London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Fascism 2, History and Geography

09-10-16 St. George's Gardens (11)

An anti-fascist sticker in front of the Cable Street mural (Photo: Hannah Awcock, St. George’s Gardens, 09/10/16).

Apart from anarchists, anti-fascist groups may be the most prolific sticker-ers that I have ever come across. So much so that they’ve provided me with enough material for a second blog post (the first post can be found here). In this post, I am focusing on the ways in which anti-fascist groups interact with, and make use of, history and geography. For many activists and social movements, the memory of past protests and events is an important source of inspiration and morale. This process is demonstrated by stickers that refer to significant moments in the history of anti-fascism. Geography also seems to be significant to anti-fascists, as many stickers refer to particular locations or local groups. It seems like anti-fascists might be as pre-occupied by time and space as geographers are!

The location of all the stickers featured in this post and others are marked here, on the Turbulent London Map.

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Based on the background of this sticker, I assume it is referring to the holocaust, a powerful reminder of the atrocious acts committed because of fascism. This sticker is one of those that appeared on Cable Street around the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Cable Street, a significant moment in anti-fascist history (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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This sticker directly refers to the Battle of Cable Street, making a connection between past anti-fascist movements and present ones. I found this sticker in Cable Street itself, so the connection between past and present is even stronger (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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Using the same text and layout as the sticker above connects the Battle of Lewisham into this narrative of anti-fascism in London. On the 13th of August 1977, a National Front march in East London was met by counter-demonstrations, leading to violent clashes between the two groups and the police. There are striking similarities with the Battle of Cable Street (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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This sticker is also using the past to inspire modern-day anti-fascism, this time the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The Polish resistance timed the uprising in occupied Warsaw to coincide with the advance of the Soviet Army, but the Russians halted their advance, leaving the resistance to face the German Army alone. They held out for 63 days before they were defeated (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Cable Street, 09/10/16).

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This sticker is not making a direct connection between past and present ant-fascism, but it is referring to a victory in anti-fascist history. In July 1936 a military coup in Barcelona was thwarted by forces loyal to the government and members of an anarchist union. It was one of the events that contributed to the start of the Spanish Civil War (Photo: Hannah Awcock, New Cross Road, 20/03/16).

03-09-15 Euston Road (1)

If history is important to anti-fascists, then so is geography. Anti-fascist groups often make stickers with their name and location on, placing them in their local area and when they travel to different towns and cities. This sticker was put up by the London Anti-fascists on their home turf, Euston Road (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 03/09/15).

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I found this sticker, produced by the Merseyside Anti-Fascist Network, in front of the Cable Street Mural after the 80th anniversary march of the Battle of Cable Street. I suspect that someone from the Network came to London for the anniversary, but didn’t want to leave without leaving their mark (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16).

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Some anti-fascist groups come from even further afield. This sticker is produced by the 161 Crew, a Polish group (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Elephant and Castle, 15/07/16).

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Most anti-fascist groups have a location, but the No-Fixed Abode Anti-Fascists are unusual. They are a group of squatters, travellers, and homeless people, focusing particularly on bailiffs (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Tavistock Square, 09/02/16).

12-03-15 Malet Street (3)

Anti-fascist groups can sometimes be quite territorial, using stickers to declare certain areas ‘Anti-fascist zones’ or simply by making their presence known, as in this sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 12/03/15).

 

London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Police

The Metropolitan Police are a common sight across London today, but for a long time their survival was far from garunteed.

The Metropolitan Police are a common sight across London today, but for a long time their survival was far from guaranteed (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London has the distinction of being home to the oldest professional police force in the world. The Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829 in an attempt to impose order on the chaotic and undisciplined city. Their primary purpose was to deter crime, but they became involved in the policing of protest in 1830. Ironically, the first protest in which the police were involved was an anti-police demonstration on the 28th of October 1830. Demonstrators chanting ‘No New Police’ clashed with the boys in blue at Hyde Park Corner. The British people had long been hostile to the idea of a professional police force, so the Metropolitan Police faced an uphill battle convincing Londoners that they were necessary. Ever since then, the Met has had an uneasy relationship with some Londoners. Radicals have always been particularly critical, especially in regard to the policing and control of protest. Disapproval and mistrust of the Metropolitan Police is reflected in London’s protest stickers.

