A Silence That Speaks Volumes
A West London council housing community silently marched the streets of London’s wealthiest neighborhood June 14, 2019 in a show of grief and rage nearly 11 thousand people strong.
Two years after the Grenfell Tower Fire claimed 72 lives, survivors remain in temporary housing, buildings around England lack adequate fire safety precautions, and no one has been held accountable. Community leader and activist Zeyad Cred read the words of Daniel Renwick, who looked on as the tower burned two years ago.
“The silence is not there to comfort the powerful, it is to soothe those living with hell,” Cred read. “The silence speaks for itself”.
The sea of people moving through the streets of Notting Hill wore green scarfs, carried homemade signs and photos of loved ones. Some held each other emotionally as they walked while others moved stony-faced and purposefully - step by step.
The community and the city mourned the loss of 72 people, but beyond the grief on Friday there was noticeable unrest and outrage. Grenfell represented the growing neglect and contempt for the working poor of London.
Jenette Hodgson, 53, gathered with friends before the march to prepare food for the neighborhood.
“People do three or four jobs and they still have to go to food banks because they can’t afford to pay their bills and feed themselves,” Hodgson said. “That’s disgusting”.
The train operator grew up in the neighborhood, and even met her best friend Carol at the Maxilla Nursery which has since been shuttered.
“The government wants us all out of London,” Hodgson said. “They’re pulling down all of the shops and council housing. They’re building what they call ‘affordable housing’, but it’s not affordable to the likes of us”.
Hodgson, like many, felt disillusioned with local and national government and angry about the future. Concerning Brexit, Hodgson said she thought it was “going to be a lot worse”.
“My only hope is in the youth of today,” she said.
Community activists used the anniversary of the fire to call attention to continued failings to improve fire safety measures across England. In collaboration with frustrated tenants and homeowners in vulnerable buildings, Grenfell United projected safety warnings on three high-rises across the country.
David Clifford owns a tenth floor flat at the NV Building in Salford Quays, but has moved out he says over concerns about the safety of the cladding. He worked with Grenfell United to project a warning across the side of his former home.
“2 years after Grenfell and this building is still covered in dangerous cladding,” was beamed onto the side of the Manchester high-rise just days ahead of the two-year anniversary of the fire.
Even after the projections, some residents of the building we still unaware of the hazardous construction. Jordan Williamson and Dzhuneyt Velieve recently rented flats on the property and although they say it would not have affected their decision, they were told nothing about the cladding when signing their leases.
“It’s not really something I would ever consider asking although I know about the Grenfell tragedy,” Williamson said. “They should definitely tell people”.
David Clifford said that the building expected homeowners to cover the costs of new cladding and estimates the bill to amount to around 2.5 million pounds.
In the wake of the fire, the government promised to improve fire safety standards across buildings in Britain, but according to the New York Times, thousands are still unprotected.
Activist and rapper Akala urged those attending the march to see past the tragedy and consider institutional failings when looking for explanations.
“This tragedy was not an accident in any meaningful sense of the word, but a product of a philosophy that says that some lives are more valuable than others,” he said.