Monday, November 29, 2010

The Brockwell Three: a school strike in 1974

With protests by school students in the news, here's an account of an earlier wave of protest in Brixton in the early 1970s:

'In 1973 a youth was stabbed while in a queue at a fish and chip shop in South London. The police arrived and a crowd gathered. The police began to panic and tried to push the crowd back, but the crowd was under pressure from people pouring out of a fair in Brockwell Park. The police drew their truncheons and laid into the crowd. A general fight developed, a policeman was hurt and reinforcements sent for. A police riot ensued; they attacked people all around them and lost control of themselves. Three black youths were arrested... and each given three years in prison. One later won an appeal against conviction, but the other two were not so lucky...

After this the stunned black community in Brixton began to mobilise. On 20 March [1974] a meeting was held in Brixton town hall at which a fund was started for the three and a committee formed to campaign for them. On the 27th the Tulse Hill Students' Collective organised a meeting attended by 70 children from nine to 17 years old. The collective which had raised £100, urged other schools to raise money. At the meeting a Black Students' Action Committee was formed. On 30 March, a 500-strong demonstration and a public meeting took place to spread information about the case. Then on 3 April 1,000 school pupils, most of them black, came out on strike. They held a rally and march - parading past the local court, the police station, Tulse Hill School, where another 100 pupils joined them, and Brockwell Park'

(Source: Robert Moore, Racism and Black Resistance in Britain, Pluto Press, 1975)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was there. I knew the youngest of the Brockwell 3, those arrested and jailed after the fairground disturbance. He was an academically motivated boy in Faraday House at Tulse Hill School and frankly, not the sort of person to look for trouble.

The 14 year old was held in custody in the Midlands, we believed in a bid to greatly inconvenience his family from visiting him.

I had attended the fair, but left a couple of minutes, my friend later told me, before the trouble began. In those days before social media and mobile phones, I found out about the 'riot' the following day when I read The News of The World and then a more accurate, first hand accounts when I went to school on Monday morning. For many it had started in the fairground and spilled onto the neighbouring streets between the park’s Herne Hill entrance to Railton Road.

On the day of the school strike I remember the teachers at Tulse Hill forbidding us to leave school and join any protest. The first opportunity we got, around mid-morning, myself and about five others left the school (as did many other groups of boys) and made our way to Kennington Park where the protest march was due to commence from. There a group of Gay Rights activists approached us on our arrival outside the park. They handed us placards which read, BLACK and WHITE UNITE & FIGHT. It was 1974 for us racism was all around, we were suspicious of them. We refused to take their placards and told them dismissively that we could fight our own fight.

We marched along Camberwell New Road to the courts where The 3 had been convicted. On the way I recall people saying Pompidou had died. I had to explain to some of our group that he had been a former French president. From the courts at Camberwell the march proceeded on to Brixton police station where The 3 were taken after their arrests. There as all along the route we chanted, “Free, Free The Brockwell Three!” The march then went up to Tulse Hill School where we encouraged scores of boys to scale the school’s fences and walls to join us. From there we passed Dick Sheppard’s girl school (nice) on the way to a rally in Brockwell Park. Our Bredren and the youngest of The 3 was released on appeal. We heard that before quashing his sentence, the presiding judge asked the prosecution if they really expected him to believe that the slightly built boy stood before him was really responsible for single handedly beating and invaliding an experienced 17 stone police officer out of the force.

CKG
Student
3 Brunel

Transpontine said...

Thanks CKG, that's a nice slice of history.