Plaques for Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar removed from wall of town hall
These plaques are now gone. Picture: Visit Southall/Twitter
Historical plaques that paid tribute to individuals within Southall’s history of fighting fascism and racism have been stolen from Southall’s Town Hall.
Three commemorative markings, which were unveiled just last year, were “cut off” from the building and police and the council are investigating the incident.
The plaques paid tribute to Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18-year-old student murdered in a racist attack in 1976 and Blair Peach, an anti-racist school teacher who was killed in anti-National Front demonstrations in the town 1979.
A third plaque recognises local reggae band Misty in Roots, known for their anti-racist activism. Their manager Clarence Baker was left hospitalised for months after he was badly beaten at the same 1979 protests as Mr Peach.
“It has taken four decades to get this recognition and to remember those terrible times in Southall’s history,” Janpal Basran, of Southall Community Alliance, said.
“It has a real resonance with so many people involved at the time and subsequently now, we have the whole national movement around Black Lives Matter…and the whole debate about reconsidering and re-evaluating local history, with all of that going on…and the far right threats to take down statues, we do worry.
But he added: “Without speculating too much, we want to investigate and get further answers.”
“They are [the plaques] not the kind of thing that would have fallen off, or the kind of thing removed by somebody accidentally, so we are really kind of worried and anxious about what happened.”
The mysterious theft of the plaques also comes just weeks after Southall’s community came together outside the town hall to take the knee for George Floyd and support Black Lives Matter.
Reacting to the appeal on Twitter, community group Our Southall said: “This is extremely shocking and even more so at a time when just a week ago #Southall residents and businesses stood in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement at the #SouthallTownHall!”
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said: “I am appalled that these plaques have been forcibly removed and stolen.
“They commemorate the untimely deaths of two young men in our borough. Blair Peach, a teacher from New Zealand who tragically lost his life in the 1979 Southall riots, and Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18-year-old student who was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack in 1976.
“The third plaque acknowledges Misty in Roots, a local reggae band known for their anti-racist stance and support for independence in Zimbabwe. They were at the protest in 1979 and their manager, Clarence Baker, was severely beaten and badly injured during the unrest.
“We will work with the police to identify who has removed them and I urge anyone with information of this theft to report it.”
The plaques were reported missing by residents on Thursday, June 11.
Anyone with information should call 101 and quote crime reference number 2515276/20.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter
June 19, 2020