Grenfell Tower two years on: Huge crowd marches in silence to remember fire victims and to call for justice

‘Seeing everyone together like this is very special – it makes you want to fight more against the cladding on other buildings’

Jane Dalton
Friday 14 June 2019 23:30 BST
Survivors, the bereaved and campaigners marched in silence to remember the Grenfell victims

Babies were the only ones heard crying; the tears of the rest fell silently.

The procession of families and residents, memories of tragedy fresh again in their minds, wound its way through eerily noiseless streets closed to traffic.

The huge crowd of people of all ages and backgrounds had gathered to mark the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Young people who in other circumstances might have been too cool to join a march walked alongside parents and grandparents for the silent vigil that began and ended in the shadow of the tower in west London.

They came to show solidarity, to support and comfort one another in their grief and to fight for the right of others not to die in an inferno like that on 14 June 2017, that killed 72 people.

They were joined by Benjamin Zephaniah, the poet and playwright, and rapper Stormzy, who walked among the crowd of thousands, almost all of whom wore green and many of whom carried placards calling for justice.

Lowkey, a rapper, addressed the crowd and said the fire should be a “never-again moment”. He added that the government should more strongly regulate building firms “before we regulate you”.

Earlier, James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, and Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, had laid flowers alongside bereaved relatives at a private ceremony yards from the burnt-out building

A 72-second silence, one second representing each victim, was held before the names of the dead were read aloud.

Residents joined a multi-faith vigil and a mass to pray no such disaster would happen again.

Pastor Derrick Wilson of the Tabernacle Christian Centre said people were “anxious for justice”, as he led prayers.

Two years exactly since the fire that exposed a deep social divide at the heart of one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, they spoke again of authorities dragging their feet and of the dangers of flammable cladding.

According to new government figures, 24,800 homes in 272 buildings are still covered in highly flammable material similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. The Independent has found almost 60,000 people are still living in tower blocks with such cladding.

The blaze is still a source of anger, with many local residents accusing the authorities of racism against the largely ethnic-minority occupants of Grenfell Tower.

Stephanie Vaz, a wheelchair-user who lives close by, said she still gets panic attacks whenever the fire alarm at her home goes off.

The anniversary events, she said, were about friends and families in the area giving each other strength and support. “Just seeing everyone together like this makes you want to fight more against the dangerous cladding on other buildings,” she said.

“Coming together triggers memories – it’s something very special and it’s healing to be together.”

On Thursday, survivors and victims’ relatives beamed fire safety warnings onto high-rise blocks of flats in London, Newcastle and Manchester, claiming the buildings were wrapped in dangerous cladding, not fitted with sprinklers, and had defective fire doors.

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The bereaved and other campaigners are disappointed that publication of the inquiry‘s first report on the disaster has been delayed until October, when it had been expected by now.

The first phase of the inquiry looked at what happened on the night.

Detectives investigating the fire say they have carried out 13 interviews under caution and that they expect to conduct more.

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