Grenfell Tower: Hundreds of marchers take to streets of London in tribute to victims

Organiser says the aim was to 'show the powers that be that we are not going anywhere at all, this will continue to grow, we will continue to unite'

Ryan Butcher@ryanjohnbutcher
Thursday 15 February 2018 02:13
Grenfell silent march makes its way through Kensington

Hundreds marched silently through the rainy streets of London in tribute to those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire eight months ago.

Local residents have been coming together on the 14th of every month for silent marches towards the tower ever since 71 people died in the tragedy in West London last June.

February's incarnation began at around 6.15pm and originated outside Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council buildings.

Marchers, many of whom carried signs declaring "justice for Grenfell" and "we demand the truth", said they make the journey each month to "raise awareness of the neglect and disrespect for tenants across the country".

Emergency services say the fire – which injured more than 70 residents on top of those who lost their lives – originated accidentally in a fridge-freezer on the fourth floor of the tower block.

But the rapid growth of the blaze is thought to have been accelerated by the building's cladding system, which reports saw was never subjected to proper fire safety testing.

It has previously been revealed that cost-cutting measures resulted in a cheaper but more flammable exterior cladding being installed on the tower in order to save £293,000 on the total £9.2m refurbishment of Grenfell, which was completed in 2016.

Among the marchers were survivors, friends and loved ones of those who have died, and supporters – which tonight included Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad and Labour MP for Lincoln Karen Lee.

Firefighters also turned out tonight and lined the route of the march to show solidarity with the residents of Grenfell.

Zeyad Cred, who organises the monthly marches, said the aim was to "show the powers that be that we are not going anywhere at all, this will continue to grow, we will continue to unite".

"The council has neglected not just Grenfell survivors but the entire community, never as much as in the last eight months, so it's more a show of unity, that we're not going anywhere and will remain dignified and growing in numbers," he said.

"If Grenfell has affected anybody in any way or form, we ask you to come stand with us."

Mr Cred also extended an invitation for members of the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council to join future silent marches.

"We have MPs who walk with us, we have musicians who walk with us, but during the walk itself everybody's kind of neutralised, no one's more significant than the other, everyone's at an equal level," he said.

"So if there were representatives of the council who felt that they would join and walk alongside, by all means. We would never stop anyone from joining us, as long as they're joining in peace and unity."

Hip-hop artist Lowkey, who also attended February's march, told Novara Media that the local community had a history of turning tragedy into triumph.

He added: "[There] was the four day riot, which took place on the road directly overlooked by Grenfell Tower, in which houses of Caribbean people were targeted and even fire bombed at the behest of Oswald Mosley at that time.

"Also, a year later, there was the murder of Kelso Cochrane, a racist murder for which nobody was ever arrested or held accountable. From that the community turned the street into a massive carnival, an assertion of Afro-Caribbean presence within this city, that was the Notting Hill Carnival.

"So what this means to this area is the catalyst for further activity, for further collectivising of resources and of people power."

Last month it was reported that dangerous cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower had been removed from only a fraction of the tower blocks deemed unsafe following the disaster.

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed in January that while 299 of the 312 buildings tested in recent months, only 26 have had the dangerous cladding fully removed, and just three have had replacement panels installed.

It also said at the time that work was underway to remove the hazardous cladding on a further 31 buildings, while nine of the 26 to have already had the materials removed were in the process of having new panels installed.

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