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.[1]

Initial riot and police response

On 8 July 1981, a crowd of more than 1,000 youths besieged the police station at Moss Side, Manchester. All windows in the building were broken, and twelve police vehicles were set on fire. Police reinforcements equipped with riot shields and protective crash helmets were deployed around the station. A second attempt was made by crowds to attack the police station and during this a policeman was shot with a crossbow bolt through his leg.

Community meeting

Following the violence, Chief Constable James Anderton of Greater Manchester met with local community leaders including councillors, churchmen and youth workers. Agreements made in this meeting were later disputed. James Anderton stated in his official report about the riots that per request from the community leaders, he ordered his officers to maintain a low profile and avoid further confrontations, to allow the leaders time to ease tension among the young people and disperse the crowds. The community leaders that attended the meeting denied that they had demanded that police withdraw from Moss Side. Anderton later told the Greater Manchester Police Committee that the community leaders had failed to deliver on their promise to restore peace and were simply unable to admit their lack of influence over the people engaged in the rioting.

Stopping the riot

The "low profile" approach of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the efforts of the community leaders failed to stop the rioting which lasted for some 48 hours over two nights, with much burning and looting of shops all the way down Princess Road, Claremont Road and the surrounding areas, including Rusholme.

The Moss Side riots ended on the night of 11 July, when Anderton ordered his officers to advance and clear the streets of rioters in a massive show of force. James Anderton had used the previous two days to build up enough officers trained and equipped in public order tactics. A mobile task force of 560 officers in 50 transit vans and Land Rovers had been assembled in local police stations around the area of rioting. As part of the planned dispersal operation, Anderton authorized use of vehicle based rapid dispersal tactics; previously only used by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British Army in Northern Ireland. These tactics involved vehicles containing "snatch squads" being driven at high speed into groups of rioters, with officers then leaping out to make arrests.

Over two hours, 150 people were arrested with no police injuries reported. Afterwards, the Moss Side section of Princess Road (a main road south from Manchester centre) was closed for several days while adjacent buildings and gas mains damaged in the riot and fires were made safe.

It has been reported that Anderton had earlier given a speech to the assembled officers at Moss Side Police Station encouraging them to restore order as rapidly as possible and promising them his full support in the event of any complaints of excessive force.

Anti-racism campaigner Louise Da-Cocodia helped transport victims of the Moss Side riot to hospital, and later sat on the Hytner inquiry panel investigating the causes of the unrest.[2]

Conclusion and response

After the riots there were allegations from local residents, community leaders and lawyers that groups of police officers in vans had been observed cruising the streets of Moss Side during the riots, racially abusing and using indiscriminate violence against any young people seen on the streets.[1]

Interviewed in a 1992 BBC documentary on his career following his retirement as Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton described his strategy during the Moss Side riots:

"When trouble arises and violence occurs on the street, you hit it fast and hard. And that's what we did the following night. We hit the rioters fast and hard with all the force at our disposal-legitimate and lawful force-and we crushed the riots in Manchester in 24 hours."

James Anderton's handling of Moss Side riots received praise from the media, politicians, and general public. The use of snatch squads and vehicles to disperse rioters was unique in British public order policing at that time, and the response of Greater Manchester Police was contrasted favourably with the perceived loss of control and high police casualties during the earlier Toxteth riots. William Whitelaw, the Home Secretary, described the dispersal operation as a "conspicuous success".

James Anderton's Greater Manchester Police were the only police force in England at that time equipped with protective riot helmets with visors for use by its officers in public situations. This was unlike the Metropolitan Police in Brixton, and the Merseyside police in Toxteth, who sent their officers to face petrol bombs and missile attacks in traditional helmets and tunics.

