Brixton at Standstill as Crowds Register Frustration at Gentrification

Damien Gayle, Guardian, April 26, 2015

Brixton’s roads were blocked for most of Saturday as crowds rallied outside the Black Cultural Archives and protest marches against gentrification halted traffic as they circled the high street and market.

Protesters vented frustration at a lack of affordable homes, closures of long-established local businesses, alleged police racism and a perceived influx of wealthier residents with no connection to the area’s history.

But tensions rose as the evening wore on. Police blocked a junction in front of the police station after clashing with protesters outside a payday loan shop. Hundreds of protesters dancing in the street outside Lambeth town hall were forced back by lines of officers after they blocked traffic.

Activists had earlier tried to occupy the town hall as well as the police station, where CS spray was used to repel “a small group of protesters”; and a loose standoff had blocked the high street when dozens of police rushed to defend Foxtons after its window was smashed.

The afternoon began with a crowd of several thousand gathered on Windrush Square under the banner of a “gathering to reclaim Brixton”. The rally became a focal point for protest marches of differing sizes and routes which snaked through the area. Banners proclaimed “black communities matter” and “respect existence or expect resistance”.

Brixton is a historic cultural hub for African-Caribbeans and other minority groups, but rising rents, redeveloped shopping areas and an influx of wealthier residents have led to a sense that the old community is being forced out.

Tej Adeleye, 25, a commercial writer from north London, said: “As someone who was born in London, Brixton represents a long lineage of black struggle. I’m not saying any place should stay the same but there’s something really disturbing about the pace of change. I don’t want to see Brixton become like another Shoreditch that’s got no personality.”

Chardine Taylor-Stone, 29, was one of a group of women who helped organise the gathering. She said: “The aim really is to highlight the issue and bring people together who are really angry about the situation. Just putting an event on and seeing so many people coming really shows that people are scared and frustrated.

“It’s also people showing love to Brixton as well. It’s a culturally important area not just for London but for the black community in particular. It’s almost like, if they can take Brixton, they can take anywhere.”

Direct action targeted the recently redeveloped Brixton Village shopping area, which has become symbolic of the changes to the district. Activists from the London Black Revolutionaries group led a march through its narrow warren of restaurants and cafes, halting for poetry performances proclaiming “remembering our roots is liberation” and “black communities matter”.

The action was meant as a “remembrance” of Brixton’s black history said Black Revs activist, Hani Hill, 23, said: “We marched through Brixton Village to remember what it used to be like a couple of decades ago when it was a very ghettoised community.”

Hill said poor people could no longer afford to buy a coffee or breakfast in the complex, which was once an extension to Brixton market. “We’re trying to fight that gentrification and protect residents and small businesses from developers.”

A woman sitting at a table outside Coffee Federation as the demonstration came past said she was “100% with them”. She hesitated when it was pointed out that cafe was a target of the protest, but said: “I understand, but what can you do? This is a nice place to meet your friends. You have got to connect the two things together.”

Many people who came for the gathering merely spent a languid day in the sun on Windrush Square, where performances, speeches and food stalls contributed to a carnival-like atmosphere. Trade unionists mingled with rastafarians and youths with senior citizens as barbecue smoke and reggae music filled the air.

“It’s what I would expect in Brixton,” said Cyndy Anafoe, 41, another of the women who helped organise the gathering. “This is the poster child of multiculturalism. We are rich in diversity. Everyone is represented here and that’s what we wanted.”

Taylor-Stone said she hoped the event would inspire others to organise. “What we would like to happen is that people will go home to their local area, set up a little campaign group and start the conversation, start pressuring councillors. This is a kind of a look-at-us moment and it’s up to the people that come here to do something in their community.”

Jamal Ramsey, 17, from Dulwich, said he had come to support the community. “Brixton is becoming very commercialised, gentrified. It’s losing it’s diversity and its cultural side,” he said. His friend Nathan Rogers, 18, added: “Businesses which have been here for decades are being moved out. People are being displaced by having to move out because of rising rents.”

Brixton has a history of violent protest and organisers were keen to stress that Saturday’s events should remain peaceful, but emotions ran high. A witness said a single person carried out the attack on the Foxtons office. Another bypasser, Olivia Stewart, said she was mortified by the attack. “I can categorically say it was no one from our peaceful protest,” she said.

Anger grew later outside a payday loans shop on the junction opposite Brixton’s police station. Police clashed with protesters who surrounded the shop, trying to confiscate banners and donning helmets and armoured gloves when cans and a bottle were thrown. Protesters fell back to avoid being surrounded by dozens more police arriving to block the junction.

But it was the outbreaks of rain rather than violence that brought demonstrations to an end.

Confrontations were perhaps inevitable given the anger felt by some. A 21-year-old activist with the Black Revs, a student who preferred not to give his name, said: “People say we’ve been here for the hard times, the tough times, we’ve struggled to be here and a few people of a higher social class, people of privilege, are coming here and they are shitting on them.”

