BUSTED: The Police Raid That Closed Eric’s Punk Club, Liverpool: Gary Ledwidge.
A closed Eric’s after the police raid (Mudkiss.com)
Everyone who went to Eric’s or who hung around Liverpool city centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s will have their own tales to tell about the culture of harassment, perjury, corruption, extortion and criminality inside Merseyside Police.
Hopefully things have changed, but back then Merseyside police were a disgrace, and corruption and malicious incompetence were behind the March 1980 raid on one of the most famous Punk and New Wave clubs in the world, Liverpool’s Eric’s.
This is an interview with Punk and Eric’s member Gary Ledwidge who was arrested that night and who was prosecuted the following day.
PAL: What time was the raid?
GL: I actually can’t remember. I think it was around 10.30pm.
PAL: Where were you in the club when the raid took place?
GL: I was in the main room then realised it was a raid and tried to make my way to the bogs but was stopped in the room at the bottom of the stairs and searched. I saw a lot of people getting asked questions, before they were frisked there.
PAL: What was the feeling in the club when the raid happened?
GL: Shock, then horror that it was happening. Up until then it had just been a normal night down there. I think most people were trying to get out of the club, but they were getting stopped and searched before they could leave.
PAL: Were the police doing detailed searches? Or just frisking?
GL: I only saw them frisking, but I did hear other people had more detailed searches as the police looked for evidence of drug use or possession.
PAL: What happened to you that night?
GL: After I was patted down I got asked to leave, but outside, on Mathew Street, a small group of regulars were chanting, “Leave us alone”, so I joined in and the next minute I was getting dragged into a police van by the scruff of my neck.
When we were chanting outside, I remember Cally being there (RIP), and Lin Sangster who was recording it on a ghetto blaster. Kevin Connolly was also outside but I didn’t see him. He told me a few weeks later he saw me getting dragged off and it looked funny as fuck. Thanks Kev.
When I was thrown in the van, it was already full so I was forced to sit behind the seats at the back which was lucky for me, because I was carrying a metal spike with me that I used to have stuck in the lining of an old overcoat I used to wear.
PAL: That suggests they weren’t serious about finding drugs on people if they couldn’t even find a concealed weapon. Why did you have it with you?
GL: I used to carry it because I’d heard punks were getting attacked by Tetley Bittermen in town. Anyway, I dumped the spike in the back of the police van when I was thrown in there…
PAL: What happened next?
GL: There was a lot of commotion going on in the van, but I couldn’t see what was happening, and it was all explained to me by the others at the cells later, back at Cheapside.
There’d been some girls in the police van and they were getting hysterical so one of the blokes, Fred, grabbed hold of one of the girls to try to calm her down, but it turned out she was an undercover police woman.
PAL: When was it discovered she was undercover?
GL: I think it was right away. The woman shouted something like, “The prick just hit me”, and Fred was dragged out the van and ended up in another van.
PAL: Then what happened?
GL: We were driven to Cheapside police station. Fred got slapped up a bit when we got to there, but the rest of the people with me weren’t.
The police were telling us what we were getting charged with and they’d got Fred to stand by a wall facing it like a naughty boy. He kept giving them shit, telling them to fuck off, and a copper kept shouting at him to shut up. It was mad in there.
Then we were put in the cells. In my cell were only people who’d been arrested in the Eric’s raid. There were maybe six of us. We talked about how we’d all plead not guilty the next day when we’d be tried in the Magistrates’ court.
PAL: What was it like down in the cells that night?
GL: It was like the end of the world. I was hungover, cold, hungry and scared – I was only a 17 year old kid. I remember being sick in the toilet in the corner of the cell. There was no bog roll, and I remember having a crap and wiping my arse on one of Eric’s flyers (God they came in handy).
I eventually got to sleep in the early hours only to wake up to everyone eating beans on toast.
In the morning we were moved to a different cell that was larger and had all different people in it who’d been arrested the night before.
PAL: What happened the next day in court?
GL: Even though we’d agreed we’d all plead not guilty, my name got called out first, and I was shitting it (without the aid of an Eric’s flyer), so I just said ‘guilty’ and everyone else followed suit.
It was very quick. They read our names out, told us we were charged with being drunk and disorderly and asked how did we plead. When I said ‘guilty’ the prosecutor told me how much I was getting fined and would I like time to pay it and that was the end. I think we got fined 15 quid with a fiver court costs.
Fred was found guilty of assaulting a police woman and I think he got 12 months.
I later heard the singer of the Psychedelic Furs, who’d played Eric’s that night with Wah! Heat, had smack planted on him by the police during the raid, as did one of Eric’s DJ’s. Much later I discovered the DJ was actually done for some weed that had been “found” on the floor of the DJ booth that night…
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