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But before burnishing some undeserved moral halo, let me be honest. I came to see The Clash, the main musical attraction that afternoon. The anti-racism stuff was secondary. Actually, the White Riot documentary title itself comes courtesy of that band’s debut single, written after witnessing the race riots following the Notting Hill carnival of 1976.
(‘White riot, I wanna riot, white riot, wanna riot of my own,’ being the chorus. Everyone should be prepared to protest unfairness being the message.)
The reasoning behind making this documentary, and why it’s hailed 42 years after the event, is the ongoing protests under the Black Lives Matter banner.
Yet strangely, ask those there that day in Victoria Park and they might view the concert not as some awakening about violence perpetrated upon people of colour — heck, that’s why most were present in the first place — but for what happened when the final act wandered onto stage.
Because, while we might have indeed been anti-fascists when it involved violence against non-white folk, it was a giant stride further down some liberation road to admit support for something so weird as gay rights.
Hey, I had gone to a high school of 1,400 kids and not one dared be openly gay. That closet was nailed shut, so to speak.
So, about 5.30 p.m., up stepped Tom Robinson and his band: “You might not like this, but we’re going to play it anyway,” he told us 100,000 narrow-minded, anti-fascists.
Sing If You’re Glad To Be Gay is what they launched into. (Tom being of that sexual persuasion, though the rest of the band wasn’t). Holy heck. The place went deathly quiet.