Donald Rooum, atheist, anarchist and British artist who died at 91


Image courtesy of Spitalsfield Life

I have just learned with sadness that Donald Rooum, above, whose works appeared periodically in the print editions of the Free thinker for many decades, died in London on August 31.

I was alerted that Rooum had died by another Free thinker contributor, Professor John Radford, author of Don’t You Believe It! : Sixty things that everyone knows that are not so!, a book that Roum illustrated.

Rooum’s career and colorful life has been lovingly documented in a blog called Spitalsfield life in 2012. The author wrote:

Despite the formidable reputation gained by anarchists, Donald possesses a calm, almost unpretentious nature, and he has not participated in a protest since 1963, when he was accused by the police of having a brick in his pocket. . A brick that the police inadvertently – and notoriously – forgot to plant. It amounted to a national scandal at the time. Since then, Donald has preferred to stay at home and indirectly seek his political influence by working on his long series of cartoons, leaving the younger anarchists to take to the streets.

Rooum, who in 1963 worked as a draftsman for Peace News, was arrested by a violent and racist London policeman, Detective Sergeant Harold Challoner. On July 11 of the same year, Rooum demonstrated in front of the Claridge’s hotel against the visit to the United Kingdom by Queen Frederika of Greece. Challoner told Rooum:

You’re fucked up, my beauty. Boo the queen, will you ?.

After hitting Rooum on the head, Copper searched Rooum’s possessions, claimed to have found half a brick and said:

There you are, my old darling. Carry an offensive weapon. You can get two years for that.

Rooum, a member of the National Civil Liberties Council who had read articles on forensic science, handed his clothes to his lawyer for testing. No brick dust or appropriate wear was found and Rooum was acquitted, although others arrested by Challenor during the protest have still been convicted on the basis of his evidence.

By the time Challenor appeared at the Old Bailey in 1964, charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, he was deemed unfit to plead and was sent to Netherne Psychiatric Hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. paranoid. Three other detectives involved in the arrest of protesters – David Oakley, Frank Battes and Keith Goldsmith – were sentenced to three years in prison.

Roum said Spitalsfield life:

When I was sixteen I thought a free society would be easy to obtain. Now I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but the civil rights movement has been good. There have been improvements. There is no more law against homosexuality and no more corporal punishment in schools. There was a horrible attitude that people who weren’t white were inferior. When I first arrived in London in 1944 I called a boarding house and they asked me to come in person as there was no color policy.

For me, anarchism is an ethical position, a point of view that sees coercion of any kind as bad.

Rooum edited the London-based anarchist newspaper, Freedom, for many years. He became a senior lecturer in typography at the London College of Printing, obtained an open university degree in life sciences, and was elected a fellow of the Institute of Biology at the age of eighty.

Spitalsfield Life said:

His efforts spanned the political, the literary, the artistic and the scientific, but it was in the lightness of cartoons that he found his ideal medium.

You can see a collection of his cartoons in Peace News.


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