The Battle of Lewisham 40 years on: The battle was won but the war goes on
As one of the New Cross Councillors, it was a real honour to speak on behalf of our community at the commemoration of the Battle of Lewisham.
Forty years ago today, our community stood together against fascism and racism. The vile National Front were on the rise, and they had planned a march through Lewisham. They picked our community because they hated everything that we represented – our diversity and our solidarity.
But our community stood together. 8,000 people blocked their path. Socialists and trade unionists. Faith groups and community groups. Local residents and people standing in solidarity from across London and England. People of different races, different ages, and different backgrounds stood together and turned back the fascists. They never again marched through our community.
I wasn’t there on the day – I was 10 years old at the time. But I am so, so grateful to those who were there on the day – including local members like Val Garwood, Ian Wilson and the Mangera family.
I know just how far we’ve come. Growing up in London, I remember just how common racism used to be. I remember hearing of racist attacks directed against my family and friends. I was the victim of racist abuse myself. And I remember terrible crimes like the brutal murder of Steven Lawrence and tragedies like the New Cross Fire. Today, things are not perfect – but we’ve come a long way.
Today, on the anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, I spoke at the commemoration event.
However, while we won the Battle of Lewisham – the war goes on. Last year, we saw a fascist assassinate one of our very own MPs and we saw hate crime surge in the aftermath of the EU referendum. We saw a fascist candidate in France gain a third of the votes and we’ve seen just this weekend, white supremacy on the march in Trump’s America.
So we need to be vigilant and we must continue to stand up for the values that we all share. We must continue to show that love triumphs over hatred, and unity triumphs over division. And above all, we must always remember that we have far more that unites us, than that which divides us.