The 1981 Brixton riot, or Brixton uprising, was a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Lambeth, South London, England, between 10 and 12 April 1981. The main riot on 11 April, dubbed "Bloody Saturday" by Time magazine, resulted in almost 280 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved.
|1981 Brixton riot|
Police with riot shields form a cordon across Atlantic Road at its junction with Coldharbour Lane, 11 April 1981
|Date||10–12 April 1981|
|Methods||Rioting, looting, arson|
|Reported fatalities and injuries|
279 police officers injured
45 members of the public injured
Brixton in South London was an area with serious social and economic problems. The whole United Kingdom was affected by a recession by 1981, but the local African-Caribbean community was suffering particularly high unemployment, poor housing, and a higher than average crime rate.
In the preceding months there had been growing unease between the police and the inhabitants of Lambeth. On 18 January 1981 a number of black youths died in a fire during a house party in New Cross. Although authorities have claimed it may have been accidental and that the fire started from inside the house, it was widely suspected to have been a racially motivated arson attack by someone outside the property, and the police investigation was criticised as inadequate for not exploring that possibility. Black activists, including Darcus Howe, organised a march for the "Black People's Day of Action" on 2 March. Accounts of turnout vary from 5,000 to 20,000 to 25,000. The marchers walked 17 miles from Deptford to Hyde Park, passing the Houses of Parliament and Fleet Street. While the majority of the march finished in Hyde Park without incident, there was some confrontation with police at Blackfriars. Les Back wrote that "While the local press reported the march respectfully, the national papers unloaded the full weight of racial stereotyping." The Evening Standard's front-page headline was a photo of a policeman with a bloody face next to a quote from Darcus Howe referring to the march as "A good day". A few weeks later, some of the organizers of the march were arrested, charged with the offence of Riot. They were later acquitted.
In 1980 the number of crimes recorded in the Lambeth Borough was 30,805. The Brixton Division was responsible for 10,626 of those crimes. Between 1976 and 1980 Brixton accounted for 35% of all crimes in the Borough, but 49% of all robbery and violent theft offences. The police recognised that there was a problem and that they needed a solution to a growing crime trend. Robbery and violent crime was on the increase. At the beginning of April, the Metropolitan Police began Operation Swamp 81, a plainclothes operation to reduce crime and uniformed patrols were increased in the area. Officers from other Metropolitan police districts and the Special Patrol Group were dispatched into Brixton, and within five days, 943 people were stopped and searched, and 82 arrested, through the heavy use of what was colloquially known as the "Sus law." This referred to powers under the Vagrancy Act 1824, which allowed police to search and arrest members of the public when it was believed that they were acting suspiciously, and not necessarily committing a crime. The African-Caribbean community claimed that the police were disproportionately using these powers against black people.
Public disfavour came to a head on Friday 10 April. At around 5:15 pm a police constable spotted a black youth named Michael Bailey running towards him, apparently away from three other black youths. Bailey was stopped and found to be badly bleeding, but broke away from the constable. Stopped again on Atlantic Road, Bailey was found to have a four-inch stab wound. Bailey ran into a flat and was helped by a family and the police constable there by putting kitchen roll on his wound. A crowd gathered and, as the police then tried to take the wounded boy to a waiting minicab on Railton Road, the crowd tried to intervene thinking the police did not appear to be providing or seeking the medical help Bailey needed quickly enough. As the minicab pulled away at speed a police car arrived and stopped the cab. When an officer from the police car realised Bailey was injured he moved him into the back of the police car to take him to hospital more quickly, and bound his wound more tightly to stop the bleeding. A group of 50 youths began to shout for Bailey's release thinking the police were arresting him. "Look, they’re killing him," claimed one. The crowd descended on the police car and pulled him out although the officers were trying to take him to hospital. The youths dispatched him to hospital and told officers: "Let us look after our own."
Rumours spread that a youth had been left to die by the police, or that the police looked on as the stabbed youth was lying on the street. Over 200 youths, black and white with predominantly Afro-Caribbean heritage reportedly turned on the police. In response the police decided to increase the number of police foot patrols in Railton Road, despite the tensions, and carry on with Operation Swamp 81 throughout the night and into the following day.