Despite the tensions, the mood at the demonstration was mainly upbeat and hopeful. Speaking specifically about the group’s earlier direct action, but in a comment that summed up the day, Joshua Viraswami, another Black Revs activist, said: “It was a beautiful act of remembrance and resistance showing that the struggle against social and ethnic cleansing is unstoppable.”

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  • David Ashton

    Oh, the irony!

    • watling

      That was my immediate reaction too.

      It was amusing that the first quote was from someone from North London. Reminds me of some black “poet” back in 1981 talking about “da Brixton front line”. The interviewer asked him where he lived and he said “Shoreditch”.

      • David Ashton

        Look up Brixton Riots (plural) on Wikipedia. I submitted data to the Scarman Report on racial differences in propensity to different crimes, the revolutionary groups who facilitated the first major riot, etc. My material was returned unread and unopened. The worst event was the stabbing to death of a well-loved policeman.

    • belajadevotchka2

      Exactly what I what going to comment. I cannot, for the life of me, get why people besides “us” don’t see/get it. This story reads like satire. It’s a freaking travesty. Bizarro world made flesh.

      • David Ashton

        “Inglan is a bitch, no doubt bout it.” I think a lot of people see it, but the mottoes of too many sedated suburban households in unaffected areas, who see it briefly on pre-edited TV in between the reality shows and the PC soaps, are either (1) “Mustn’t grumble” or (2) “I’m glad I shan’t live to see it.” The feeling of political helplessness is reinforced by a general vague fear that it is illegal or immoral to complain explicitly about the “racial” aspects of immigration, a problem that does not – yet – arise in the USA.

      • IvyMike

        I actually checked the date to check if was some April Fool’s joke.

  • “No connection to the area’s history”

    They have no sense of irony. None at all.

  • Susannah

    In the minds of blacks, what’s theirs is theirs, and what’s ours is also theirs. Too bad so many utterly braindead whites agree.

    The same old story as here in America. Whites build and develop, blacks move in and destroy, blacks and some moronic whites become very angry when whites attempt to reclaim.

  • MekongDelta69

    I’m sorry – I didn’t waste my time reading the article, b/c I was looking at those idiot White kids.

    Was this in Baltimore?
    [Don’t answer…]

    • Katherine McChesney

      White Trash.

      • ElComadreja

        You call them chavs, don’t you?

        • watling

          Not really. Chavs are the equivalent of US trailer trash. Whites in Brixton are likely to be brainwashed multiculti UAF supporters, but are often from good homes where mummy and daddy are from the flower power generation and now have professional jobs paying well above the average salary.

          • David Ashton

            Exactly – well said!

          • ElComadreja

            My mistake. I thought the term was equivalent to what we call “wiggers” (or “whiggers”) which are basically white trash (not to be confused with rednecks, hillbillies or decent honest poor white folk) that have adopted the ways of the negro in dress, criminal culture and speech, associating and sometimes miscegenating with them.

  • SentryattheGate

    If they want a place pf their own, then how about Afreaka?

  • Usually Much Calmer

    Live in the margins, die in the margins.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    It takes either a supreme amount of arrogance or ignorance for blacks to state they are going to “reclaim Brixton”. Just a few generations ago there were no blacks in Brixton, and why is it proper for blacks to reclaim Brixton but not for whites to reclaim Brixton? As usual, there is no principle and everything is viewed through the prism of race.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      My sentiments exactly. If what breaks out in London is what we have witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore, the police need to be called in to impose order by force.

      • joyce farrington

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        • belajadevotchka2

          Flagged. How is this garbage getting posted day after day? Sickening

    • 李冠毅

      “Just a few generations ago there were no blacks in Brixton”

      Actually, the earliest record of Blacks in Britain was during ancient Roman times. During the age of the Tudors, there was a large Black community living in London. Queen Elizabeth I wrote a letter to the mayor complaining about the large numbers of “blackamoors” living in the city.

      • ElComadreja

        They should have nipped it in the bud then.

      • watling

        No, there wasn’t a large black community in London – or anywhere else in England – in Tudor times. This is the relevant quote from the Acts of the Privy Council of England Volume 26, 1596-1597, concerning Elizabeth the First’s reaction to negroes in England:

        “Her Majestie understanding that there are of late divers blackamoores brought into this realme, of which kinde of people there are allready to manie, consideringe howe God hath blessed this land with great increase of people of our owne nation as anie countrie in the world …”

      • saxonsun

        She did not mean negroes but actual Moors.

        • 李冠毅

          Isn’t “blackamoor” a slang term for Black Africans?

          • BlueSonicStreak

            No, not necessarily. Often not. Moors were Muslims, frequently Arabic or Berber. The Moors in Ancient Rome would have been North African, I believe.

      • David Ashton

        And recommending their removal.

