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‘Burn it down!’: Materialising intersectional solidarities in the architecture of the South African Embassy during the London Poll Tax Riot, March 1990

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-06-06, 10:01 authored by Gavin Brown
This paper offers a new way of conceptualising how intersectional solidarities are actualised. It recounts and theorises an outbreak of radical internationalism, when working class struggles in Britain and South Africa were unexpectedly linked. It examines how intersectional solidarity was materialised through a process of coming together against the architectural fabric of the South African Embassy and considers the interwoven temporalities that enabled this action to occur. On 31 March 1990, nearly a quarter of a million people demonstrated in London against the Poll Tax that was due to take effect in England and Wales the following day. On the day, the Metropolitan Police lost control of an already enraged crowd and provoked a large scale riot that engulfed the West End of London for several hours. In the midst of the riot, during a short retreat by the police, protesters took the opportunity to attack the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square – many windows were broken and an attempt was made to set the building alight. Drawing on interviews with former anti-apartheid protesters who were present on that day (and who had concluded a four-year long Non-Stop Picket of the embassy a month earlier), this paper explores and analyses their memories of that unexpected moment when their previously symbolic call to ‘burn it down’ was (almost) materialised. In doing so, it contributes new ways of conceptualising the spatiality and temporality of intersectional solidarity.

Funding

The research underpinning this paper comes from the Non-Stop Against Apartheid: the spaces of transnational solidarity project which was funded by a Research Project Grant from the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-072).

History

Citation

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 2019, Volume: 38 issue: 2, page(s): 233-250

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/School of Geography, Geology and the Environment/Human Geography

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space

Volume

38

Issue

2

Pagination

233-250

Publisher

SAGE Publications (UK and US)

issn

2399-6552

Acceptance date

2019-05-24

Copyright date

2019

Available date

2019-06-15

Notes

The file associated with this record is under embargo until publication, in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy. The full text may be available through the publisher links provided above.

Language

en

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