30 years of conflict revealed show how activists changed the East End for ever
PUBLISHED: 12:02 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 04 September 2019
Secrets of how activists organised protests in the East End over 30 years of conflict are being unravelled at a public exhibition about street battles, racist murder and schoolchildren going on strike.
The "unite and resist" display being staged at Tower Hamlets Local History Library in Mile End explores activist movements from 1970 to 2000.
It brings to light conflicts like the 1978 Battle of Brick Lane, following the murder of textile worker Altab Ali in Whitechapel.
The decade began with pupils staging a walk-out at Sir John Cass Secondary over the sacking of teacher Chris Searle for publishing their poems on life in Stepney, which led to a protest rally in Trafalgar Square.
"We have a long history here in the East End of taking a stand against all forms of hate and intolerance," mayor John Biggs said.
"This exhibition reminds us about continuing to make sure there is no place for hate."
Original archive collections include banners, badges, garments, posters, photographs, pamphlets and other campaign materials.
The three decades up to the end of the 20th century had huge political, economic and social shifts, with communities moving out and others moving in.
Buildings left derelict were often occupied by squatters, some razed, repaired or remade, all documented in the archive collections at the history library in Bancroft Road.
But conflict in the East End goes back well before the last three decades up to 1999.
Most notorious was the 1936 Battle of Cable Street that stopped Mosley's blackshirt fascists marching through a predominantly Jewish Whitechapel, where 200,000 protesters blocked the main road at Gardner's Corner. The mass protest switched to Cable Street when police diverted the fascist march which was eventually turned back after demonstrators erected barricades.
Other early conflicts include the 1921 rates strike when Poplar borough councillors were jailed in a campaign led by the mayor George Lansbury against the poor being charged the same flat rate local tax as wealthy parts of London.
Another was Sylvia Pankhurst's radical Suffragette movement she set up at Bow in 1912.
The exhibition focusing on three decades of protest runs until February 15.
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