East End rag trade killing in the 1970s now officially marked as Altab Ali Day

Launch of Altab Ali Day in the park in Whitechapel which bears his name [photos: Ken Mears]

Launch of Altab Ali Day in the park in Whitechapel which bears his name [photos: Ken Mears] - Credit: Archant

The race murder of an immigrant rag trade worker in London’s East End nearly 40 years ago in a park since named after him is now officially marked with an annual memorial day.

Police accompany Altab Ali's funeral in May, 1978 [archive photo]

Police accompany Altab Ali's funeral in May, 1978 [archive photo] - Credit: Archant

Altab Ali was attacked and beaten up in Whitechapel on his way home walking through what was then St Mary’s churchyard in 1978.

Every year since, anti-fascist campaigners and members of the Bengali community mark his death with flowers and an impromptu service.

But now Tower Hamlets council has formally adopted the date as an annual remembrance with Wednesday’s launch of Altab Ali Day.

Laying wreaths for Altab Ali, murdered in Whitechapel in 1978

Laying wreaths for Altab Ali, murdered in Whitechapel in 1978 - Credit: Archant

The event in Whitechapel Road in the park now bearing his name began with wreath laying, then poetry readings and an address by the Bangladesh High Commissioner Abdul Hannan.


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The High Commissioner was there “to pay homage to Altab Ali”. But he added: “It is up to all of us to learn from the terrible events of 38 years ago.”

Altab’s murder helped mobilise the East End’s anti-racism movement in the Bengali and wider communities to take a public stand against what memorial organisers say was “the hatred and racial intolerance” in parts of London at the time.

1978... protest march in Whitechapel High Street following Altab Ali's death

1978... protest march in Whitechapel High Street following Altab Ali's death - Credit: TH Council

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Also adressing the crowd that gathered in the park were Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs and members of the Altab Ali Foundation and Altab Ali Trust.

The Mayor said: “We want to keep alive the important message of community cohesion—it’s about standing united against racism.

“Altab Ali’s murder and the subsequent protests showed people they were not alone in suffering or fearing violence.”

Launch of Altab Ali Day in the park in Whitechapel which bears his name [photos: Ken Mears]

Launch of Altab Ali Day in the park in Whitechapel which bears his name [photos: Ken Mears] - Credit: Archant

The wreath-laying was followed by readings from poets Salam Jones, Stephen Watts and hip hop artist Shay D.

This first official memorial day ended with a panel discussion at Spitalfields’ Kobi Nazrul centre nearby and a drama performance of The Altab Ali Story staged at Whitechapel’s Brady Arts centre by the Swadhinata Trust.

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