You can see the locations of the stickers on the Turbulent London Map.

One of the most common ways of expressing anti-police sentiment is with the acronym ACAB

One of the most common ways of expressing anti-police sentiment is with the acronym ACAB, which stands for ‘All Cops/Coppers Are Bastards’. In most cases, the acronym’s meaning is not spelled out, but this sticker is particularly obliging, so it seemed like a good place to start the post (Regent’s Canal Tow Path, 20/05/15).

ACAB crops up frequently, in various fonts and colour schemes. In most circumstances though, you would need to know what the acronym means to understand the sticker's message (King's Cross Station, 27/05/15).

ACAB crops up frequently, in various fonts and colour schemes. In most circumstances though, you would need to know what the acronym means to understand the sticker’s message (King’s Cross Station, 27/05/15).

The text on this sticker is difficult to make out, but it reads 'Kill the cop inside you... and then the fun begins' (Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

The text on this sticker is difficult to make out, but it reads ‘Kill the cop inside you… and then the fun begins’ (Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

The previous two stickers refer to police in general. This sticker refers to the Metropolitan Police specifically, calling it the biggest gang in London (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).

The previous three stickers refer to police in general. This sticker refers to the Metropolitan Police specifically, calling it the biggest gang in London (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).

This sticker is even more specific. (King's Cross, 06/06/15).

This sticker is even more specific. Henry Hicks died after being chased by two unmarked police cars in December 2014. This sticker is calling for support in the campaign to get justice for Henry (King’s Cross, 06/06/15).

This sticker also relates to the Henry Hicks campaign, but contains much less information (Tolpuddle Street, Islington, 20/05/15).

This sticker also relates to the Henry Hicks campaign, but contains much less information (Tolpuddle Street, Islington, 20/05/15).

This sticker also relates to a specific case. Ian Tomlinson famously collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer at the 2009 G-20 protests. AN inquest found that he had been unlawfully killed (Kennington Park Road, 04/06/15).

This sticker also relates to a specific case. Ian Tomlinson famously collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer at the 2009 G-20 protests. An inquest found that he had been unlawfully killed (Kennington Park Road, 04/06/15).

There has been a lot of controversy over the pat few years over the policing of student protest. This sticker refers to a campaign to ban police from university campuses (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

There has been a lot of controversy over the pat few years over the policing of student protest. This sticker refers to a campaign to ban police from university campuses (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

(Senate House, 17/03/15).

I found this sticker close to Senate House, part of the University of London, which suggests it may also be connected to the controversy over student protest. The writing is not easy to make out; it reads ‘Total Policing- Total Nobs.’ (Senate House, 17/03/15).

(Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

Some stickers feature the logos of the groups who produced them. This sticker was made by the 161 Crew, a Polish anti-fascist group (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

(Westminster Bridge, 20/06/15).

This sticker reworks the logo of the Metropolitan Police, filling it with criticisms of the police force, including terrifying, intimidating, abusive and petty (Westminster Bridge, 20/06/15).

Sources and Further Reading

Ascoli, David. The Queen’s Peace: The Origins and Development of the Metropolitan Police 1829-1979. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979.

Protest Stickers: Newcastle Upon Tyne

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Like most cities and large towns, the urban infrastructure of Newcastle is littered with stickers of all kinds (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Like most major towns and cities, Newcastle upon Tyne in the northeast of England has a healthy tradition of protest. With a population of just under 300,000, it is not one of the largest cities in the UK, but ‘Geordies’ are famous for their good nature and friendliness. As I discovered when I visited in July, this doesn’t mean there isn’t contention and dissent in the city, which is demonstrated by the large number of protest stickers I found.

