Sun, Jun 18, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Protesters march on town hall for Grenfell justice

‘WE NEED ANSWERS’:May was booed as she offered a £5 million cash fund for the residents, while the queen and the Duke of Cambridge were met with applause

The Guardian

Demonstrators hold up banners on Friday during a march in Westminster, following the fire that destroyed the Grenfell Tower block in north Kensington, West London.

Photo: Reuters

Hundreds of protesters angry at the British government’s handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster descended on the offices of Kensington Town Hall in London, while others shouted at the British prime minister as she met residents for the first time near the scene of the tragedy.

More demonstrators marched in central London through Whitehall toward Downing Street and then on to Broadcasting House off Oxford Street. The crowd later moved toward Kensington High Street, chanting: “No justice, no peace.”

“We are here today because you must look at that building with tears streaming down your face,” one woman said as they neared the foot of the tower.

“We need answers and we need answers now,” another man said through a megaphone. “This should not be happening in the United Kingdom.”

The protesters at Kensington Town Hall tried to force their way into the building to confront councilors directly, demanding that they come out and answer questions.

They also insisted that people affected by the fire not be pushed out of the area after there were conflicting messages from the local council and the government in Westminster over whether they could be rehoused locally.

Other demonstrators held a minute’s silence in memory of the victims, saying that their deaths had not been properly acknowledged.

As the protests dispersed, a candlelit vigil was held for the victims at the Latymer Christian Centre, just meters from the site of the blaze.

The displays of anger increased pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May over her response to the disaster, but when she was asked in an interview on Newsnight on Friday night about whether she had misread the public mood, she sidestepped the question.

Earlier in the day, May had met victims in a local hospital, and in the late afternoon met victims and relatives in a church near the disaster site, having come under heavy criticism for not having done so earlier.

She blamed security concerns for her absence, although earlier in the day, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had both been able to pay visits.

May sought to placate angry residents with the offer of a £5 million (US$6.41 million) cash fund for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council to distribute to residents, but she needed police protection when she left the church as an angry crowd of locals booed her and told her forcefully that she was not welcome there.

The local council also confused residents with its rehousing plan for displaced tenants.

It said not all tenants would be given new homes in north Kensington, but later appeared to row back on this statement, claiming its “understanding” of the scenario had changed.

After her church visit, May promised that people would be rehoused nearby, although not necessarily in the borough, within three weeks.

There were emotionally charged scenes as the queen and the Duke of Cambridge visited the Westway Sports and Fitness Centre earlier in the day.

Standing beneath the rumbling Westway flyover, the royals had finished meeting firefighters and police officers who responded to the inferno, when they were met with a spontaneous round of applause from onlookers.

However, when the clapping died down, a distraught man beckoned them to come over.

“Please come here,” he said.

Clutching a missing appeal poster for the siblings Firdaws and Yahya, Rami Mohamed said he was a friend of the missing children’s family.

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