The New Cross Fire was a tragic incident dating back to January 18, 1981, were thirteen black youths attending a birthday party in Deptford, South London, were killed in an alleged racially-inspired house fire.
The New Cross Fire incident highlighted enmity between the police, the media and the black Britons. Nine black youth got killed on the very night of the fire and three weeks later, another four black teenagers got bruised in another fire incident. Black community centers and homes were targeted and burnt on several occasions even before the New Cross Fire.
National Front (NF), was responsible for those incidents as well as the New Cross Fire tragedy as believed by many. In investigating the main culprit of the “The New Fire Tragedy” a witness stated that Austin Princess (a white man) threw a Molotov cocktail into the house party while others believed that the fire started from a dispute between revelers.
Still unable to figure out how the fire incident came about with several inquests by the Metropolitan Police failing. The black Britons were disappointed that the police had failed blacks by not handling the thirteen black youths’ deaths earnestly. The black Britons began organizing and assembling people after being frustrated by the police’s inquests. A group consisting of five hundred black Britons was formed to investigate the killings.
2000 mourners gathered at the Moonshot Youth Center in South London to Pay respect and equally devout themselves to the struggle for justice a week after the fire. It was through this assembly that black-Britons discovered that the police was forcing statements out of black youths without lawyers or parents being present.
This led to the New Cross Massacre Action Group being formed, which was led by John La Rose and Darcus Howe who both were activists, writers, and civil rights campaigners. March 2nd was declared the ‘Black People’s Day of Action’ by John La Rose and Darcus Howe, to demonstrate against the Met’s mishandling of the teenagers’ death.
However, there was a false report on Daily Mail, that several of the fire supervisors who were arrested would be subjected to severe charges. The black Britons saw this as an attempt to weaken the demonstration and the black community’s inquest into the house fire and wouldn’t go back on their initial plan.
Demonstration began on 2nd March with an Estimated 20,000 people including members of the Black Panther Party, The Black Youth Movement and Black Parents Movement. This was one of the most massive protests against racial injustice in the history of Britain. It was a ten hours campaign were campaigners matched up to eight miles from Fordham Park, South London to Hyde Park, Central London with posters stating, “Thirteen Dead, Nothing Said’ and ‘No Police Cover-Up”.
However, weeks after the demonstration, the black Briton community called “Swamp 81″ was launched in Brixton, South London, the heart of the black community.
In early April, the police under ‘Sus laws’ stopped and searched an estimated 943 peoples. This was an addendum to the 1824 Vagrancy Act, and 188 black youths got arrested. This was viewed as retaliation to the ‘Black People’s Day of Action’ demonstration by the Black Britons.
To date, the ‘New Cross Fire’ remains unsolved. However, it was an important event in Britain in terms of black Britons. It was a good moment to expose racism, injustices and the plight of black Britons.
Follow Us On our Facebook Page to get the latest news and happenings about Africa and the African-American community.