Hackney Poll Tax Riot, March 1990

Did you know that Hackney had its own Poll Tax Riot, a few weeks before the Trafalgar Square one?

Early Day Motion from Diane Abbott in Parliament:

“That this House notes the urban disorder that took place in Hackney on Thursday 8th March, that at least 38 people were arrested and there was violence and looting and that the people of Hackney are united in condemning the disorder and looting; but further notes that the blame for this disorder ultimately lies with the Government and its unjust poll tax; notes that very large numbers of Hackney residents will not be able to pay this tax; and further notes that in the matter of the poll tax the people of Hackney know who the real Urban Terrorist is.”

Another view:

(was Ian Bone discussing the riot)

Prime Minsiter Margaret Thatcher was asked about the riot the next day when visiting Glasgow:


Prime Minister, ITN. Can I just ask you, if I may, your reaction to the events last night in Hackney?



I’m afraid it’s one of a series which we know are being organised by Militant, as you know. And it is not the way to conduct affairs at all. In a democracy the way is to debate in Parliament, the legislation has been through Parliament, and anything that is intimidatory or violent is absolutely flatly contradictory to democracy. People can demonstrate, of course they can. They should do so peacefully. But they are of course tending to go for some of the councils that are setting very high community charges, as a result of Labour Councils, and some of them … [inaudible] … very very high charges indeed. So they have got something to grouse about, but the way to do it is complain quietly.

Hackney Community Defence Association published A People’s Account of the Hackney Anti-Poll Tax Demonstration on March 8th 1990. This is one of the many things I don’t have that I would like to add to the site.


8 thoughts on “Hackney Poll Tax Riot, March 1990

  1. What these photos dont show is the two or three coaches of Socialist Workers turning up. People scaling the balcony of the Town Hall and throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at the police below. There were alot of elderly people in front of the Town Hall making their point before all these people turned up and it just ended up being a scuffle between them and the police and everyone else was just trying to get out of the way.

  2. Pingback: Hackney First Community Blog

  3. I got arrested that night early on and I didn’t see any petrol bombs. I saw a TSG officer punching a girl repeatedly in the face and I got wrongly arrested, threatened with a beating and falsely accused (and acquitted). I’m not saying there was no violence from the crowd but the idea this was started by a coach load of swerps is laughable – (a) the SWP had more members in Hackney at the time than anywhwere else, so they didn’t need to bus people in (b) anyone who was around at the time can tell you that the SWP tactic in those days was to sit down – they weren’t up for a ruck (as an organisation anyway) and (c) the SWP were a bit slow on the uptake when it came to the poll tax and ended up playing catch up to teh Millies – I doubt they would have been trying to swell the numbers at a demo organised by their rivals. Moreover there was no need to bus anti poll tax protestors into Hackney which had the best rate of non payment in England (except possobly Lioverpool) . People should remember it was non payment that beat the poll tax, not silly scuffles.

  4. The SWP were there in numbers but the violence was orchestrated by an anarchist group called Hackney Solidarity who were based at the Old Fire station at Letwin Road.

    • In my experience it’s hard to pin disorder at demos on one particular group or organisation. Things are a bit more chaotic and spontaneous than that.

  5. It was the ordinary people and the anarchists that created the riot. I personally was told-off by two SWP members for smashing up paving slabs at the bottom of the Narroway to make something to throw at McDonalds. Peaceful protest does not work. I spent three months working in Her Majestys Kitchens Brixton Jail. Thankyou to all the good people of Hackney who supported me and many others in the aftermath.

  6. Pingback: Hackney’s Anarchic Nineties | The Radical History of Hackney

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