THIS YEAR MARKED the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-fascist campaigner Blair Peach at the hands of the police in Southall on 23rd April 1979. He had gone to Southall to protest against a meeting called by the National Front - one of many racist attacks on this black and Asian community. Three years earlier a student called Gurdip Singh Chaggar had been stabbed to death in a racially motivated attack.
Police with riot shields and on horseback moved into the town, resulting in countless injuries, over 700 arrests and over 300 charged with criminal offences. The town was under occupation for most of the day, with local residents unable to leave or go home. Young children witnessed police violence against a defenceless population.
Previous anniversaries of this event have been low-key events. This year however, with the rise of racism and far right groups again in political life, it was decided to set up a Southall Resists 40 Committee to prepare a significant commemoration.
This included visits to schools, with local children making artwork, guided walks, and a film show. Blue plaques were unveiled on the site of the town hall and flowers were laid at the street corner where Blair Peach was killed. It was attended by relatives and friends of both Peach and Chaggar and Clarence Baker, manager of a reggae band who had survived a serious injury at the hands of the police.
On Saturday 27th April there was a march through Southall town centre supported by members of the local community, trade unionists and political activists. Ealing Southall CLP had a new banner made up for the march. This was followed by a rally at the town hall.
A public meeting was also organised by the three CLPs in Ealing, the first for many years and an illustration of how the local Labour Party has changed. It was addressed by a local campaigner, Suresh Grover, a young local councillor and David Rosenberg, and attracted over 100 people.
1979 was to mark a watershed in British politics with a Tory election victory and within five years of this attack on the Asian community in Southall, striking miners were to face police brutality at Orgreave, as were London printers at Wapping.
Ealing Southall CLP and UCU