Mangrove Nine Screening at the BFI - Michael La Rose's Introduction

The re-released Mangrove Nine documentary, directed by Franco Rosso and produced by John La Rose, was screened at the BFI on 14 April 2012. Below are two extracts from Michael La Rose's Introduction to this screening:

"Before we show the film, I want to put it into context, as it is about events that happened 40 years ago, in the early 1970s, but they are very relevant for today in 2012. Ladbroke Grove, like similar areas in London and Britain, was the home of many independent autonomous black political organisations. There was the Black Panther Movement, led by Althea Jones-Lecointe, the BLF or Black Liberation Front which ran Grassroots Bookshop on Golbourne Road, led by Tony Soares and Ansil Wong among others; there was the Black People's Information Centre (BPIC) based at Cambridge Gardens and Portobello Road, led by Rhodan Gordan and Colin Prescod. Rhodan had earlier run the Backayard Restaurant. Finally, there was the Mangrove Restaurant on All Saints Road, run by the indominable Frank Critchlow. The restaurant was a meeting place, a community, political and cultural centre for the area. These organisations raised their own money through selling weekly papers, fundraising events, running restaurants, bookshops, donations etc. This was before the seduction of government grant money and projects so familiar after this period which undermined and broke up these organisations."

"Notting Hill police station singled out the Mangrove Restaurant and Frank Critchlow for special treatment. They made many raids and found nothing. After one raid individuals in the black organisations, especially in the Black Panther Movement, decided enough was enough and called a demonstration in defence of the Mangrove. The small demonstration was heavily policed and received national media coverage. Soon fighting broke out between demonstrators and the police. Nine people were arrested and given serious charges including affray. The nine were Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Critchlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Althea Jones–Lecointe, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett. The charges ranged from making an affray, incitement to riot, assaulting a policeman, having an offensive weapon. They were to appear at the Old Bailey. The Mangrove 9 Campaign was born in response.

The “Mangrove 9 Campaign” and in the court the “Mangrove 9 trial” was the beginning of the Black community's organised response to the problems of the police and courts in Britain. They struck the first blow and were victorious against the Metropolitan police and British judicial system. How the Mangrove 9 campaign was organised and its legal and political strategy became the blueprint for future campaigns against police malpractice.  These campaigns in Britain have stretched right up to the Stephen Lawrence campaign and the many deaths in police custody. The Mangrove 9 campaign and the court case directly informed the organisation of the next generation of activists like myself and others who were in the Black Parents Movement (BPM), Black Youth Movement (BYM) and Race Today Collective which we collectively called the “Alliance”. These organisations won many cases against police malpractice and fit ups . This included freeing Newton Rose from a murder sentence in Hackney. The culmination of all the previous campaigns was the organisation of the Black Peoples Day of Action in 1981 in response to the New Cross Massacre.

What was the organisational framework first carried out in the Mangrove 9 campaign?

There was a joint political and legal campaign with the defendants, their families and supporters, central to decisions of both the legal and political campaign. Lawyers had to take instructions from the defendants. The defendants, their families, and their friends were trained to collect evidence for the legal case. The campaign made sure it put out public statements about the facts of what took place to counter the Police version and media bias. Meetings were held to update supporters. Finally, the Mangrove 9 campaign needed to engage a committed lawyer who would challenge the police and the courts. That lawyer could be black or white. He had to be fearless against the British legal system. That lawyer was found, he was a young man from Scotland his name was Ian McDonald

Mangrove 9 was a significant event in British history. I hope you can make the connections and lessons for today and the struggles for justice after the killings of Smiley Culture and Mark Duggan, the August insurrections and the global Occupy Movement."

To read more about this screening, please see Ayisha de Lanerolle's blog 

 


Horace Ove, Michael La Rose and David Somerset at the BFI