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Three billboards in London ask hard questions about Grenfell tower fire

Carl Court/Getty Images
Carl Court/Getty Images

(LONDON) — Three large billboards pulled by vans snaked through the British capital Thursday afternoon. The words on the stark red backdrops read:

“71 dead.”

“And still no arrests?”

“How come?”

The banners were inspired by the 2017 film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” about a woman campaigning for police to find the culprit responsible for her daughter’s rape and murder.

Last June, at least 71 people were killed as a devastating fire ravaged a tower block in West London. A block of public housing flats entrenched in Britain’s wealthiest neighborhood of Kensington and Chelsea, the burning tower became an iconic symbol of inequality in London.

In the initial days following the tragedy, the council responsible for the area was harshly criticized for its slow response and for having possibly neglected safety standards that could have prevented the fire from taking place.

After several initial reviews into fire safety and building materials, the Metropolitan Police — the force responsible for Greater London –- announced a criminal investigation into the fire. In a public notice the police said that they had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that both the council and the building management company may have committed corporate manslaughter.

In January 2018 the Metropolitan Police requested more than $50 million from the UK Home Office to cover the costs of the investigation, one of the most expansive and complex inquiries in the force’s history, involving around 250 officers and staff. More than 30 million documents and more than 1,000 statements have been taken from witnesses so far.

Given the scale of the inquiry, reaction to the “Three Billboards” campaign through London was mixed online.

Film director Ken Loach, known for his work exploring social issues through his films, praised and promoted the campaign as a way to refocus public attention on the issue in order to push for accountability.

The Secret Barrister –- an anonymous legal commentator who has cautioned against prosecution to satisfy public anger — replied to Loach’s tweet, calling the three-billboard display “antagonism” that would help no one.

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