Saturday, June 1, 2013
So much work has gone on behind the scenes since the battles of 1977 when the National Front marched from New Cross to Lewisham with full police escort. It is perhaps because of this ancient battle in which the police appeared to be protecting the fascists and arresting the anti-fascists, that the Met have chosen to ban the BNP from marching from Woolwich to Lewisham today. In football crowd terms, the opposing team would be up for it. (See Transpontine who is the expert on this subject).
This author was so young and scared at the time, we stood at the top of Deptford High Street ready to run for our lives. When the Brixton riots of 1981 spread down New Cross Road like a River of Fire, we did the same thing, but by then we knew which pub to run to. There were a lot of photographers living in Deptford, but very few wanted to be out on the street with their precious cameras under these circumstances. By the time of the poll tax riots in 1990, we were photographing the police (and brutality) without flinching, as horses galloped down the narrow streets of Covent Garden.
So much has changed since then. There was no internet in 1977. Cameras have got smaller and are linked to the internet immediately. The climate of fear that Londoners lived with in the 70s and 80s was as much from the Government (and the police as their agents) as from the IRA. Fortunately the Greater London Council was Labour for some of the time (Ken Livingstone 1981-86), supporting human rights and equality, and inhibiting Thatcher – possibly through embarrassment alone – from doing what the present government is doing now and lying through their teeth while they do it.
Stephen Lawrence. Steve lived in Plumstead and was killed in Eltham. When our young people tell us the fight is not won we must listen. We might say 'look how far we have come, we fought for this over 30 years ago and made a difference, and things are so much better now'... But the fact that one of Stephen Lawrence's murderers was still trying to appeal their sentence only a week ago, 20 years after they murdered him, means we haven't moved on very much. After the psychopathic Woolwich murder in which the BNP draw silent sympathy from those who favour UKIP, it seems we haven't moved anywhere since 1977.
The Met's choice to gather several protests in central London today says a lot about their lack of resources. But it's definitely best it happens in town and not on our streets. Any protesting fascist you see in Lewisham today is breaking the law...get your camera out.
Thanks to Lewisham '77 for resources, and Syd Shelton for iconic photo.