Trotskyists blamed for race protest violence: Militant Labour accused of exploiting revulsion over murders

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A LEADING black activist has blamed mainly white Trotskyists for Saturday's violence and destruction in south-east London.

Marc Wadsworth, national secretary of the Anti-Racist Alliance, which is supported by the TUC and 90 MPs, said that the organisation Militant Labour was behind the demonstration and had 'cynically exploited local feeling about racist murders . . . with a flagrant disregard for people's safety'.

A total of 19 people, five of them police officers, were hurt when protesters tried to storm premises used by the British National Party in Welling. Police on horseback charged demonstrators, and neighbouring houses and shops were attacked.

Five people were charged yesterday with public order offences following the clashes, Scotland Yard said. Four others were released on bail and one man was formally cautioned.

The 3,000-strong march was called as a protest against the murder of 18- year-old Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed at a bus stop by a gang of white youths on 22 April. His family declined to join the protest or allow a picture of him to be used.

The demonstration was organised jointly by Youth Against Racism in Europe and a black people's organisation, Panther UK. Mr Wadsworth said both were founded and still led by Militant Labour, the product of a split in the Militant Tendency. Mr Wadsworth said: 'Their actions led to black youths being beaten and arrested by the police. If the march had been properly organised . . . that need not have happened.'

He said there had been no violence at a candlelit vigil, which attracted more than 1,000 people, most young blacks, held at the spot where Stephen died, a week after the murder.

No representative of either Militant Labour or Panther UK was available for comment yesterday but at Saturday's demonstration Panther supporters, numbering more than 500, were shouting slogans such as 'No justice - no peace'.

Publicity distributed by Panther UK describes its aim as 'organising the defence of the black and Asian communities'. To combat racism, says the leaflet, 'We must learn from Malcom (sic) X and the Black Panthers - we need to be organised in an independent black organisation . . .'

Other black leaders have denounced the Panthers as a front for Militant. Lee Jasper, of the National Black Caucus, writing in the Voice newspaper, accused Militant of setting up Panther to recruit black supporters.

Saturday's violence erupted when police in riot gear clashed with black and white protesters who were hurling missiles at the BNP centre and trying to cross police barriers.

Makham Bajwa, director of Greenwich council for racial equality, who joined Saturday's march, said it showed the level of anger and frustration in the community about racist violence, and the presence of the British National Party centre in particular. Riot police had behaved provocatively by pushing people into closed spaces until they were squashed. He said: 'There have been 27 lobbies of Bexley council on this issue and nothing has happened. Two youths have now been murdered in . . . nine months, within 200 yards of each other. It is up to the police, the council and even central government to act if more angry scenes are to be avoided.'

Mr Wadsworth also warned that unless Bexley council used its planning powers to close the British National Party's base in Welling, 'there will be an explosion of community anger'. Since it opened in 1989, racial attacks in the area have more than doubled and there have been four racist murders, he said. Yesterday, the BNP was reported to be planning a demonstration of own in the area, bringing fears of more violent clashes.

Three teenagers were questioned about Stephen Lawrence's murder before being released on police bail pending inquiries.

Comments