Hundreds of protesters entered Kensington Town Hall chanting “We want justice. We want justice” amid growing outrage at the response to the Grenfell tower tragedy.
The demonstrators, gathered outside the town hall, said they wanted answers over the disaster.
The incident unfolded as sources said the number of those missing feared dead was set to be increased to 70. That had yet to be confirmed.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced a package of measures to help the families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, including £5m of cash handouts to be distributed to residents.
Scores of protesters surged towards the building’s entrance, apparently trying to get in.
And though they were soon called back away from the foyer by one of the organisers, who urged them to remain calm, the atmosphere soon turned tense once again.
At one point, people were shoved and pushed as it appeared council staff were led away from the building.
A number of people could also be seen inside the building being confronted by police and security guards in high visibility vests on a stairwell.
Protesters looking for answers in Kensington & Chelsea. pic.twitter.com/pjeg41nNJ1
— Ιman | ايمان (@ImaniAmrani) 16 June 2017
Earlier, the crowd chanted “Not 17. Not 17.” as the council’s response to a list of demands was read out to the crowd.
Families and friends of the victims feel they are being kept in the dark over the number of people who have been killed in the disaster.
One man, who stated he was a member of the public and a family friend of one of those feared to have been killed, said he had received a letter from the Kensington council’s head of communications, Martin Fitzpatrick, detailing the responses to a string of grievances.
He said no one from the council had been prepared to come out and address the crowd directly.
The man outlined the residents’ main demands:
- That the council pledges to immediate rehouse all those left homeless by the tragedy within the borough
The immediate release of funds to cover costs of welfare for those affected by the fire
That the council also releases the number residents in the tower block
The man said the response from Mr Fitzpatrick were as follows:
- He said the council plans to house residents of Grenfell as locally as they can – but that they may need help from the borough’s close neighbours in order to rehouse people in a good home as quickly as possible.
- The council said it had already released funds to meet the immediate needs of those affected – and that they were absolutely committed to supporting those affected in the weeks and months ahead.
- This appears to be one of the most contentious issues. The cries of “What about the children” and “Not 17”, the council is reported to have said that the number of people living in the tower
is not a matter for the council, but for the coroner, police and other emergency services. But, Mr Fitzpatrick is claimed to have said he will try and find that number and release it that day.
Earlier, the head of the residents’ group claimed people who raised concerns about the safety of Grenfell Tower before the fatal fire were considered “troublemakers” by the local authority.
Olesea Matcovschi accused the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea of fobbing off residents when they tried to speak about the state of local buildings before the disaster which killed at least 30 people.
She said: “Whenever we tried to contact the council directly they would not actually let us. They would say we have to speak to them through the TMO (Tenant Management Association).
“Whenever we had concerns they were just ignored or people who were raising the concerns were considered troublemakers.
“And we were not listened to at all, although we knew about the safety issues, we were just ignored. It looks like they chose to ignore us.”
Kensington council leader Nick Paget-Brown told Sky News that he understood the anger of local people.
Asked about the safety of the tower, specifically regarding a lack of sprinklers, he said that London and other cities had a lot of “ageing housing stock” that needed refurbishing or replacing, something that was “very controversial at all times”.
He added: “It’s not a question of wealth, it’s not question of economy. This was a major refurbishment of a tower.
On Thursday, Theresa May announced she was ordering a judge-led inquiry to ensure the events at the 24-storey block were “properly investigated”.
While the move was welcomed by many MPs, there have been concerns it could drag on for years, like the inquiries into the Iraq War and the Bloody Sunday shootings, before it finally reports.
Solicitor Sophie Khan, who acted for some of those affected by the 2009 Lakanal House fire in which six people died, said it would achieve nothing for the families of the victims.
“I am concerned why she (Mrs May) has come out so quickly to say public inquiry,” she said. “We have had these before.
“We have had the Iraq Inquiry, we have had the Northern Ireland inquiry, you don’t get any results out of them.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid insisted Mrs May had been right to call an inquiry as the best way of establishing the truth.
“I think that it is absolutely right that it is independently looked at by a judge-led inquiry,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.”
A council spokesman initially declined to comment on the action.