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1985 - MoJ Siege

Siege of Colombian Palace of Justice - Marxist guerrillas take over the Palace of Justice in Bogota, and hold the Supreme Court hostage. Following a military almost half of the 25 Supreme Court Justices are killed.

On Wednesday, November 6, 1985, the guerrilla group M19, or the April 19 movement, stormed Colombia’s Palace of Justice and held all 25 of the country's Supreme Court justices and hundreds of civilians hostage.

The M19 rebels had been frustrated by the government's violation of a ceasefire, and they were allegedly there with the backing of the country's most powerful drug lord, Pablo Escobar.

Over the next two days, the Colombian army mounted an operation to retake the building and free the hostages. By the time the crisis was resolved, almost all of the 30 to 40 rebels were dead, scores of hostages had been killed or "disappeared," and 11 of the court's 25 justices were slain.

The M19 rebels, a left-wing group, took the court with the goal of forcing the justices to try then-President Belisario Betancur and his defense minister for violating a peace deal the Colombian government had reached with the rebels a year and a half earlier.

M19 also opposed the government’s move toward extraditing Colombians to the US — a point on which the rebels and Colombia’s powerful drug traffickers, led by Pablo Escobar, agreed. According to both Mark Bowden's "Killing Pablo" and Escobar’s son, the Medellin drug boss paid the rebels $1 million for the job.

During a radio broadcast from inside the court after the rebels seized the building, an M19 member said that their aim was "to denounce a Government that has betrayed the Colombian people."

The initial response of Betancur was, "Restore order, but above all avoid bloodshed." But after that, he reportedly "encouraged the army to do its dirty work in the name of preserving legality" and refused to end the siege.

He also refused to take phone calls from the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Alfonso Reyes, who was being held hostage, or to order a ceasefire to permit negotiations.

Not long after the rebels seized the five-story building, government forces used explosives and automatic weapons to retake some of the lower floors. In the process, they reportedly rescued about 100 of the hostages. Colombian security forces soon launched more attacks on the rebels, eventually using tanks to assault the building.

On Wednesday night, a fire broke out and destroyed many of the documents that court was using to decide whether to extradite drug traffickers. Records for about 6,000 criminal cases were destroyed, including files for the criminal case against Escobar, according to Bowden.

In 1989, a judge ruled that the fire had been intentionally set. Witnesses have said security forces lit the blaze, while some suggested the rebels set the fire at the behest of drug traffickers who wanted to destroy evidence against them.

By the afternoon of November 7, the siege was over, and reporters were allowed to enter the building. Freed hostages said that rebels had decided to kill their prisoners, including Supreme Court justices, that morning, "when they felt their situation was 'hopeless.'"

At the time, news reports quoted Col. Alfonso Plazas, who commanded government troops during the assault, as saying that the rebels had been "annihilated." But testimonies and rulings that have been issued in the decades since depict an army that was indiscriminate in its efforts to end the siege.


Further Reading


Washington Post - 27 Hours That Shook Bogota

ADST - Pablo Escobar and the Siege of Colombia’s Palace of Justice

1985 - UK riots

Riots in British inner cities - riots break out in predominately black areas of Birmingham and London sparked by heavy-handed policing, although with deeper underlying causes of discrimination and deprivation among inner city black communities

Simmering racial tensions and other community problems in the predominately black communities of Handsworth, in Birmingham, and Brixton and Broadwater Farm estate in London, finally boiled over in autumn of 1985. 

The riots of 9th September in Handsworth were actually sparked by a minor driving infringement. A police officer slapped a fine notice onto an illegally-parked car, with a missing tax disc, which pulled up outside the Acapulco Cafe, in Lozells Road. A man arrested over the motoring offences fled into the cafe. When more officers arrived at the scene, they were pelted with stones and bottles.


The violence escalated throughout the evening and, at about 9pm, fire officers became aware that brothers Kassamali and Amirali Moledina had decided to stay put in their Post Office to protect their property. It was a decision that was to cost them their lives as they died of asphyxiation in their blazing business.

While buildings burned in Lozells Road, looters were out raiding shops. A police log at the time recorded: “An air of excitement is noticeable among the looters – one man pushing a trolley-load of stolen property shouts: ‘I’m shopping early for Christmas’.”

The trouble continued the next day as it moved onto Handsworth, where a mob of 500 gathered in Heathfield Road.


They rampaged through Birchfield Road shopping centre and the Post Office in Rookery Road was raided. Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary at the time, was pelted with missiles and abuse when he arrived at the riot scene. The police struggled to contain the rioters until later that night but the damage was done as parts of both Handsworth and Lozells burned.

Similar scenes were witnessed a few weeks later in London.  On 28th September Mrs. Cherry Groce, a Black woman, was shot and paralyzed during a police raid on her home in Brixton, South London. Allegedly, Groce was shot in her bed, by a member of a team of armed police officers who were looking for her son. 


On 6th October, Mrs. Cynthia Jarrett, another black woman, died of a heart attack during a police search of her Tottenham home, who were also searching for her son. 

The subsequent rioting was sparked by widespread accounts of heavy-handed policing against matriarchal black women, who more often than not occupied a reverential status, even among the most delinquent or disaffected of black youth.


Further Reading

Wikipedia: Handsworth, Brixton, Broadwater Farm

Birmingham Mail - A Look Back at the Handsworth Riots

BBC What Caused the 1985 Tottenham Broadwater Farm Riot?

The Guardian - Recollections of the Brixton Riots

University of Texas - Black British People and the Riot

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One woman's stand agaisnt neo-Nazis - a Swedish lady mkaes her feelings known when she encounters a neo-Nazi skinhead

woman v nazi sweden.jpg

A woman Hitting a neo-Nazi with her handbag is a famous photograph taken in Växjö, Sweden on 13 April 1985 by Hans Runesson. It depicts a 38-year-old woman hitting a marching Nazi-skinhead with a handbag.


The photograph was taken during a demonstration of the Nordic Reich Party supporters. The angle of the photo, her posture, facial expression, and what she’s wearing makes her look a lot older than she really is. The picturet was published in the next day’s Dagens Nyheter and a day later in some British newspapers. It sparked a huge discussion in Sweden, and the woman – who suffered from anxiety and hated the sudden media spotlight – ended up committing suicide two years later.


The woman in the photograph is Danuta Danielsson. She was of Polish-Jewish origin, her mother had been in a concentration camp and she got very angry when she saw the young Nazis in her quiet town. When the incident happened she had only lived in Sweden for a few years. Dunata met her future Swedish husband at a jazz festival in Poland and shortly after that they were married. Her acquaintances described her as energetic and positive during their first years in the new country. But she had a darker side, sometimes she was mentally fragile. Very often she screamed menacingly to people on the streets, sometimes she muttered to herself. She was also treated at a psych ward and eventually threw herself from a water tower in 1988.

The neo-Nazi’s name was Seppo Seluska who was a militant Nazi from the Nordic Reich Party, later convicted for murder. He tortured and murdered a Jewish homosexual later the same year.


1985 - No Nazis
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