History,  Trots

From the Vaults: The Times, October 12, 1985

October 6, 1985 was the day of the Broadwater Farm Riot. This is mostly recalled for the being the riot where Pc Keith Blakelock was stabbed to death. A key person convicted for that murder was Winston Silcott. A number of years later the conviction was quashed as unsafe. Twenty five years have elapsed since that fateful night and the police are determined to find out exactly what occurred and are still making arrests.

The extract from an article in The Times below is not about the Silcott trial and its aftermath, but about a strike that occurred within days of the riot. The strike occurred due to comments made by the leader of Haringey Borough Council. It appears to be one of those rare strikes not supported by the Socialist Workers Party and for that reason alone it is worthwhile remembering.

Riot protesters demand Grant must go

Haringey Borough Council strike for resignation of leader

Robin Young

The Times, October 12, 1985

More than 1,000 employees of Haringey Borough Council in north London went on strike yesterday and marched to the Civic Centre to demand the resignation of the council leader, Mr Bernie Grant, over his reaction to the riot on the Broadwater Farm Estate. Mr Grant had refused to condemn the riot and the murder of Police Constable Keith Blakelock and had referred to the police getting ‘a bloody good hiding’.

The workers, members of the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Union of Public Employees, voted unanimously to stage an immediate 24-hour strike at a mass meeting held at a council transport depot. A black man who spoke in support of Mr Grant was howled down and six workers walked out of the meeting before the vote was taken.

The resolution passed by the meeting condemned the remarks of the leader of the council about the police and the Broadwater Farm riot.

It said: ‘These remarks should never have been made. The killing of PC Blakelock can never in any way be excused. All forms of violence must be clearly condemned. Most of us live in the borough and we do not want petrol bombing, shooting and stone throwing where we and our families live.

‘As council employees we are in the front line in Broadwater Farm and elsewhere. We need the protection of the police, the support of the community and of our employing authority. We demand that Haringey Council totally condemn all forms of violence. Council leaders must act in such a way as not to aggravate any differences within the local community….

‘We must never again have riots on the streets of Tottenham. Never again should the leader of Haringey Council agree with attacks on police and members of the public or condone the burning down of people’s houses. Bernie Grant should resign as leader of Haringey Council’.

Mr Brian Berritt, the TGWU branch chairman, said: ‘…. This is in no sense a racist demonstration. There was no difference of opinion with coloured members who attended the meeting. Those supporting Mr Grant were probably less than half a per cent of all those that were there.’….

Supporters of the Socialist Workers Party and Militant paraded posters outside the meeting blaming Mrs Margaret Thatcher and not Mr Grant, but local residents countered with a streamer of wallpaper converted into a banner declaring: ‘Bernie Grant does not speak for Haringey. Bernie get out. Council supports murder’.

At the end of a three-mile march to the Civic Centre there were noisy scenes when the marchers were met by about 70 demonstrators, many carrying Nalgo placards, who chanted abuse, accusing the marchers of racism….

Those holding Nalgo placards included an abusively voeiferous group of young black men and women and several people who had previously been selling Socialist Worker and Militant….

Mr Grant arrived at the Civic Centre during the confrontation, to cheers from those on the steps. He said, referring to their counter-demonstration: ‘This is a magnificent demonstration by the people who support democracy. I hope the Prime Minister is going to condemn these strikers for going on strike without a secret ballot’. He refused to answer questions, or to meet the marchers’ representatives.

This controversy did not stop Bernie Grant being elected as Member of Parliament for Tottenham less than two years later.