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The Battle of Cable Street

The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936 in Cable Street in the East End of London. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, overseeing a march by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, and anti-fascists, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups. The majority of both marchers and counter-protesters travelled into the area for this purpose. Mosley planned to send thousands of marchers dressed in uniforms styled on those of Blackshirts through the East End of London, which had a large Jewish population.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews denounced the march as anti-semitic and urged Jewish people to stay well away. The Communist Party of Great Britain, under the leadership of Phil Piratin, led the opposition on the day. Piratin’s role was widely recognised by local people. The following year he became the first Communist to be elected to Stepney Borough Council. In 1945, he was elected as a Communist MP for Mile End. Despite the strong likelihood of violence, the government refused to ban the march and a large escort of police was provided in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protestors disrupting the march.

The anti-fascist groups erected roadblocks in an attempt to prevent the march from taking place. The barricades were erected near the junction with Christian Street, towards the west end of this long street. An estimated 300,000 anti-fascist demonstrators turned out.  Over 10,000 police, including 4,000 on horseback, attempted to clear the road to permit the march to proceed. The demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the police by women in houses along the street. After a series of running battles, Mosley agreed to abandon the march to prevent bloodshed. The BUF marchers were dispersed towards Hyde Park instead while the anti-fascists rioted with police. 150 demonstrators were arrested, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Several members of the police were kidnapped by demonstrators. Around 100 people were injured including police, women and children.

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