Disobedient Films present the London Recruits

The Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A has now closed (prior to travelling the world over the next few years), but it continues to generate creative explorations of how objects of various kinds have been used in (and as) protest. This week saw the release of an experimental film,linked to the exhibition, by Disobedient Films about the London Recruits – the young British volunteers who went to South Africa in the 1960s and ’70s to conduct covert missions for the African National Congress.

Screen shot of London Recruits in development (Source: Disobedient Films)

Screen shot of London Recruits in development (Source: Disobedient Films)

On many of their missions, the London Recruits constructed ‘bucket bombs’ to remotely distribute ANC leaflets at key sites, like rush hour railway stations, in South African cities. At the time, the South African authorities had largely destroyed the structures of the ANC inside South Africa. By using unknown foreign volunteers, the ANC could ensure their propaganda continued to be distributed inside South Africa and, by doing so, they appeared still to have an active membership operating freely inside the country. This, in itself, was powerful propaganda.

A popular feature of the Disobedient Objects  exhibition was a series of ‘how to’ schematics for visitors to take away, which illustrated how to construct various ‘disobedient objects’. One of these outlined how to make a bucket bomb of the kind that the London Recruits were trained to construct and use in South Africa.

How to Guide: Bucket Pamphlet Bomb. Illustrated by Marwan Kaabour, at Barnbrook. Based on a sketch by Ken Keable, anti-apartheid activist and author of The London Recruit.

How to Guide: Bucket Pamphlet Bomb. Illustrated by Marwan Kaabour, at Barnbrook. Based on a sketch by Ken Keable, anti-apartheid activist and author of The London Recruit.

The bucket bombs are also central to the London Recruits film. As part of the filming process, the film-makers worked with former ‘London Recruits’ to assemble the parts of a bucket bomb. construct it, and set off its small explosive device to distribute reprinted versions of the original propaganda leaflets. Just for that, the film is a fascinating piece of experimental contemporary archaeology. However, the film also features interview footage with Ronnie Kasrils, the ANC official who recruited middle class students and working class members of the Young Communist League to volunteer on missions to South Africa. Also interviewed are some of the surviving London Recruits recounting tales from their covert operations in Africa.

The film is designed to be viewed on the internet (be warned, it can’t play on mobiles). At times, multiple windows open simultaneously, with images of everyday life under apartheid juxtaposed with footage of ANC demonstrations from the 1950s. Overall, the film and the website is structured through a series of parallel pathways telling the story of the volunteers from their recruitment, through their training, their travels to South Africa and the different stages of their mission. It is well worth spending some time exploring the site and learning more about this story of covert anti-apartheid solidarity by young British volunteers (which, until Ken Keable published his book on the subject in 2012, had remained secret for nearly forty years).

Although there is no direct connection between the story of the London Recruits and the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group’s Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in the 1980s, Gavin did provide some advice to the film-makers early in the production process about the history of anti-apartheid solidarity in Britain. It is nice to see these conversations credited on the film.

Finally, if you watch the film to the end, you get a chance to generate a leaflet for a campaign that matters to you today, and add it to the Disobedient Objects online leaflet bomb.

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Thinking about Youthful Resistance in Leicester

On Saturday 10 January 2015 Gavin Brown ran an afternoon of discussions about ‘Youthful Resistance‘ for Leicester People’s University. This free event, held in the basement of a popular bar in the city centre, was attended by about twenty people. The afternoon started with Gavin talking about the history of young people’s involvement in the Non-Stop Picket, and their relationship to the struggles of South African youth against apartheid. In taking this focus, Gavin was not suggesting that only young people participated in the Non-Stop Picket – in fact, he explicitly explored the importance of young people’s interactions and friendships with picketers from a different generations. He explored these themes through the stories of five young picketers who were interviewed for this research.

Gavin Brown speaking at Leicester People's University (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

Gavin Brown speaking at Leicester People’s University (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

Displaying the history of the Non-Stop Picket at Leicester People's University (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

Displaying the history of the Non-Stop Picket at Leicester People’s University (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

The rest of the afternoon was far more participatory and engaged the audience in actively sharing their knowledge and experiences about youthful resistance in different time periods and in different national contexts. We explored the relationship between youth subcultures and the political movements that young people engage with in a particular period – recognizing that, although these seldom neatly and completely map onto each other, they are frequently related nonetheless.

