Would we wait for justice for Grenfell if its inhabitants were rich?

The fifth anniversary of Grenfell Tower

For survivors, the trauma is at an all-time high (Image: Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

It’s hard to think of a more poignant metaphor for dealing with the marginalized in our society than an entire tower block of poorly built council housing in London’s wealthiest borough going up in flames with hundreds of residents trapped inside.

As the writer Nesrine Malik wrote afterwards, the names of the victims sound like “an appeal from the marginalized, the slandered and the disenfranchised”. Five years later, it’s hard to see much improvement in the lives of those who are overlooked and subjugated in our divided nation.

So many of us still remember Grenfell like it was yesterday. It was Ramadan, and as sleepy watchers across the country were having an early morning breakfast, people appeared on our TV screens who looked and sounded like us and our parents.

Children stranded on the street in their pajamas and grown adults crying, Screaming and praying as a fire engulfed the 24-story building in front of everyone.

Twitter feeds were full of horrifying videos of people jumping from 15 floors and getting trapped in other residents in their smoky apartments, obeying “stay here” orders or waiting for help that would be too late.

For survivors, the trauma is as strong as ever. Over 6,000 people were referred to mental health services after the fire, and over 1,500 of those are children – some say birthday candles and bonfires cause them to relive their trauma to this day.

The intense suffering of many survivors is compounded not only by the loss of loved ones and neighbors, but also by the fact that some remain in temporary accommodation or are yet to find new homes five years later.

When something happens so horrible it leaves an indelible mark on the public consciousness, it’s tempting to say it rocked the nation, but if that were true, things would have changed. Part of the ongoing tragedy with Grenfell is that so much has stayed the same for the last half decade.

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As of last month, 58 skyscrapers still have Grenfell-style cladding – cladding that was banned just weeks ago. 31 of these have yet to be addressed.

To date, the government has refused to convert the public inquiry’s recommendations into law.

They have rejected proposals to legislate adequate protections for disabled occupants of high-rise buildings, even though 15 people died in Grenfell without being able to evacuate the building unaided, which the inquiry says might have been avoided had personal emergency evacuation plans been in place .

And they have ignored the inquiry’s findings that telling residents to “stay” without a plan B is dangerous, despite concluding that “many more lives” could have been saved if the building had been evacuated would.

Grenfell Tower was home to people that this nation systematically and purposefully subjugated. Over half of the 72 Grenfell fire victims had arrived in the country since 1990, and the tower was home to residents including asylum seekers and migrants; those fleeing wars and those surviving on less than minimum wage; white working class and ethnic minority Britons.

GRENSKELL TEA PARTY - FREE USE - ?? Jeff Moore Today, Justice 4 Grenfell threw a Queen's Platinum Jubilee street party with one key difference: no one will show up. The Community Activism Group, which works to bring justice to the victims of the Grenfell tragedy, has set a table of 72 place settings, representing the number of men, women and children who died in the fire five years ago. FREE EDITORIAL AND ONLINE USE - PROOF PLEASE ?? Jeff Moore Just as residential streets across the UK marked the anniversary weekend with traditional street gatherings, bunting, paper plates and mugs, so did the Grenfell community. 72 place cards were laid out, each with the name of one of the victims; a commemorative plaque was designed to mark the occasion, again bearing all 72 names and ???Grenfell Green??? Pennants and napkins adorned the table. After the fire on June 14, 2017, the community was delighted that the Queen was visiting the area to meet people. There would probably have been great excitement for the Platinum Jubilee that the Queen was valued in the royal precinct, somehow borne out by her decision and that of her grandson to visit the Tower so soon after the fire. That went down just as well with the people of Grenfell as the anniversary would have done. Unfortunately, 72 people didn't come because they couldn't come... but they too will be remembered forever in our hearts. Located at the base of the tower on Grenfell Road, this table will never serve as a chilling reminder that, despite a public inquiry, the 72 dead are still without justice. Nabil Choucair, who lost 6 family members, said: “I miss my family so much; We had many good times together, but they were taken from us under the worst of circumstances. I can almost imagine them sitting at the table today and participating in the celebration, but they are not with us today. The pain is indescribable, but in our hearts they are always with us.??? Survivor Emma O'Connor said:

As the country celebrated the Platinum Jubilee, Grenfell survivors held a street party with a 72-seat table representing the victims of the fire. Paper plate with the slogan: “72 dead. And still no arrests? Where from?” were placed in each empty slot (Image: Jeff Moore/Justice 4 Grenfell Provider)

How are these very people being treated five years later by a nation and a ruling party that seem to have learned nothing from the tragedy?

The poorest children suffer from food poisoning because parents can’t afford to run refrigerators overnight and there are more food banks than McDonalds across the country. This week the government is preparing to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda – many of whom may have fled the same conflicts as Grenfell residents – a plan described as ‘unlawful’ by the UN and ‘appalling’ by Britain’s future king. is classified.

As the country recently celebrated its platinum anniversary, Grenfell survivors threw a street party with a table that seats 72 representing the victims of the fire. Paper plates with the slogan ’72 dead. And still no arrests? Where from?’ were placed in every free space.

Five years later, ignored requests and empty apologies belie the reality that no one has actually been held responsible for a tragedy residents had predicted would occur, and the victims continue to be vilified and neglected, with the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg implying that the “Common sense” failed to listen to the advice of the fire department.

I wonder if the victims would face the same disdain and neglect if they were among the wealthiest residents of Kensington and not the poorest? The truth is that the Grenfell Tower tragedy would not have happened in a private luxury apartment block occupied by people whose lives mean something to those in power.

Grenfell solidified the way race, class, and immigrant status collide to push you lower and lower down the list of government priorities until finally your life is worth less than the price of a cheap and inadequate cladding for the building that you call home.

It has cemented what people of color and those in poverty already know – that is the value of our lives in the eyes of those who are meant to support us, protect us. And the deaths of 72 victims are not enough to bring about real change and ensure that something like this never happens again.

But five years later, the call is still as urgent as it was the day after the fire. Justice for Grenfell.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by email at jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

MORE: Grenfell Tower fire: commemoration of 72 victims five years later

MORE: When was the Grenfell Tower fire and how did it start?

MORE: 1,149 unsafe buildings, £5,100,000,000 spent: Grenfell by the numbers, five years later

https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/14/would-we-be-waiting-on-justice-for-grenfell-if-its-residents-were-rich-16824804/ Would we wait for justice for Grenfell if its inhabitants were rich?

Justin Scacco

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