Socialist Worker

A horrific string of racist attacks in the area where Stephen Lawrence was murdered

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 1825

'Unless there is urgent action then a black or Asian person is going to be murdered by racists in Eltham.' That is the chilling warning from Dev Barrah, who works at the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality.

Eltham is part of the borough of Greenwich in south east London. This is the area where Stephen Lawrence, Rohit Duggal and Rolan Adams were murdered by racists in the early 1990s. There has been a string of racist attacks in the area during the past six months.

In several cases it was only by chance that the victims were seriously injured rather than killed. The police have made a number of arrests. But in almost every instance it was not because of their own efforts. In one case anti-racist campaigners had to take the police to the house of a man who many people knew was responsible for an attack. After a recent vicious attack the police requested that the Council for Racial Equality should do the door to door questioning as they did not have the resources themselves.

One of the most terrifying assaults took place on cousins Lee and Kasim Evans, both mixed race, on 2 July this year. Lee, a 24 year old systems analyst for an investment bank, was wary about drinking in Eltham pubs because of a hostile atmosphere.

But on that day he went to play a couple of games of pool at his local. He and Kasim were attacked as they walked home by men who had been following them in a car. 'One guy had a bottle of drink and was pouring out the alcohol so he could use the bottle as a weapon,' says Lee. 'Another lunged at me with a knife. I managed to twist it out of his hand, but I was smacked with a bottle and my jaw was broken.' After the attack Lee had the mark of a footprint on his neck.

The men chased after Kasim, 23, and attacked him, leaving him with a serious head injury. Kasim now says, 'I avoid going to Eltham. Every other day someone is attacked. You feel you can't walk the street without someone trying to stab you or kill you. Nothing has really improved after what happened to Stephen Lawrence.'

Instead of thoroughly investigating the networks behind these attacks, the police say they do not believe there is an increasing trend of racist violence. Dev Barrah says, 'You can see a direct relation between when the BNP and NF push out their propaganda and when attacks rise. Their material is a direct incitement to violence. They put out the words and others turn them into brutal action. It is enraging when you hear the Nazis get a platform on Radio 4. Such broadcasts mean suffering for people here. When the media and politicians launch their attacks on refugees and people who 'don't fit in', that also acts as a trigger for attacks. The young people who get involved in this often need help and education. I strongly believe they must be won away from the racists by a message of hope. But there is also a hard core of Nazis that has to be dealt with by the community. Local people, black and white, have to stand together and make it clear that racism will not be allowed to flourish.'

The large majority of people in Eltham and the rest of the area are not Nazis and are not racists. On the streets there is horror at the racist violence. That needs to be turned into a real force to throw back the racists. In 1993 60,000 people marched to close down the BNP headquarters in Welling. The police attacked the protesters.

Those they protected are now the inspiration for those who spill blood on the streets.

  • Thanks to the Racist Attacks Monitoring Unit at Greenwich Council for Racial Equality (phone 020 8854 4587) for their help with this article.

    Impact of Nazis

    RACIAL TENSION rose sharply in Greenwich after the British National Party and National Front stood in elections in 1987. In 1989 the British National Party opened its headquarters in Welling, close to Eltham. Racist attacks soared by 210 percent.

    Rolan Adams was attacked by a 12-strong white gang in Greenwich in February 1991. He died after he was stabbed in the throat.

    At first the police refused to admit there was any racial motivation for Rolan's murder. The police changed their minds only after intense pressure from local people. Mark Thornborrow was given a life sentence for the murder. Seven others were charged with violent disorder, but the charges were later reduced to minor public order offences.

    In July 1992 15 year old Rohit Duggal was murdered in Eltham after he and some white friends went to a kebab shop for chips. They were abused by a group of white men. Rohit tried to calm the situation and then left. He was pursued by the gang and stabbed to death. The police said there was no evidence of a racial motive. During the trial the accused had to be told to cease his repeated use of the word 'Paki' to describe the victim. Peter Thompson was convicted of murder.

    In April 1993 Stephen Lawrence was murdered by racists in Eltham. His case has become the most infamous example of the racism and corruption of the police. His killers have still not been brought to justice.

    The toll of six months of abuse and threats

    ALL OF these racist incidents took place in Eltham in the last six months. Full details of some of them have not been given for legal reasons.

    1. 9 April: A black man was racially abused, called a 'nigger' and had his life threatened by white men in Gregory Crescent.

    2. 17 and 21 April: National Front graffiti was sprayed all over Well Hall Road (where Stephen Lawrence died) and West Mount Road. The culprits were not found despite police surveillance cameras in the area.

    3. 3 May: A mixed race woman received severe racist abuse and threats in Churchbury Road.

    4. 24 June: A Somali family in Rochester Way had bricks, sticks and stones thrown at their home.

    5. 1 July: Nick Carter, a 30 year old mixed race man, was walking with his white girlfriend in Westhorne Avenue. A group of six white youths chased them and stabbed him. He needed over 100 stitches for his injuries.

    6. 2 July: Lee and Kasim Evans were attacked (see main article).

    7. On the same day two mixed race children were racially abused and threatened in Witherston Way.

    8. 19 July: An Asian woman was racially abused and threatened in Blanshaw Road.

    9. 25 July: An African-Caribbean man was racially abused and threatened in Eastnor Road.

    10. 5 August: Richard, a 20 year old black man, was attacked by four white racists on Sherard Road. One of the attackers tried to hit him with a large cosh and the second tried to stab him. The third then sprayed him in the eyes, causing temporary blindness. Richard says, 'I was just panicking because they had a knife. I was afraid for my life. I was thinking of Stephen Lawrence.'

    11. 11 August: At the junction of Eltham Palace Road and Cuff Crescent a white man racially abused a 14 year old black youth, punched him in the face and broke his jaw.

    12. 19 August: Anthony Rose was dropping off his white friend in Sidcup Hill when his car was hit by a white transit van. Anthony drove off, but when he stopped at a traffic light the driver of the transit van got out and punched him. Anthony was then sprayed with CS gas while being verbally abused. He was followed and again sprayed with CS gas. The white van then rammed Anthony's car. The police eventually arrived, but treated Anthony as a dangerous man. They said someone had informed them he had a gun. While the police searched Anthony the perpetrator of the crimes escaped.

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    Article information

    Sat 9 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1825
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