Grenfell protest comes to Manchester

Organisers want to show support for survivors of fire tragedy

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Manchester is to march in unity with the residents of London’s Grenfell estate, whose fight for justice continues eight months after the fire that killed 71 people.

Since the tragedy on 14 June, protesters have held monthly silent marches near the Kensington site to demand fair treatment from the council – whose response has been widely criticised.

Hundreds of survivors from the tower and the immediate buildings are still stranded in temporary accommodation, despite promises to fast-track them into new homes.

Next week, the first Grenfell solidarity protest outside the capital will take place in central Manchester – in tandem with the London march on 14 February.

The event will include a silent candlelit procession led by 71 people – each carrying a placard bearing the photo of someone who died. This will be followed by a minute’s silence and speeches in Piccadilly Gardens by two Grenfell residents and figures including the Bishop of Manchester.

Kevin Allsop, who has organised the event for trades union association GMATUC, said: “My concern is that this tragedy could be forgotten about if we allow that to happen – and would end up as something that only those who were directly involved remember about.

“There’s lots of examples of this happening – where 30 years later the government paper gets released and people suddenly discover what actually went on. I don’t want that to happen here.

“We wanted to show our support to the people of Grenfell and hope that other cities will then pick up the baton and do something similar on the anniversary of the fire, on 14 June.”

Joe Delaney, a Grenfell survivor whose low-rise block is connected to the tower, will attend the march. He is still living in a hotel almost two miles away from home. According to Kensington and Chelsea Council, 248 households continue to reside in their homes on the Lancaster West estate, of which the tower is part, while 66 households are in emergency hotel accommodation.

On the night of the fire he left his home without any belongings – other than his two dogs – after spending hours helping to raise the alarm and evacuate neighbours. It took four days of fighting with the local authority for him to be offered emergency accommodation – during which time he and his neighbour, who has a toddler, were forced to stay with one of his friends.

He said: “People have no trust in Kensington Borough Council. The police recovery teams are still working next to my flat and the council still hasn’t shown evidence that the building is fire-safe, eight months on.

“If they put even 1 per cent of the organisational capacity that they put into arranging Notting Hill Carnival into sorting this situation out, it would have been done a long time ago. There is institutional indifference towards residents of this part of the borough.

“This safety issue is bigger than Grenfell though. This is a national issue – there are blocks across the country with unsafe cladding still on, and where it has been removed residents are freezing.

The protections for tenants in this country are appalling and no matter which party is in government, little seems to change. Safety should not be seen as an undue burden. How dare they?”

At Grenfell, thousands of people attend the protest events.

Delaney added: “I am proud that we are going to have a silent march in another area of the country and hope our silence will speak volumes. People haven’t rioted. They have taken to the streets but not with violent tendencies – they have been dignified and we deserve the courtesy of a response from the council.”

The event begins at 6.15pm on 14 February at the junction of Market Street and Cross Street in central Manchester. Photo: a wall of tributes close to Grenfell Tower (PA Photos)

8 Feb 2018: this article was amended to reflect the number of households on the Lancaster West estate still in emergency accommodation.

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