It was believed by the local community that the stabbed youth died as a result of police brutality, fuelling tensions throughout the day as crowds slowly gathered. Tensions first erupted around 4 pm, as two police officers stopped and searched a mini cab in Railton Road. By this time Brixton Road (Brixton High Street) was reportedly filled with angry people and police cars were pelted with bricks. At around 5 pm the tension escalated and spread, and the 9 pm BBC News bulletin that evening reported 46 police officers injured, five seriously. Shops were looted on Railton Road, Mayall Road, Leeson Road, Acre Lane and Brixton Road. The looting in Brixton reportedly started at around 6 pm. At 6.15 pm the fire brigade received their first call, as a police van was set on fire by rioters in Railton Road, with the fire brigade being warned "riot in progress". As the fire brigade approached the police cordon, they were waved through without warning, driving down Railton Road towards 300 youths armed with bottles and bricks. The fire brigade met the crowd at the junction between Railton Road and Shakespeare Road and were attacked with stones and bottles.
The police put out emergency calls to police officers across London, asking for assistance. They had no strategy, and only had inadequate helmets and non-fireproof plastic shields to protect themselves with while clearing the streets of rioters. The police reportedly also had difficulties in radio communication. The police proceeded in clearing the Atlantic-Railton-Mayall area by pushing the rioters down the road, forming deep shield walls. The rioters responded with bricks, bottles, and petrol bombs.
At 5.30 pm the violence further escalated. Non-rioting members of the public attempted to mediate between the police and the rioters, calling for a de-escalation by withdrawing police out of the area. The destructive efforts of the rioters peaked at around 8 pm, as those attempts at mediation failed. Two pubs, 26 businesses, schools and other structures were set alight as rioters went on a rampage. Hundreds of local residents were trapped in their houses, locked in by either police or rioters.
By 9.30 pm, over 1,000 police were dispatched into Brixton, squeezing out the rioters. By 1 am on 12 April 1981, the area was largely subdued, with no large groups – except the police – on the streets. The fire brigade refused to return until the following morning. Police numbers grew to over 2,500, and by the early hours of Sunday morning the rioting had fizzled out.
During the disturbances, 299 police were injured, along with at least 65 members of the public. 61 private vehicles and 56 police vehicles were destroyed. 28 premises were burned and another 117 damaged and looted. 82 arrests were made.
Between 3 and 11 July of that year, there was more unrest fuelled by racial and social discord, at Handsworth in Birmingham, Southall in London, Toxteth in Liverpool, Hyson Green in Nottingham and Moss Side in Manchester. There were also smaller pockets of unrest in Leeds, Leicester, Southampton, Halifax, Bedford, Gloucester, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Bristol, and Edinburgh. Racial tension played a major part in most of these disturbances, although all of the riots took place in areas hit particularly hard by unemployment and recession.
Scarman found unquestionable evidence of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of 'stop and search' powers by the police against black people. As a consequence, a new code for police behaviour was put forward in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; and the act also created an independent Police Complaints Authority, established in 1985, to attempt to restore public confidence in the police. Scarman concluded that "complex political, social and economic factors [created a] disposition towards violent protest".
The 1999 Macpherson Report, an investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the failure of the police to establish sufficient evidence for the prosecution of the charged suspects, found that recommendations of the 1981 Scarman Report had been ignored. The report concluded that the police force was "institutionally racist". This report, which did not cover the events of the Brixton Riots, disagreed with the conclusions made by Scarman.
On 25 March 2011, BBC Radio 4 broadcast reminiscences of participants including police and black Brixton residents.
On 13 April, Margaret Thatcher dismissed the notion that unemployment and racism lay beneath the Brixton disturbances claiming "Nothing, but nothing, justifies what happened" – although figures showed high unemployment amongst Brixton's black population. Overall unemployment in Brixton stood at 13 percent, with 25.4 percent for ethnic minorities. Unemployment among black youths was estimated at 55 percent. Rejecting increased investment in Britain's inner cities, Thatcher added, "Money cannot buy either trust or racial harmony." Lambeth London Borough Council leader, Ted Knight, complained that the police presence "amounted to an army of occupation" that provoked the riots; Thatcher responded, "What absolute nonsense and what an appalling remark ... No one should condone violence. No one should condone the events ... They were criminal, criminal."
Small-scale disturbances continued to simmer throughout the summer. After four nights of rioting in Liverpool during the Toxteth riots, beginning 4 July, there were 150 buildings burnt and 781 police officers injured. CS gas was deployed for the first time on the British mainland to quell the rioting. On 10 July, there was fresh rioting in Brixton. It was not until the end of July that the disturbances began to subside.
The recommendations of the Scarman Report to tackle the problems of racial disadvantage and inner-city decline were not implemented and rioting would break out again in the 1985 and 1995 Brixton riots.
