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Remembering and reflecting on the 'Battle of Lewisham' in August 1977, when a mobilisation by the far-right National Front in South East London was met by mass opposition. A series of events to mark the 30th anniversary. Contact lewisham77@gmail.com

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Racism and Resistance in South East London: A Chronology

The Battle of Lewisham did not come out of nowhere; it was one moment in a longer history of racism and resistance in this part of London. In this chronology we want to highlight this longer history, going back to earlier experiences and forward beyond 1977 to the New Cross Fire 1981 and after. As with our Battle of Lewisham chronology, we will update this as people come forward with more information. Last updated 12.8.2007.

18 July 1949: racist mob besieges Carrington House in Brookimill Road, Deptford, the home of African seamen who have complained of racist treatment including being banned from pubs. '800 white and 50 police battled outside... Unsuprizingly the frightened occupants armed themselves with knives, for which act they not the rioters were arrested' (Clive Bloom, Violent London, 2003).

1954: Anglo-Caribbean Club in Greenwich threatened with attack by the fascist Union Movement

1958: the Robin Hood and Little John Pub in Deptford Church Street imposes 'no drinks for coloureds' rule. The landlady Mrs Sparkes told the Kentish Mercury 'We found that when coloured people walked in to the bar everything went quiet. We asked our regular customers if they minded coloured people drinking in the pub. They preferred it without them'. The paper also reports that the landlord feared 'trouble from local hooligans who beat up coloured men in a recent racial flair-up in Tanners Hill' (Clive Bloom, Violent London, 2003).

June 1959: Chicago After Midnight Club, Telfourd Road, Peckham, attacked by white men throwing three petrol bombs.

April 1962: British National Party holds torchlight parades in Deptford as it contested Council elections.

1965: Deptford Union Movement, followers of fascist leader Oswald Mosely, hold a public meeting in area.

3 January 1971: three petrol bombs thrown into a black people's party in a house in Sunderland Road, Ladywell, injuring 22l people, severalof them seriously. Two white racists later jailed for the attack. In the week after the attack, eight members of the Black Unity and Freedom Party are arrested after being hassled by police on their way back from visiting the injured in Lewisham Hospital. This leads to a march by 150 people to Ladywell Police Station a few weeks later, and more arrests.

1975: Moonshot Club (also know at times as Pagnell Street Community Centre), a social centre for black youths in New Cross, is raided by police who damage sound system and make several arrests.

1976: National Front and the National Party achieve a combined vote of 44.5% in a Deptford Council by-election.

April 1977: Moonshot Club occupied by young people who accused youth workers of having prior knowledge of police raids on people's homes.

May 1977: in the Greater London Council elections, the far right fail to sustain their share of the vote in Deptford compared with the previous year. The results are Labour 9336 votes, Conservative 7217, National Party (L.Dixon) 1496, National Front (R.Edmonds) 1463, Liberal 843.

[for the period from May 1977 leading up to the Battle of Lewisham on 13 August 1977, see Battle of Lewisham chronology]

18 December 1977: Moonshot Club gutted in a firebomb attack, shortly after a newspaper reports that burning down the Club was discussed at a National Front meeting.

14 July 1978: Fire at the Albany centre in Deptford (then at 47 Creek Road), which had hosted Rock Against Racism gigs. A note was pushed through the door the following day saying 'Got you'.

18 January 1981: 13 young black people, aged between 15 and 20, are killed in a fire at a birthday party at 439 New Cross Road. Police reported initially that fire was caused by a fire bomb, leading many to believe that it was a racist attack.

25 January 1981: mass meeting at Moonshot Club, followed by a demonstration of over 1000 people to the scene of the fire, blocking New Cross Road for several hours.

2 March 1981: Black People's Day of Action called by New Cross Massacre Action Committee, 20,000 people march from Fordham Park in New Cross to Hyde Park with slogans including '13 dead and nothing said'.

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