This was the first protest sticker I found in Newcastle, on Northumberland Street, in the city's main shopping area.

This was the first protest sticker I found in Newcastle, on Northumberland Street, in the city’s main shopping area (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Animal rights was one of the most common themes of stickers that I found.

Animal rights was one of the most common themes of stickers that I found (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I have seen similar stickers to this one in London. They criticise the British Heart Foundation for using animals in their research.

I have seen similar stickers to this one in London. They criticise the British Heart Foundation for conducting research on animals (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker also criticises the British Heart Foundation, but is less visually striking. Stickers are made using various methods and various levels of skill.

This sticker also criticises the British Heart Foundation, but is less visually striking. It references a different webite, so I imagine it was made by somebody different to the previous one. Stickers are made using various methods and various levels of skill (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker is also protesting against experimentation on animals, but not specifically in relation to the British Heart Foundation.

This sticker is also protesting against experimentation on animals, but not specifically in relation to the British Heart Foundation (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker also relates generally to animal rights, but focuses on the culling of badgers. It calls for culls to be sabotaged.

This sticker also relates generally to animal rights, but focuses on the culling of badgers. It calls for culls to be sabotaged (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker has been partially removed, but I think that the whole text probably read 'Animal Liberation- Human Liberation.' The raised, clenched fist is a fairly common symbol in protest circles. This sticker plays on that symbolism with the addition of a raised paw.

This sticker has been partially removed, but I think that the whole text probably read ‘Animal Liberation- Human Liberation.’ The raised, clenched fist is a fairly common symbol in protest circles. This sticker plays on that symbolism with the addition of a raised paw (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker has also been partially removed, but two clasped hands can be seen. This is often used as a symbol of solidarity, an important concept in protest movements.

This sticker has also been partially removed, but two clasped hands can be seen. This is often used as a symbol of solidarity, an important concept in protest movements (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The second common theme in Newcastle protest stickers is anti-fascism. Anti-fascist groups seem to produce a lot of protest stickers, and the North-East anti-fascists are no exception.

The second common theme in Newcastle protest stickers is anti-fascism. Anti-fascist groups seem to produce a lot of protest stickers, and the North-East anti-fascists are no exception (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Anti-fascists often campaign on specific issues that they consider related to fascism. This sticker is playing on the name of the English Defence League.

Anti-fascists often campaign on specific issues that they consider related to fascism. This sticker is playing on the name of the English Defence League (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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In this sticker, anti-fascism is connected to class-based activism (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker focuses on the homophobic element of fascism.

This sticker focuses on the homophobic element of fascism. Around the circular anti-fascist logo is the words antihomophobe action. The words at the bottom of the sticker used to read ‘Eat Shit Nazi Scum.’ They look as if they were deliberately obscured, perhaps by a member of Newcastle’s far-right groups, or maybe just by someone who took exception to the profanity (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The North-East Anarchists also have a presence in Newcastle's sticker landscape.

The North-East Anarchists also have a presence in Newcastle’s sticker landscape (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

In this sticker, the North-East Anarchists are criticising the banks, although I found this sticker a bit confusing- I had to read it a few times to figure out what it was saying.

In this sticker, the North-East Anarchists are criticising the banks, although I found this sticker a bit confusing- I had to read it a few times to figure out what it was saying (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Left-wing politics is far from simple. This sticker condemns Bolshevism

Radical politics is far from simple. This sticker is by a group called Anti-Bolshevik Action, which appears to be advocating communism, but not the communism of Stalin, Trotsky and Mao. There are a myriad of complicated divisions between groups with similar beliefs (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Not every group that puts up stickers in Newcastle is left-wing. This sticker from the North East National Front references Enoch Powell, an anti-immigrant politician to made the famous 'rivers of blood' speech in 1968.