The Chapeltown Riots of 1981 took place in the Leeds district of Chapeltown in West Yorkshire, England, during a time when many other areas of the UK were suffering similar problems (such as London, Birmingham and Liverpool). The riots unfolded in July 1981 from a background of racial tension, inner city poverty, poor housing and high unemployment (which was rising rapidly as a result of the recession at the time). This brought high tension, particularly amongst the area's Caribbean community, culminating in attacks on the local police.
These weren't to be the last riots in the area. In 1987 there was further rioting in Chapeltown and in 2001 there was widespread rioting in nearby Harehills.1981 Moss Side riot
In July 1981, the inner-city district of Moss Side in Manchester, England, was the scene for mass rioting. By that time, the area had been a key settlement for Asian and Caribbean immigrants for over thirty years. The rioting at Moss Side started at the local police station and later moved into the surrounding streets over two days. Key factors seen as fuel for this riot were racial tension and mass unemployment brought on by the early 1980s recession. Unemployment was at a post-war high across the nation during 1981, but was much higher than the national average in Moss Side. There were also frequent allegations of police officers racially abusing and using excessive force against black youths in the area.1981 riots
1981 riots may refer to:
1981 England riots
1981 Brixton riot
1981 Handsworth riots
Hong Kong 1981 riots1985 Brixton riot
The Brixton riot of 1985 started on 28 September in Lambeth in South London. It was the second major riot that the area had witnessed in the space of four years, the last in 1981. It was sparked by the shooting of Dorothy "Cherry" Groce by the Metropolitan Police, while they sought her 21-year-old son Michael Groce in relation to a suspected firearms offence; they believed Michael Groce was hiding in his mother's home.After two days of riots, photo-journalist David Hodge had died, 43 civilians and 10 police officers were hurt. Amongst a number of fires, one building had been destroyed, 55 cars had been burnt out, and 58 burglaries had been committed including acts of looting.In March 2014, the police eventually apologised for the wrongful shooting of Mrs Groce. In July of the same year, an inquest jury concluded that eight separate police failures had contributed to Mrs Groce's death, for which the present Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe subsequently "apologised unreservedly for our failings" to the family.1995 Brixton riot
The Brixton riots of 1995 began on 13 December after the death of a black 26-year-old, Wayne Douglas, in police custody. Douglas had allegedly robbed a couple in bed at knifepoint hours earlier. Trouble broke out after what had been a peaceful protest outside the Brixton Police Station where the death occurred. With several hundred people involved, the riot resulted in damage to property and vehicles in the area. Police sealed off a three-kilometre (2 mile) area around Brixton in south London.
The riot lasted for five hours. 22 people were arrested and charged with public order offences, theft and criminal damage. Three police officers were hurt.The then-Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, condemned the riots and said "efforts to improve Brixton would continue".Bloody Saturday
Bloody Saturday may refer to:
June 21, 1919, the day of violence of the Winnipeg General Strike
August 14, 1937, accidental bombing by the Chinese on civilian buildings during the Battle of Shanghai
November 9, 1963, the day Tsurumi rail accident and Mitsui Miike Coal Mine disaster occurred on the same day, which killed 162 and 458 respectively.
April 11, 1981, 1981 Brixton riot, London, England
June 20, 2009 is known as Bloody Saturday in Iran
Bloody Saturday (photograph), a famous photograph of a Chinese baby crying amid the ruins of Shanghai's bombed-out South Station after Japanese bombing attacks on August 28, 1937Brixton protests
Brixton protests may refer to:
1981 Brixton riot – 11 April 1981
1985 Brixton riot – 28 September 1985
1995 Brixton riot – 13 December 1995
2011 Brixton riot – 7 August 2011; see 2011 London riots
2015 Reclaim Brixton protest, anti-gentrification protests, resulting in minor disorderBrixton riots
Brixton riots may refer to:
1981 Brixton riot – 11 April 1981
1985 Brixton riot – 28 September 1985
1995 Brixton riot – 13 December 1995
2011 Brixton riot – 7 August 2011; see 2011 England riotsBroadwater Farm riot
The Broadwater Farm riot occurred on the Broadwater council estate in Tottenham, North London, on 6 October 1985.