See also


  1. ^ a b Manchester Evening News - Moss Side Riots 25 Years On Archived 1 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ MEN

External links

Death of Keith Blakelock

Keith Henry Blakelock was a London Metropolitan Police constable who was murdered on 6 October 1985 during rioting at the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, north London. The trouble broke out after a local black woman died of heart failure during a police search of her home, and took place against a backdrop of unrest in several English cities and a breakdown of relations between the police and black communities.PC Blakelock had been assigned on the night of his death to Serial 502, a unit of 11 constables and one sergeant dispatched to protect firefighters. When the rioters forced the officers back, Blakelock stumbled and fell. Surrounded by a mob of around 50 people, he received over 40 injuries inflicted by machetes or similar, and was found with a six-inch-long knife in his neck, buried up to the hilt. He was the third officer to be killed in a riot in the London area since 1833, when PC Robert Culley was stabbed to death in Clerkenwell.Detectives came under enormous pressure to find those responsible, amid tabloid coverage that was sometimes openly racist. Faced with a lack of forensic evidence—because for several hours it had not been possible to secure the crime scene—the police arrested 359 people, interviewed most of them without lawyers, and laid charges based on untaped confessions. Three adults and three youths were charged with the murder; the adults, Winston Silcott, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite (the "Tottenham Three"), were convicted in 1987. A widely supported campaign arose to overturn the convictions, which were quashed in 1991 when forensic tests cast doubt on the authenticity of detectives' notes from an interview in which Silcott appeared to incriminate himself. Two detectives were charged in 1992 with perverting the course of justice and were acquitted in 1994.Police re-opened the murder inquiry in 1992 and again in 2003. Ten men were arrested in 2010 on suspicion of murder, and in 2013 one of them, Nicholas Jacobs, became the seventh person to be charged with Blakelock's murder, based largely on evidence gathered during the 1992 inquiry. He was found not guilty in April 2014.Blakelock and the other constables of Serial 502 were awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for bravery in 1988. Their sergeant, David Pengelly, who—armed only with a shield and truncheon—placed himself in front of the crowd in an effort to save Blakelock and another officer, received the George Medal, awarded for acts of great bravery.

Ely and Littleport riots of 1816

The Ely and Littleport riots of 1816, also known as the Ely riots or Littleport riots, occurred between 22 and 24 May 1816 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The riots were caused by high unemployment and rising grain costs, much like the general unrest which spread throughout England following the Napoleonic Wars.

The Littleport riot broke out when a group of residents met at The Globe Inn. Fuelled by alcohol, they left the inn and began intimidating wealthier Littleport residents, demanding money and destroying property. The riot spread to Ely where magistrates attempted to calm the protests by ordering poor relief and fixing a minimum wage; see printed bill (reproduced at right). The following day, encouraged by Lord Liverpool's government, a militia of the citizens of Ely, led by Sir Henry Bate Dudley and backed by the 1st The Royal Dragoons, rounded up the rioters. In the ensuing altercation at The George and Dragon in Littleport, a trooper was injured, one rioter was killed, and at least one went on the run.

Edward Christian, brother of Fletcher Christian, had been appointed Chief Justice of the Isle of Ely in 1800 by the Bishop of Ely. As the Chief Justice, Christian was entitled to try the rioters alone. The government, in this case via the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, nevertheless appointed a Special Commission, consisting of Justice Abbott and Justice Burrough. The rioters were tried in the assizes at Ely during the week commencing June 1816. 23 men and one woman were condemned, of which five were subsequently hanged. General unrest and riots such as that at Littleport may have been a factor in the government passing the Vagrancy Act of 1824 and subsequently the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829.

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.

Riot Act

The Riot Act 1714 (1 Geo.1 St.2 c.5) was an act of the Parliament of Great Britain which authorized local authorities to declare any group of 12 or more people to be unlawfully assembled and to disperse or face punitive action. The act's long title was "An Act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters", and it came into force on 1 August 1715. It was repealed in England and Wales by section 10(2) and Part III of Schedule 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967. Acts similar to the Riot Act passed into the laws of British colonies in Australia, Canada, and America, some of which remain today.

The phrase "read the Riot Act" has passed into common usage for a stern reprimand or warning of consequences.

Timeline of Manchester history

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Manchester in north west England.

Riots in England
12th–17th centuries
18th century
19th century
20th century
21st century

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