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Gazette letters: Climate protest, walk for Legal Aid and Gavin Williamson

PUBLISHED: 08:30 28 September 2019

Youngsters made banners with messages like:

Youngsters made banners with messages like: "There is no Planet B" for the climate emergency rally outside Hackney Town Hall. Picture: EMMA BARTHOLOMEW

Emma Bartholomew

History is in the making - Friday saw the world's largest ever climate protest, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

The school strikers who have followed Greta Thunberg's example in skipping school to challenge their elders to stop talking and start acting to save their future, were joined by tens of thousands of adults on the streets of cities round the world.

London was one of the biggest with the largest gathering in Westminster, but plenty more local gatherings as well including Walthamstow. It was amazing to see so many climate strike posters dotted around Hackney, a reminder that this is a growing movement, with supporters everywhere.

Faced with some of the stark warnings coming out about the state of the planet, it's unsurprising that the protest was so popular.

If governments are not taking seriously their responsibility to keep their citizens safe - what other choice to we have but to take to the street and demand they reconsider and reassess their priorities.

The natural systems that support life on earth are under an attack of our making, we have all the tools we need to solve the multiple crises we're in, and yet we seem completely paralysed when it comes to using them.

Jolts of disruption and protest are one way we might be able to speed things up a bit and make sure decision makers treat these matters with the urgency they deserve.

News about the environment can get quite depressing - I know what it feels like to lay awake at night with thoughts of how small and insignificant our individual acts to make things better can be.

If it is getting you down, then I can recommend no greater remedy than simply taking a walk outside to enjoy the nature on your doorstep.

In fact, more than three years ago when I pitched this column to the Hackney Gazette, it was in direct response to that very same feeling of powerlessness. Having this weekly need to step outside and observe the beauty of the world we live in has helped countless times when I need the motivation to carry on campaigning for the bigger picture.

Access to justice has been made extremely difficult since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2013, Stamford Hill, full address supplied, writes Rosemary Sales.

More than a third - £1 billion - has been cut from the legal aid budget, making legal representation unaffordable to many people. They are forced to represent themselves, often leading to miscarriages of justice, or to pay privately and risk going into debt.

Legal aid is no longer available for large areas of law - including most housing, welfare, discrimination and immigration cases.

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The changes have been so far-reaching that parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights stated last year that they raise "grave concerns for access to justice, the rule of law, and enforcement of human rights in the UK".

Voluntary agencies in Hackney, which give free legal advice to those who need it most, struggle to survive.

Many of these organisations will be taking part in Hackney Legal Walk on Saturday, September 28 to raise funds for their vital work.

The walk starts at the Marshes Centre at 10.30am and will be joined by Diane Abbott MP and the mayor and speaker of Hackney.

Your readers would be very welcome to join us on what will be a lovely walk for a great cause.

- You can donate at londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/walks-in-the-south-east-2019/hackney-legal-walk-2019/

Williamson ducks out of question

Sandra Hay, Amhurst Road, Hackney, writes:

It was interesting to read Gavin Williamson's interview about extra free schools for kids with SEND (special educational needs) and his support for headteachers who feel the need to exclude children from mainstream state education.

And for the record I don't support kicking kids out to go to facilities where they end up being cajoled into street gangs and running county lines - we need a smarter approach.

Even more telling was his response to one of the most important questions of our time and relating to climate change - it was a classic line from a politician put on the spot.

Question: Should kids be allowed to skip school to protest?

Answer: I have a train to catch (then hung up).

Did we expect anything more?

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