Blair Peach in the press: “the cops and the cosh” (10 June 1979)

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The discovery that Peach had been killed by members of an SPG squad that possessed large numbers of unauthorised weapons transformed the press coverage of events in Southall.

On the morning of April 24th, and in the days immediately after Southall, the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph had all covered the story as an unprovoked attack on the police. The headlines were: ‘BATTLE OF HATE. Election Riot: Police Hurt, 300 arrested’, ‘RACE RIOTERS BATTLE WITH POLICE ARMY’, ‘300 HELD IN RIOT AT NF DEMO’ and ‘300 ARRESTED AT POLL RIOT’. The local press was if anything even more solidly hostile to the anti-fascists.

But as the realisation dawned that the police officers had acquired private weapons, apparently to use in a riot of their own planning, even papers normally sympathetic to the police, such as here the Sunday People, began to admit the previously inconceivable – that maybe the police had caused Peach’s death. As the article concludes: “No Policeman Can be allowed to become a goon in uniform”

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