Raincoats from Romford

The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group often collected material aid for members of the South African liberation movements in training camps across Southern Africa and the families of political prisoners inside South Africa and Namibia.  It did this through the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy and through street meetings in local shopping centres around inner London. But, the group was also a recipient of material aid from its supporters and well-wishers.  Most frequently this took the form of food and hot drinks donated to the people maintaining the Non-Stop Picket, but it also took other forms.

Waterproofs that survived the Non-Stop Picket (Source: City Group)

Waterproofs that survived the Non-Stop Picket (Source: City Group)

In December 1986, as the Picket entered its first, harsh winter, Romford Labour Party sent the group a donation of £20 as a contribution toward buying waterproof coats and Wellington boots for use on the Picket.  That Labour Party branch had agreed to sponsor the Non-Stop Picket a couple of months earlier and continued to offer practical and political support, including attending City Group rallies, over the next few years.  Its Branch Secretary, Kathy Fernand, went on to become an active member of City Group, joining its committee as Trade Union Organiser for a period.

City Group existed as a campaigning organisation offering solidarity to those resisting apartheid in Southern Africa.  Its solidarity was focused several thousand miles away, even as it took action in central London as an expression of that solidarity.  But it would be wrong to think of the webs of solidarity it was implicated in as just flowing outwards from the Non-Stop Picket towards distant others.  While City Group’s solidarity addressed a ‘big’ political issue of global importance, it was sustained by more modest acts of solidarity closer to hand.  These small acts of solidarity with the Picket, from both known supporters and sympathetic strangers, demonstrate that the protest was sustained by a far larger network of people than just those who took regular shifts on its rota.  A small donation of food, or a contribution towards waterproof clothing, helped keep the Picket going in its prolonged opposition to apartheid. In this way, local and global acts of solidarity became entangled.

About Gavin Brown

Professor of Political Geography and Sexualities University of Leicester
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