On July 11th 1981 the news that vanloads of skinheads were planning to invade Bradford’s main Asian area spread. Only a week before coachloads of skinheads had attacked Southall’s Asian community. It was community self-defence, not the police that had protected Southall.
1981 had already witnessed uprisings in Bristol, Brixton, Liverpool and other cities of working class African-Caribbean & Asian youth, joined at times by white youth, angry about poverty, unemployment, racist attacks and police harassment.
On the other side, racist skinhead thugs had invaded Black (mainly African-Caribbean and Asian) communities attacking people on the streets and in their homes.
In Bradford, the recently-formed United Black Youth League (UBYL) responded by mobilising youth and organising in the community’s defence. They prepared petrol bombs, that were never used, in case they were needed to construct ‘a wall of fire’ to keep the fascists out.
Some weeks later the unused petrol bombs were found and 12 activists from the UBYL were arrested in dawn raids across Bradford and charged with conspiracy to make explosives and to cause explosions.
The Twelve: Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.
A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds initially under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ Over the months the case of the Bradford 12 was publicised and supporters organised. Almost a year later, a trial begun which exposed the scale and intensity of everyday racist violence and the extent of police racism faced by their communities.
Hundreds attended in support of the defendants at the court each day.
The Defence campaign ensured information bulletins [ b12-leaflet-report-1 b12-leaflet-report-2 b12-leaflet-report3 ] were produced and distributed nationwide, along with daily press releases to highlight the trial. Campaign supporters received internal updates [ 1982-may-bulletin-4 ] and responded to calls to protest. The defence to the charges was community self-defence. The petrol bombs were made ~ We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front. We knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The Defence campaign also saw that reports [ 1982-stark-report] were compiled and submissions made about the extent of racist violence. The jury responded by acquitting them– the trial of the Bradford 12 proved the importance of solidarity in the struggle for justice.
Source materials on the Bradford 12
cs-october1981 Free the Bradford 12. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.10
cs-december-1981 Bradford 12: Defence Campaign is Growing. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.12
Text of an early leaflet:
FREE THE BRADFORD 12
FREE OUR BROTHERS NOW
Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.
Framed by the Police. Charged with Conspiracy,
Facing LIFE IMPRISONMENT
‘BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT STATE RACISM
Everyday our families are split apart by the racist Immigration Laws. Our homes are raided by Immigration Officers. We are harrassed by the police on the streets and arrested on any pretext. We are criminalised through arbitrary charges confirmed by the racist judiciary. They played a major role in the struggle of Anwar Ditta, Jaswinder Kaur and Nasira Begum against the racist Immigration laws and of Gary Pemberton against the lying West Yorkshire police.
THE BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY DEFENDED THE BLACK COMMUNITY
Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are attacked and murdered in the streets. The police do nothing. Our homes and places of worship are burned to the ground, nobody is arrested. Families are burned to death. The murderers and firebombers speak openly of their organised violence against our communities. In Bradford people face racist attacks everyday. For example on July I4th a white gang with a petrol bomb attacked an Asian Schoolboy. On July 24th two Asian homes were gutted by racist firebombers. The only Conspiracy is Police Conspiracy – DROP ALL CHARGES NOW
POLICE STATE IN ACTION
For years Britain has been a police state for black people. This year the repression has been stepped up by paramilitary attacks on the black communities – the army of occupation in Brixton, police vehicles crushing people to death and CS gas bullets in Liverpool and highly developed surveillance techniques all over Britain. In Bradford black youth have faced increased surveillance over the last 18 months. The ‘riots’ were an excuse to arrest our brothers and frame them for conspiracy. While the racist attackers of Asian homes on the 24th of July are out on bail, our brothers are being held in prison and refused bail’.
A Call to Action
cs-april-1982 Free the Bradford 12 Trial starts April 26. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.4
cs-may-1982 Free the Bradford 12! Class Struggle Vol.6 No.5
cs-june-1982 Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.6
cs-july-1982 Bradford 12 Victory Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.7
b12victorylop July 1982 Self-Defence is no offence! How the Bradford 12 won their freedom. Leeds Other Paper
cs-august-1982 A Victory for Black People. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.8
1983 b12 RCLB on the Bradford 12 Campaign. Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Bulletin
1983 rt-on-b12-trial-copy Reflecting on the Trial of the Decade: The Bradford 12. Race Today Collective ‘The Struggle of Asian Workers in Britain‘.
