Street Fighting In East London
The First Barricades
Clash Described By An Eye-Witness
,Though the Blackshirts were not due until 2.30 last Sunday afternOon trouble had already commenced by 1.30 p.m.
f The first sight that greeted me on my arrival in Royal Mint Street was that o several stalwart City policemen moving a small crowd, One was a lame man walking with the aid of a stick who was roughly hustled along. He called at the policeman nearest to him and in return received a rough push which seemed to enrage him for he turned and etit the policeman across the face with his stick. That was the first arrest.
The police endeavoured to keep the crowd on the move but as it grew to several thousands at each end of Royal Mint Street it proved impossible for the front ranks to move. This caused the police to make several charges until they had Royal Mint Street cleared and two cordons of police dividing the crowd from the assembling Blackshirts.
Communists and Loud Speakers
Aldgate High Street was the centre to which he majority of the people rallied.
Dtiring the early part of the afternoon Communists drove round in a car fitted with a loud speaker urging the peop e not to gather on street corners but to rally to Aldgate.
At 2 15 it was impossible for tram-cars to cros Gardiner's Corner. so dense was the crowd. Here someone had poured grease on to the roadway to make things more dfficult for the mounted police.
Repeated charges were made by mounted officers to clear the roadway for buses and trams. Their efforts were spoilt when five or six 'buses full of police were seen. The crowd rushed round these calling the drivers and conductors that they were blacklegs and in the case of at least one 'bus throwing stones at the windows. Then one monnted man drew his sword-stick and the sight of this drew an ominous roar from the crowd.
As the crowd ran before the police charges, members of the Communist Party were trying to halt them, crying that they should turn and give the police what they got.' I saw three men doing this, one of which I recognised as a member of the Camden. Town section of the Communist Party, and one of the others was wearing a Communist badge.
Cable Street and the side turnings in that area was the centre of fierce fighting that lasted over two hours. The junction of Cable Street and Leman Street was cleared only after repeated police charges. Sonic of the crowd rolled marbles under the hoofs of the police horses in an endeavoun to bring them down. Slowly the crowd was driven down Cable treet and then something really new w seen.
A barricade was built, despite attempts by foot and monnted police to prevent it. Tntber from a building site and a lorry nd bricks out of a mineral water manaacturer's yard were used and a well Constructed barrier was erected.
For two hours the police made repeated charges and eventually only captured the barricade by passing through houses in side streets so that they were behind the barriers an then charging from all sides at once. For a time the air was thick with stones; pricks, iron bars, bottles and paving sto s were all used.
Abou twenty arrests were made in this final at4ack and the crowd was pushed back an ther thirty or forty yards so that the police could move the barricade.
Police Forbid March
Even after it was known definitely that the Poliee had ordered Sir Oswald Mosley to call off his East End march the police still tried to clear the streets. But the East Enders were determined to hold on in case Mosley planned a surprise return.
Back in Aldgatc the police had great difficulty in maintaining any control over the huge crowd which completely blocked High Stteet, Aldgate, and about two hundred yards of High Street, Whitechapel.
At length, being certain that the Blackshirt march was off, word was passed round to march to Victoria Park Square.
In the Aldgate struggle and in this march it is interesting to note that the lead was taken by a non-Communist, by a docker known as " Mac."
About 30,000 people hurried to Victoria Park Square and there listened to instructions being given by Brantley and Springhall of the Communist Party.
It was thought, said Springhall, that Mosley might try to speak at the four meetings he had announced; at three of them, he continued, it would be suicide for a Fascist to show himself. but Aske Street, Shoreditri, was the danger spot, and he called on the workers of East London to make Ake Street like the other places, a spot where no Fascist would dare show himself.
Bramley raised the crowd to a frenzy by pointOng out that he was standing on the spot where Mosley had vowed to speak that day; and Mosley was not there: that Mosley had vowed to march through Aldgate and Cable Street and he had not passed.
The watchword all during the afternoon was " They shall not pass " and the victory cry was " They did not pass."
Fascists and National Anthem
An eye-witness of the disturbances writes to The Times:
" There was one other disagreeable feature of the day, and that was the Fascist use of the National Anthem for propaganda, on purpose or indirectly. It was sung at the end of their meeting as though it were their private song. The National Anthem is a national hymn, and should never be used as part of the emotional stock-in-trade of a single faction. The Nazis have their own song for party occasions and Deutschland ilber Alles for national occasions. The British Fascists have not the monopoly of patriotism, and there is no sight more incongruous than a band of English people in black shirts singing 'God Save the King,' with their hands raised in bleak imitation of nations whose manners arc completely at variance with English history and traditions. The writer is a member of neither Fascist nor Communist groups, but of the middle group which constitutes England."
Of the composition of the crowd he says: "In spite of the broken heads and police arrests it was clear that the majority of the thousands wedged between yesterday's ,Fascist and Communist demonstrations were chiefly inspired by extreme indifference or dislike for both. Feeling was highest among the inhabitants of the region invaded not because they were given to either cause but 'because the peace of their neighbourhood had been disturbed by noisy people they knew little about and did not want to see."