New Cross Massacre Book Launch

The launch of the reprinted book, The New Cross Massacre Story: Interviews with John La Rose, took place on Thursday 17 November at 6.30pm at the George Padmore Institute. Ca. 30 people attended the event to listen to Gus John and Linton Kwesi Johnson talk about the New Cross Massacre Fire, which took place on the 18 January 1981, claiming the lives of 13 young black people who were enjoying a 16th birthday party. Both speakers referred to the significance of the event and subsequent developments and its ongoing relevance to today.

Linton referred in his talk to the fire as “by far the most horrific incident of racist and fascist terror experienced by black people in Britain in the 2nd half of the 20th century” and went on to say that "the disgraceful conduct of the Metropolitan police, their failure to investigate the cause of the fire and apprehend the perpetrators, their attempt to frame innocent party-goers, their systematic campaign of lies, disinformation and innuendo that someone at the party started the fire, their suppression of evidence at the 2 inquests into the fire, left an indelible stain on their long-established disreputable character". He also called the Black People's Day of Action, which was organised in response to the fire, “the most spectacular expression of black political power that this country has witnessed. It was a watershed moment which signalled to the British state that we had reached a crossroad in race relations in this country and that there was no turning back”. Gus John linked the police's failure to investigate the fire properly to the way the police handled the Stephen Lawrence case in 1993, saying: “Because the significance of this event here tonight and what’s been going on at the Old Bailey or wherever it is this week in relation to the Stephen Lawrence case is that the same attitude that the police took to investigating the events of 1981 is precisely what they took 12 years later to the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. They learnt absolutely nothing from 1981 and New Cross. And what Linton shared with us in terms of their capricious, wilful, insulting approaches to young people who were at the fire, grieving for their friends and loved ones, that whole attitude that the police took to the crime is precisely what they brought to investigating the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993 – not believing black witnesses because they were black and young, having an attitude to them that they would not have had to white young people, middle class, talking about an incident of such seriousness and magnitude. So therefore the question we need to ask ourselves is, leaving aside the issue of whether or not the police will ever believe that this was a catastrophe, a massacre, committed by racists, leaving that aside, the question is are they ever capable of learning from the way they treat us, people whom they see as marginalised and powerless within the society?"