Not every group that puts up stickers in Newcastle is left-wing. This sticker from the North East National Front references Enoch Powell, an anti-immigrant politician to made the famous ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

National Action is a national socialist group that calls itself "Britain's premier Nationalist street movement." THey reject more mainstream nationalist groups like UKIP and have the ultimate aim of a "white Britain."

National Action is a national socialist group that calls itself “Britain’s premier Nationalist street movement.” They reject more mainstream nationalist groups like UKIP and have the ultimate aim of a “white Britain” (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

As is often the case, stickers in Newcastle reflect a combination of local, national, and international issues. The Trade Unions and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was formed to campaign in the general election in May.

As is often the case, stickers in Newcastle reflect a combination of local, national, and international issues. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was formed to campaign in the general election in May 2015 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker is calling for a boycott of goods from Israel, specifically oranges. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement aims to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue by exerting economic pressure.

This sticker is calling for a boycott of goods from Israel, specifically oranges. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement aims to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue by exerting economic pressure (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

In contrast to the previous two, this last sticker has a distinctly local flavour. 'Radge' is Geordie slang for rage or anger. It may be a criticism of the armed forces, because of the use of the RAF logo and font.

In contrast to the previous two, this last sticker has a distinctly local flavour. ‘Radge’ is Geordie slang for rage or anger. It may be a criticism of the armed forces, because of the use of the RAF logo and font. It also might not, but I liked it too much to leave out because I wasn’t sure! (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

Sources and Further Reading

Anon. ‘Newcastle upon Tyne.’ Wikipedia. Last modified 17th July 2015, accessed 19th July 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newcastle_upon_Tyne

Turbulent Londoners: Ellen Wilkinson, 1891-1947

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. Today I’m looking at Ellen Wilkinson, a radical politician who became the Minister for Education.


Ellen Wilkinson (Source: Catherine McKinnell MP).

Ellen Wilkinson (Source: Catherine McKinnell MP).

Ellen Cecily Wilkinson was an impressive woman. Rebellious and outspoken from a young age, she was a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920. As she aged, she either mellowed or suppressed her more radical side, rising through the Labour Party to become the Minister of Education in 1945, only the second woman to ever gain a place in the British cabinet.

Wilkinson was born on the 8th of October 1891 to a working-class family in Manchester. Her father encouraged her to read and learn, and she was academically accomplished. She got involved in politics young, joining the International Labour Party when she was 16. She also campaigned for the suffragist cause, handing out leaflets and putting up posters. She started teacher training college, but her unconventional teaching style was not appreciated and she left, deciding that teaching was not for her.

Teachings’ loss was politics’ gain. In 1910 Wilkinson won a scholarship to Manchester University, where she joined the Fabian Society and Manchester Society for Women’s Suffrage. She met many leaders of the radical left during this period, including the indefatigable Charlotte Despard. In her first year at university, she joined the executive committee of the University Socialist Federation, which was formed to unite socialist students across the country.

When she left university in 1913, Ellen got a job working for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.  She was also active in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and strongly opposed the First World War. The Suffrage movement was divided by the war, so in 1915 Ellen became National Women’s Organiser for the Amalgamated Union of Cooperative Employees (AUCE). She was the first woman they employed as an official. Here she fought for equal pay and rights for unskilled workers, which were often actively opposed by the better-off craft unions. Her time working for unions made her a skilled speaker and organiser.

A big demonstration in support of the International Labour Policy on Spain was held in Trafalgar Square. Ellen Wilkinson, Member of Parliament, addressing the huge meeting in Trafalgar Square in London, on July 11, 1937. (AP Photo)

Ellen Wilkinson addresses a crowd in Trafalgar Square in 1937 (Source: flashbak.com)

As with many of her contemporaries, Ellen was inspired by the Russian Revolution, and in 1920 she was a founding member of the Communist Part of Great Britain. She also remained in the Labour Party, but it 1923 the Labour Party stopped allowing membership of both, and Ellen chose to stay with Labour, criticising the Communist Party’s dictatorial methods. By this point the AUCE had merged with another union to become the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers (NUDAW), who sponsored Ellen to run for Parliament. After several failed attempts, she was elected the Labour MP for Middlesborough East in 1924, under a Conservative government. She was the only female Labour MP in the 1924 Parliament.

