Report on housing estate riots in a number of towns across England in the summer of 1992.
The summer has already seen rioting on working class housing estates in several parts of the country. The latest occured in the North of England. In Burnley (Lancashire) there were five nights of rioting on the the Stoops and Hargher Clough estates with burning barricades in the streets and clashes with the police. For instance on the 22nd of July, 35 people were arrested in Burnley on a night during which a police van was damaged by petrol bomb. The police complained that "Some parents are delighted that their children are involved in this, and I think that it is a disgraceful state of affairs."
On the same night in Huddersfield (Yorkshire) at hundreds of youths fought with police on the Brackenhall estate after a police 'drugs raid' on a local pub. 21 cops were injured and 11 people arrested. The next night police were again attacked with stones and petrol bombs in the area. Meanwhile in Blackburn, Lancashire, hundreds of (mainly) asian youths fought with the police for two nights.
A week before there were three nights of rioting on the Hartcliffe estate, Bristol, during which there were 65 arrests. Rioting started on July 16th after two local men, Shaun Starr and Keith Buck, were killed when the stolen police motorbike they were riding was hit by a police car. Shop windows were smashed and police stoned. The next night there was further rioting, including a petrol bomb attack on a police van. One 18-year old woman who took part in the riot said: "It was bloody brilliant. They deserved everything they got and there's more to come".
On the Ordsall Estate in Salford (near Manchester), in the space of several days in the first week of July, fires were started at a council neighbourhood office, a housing office, a careers office, a Department of Health office, a MacDonald's restaraunt, and several other buildings. Shots were fired at police vehicles and a petrol bomb thrown at a police station. Also in Salford, eight people in balaclavas attacked a police car that they had lured into an ambsuh by setting off an alarm. Local youths complained of police violence, with one saying: "There's people who can't pay for electricity. And they're at home in bed, in the dark, and the door's kicked in and all they can see is big torches coming up the stairs and the Bill [the police] is saying 'Stay where you are or you'll get your heads blown off'". Another said: "It's just like Belfast. The police don't relate to the kids. Why are they dragging them in, beating them up?"
In mid-June there was a week of rioting on the Ragworth Estate in Stockton-on-Tees (North East England), with petrol bombs and stones thrown at police. And in May there were four nights of rioting on the WoodEnd Estate in Coventry after police arrested youths riding motorbikes which the police claimed were stolen.
There have also been many other confrontations with the police, on a smaller scale than the riots. For instance on the Marsh Farm estate in Luton (Bedfordshire) a petrol bomb was thrown at a police car during several nights of trouble. In Bournemouth on the 18th July there were 14 arrests after a clash with cops outside a club. On May 17, 150 youths threw stones and bottles at police after they tried to arrest two people riding a motorbike in teh Winson Green area of Birmingham. On 26th July bottles were thrown at riot police after a funfair in Southwark, South London and later in the night in the streets of nearby Peckham.
As usual the police have tried to blame "outsiders" for the riots, such as 'Class War'. For instacce, a spokesman for West Yorkshire police claimed "We have known for sometime that outsiders were involved in the riots and we are now actively investigating the possible involvement of Class War". They claimed that rioters used CB radios and scanners to monitor police communications. It is true that in some recent riots there appears do have been a high level of organisation, but this is not because of "outsiders". It is because people are quite capable of organising themselves without the help of 'Class War'or anybody else.
There is no real mystery about why people riot. With social conditions of poverty, poor housing and poor health it is a wonder (and a pity) these areas aren't in permanent rebellion. For instance Hartcliffe estate has the highest concentration of long term unemployed in the Bristol area, and double the national average rate of poverty-linked dieseases like asthma and diabetes.
The immediate causes of the riots varied from place to place, but underlying them all is the constant antagonism between the police and working class youths in many areas. On some housing estates there is a state of low-level warfare, with (mostly unemployed) youths being harrassed by the cops, and police being ambushed. The latest riots are an expression of this antagonism, and no doubt there will be more to come.
* There have also been riots in France. Hundreds of north african youths stoned a police station and started fires in the Paris suburb of Epinay-sous-Senart. The protest was apparently against festivities to mark Bastille Day (14/7/92). On July 25th, youths attacked a police station and looted a supermarket in the Paris suburb of Vitry-le-Francois after a motorcycle rider died while trying to evade a police patrol.
Taken from the Practical History website.