Socialist Worker

Hundreds march to remember Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2652

The march to remember Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar

The march to remember Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Around 700 people joined a march to remember Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar in Southall, west London, on Saturday.

The unity march was organised around the 40th anniversary of the police murder of teacher Blair.

Blair died after being clubbed on the head at a mobilisation against the fascist National Front (NF) in Southall on 23 April 1979.

The unity march assembled on Dominion Street, near where a racist had killed 18-year old student Gurdip Singh Chaggar on 4 June 1976.

Many residents joined it to remember how working class Asian people had fought back against racism and fascist agitation in the area.

Relatives of Gurdip were among the marchers. Jatinder Singh Chaggar told Socialist Worker, “We enjoy freedoms now, but no one is taught that it came from struggles.

“I remember my parents being so careful just about letting me out of the house.”

He added, “It's important to remember what happened because there was a sense of unity, especially after 1976.Until then people had tolerated racism.”

Charan Singh Chaggar added, “We should remember those who lost their lives so we can walk down the street.”

The march passed through Beachcroft Avenue, where the Special Patrol Group riot squad had clubbed Blair over the head.

Southall ’79, when the police killed Blair Peach
Southall ’79, when the police killed Blair Peach
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It rallied outside Southall Town Hall, where people had fought to stop the NF from holding a public meeting ahead of the 1979 general election. Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who had been on the counter-demonstration, said, “It was a police riot that night.

“They murdered Blair Peach in a police riot.”

Jaskiran Chohan, a Labour councillor for Southall Broadway, addressed the crowd. “Today we're facing some of the most terrifying moments with the rise of racism and fascism,” she said.

“Just the other week my 14 year old cousin told me about how he was racially abused for being brown and ‘smelling like curry’.

She added, There's so many people here—black, white, brown—standing shoulder to shoulder.

“That's one of the biggest lessons we can take from those 40 years.”

Daniel Kebede, an NEU education union national executive member, came to “offer solidarity from Blair's union”.

“The British state must not and cannot be allowed to get away with murder”, he said.“The demonstrations were in self-defence —and we say self-defence is in no offence.”

He called for an inquiry into Blair's murder.

Suresh Grover, who was part of the Southall Youth Movement, hailed three blue plaques on the town hall that were unveiled on Thursday of last week.

They commemorate Blair, Gurdip, Misty in Roots manager Clarence Baker and the People United community centre that was trashed by cops on the day of the 1979 demonstration.

Paul Holborow was a founder of the Anti Nazi League (ANL), which had supported the mobilisation against the NF in Southall.He said, “Blair was a committed anti-racist and above all he was a socialist—a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

“He came in solidarity with brothers and sisters fighting against the NF, not just in Southall but across the country.”

Paul said the “best tribute” would be to take the fight to Nazi Tommy Robinson who is standing for election in the North West of England in the European elections.

“Stand Up To Racism is calling on every Labour Party member, every trade union, every community to make sure that doesn't happen,” he said.

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