Leicester People's University participants map youthful resistance (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

Leicester People’s University participants map youthful resistance (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

A timeline of youthful resistance (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

A timeline of youthful resistance (Photographers: Ambrose Musiyiwa and Emma Racz)

In the final session, Gavin revisited stories from the Non-Stop Picket to think about the former picketers reflections on the skills, knowledge and values that they carried with them after the Picket ended in 1990. These themes were then further explored through the experiences and life histories of the people in the room – thinking about the continuities and changes that occur in individuals’ activism and political engagements as they age. We acknowledged that while few people maintain a constant engagement in activism throughout their lives, neither do people who have been active in their youth necessarily give it all up as their circumstances change. Both the Non-Stop Picket research and the experiences of participants in the Leicester People’s University suggest that people find inventive ways of fitting political and community engagements around their other commitments.

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Teaching about the Non-Stop Picket in South Africa

We have just arranged for a document from the Non-Stop Picket to be reproduced in a South African politics textbook. The book, Politics: A Southern African Introduction (by Joleen Steyn Kotze, David Welsh, Xolela Mangcu, Nicola de Jager, Vicky Graham, Thabisi Hoeane, Aubrey Matshiqi, Vusi Gumede, and Theo Neethling) will be published by Oxford University Press Southern Africa in March 2015. It is an introductory textbook aimed specifically at first year Politics and International Relations students attending South African universities. The image they will reproduce is the original leaflet used to publicise the launch of the Non-Stop Picket in April 1986. It will be interesting to see how they frame the Non-Stop Picket and its demands, in the context of the international campaign against apartheid, to their student readers.

Leaflet promoting the launch of the Non-Stop Picket (City Group, 1986)

Leaflet promoting the launch of the Non-Stop Picket (City Group, 1986)

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Revolutionary Britain: Art, Power and Politics (an exhibition)

Photos of the Non-Stop Picket by Jon Kempster are being exhibited in South London on 16 and 17 January, as part of a show called Revolutionary Britain: Art, Power and Politics. Regular readers of this blog will recognize many of Jon’s photos from these pages and I reprint a couple here.

Surround the Embassy 16 June 1988  (Photographer: Jon Kempster)

Surround the Embassy 16 June 1988 (Photographer: Jon Kempster)

The exhibition takes place at Harts Lane Studios, 17 Harts Lane, New Cross Gate, SE14 5UP. This is an inclusive art space and entrance is free. In addition to displaying this archival collection of photography from the Non-Stop Picket, the exhibition also contains additional artwork, discussions and a library space. It is open 6-9pm on Friday 16 January and 12-6pm on Saturday 17 January. Further details of the show, including the timings of various film showings and performances, can be found here. The exhibition has been organised by supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group who played a significant role in organising and sustaining the Non-Stop Picket.

The day of Nelson Mandela's release (Photographer: Jon Kempster)

The day of Nelson Mandela’s release (Photographer: Jon Kempster)

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Youthful Resistance: a free workshop in Leicester

This blog has been a little dormant for the last few months, squeezed by multiple other demands on my time. To the extent that I do New Year’s Resolutions at all, one of the things that I want to try to achieve this year is to get back into the habit of regularly writing for this site. To get me started with that process, I wanted to share details of a workshop I am running, in Leicester, on Saturday 10 January 2015.

The workshop is on the theme of Youthful Resistance and has been organised by Leicester People’s University. They offer free, higher education activities once a month for a general audience. The event takes place from 1.30 – 5.30 pm in the basement at the Exchange bar in Leicester.

Leicester Peoples Uni poster

Here’s some information about the scope of my session:

Why do some young people engage in political resistance? What other forms of resistance do young people engage in? And, is it inevitable that people become more conservative as they grow older? This session explores the different forms that youthful resistance can take. Gavin will begin by drawing on hisrecent research about a group of young people who were active in anti-apartheid solidarity activism in London in the 1980s. Through the stories of individual activists, he suggests that (socially, culturally and politically) they were resisting far more than just British support for apartheid. He compares their youthful resistance with the experiences of other generations of activists that they stood alongside – thinking about the longer term legacies of their activism as they aged. Based on this case study, Gavin will suggest some news ways in which we might think about what young people gain through their involvement in different forms of activism and resistance. Together we will explore and test out these ideas in relation to knowledge and experience that participants bring to the session (as well as different life stages beyond ‘youth’).

