300 people demonstrated outside the Ripper museum as it opened on Cable Street on Tuesday. The demonstration was organized by historian Sara Huws and writer Sarah Jackson and attended by Green Party members, representatives of 38 Degrees, local residents, women’s groups, parliamentary campaigners, costumed protestors, several historians and a vicar.
Incensed by the museum, East End tour guide David Rosenberg gave a speech about how the women of Cable Street pelted the police from their windows with everything they could find so that they couldn’t allow Mosley’s fascists to march through the anti-fascist barricades.
Tower Hamlet’s council had accepted a planning application to convert a disused Victorian shop on Cable Street into “the only dedicated resource in the East End to women’s history”. The proposal by former Google diversity officer Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe was bolstered by pictures of suffragettes and equal-pay campaigners; a ‘world class’ museum was promised.
Last week, the scaffolding came off to reveal the silhouetted logo of a man in a top hat and cape, with ‘Jack the Ripper Museum’ written in blood red letters. There was a skull and crossbones, but this has since been removed. Two fake blue plaques lend authority to ‘local’ connections: the body of one victim was taken to a mortuary nearby, and one of the myriad Ripper suspects lived and worked on Cable Street.
Tower Hamlet’s Mayor John Biggs declined to attend the opening, saying, “I will be seeking an explanation from the museum owners as to how this shift in the nature of the museum has come about.”
Meanwhile, local residents complained that they have to walk their children past the words, “Visit the Morgue and see the autopsy photos and reports of the murdered women” written at eye level.
Protest organisers Sara Huws and Sarah Jackson have put together a website. They are appealing for volunteers to help build a real museum of women’s history. Meanwhile, Class War are holding their own protest on Wednesday.
By Harriet Salisbury.