Peter the Painter, a notorious latvian revolutionary who holed up in London for a bit, has been honored with two commerative plaques on housing projects that have been named after him, much to the ire of the police.
Peter the Painter was the possibly fictional person responsible for the shooting death of three police officers… he and his gang (I find it humorous that all accounts talk about the “leader” of this or that anarchist gang) had been robbing a jewelry store to fund their revolutionary activity when they were stopped by police. They won that shoot-out.
Then there was the Siege of Sidney Street. The police tracked down Peter and his gang to a house on Sidney street and well, you guessed it, laid siege. In a perfectly Waco-like moment, “a fire broke out” and the firefighters were prevented from putting out the fire. Winston Churchill himself was present and nearly got pwned when a bullet flew through his top hat. Apparently, this moment was caught on film. I’d love to see it. So anyhow, there was a fire, but the anarchists inside didn’t just surrender out the front door. When police finally entered, they found Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow, anarchists, dead on the floor. No Peter the Painter.
Unfortunately, there’s a chance that Peter was another name for Yakov Peters, who was actually tried and acquitted (7 people, 5 men and 2 women, were tried and acquitted in the aftermath of the siege. None of them cops.), went on to go the Bolshevik route, ruining any good reputation he may have had, and helping form the Cheka, the first soviet secret police. He got his comeuppance in the great purge of 1938.
Now of course, the police in london are calling these plaques an outrage since they defend a “murderer”. Obviously, who gets to call whom a murderer is a matter of who wins the fight in the end… are revolutionaries murderers? Perhaps some of them. Perhaps even all of them. But if so, so are police, presidents, soldiers, executioners (hell, judge and jury at that)… the list goes on. Here were people committed to a purpose, one they considered noble, of human emancipation, when agents of the state came to try and take away their freedom. They defended themselves. I’m glad they’ve got a plaque or two.