How horrific it seems,
how horrific it was,
that day terrorises my every thought,
my every day is blighted since that fire ignited
and consumed my home,
our homes, their homes.
Yet some of them lie,
some of them pretend and like to say
that this happened to them but it didn’t happen that way.

We are not the same.
I am not the same,
In myself I have changed.
I look for escapes inside every building,
literally every room.
Sometimes with my kids we pretend it’s a game
but it’s my way to keep us safe after this.
How can I not, after this happened to us,
not them I see.

It was my house,
wrapped in that plastic cladding like Lego
I see. I survived. I see.
Our lives are precious and priceless at least,
how can you justify a saving of 2 pounds
per square feet?
I guess we will see.
Well that’s what I’m told.
When the inquiry is ongoing,
life changed from when the fire started,
my life feels on hold.

Justice, I hear.
Justice, I seek.
Please don’t overlook or forget about those
who still breathe.
Caught up in the mele,
caught up in the scrum,
feels like they’re making me beg for a scrap or a crumb.
What did we do that warrants this behaviour?
I cannot breathe,
I am numb.

Not all have been housed,
some still in emergency accommodation,
AKA stage 1.
I’m in need of readjusting to community,
I’m in need of a place, in need of a house,
of some personal space,
some space of my own,
some respite,
a place to call home.
In need of some answers,
not just for the community from St Helens to St Francis,
but for those of us who survived this.

The reports seem like we’re settled,
I long for this to be true.
Do you know how this feels?
Has this happened to you?
Has this shredded your life?
Disassembled your mind?
Can you say that your trauma is like mine?
Can you imagine the sights?
The worst horror movie will never prepare
your eyes from seeing what was actually there.
But “return to work and pay bills and get on with life”,
What about the struggles, the scars the strife?

Can you imagine the firefighters now with PTSD?
This was their work,
they were prepared and yet still witnessed the worst.
How does someone cope with these facts?
These images that are forever embossed.
Whether or not I like it, my attention is engrossed.
Whisked back to the start
to the door knock, to the first.
Around we go in a loop I hope is not eternal.

Everywhere I look, I see that towering inferno.

Guest Writer Claire O’Shea writes about why she organised the Thanet Solidarity Events

On the 14th April 2018, I arranged Thanet’s first march in solidarity with the J4G team when I saw that Manchester had done the first. I wanted to be able to find a way to help and to continue the movement for justice but I didn’t know how so arranging a silent march allowed Thanet to be part of that support network.

I have to be honest, I didn’t realise how much it would affect me and pull me in as much as it did and still has today, you see I didn’t live in the area,  I didn’t know any of the victims or the community but I knew that if surrounding communities pulled together to show their support it would help to make a difference or at least help in some way.

Arranging the march meant I spent a lot of time making up banners, posters and leaflets to promote the march and try and get as many involved as I could. This meant a lot of time was spend looking at the photo’s of the victims and this is when it hit home. I had seen their faces so much that  I began to feel like I knew them. I cried a lot. For the victims, for their families and for what everyone was going through after. I lost a parent at a young age so I knew what it felt like to lose a loved one and this killed me inside because there were so many that lost families and friends.

As a mum of two and looking at the photos of those precious children that lost there lives my sadness quickly turned to anger and I thought right I’m going to do what I can to help, however small.

The first march was very moving. I didn’t get the turn out I was hoping for as I’d pretty much covered Thanet in Posters advertising the march but the ones that turned up still continue to supports Thanet with J4G and that support group is growing.

I learned from the first march that It wasn’t enough to do it on my own and I wanted the year anniversary of Grenfell to be a special event so I teamed up with local groups in Thanet that tackled racism and injustice. This wider network meant we were able to reach a much wider audience and the year anniversary event which we held on Ramsgate beach had a great turnout of over 70 people. I say a great turn out because to me the more people that turned up meant more people cared and were willing to do what they could help fight for justice as well.

We had  Andy Akinwolere an ex-presenter of Blue Peter say what it meant to him, we arranged for a local choir to sing some songs and the event was a  very moving tribute to the victims.

For me personally, some might wonder why I’m bothering to play as much of a part in the movement for justice now a year on, and to be totally honest it’s because I care. It’s with me now and I can’t turn my back on it. I feel I have a responsibly to those victims that I never met but feel in my heart like I have. My children aged 4 and 5 are aware to an extent of what happened and I also owe it to them to try and show what people sticking together means and what justice can come from it.

That tragedy shouldn’t have happened, those lives shouldn’t have been lost and the community shouldn’t have to feel that sadness for the rest of their lives. By communities getting involved in whatever way is needed will make sure that the Grenfell community know that we have their back and we’re here to help because we care.

By Claire O’Shea

What questions SHOULD the Inquiry have asked this week? By Justice4Grenfell

Phase 1 of the Inquiry continues with Part 4 – The Outbreak of the Fire

Interviews this week included Firefighter Michael Dowden – the Watch Manager  who took the ‘stand’ for 3 days;  Crew Manager, Charles Batterbee who was first to respond to the fire along with  Firefighter Daniel Brown and Firefighter David Badillo, who have also given evidence.

The Culture of the Inquiry this week seems to be focussing on junior ranking staff, questioning them like suspects and questioning their competence to do their job.

Inquiry lead Counsel Richard Millet QC  asked the firefighters many questions. Most of the questions he posed opened with the phrase ‘Do you think …….?’

Here are some questions that J4G think that Counsel should have been asked:
  • Do you think that cuts to the fire service played a role in the response to the fire at Grenfell Tower?
  • Do you think that removing the responsibility of fire safety checks from firefighters contributed to the fire?
  • Do you think that not having a fire engine with a long enough hose or ladder in central London hindered the response to the fire?
  • Do you think that the governmental failure to implement the recommendations from the Lakanal House investigation contributed to the fire?
  • Do you think there is anything that needs to be changed immediately on fire safety that could have made a difference if they were in place on the night?
  • Do you think it should be those who made the policies, deregulation changes and cost cutting schemes sitting here and answering these questions?
  • Do you think there should be an outright ban on flammable cladding?
  • Do you think I should question you in a more respectful way?