Monday, 3 January 2011

The Siege of Sidney Street

On January 3, 1911, 200 London policemen and a detachment of Scots Guards acting at least in part under the control of the then Home Secretary Winston Churchill laid siege to a house on Sidney Street in London’s East End where two or three Latvian immigrant anarchists accused of killing police officers weeks earlier were hiding. Two were killed in the military-style operation, but “Peter the Painter,” the alleged ring leader, was either not in the house or managed to escape.

The anarchists were accused of belonging to a burglary ring. On December 16, two police were killed after they encountered burglars allegedly the anarchists while they robbed a jewellery store. An informant later told the police that the perpetrators, including Peter the Painter, who may have been a Latvian immigrant named Peter Piatkov, were in hiding at the house on Sidney Street.

Churchill either coordinated in full or ultimately assumed control of the operation whose disproportionate size could only have been aimed to menace London’s working class. The Scots Guards being a unit of the British military; rapid fire Gatling guns and an artillery piece were also deployed in the operation. When the house caught fire, Churchill, by then personally on the scene, ordered away a fire brigade that had come to extinguish the blaze. Instead, Churchill ordered soldiers to keep their fire trained on the door in case the anarchists attempted to escape the flames. The charred remains of Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow were found inside, but not Peter the Painter, whose name subsequently became legendary in London and in Ireland


Chris H said...

A good reminder of how Churchill was never a friend of the workers in this country. Think of Tonypandy as well.

Anonymous said...

Have they actually brought pieces of wood or something to kneel on so they won't dirty their trousers whilst menacing the working class?

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