Sunday, December 03, 2006

Welsh White Panthers

When I eventually set up my alternative grand tour of Cardiff one of the addresses at which my bus will stop will be 23 Piercefield Place. In the early '70s this was the Welsh HQ of the White Panther Party.

The Cardiff chapter of the MC5-inspired White Panthers had about 18 members who were busy working on plans to abolish money and set up free music festivals on Caerphilly mountain.

But it wasn't all idealistic fantasising. When racist graffiti suddenly began appearing in Cardiff circa 1972 the Panthers sprang into action by er, asking the council for permission to paint over it. The council refused point blank saying such work had to be done by "corrosive experts".

Frustrated by council bureaucracy the Panthers decided to take matters into their own hands. 11 of them went ahead and painted over the offending slogans on Crwys Road bridge which read: "National Front" "Bring Back Hanging" (no really!) and "Keep Britain White". Job done.

Unfortunately for the Panthers they were caught in the act and arrested. They were charged with: "damaging 2 brick walls valued at £30 belonging to British Rail without excuse, and having in their custody or control 14 tins of paint and 10 paint brushes."

Tried and found guilty under the Criminal Damages Act they were fined and bound over to keep the peace. Undeterred by this genuine injustice they vowed to carry on their fight against racism.

Heaven only knows what eventually became of the Welsh White Panthers but every time I stride across Crwys Road bridge I hum Kick Out The Jams by the MC5 (see pic) and think of them.