Thou­sands gath­ered to re­call the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower blaze a year ago

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Damien Gayle Har­riet Sher­wood

Thou­sands of peo­ple took part in a silent march of re­mem­brance in the shadow of Grenfell Tower last night to mark one year since the fire that gut­ted the build­ing and took 72 lives.

Par­tic­i­pants came from across Lon­don and fur­ther afield for the pro­ces­sion, which was the cul­mi­na­tion of a day of events that in­cluded church ser­vices and a vigil as well as a cer­e­mony by the tower. Po­lice es­ti­mated that 5,000 peo­ple took part.

Green scarves were handed out by vol­un­teers. The Labour leader, Jeremy Cor­byn, ar­rived for the march wear­ing a green sash as a sign of sol­i­dar­ity.

Cor­byn wrote a mes­sage on the tower’s perime­ter fence: “Love and sym­pa­thy to all at Grenfell. To­gether we mourn. To­gether we over­come.”

He told re­porters the fire stood for “ev­ery­thing that is un­equal and wrong about this coun­try” and added: “This is the rich­est bor­ough in Bri­tain and the most de­prived bor­ough in Bri­tain – Gol­borne ward is one of the poor­est bor­ough wards any­where in Bri­tain, in the rich­est bor­ough.

“Some­where along the line all those fam­i­lies who have not yet been re­housed, when the lux­ury flats are still spring­ing up all over Lon­don ... sorry, peo­ple come first.”

Sur­vivors, the be­reaved and others af­fected by the fire were due to lead the march, with six gi­ant pa­pier-mache hearts em­bla­zoned with the words dig­nity, grace, jus­tice, strength, truth and unity. Peo­ple car­ried plac­ards calling for a full im­mi­gra­tion amnesty for sur­vivors, as well as “jus­tice for Grenfell” and “united for Grenfell”.

Fire­fight­ers formed a guard of hon­our, lay­ing their hel­mets at their feet, as the pro­ces­sion passed.

Ivan Costa, 23, who lived in flat 103 at Grenfell, said it was drain­ing to re­live the day. “It’s hard to re­mem­ber all the mem­o­ries that were left there a year ago. But be­ing around the com­mu­nity, that’s helped us over the last year,” he said.

“Thanks to all the com­mu­nity for all the help and the sup­port, every sin­gle month we’ve gath­ered here to do a march. It just kept grow­ing.”

Vin­cent Archer, 51, a fire­fighter who was at the scene two days after the fire, said he came to pay his re­spects to the vic­tims and show sup­port for sur­vivors. “It was not very nice and I haven’t been back since,” he said.

“All the marches that have taken place since, I’ve been work­ing, but also I just didn’t feel up to it. I felt tonight on the year an­niver­sary I would come back and see how I feel.” Silent marches have taken place on the 14th of every month since the fire, and one of the or­gan­is­ers said they would con­tinue to be held in the fu­ture. “How can we stop some­thing that heals so many peo­ple, that of­fers peace, that of­fers mourn­ing, that of­fers a call for jus­tice?” said Zeyad Cred.

“It sounds crazy but it gives peo­ple a voice, even though we’re silent; it makes peo­ple feel counted.”

The march took place on a day awash with green: scarves, rib­bons, lapel badges, bal­loons, T-shirts, hats and head­wraps, all in the vi­brant shade now as­so­ci­ated with the fire and the com­mu­nity’s re­sponse.

At the foot of the tower and at a com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice at the nearby St Helen’s church 72 sec­onds of si­lence were ob­served.

Peo­ple stopped across the coun­try for a moment of re­flec­tion. Those pay­ing trib­ute in­cluded the Queen and Duchess of Sus­sex in Ch­ester, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Corn­wall on a visit to Ire­land, the Palace of West­min­ster and govern­ment of­fices, the Lon­don fire bri­gade head­quar­ters and the Eng­land squad in Russia.

At St Helen’s, can­dles were lit and prayers were said. Gra­ham Tom­lin, bishop of Kens­ing­ton, said it was a day of “painful mem­o­ries, a day we re­mem­ber those 72 pre­cious lives lost”. It was also “a day for jus­tice, as we pledge our­selves again to the slow, pa­tient search for truth and jus­tice for those who lost their lives, and a day for peace”, he said.

Grenfell was “a sym­bol of pain and loss and a sym­bol of our fail­ure to care for one an­other” but it could also be “a sym­bol of change and re­newal”.

After the ser­vice, 73 doves – one for each life lost, plus one to rep­re­sent lin­ger­ing fears that there may have been other vic­tims who were not iden­ti­fied – were re­leased from bas­kets out­side the church. Among those present were the Labour MPs Emma Dent Coad and David Lammy, and the leader of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea coun­cil, El­iz­a­beth Camp­bell.

Shortly be­fore 1am yes­ter­day – the time the fire ser­vice re­ceived the first emer­gency call – the tower and a dozen others in the area, and also 10 Down­ing Street, were il­lu­mi­nated in green.

At St Cle­ment’s church, near to the tower, the Lord’s prayer was said every hour through the night – the only words punc­tu­at­ing a 24-hour silent vigil that ended at 6pm last night with a communion ser­vice. Spe­cial prayers of re­mem­brance were due to be said later last night at al-Manaar mosque.

On Wed­nes­day night, the eve of the an­niver­sary, peo­ple gath­ered near the tower for an if­tar meal to break the Ra­madan fast cheered and ap­plauded as a Lon­don Un­der­ground driver stopped his train and un­furled a green ban­ner in trib­ute to the vic­tims.

Har­vey Mitchell sounded the tube’s horn and shouted words of sup­port.

Later, Mitchell said he lost a friend in the fire. Ex­plain­ing his ges­ture of sol­i­dar­ity, he told Sky News: “That’s the least I could do for peo­ple who lost their lives ... let it be.”


▼ Par­tic­i­pants in the silent march at Grenfell Tower, be­low left, wore green, the sym­bol of the re­sponse to the fire

▲ Tube driver Har­vey Mitchell stops his train to hold up a green ban­ner

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