On May 4 1978, Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bengali clothing worker, was walking home from the factory where he worked in London's East End when he was stabbed and murdered by racist thugs.
His death sent shockwaves through the Bengali community.
It was the eve of the local elections when Altab Ali left to die in a pool of blood.
He was heading past St Mary's Gardens (now renamed Altab Ali Park) when he was murdered in Adler Street off Whitechapel High Street.
The racist killing was not an isolated incident in the East End.
The following month a 50-year-old Bengali man, Ishaq Ali, was murdered in Hackney.
Attacks on Bengalis were commonplace in the 1970s. Bricks were thrown through windows and excrement smeared over doors, leaving many Bengalis in a perpetual state of fear.
While young racist thugs engaged in "Paki-bashing," the media blamed the immigrants themselves for not integrating.
Politicians introduced tighter immigration legislation in the 1960s and 1970s, seemingly giving legitimacy to the idea that newly arrived Bengalis from East Pakistan, as the country was then known, did not belong in the country.
With politicians and the media against them the Bengali immigrants were easy scapegoats who could be blamed for everything, just as other immigrants had been before them.
For racists the East End was fertile ground. Job opportunities were limited to low-paid and unskilled jobs in small factories and the textile trade.
The Bengali community bore the brunt of organised racist activity in the area. Provocative activities by the fascist National Front (NF) in the area around Brick Lane often ended in violence.
The night that Altab Ali was killed 41 NF candidates stood for election in Tower Hamlets.
Altab Ali's death enraged local people and became a symbol of race hatred in the area.
In its wake a powerful anti-racist movement was built. At a hastily convened meeting a new body, the Action Committee Against Racial Attacks, brought together all the major groups in the Asian community - Tower Hamlets Against Racism and Fascism, the Trades Council and the rapidly growing Anti-Nazi League, to organise a national demonstration against racial attacks.
Ten days after his murder, on May 14 1978, 10,000 Bengalis gathered in Brick Lane to join one of the largest demonstrations by Asian people that had ever been seen in Britain.
They marched to Whitehall behind Altab Ali's coffin, in a long procession led by Asian youth, and their anti-racist allies.
All over London hundreds of Asian cafes, restaurants and shops closed in sympathy. Slogans highlighted the anger many felt at the government's failure to do anything about racist attacks, the level of police racism and the criminalisation of immigrant communities.
The demonstrators shouted: "Law and order for whom?", "Self defence is no offence," "Black and white unite and fight" and "Who killed Altab Ali? Racism! Racism!"
For the 10-15,000 Bengalis living in Tower Hamlets at the time Altab Ali's murder was a turning point, especially for the youth.
They rapidly became politicised and began to organise youth groups, community and campaigning organisations and link up with other anti-racists.
Anti-racist youths in the East End saw their activities gather momentum as they gained confidence and went on the offensive.
The police and the Establishment appealed to community elders to end what they saw as confrontational activities.
The anti-racist movement responded by forming the Hackney and Tower Hamlets Defence Committee.
The organisation initiated and participated in actions including:
- Sit-down protests outside Bethnal Green police station, protesting against police brutality against Bengali youth activists and inaction against racist attacks.
- The occupation of the corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road, demanding the closure of the National Front stall selling their newspaper and other racist propaganda, and closure of their headquarters nearby in Shoreditch.
- Patrolling Brick Lane every Saturday night to stop the gathering of National Front thugs, who would congregate to plan their Sunday provocations and attacks.
- Black Solidarity Day - a day-long strike in Tower Hamlets against racist attacks which brought the whole area to a standstill.
- Opposing the Greater London Council's ghetto-housing plan which had been created in the name of "safe" council housing for the Bengali community. This plan was flatly rejected by the local community who were against a segregated housing policy.
The NF was decisively beaten as a street presence in Tower Hamlets in the summer of 1978 and the events became known locally as the Battle of Brick Lane.
However, there was still latent support for the racist party at the ballot box.
Dan Jones, who was secretary of Bethnal Green and Stepney Trades Council at the time, recalled: "There were times in the late '70s when thousands of Sylheti (Bengali) workers from the factories, sweatshops and restaurants of the East End took to the streets in massive marches and protests demanding an end to racist incitement and attacks.
"The trades council published its indictment of racism, Blood on the Streets. Protests remained peaceful and multiracial despite continued provocation and a deadening lack of response from the authorities."
Today anti-racists face new challenges from the British National Party, English Defence League and other organised racists.
Yet we know that these ideas can be beaten. That is the legacy of Altab Ali's death and the movement that beat the racists back in 1978.
This Friday's Altab Ali Day is jointly organised by the Altab Ali Foundation and the United Platform Against Racism and Fascism. Speakers include Megan Dobney of Sertuc, poet Michael Rosen, the Bishop of Stepney the Right Reverend Adrian Newman, Rushanara Ali MP and Murad Qureshi AM and veterans of the events of 1978.
Join the Altab Ali Day rally this Friday 4 May at 6pm at Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, London E1