From the archive, 2 July 1962: First public meeting of ‘Nazis’ ends in violence
Originally published in the Guardian on 2 July 1962
The first public meeting called by the British National Socialist Movement, in Trafalgar Square yesterday afternoon, ended with 20 arrests, fights, bleeding faces, abuse, and tears. It was all predictable. The members of the National Socialist Movement, who had strutted about on the plinth of Nelson’s Column with the sun-wheel badge as an armband and the swastika in their lapels, certainly achieved their object. With a crowd of about 3,000 in the square, with television cameras, photographers, and reporters, and the fighting at the end, they are certain of the publicity which they set out to gain. The two hundred or so men who stood directly in front of the speakers and kept up a torrent of abuse and slogans and a hail of missiles at the platform also will claim victory.
By the time Mr Colin Jordan [the leader of the movement] began to talk, the body of the hecklers had shouted themselves out and expended their pennies, tomatoes, eggs, and apples which they had hurled at the first two speakers, Mr Denis Pirie and Mr John Tyndall.
At the end of the meeting, a large section of the crowd closed on the open truck belonging to the movement. Six youths managed to clamber into the back and presented a sitting target. Several men in the crowd called out “lynch them” and encouraged the crowd to overturn the truck. They did not quite succeed. The police fought, the crowd fought, the men in the truck lashed out with their banner poles. The truck drove off and the men in the back raised their arms in the Nazi salute. While the centre of attention was the truck, the speakers slipped away across Trafalgar Square.
The theme of the meeting was “Free Britain from Jewish control.” Mr Pirie expounded the thesis with a high hysterical voice, a jabbing finger and waving arms, and ended shouting “Heil Hitler.” Mr Tyndall, with arms folded, listed the trades in which Jews were predominant and received a cut above his eye for his trouble. Mr Jordan was as unimpressive an orator as he was a figure. He repeated much of what the others had said and was ending with lengthy praise of Hitler when the police told him that his time was up.
Hate from whatever side of a police cordon is distasteful and frightening. The outpourings of hate for Jews were perhaps the vilest speeches made in Trafalgar Square since the 1930s. It is a pity that the movement was not left to speak to an empty square.