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Anarchist memorial is a nonsense

PUBLISHED: 15:36 29 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 05 October 2010

I CAN almost hear the staff of Tower Hamlets Community Housing who decided to name two tower blocks in Sidney Street Peter House and Painter House —after Peter Piatkov the anarchist gang leader—saying Ohoo, aren t we radical! (Cop killer honoured, Ad

I CAN almost hear the staff of Tower Hamlets Community Housing who decided to name two tower blocks in Sidney Street 'Peter House' and 'Painter House'-after Peter Piatkov the anarchist gang leader-saying 'Ohoo, aren't we radical!' (Cop killer honoured, Advertiser, September 15).

They would have been better to research the 1911 Siege of Sidney Street and in particular read chapter 11 of East End Jewish Radicals by William Fishman.

A huge pogrom began throughout Russia after the assassination of Tzar Alexander II in Russia by the Narodnaya Volya anarchist group in 1881. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the Russian Empire and many ended up in the East End of London.

There was at the same time as the Houndsditch murders of the three policemen an anarchist periodical in the East End called the Arbeter Friant (Workers Front) which campaigned for better conditions in housing and sweatshops and organised the mainly Jewish garment workers.

This group was totally against violence. But as with any community, there were criminal elements.

The criminal element was used by the jingoist and anti-Semitic press to smear the anarchist trades unionists-and the myth has persisted to this day.

One of the gang wounded (in the Houndsditch shoot-out) died in a house in Grove Street, off the Commercial Road in Whitechapel. The police found copies of two anarchist publications-and on that basis has been hung the urban myth which has now become an urban lie.

I am appalled that Mike Tyrrell (Tower Hamlets Community Housing), a man for whom I have respect for the assistance he has given the anti-fascist movement, should be involved in this charade to honour a man (Peter the Painter) involved in the murder of three policemen and smearing a movement of which I have always considered myself a part.

A better way of explaining history would be to put up a plaque to Blair Peach, a Tower Hamlets schoolteacher who was killed opposing the National Front in 1979. It might be a good idea for some of his friends to make the plaque and put it up after removing the offending ones-that is if Tower Hamlets Community Housing doesn't take them down first.

Terry Fitzpatrick

Victoria Park Road

South Hackney

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