Socialist Worker

Stephen Lawrence murder: How we shut down the Nazis in Welling

by Julie Waterson
Issue No. 2285

In May 1993, just a few weeks after Stephen Lawrence’s murder, openly sieg-heiling BNP councillor Derek Beacon was elected on the Isle of Dogs.

Since the BNP set up shop in the area, racist attacks had soared. There had been many demonstrations, protests, vigils and campaigns against racism.

Now the time had come to unify this fightback and demand that we “close down the BNP”. The Indian Workers’ Association, Youth against Racism in Europe and the Anti Nazi League called a unity demonstration to march on the BNP’s headquarters in Welling.

Despite being denounced by the press, the police—who banned us marching past the BNP HQ—and many in the trade union and Labour Party leadership, the march received wide support amongst anti-racists and trade unionists.

It resulted in coaches from all over the country converging to form a magnificent 60,000 strong demonstration.

Meanwhile, those who opposed the tactics of the demo held their own protest (at the same time) in Trafalgar Square, with a few hundred attending.

The police brutally attacked the Welling protesters, injuring many. The police brought out horses and helicopters on the day, and used CCTV footage to try to hunt down the protesters.

They confiscated clothes and raided homes.

This was in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to the racist murderers in south-east London. Within one year of the demonstration, 13 young people arrested for being on it were jailed.

Yet, despite the opposition, the campaign worked. Within months, the BNP councillor lost his seat and the Nazis’ strategy was blown apart, for the time being.

The ANL victory Carnival in south London in May 1994 attracted 180,000 people.

A grassroots movement had been re-born to fight the new threat from the British Nazis.

Julie Waterson was a chief steward on the Welling demonstration and was truncheoned on the head by police

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