libcom.org // 1977: The Battle of Lewisham – These electoral successes were accompanied by growing racial violence, with attacks becoming more frequent. The NF also began to feel in control of the streets and began attacking the meetings, paper sales and other events of political opponents. Just one week before the march in Lewisham, there was an (unsuccessful) attempt to burn down the offices of the Trotskyist group, Militant.
When word got out that the NF were planning to march, the All-Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF) – a group made up of various Labour Party members, local religious and ‘community’ leaders – refused to directly oppose them. They organised a counter-demonstration miles away from the NF assembly point and hours before the NF were due to arrive in Lewisham. However, thousands of people decided to ignore the advice of the march organisers and headed over to where the NF were due to meet.
The fascists couldn’t meet at their original location and in the end the police smuggled small groups of fascists through the gloomy back streets of South East London. There were over 4,000 police on the streets of Lewisham that day protecting the NF. This was also the first time that riot police had been deployed on mainland Britain. However, this was obviously not enough for the NF who later complained that they hadn’t been given enough protection!