The events of the day were dominated by two deaths. The first was that of Cynthia Jarrett, an African-Caribbean woman who died the previous day due to heart failure during a police search at her home. It was one of the main triggers of the riot in a context where tension between local black youth and the largely white Metropolitan Police was already high due to a combination of local issues and the aftermath of another riot which had occurred in the Brixton area of London the previous week following the shooting of a black woman (Dorothy 'Cherry' Groce) during another police search. In July 2014, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, apologised "unreservedly" for the shooting and the time it had taken to say "sorry" following an inquest into the death of Dorothy "Cherry" Groce, whose shooting by the Metropolitan Police triggered the riots. Mrs Groce had survived the police shooting but remained paralysed and confined to a wheelchair until her death in April 2011 at the age of 63. The jury inquest blamed the Metropolitan Police for failures that contributed to Groce's death. The second death was that of PC Keith Blakelock, the first police officer since 1833 to be killed in a riot in Britain.Coldharbour (Lambeth ward)
Coldharbour ward is an administrative division of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is located in Brixton.Dread Beat an' Blood
Dread Beat an' Blood is an album by Poet and the Roots released in 1978 on the Front Line label. It was produced by Vivian Weathers and Linton Kwesi Johnson. The 'Poet' is dub poet Johnson and 'the Roots' are Dennis Bovell, Lloyd "Jah Bunny" Donaldson, Desmond Craig, Winston Curniffe, Everald Forrest, Floyd Lawson, John Varnom, Lila Weathers and Vivian Weathers. Most of the tracks are based on poems that first appeared in Johnson's 1975 book of poetry Dread Beat an' Blood.
This album was the result of collaboration between Johnson, who had been active as a journalist and reggae critic as well as a poet, and musician and producer Bovell. The combination of Bovell's heavy dub rhythms and Johnson's monotone intonation of his poetry created a whole new genre of reggae: dub poetry.
In subsequent re-releases of the album the artist is sometimes given as Linton Kwesi Johnson. The album was listed in the 1999 book The Rough Guide: Reggae: 100 Essential CDs.Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue is a street in Brixton, London. Built in the 1880s, it was the first market street to be lit by electricity. Today, the street contains several butchers and fish mongers and hosts a part of Brixton Market, which specializes in selling a mix of African, Caribbean, South American and Asian products. It is located just around the corner from Brixton Underground station (1972). The elegant Victorian canopies over the pavements survived until the 1980s.Electric Avenue (song)
"Electric Avenue" is a song written, recorded and produced by Eddy Grant, who released it from his 1982 album Killer on the Rampage. In the United States, with the help of the MTV video he shot for it, it was one of 1983's biggest hits of the year. The song's title refers to Electric Avenue in the south London district of Brixton which was the first market street to be lit by electricity. According to Grant, he first became aware of the street's existence during a stint acting at the Black Theatre of Brixton. The area is now known for its high population of Caribbean immigrants. At the beginning of the 1980s, tensions over unemployment, racism and poverty culminated in the street events now known as the 1981 Brixton riot. Grant, horrified and enraged, wrote and composed the song in response; a year afterwards, the song was playing over the airwaves. Grant had left the UK shortly after the riots to live in Barbados: his most recent batch of songs had been lost in baggage transit, and "Electric Avenue" was one of the songs he wrote immediately afterwards to make up for the lost material.Grant initially released it as a single in 1982, and reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. In 1983, CBS decided to launch the single in the U.S., where it spent five weeks at No. 2 on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 charts and hit No. 1 in Cash Box Magazine. (It was kept out of the top spot on Billboard's Hot 100 by a combination of two songs, "Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara and that year's song of the summer, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.) "Electric Avenue" was a hit on two other US charts: On the soul chart it went to No. 18, and on the dance charts, it peaked at No. 6. It was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best R&B Song of 1983, but lost to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean".List of riots in London
The following is a list of riots and protests involving violent disorder that have occurred in London:
1189: The Massacre of the Jews at the coronation of Richard I
1196: William with the long beard causes riots when he preaches for the poor against the rich
1221: Riots occur after London defeats Westminster in an annual wrestling contest; ring-leaders hanged or mutilated in punishment.
1268: Rioting between goldsmiths and tailors1391: Riots break out in Salisbury Place over a baker's loaf
1517: Evil May Day riot against foreigners takes place
1668: Bawdy House Riots took place following repression of a series of attacks against brothels1710: Sacheverell riots, following the trial of the preacher, Henry Sacheverell
1719: Spitalfields weavers rioted, attacking women wearing Indian clothing and then attempting to rescue their arrested comrades
1743: Riots against Gin Taxes and other legislation to control the Gin Craze, principally the Gin Act 1736; rioting was fuelled by consumption of the drink itself
1768: The Massacre of St George's Fields after the imprisonment of John Wilkes for criticising the King
1769: The Spitalfield riots when silk weavers attempted to maintain their rate of pay
1780: Gordon riots against Catholics
1809: Old Price Riots, 1809 following a rise in the price of theatre tickets
1816: Spa Fields riots, Spenceans met in support of the common ownership of land
1830: Attacks against the Duke of Wellington in his carriage and on his home, for his opposition to electoral reform (which had been seen partly as a solution to rioting by rural workers).
