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Issue 105

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2017 / ISSUE 105 5 NEWS GRENFELL TOWER: WE SPEAK TO JUSTICE4GRENFELL 6 MONTHS ON On 15th June 2017, London came to a standstill due to one of the biggest travesties this city has ever seen. So the question has to be asked now, has Grenfell Tower been neglected or is the change yet to come? Six months ago, whilst most Londoners were enjoying the scorching sun and the start of their summer, others mourned what could be considered the most tragic disaster the people of this city have ever seen. Since then, we've witnessed the true negligence and discrimination of the Kensington and Chelsea council and government. Questions that seemed to have been answered at the time are now being repeated as no formal action has been taken yet. We had the chance to sit down with local activists from Justice4Grenfell who have taken it upon themselves to fight for the rights of the survivors. Moyra Samuels, a local of 20 years, who organised the campaign, spoke very passionately about the traumatic scene that she had witnessed in her area and the disregard that came soon after. "From 2:30 am, I watched it. I don't know why I did and I wish I never did it. The horror lives with you and the second I saw it, I just wept." Samuels also noticed on the night how overwhelmed the firefighters were as they could not get the fire engines close enough, nor did they have the equipment to fight a blaze as big as Grenfell. She mentioned, "what the firefighters had to go through that night was just as traumatic, this kind of trauma has had enormous ramifications. They were the ones who had to talk to the survivors and listen to their dying words, knowing there was nothing they could do." When asked about what inspired the Justice4Grenfell campaign, she didn't hold back saying that her dear friend, Edward Daffran, another local activist, had written a blog post drawing attention to the fire hazards of his building. "He spoke about the response him and his neighbours received over key problems in their building, including the cladding. He mentioned that unless there was a disastrous fire, officials were not going to take any notice of the complaints." The post was written 9 months prior to the fire. The number of issues that still need to be addressed after six months is astounding. 80% of the survivors are still living in hotels, despite Theresa May saying they would be re-housed within three weeks. Samuels expressed herself further saying, "you have the media who told the story, who were sympathetic but the response, and the way the story has been told, it could appear to the wider public that these people are living a Life Of Riley. That actually they have been given all this money, and what are they complaining about. But lots of survivors have refused donations, as they just want their home and their life back. Things money can't buy." When asked about what justice really means for the survivors, and what needs to be done, it mostly came down to the council. "In the broader sense, justice is about holding people to account, people who have made those decisions. Decisions that were cheĀ§aper, decisions to put that cladding up and knew the dangers of the outcome. We also know that it is not just the local council. As culpable as they are, it is also the state's decisions about de-regulation and the cutbacks of public services,". We haven't seen solutions to the cutbacks, the lack of help from authorities, the disregard of changing the cladding on other high-rise buildings. Change is yet to come. Samuels also brought to our attention that the disasters plan, that all councils have in place, had never been used. Not long after the blaze, 6 different councils called a meeting for disaster plan support, where they invited Kensington and Chelsea. However, there was no response, they did not turn up. There has been a lack of coordination in the council but the government also has to be held accountable as they ignored the recommendation from local firefighters to change the cladding on Grenfell before the fire even happened. The survivors have suffered horrifically, something the government and council cannot ever make right and don't seem to be trying to do. Thankfully the survivors have a group standing up for them and Justice4Grenfell have recently put forward an inquiry to the investigation in hopes that this does not turn into a coverup. Justice4Grenfell organised a silent march on 14th December to protest the rightful justice for the survivors of Grenfell. On that same day, there was a memorial for all those who lost their lives, in which the royal family were present to pay their respect. Hundreds of people gathered in memory of those who lost their lives.

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