Battle of Cable Street tea towel
This tea towel design is based on part of The Battle of Cable Street mural (painted onto the external west wall of St George's Town Hall, Cable Street). The mural was begun in 1976 by Dave Binnington, inspired by Mexican muralists, but he abandoned it in the face of racist vandalism. It was finished by Ray Walker, Desmond Rochford and Paul Butler in 1987.
The year was 1936. Fascist leader Oswald Mosley wanted to march his Blackshirt thugs through the heart of East London, then home to a large number of Jewish residents. Despite a petition signed by 100,000 people, who saw the march as a deliberate provocation, the Home Secretary refused to ban it, deploying 7,000 members of the police force to accompany it and protect the marchers.
But the people weren’t having it. On the day of the march, more than a quarter of a million Londoners took to the streets, determined to prevent the march. They barred the way with road blocks – including a bus and a tram – wielding makeshift weapons: sticks, rocks, chair legs, rotten vegetables. Children rolled marbles under the hooves of the police horses.
Echoing the Spanish Republicans in the civil war against Franco's fascists that had begun earlier that summer, the protesters chanted the slogan ‘They shall not pass!’ And they didn’t: Mosley eventually turned his fascists away, but the day ended with some 150 counter-protesters arrested and 175 injured.
Fast-forward to 2017. Reports of hate crime have increased, the far-right is rising across Europe, and a white supremacist rally has taken place in Charlottesville, USA. The people fight back again. 80 years later, the forces behind the Battle of Cable Street must be remembered. Let this tea towel serve as a reminder of the power of ordinary people against racism and hatred.