In Parliament Ellen fought for women’s rights, opposed imperialism, and was a vocal supporter of the May 1926 General Strike. She was elected to the Labour Party’s National Executive in 1927, which gave her a say in Party policy. She campaigned for the voting age for men and women to be equalised, which was achieved in 1928. As the Great Depression struck Ellen continued to fight for worker’s rights, although she lost her Parliamentary seat in 1932.

She continued to campaign whilst out of office, and in 1935 she was elected as the MP for Jarrow, a small town in Tyneside which is known for the Jarrow March, which took place in 1936. Despite criticism, even from within the Labour Party, Ellen supported the marchers, and joined them for some stretches of the march. On the 4th of November she presented the marchers’ petition to Parliament, which contained 11,000 signatures. Although not immediately successful, it is thought that the march helped shaped future attitudes and policies towards unemployment.

The female marcher in the Spirit of Jarrow carrying a bundle that is probably a baby.

A statue in Jarrow commemorating the Jarrow March. As Wilkinson was the only woman permitted to join the march, I assume this is supposed to be her (Source: Hannah Awcock).

During the 1930s Ellen travelled Europe attempting to combat fascism, and was critical of the government’s policy of non-intervention in the Spanish civil war. She was also strongly opposed to appeasement as a method of dealing with Hitler. She supported the declaration of the Second World War in 1939, but disapproved of the way Chamberlain conducted the war. When Churchill took over the government, Ellen was put in charge of air raid shelters and civil defence. During the war she became less radical, and was accepted by the Labour Party mainstream.

In 1945, Ellen Wilkinson became only the third woman to be made a privy councillor. After Labour’s landslide election victory, Atlee made her the Minister for Education. She focused on implementing the 1944 Education Act, which provided universal free secondary education and raised the school leaving age from 14 to 15. She was criticised as the system of the 11+ exams, and grammar, technical, and modern schools was seen as elitist. She stuck by her guns, arguing that the Education Act was the only realistic way of achieving positive change. As well as this, she also increased the amount of university scholarships and part time adult education, both positive steps forward.

Ellen Wilkinson had to fight hard to succeed in the male-dominated world of politics (Source: Parliament.uk).

Ellen Wilkinson had to fight hard to succeed in the male-dominated world of politics (Source: Parliament.uk).

Ellen Wilkinson died in office on the 6th of February 1947. She had always suffered from bronchial asthma, and this killed her, exacerbated by heavy smoking, overwork and an overdose of medicine. Her death was declared accidental, but some still suspect that she committed suicide. Ellen was well known for her fiery hair and matching temperament, and even when her politics mellowed, her passion and conviction did not. She is particularly interesting in the light of the Labour Party’s shift to the left with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Party Leader, and it will be interesting to see if he too moves towards the centre as his career progresses. Regardless, Ellen was an inspiring woman who carved her own political path in a world dominated by men, often in the face of heavy opposition. She fought hard for what she believed in, and proved that politicians can have principles.

Sources and Further Reading

Anon. “Ellen Wilkinson,” Wikipedia. Last modified 13th September 2015, accessed 2nd October 2015. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Wilkinson

Harrison, Brian. “Wilkinson, Ellen Cicely (1891–1947)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Last updated 2004, accessed 2nd October 2015. Available at http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36902 (Not free to access)

Simkin, John. “Ellen Wilkinson,” Spartacus Educational. Last modified August 2014, accessed 2nd October 2015. Available at http://spartacus-educational.com/TUwilkinson.htm 

Stevenson, Graham. “Glossary of People: Ellen, Wilkinson,” marxists.org. No date, accessed 2nd October 2015. Available at https://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/w/i.htm#wilkinson-ellen

London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Fascism

00_26-9-15 Walworth Road

Anti-fascism is one of the most common topics of protest stickers. This photo was taken on the Walworth Road on 26/09/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

If you start looking out for protest stickers as you move around a British city, you will quickly notice that anti-fascists are particularly prolific sticker-ers. I’m not sure why, but anti-fascism is one of the most frequent themes of protest stickers, aside from anarchism. Most large towns and cities have an anti-fascist group, and as the largest of the lot London is home to several groups, as well as drawing in groups from elsewhere.

