30 years ago today, on the 23 April 1979, the far right National Front were planning an election meeting in Southall, West London. The mainly Asian local population mobilized against this incursion in an area where racist attacks had included the murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar three years previously. Workers went on strike and the local community, supported by anti-racists from elsewhere blocked the main road.
The police - in particular the Special Patrol Group (forerunner of today's TSG) - used horses, batons and vans against the crowd and clashes continued into the evening. 350 people were arrested, and many were injured. Most tragically, Blair Peach (pictured)- a socialist teacher from New Zealand - was killed by police.
Reggae band Misty in Roots, who came from the area, were involved in setting up People Unite, a community centre. On the day the building was used as the anti-fascist HQ and it was stormed by police, wrecking the building and beating up those inside. Clarence Baker, the manager of Misty, was so badly injured that he ended up in a coma. Police smashed up a sound system and other equipment.
Jack Dromey from the Transport and General Workers' Union said: 'I have never seen such unrestrained violence against demonstrators ... The Special Patrol Group were just running wild.' No police officers were ever charged for their actions.
Punk band The Ruts were also involved in the People Unite collective and released Jah War, a song about the events on the People Unite record label. The lyrics include the lines: 'Hot heads came in uniform, Thunder and lightning in a violent form... Clarence Baker, No trouble maker, Said the truncheon came down, Knocked him to the ground, Said the blood on the streets that day'.
The Ruts and Misty also played at the 'Southall Kids are Innocent' benefits organised by Rock Against Racism in July 1979 at the Rainbow in London, as did The Clash, The Pop Group, Pete Townshend, Aswad, The Members and The Enchanters.
Blue Murder: songs about police killings (including songs about Blair Peach)