Defiance: Fighting the Far Right Series Premiere, 8 April 2024, Channel 4

Channel 4 Documentary

Defiance: Fighting the Far Right, premiering on Channel 4 on Monday 8 April, offers a compelling insight into Britain’s Asian community’s courageous stand against far-right violence and a rising tide of racist murders during the turbulent years between 1976 and 1981. This three-part documentary series uncovers the events leading up to pivotal moments in the fight against racism, including the Southall protests, the killing of Blair Peach, and the battle for Brick Lane.

The first episode, set in 1976, paints a disturbing picture of the time, with attitudes against immigration reaching a boiling point. Daily attacks on British Asians and calls for their deportation were commonplace, reflecting a deep-seated racism within British society. The episode focuses on the tragic killing of 18-year-old Sikh Gurdip Singh Chaggar in Southall, west London, and the callous response from far-right politician John Kingsley Read, who infamously proclaimed, “One down, one million to go!”

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Outraged by the lack of police protection, young Asians took matters into their own hands, forming the Southall Youth Movement to defend themselves against racist attacks. Simultaneously, in Bethnal Green, the threat of the National Front loomed large, as they sought to gain political power. The brutal murder of Altab Ali on election day sent shockwaves through the nearby Bengali community in Brick Lane.

Altab’s funeral became a powerful rallying point, with thousands marching the coffin to 10 Downing Street to demand an end to the relentless attacks. However, the police response raised questions about their allegiance, leaving the community uncertain of their protection. The Southall Youth Movement joined forces with the Bengali community, united in their determination to protect Brick Lane from National Front thugs.

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Defiance: Fighting the Far Right sheds light on a dark chapter in British history, showcasing the resilience and courage of those who stood up against racism and fought for their rights. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of unity and the enduring struggle for equality. Episode 2 airs tomorrow night at 9.00pm.

Defiance: Fighting the Far Right airs on Channel 4 at 9:00 p.m. on Monday 8 April 2024.

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