This Day In London’s History
1961: Rioting outside the Belgian embassy as demonstrators protest against the killing of Patrice Lumumba, ex Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the summer of 1960, Patrice Lumumba was elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, becoming the country’s first democratically elected leader after it gained independence from Belgian colonial rule. However his brief rule over the troubled country was hardly plain-sailing – he lost control of the army and was deposed and arrested several months later. His death was announced on 13th February 1961, but it soon became clear that he had been executed some weeks earlier.
Reports of involvement of Belgian and United Nations troops in Lumumba’s killing were widespread, and a demonstration of some 4000 people organised by the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Committee of African Organisations took place in central London on 19th February. Starting in Trafalgar Square, the demonstration marched to the Belgian embassy in Belgravia, at which point fighting erupted between demonstrators and police, leading to 26 arrests.
The protests in London were mirrored at Belgian embassies in many other countries. In 2001 a Belgian parliamentary commission concluded that “certain members of the Belgian Government and other Belgian figures have a moral responsibility in the circumstances which led to the death of Lumumba.”
There has been no shortage of rioting and civil disobedience in London’s history, so it should be little surprise then that some organisers of ‘historical re-enactments’ have chosen to specialise by setting up a society specifically for re-enacting London riots. Of particular note is the London Riot Re-enactment Society (LRRS), who are so confident in their club’s allure that they claim that “so far 100% of Londoners who have heard about the LRRS have expressed an interest in joining.”
Unfortunately we think that we must have now spoiled that trend. Now that Londonist has heard of the LRRS, and subsequently failed to express an interest in joining, it would seem that the key statistic in this claim will need to be re-quoted as “a percentile in the high 90s”, or something like that.
Still, it could be fun if you’re into that sort of thing.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, so you must eat at least one pancake. This is not yet enshrined in English Law, but we think it should be.
Even if your culinary skills are as poor as those exhibited by this Londonista, you should still have a crack at making your own pancakes. All you need is some basic ingredients, a non-stick frying pan, a sense of humour, and maybe a laissez-faire attitude towards the artex on your kitchen’s ceiling. Even the worst culinary klutz would struggle to do themselves too much harm from poor pancake-construction, although we would advise that you use some nice fresh eggs for your batter (ideally ones that display the Lion Mark).
If you think you’re a pancake prodigy, you may want to test your skills in the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race by the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Full details can be found here.