Angry protests demand justice as Corbyn says Grenfell survivors should be housed in empty luxury apartments

Protesters demand justice for Grenfell Tower victims.

Hundreds of angry residents stormed council offices on June 16 as they demanded support, housing and answers over the Grenfell Tower disaster amid accusations of “mass murder.” They gathered outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea civic centre and entered the building to stage a sit-down protest. Council leaders refused to meet them.

Residents held placards demanding “Justice for Grenfell” and chanted “come downstairs” as they presented a list of immediate demands to the council.

And they called for a public inquest, arguing that a planned inquiry was not good enough. Residents demanded a separate independent investigation into the £9.7 million refurbishment which covered the building with cladding that many believe helped the deadly fire to spread. 

The latest official figures confirmed that at least 30 people have died in the fire at the west London tower block. The Metropolitan Police said that this number is likely to rise. However rumours have been circulating that the official death toll is much higher amid accusations of a cover-up by the authorities.

Anger was directed at Tory council leader Nick Paget-Brown, who had earlier blamed Grenfell residents for not wanting the disruption of having sprinkler systems fitted. Architect and fire safety expert Sam Webb called the fire “a disaster waiting to happen” and “entirely predictable.” He said: “If there had been a sprinkler system in this building there wouldn’t have been a fire when the fire brigade got there because it would have been contained in the room [where] it started.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised for her hands-off approach to the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, after visiting the scene of the council block blaze on June 15. During her visit she met firefighters and promised a full public inquiry into the tragedy, with at least 30 people confirmed dead so far since the fire broke out on June 13, but did not speak to residents or any of those affected.

In contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn consoled them in their grief, offering hugs and support. He also spoke of his anger that so many people have lost their lives in a tower block where the fire precautions proved inadequate.

Corbyn pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people living in tower blocks will be “frightened, traumatised and very, very worried” following the blaze in west London.

“Kensington is a tale of two cities — it is among the wealthiest parts of this country but the ward where this took place is one of the poorest,” he said.

Corbyn said that empty luxury properties in Kensington should be taken over by the government to save people who lost their homes in the fire from having to leave the area. Kensington and Chelsea has the highest number of empty properties in London with 1,399 vacant worth an estimated £664 million.

Corbyn said it was unacceptable for poor people and the homeless to be left looking for somewhere to live while land banking takes place in the area, adding that properties should be “requisitioned if necessary.”

Corbyn welcomed the government’s decision to establish a public inquiry but insisted that it must be “speedy” and allow residents to fully take part, with legal aid provided if needed.

Labour Tottenham MP David Lammy said that those responsible for the Grenfell Tower’s fire safety failings should be arrested for “corporate manslaughter”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on June 14, the Tottenham MP slammed the failings that allowed the flames to spread rapidly as an “outrage.”

He said: “This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way.

“We should call it what it is. It’s corporate manslaughter, that’s what it is, and there should be arrests made, frankly.”

[Compiled from Morning Star.]