UK urban riots often marked by racial, police tensions

8th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

The violence which flared in London at the weekend was the worst outbreak in a decade of inner-city rioting in Britain.

Such disorder has often been marked by racial tensions and anger against the police.

While London has witnessed most of mainland Britain's more notorious post-war riots -- Northern Ireland aside -- provincial towns and cities have also been scarred by such violence.

Disorder has erupted at planned politically-edged rallies, such as the 1990 poll tax riots, the G20 protests in 2009 and the student demonstrations last year.

Inner-city rioting has often been fuelled by a toxic combination of deprivation, racial unrest, grievances at police actions, rumours and mistrust.


-- Notting Hill is now one of the capital's more chic addresses but the west London district was a poor area in the 1950s and tensions simmered between whites and the burgeoning Caribbean immigrant community, amid competition for housing.

The situation erupted and trouble flared for nearly a week between white "Teddy Boy" youths and West Indians. Houses were petrol-bombed while mobs roamed the streets.

The unrest triggered shock and sparked debates about racial prejudice. The Caribbean-flavoured Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's biggest street festival, was founded in 1959 as a response.


-- Police 'stop and search' operations had heightened resentment in the black community hub in south London.

Police stopped a youth who had been stabbed, with crowds gathering and rumours spreading. Thousands turned on the police.

Over two days, nearly 300 police and at least 65 civilians were injured. 117 vehicles were damaged, 28 premises burned and another 117 damaged and looted. 82 arrests were made. Petrol bombs were thrown for the first time in mainland Britain.

A second, two-day Brixton riot took place in 1985 -- a week before the Broadwater Farm riot -- following a police shooting.


-- Three months after Brixton, similar tensions exploded in Toxteth in Liverpool, northwest England, following the arrest of a young black man.

Over nine days, youths and police fought pitched battles. More than 70 buildings were gutted by fire, 468 officers were injured and 500 people arrested. Cars were torched and shops looted.

Other riots occurred that July in Birmingham and Leeds.


-- Following the death of a black woman during a police search at her home on the 1960s public housing estate in Tottenham, north London, youths rioted, attacking police with petrol bombs and bricks. Shots were fired at police. Police Constable Keith Blakelock was hacked to death by a mob.

The violence which rocked Tottenham this weekend followed a march from the estate to the district's police station.


-- The riots in Oldham, a town outside Manchester, were the first in a series of racially-motivated confrontations that summer between whites and ethnic South Asians -- largely Pakistanis -- in northern English conurbations.

The town saw three days of running battles. Eighty-six police officers were injured; 10 people were jailed.

An investigation blamed deep-rooted self-segregation of the two communities.


-- Two months later, violence erupted in Bradford, northern England, when about 1,000 mainly South Asian young men caused widespread destruction in the Asian-majority Manningham district.

Disorder broke out following an anti-Nazi demonstration against a white nationalist rally that was banned from going ahead.

More than 300 police officers were injured and 200 jail sentences were handed out.

© 2011 AFP

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