If you’re in the Leicester area this weekend, with some free time on Saturday afternoon, I hope you will pop along and take part. I will post a report on the session next week.

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Working with anti-apartheid memories

By researching the historical geographies of the Non-Stop Picket, we are constantly confronting the multiple ways in which memory operates. The very act of remembering the Non-Stop Picket is an intervention into the ways in which the struggle against apartheid is remembered. Remembering the Non-Stop Picket complicates narratives about the anti-apartheid movement in Britain. By delving into the archives of the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group (and other organisations) we confront the ways in which organizations preserve memories of their work. By interviewing former picketers (and other interested parties) we expose all the frailties and quirks of the ways in which human memory functions (and occasionally fails).

Despite engaging with memory, remembering and commemoration in these multiple ways throughout the research, I am not sure I have stopped to think too much about how memory works, or the methodological ways in which I approach memory. This week I am participating in a workshop organised by the newly constituted Leicester Memory Studies Network. As this event approaches, I have been forced to think a bit more about how I approach memory in my work. I want to explore a few of those ideas in this post, and to explore those through a practical example from the last couple of weeks.

Policing the South African Embassy Picket Campaign, June 1984 (Photographer: Rob Scott)

Policing the South African Embassy Picket Campaign, June 1984 (Photographer: Rob Scott)

Last week, I received an email from Graem Peters. He had read a recent post on this site and was inspired to get in touch. As he said in his initial email,

I have been recently piecing together my memories of an event that took place back in the 1980s.

Graem recognised that his memory of the event was partial and incomplete and was trying to make sense of it in relation to the various material published here. He continued,

I was one of three protesters who took part in a planned red paint throwing incident at South Africa House sometime in the ’80s. I was something of a tag-along as it was the other two who planned it. One of them was  a Young Liberal friend of mine called Clive [B], the other was someone I did not know who was connected with the AAM or City AAM. He was tall, white and blonde haired and I think South African. Our attack involved filling 6 balloons with red paint and carrying them in our hands to throw at the walls of the building. The attack took place during the day when there was no protesters. We threw the paint bombs and ran off in separate directions. I gather that the guy I did not know was arrested when he returned to AAM offices. Nothing happened to Clive or myself.  My recollection was that this attack resulted in the police moving the Non-stop Picket, but that doesn’t match the recollections in the link.

I would be interested to know if you had any knowledge of this incident. It is clearly a different incident and the visual impact was not so great.  It occurs to me that the balloon throwing attack that I was involved with may have preceded the paint tin attack. (Email from Graem Peters, 1 July 2014)

I checked our records to see if Graem or his friend, Clive B, were mentioned in any documents amongst the City Group archive. They did not appear to be and the archival records offered me no leads that could help pin down these events for Graem. Nevertheless, his email suggested that the paint-throwing action that he was involved with predated the Non-Stop Picket – especially because, although the action took place during the day, there were no protesters present. Once the Non-Stop Picket started on 19 April 1986, picketers were present all day everyday. I suspected, given the mention of the Anti-Apartheid Movement office in Graem’s email, that he was referring to the 1984 paint-throwing that contributed to the first attempt to ban pickets from outside the embassy and led to the creation of the South African Embassy Picket Campaign (all the records I have read in connection with that incident suggest that on that occasion, the principal paint-thrower was  a volunteer from the AAM office). I told Graem this and sent him a link to my recent post about those events. Here’s his reply:

The background story in this page matches my recollections in all but possibly one respect. 1984 sounds more like the time I was involved, rather than 1987. By 1987 I was involved exclusively with Simon Hughes’s election campaign and was not involved in any of the protests that year. In 1984 I was actively involved with London Young Liberals who gave support to City AAM as we supported the use of direct action. I think there were a number of other groups  involved, but I know that it was particularly important for City AAM to show to the AAM that they had the active support of the Young Liberals. 1984 also sounds right as I remember that before the paint bombing, the three of us met up at the Young Liberal Office located within Liberal Party headquarters inside the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place which is just around the corner from Trafalgar Square. That was where we made the paint bombs and we carried them to Trafalgar Square with our hands in our coat pockets.

This additional information not only helps to add detail to the events of late May 1984, but it also offers a fresh perspective on the network of support that the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group enjoyed (at the moment that its relationship with the leadership of the national Anti-Apartheid Movement was really beginning to deteriorate). This serves as a reminder that City Group’s direct action approach to anti-apartheid campaigning appealed to a wider layer of activists that just those inclined towards the far Left.

