Saturday, 11 April 2015

Anniversary of 1981 Brixton Riots

 On Saturday 11th April 1981, Brixton was set ablaze as hundreds of local youth fought with the Metropolitan Police. The country was in recession, unemployment amongst African Caribbean  members of the community was high, and the quality of housing was poor. In the week preceding the Brixton Riots, Operation Swamp 81, saw over 1,000 people ( mainly  from the  young black community) being stopped and searched adding to the increased  frustration of the local people. Tensions were high.
What happened next was to become one of the most significant outbreaks of civil disorder in 20th Century London. Police continued operating their hated 'sus' laws,  where in order to stop someone, police only needed suspicion.  At the time the police were exempt  from the Race Relations Act, and many people targeted  were from  the ethnic community, which  led to accusations of racial prejudice.
After arrests were made  tensions rose again, igniting violence which spread across  the streets. The streets  of Brixton became a battle zone. After police arrived in  full riot gear, people started gathering to throw makeshift petrol bombs and set light to police cars. 
By the  time hostilities  had ended,  over 360  ppeople had been injured,  28 premises burned and another 177 damaged and looted. The police arrested 82 people. 
After the riots a police enquiry was held under Lord Scarman that held that policing in a civil society can only succeed with  the  consent of  the community. But 4 years later the Police  shot Mrs Cherry Grove, , causing again disturbances  in the area. There have been many many miscarriages of justice since.
34 years later there are many lessons to be learned.  Police racism continues, as does unemployment and poverty. Capitalist society still suffers from a sickness that breeds ,the big criminals of the land get rich and fat, get rewarded for their crimes (ie the bankers) whilst the poorer members of our communities are stigmatised, getting poorer, punished because of the greedy.  Sadly conditions in  Brixton are not vastly better than  over 30 years ago. Unrest can easily be fermented, when conditions on the streets are ignored. Riots that have happened since, like those seen in Brixton do not happen without a reason.

Guns of Brixton  -the Clash,  with collage of Brixton riots.

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