(COMMONDREAMS) — In the wake of the deadly fire that devastated residents of London’s Grenfell Tower—a fire believed to have been caused in part by government neglect and design flaws stemming from an effort to make the building look nicer to appease the wealthy—hundreds took to the streets on Friday to demand swift action from the British government.
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Chants of “We want justice!” rang out as Londoners made their way into Kensington town hall, where they demanded answers from those responsible for ensuring the maintenance of building safety standards.
Prime Minister Theresa May was close to the scene, but she soon had to be “rushed away under heavy police guard” as protestors chanted “May must go!” and “Shame on you!” Reuters reported.
People have thus far been “unsatisfied by the [government’s] response,” said Mustafa Almansur, who organized the day of mass action after losing a friend in Wednesday’s fire. Protesters entered the town hall building to “find the executives and make them answer our questions,” he added.
In a speech outside Kensington town hall, Almansur explained why the protests were necessary:
The reason for the protest is that so far in the last three days the general public have done everything from raising money to actually going out there on the streets, helping people, finding the victims of the tragedy, going to the community centers, the churches and the mosques with donations and in cash.
To this day the council has failed to do anything in public, they have not made a public statement or any public comment. The statement they made today was just a fluffy statement—open-ended promises with no concrete numbers of what they are going to be able to do for the people.
Commentators and British MPs have highlighted austerity and vast inequities between rich and poor as possible causes of the Grenfell fire, as Common Dreams has reported.
Labour MP David Lammy added to these critiques on Thursday, calling the fire “corporate manslaughter.”
“They haven’t got easy fire escapes, they’ve got no sprinklers, it’s totally, totally unacceptable in Britain that this is allowed to happen and people lose their lives in this way,” Lammy added, describing buildings throughout London. “People should be held to account.”
Local residents sought to make their voices heard on Friday, demanding both accountability and substantial change. Moyra Samuels, a teacher from Kensington, told the Guardian that the protests are an expression of “the anger people are feeling.”
“They have been so ground down by years of Tory councils,” she said, “this anger had to be channeled somewhere.”
Watch scenes from the protests below:
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