A day or so after my exchange with Graem, I was re-reading the transcript of our interview with Nikki. I was not specifically looking for material relating to the protests against Botha’s visit to London in 1984, but I came across this excerpt from her interview which really resonated with Graem’s description of the paint-throwing action:

Paul Annegarn was the white guy who worked in that AAM’s office, he was a war resistor and he come to Britain in the ‘80s having refused to go in the army in South Africa and he was the person who got the picket banned in 1984, because he threw paint all over the Embassy, well before we threw paint all over the Embassy. He threw paint all over the Embassy and then legged it and ran back to the AAM’s headquarters, and he was, and then we got banned because of him, which was kind of ironic but there you go. (Interview with Nicki, 27 March 2013).

This chance find is illustrative of how our research involves piecing together fragments of memories from multiple sources and paying attention to the points where they overlap convincingly. In this case, both Nicki and Graem identified a white South African volunteer from the Anti-Apartheid Movement offices as the person who was arrested (at those offices) for throwing paint over the South African Embassy. Graem was unsure of the date, but could connect it with a ban on protests; Nicki was clearer that this event happened in 1984. But after thirty years, individual’s memories are seldom perfect: Nicki primarily remembers that paint was thrown and pickets were banned as a result; leaflets and reports from the time suggest that the first day the ban took effect was 8 June 1984 (two weeks after the paint was thrown); but Graem remembers the sequence of events differently:

My recollection diverts from this account in one respect. After the paint attack that I was involved in, the first Friday I remember turning up to join the protest I found that  the protest was re-located to the steps of St Martins in the Field, which is not specifically stated in the account. I also remember the police informing the protesters towards the end of the protest that evening that they would not allow us to disperse along in front of South Africa House and they told us that anyone who dispersed in this direction would be arrested. That day I attended the protest with my dog and friends of mine suggested it would be interesting to see if the police would arrest me and my dog. I did not think of joining the protesters getting arrested in front of the embassy but when the police told us about their dispersement plans I made up my mind that I would disperse by walking with my dog along in front of the embassy in defiance. Even though I and my dog had been identified as part of the protest, the police did not challenge my dispersement route.
Those friends of mine who knew I had also taken part in the paint bombing took the piss out of me for my inability to get myself arrested twice in succession. (Email from Graem Peters, 2 July 2014)

For Graem, the primary memory seems to be his embarrassment at failing to be arrested twice in a row. In Nicki’s case, it is the political significant of the subsequent South African Embassy Picket Campaign that is most important (and the finer chronological details have faded from memory). As for myself, it is entirely possible that I have misinterpreted the papers from the time that we found in the archive and imposed a sequence on the events that is inaccurate. In researching anti-apartheid activism from the 1980s, we are frequently faced with such challenges. Different individuals remember the same events very differently, depending (frequently) on how significant those events were to them at the time, and what aspects of the events particularly affected them. Some people have very good, detailed and seemingly accurate memories of protests and meetings from that period (others are merely convinced that they do). For others, those events are mostly only remembered in broad brushstrokes and subsequent campaigns have superseded them in their memories. Some others remember specific events in great detail but struggle to contextualize them or place them in a sequence of other events from the time. The challenge for me as a researcher is to look for the patterns, the overlapping details and attempt to piece together plausible narratives and analysis from the memories of many individuals and the records that were kept at the time. Looking for those connections and patterns can, in turn, reveal exciting new details that had previously been forgotten.


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PW Botha, police spies, and the South African Embassy Picket Campaign 1984

In June 1984, President PW Botha of South Africa was expected in Britain for talks with Margaret Thatcher. His tour of Europe that summer was intended to promote ‘constructive engagement’ with the apartheid regime (rather than sanctions) and stave of a major political crisis for South Africa. The British Anti-Apartheid Movement planned various protests in response. The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group called a week-long continuous picket of the South African Embassy. As Solomon Hughes explained recently in The Morning Star, security concerns surrounding Botha’s visit drew unwelcome police attention to that and subsequent protests at the embassy.

On 15 May 1984, City Group wrote to Richard Balfe MEP asking him to support their protest against Botha’s visit. They planned a week-long picket of South Africa House from 26 May until 1 June, immediately prior to Botha’s arrival. They announced that this protest had already been sponsored by Tony Benn and Stanley Clinton Davis MPs. Importantly, given City Group’s difficult relationship with the leadership of the ANC in London, the picket was also sponsored by Adelaide Tambo.

