At one time the chant of 'who killed Blair Peach ? - the police killed Blair Peach!' was repeated almost to the point of irritation at any demonstration where the old bill were out in force. Nowadays I suspect most people have forgotten who Blair Peach was. Today is the anniversary of his death in 1979 and it seems appropriate to have a quick history lesson for the benefit of a new generation of activists:
Blair Peach was a teacher from New Zealand, a member of the Socialist Workers Party and an activist in the Anti Nazi League. He died from head injuries at a demonstration in Southall against the National Front at which the police were out in almost equal numbers to the demonstrators - and which ended in widespread violence and arrests. Nobody was really in any doubt that the police, in particular the riot squad SPG (before they were re-branded as the TSG), were completely out of control. Eleven witnesses were willing to testify that they had seen the police assault Blair Peach.
But the inquest in to his death found a verdict of 'mis-adventure'.
This fooled nobody - hence the ubiquitous cry of 'the police killed Blair Peach'. The police-cover up was legendary: one SPG officer was caught disposing of a collection of home-made weapons - iron bars and coshes - that police had used to supplement their issued truncheons. When called for an identity parade some officers grew facial hair whilst others shaved off their beards. Uniforms were dry cleaned before forensic tests could be done. The coroner who presided over this was actually advised not to publish his report because it would damage public confidence in the impartiality of the legal process !
Ten years later, after a campaign by his girlfriend, the Met Police finally came to an out of court settlement over Blair Peach's death. And thirty years later, in December 2009 the Crown Prosecution Service said they were still considering whether to investigate the case further. Needless to say no police officer has ever been prosecuted.
With the death of Ian Tomlinson and the attack on Nicola Fisher at last year's G20 it's worth remembering that we've been here before.