Why Should We Let Fascists Have Freedom of Speech? I Ignore Death Threats Unless Special Branch Warns That I Am under Far- Right Surveillance

By Livingstone, Ken | The Independent (London, England), April 28, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Why Should We Let Fascists Have Freedom of Speech? I Ignore Death Threats Unless Special Branch Warns That I Am under Far- Right Surveillance


Livingstone, Ken, The Independent (London, England)


THE DAY before the Brixton bomb I had a letter from the "White Wolves" identical with that received by Oona King and other parliamentary colleagues, but, given the number of death threats I have had, it just went into the bin. Yesterday, however, I received a letter claiming to be from Combat 18 which had been posted the day before the Brick Lane bomb, saying there would be another nail bomb attack next day in an "alien" area. It listed Southall, Golders Green, Kilburn, Petticoat Lane and Brent as potential areas.

I passed it on to the police. They are now examining it for any evidence they may be able to extract, although, of course, it could just be another sick hoax.

Over the years, I have been attacked by racists on several occasions. Most of these incidents took place in the early Eighties at the height of press hysteria about the Greater London Council. I clearly remember my first warning from Special Branch officers, who arrived at County Hall to tell me the disturbing news that my movements were being monitored by an extremist group. However, because I lived in a bedsit and travelled by public transport there was, apparently, little they could do to protect me. An attack eventually did take place, taking the form of my being sprayed with red paint by two members of the National Front masquerading as "Friends of Ulster". Through long experience, I have tended to ignore death threats unless accompanied by a warning from Special Branch that I am once again under surveillance from the far right. As I am still alive I suppose the police have been justified in not providing the appropriate resources at these times. The best I ever got was when a psychiatric patient released under the care in the community programme was known to be trying to buy a gun in order to kill me. My local police offered to walk me to and from the Tube each day, which was the best they could do given the cuts in police numbers during the final days of the Tory Home Secretary Michael Howard. I have always viewed Combat 18, however, as an altogether more worrying organisation. They have sometimes recruited embittered former members of the military and therefore have been trained in the use of weapons and attack. A few years ago they totally trashed the Kilburn Book Shop for the crime of stocking Irish and left-wing literature. The whole operation, undertaken with military precision, took hardly any time. A car screeched to a halt on Kilburn High Road and four balaclava-clad thugs destroyed the inside of the shop and were away within five minutes, never to be apprehended. Despite the lessons of the Lawrence Inquiry, which underlined the way that the police and other authorities tend to dismiss or play down racial motivation in violent crimes against black people, it was disheartening to see so many people who should have known better rushing to deny that the Brixton bomb could have been a racial attack. When Lee Jasper, the secretary of the National Black Alliance, said that black people in the area would regard this as an attack on them, his comments were largely ignored. His views were even attacked on the grounds that Brixton is a "multiracial" area. But, compared with all the economic targets that could be attacked in London, Brixton's only attraction for a bomber is its status as a symbol of black Britain.

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