Frustrated and angry Grenfell residents have heckled officials at a public meeting four weeks after the blaze, with shouts of “murder” underlining the damning criticism being aimed at authorities.
What started off as a relatively calm meeting on Wednesday night, held just metres from the Lancaster West Estate in St Clement’s Church, West Kensington, soon descended into chaos as the new leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council addressed the audience.
A panel including representatives from the council, police and health bodies were answering questions in the aftermath of the inferno that claimed the lives of at least 80 people.
Elizabeth Campbell, the Conservative council leader, who earlier today admitted that she had never stepped foot inside a high-rise block, caused frustration as her softly spoken voice was not carrying around the room, leaving many in the dark as to what she was saying in response to people’s questions.
For those who could just about make out her words, she began by apologising for the “completely inadequate” council response to the fire.
As she attempted to address the audience, she was met with complaints of “we can’t hear a word you’re saying”. Zeyad Cred, who has been working with the relief effort since the morning of the fire, was among the residents that accused the local authority of not listening to them enough. He said:
“You guys need to tell us the plan and start listening. If this happened in your private accommodation or block of flats that you lived in, what would your neighbours need? You guys are human beings, you’re not aliens... Stop asking what we need, it’s common sense what we need.”
Many members of the audience yelled at the panel, accusing them of not answering any questions.
Speaking through an interpreter, a woman who lived in Grenfell Tower told the crowd in an emotional speech:
“The truth is that over 300 people died in that building. The truth is that nobody has done anything about it. They are just running away and hiding from us. Do you really think that they are going to answer all your questions? They will never give you the answers to your questions. They’re just wasting time, spending time until we get tired.“
As the panel moved onto discuss the police investigation, residents called out “this is mass murder”. One said:
“You didn’t just burn down the tower, you murdered our friends, you murdered our families, you murdered our neighbours... and our weeks later we are asking the same questions to the same people who have no answers.”
Against a backdrop of some in attendance urging calm and others expressing anger, the Metropolitan Police told the room that not all leads of inquiry can be disclosed as this may jeopardise the investigation. One man stood up and addressed the panel, telling them:
“These families haven’t been treated like victims. These families have been treated like criminals. It’s a crime to be poor... because we are tenants we are seen as sub-human.”
He added: “Some of us cannot sleep because when we sleep we dream of this night all over again.”
One angry resident told members of the response team:
“Theresa May went on national telly and said everyone would get £500 cash and £5,000 into their account - that’s still not happened. People aren’t being housed four weeks later.”
Questions were also raised about the risk of the building collapsing, with officials telling residents that they were monitoring the structural integrity of the building. The response team said that the 24-storey block could not be covered with scaffolding yet as it may interfere with the police investigation.
The audience were also told that the drinking water and air quality around the site was safe.