1866: a riot took place in Hyde Park after a meeting of the Reform League was declared illegal
1886: The West End Riots followed a counter-demonstration by the Social Democratic Federation against a meeting of the Fair Trade League.
1887: Bloody Sunday, a demonstration against coercion in Ireland and to demand the release from prison the MP William O'Brien
1907: The Brown Dog riots, medical students attempt to tear down an anti-vivisection statue.
1919: The Battle of Bow Street, Australian, American and Canadian servicemen rioted against the Metropolitan Police
1932: The National Hunger March ended in rioting after the police confiscated the petition of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement
1936: The Battle of Cable Street saw rioting against the Metropolitan Police as they attempted to facilitate a march by the British Union of Fascists
1958 Notting Hill race riots between White British and West Indian immigrants.
1968: Rioting outside the United States Embassy in Grosvenor Square in opposition to the Vietnam War.
1974: Red Lion Square disorders happened following a march by counter-fascists against the National Front.
1976: Riots during the Notting Hill Carnival.
1977: The Battle of Lewisham occurred when the Metropolitan Police attempted to facilitate a march by the National Front
1979: Southall riots during a Anti-Nazi League demonstration in opposition to the National Front.
1981 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police. Especially on 10 July, rioting extended to other parts of London and numerous other cities around the UK
1985 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police after they shot the mother of suspect Michael Groce.
1985: Broadwater Farm riot, residents of Tottenham riot against the Metropolitan Police following a death during a police search
1990: Poll Tax riots followed the introduction of a poll tax.
1993: Welling riots, October 1993. A march organised by the ANL, the SWP and Militant resulted in riots against the Metropolitan police.1995: 1995 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police occurred after a death in police custody.
1996: Rioting in Trafalgar Square and surrounding streets following England losing against Germany in the semi-final of UEFA Euro 1996.
1999: Carnival Against Capitalism riot
2000: Anti-capitalist May Day riot2001: "riots" in Bradford and Oldham between Asian and white youth
2001: May Day riot in central London by anti-capitalist protestors.
2002: Rioting around The New Den stadium following Millwall F.C. losing against Birmingham City F.C. in the 2002 Football League Division One play-off.
2009 G-20 London summit protests occurred in the days around the G-20 summit.
2009 Upton Park riot before, during and after a 2009–10 Football League Cup second round match between West Ham United F.C. and Millwall F.C..
2010 UK student protests against increases in student fees and public sector cuts.
2011 anti-cuts protest in London against government public spending cuts.
2011 England riots, initially in London, following the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham
2017: rioting outside Forest Gate police station following the Death of Edson Da Costa.Mayall Road
Mayall Road is in Brixton. It runs parallel to Railton Road and the area between them was known in the 1970s as the Front Line - an area of troubled race relations and conflict with the police.A street party is held there every year during the August bank holiday.New Cross house fire
The New Cross house fire was a fire that occurred during a party at a house in New Cross, south-east London, in the early hours of Sunday, 18 January 1981. The blaze killed thirteen young people aged between 14 and 22, and one survivor committed suicide two years later.No one has ever been charged in connection to the fire, which forensic science subsequently established was started from inside the house, either by accident or deliberately.Newlyn riots
The Newlyn riots occurred in Newlyn, Cornwall, UK in May 1896. Cornish fishermen did not believe in landing fish on a Sunday, so other fleets exploited their opportunity. Locals retaliated by seizing non-Cornish vessels and throwing their catch overboard. This led to three days of rioting, quelled only by the intervention of a naval destroyer.Philip Mawer
Sir Philip Mawer (born 30 July 1947) is a former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who was in the post from 2002 until 2008 when he became an independent advisor on Ministerial standards to Gordon Brown. He was previously Secretary General of the General Synod of the Church of England.Railton Road
Railton Road runs between Brixton and Herne Hill in the London Borough of Lambeth.
The 1981 Brixton riot, the most serious riot of the 20th century in the United Kingdom, started here. The George public house was burnt down and a number of other buildings were damaged, and the area became known as the "Front Line".
At the northern end of Railton Road it becomes Atlantic Road, linking to Brixton Road at a junction where the Brixton tube station is located. At the southern end is Herne Hill railway station.
The road is designated the B223.
Riots in England