Produced in 1973 by co-founder of the George Padmore Institute (GPI) John La Rose and filmmaker Franco Rosso, footage from the Mangrove Nine documentary was recently shown in the BBC feature-length programme Black Power: A British Story of Resistance (25 March 2021). The Mangrove Nine film includes interviews with black community leaders who were defendants in a trial in 1971 which marked a significant moment in Black British history. The judge in the trial made the first official acknowledgement of ‘racial hatred’ in the Metropolitan Police. Recorded before the final verdicts were announced, the film provides a vivid insight into the experiences of the defendants.
The story of the historic trial at the Old Bailey in London has its beginnings at the Mangrove restaurant, a popular Caribbean venue in Ladbroke Grove, London. It was opened in 1968 by Trinidadian activist Frank Crichlow and became a hub for members of the black community and Black Power activists. A small newspaper, The Hustler, was published on the premises and it also served as an informal head office for the Notting Hill Carnival.
By the early 1970s, the restaurant had been repeatedly raided by police. Eventually,the incessant harassment resulted in the Mangrove March on 9 August 1970, with the demand ‘Hands off the Mangrove’. Black Panthers and prominent members of the black community took part in the protest. The 150 protesters were policed by500 police and the ensuing violence led to the arrest of nine black leaders: Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Frank Crichlow, Rhodan Gordon, Darcus Howe, Anthony Innis, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett.
The nine protesters were tried at the Old Bailey on 29 charges ranging from incitement to riot to having an offensive weapon. The trial lasted 55 days, finishing in December 1971. All were cleared of the main charge of inciting a riot, while Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis and Altheia Jones-LeCointe received suspended sentences for lesser offences.
The trial was highly significant for black civil rights in the UK as it brought attention to allegations of brutality and racism in the Metropolitan Police and led to the first official acknowledgement of ‘racial hatred’ in the force.
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