August 20, 1987 INDEX
Irate payers

SINCE MARCH, LABOUR COUNCILLORS IN WALTHAM FOREST HAVE BEEN THE VICTIMS OF AN INTENSE AND DISTURBING CAMPAIGN OF HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE. RICHARD FELL REPORTS.

The most serious incident happened on July 31 when a letter bomb was delivered to a senior councillor, Violet Smith's home. Fortunately Mrs Smith was suspicious of her mail because of the campaign, and called the police who dealt with the device. No-one was injured.

The hate campaign is linked to the council's 62% rate rise, the letter bomb arriving just two days after the Waltham Forest Ratepayers' Action Group lost an action in the High Court to have the rate declared illegal. The campaign originally centred on the council leader, Neil Gerrard, who received a fire bomb, hate mail, death and rape threats to himself and his family. After a few weeks it spread to other councillors, and in particular 67-year-old Smith.

Smith, who has been a councillor on and off for over 20 years, has been sent a voodoo doll, a hearse for her own funeral, threats, masses of nuisance mail (including mortgage and loan applications and catalogues) and the letter bomb.

The people responsible have been using the Ratepayers' Action Group's name on much of the mail, but the group's committee has condemned all use of violence and personal threats in the campaign. 'While we understand there may be feelings of frustration and outrage among local people, we cannot condone unlawful behaviour; such behaviour only makes extremists still more extreme and could lose the group public support,' says Martin Baxter, chair of the group.

Some of the literature received has been labelled 'NF', but the police do not consider this a major lead. 'We have no reason to believe there is a far right connection, but we are investigating all possibilities,' a police spokesman said.

Smith condemned the attacks. 'I think it is absolutely diabolical; these people must be sick if they think they can win an argument in this way,' she said.

Neil Gerrard insisted that none of the councillors would be intimidated by these actions, and especially not Vi Smith. So with the Ratepayers' Action Group set to appeal against the High Court decision and no arrests imminent, Waltham Forest Labour councillors will have to be extra vigilant to protect themselves against this attack on local democracy.

Neil Gerrard Inspects the damage to his front door after a molotov cocktail was thrown at it in April.

City Limits August 20, 1987.
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