01_05-05-15 Aylsebury Estate (10)

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common groups represented in London anti-fascist protest stickers are London Antifascists. This picture was taken on the Aylesbury Estate on 05/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

02_13-08-15 Mile End Road (1)

The logos employed by anti-fascist groups can vary, but an image with a circle is a common feature. This logo features Emily the Strange, a popular gothic character who began life on stickers advertising the clothing line Cosmic Debris. She has since featured on clothing, stationary, and all kinds of objects, but here she comes full circle, appearing on stickers once again. This photo was taken on the Mile End Road on 13/08/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

03_25-02-15 Embankment (1)

Although stickers which just feature a group’s logo and website are common, some are more complicated, like this one photographed on the north bank of the Thames near the City on 25/02/15. This sticker is still quite general in terms of focus however, it doesn’t specify what to fight back against (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

04_28-05-15 Elephant and Castle

Two flags (one red, one back) enclosed in a black circle is the most common and recognisable anti-fascist logo. This sticker points to the complex interconnections between anti-fascism and class politics, suggesting that London Antifascists only care about working-class communities. Or perhaps they are implying that racism and Nazism are only to be found amongst the middle- and upper-classes? This photo was taken at Elephant and Castle on 28/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

08_10-03-15 Camden

The double flag logo is so recognisable that I can be quite sure that this sticker is by an anti-fascist group, even though I cannot read the words. This photo was taken near Camden Underground Station on 10/03/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

05_13-04-15 Elephant and Castle

This sticker, photographed at Elephant and Castle on 13/04/15, is also focusing on racism, and has the familiar image surrounded by a circle logo. I must admit that the imagery and font confused me at first, at first glance I thought that this sticker was defending white pride rather than condemning it (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

06_12-03-15 Gordon Street, Bloomsbury (2)

When anti-fascist groups go travelling, they often leave evidence of their presence in the form of protest stickers. This sticker was produced by Brighton Antifascists, although I found it in Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, on 12/03/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

07_14-09-15 Elephant and Castle

The 161 Crew are a Polish antifascist group that has a strong presence in London (the sticker in the previous photo is also one of theirs). This sticker appeared in Elephant and Castle on 14/09/15. I thought it was incredibly brave, as this was during a period of the refugee crisis where the debate around immigration was particularly vicious. Immigrants are supposed to be grateful and loyal to their host country, not encouraging cross-border class-based networks of dissent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

10_05-05-15 Flint Street SE1 (4)

Unusually, this sticker does not feature an anti-fascist logo, which leads me to suspect it was not made by a specifically anti-fascist group. This photo was taken on Flint Street, near the occupied Aylesbury Estate on 05/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

11_25-02-15 Cable Street (5)

Location can be integral to the meaning of protest stickers. I found this sticker in Cable Street, one of the sites of the famous demonstration known as the Battle of Cable Street, which has gone down in anti-fascist collective memory as a rare victory. No Pasaran is Spanish for ‘They Shall Not Pass’, one of the slogans of the Battle which was taken from the Spanish Civil War. The Battle is an important event in British anti-fascist history, a key source of pride and hope (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 25/02/15).

12_25-02-15 Cable Street (9)

This photo was also taken in Cable Street, next to the mural which memorialises the Battle of Cable Street. The double flag logo is present, although within a heart rather than a circle. Not surprisingly, Cable Street has a high concentration of anti-fascist stickers of various types, making it feel almost shrine-like (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 25/02/15).

