Local Community

People living in the Wapping area of Tower Hamlets found themselves virtually under siege. The Metropolitan Police took powers under a 150-year-old law to close off streets without notice.

They regularly set up road blocks. Residents in cars and on foot were often stopped and asked to give proof of identity and their destination. Some were arrested when they refused to give the information or answer questions.

On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, when demonstrations were held outside the plant, bus services to and from Wapping were stopped. There was a 30mph speed limit near the plant but the TNT trucks regularly exceeded the limit. Traffic lights along The Highway were switched off to allow them to roar through at speed. In January 1987 local resident Michael Delaney, who was unconnected with the dispute, was knocked down and killed on his 19th birthday by a TNT juggernaut.

The strikers made contact with local tenants’ groups and as the dispute progressed many residents became firm supporters of the strike. Some offered overnight accommodation to pickets and supporters who experienced difficulties getting home. The community held demonstrations in support of the strike and to protest about the restrictions on their movements and the use of their streets to ensure the safe passage of Murdoch’s vehicles. Council leaders and local MP Peter Shore also lodged protests with the company and with the police.

Following complaints from local residents the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL, now re-named Liberty) conducted an investigation into the policing strategy. In April 1986 NCCL published its report entitled No Way in Wapping that described how freedom of movement within the area had been severely curtailed.