Demonstrations

The protest demonstrations at Wapping every Wednesday and Saturday night were the main focus of public activity. They were intended to concentrate attention on the plant and to support the lonely band of six official pickets standing watch at the entrance to Fortress Wapping, powerless to stop cars, vans and lorries speeding through the factory gates with the help of security guards and police. Organised and led by the chapels and branches directly involved and by other trade unions from different industries, these twice-weekly demos kept up the pressure on the company. There were demonstrations by the sacked women workers and by the local residents supporting the dispute and protesting about living under a state of siege.  

Most demonstrations at Wapping started at Tower Hill and moved slowly along the half mile to The Highway, gathering opposite the side road leading to the gate. The police at some stage would try to clear the crowd with riot police working in the combination of a crash-helmeted, baton-wielding force on foot and mounted police in full riot gear. Supporters from all over the country saw and felt the brutality at close quarters.

A few demonstrations passed off without incident but usually there were many arrests, and frequently nasty injuries, often to the head. This was especially the case during larger demonstrations, such as the gatherings of supporters on May 3 1986 and the mile-long anniversary march on January 24 1987.

Although the main focus was at Wapping, demonstrations were also held at Kinning Park, Glasgow, the company’s other security-clad print operation in Scotland, and at particular events such as the lobbies  of the TUC and union conferences and  protests against the jailing of Michael Hicks,  

Many different events were organised in support of the dispute and the strikers. Trade unions, trades councils, support and community groups arranged rallies, public meetings, fund-raising gigs, theatre performances and socials.  Celebrities from the entertainment world supported events and appeared on leaflets especially for the boycott campaign.

At Wapping too there were musical and social occasions too for families and even an alternative royal wedding event in July 1986. One march to Wapping involved the traditional blessing of a print union banner in St Bride’s church, off Fleet Street, along the way.