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Arrests, 'carnage' and new TV talent

THE FIGHT CONTINUES: The Voice’s front page lead on Colin Roach’s father being arrested following a march calling for a public inquiry into his death

TWO MONTHS after the unexplained death of 21-year-old Colin Roach in the foyer of the Stoke Newington police station, violence flared at a march calling for a public inquiry into his death and among those arrested and charged by the police in the street clash in east London was Colin’s father, James and a local councillor who was dragged through the windscreen of a truck.

This was the dramatic coverage The Voice gave to the incident on its front page of March 19, 1983 as the 28th edition of the newspaper rolled off the press. The headline read: ‘Colin’s father arrested – violence flares at March’ supported by a picture of James Roach at the funeral for his son, which was taken a month before.

The Voice story said 54-year-old James Roach was arrested and charged with obstructing the police in the course of their duty and was bailed to ap- pear at Old Street Magistrates’ Court, now the site of Courthouse Hotel, Shoreditch.

Eyewitnesses had claimed that he was dragged away from a truck carrying a banner and some of the demonstrators. He was allegedly punched and kicked as he was taken away.

Tower Hamlets Councillor Dennis Twomey, who was driving the truck, was dragged through the windscreen by police officers. The Voice said he suffered abrasions to his face and arms and was taken to the Royal London Hospital and later charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer and obstructing the police in the course of their duty.

Continuing its coverage on to page three, The Voice gave a more detailed account of how the peaceful march erupted into an all-out clash between demonstrators and the police resulting various offences with six kept in custody. Under the headline ‘Carnage at demo’, the page three article quoted eyewitnesses who gave various accounts of the clash between demonstrators and the police.

A spokesman for the Colin Roach committee claimed the police circulated descriptions of the leaders of the march and then sent in ‘snatch squads’ to arrest them. Several reports confirm that the leaders of the march were split up from the rest by a police cordon where upon the truck was ‘attacked’ by police with truncheons.

The police made an attempt to take away the banner of the Colin Roach Support Committee which was displayed on the truck but on being prevented from doing so proceeded to arrest those nearby and several demonstrators were thrown from the truck.

After the vehicle was confiscated by the police, the marchers reassembled and marched to Hackney Town Hall and then proceed to City Road police station where those arrested were being detained.

Winston Brewster, community development officer for Hackney Council told The Voice: "The attack by the police was planned; people were targeted and were set upon deliberately. It was a very terrifying experience.”

Over on page five, the lead story headline was ‘Tenants to fight racism’ which reported that a group of tenants and voluntary and professional workers from across London had come together to campaign for racial equality in public sector housing.

The group, brought together by an initiative by the London Tenants Organisation, was concerned by the growing evidence of discrimination in council housing allocations and the alarming incidents of racially motivated attacks on black tenants on estates.

The Voice story said recent studies carried out by the Home Office, the Commission for Racial Equality and other bodies had identified racial harassment as a serious phenomenon separate and distinct from ordinary vandalism.

It listed incidence of racially motivated attacks on black tenants significantly higher than it is for their white counterparts – 56 per cent higher in the case of Asian people and 36 per cent for African Caribbeans. Similar studies also revealed that black people were significantly under-represented on the local authorities’ waiting lists for housing.

The story went on to say that the London Tenants Organisation would press the authorities to accept these findings and “to adopt whatever measures are necessary to give effect to their obligations under Section 71 of the 1976 Race Relations Act”.

On page nine, one of the news features highlighted the emerging media talent of Diane Abbott, who had landed a job at TV AM as a reporter, making her the first black woman hired by the station. The story quoted Abbott as saying she enjoyed working at TV AM. “It’s a nicer place to work because it’s new, there are a lot of women employees, the atmosphere is open, relaxed and friendly – it’s like starting a relationship together from scratch.”

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using the hashtag #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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