Anger at the council for its safety failures ran deep at Wednesday’s meeting, reports Deanna Ruane
The crowd at the public meeting for the Grenfell Tower residents was galvanised and emotional. It was clear to see that the issues of the local residents are not going away without being addressed. As far as the local residents are concerned, the number of people who have died in Grenfell is far higher than the official figure being flaunted by the mainstream media, and this is adding to their pain. The refusal to acknowledge the dead is a big insult and a possible precursor of how the powers that be intend to hide the real issues and failures behind this catastrophic fire from the general public. Ask any former resident of the Grenfell Towers about the number of people suspected dead and they will tell you that it's in the hundreds.
The security hired by RBKC for the public meeting were the type of enormous military-looking men you would expect to see if you googled "mercenary". The Police were heavily present with surveillance vans, liaison officers as well as undercover officers to maintain the peace, but looking at the type of private security RBKC chose to place at the entrances to their premises only seemed to add further insult to the mortal injury that was inflicted on June 14th.
The council made a good choice by erecting a big screen and speakers on the outside of the building, ensuring that the meeting was completely transparent and the rest of the public who had gone to the town hall to support the survivors were able to hear what was being said by both sides. The survivors of the fire who spoke to the meeting were articulate and moving.
One man named Eddie, who said he lived on the 18th floor and was a member of the residents groups formed in response to being ignored by their landlord, confirmed that several of the councillors who they had pleaded with to ensure their homes were made safe after power surges, fires and gas leaks, were now members of this public meeting. They sat before them, promising that this catastrophic event will be looked into by none other than themselves. What Eddie couldn't work out was why they still had their jobs.
Others wanted to know why they were being maligned as "poor" when they are simply working class people, being ignored like so many other working class people, and then labelled as something else to prevent others from identifying with them. What happened at Grenfell is a warning for all working class people of this country, and the people (children especially) who perished in that fire should not be forgotten or have lost their lives in vain.
Other members of the meeting noted how the councillors had spacious seats with bottles of water at each, while the Grenfell residents were squashed into a small gallery with one jug and nine plastic cups between twelve of them. Another resident accused one of the members of rolling their eyes, another of slouching back in his seat and another of sneering, so it was clear the level of trust was non-existent. One woman held up her house keys with pain etched on her face, and said she had many memories with this one key. She begged the meeting to treat the people both alive and dead as humans.
With the evidence of residents rigorously badgering the council for their safety, it is incredible that the members of the council still hold the same job. The fact that these people remain in positions of power despite such catastrophic failures is indicative of the entire government. The same problems exist in both central and local government, so we don't only need massive changes in RBKC, we need this change on a much wider scale.
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