Anarchists mark centenary of Siege of Sidney Street

A minute’s silence was held to mark the centenary of the Siege of Sidney Street when police and troops surrounded a gang of anarchists who were holed up there on January 3 1911 following a fatal attack on the police during a raid on a jewellers’ shop.

Members of the Whitechapel Anarchists Group, London Class War and from the long-running anarchist newspaper Freedom led a procession from the paper’s Whitechapel office to the site of the siege. The building at 100 Sidney Street no longer exists and the group gathered at Sidney Square to mark the event.

Ian Bone led a minute’s silence to remember the two men William Sokoloff and Fritz Svaas whose charred bodies were found at the end of the siege.

Mr Bone said the siege was a major event in the history of anarchists.

He said: “It is probably the one occasion when anarchists have intruded onto the public consciousness in 100 years.”

The men had gone on the run after a bungled raid at a jewellery shop in Houndsditch which left three policemen dead. A gang member Poolka Milowitz also died of his injuries several days later. It is thought the gang of revolutionaries were after cash to fund their campaign.

A �500 reward was offered for the capture of Peter Paiktow, known as Peter the Painter and police, led by Inspector Fred Wensley who was a veteran of the Jack the Ripper investigations, got a tip off that the gang were at Sidney Street.

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The building was surrounded by police and troops and a crowd of onlookers, including the Home Secretary Winston Churchill. Shots were fired from the house before a fire broke out and twleve hours later the siege ended when the bodies of the gang members were found.

Historian Peter Ruff who is writing a history of the third gang member Peter the Painter also spoke at the event.

Controversy still rages over the fate of Peter the Painter.

Some people think he was also in the house at 100 Sidney Street but others believe he had managed to leave the country after the raid on the Houndsditch jewellers two weeks earlier.

His name however is controversially commemorated on nearby Painter House.

A free exhibition London under siege: Churchill and the Anarchists is running at the Museum of London Docklands until April. The show at the museum in West India Quay has been organised jointly with the Jewish East End Celebration Society.