Six hundred people marched through Canning Town on Saturday 5 June, calling for the Silvertown Tunnel project to be cancelled in a powerful demonstration of community collaboration and mutual support.
“The Silvertown Tunnel is a climate crime’, said Victoria Rance, of Stop the Silvertown Coalition. “London Assembly members must act now to provide proper scrutiny over the decision to build this monstrous project with its lanes for juggernauts. In the year of the COP climate negotiations, the London Mayor would be showing strength, not weakness, in cancelling this tunnel now.”
An Extinction Rebellion samba band led marchers over the Canning Town flyover, chanting “hey Mayor, we want clean air” and “Stop the Tunnel now”. There were banners from trade union and community groups, and Labour and Green party branches, and three more drummers bringing up the rear.
Postcards denouncing the £2.2 billion project as a waste of money, and calling for investment in public transport links instead, were handed to passers-by and to residents in the Britannia estate as the marchers moved through their communities, ending with a rally outside the Crystal building at the Royal Docks – which will be the new headquarters of the Greater London Authority, who are responsible for the project.
Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, started the rally, promising to support Stop Silvertown Tunnel campaign to the end – the cancellation of the tunnel project. Destiny Boka Batesa of Choked Up, an organisation of black and brown teenagers campaigning for clean air, was next.
The long list of other speakers showed how united the community is behind the demand to stop the tunnel project: Ann Basu of Fossil Free Newham; Ruth Fitzharris of Mums for Lungs; Izzy Hickmet, vice chair of the National Education Union (London Region) and Labour for a Green New Deal; Silvertown resident and anti-tunnel campaigner Robbie Gordon, who passed on a message of support from the local MP, Lyn Brown; Jane Gwynne of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union; Naima of Stand Up to Racism (Newham); and Adetola Onamade of Young People/Global Majority, which is bringing legal action against the UK government over its “complicity in environmental genocide and ecocide” in Africa.
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose nine-year-old daughter Ella died in 2013 due to air pollution poisoning at her home near the South Circular road, sent a message of support to the rally, which said: “The Silvertown Tunnel means even more people will be impacted by air pollution. The children of Greenwich have suffered enough and deserve a better quality of life. All parents living in the borough must get involved, it affects everyone. Ella’s death tells us we must never create more toxic air, but less. Building roads always means more traffic, and not less. Please continue to fight for the sake of your children’s health.”
Political support came from Andrew Boff, Leader of the London Assembly; Sian Berry, joint leader of the Green party and London Assembly Member; Zack Polanski, Green party London Assembly member; Newham Labour councillor Suga Thekkeppurayil; Zain Mir, deputy chair of West Ham Constituency Labour Party; and Joshua Williams of the Young Greens.
Sian Berry commented “Sadiq Khan had the power to stop the Silvertown Tunnel when he took over in 2016 and he still has the power to stop it now. Too many people are dying in London from air pollution. This is going to make it worse. We think it can be stopped and all power to all of you in carrying on the fight.”