Recently, Home Office immigration enforcement teams have been increasingly targeting the East Street market in Walworth, London, with no less than five raids in a single week. On Sunday 21 June, they came again at 5pm and snatched one man from a fish shop, presumably accused of working without legal documents.
But this time, things were not going to go so easy for the thugs in blue. After call-outs went out through the local grapevine, and also on social media, people from the area, including the nearby Aylesbury Estate, rushed down to the scene. The Home Office snatch van was blockaded and penned in on a side street off the market. The bullies retreated inside the van with their prisoner while people surrounded it with both their bodies and with makeshift barricades, the tyres were let down, and it was pelted with rotten fruit and eggs from the market.
The Home Office thugs called in reinforcements, who arrived in six police vans, with dog units, plainclothes cops, and a helicopter circling overhead, as the street was cordoned off. In spite of this, the crowd kept on growing as more people from the estate and nearby streets joined in, local teenagers called up their mates, others arrived after seeing it on Twitter.
The stand-off continued for over an hour, the local police clueless about what to do next. Then three vans of Territorial Support Group (TSG) riot cops arrived, tooled up in full body armour. The TSG pushed through, escorting the Home Office van as it limped out on deflated tyres. They came under sustained attack as new barricades of street furniture kept getting thrown up to stop their progress and hails of rocks, bottles, traffic cones, etc., kept them at bay. At least one TSG cop was knocked to the floor, a riot van windscreen and other windows were broken.
In the end, they managed to get their prisoner out, and also took one more arrested from among the resisters. After the immigration van had got out the crowd kept blocking the TSG vans with commercial wheelie bins and other barriers to continue the fighting. Eventually, visibly shaken by the angry mob, the TSG managed to escape. After giving them a rowdy send-off, the crowd danced to a blaring mobile sound system.
This was concerted angry action which brought together local teenagers, Aylesbury Estate residents, anarchists, and whoever was in the street and not going to take this shit lying down. If we could meet more raids with resistance like this it would seriously screw up the system of repression. This is the response we want to be growing on our streets, every day of the week.
What’s happened since then? First of all, many people’s thoughts have been with the prisoners: both the Pakistani man originally grabbed by the Home Office; and the man brutally snatched by riot police during the resistance. The first has been lingering inside an immigration detention centre. The Anti-raids Network and others have helped organise legal support and other practical solidarity for this prisoner.
The second prisoner was taken away in a police van and disappeared for six hours, during which time he was repeatedly assaulted by the cowardly filth holding him hostage. He was then locked up for three nights – all of which were serenaded with rowdy demos. He now faces charges of “violent disorder” and a prison sentence if convicted.
The forces of order have been trying to sow fear of a clampdown on the streets. The day after the resistance, cops went round the market and into shops asking for information on the “disorder”. They have since tried to spread the idea, through local press etc., that they are “looking for more people” involved. Maybe this is serious, maybe it’s all the usual bullshit, who knows.
Meanwhile, people from the area have been going out on East Street, the Aylesbury Estate and the whole neighbourhood putting up posters about what happened, handing out flyers including tips and legal information for anyone threatened by Home Office or police repression, and just chatting face to face with teenagers, market people, and everyone in the streets about what’s happening.
In short: the East Street resistance wasn’t just a brief moment one afternoon. It carries on as people use the energy and momentum of the 21st to make new connections and grow solidarity in the area.
Like much of inner London, the Walworth area is under intense attack by an army of zombie parasites: property developers, bailiffs, Home Office scumbags, cops, businesses, local politicians, hipsters, and others seeking to profit from / control / screw up the lives of others. These often work hand in hand — for example, at Deptford Market, immigration raids are coordinated jointly by local government agencies as a tool to push out migrant workers and open the way for gentrification.
Together these fuckers are a death machine eating away every space of freedom and difference in the city, turning everything into an endless shiny graveyard, one giant shopping mall under CCTV. Against their death machine we have our rebellion, friendship, solidarity, and life. If anarchists want to help grow a serious resistance, we need to leave comfortable but totally irrelevant lefty circles well behind and make links with others who are up for a scrap. East Street, Deptford, Brixton, Peckham, Camden, Hackney, and many more places, are frontlines in London’s social war. They’re also the cracks in the tombstone, where we can meet new friends on the street and come alive.
by Rabble London | Rabble LDN