Two years on, the anger and the grief from this urban atrocity is still undimmed, reports Isabel Carr
On the second anniversary of the disaster, the Grenfell Silent March went ahead as it has on the 14th of every month since June 2017. Led by the community, organised around Grenfell United, and with an estimated 10K marching in two routes around the area, people came from far and wide to walk in solidarity.
Grenfell unites communities and the movement and that was visible again today. The FBU — so closely involved with the events of that terrible night — launched the Grenfell: Never Again campaign on the second anniversary, to pressure government to take decisive action to tackle the underlying risks which caused the catastrophic fire. The consistent solidarity shown by the firefighters’ union has been exemplary. And today, as well as those from the London region, firefighters from across Scotland also came down to march alongside their comrades and the Grenfell community.
Grenfell United had also marked the anniversary with a very effective direct-action campaign which saw a series of messages exposing the establishment’s continuing mendacity projected onto still-unsafe high rise buildings across the country. Although the government apparently made £600m of funding available to replace combustible cladding on high-rise buildings, two years on this still hasn’t been anywhere near adequately implemented. So in the build up to the second anniversary of the fire messages appeared on buildings in Salford, Newcastle and London saying "2 years after Grenfell and this building is still covered in dangerous cladding” and "2 years after Grenfell and the fire doors in this building still don't work”.
The Grenfell disaster devastated lives, families, a community. And Grenfell exposed the wound at the heart of a savage and murderous system. The Silent March is about Grenfell, and Grenfell is about the truth of the system we live under.
By 6pm there were already a couple of hundred people gathered by the big screen on Silchester Road to watch the wreath laying ceremony. People with their kids, a couple of school classes wearing their green sashes, people arriving after work. By the March start time at 7.45pm there were thousands of people there.
Lowkey set the tone before march set off with “We will not betray the dead”.
The Grenfell Silent March is a humbling, raw, thing to witness and stand with. The end of the second anniversary march saw powerful speeches from the families and friends of those who died. They spoke of the trauma only now catching up with them, two years later, and of the anger and frustration driving their desire for justice. And they spoke of the pain that continues to unite and change them as they organise. Karim Mussilhy, the vice-chairman of Grenfell United who lost his uncle in the fire, and rapper Akala gave barnstorming speeches, which are now precisely focused on the cause of the tragedy:
"Look at the system. Do not think that somewhere along the line things went wrong with the system, no, it was designed this way."
The formal government inquiry into Grenfell will continue into 2020, and no doubt beyond — but this evening confirms we’ve already gone beyond the formal inquiry. The community is organised, the movement is in support, and the class increasingly understands that this grievous injury to one community is a powerful representation of the injury the system would do us all. There will be justice for Grenfell.
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