Richard, A 20 year old Afro-Caribbean man, has become the latest victim of a series of serious racist attacks in the area where black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered nine years ago. There have been four attacks in the last three months in Eltham, south east London, where the British National Party had its headquarters.
The latest took place in the early hours of Monday morning last week. A gang of four white men, all about 20 years old, jumped out of a car, verbally abused and then attacked Richard, who had gone into a phone box to call for help. The gang, armed with a cosh and an eight-inch knife, left Richard blinded in one eye.
They tried to stab their cornered victim before spraying a substance into his face and heading off. The majority of people in the area are shocked by the attack. Two white residents of Sherard Road, where it took place, told Socialist Worker, 'This is absolutely sickening. People remember what happened to Stephen Lawrence, and it's as if it's happening again. That young man could have been killed. It's come after other attacks recently which have left people hospitalised. There are racist thugs in Eltham. But it is also attracting people from outside the area who believe they can get away with attacking black people here. We've spoken to large numbers of people on our road. All are outraged. We are talking about doing a collection to put up a reward. A retired neighbour, who is white, said he would put in £100. The police should be doing more. We should have a big demonstration in the area so the majority of people can stand up and be counted.'
People signing an Anti Nazi League petition on Eltham High Street on Saturday condemning the attack expressed similar outrage. 'I knew there was still racism,' said pensioner Mary Dress. 'You hear the odd comment. But I thought the worst of it was behind us. Then this happens. If something isn't done someone will be killed round here. We've got to stop those thugs. We've got to all speak out.'
Student Nitin Khan said, 'This has to be a wake-up call. There is clearly a gang of racists going around attacking people. That was happening before Stephen Lawrence was murdered and nothing was done. There's a lot of talk in the media that anti-racism has gone too far. They should come to places like Eltham. I blame the politicians as much as anyone. All these scare stories about immigration can only lead to attacks.'
Racist attacks increased by 210 percent after the British National Party set up its headquarters in Eltham in the early 1990s. In addition to Stephen Lawrence, Rohit Duggal and Rolan Adams were murdered. People in the area who campaigned to close down the BNP headquarters say the Nazi presence is still leaving a legacy.
Paul and Anita told Socialist Worker, 'Loads of us didn't want the BNP here. 'The spate of attacks shows there is still a big problem.' Anti-Nazi and anti-racist campaigners in the area are planning a public meeting to isolate the hardcore racists and force the authorities to act.
Bitter legacy of police failures
A HANDFUL of racist thugs believe they can attack black people with impunity in Eltham. Two attacks took place within 24 hours of each other and are chillingly similar to last week's. A 30 year old black man was walking with his white girlfriend on Monday 1 July. A gang of six or seven whites chased him.
The attackers stabbed him, leaving him in a critical condition. The following day Lee Evans, 24, and his cousin Kasim Evans, 22, were attacked. A gang of racists jumped from a car and ambushed them. Kasim said, 'These guys came out of the car, all white and about our age, and were calling us black this and black that. They all had bottles and knives, and were really well organised about it. I was afraid I was going to die. The scariest part about it was I could tell they were sober and knew exactly what they were doing.'
Dev Barrah from the Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit in the area told Socialist Worker: 'In the latest attack the guy phoned the police from a phone box. It took the police an hour to respond. The police say they dealt with 1,070 racist incidents last year. Our unit dealt with 1,360. People are reluctant to go to the police. We are now working with the families of the latest attacks to campaign and secure justice.'
Campaigners feel the recent spate of attacks is linked to a court case involving two of the five men who the police failed to convict for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The trial of David Norris and Neil Acourt for racial assault of off-duty black police officer Gareth Reid began last month.
'It's a reminder of where the root of these problems lies,' says Dev Barrah. 'Over 65,000 people marched to close down the BNP headquarters after Stephen's murder. Many of them were from the Eltham area. Most of them were white. 'We want them on board this time.'
Scupper Nazi hate festival
THE PEOPLE of Sawley, near Clitheroe in Lancashire, are going all out to stop a BNP festival of hate taking place on 17 and 18 August. Burnley is nearby, where the local council banned the ANL carnival from taking place. Yet a mob of 1,000 Nazis is set to descend on Sawley. After a series of vicious racist attacks and riots in Burnley last year, the BNP conned its way into three council seats.
People in Sawley have been so outraged by the BNP that they have drafted an anti-Nazi petition and collected signatures. Others horrified by the BNP and its Nazi ideas have written letters of complaint to the Home Office, the police and the local council. The hate festival is aimed at hardening up new people the BNP has drawn around it.
BNP Führer Griffin wants to hold the event at Dockber Laithe Farm in Sawley. Complain to the owner of the farm by phoning 01200 440 293. Opposition to the Nazis has come from all quarters, including Sawley's Quakers, local shops, and the area's MP, Nigel Evans. He has written to Home Office minister John Denham calling on him to ban the BNP event.
Last Tuesday residents handed in copies of the petition to the chief executive of Ribble Valley council, while Nigel Evans handed the petition in to the Home Office. Villagers in Diggle near Oldham have already scuppered the BNP's attempts to hold its 'festival' there. Together we can stop the BNP.
STOP THE NAZI BNP FESTIVAL Join the protests in Sawley, Lancashire, Saturday 17 August, 8am, opposite Rose County Foods, Gisburn Road, Sawley (near Clitheroe, off A59) Phone the ANL on 020 7924 0333 or go to www.anl.org.uk for details
Campaigning for justice
THE FAIR Justice for All campaign against the harsh prison sentences given to Asians after last year's disturbances in Bradford is gaining widespread support. 'We've had people contact us from Leeds, Oldham, Middlesbrough, Nottingham and elsewhere,' says Sal, a campaign spokesperson. 'We had a meeting with councillors in Bradford two weeks ago where they came in behind the campaign. There were 40 people there and £600 was raised.'
That is a tribute to the campaign. All the political groups on Bradford council had backed Judge Gullick, the man handing out scores of outrageous sentences. Gerry Sutcliffe, a Bradford Labour MP, has also changed his tune. He has indicated support for some of those appealing against their jail terms. He had previously criticised the campaign.
'A 15 year old, who was 14 when convicted, has just had his sentence cut on appeal and has been released,' says Sal. That boosted the campaign. But other appeals have been turned down, and we can't just sit back. We are to hold a rally in Bradford to increase the pressure. We are already protesting outside the court every Friday. Right now we need money and support. I can't describe what an impact that has.'
Campaigning lawyer Imran Khan has called for a judicial review of all the cases. It will require huge pressure to overturn the sentences. So will forcing the authorities to accept that Asians had to defend themselves from police attacks when the National Front chose to rally in Bradford. But campaigners aren't prepared to sit back while the victims of racism are criminalised for resisting.
THE CASES of 28 men, charged after they defended the main Asian area of Burnley from attack by white racists, are due to start on 2 September. They are pleading not guilty, pointing to the failure of the police to prevent racists coming into the area and attacking Asian people.