Friday, 13 January 2012

Stephen Lawrence murder - the untold story

How socialists and the local community fought back against racism and the BNP

On 3 January 2012 Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of the horrific murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and sentenced to life imprisonment. Stephen was murdered almost 19 years ago in a racist attack by a white gang in south London.
Media coverage after the trial has focussed on the issues which emerged after the murder - such as institutionalised police racism and police incompetence, and how much has changed since. But there has been little mention of the presence of the far-right racist British National Party (BNP) in the area at the time and also the united community and trade union anti-racist campaign to drive them out.
Lois Austin, then a leading activist in Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) and the Labour Party Young Socialists, whose branches initiated the campaign, spoke to the Socialist:

Firstly I want to pay testament to the Lawrence family and how strong and tough they've been to see it through this far. It is galling to see parts of the British establishment and the right-wing media, such as the Daily Mail, lauding the Lawrence family. At the time most of the British establishment turned its back on the family and the justice system didn't deliver for them and neither did local politicians.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s YRE was involved in a local campaign that eventually closed the racist BNP's headquarters in Welling.

Immediately after Stephen's murder we made appeals to Bexley council and the press to help get the BNP out because it was the BNP's divisive campaigns that were leading to an increase in racism and racist attacks in the area.

The media has also been almost completely silent on the mass protests that took place after Stephen Lawrencewas murdered.

Much has been said about the Lawrence family being left isolated and alone and they were by most of the political and media establishment, but that was not the case when it came to support from ordinary people. Thousands came out onto the streets to show their anger at the murder and their support for the family.

In May 1993, just a few weeks after Stephen Lawrence was murdered, over 8,000 joined a demo called by YRE and others - including Panther, the black socialist organisation. Mainly local young people, black and white, marched past the BNP HQ demanding that something must be done to rid our area of these racists.

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