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What was the ‘Battle of Lewisham’?

Police attempt to clear anti-racists before the NF March. Clifton Rise, New Cross, 13 Aug. 1877 (© Chris Schwarz)

Police attempt to clear anti-racists before the NF March. Clifton Rise, New Cross, 13 Aug. 1877 (© Chris Schwarz)

On 13 August 1977, the National Front (NF) attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham town centre, leading to violent clashes with counter demonstrators and police.

The march organised by the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF) leaving Ladywell Fields, 13 Aug. 1977

The march organised by the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF) leaving Ladywell Fields, 13 Aug. 1977

Under the pretext of marching ‘against muggers’ the NF organized a national march bringing together its members from all over the country.

The local community opposed the march, with thousands of peaceful demonstrators brought together by Lewisham Council and the Bishop of Southwark holding a counter-march from Ladywell Fields to New Cross.

A second group, composed of elements of the radical left, progressive groups opposed to the NF and local people angered by the march, sought to directly intervene and disrupt the march.

 

 

After a series of running battles on the streets of Lewisham, the NF abandoned their route and were ushered away to waiting trains by police.

Many local people were drawn into the counter-protest and ensuing civil disturbances, as the police felt the full force of local people’s anger at years of mistreatment.

Anti-racist protestors, New Cross Road, 13 Aug. 1977 (©Peter Marlow)

Anti-racist protestors, New Cross Road, 13 Aug. 1977 (©Peter Marlow)

Anti-racist (left) fends off attack from NF supporters, Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Peter Marlow)

Anti-racist (left) fends off attack from NF supporters, Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Peter Marlow)

The ‘Battle of Lewisham’, as it has become known, marked the very first time the NF were prevented from marching in the UK, and also saw the first deployment of riot shields by police in England.

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