East End firefighters on strike rescue man from street thugs in Shadwell

Crew members on a picket line outside a London fire station rescued a man being attacked by thugs during New Year Eve’s national fire brigades’ strike.

The man was set on by two youths as he came out of an off-license with a bottle of whisky he had bought opposite Shadwell fire-station in London’s East End.

He was knocked to the ground and kicked, then smashed on the head with the bottle.

“We ran across the road and managed to stop the attack,” said a senior fire brigade officer. “But suddenly a mob of 20 more youths turned up and surrounded us—it was quite intimidating.”

The two youths who carried out the attack at 8.30pm in Cable Street, by Watney Market, ran off when a passing police patrol car stopped at the scene. Police were later searching for the youths.

The man, believed to be Polish and in his 30s, was given first-aid by the firefighters before an ambulance arrived.

He had a three-inch gash in his head and was taken to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

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“The youths tried to make him give up the alcohol,” the fire-officer added. “They waylaid him outside the store, then suddenly started kicking and punching him. He fell to the pavement and was hit with the bottle.

“It would have been worse had we been inside the fire station—we wouldn’t have seen him being attacked or be in time to stop it.”

The five-hour picket outside the fire-station, which ended at midnight, was part of a nationwide series of stoppages by members of the Fire Brigades’ Union in a long-running dispute with the government over pensions and raising the firefighters’ retirement age.

London members are also protesting at the closure of 10 fire stations from next Thursday, including three in east London itself at Bow, Silvertown and Kingsland, and reducing cover at fire-stations such as Whitechapel which is losing 20 firefighters and other posts.