On the 15th of June 2017, London city was at a standstill due to one of the biggest travesties this city has ever seen. 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, the city has witnessed the true negligence and discrimination of their 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.”
When asked about the start of the campaign and what really drew her to take on such a huge responsibility, she held no fear. Her dear friend, Edward Daffran, another local activist, had written a blog post drawing attention to the health and safety and 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 amount 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 the home and their life back. Things money can’t buy.”
When asked about what justice really means for the people, 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 cheaper, 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 states decisions about de-regulation and the cutbacks of public services,” Samuels added.
Samuels who was there the night it happened expressed how overwhelmed the firefighters were on the night. It was noticeable that 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.”
It is clear that all these aspects, the cutbacks, the lack of help from authority, the disregard of changing the cladding on other high-rise buildings, if not all buildings, is a formal change that is yet come.
Samuels also brought to my attention that the disasters plan; in which all councils have in place had never been used. Not long after the blaze, 6 different councils called a meeting for the disaster plan in support, where they also invited Kensington and Chelsea. However, there was no response, they did not turn up. The arrogance of this council was so visible. It seems to me that the council still hasn't fully realised the extent of the tragedy that has fallen on these innocent people.
There has been a lack of coordination in the council, but also the government has to be held accountable as they ignored local firefighters recommendation to change the cladding on Grenfell. Which as we can see had horrific consequences for the Grenfell survivors. It’s almost as if there has been a substantial divide between the Tories and the poor. In this case, the poor have suffered horrifically, something the government and council cannot ever make right and are not trying to do.
Thankfully the survivors have a group standing up for them, such as Justice4Grenfell, who have put forward an inquiry towards the investigation, in hopes, that this does not turn into a coverup.
Justice4Grenfell organised a silent march on the 14th of December, at 6:30 pm, 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 all those who lost their lives on June 15th, 2017.
Unfortunately, the change is still to come.
For updated information on Grenfell Tower, visit here.