        Let us see the details of the “blacks” (aka West African negroes) in Roman Britain.

        • 李冠毅

          The ancient Romans were known to have employed foreigners, including Africans, as soldiers and workers; in fact, this was a major reason why the Roman empire eventually collapsed. Some of these foreigners were brought to Britain during the Roman colonial rule. A skull found in a Roman grave in Yorkshire was tested to be from a half-Black woman.

          • IvyMike

            If race is a ‘social construct’ then how could they tell the skull was half black?

          • 李冠毅

            I have no idea. Anthropologists have long been able to differentiate races through physical features such as the shape of a skull. Nowadays, DNA tests can also estimate one’s ancestry with reasonable accuracy, and can even tell a person’s race, skin color, and facial features with just a small drop of blood. I’ve visited some liberal websites and pose this question, and the only reply I got was hysterical name-calling (“racist!”, “bigot!”, etc) and no one have tried to debunk me with facts. Liberal logic, I guess.

  • Samuel Hathaway

    >>>a culturally important area not just for London but for the black community in particular. <<<

    There is nothing "culturally important" that is black in London. What is important for London is militarily seize this section of the "black community" and forcibly return it to the white Britons from whom it was taken. Ancestors of Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake… onward and upward to claim what is your birthright and to culturally clean up and make it British again.

  • dd121

    Keeping the blacks there and not here where I live, works for me.

  • TruthBeTold

    While an historically white neighborhood must be integrated and destroyed, an historically black neighborhood must be preserved at all costs.

    I’m sorry if you heard me say it 100 times before.

  • IstvanIN

    So blacks have been in England, in significant numbers, for about 60 years. The English have been in England for thousands of years. Who’s heritage and culture are being trampled on?

  • Hilis Hatki

    Monty Python refused to do this as a skit, saying it was too ridiculous.

    • Zimriel

      You caught the reference before I did. The editors here are sneaky like that!

    • LHathaway

      lol. I think you may win for top comment.

    • I can do a good British accent and say, “Sorry, sorry, it’s entirely too silly.”

  • Zimriel

    This is like reverse-Empire-Day, from Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”.

    Where we remember those who died to keep China British.

  • Alden

    What about the real history of Brixton before the ship of shame the Windermere brought the plague to London in 1948? The early 1950’s are hardly history

  • Jason Lewis

    Young whites protesting to keep an area black? These same young folks would do what if you tried to keep your neighborhood white?

    • Marthinus Potgieter

      This can happen if one smokes too many joints, bongs etc – clouds the judgement .

    • David Ashton

      They are indoctrinated like the victims of a cult.

  • Deep North

    Libtards love their drums. Britain has been White for thousands of years; blacks are the invaders.

    • David Ashton

      They try to establish the lie that Britain is a “nation of immigrants”. We have been pretty homogeneous since the Norman Conquest, with a tiny assimilated group of Hugeneots, plus some 20th century Jews, and a general but eventually welcome “percolation” from Ireland. The “unarmed invasion” (Lord Elton) started by the “Windrush Revolution” (Caryl Phillips, Yale University!) has been sudden, massive and unwanted.

  • IKUredux

    My God, these people have had history in England. Thirty years worth. I mean they OWN this country now. Because let’s face it: Thirty years of minority occupation=ten thousand years of White people occupation.

  • Mahound

    So these black supremacists don’t want to be enriched by diversity do they? Where is the $PLC?


    You’re racist if you move out, you’re racist if you move in. Liberalism is not about finding answers to the so called “race problem”. They’re only about playing the game. Which is why absolutely every and anything you do while white. Will be seen and portrayed as racist by actual black racist and their self hating brow beaten white liberal enablers.

  • Fredrik_H

    If only we could gentrify them out of our countries as well…

  • ElComadreja

    Whites. The only other race stupid and/or twisted enough to stand with negros against their own.

  • watling

    Note the name Windrush Square mentioned in the article. It was the SS Windrush that brought the first few hundred blacks from the West Indies to England in 1948, during Clement Attlee’s administration. Britain’s failed multicultural experiment was first put into operation by Attlee, who therefore has a lot to answer for. But of course he knew he’d be long gone by the time the chickens came home to roost.

    • David Ashton

      The Royal Commission on Population warned against the immigration of people of different race or religion in the late 1940s. Every opinion poll has opposed mass multicultural inward settlement. Thatcher, Major and now Cameron have made anti-immigration noises just before the elections, but do nothing afterwards.

  • Marthinus Potgieter

    Next on the list is ‘marching against progress ‘ !

  • Michael North

    My father was born in Brixton in 1911. Too late for him to reclaim it.

  • com contrarian

    If white yuppies weren’t moving back to Brixton, young black drug dealers wouldn’t have anyone to sell their drugs too. Similarly local black bouncers would be out of work.

    They should be thankful the area hasn’t been taken over by Muslim Pakistanis who have little time for helping blacks.

  • ….