Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest' (March 1990)

Twenty five years ago today, on 31 March 1990, one of the largest demonstrations of the 20th century set off from Kennington Park to protest against the Conservative government's planned new poll tax (officially known as the 'community charge'). The demonstration ended up in Trafalgar Square and was followed by rioting throughout the West End. By the end of the year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been ditched by her own party, worried at its seeping popularity.

A few weeks before the March 31st demonstration there had been lively protests at Town Halls throughout the country where Councils were setting their local poll tax rates. One of the biggest was outside Lambeth town hall in Brixton on Friday 9 March 1990.  I was on the demonstration, I remember people heading from the Town Hall, down Coldharbour Lane and along Electric Lane (which then ran down the back of Woolworths) in an attempt to get around the police. I stopped off for a drink in the Railway Tavern, others went on to Stockwell Road which I think is where a police car got turned over (pictured below).

Pat G.S. commented at a previous post here: 'After the gathering at the town hall... everyone turned and walked down Brixton Road, through the traffic. It was a happy, positive, almost celebratory event. No trouble, or even any sense that there would be trouble ... until the walkers were directed down Stockwell Road, round the back of the Academy - and straight into a wall of riot police. Immediately, all hell let loose - I had no idea that people could actually just pull up paving stones with their bare hands.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I legged it away from the trouble and towards home back up Brixton Road, which had now been closed to traffic by the police. Unbelievable how quickly they'd done that. And then, while we were walking as quickly as possible up the road, we heard this deafening - terrifying - sound behind us and, looking back, saw a line of police on horses who were stamping their hooves on the ground to make as much noise as possible. Oh yes, we felt threatened. That was a heavy day - and an exhilarating one, too. And Maggie didn't get her way'.

photo © Adrian Lord on flickr

Here's a newspaper report from the next day:

'Violence in Brixton follows poll tax protest (Independent, Saturday 10 March 1990)

Violence erupted in Brixton, south London, last night after a peaceful and good-humoured mass demonstration against the poll tax outside a Lambeth borough council budget meeting.

As the meeting began to break up, paint bombs and bottles were thrown towards speakers and police guarding the town hall. A festive atmosphere, with a band playing Caribbean music and protestors dancing and singing anti-poll tax songs, quickly evaporated.

Organisers made appeals to the 2,000 people to leave quietly, but hundreds tried to get to the centre of Brixton, and the police callled in reinforcements and repeatedly charged to clear the scene amid a hail of missiles. Two police were taken to hospital, a Panda car with a WPC inside was overturned, and six of the crowd arrested, as the skirmishing continued for half an hour or so'

'protestors in the south London borough of Lambeth hang an effigy of Margaret Thatcher from a bus shelter,
 before burning it and celebrating over the ashes'
(click to enlarge)

See also:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember UB 40 were playing in the Academy they kept on playing to keep the audience from leaving until the police cleared us out of the way