The events that led to the Battle of Lewisham began in May 1977 when the Metropolitan police arrested a group of young Black people in the New Cross and Lewisham area for suspected thefts, blaming them for ‘90% of the street crime in south London over the past six months’ - a blatantly exaggerated and inaccurate statistic.
Demonstrations held in protest of the police’s racist treatment of the young people were met by members of the far-right, white supremacist and neo-fascist political party The National Front, who attacked them with caustic soda, leading to 80 arrests.
Things came to a head when 500 members of The National Front decided to organise a march of their own from New Cross to Lewisham on 13th August 1977. The party’s national organiser, Martin Webster, told the newspapers that the march was happening because ‘multi-racial society is wrong [and] evil and we want to destroy it'.
Despite pressure from Lewisham Council, the Liberal Party, the All Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF) and many other trade unions and local groups who supported anti-racist and anti-facist action, the Metropolitan Police refused to ban The National Front’s demonstration, so thousands of locals began to organise counter-demonstrations, peaceful and otherwise.
On the day, gigantic crowds had gathered to block the intended route of The National Front’s demonstration, and clashed with police who attempted to move them on. When the police attempted to move the NF on through an alternate route, bypassing the blockade, violent confrontations broke out across Lewisham town centre. These continued until long after the NF had been escorted away by police - but the anti-facist and anti-racist protesters were successful in preventing the demonstration.
The events became known as the Battle of Lewisham
, and in 2017 Goldsmiths consulted with the local community to install a public mural
in remembrance not only of the battle, but of the ongoing fight against racist and fascist movements in the UK.