Following West London’s Grenfell Tower fire, the remains of Jessica Urbano Ramírez were found on the 23rd floor. Jessica, however, the 12-year-old daughter of Colombian immigrants, lived on the 20th floor.
She was told by a London Fire Services operator that she should stay put and wait for help as it was too dangerous for her to try and evacuate on her own. As the fire and smoke got closer to her flat, she sought refuge three floors above, where other residents had gone to try and escape the fire.
The operator who was on the phone with Jessica for an hour failed to communicate two vital messages to her: 1) That there had been a change in the rescue procedure. Residents were meant to evacuate immediately. 2) That there was a firefighter who had made her rescue his personal mission and was making his way to her flat on the 20th floor. Firefighter David Badillo (who is of Central American descent) arrived at the flat to find no sign of Jessica.
Jessica’s family mourns her disappearance. | Source: La Vanguardia
When we scratch under the surface, however, we can observe that the individual operator was not directly responsible for Jessica’s untimely death. The operator’s incompetence and her failure to properly communicate with Jessica, which decreased her chances of survival, was due to a broader problem rooted in state negligence. Widespread cuts to public services meant that the operator, as she herself admitted, was inadequately trained for her job.
Badillo, who risked his own life to try and save Jessica, went on to snub a ceremony put on by Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street. He explained that he didn’t have time for it since he had attend to a second job to complement the insufficient wages he receives as a firefighter. Again, due to widespread cuts.
The political and economic context is what ultimately explains the negligence that led to the fire at Grenfell Tower. As we have previously suggested, the deaths of 72 immigrants and working-class people in one of London’s most wealthy boroughs is the direct responsibility of the state. In other words, these 72 people did not just die — they were killed by a state that adheres to savage capitalist policies and does not respect the rights of workers, especially if they are immigrants.
Digging even deeper into the nature of these deaths, and specifically Jessica’s death, we see that the root cause of these impoverished and dangerous living conditions is in a global capitalist-imperialist system. Colombia, where Jessica and her family originate from, continues to be a war-zone due to its ongoing economic status as a producer of cheap labor and important natural resources for the West. Britain’s role in training the country’s military and right-wing death squads, and providing political support for a repressive government, means that they have played a crucial role in the country’s destabilization and the population’s consequent impoverishment and forced migration.
Jessica did not die. She was killed by the capitalist-imperialist system.