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Who was involved in the ‘Battle of Lewisham’?

‘All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism’ (ALCARAF)ALCRAF

ALCARAF members organised and led the march from Ladywell Fields to New Cross.

ALCARAF was comprised of members of Socialist and Communist organisations, but also received support from the Council and various religious organisations. Members of ALCARAF were prominent in calls for the demonstration to be banned and were adamant that counter-demonstrations to the NF should be peaceful.

 

‘Anti Racist / Anti-Fascist Co-ordinating Committee’ (ARAFCC)

Anti-Fascists assemble at the junction of New Cross Road and Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Chris Schwarz)

Anti-Fascists assemble at the junction of New Cross Road and Clifton Rise, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Chris Schwarz)

ARAFCC members supported both the ALCARAF march and the blockade of Clifton Rise.

Following a National Front march in Wood Green in April 1977, local anti-racist/anti-fascist groups affiliated to one ‘All London Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Co-ordinating Committee’. There were 23 affiliate groups, including Women Against Racism and Fascism (WARF). ARAFCC published a newspaper, CARF, which began as a section in the Anti-Fascist magazine Searchlight.

 

The National Front (NF)

John Tyndall, Chairman of the National Front, 13 Aug 1977

John Tyndall, Chairman of the National Front, 13 Aug 1977 (© Homer Sykes)

The NF organised and led the ‘Anti-mugging’ march from Achilles Street to Catford.

The National Front was founded in 1967 as an amalgamation of The League of Empire Loyalists and the British National Party. In the late 1970s, the NF was gaining in popularity. In July 1976, The NF and the National Party gained 44% of votes in a Parliamentary By-election in Deptford.

The Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police were responsible for policing and determined the routes taken by the marches.

Appeals were made to the Metropolitan Police to ban the NF march, but the Police Commissioner assured the public that, ‘adequate measures can be taken to preserve the peace’. 2500 police officers were deployed on Saturday 13th August 1977; 270 were injured, 57 received hospital treatment and 7 police coaches were damaged. 214 people were arrested, of which 202 people were charged. Critics of the policing of the demonstration included a Southwark Canon who claimed, ‘violence broke out only when the police tied to push their way through demonstrators’ (The Times, 15 August 1977)

The National Front March, Lewisham, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Chris Steele-Perkins)

The National Front March, Lewisham, 13 Aug. 1977 (© Chris Steele-Perkins)

Socialist Workers Party (SWP)

SWP logo

SWP logo

SWP members organised and led the blockade at Clifton Rise and advocated direct against to oppose the NF.

The Socialist Workers Party was founded in 1977, having previously been known the International Socialists and the Socialist Review Group. The Anti-Nazi League, prominent among those who took part in the Battle of Lewisham, was organised and run by the SWP. On the day, most SWP members massed at Clifton Rise, although many did attend the ALCARAF march partly to persuade protestors to also blockade the NF march.

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