Tagged Battle for Freedom at Old Baily, the ‘Mangrove Nine Trial’ was Britain’s most significant Black trial.
In Britain, immigrants from other parts of the world like South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean were all regarded as Blacks, irrespective of skin colour. The arrest and trial of nine black leaders in 1970 by the London police and the British Home Office were aimed to discredit the growing influence of blacks within the black communities and to decimate the Black Power movement.
Frank Crichlow, a Trinidad-born community activist was the owner of Mangrove Restaurant in west London’s Notting Hill area where the police got the nine blacks harassed. Mangrove restaurant was one of the most popular at the time and also located in the Caribbean community.
For the fact that Crichlow was a Black Power activist, police invaded his restaurant twelve times between January 1969 and July 1970, with claims that Mangrove was a den of drugs and deadly activities.
Crichlow had, however, responded to this regular harassment from the police by filing a complaint to the Race Relations Board with ‘racial discrimination’ as the main subject. Darcus Howe, a Trinidad born Black Power Activist geared Crichlow partner with the British Black Panther in London to organize a protest against the police constant harassment of Mangrove.
One hundred and fifty protesters marched to local police stations on August 9, 1970, and were met by 200 police who initiated the violence that followed. Crichlow and Howe plus the other nine protest leaders were arrested. Head of the BBP; Barbara Beese, Althea Jones-Lecointe BBP member; Rupert Boyce; Rhodan Gordon; Anthony Innis; Rothwell Kentish; and Godfrey Millett were the nine men arrested.
The court had initially dismissed the charges against the arrested men because the statements of 12 officers were ruled to be inadmissible, the reason being they equated black radicalism with criminal intent. But then, the charges were reinstated by the Director of Public Prosecution and the defendant was arrested once again. Howe and Jones-Lecointe both defended themselves arguing that this was a political trial. Howe and Jones-Lecointe were defended by a radical lawyer Ian McDonald and other defendant layers. The conservative judge rejected these arguments.
Jones-Lecointe described the 55-day trial by police persecutor of Notting Hill’s black community is ridiculous. Howe exposed contradictions in police testimony, and a police officer had to leave the courtroom when he was caught signaling to prosecution witnesses as they testified. BBP meanwhile had started organizing and distributing flyers outside the courtroom to win popular support for themselves. Interestingly, the jury acquitted all nine on the charge of rioting.
This was the first time a British court acknowledged racial discrimination and wrongdoing by the London police as ‘Judge Edward Clarke’ a British judge, stated that there was evidence of racial hatred on both sides. The Mangrove Nine trial brought public support for the fight against police racism in Britain. This also brought the belief that fight for racial justice in Britain (Battle for Freedom at Old Baily) could be won.
Source: Black Past