What was the Battle of Cable Street and why have people been marching 80 years since it happened?


Campaigners, politicians and members of the Jewish community gathered in London for a march commemorating the anti-fascist battle of Cable Street 80 years ago.

Demonstrators gather in Altab Ali Park before making their way to Cable Street
Rally attendees gathered in Altab Ali Park before making their way to Cable Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The march follows rising numbers of racist and anti-Semitic offences in London in recent months, and it remembered a significant day in the battle against fascism in Britain.

So what was the Battle of Cable Street? Who went to Sunday's march, and why do they think it is particularly relevant today?

What is the Battle of Cable Street?

A man is arrested by police in the Battle of Cable Street
The Battle of Cable Street is still cited by political figures due to its significance in relation to fascism in Britain (Eddie Worth/AP)

On Sunday October 4 1936, tens of thousands of anti-fascist protesters clashed with the Metropolitan Police in Cable Street, east London. The police were protecting a march by members of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), led by its founder Oswald Mosley.

The BUF had the anti-Semitic intention to march through the east end, which had a large Jewish population at the time, dressed as Blackshirts - military members of the National Fascist Party from Mussolini's Italy. The were stopped, however, by roadblocks and force from the anti-fascist protesters.

Sir Oswald Mosley, pre-war leader of the British Fascists, gives the Fascist salute
Sir Oswald Mosley, here in Blackshirt uniform, was arrested in 1940 and spent much of the Second World War behind bars (AP)

The government had suspected the march would attract protest so provided thousands of police officers to protect the BUF, but almost 200 men, women and children were injured in the ensuing skirmish, including many of the police.

A demonstrator is taken away under arrest by police
The police used horses to perform mounted baton charges against the anti-fascist protesters (AP/Worth)

The conflict led to the creation of The Public Order Act 1936 to control extremist political movements and was a significant factor in the decline of the BUF.

Why is the battle particularly relevant today?

Demonstrators at the Cable Street march in the East End of London
Signs created by those marching on Sunday had a message for modern times which acknowledged the iconic  day in Britain's history 80 years ago (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sunday's march, as well as commemorating the battle 80 years ago, was also a protest against the rising number of racially-motivated offences in London - particularly since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June.

Since the referendum, the number of hate crimes in Britain's capital has risen to 50 a day. According to figures from the mayor of London's office, between June 24 and September 30 there were 4,986 racial offences, compared with 3,620 in the previous 99 days.

Who attended the march?

Jeremy Corbyn leaves after speaking at rally
Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the rally in St George's Gadens (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was present at the march, posting to social media as well as giving a speech to the congregation.

Lodon Mayor Sadiq Khan also attended, along with some veterans of the battle itself.

Trade unionists, Jewish and Muslim figures and members of other left-wing groups were present.

What did attendees say?

A demonstrator releases a smoke flare in front of a mural on Cable Street
There is a mural on a wall of Cable Street commemorating the historic battle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Many of the attendees of the rally took to Twitter to acknowledge the event.

Max Levitas, now 101, participated in the Battle of Cable Street. He told the IBTimes: "It is great to see so many people here, but it is important to remember why we come.

"Fascism and racism are still present today and like we did back then, we must play our part to stand up to them. We must take on those groups who encourage racism, whatever form it's in."