Socialist Worker

‘Southall was under state occupation’ the day Blair Peach died

Issue No. 2148

Police storm into demonstrators in Southall (Pic: John Sturrock)

Police storm into demonstrators in Southall (Pic: John Sturrock)


When the Nazi NF announced that that they were to hold a general election meeting at Southall town hall people in the area were sickened.

“The news spread like wildfire,” Balwinder Rana, a local Anti Nazi League (ANL) activist told Socialist Worker on the 20th anniversary of Blair’s killing. “People felt very angry and very insulted.”

The people of Southall found themselves under police occupation. Forces, including a helicopter and units of the notorious Special Patrol Group (SPG), poured in.

As far as the police were concerned the NF were to be protected, while the people of Southall were the enemy.

Blair Peach, who was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and the ANL, joined other campaigners for a protest in Southall.

As Balwinder recalls, “At 6.30pm people started to go towards the town hall. Suddenly the cordon parted and police on horseback came through and started hitting people with long batons. They attacked men, women and children.”

Inside the hall the NF election candidate pledged to “bulldoze Southall to the ground and replace it with an English hamlet”.

Outside people were hit by a full-blown police riot. Demonstrators were chased down the road, cornered and clubbed. Others took refuge in a nearby church.

Screaming

The Daily Telegraph newspaper recorded the scene: “As we watched, several dozen crying, screaming, coloured demonstrators were dragged bodily to the police station. Nearly every demonstrator had blood flowing from some sort of injury.”

Blair’s friend Jo Lang remembers, “The police forced us down Beachcroft Avenue. At least two SPG vans came up. The officers got out and charged at us.

“We ran, but Blair wasn’t with us so we went back to look for him. An Asian family had taken him into their living room. You couldn’t see how badly injured he was. There was no blood – it was later said that he had been struck by a lead-filled cosh.”

The day before he was buried, 4,000 locals filed past Blair as he lay in Southall’s Dominion Cinema. Throughout that night Southall youth maintained a guard of honour over him. The next day the cortege travelled to east London. Bengali people from Brick Lane, who Blair had stood with against Nazi terror, paid their respects.

A mighty funeral procession 10,000-strong followed. Union delegations from across Britain paid their respects. TUC president Ken Gill spoke at the graveside alongside Socialist Workers Party founder Tony Cliff.

Everyone knew that Blair had stood up for what he believed in – black and white unity – and for that the police had struck him down.

And 30 years later, his killers are still walking around free.


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