Sunday, February 17, 2019

Balwinder Singh Rana recalls the Battle of Lewisham 1977

Interesting recent article by James Rippingale at Al Jazeera. In  'Lewisham, London 1977: Notes on fighting fascism' (24 November 2018) 'Balwinder Singh Rana, a 71-year-old anti-fascist, recalls the day he and thousands of others took on the National Front' in the August 1977 'Battle of Lewisham'. Here's a few extracts:

'"It was the only time in my life I thought I'd probably die. I couldn't breathe," says 71-year-old Balwinder Singh Rana. He recalls the mass of bodies pressed together as police separated anti-fascist protesters from 500 National Front marchers gathered at the bottom of Clifton Rise in the South-East London borough of Lewisham...

[At Ladywell]  "One of my comrades from the SWP approached me and gave me a couple of flares which I wrapped up in a newspaper and hid in my belt," recalls Rana. "He asked me to take a dozen people quietly and make our way here," he adds, gesturing towards Clifton Rise, now awash with pigeons. Then we noticed hundreds of other people were trying to do the same... We let the police pass, we let the [National Front] honour guard pass and when they got to about here," he says, motioning to a space on Pagnell Street, "we started chucking everything we could. Rocks, bottles, flares".

Several of the adjacent houses were derelict. Antifascists concealed on the upper floors and behind garden walls threw bricks at the marchers. Rana chuckles to himself as he recalls members of the National Front cowering in doorways.

[in Lewisham town centre]  'police equipped with riot shields and batons descended upon the protesters "People who were sitting in their own homes were suddenly involved - young or old. People who'd been watching TV. They came out ... I even saw some black old ladies from upstairs windows throwing cauliflowers at the police"'.

Balwinder Singh Rana took part in our commemorative events in 2007 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, we did a walk around the route together which also included Red Saunders, founder of Rock Against Racism.

There's lots more information about the Battle of Lewisham here at Transpontine - to read all the posts see here.