Posts Tagged ‘NF’

Gurdip Singh Chaggar & Blair Peach

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

This wasn’t the first time I’d been to Southall for a rally remembering the murder there of Blair Peach by the police Special Patrol Group in 1979, though I don’t remember if Gurdip Singh Chaggar’s murder was also remembered at those earlier events.

Blair Peach had come to the UK from New Zealand in 1969 and he was roughly my age. He was working as a teacher in the East End, and like me was an active member of the National Union of Teachers, though I didn’t come across him as I was working around 40 miles away and only involved at a local level.

I suspect we went to some of the same protests agains apartheid in South Africa and against racism, but I was not at the Anti-Nazi League demonstration in Southall on the day he was murdered, probably because although it was not far from where I was living, it was a week after Easter Monday and I was probably working and could not have arrived until it was due to finish.

The racist National Front had called a meeting in Southall Town Hall for 7.30pm, and because it was in the run-up to the forthcoming General Election on 3rd May in which the NF had a candidate (he got 1545 votes, 3.0% of the vote) Ealing Council were unable to refuse them the use of the hall, despite a petition from 10,000 local residents.

Several local groups as well as the Anti-Nazi League organised protests across the day, including the Indian Workers’ Association, outside whose offices Gurdip Singh Chaggar, coming home from the Dominion Cinema, had been set upon and murdered by skinheads in June 1976, and Peoples Unite, a largely Afro-Carribean group who along with others had been involved in disturbances which followed Chaggar’s murder.

Although there had been some reports of bricks and bottles being thrown, the real violence began when the police Special Patrol Group decided to raid a squat being used by People’s Unite as a first aid post. Two officers were reported as wounded and the SPG took out vengeance on all those in the house, and Clarence Baker was hit on the head by a police truncheon, fracturing his skull and putting him in a coma for five months.

Police had kept a cordon around the Town Hall, and escorted the fascists in. Once the meeting had begun they decided to clear the area, allowing protesters to move away westwards along Southall Broadway. Peach and a group of friends were leaving, going back to where they had parked, and turned off south down Beachcroft Road. Unfortunately for them, this road stops short, running into Orchard Rd and then going back towards the Broadway. As they approached Orchard Rd they were met by the SPG, who jumped out of their vans and were now rioting out of control and lashing out at everyone on the road. It’s unclear whether the baton wielded by the officer who killed Peach was standard police issue or as some report soemthing rather heavier. Conscious but in obvious difficulties he was taken into a nearby house and an ambulance called, but he died in hospital four hours later.

Today’s protest started close to where Gurdip Singh Chaggar was murdered and the march halted there for a minute’s silence before going on to stop outside the Gurdwara where he and his family worhsipped. Later it took Peach’s route from Broadway down Beechcroft Road and people laid flowers on the corner of Orchard Road where he received the fatal blow, before going on to a rally outside the Town Hall.

More about the protest at Southall rally for unity against racism.


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