20_29-05-15 Borough High Street (2)

Not every Londoner is an anti-fascist supporter. The word ‘Antifascists’ and the website has been scratched off this sticker very deliberately. Someone clearly took exception to London Antifascists publicising themselves. This photo was taken on Borough High Street on 29/05/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

On This Day: The Battle of Cable Street, 4th October 1936

The Police attempt to dismantle barricades in Cable Street. Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/75th-anniversary-of-battle-of-cable-street-83081

The Police attempt to dismantle barricades in Cable Street (Source: The Mirror).

The Battle of Cable Street was a clash between police and protesters who were trying to prevent the British Union of Fascists (BUF) from marching through Stepney, the most concentrated area of Jewish population in the country. The 1930s saw fascism spreading across Europe. Both Germany and Italy were under fascist regimes, and the Spanish civil war was being fought between fascists and republicans. In 1932 the BUF was founded by Sir Oswald Mosley, who hoped to replicate the success of similar organisations across Europe.

Over the summer of 1936, tension in the East End increased as marches and meetings were organised in response to the BUF’s anti-Semitic propaganda and frequently violent activities. When the planned march was announced on the 29th of September it was seen as deliberate provocation. One petition against the march gained 10,000 signatures, but the Home Secretary refused to ban the march on the grounds that to do so would be undemocratic. Whilst there was widespread opposition to the march, opinion on how to respond was divided. Moderates feared the inevitable violence that would result from attempting to stop the BUF, so called for people to just ignore the march. However, it was eventually decided that an attempt would be made to stop the march.

It was well known that Mosley planned for the BUF to gather in Royal Mint Street, then split into several columns to march through East London before reassembling for a rally in Bethnal Green. However the specific details of the planned route were not known, so the anti-fascists met at 4 different points, attempting to block all possible routes into the East End. It was the responsibility of the police to clear a route for the BUF to march. Although there were minor scuffles between fascists and anti-fascists, the main clashes were with the 6000 police officers who attempted to clear a route for Mosley and the BUF ‘Blackshirts’. The police made numerous baton charges at Gardiner’s Corner in Aldgate, but the way was blocked by a tram which had been stopped by its anti-fascist driver. The only other alternative this left was Cable Street.

A Protestor is arrested. Source:http://stevesilver.org.uk/blog/battle-of-cable-street-events/

A Protestor is arrested (Source:Steve Silver)

Several barricades had already been built, including one constructed from an overturned lorry. The slogan “No Parasan- They Shall Not Pass,” which came from the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War, had been painted on banners, barricades and the streets. The police were bombarded with projectiles from upper windows as they repeatedly charged, dismantling barricades and obstacles only to find more behind. As injuries and arrests mounted, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner ordered Mosley to abandon his planned route. Furious and humiliated, the BUF marched through London before quietly dispersing at Embankment. In the East End, celebrations continued long into the night.

To me, the Battle of Cable Street was a vocal expression of communal will, as well as a fierce declaration of ownership over the streets and spaces of the East End. A month after the Battle, the Public Order Act was passed, which controlled public processions and banned political uniforms in public. Under the terms of the act marches in East London were prohibited until the BUF was disbanded in 1940. Although it limited their activities too, the ban was a clear victory for anti-fascist campaigners, as it represented a U-turn of the government’s position of supporting the BUF’s right to march at any cost.

The Battle of Cable Street Mural in Cable Street. Source: www.jeecs.org.uk

The Battle of Cable Street Mural in Cable Street (Source: Jeecs).

Sources and Further Reading

Jackson, Sarah and Rosemary Taylor. Voices from History: The East London Suffragettes. Stroud: The History Press, 2014.

Rosenburg, David. ‘The Battle of Cable Street- 75 Years on.’ History Workshop Online, January 8, 2011, accessed September 17, 2014 http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/cable-street75/

The Cable Street Group. Battle of Cable Street 1936. Nottingham: Five Leaves, 2011.