30 Years on ~ Bradford 12: lessons for organizing
Institute of Race Relations July 28th 2011
An event in London marking the Bradford 12 thirtieth anniversary was a celebration and an education for resistance.
Thirty years ago, on 10 July 1981, twelve young Asians were arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and to endanger life, after a crate of home-made milk-bottle petrol bombs was found. (In fact thirteen were arrested, but the thirteenth, the only woman, Shanaaz Ali, was released without charge.) A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ and hundreds attended the trial each day. But the defence to the charges, not disclosed in advance of the trial so as to surprise the prosecution, was community self-defence. Yes, we made these petrol bombs, the young men said. We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front, against which we knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The jury responded by acquitting them.
The events organised in Bradford and London on 16 and 23 July respectively, by some of the Bradford 12 with the South Asia Solidarity Group, Newham Monitoring Project and CAMPACC, celebrated the victory, but went further, asking what are the lessons for today’s generation, for divided and ravaged communities in a globalised world.
Speakers from the twelve, Shanaaz Ali, the men’s solicitors Ruth Bundey and Gareth Peirce, anti-racist organiser Dave Harrison and writer and campaigner Amrit Wilson spoke in the morning session at the London event, ‘Legacies and lessions’, at SOAS’ Khalili theatre. To an audience of veterans and neophytes, grandparents and young people, they sketched a history of popular, street and police racism, of anti-racist campaigning and community organising at a time when, as Amrit Wilson reminded us, ‘Black’ was a political colour and when multiculturalism came from below, rather than through state policies designed to pit communities against each other in competition for funding. Tariq Mehmood reflected on the importance to the United Black Youth League in 1981 of not seeking public funding, a policy fostering self-reliance and independence which needed to be re-learned by groups addressing today’s challenges, whether of youth criminalisation, deaths in custody, anti-terror policies or Islamophobia. Gareth Peirce observed that for the state, the lessons of the Bradford 12’s victory were clear: if juries could not be relied on to convict, abolish them – by finding administrative alternatives to trial such as control orders; and if acquittals were based on evidence, abolish it – by instituting processes of secret evidence so that those dubbed ‘terrorist’ were not told why, leaving them unable to fight the label and the punitive measures which followed.
In the first afternoon session ‘Resisting the British state’, a wide range of speakers outlined contemporary challenges and campaigns. Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement referred to the 5,000 British troops still stationed in northern Ireland. Marcia Rigg spoke of her brother’s death in custody and the mutually supporting and strengthening role of the United Families and Friends Campaign, which is holding its annual march later in the year. Frances Webber of the IRR (who was a Mackenzie friend for one of the Twelve, Tariq Mehmood, during the trial), spoke of the similarities and differences between then and now – from the NF to the EDL; from immigration policies separating families to globalised policies treating people as commodities; from popular and police racism to monoculturalism, thought and speech crimes, and new geographies of racism. Dan Glass of Plane Stupid/So We Stand described the two and a half-year campaign starting with the arrest of 113 climate change activists in a Nottingham hall in 2009, in which he put to good use lessons in campaigning learned from the Bradford 12. (Of the twenty-six charged, the trial of six was abandoned when Mark Kennedy’s role as a police agent provocateur was exposed, and twenty activists’ convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal a week ago.) Dan’s talk illuminated the links between environmental campaigns and anti-racism which the emerging activist group So We Stand is committed to strengthening. Deniz Arbet of the Kurdish Community Centre (KCC) spoke of the struggles of Kurds for recognition and against criminalisation through the anti-terror laws. And Hamja Ahsan gave a moving speech about his brother Talha’s five-year imprisonment for extradition to the US on conspiracy charges (for which no evidence is needed), and read some of Talha’s beautiful poems, written in prison.
The last session of the day, ‘Imperialism then and now’, looked beyond our borders. Samarendra Das, from South Asia Solidarity, reported on the role of the Department for International Development (DfID) and of large NGOs in supporting mining corporation Vedanta, whose bauxite mining in India had, he said, led to thousands of deaths of mainly indigenous people through forced displacement, accidents and police operations and famine in a devastated environment. He spoke of the popular struggles which have been supported by international solidarity. Jawad Sabah of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) recounted and then demolished the myths behind western intervention in the ‘Arab spring’, and Leila Khaled of the Palestine National Council sent solidarity greetings to round off a stimulating and rewarding day, full of reflections and new connections – the sort of day that sends participants out recharged for resistance.