Friday, February 24, 2023

Police raid South London Squat Gigs, 1991

A report on a couple of police raids on squat venues in South London from 1991 - an occupational hazard of going out in that era.

The Hellhouse was a squatted factory in Borough Road SE1, near the Elephant & Castle. On 3rd August 1991 The Blaggers and Oi Polloi were playing a benefit there for Anti Fascist Action. Police came in 'with dogs and wielding truncheons' and kicked everybody out. There were clashes in the streets outside and around 30 people were arrested. Within 24 hours the place had been resquatted.

Notice for Hell Haus/Hellhouse gig - I believe from SHIP Network News

A couple of weeks later there was another gig in a squatted Midland Bank in Peckham which ended in a police raid: 'On August 17th a gig was held in the  squatted Midland bank in Peckham. As it was free about 400 people turned up and had a good time. The police called around after complaints about noise and then they disappeared. About 4 am when the crowd was down to less than 100, the riot police arrived and viciously attacked the partygoers. Many people were injured by police dog bites, and some were beaten up by the cops with batons. The cops sealed off Peckham High Street for two hours. About eight people were arrested and some have been charged with affray which is a very serious public order charge'  (56a Info Shop Bulletin, no.1, August 1991). 56a Info Shop recalled on twitter in 2023: 'At the Midland Bank police raid, a friend of ours hid under a sofa to avoid a beating but when the cops cleared the building they then sat on the sofa for an hour or more! Poor Sergio! Was then locked in to the empty building when coppers left'

 I wrote at the time in a letter: 'I spent Monday in court ready to stand bail for a friend who was arrested over the weekend. I wore a suit in order to look like a respectable member of the community and it worked - a couple of people came up to me and asked if I was a solicitor! As it turned out I needn't have bothered with the fancy dress as my friend got unconditional bail, but he had been kept in since Saturday night, so it was touch and go. Along with 12 others he was nicked when the police raided a party on Saturday night. It was being held in a squatted bank, and over 300 people were there. The police sledgehammered down the door and piled in in full riot gear. People were thrown out of the building and on the way out had to walk between lines of cops who hit them as they passed. Quite a few people got bitten by police dogs'.

Flyer for the Peckham Midland Bank free party - 'live bands, music, friendly peoples', guess the police didn't get the memo.  

 The report below are from the 56a Info Shop Bulletin, no.1, August 1991.

The address of the Peckham party was 69 Peckham High Street  Pictured below is the Street in 1980s. From left to right a co-op store, Nat West bank (still standing in 2023), then the entrance to no.69 (Midland bank) where the party was held, leading through to main building behind. The Midland Bank was demolished in 1990s, so that entrance would be in the gap between the current Nat West Bank (no. 65) and the 'spoons pub The Kentish Drovers (no.71). 

A meeting the day the Peckham raid set up joint 'Hell-bank' campaign to support those arrested at the two parties. The leaflet below about the campaign seems to have been produced to distribute at an anti-racist march which went from Peckham to Bermondsey on 24 August 1991 (this infamously faced a violent British National Party mobilisation, but that's another story).

Leaflet set and printed by RedType who operated at the time out of Clearprint at 61-63  Peckham High Street, very close to the then empty Midland Bank.  Judging by style and language of leaflet (including referring to squatters as 'homeless youth') I think it may have been written by Steve the printer who I think had been in the group Workers Power as well as Anti Fascist Action.

All documentation above found at the 56a Info Shop Archive.

[post last updated January 2024 with details of Hell-Bank campaign]

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Anonymous said...

Steve was Red Type in Clear Print. Believe he was at that point in one of the Maoist RIL formations. He produced a massive booklet called WRP Explosion about the numerous and interminable splits in the party. Its in 56@ archive

. said...

You may be right, though let the record show that RIL (Revolutionary Internationalist League) were/are trotskyist not to be confused with the maoist RIM (Revolutionary Internationalist Movement) who used to sell papers at Brixton tube in 90s and cheer lead for the Shining Path in Peru. Think it was RIL who set up Movement for Justice.