Anti- Apartheid and porn “redecorations” in 1980s Hackney

“Daughters of Amazon” attack Hackney porn shop (1983):

From the anarchist newspaper Black Flag 17th June 1983

Anti-Apartheid activists attack Barclays Bank on Green Lanes (1986).

From Black Flag 13th January 1986

Damage to property as direct action was reasonably common in the 1970s and 1980s. It had a dual function of “propaganda by deed”, where the business owner (and the community) were left in little doubt about the strength of feeling against them – and of course there was economic damage to the business too.

Furthermore, activists were able to claim responsibility anonymously through the underground and anarchist press via their political statements. The Angry Brigade excelled at this in the 1970s, with some very powerful manifestos – and one of their early targets was Barclays Bank on Stoke Newington High Street (now Stoke Newington Books) which was firebombed on October 26th 1970.

But most damage to property was far less spectacular than that meted out by the Angry Brigade. Indeed, the attraction of low level vandalism was precisely its accessibility – it was cheap and could be done by one or two people at night, etc.

“Diary of ALF Actions” from Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group Newsletter 10, April 1984

In the 1980s Animal Liberation Front activists must have damaged thousands (if not tens of thousands) of butchers shops and other properties involved with animal exploitation in the UK. Common actions would be anything from graffiti, to glueing up the locks so that the building could not be accessed the next day.

Hackney based anarchopunk band The Apostles (who lived at Brougham Road E8, off Broadway Market) captured the spirit of this particular direct action subculture in their 1983 song “Pigs For Slaughter”:

“Glue the locks of all the banks and butchers – or kick them in,
Spray a message of hate across a Bentley – or smash it up,
Sabotage the meat in supermarkets – poison them all,
Go to Kensington and mug a rich bastard of all his cash.

We’re knocking on your door,
We’re taking no more,
For this is Class War.

Put sugar in the petrol tank,
Deflate the tyres with six inch nails,
That’s the way to wreck a Rolls,
So get stuck in it never fails.
We’ll smash it up and we’ll bum it all down.”

The Apostles – pigs for slaughter

This kind of politically motivated damage to property seems far less common now, mainly because of the increased prevalence of CCTV, but also the laws around incitement are much harsher, so I think people that published manifestos or seemed to be encouraging this sort of thing might find themselves in far greater trouble with the law…

There’s probably a lot more to be written about this area, so any pointers about direct action generally in Hackney or Animal Liberation / animal rights activity in the borough would be welcome.

Further reading

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