As evidence supplied to Solomon Hughes (as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request) reveals, Scotland Yard were well aware of City Group’s plans. They briefed the Foreign Office not only that “the Kitson family plan to stage a vigil outside the Embassy”, but also that,

“The Anti-Apartheid Movement intend staging an occupation of South African Airways office (251 Regent Street SW1) either within the 48 hours immediately before or 48 hours immediately after the visit. They will, obviously, keep their plans secretive so that preventative action cannot be taken, but local police will be alerted and will stand ready to take action to evict the demonstrators if the SA Airways Office require them to do so.” (Letter from [redacted], Security Section, Protocol Department to SAfD, 17 May 1984)

The police advised that, at that stage, the South African Embassy should not be notified of the threat to occupy the Airways offices. A hand-written note in the margins of the letter says “I am worried about 1(b) [the Airways occupation]”. In 1984, City Group was still a local branch of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and it seems very likely, given their later regular occupations of South African Airways, that this too was them. A ‘teleletter’ from the Foreign Office to the British embassy in South Africa (also dated 17 May) confirms that Special Branch obtained this intelligence “from their own sources inside the AAM”. Other correspondence (a letter from the Protocol Department of 11 May 1984) refers to City Group as “a hooligan element” within the AAM. A note from British diplomats in South Africa (10 May 1984) reported that Botha himself “had been somewhat concerned by the hostility of the anti-apartheid lobby in Britain to his visit”.

No 'peace and dignity' for apartheid (Photographer: Rob Scott)

No ‘peace and dignity’ for apartheid (Photographer: Rob Scott)

Just before Botha’s visit to Britain, on 25 May 1984, a volunteer from the national Anti-Apartheid Movement’s office threw paint over the main entrance to the South African Embassy. On 1 June, four members of the National Union of Mineworkers deposited a pile of coal on the embassy’s doorstep in protest at the importation of South African coal in an attempt to break the miners’ strike. Given the heightened security concerns surrounding Botha’s visit, the Metropolitan Police took the opportunity to ban all protests outside the South African embassy with effect from Friday 8 June 1984. A press statement, issued by City Group on 10 June, explained these events:

On 5 June Superintendent Dark of Cannon Row informed our Convenor that the City AA picket scheduled for Friday 8 June, 5.30 – 7.30 p.m. was banned. He claimed that all pickets and demonstrations in the vicinity were being banned due to a banquet for Reagan, Thatcher & Co being held the same evening at the National Portrait Gallery. Bu the evening of 5 June, following protests by MPs, councilors and others, permission was given for a picket in Duncannon Street – near the National Portrait Gallery – but not outside South Africa House. On Thursday 7 June, despite consistent misinformation, spread by Scotland Yard to the Press, it became clear that what was at issue was a permanent ban on City AA’s pickets and not concern for the Reagan/Thatcher banquet. The City Group convenor and Richard Balfe MEP met Commander Howlett on 7 June. […]

Commander Howlett informed us that this was his decision based on his own personal interpretation of the Vienna Convention catering for the peace and dignity of embassies. In his opinion any picket or demonstration outside any embassy would be in breach of the Vienna Convention. He admitted to having consulted no-one in arriving at this decision.

The press release continues by explaining City Group’s response to the ban:

City AA was prepared to resist this attack. On 8 June over 200 people representing a wide range of organisations assembled at Duncannon Street. Among the demonstrators were Ernie Roberts MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rodney Bickerstaffe of NUPE, and Peter Hain.

At approximately 6 p.m. a group of 18 demonstrators crossed the road and assembled in front of the Embassy. They began to sing, chant slogans, distribute leaflets and collect signatures. Within 5 or 6 minutes a massive police cordon surrounded the peaceful picketers. They were all arrested without being told why and bundled into waiting police vans.

Half an hour later, a further six protesters crossed the road and were also arrested. The twenty-four anti-apartheid demonstrators were taken to Albany Street police station. They were all released without charge, after only a couple of hours, but not before one black picketer was accused of being an illegal immigrant and threatened with indefinite detention. She too was released without charge, less than an hour after the others.

