Altab Ali: 1978 Protests

On 4 May, 1978, Altab Ali, a 24-year-old Bengali garment worker, was killed in a racist attack in Whitechapel, East London.

The murder sparked an uprising of protests from East London’s Bengali community, revolted by the continuous barrage of racist abuse that they faced on a daily basis, including attacks from the fascist National Front.

Ten days after the murder on 14 May, 7,000 Bengalis marched from Brick Lane to 10 Downing Street, delivering a petition which called for police protection and an end to racial violence. It was led by young people, and was part of a fightback that helped turn the tide against far-right politics in the UK.

In 1998, St Mary’s Park in Whitechapel was renamed Altab Ali Park, in memory of the young garment worker. At the entrance to the park is an arch created by David Petersen, developed as a memorial to Altab Ali and other victims of racist attacks. The arch incorporates a complex Bengali and European style pattern, meant to show the merging of different cultures in East London.


Image Credit: Tower Hamlets Council. Photo by Paul Trevor.