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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK


March marks anti-racism protester's anniversary

An internal police investigation report was never released

Hundreds of campaigners have marched past the place where anti-racism demonstrator Blair Peach died to mark the 20th anniversary of his death on Saturday.

The Blair Peach 20th Anniversary Committee also renewed their calls for an official investigation into how the 33-year-old schoolteacher died, as police tried to disperse a crowd of thousands of protestors demonstrating against a National Front rally in London.

The 1979 demonstration was sparked by the right-wing organisation's decision to hold a St George's Day election meeting in Southall town hall, the traditional heart of London's Indian community.

Inquiry demand rejected

Witnesses claim that Mr Peach was hit over the head with a baton by members of the Metropolitan Police Special Patrol Group at the incident in Southall on 23 April, 1979.

No officers were ever charged with the attack, although the force reached an out-of-court settlement with Mr Peach's brother in 1989.

[ image: Jack Straw called for a public inquiry into the incident at the time]
Jack Straw called for a public inquiry into the incident at the time
The present Home Secretary Jack Straw was among 79 MPs who called for a public inquiry into the incident at the time - a demand which was rejected by the then government.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng recently ruled out a new investigation into the incident, saying it had happened too long ago for such a move to be worthwhile.

New Zealander Mr Peach was a prominent anti-racist campaigner who had led a successful campaign to close down a National Front building in the middle of the Bangladeshi community around east London's Brick Lane.

The special needs teacher, who worked in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, had attended the protest against the election meeting with other teachers.

Police report

The protesters who converged on the meeting were met by rows of police officers who had sealed off much of the area.

An inquest into Mr Peach's death recorded a verdict of "death by misadventure", although 11 witnesses reported seeing Mr Peach struck by police.

An internal Metropolitan Police investigation report by Commander John Cass was never released. Mr Peach's partner Celia Stubbs, who attended the protest at which Mr Peach died, has appealed to Jack Straw to make the report public.

Ms Stubbs, a social worker, also wants Mr Straw to meet community leaders in Southall to discuss continuing racial tension in the area.

In January this year, she launched the Blair Peach 20th Anniversary Committee to fight for more anti-racist education in schools.

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