Amandla Kitson during the SAEPC (Source: City Group)

Amandla Kitson during the SAEPC (Source: City Group)

IMG_0990In response to this ban on demonstrations, City Group convened the South African Embassy Picket Campaign (SAEPC) to win back the right to protest against apartheid directly in front of the South Africa House. The defiance of the ban continued, with people risking arrest each Friday. On 15 June, Commander Howlett met with Mike Terry from the national Anti-Apartheid Movement to discuss the ban. In a witness statement (dated 6 July), Commander Howlett described this meeting in the following terms:

On Friday, 15th June 1984, at 10.15 am, together with Chief Superintendent Richards and Inspector Menear, I met, at my request, in my office, Mr Mike Terry and Miss Cate Clark of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. I explained the change in police policy and the reasons for it to them. A note of the meeting has been kept by the police. Mr Terry expressed their opposition to the change and indicated that steps to alter that policy would be taken and that his organisation intended that those steps be legal as his movement did not seek confrontation.

When a representative of the SAEPC met with the police later that day, they were advised to follow the lead of the AAM in avoiding confrontation. The SAEPC did not take that advice – that evening, twenty-six protesters crossed Duncannon Street to break the ban. This time, they were charged with obstructing the police in the cause of their duties (in this context, their duties were said to be protecting the ‘peace and dignity‘ of the South African Embassy in line with the Vienna Convention).

On Friday 22 June, David Kitson (who had, by then, been released from jail in South Africa) watched twenty-two anti-apartheid activists, including his son Steve, be arrested for defying the ban. As the defendants began appearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court the following week, strict bail conditions were imposed, preventing the defendants from standing on Morley’s Hill, the pavement in front of South Africa House. By 16 July, 137 people had been arrested as a result of the South African Embassy Picket Campaign and five had been imprisoned for breach of the bail conditions forbidding them from demonstrating within 30 yards of the embassy. During the course of a 24-hour protest on 21/22 July 1984, five councillors and three MPs – Tony Banks, Stuart Holland, and Jeremy Corbyn were arrested for breaking the ban.

Jeremy Corbyn MP arrested, 22 July 1984 (Photographer: Rob Scott)

Jeremy Corbyn MP arrested, 22 July 1984 (Photographer: Rob Scott)

In act of solidarity with its arrested councillors and the SAEPC, Camden Council took a legal opinion, on the legality of the ban, from Stephen Sedley QC. His view was that,

The Vienna Convention 1961, insofar as it is incorporated in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, adds nothing to the duties, nor therefore to the powers, of the police in this regard. It follows, if I am right, that their action in declining to allow continuance of the demonstrations on the pavement outside South Africa House was an abuse of their powers, and that they were not executing any duty known to the law when they cleared the pavement and arrested persons who remained there.

One of the City Group defendants, Richard Roques, agreed to stand as a test case. On 1 August 1984, at Bow Street Magistrates Court, the Chief Stipendiary Magistrate for Central London, Mr Hopkins, dismissed the charges against Richard. A week later, in light of this decision, the police dropped the charges against the other 136 protesters who had been arrested during the campaign (including the five who had been imprisoned). The victory for the SAEPC was an embarrassment for the national Anti-Apartheid Movement. The Executive Committee of the AAM issued a statement on 10 July 1984 (the day four of the defendants were first threatened with imprisonment, if they breached their bail conditions). Their statement outlined a series of meetings they had arranged with senior police officers to try to negotiate an end to the ban:

It is the view of the Executive that until the above process has been exhausted and the EC has met to further assess the situation, the AAM and its local groups should not demonstrate immediately in front of South Africa House.

The AAM has been approached by a number of local groups and others seeking advice on the ‘”South African Embassy Picket Campaign 1984″. The AAM EC does not support their approach, believes that it damages the prospect of achieving a removal of the ban, and therefore asks its members and supporters not to participate in this campaign.

The AAM were wrong to be so cautious. Although City Group and the SAEPC won back the right to protest outside the South African Embassy through their civil disobedience, their victory would come at a cost. City Group’s defiance of the AAM EC’s guidance accelerated the deterioration of the (already strained) relationship between the national movement and its ‘hooligan element’ in the City of London. The conduct of the SAEPC remained a contentious issue with the AAM and directly contributed to City Group’s ‘disaffiliation‘ from the national movement the following year. City Group remained committed to taking direct action against apartheid, and civil disobedience to defend the right to protest. When the Metropolitan Police attempted the ban the Non-Stop Picket from outside the South African Embassy in May 1987, City Group was once again successful in defending their protest through direct action.

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