Battle of Cable Street: Wikis


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The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936 in Cable Street in the East End of London. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police Service, overseeing a legal march by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, and anti-fascists, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups. The majority of both marchers and counter-protesters travelled into the area for this purpose. Mosley planned to send thousands of marchers dressed in uniforms styled on those of Blackshirts through the East End of London, which had a large Jewish population.



Leaflet directing supporters away from Cable Street - overprinted with an Aldgate meeting place by local members

The Board of Deputies of British Jews denounced the march as anti-semitic baiting and urged Jewish people to stay well away. The Communist Party of Great Britain also tried to stop its members from taking part. Forbidden from confronting the blackshirts, party members had to operate under the cover of the ex-Serviceman's Association. On the day, the Communist Party produced a leaflet for an anti-fascist demonstration in Trafalgar Square, to draw people away from the East End. Stepney communist Joe Jacobs, who played a leading role, was expelled for 'street fighting'.[1]

Despite the strong likelihood of violence, the government refused to ban the march and a large escort of police was provided in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protestors disrupting the march.


The anti-fascist groups erected roadblocks in an attempt to prevent the march from taking place. The barricades were erected near the junction with Christian Street, towards the west end of this long street. An estimated 300,000 anti-fascist demonstrators turned out.

Over 10,000 police, including 4,000 on horseback, attempted to clear the road to permit the march to proceed. 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. After a series of running battles, Mosley agreed to abandon the march to prevent bloodshed. The BUF marchers were dispersed towards Hyde Park instead while the Anti-fascists rioted with Police. 150 demonstrators were arrested, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Several members of the police were kidnapped by demonstrators. Around 100 people were injured including police, women and children.


Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police. Most were charged with the minor offence of obstructing police and fined £5, however several of the ringleaders were found guilty of affray and sentenced to 3 months' hard labour.

Red commemorative plaque in Dock Street

The Battle of Cable Street was a major factor leading to the passage of the Public Order Act 1936, which required police consent for political marches and forbade the wearing of political uniforms in public. This is widely considered to be a significant factor in the BUF's political decline prior to World War II.

In the 1980s, a large mural depicting the Battle was painted on the side of St. George's Town Hall. This building was originally the Vestry Hall for the area and later the Town Hall of Stepney Borough Council.It stands in Cable Street, about 150 yards west of Shadwell underground station. A red plaque in Dock Street commemorates the incident.

Steven Berkoff's East (1975) includes a depiction of the event; an eponymous play commemorating the events was written by Simon Blumenfeld and first performed in 1987; and in 2006 a short film was produced featuring a remembrance from a grandfather to his grandson.

See also


  1. ^ Joe Jacobs, Out of the Ghetto, Phoenix Press, 1991

External links


From The Guardian newspaper

From the BBC

Coordinates: 51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.51085°N 0.05212°W / 51.51085; -0.05212



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