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Grenfell campaigners step up calls for criminal charges

Grenfell campaigners protested outside a cladding firm ahead of survivors and families marking the anniversary of 2017 fire with a silent walk.

Grenfell campaigners have called for action “in the pursuit of justice” as they step up calls for those responsible for the deadly fire to face action.

Campaign group Grenfell United is leading calls for criminal charges and will debut a new #DemandCharges campaign on Tuesday – the four-and-a-half year anniversary of the blaze. Survivors and family members are also leading a silent walk to remember the 72 people who died in 2017.

Rising anger also saw protesters block lorries outside the headquarters of cladding firm Celotex, whose products contributed to the blaze, earlier on Tuesday.

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A Grenfell United spokesperson said: “This silent walk will mark a shift in tone from previous ones.

“While we continue to call for truth and change – during the public inquiry – Grenfell United will be calling for additional actions in the pursuit of justice, which will be revealed on the night of the walk. 

They added: “For four and a half years we’ve suffered knowing Grenfell was no accident, but now we have the evidence.”

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The ongoing Grenfell Inquiry recently turned its attention to the central government’s role in the fire. The government’s counsel Jason Beer QC said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was “deeply sorry for its past failures”.

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But with the inquiry due to end next year, campaigners are stepping up efforts to hold responsible parties to account. A Scotland Yard spokesperson said prosecutors have told families “this is a large and complex criminal investigation and the anticipated timeline for the police”.

A handful of angry campaigners headed to the base of Celotex in Hadleigh, Suffolk, to mark the four-and-a-half year anniversary since the fire.

Grenfell protest
A small group of protests blocked lorries at Celotex’s Suffolk premises on December 14. Image: Leearna Oliffe

Celotex manufactured most of the cladding on Grenfell Tower – one of the leading contributing factors for the blaze. The firm says it did not design or install the cladding system on the tower but its RS5000 product was used in the cladding while its TB4000 insulation was used on the tower’s windows.

The Grenfell Inquiry found Celotex rebranded a flammable insulation product as safe to use on high-rise buildings. A former Celotex employee told the inquiry the firm acted in a “completely unethical” way and was “dishonest”.

One of the Grenfell Community Campaigners protestors, Leearna Oliffe, told The Big Issue: “We know all we really need to know, or any police officer should need to know, about who’s guilty, who was complicit, who failed, who committed fraud, who lied, who cheated the system, all the claims are out there in the public arena now.

“We wanted something where we could make some noise and stop business for a couple of hours, which we managed to do. And then come back and join in the peaceful action tonight.”

People will begin assembling for the silent walk outside the Kensington Town Hall at 6pm. The walk will start at 6.30pm and will end at the base of Grenfell Tower.

The silent walk had been a monthly event until Covid halted it. Tuesday’s walk is the first to be held for 18 months.

North Kensington resident Oliffe told The Big Issue the walk is vital not only for those directly affected by Grenfell but also for the ongoing building safety crisis that continues to affect thousands of people around the UK.

“It’s incredibly important to walk tonight, not just for the 72 and not just for the bereaved families and survivors, though they will always be priority.

“But it’s also for all those other people all around the country who are equally affected and living in the fear that they could actually be the next Grenfell.”

Celotex has been contacted for comment.

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