|Battle of Cable Street|
|Date||4 October 1936|
|Caused by||Opposition to a fascist march through East London|
|Resulted in||Anti-Fascist victory, Fascist march called off|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Battle of Cable Street was a series of clashes that took place at several locations in the inner East End, most notably Cable Street, on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley, and various de jure and de facto anti-fascist demonstrators, including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews and socialist groups. The anti-fascist counter-demonstration included both organised and unaffiliated participants.
The British Union of Fascists (BUF) had advertised a march to take place on Sunday 4 October 1936, the fourth anniversary of their organisation. Thousands of BUF followers, dressed in their Blackshirt uniform, intended to march through the heart of the East End (an area which then had a large Jewish population).
The BUF would march from Tower Hill and divide into four columns, each heading for one of four open air public meetings where Mosley and others would address gatherings of BUF supporters:
The Jewish People's Council organised a petition, calling for the march to be banned, which gathered the signature of 100,000 East Londoners (including the Mayors of five East London Boroughs) in two days. The Home Secretary denied the request to outlaw the march.
Very large numbers of people took part in the events, in part due to the good weather, but estimates of the numbers of participants vary enormously:
The fascists began to gather at Tower Hill from approximately 2:00 p.m., there were clashes between fascists and anti-fascists at Tower Hill and Mansell Street as they did so, while the anti-fascists also temporarily occupied the Minories. The BUF set up a casualty dressing station in the Tower Hill area, as did their Independent Labour Party and Communist opponents who each had a dressing station.
The main confrontation took place around Gardiner's department store in Whitechapel. Police attempted to clear a route, but the demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the police by women in houses along the street in mêlée fashion. The BUF marchers eventually dispersed towards Hyde Park, while the anti-fascists fought with police. About 150 demonstrators were arrested, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Around 175 people were injured including police, women and children.
Mosley arrived in an open topped black sports car, escorted by Blackshirt motorcyclists, just before 3:30. By this time, his force had formed up in Royal Mint Street and neighbouring streets into a column nearly half a mile long, and was ready to proceed. However, the Police, fearing more severe disorder if the march and meetings went ahead, instructed Mosley to leave the East End, though the BUF were permitted to march in the West End instead.
Following the battle, the Public Order Act 1936 outlawed the wearing of political uniforms and forced organisers of large meetings and demonstrations to obtain police permission. Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police. The event is frequently cited by modern Antifa movements as "...the moment at which British fascism was decisively defeated" although the BUF actually experienced an increase in membership after the event.
Many leading British communists were present at the Battle of Cable Street, some of whom partially credited the battle for shaping their political beliefs. Some examples include:
Between 1979 and 1983, a large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George's Town Hall. It stands in Cable Street, about 150 yards (140 m) west of Shadwell overground station. A red plaque in Dock Street commemorates the incident.
Numerous events were planned in East London for the battle's 75th anniversary in October 2011, including music and a march, and the mural was once again restored. In 2016, to mark the battle's 80th anniversary, a march took place from Altab Ali Park to Cable Street. The march was attended by some of those who were originally involved.
Website shows the original BUF leaflet including exact locations and times
It makes reference to contemporary estimates as high as half a million, but does not give a primary source.