The Point
Last updated: 19 June 2017.

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Grenfell: Courage and Grief, and the Desire for Justice

Regular Point contributor and Editorial Board member Graeme McIver visited the scene of the Grenfell tragedy today to show solidarity with the victims, their families, and the working class people of the borough and of London. This is what he found.

 

Saturday, June 17th 2017 - The acrid smell of smoke has largely dissipated - but it is still there. It catches you unawares with a sudden change of direction of the wind or when you turn a corner or pass a road end.

There are other smells too. Sweeter scents of candles and flowers.

There is a reverential hush as you walk the streets from Latimer Road Tube Station towards the Westway and the walls of remembrance that have sprung up all around.

 Everywhere there are posters of the missing. On lampposts, trees, taped to walls and shop windows. Their smiling faces staring back at you as the sun beats down on Bramley Road.

 Jessica Urbano aged 12. Mr Raymond "Moses" Bernard. Morjorie and Ernie Vital. Desperate family members and friends have covered the area in these posters. Heartfelt pleas for news. Any news.

"It's too much", says one women being comforted by friends. "It's just too much."

Messages of condolence and remembrance are everywhere. We are used to these appearing on our streets during times of tragedy. Football tops, candles and flowers. But there is something different about the messages on the streets of this part of West London. There is a rage and demand for justice.

Tory politicians and their lackeys in parts of the media have criticised the politicisation of the tragedy at Grenfell.

But the blackened tower stands as a monument to politics. And this community knows it and it won't be silenced.

"People's Lives Don't Matter Under Capitalism" screams a sign attached to the railings. "Theresa May has blood on her hands...She is Responsible."

"The Wealth of the Rich in Kensington will never match the love in Ladbroke Grove."

"The crowds will pass but we will continue to fight for justice!"

The quiet reverence of streets surrounding the tower stand in stark contrast to the anger that has erupted in other parts of this borough, areas of which are amongst the richest in the developed world.

Yesterday protesters stormed the council building demanding answers whilst protests erupted across London. There are plans for bigger demonstrations tonight and in the future. The flames in Grenfell have at last been extinguished but the burning anger in this community and others across the country is rising.

I watch as a man pins a series of demands aimed at Kensington and Chelsea Council to a wall. "Be prepared for a period of buck passing" he states. "Did they have regular checks on the subcontractors on their ability to manage and safely implement these improvements? Did they have regular meetings to discuss fire prevention, access to all floors and include the wishes of the tenants? Did they audit the suitability of the materials used carry out proper fire inspections once the work was completed? Did they endorse the advice for tenants to stay in their flats during a fire?"

These questions and many others should be put to politicians at an inquest, not a public enquiry and messages stating that are everywhere.

"Tenants die when landlords don't listen - full funding for fire safety".

"Cuts Cost Lives".

"Murderers"

If the council and the government are held in contempt then there is a genuine respect and affection for the fire fighters who risked their lives to save others in Grenfell. Years of cuts have impacted on the service but the fire fighters who attended did everything they could...and more.

A red London Fire Brigade t-shirt attached to the railings contains a message from the crews in attendance. "We did our best...", it states. Everyone here knows that to be true. 

The community response to the fire has been astounding. Notices abound thanking those who have contributed for donations and stating that local centres can no longer accept any more food or clothes as they have been overwhelmed with generosity from ordinary people in West London and beyond.

I do not seek to interview those looking at the tributes or staring at the tower. It seems crass and intrusive at this time. The mainstream media is everywhere, and you sense growing numbers are resentful to their presence.

My friend Stewart and I make our way back to the tube station and travel back towards the city on the Hammersmith line. As we pass under the tower a woman with tears and anger in her eyes looks at us both.

"I watched it burn from my own block. At first a small fire. I left to make a cup of tea and came back to the whole building ablaze...all of it. I couldn't believe it."

"I tell you, if we have to wait as long for justice as those poor people at Hillsborough then this community will go mad."

"I hear the contractor was a Tory donor. I wish the election was this week...not last. She'd be out...they'd all be out."

She leaves the train at Ladbroke Grove, too upset and unable to say any more.

But this is a community that has much more to say.

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books