- Created: Friday, 26 January 2018 14:28
- Written by London Branches
Fortress democracy: all residents are searched on the way into council meetings
Report on RBKC council meeting, 24 Jan 2018
24 Jan 2018 - West London RCG and supporters attended the latest full council meeting at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) town hall, where the Council was due to give an update on its response to the Grenfell fire. Over previous months RCG members have collected 1,500 signatures from the people of Kensington, demanding for survivors to be re-housed immediately, for criminal charges to immediately be brought against those responsible, and for a People’s Inquiry led by the local community. We came to the council meeting to submit the petition on behalf of the many who signed it.
Maintaining and building protest at these meetings remains crucial. According to the North Kensington Law Centre, more than seven months after the fire, only 54 households made homeless now have permanent accommodation, and 98 households are still in emergency accommodation. This is despite the famous pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May that they would be rehoused within three weeks.
Together with community activists from the ‘Wall of Truth’ near Grenfell Tower, we held a public speak out outside the Town Hall before and during the meeting. We attempted to enter the meeting with the petition, passing through steel barricades, bag checks, metal detectors and body searches. As with every Council meeting since the fire, the Town Hall resembled a fortress rather than a space for democracy. This is a clear sign of a Council out of touch with the local community and scared of dissent.
At first, the Council’s security guards refused to let the petition into the meeting, claiming that all petitions must be approved through their communications team. Despite this attempt to control democratic expression, our comrades would not take no for an answer, and entered the meeting to openly challenge the Councillors and Mayor over their refusal to recognise the petition. The politicians relented and allowed the petition into the meeting. Its radical demands were read out, to applause from the public gallery.
Inside the council chamber the atmosphere of complacency was palpable, as the Councillors made excuses and rambled about why it has been impossible until now, to find suitable properties to re-house the survivors. Even now, Deputy Council leader Kim Taylor Smith admitted that many of the properties that have been found are smaller than the Grenfell flats, to heckles from the public gallery of ‘How big is your house?’.
In a brief period of permitted public contributions, one mother took the platform to tell her story. She has run out of her allotted time staying in a hotel, but on going to meet the council to find out where she will be moving to, was turned away because officials at the council hadn't remembered or bothered to sign the relevant forms. This is not an isolated incident.
Local residents will not be fobbed off. The council is scared of even the slightest dissent. Let’s seize this moment and keep the pressure up until every survivor is re-housed and until there is justice for the Grenfell residents!
Join us for these upcoming events:
Public meeting: Grenfell and the fight for social housing
A public meeting discussing the Grenfell tragedy and how we can organise together on these issues.
Join us in solidarity with the Silent Walk
Wednesday 14 February, meeting at 6.30pm at RBKC town hall
Please support the Grenfell survivor’s petition: