Riots

When race riots marred the streets of Britain

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A combination of racism, unemployment, housing shortages and post-war disillusion led to a series of terrible attacks on black communities following the end of the First World War. Laura Miles describes the events, and how the authorities either stood aside or blamed the victims.

A century ago, after four long years of war, Britain was on the brink of revolution. Strikes raged across the industrial heartlands such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast. Martial law was declared to quell a revolt in Luton. But vicious race riots also erupted in several British ports, resulting in four people being killed and hundreds badly injured.

Black and fighting back

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The riots that happened last summer highlighted the gulf that exists between many young black people and mainstream black political figures. Brian Richardson and Mark L Thomas spoke to Weyman Bennett about the new mood of anger among black people.

“There is a significant change taking place among young people. The people involved in the riots generalised politically much more than in 1981 and 1985.”

But there were signs of this even before the riots, argues Weyman. The demonstration a couple of months earlier over the death of the black musician Smiley Culture during a police raid on his house attracted several thousand people - the biggest protest over a death in custody for a number of years.

After the riots

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The riots that exploded on the streets of London and other English cities last month provoked a vicious backlash by politicians and the media. Brian Richardson argues that the rage people expressed was rooted in the grinding poverty and injustice at the heart of British society.


Photo: Guy Smallman

How many rivers do we have to cross
Before we can talk to the boss?
All we have it seems we have lost
We must have really paid a cost

The geography of poverty

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The recent riots and looting have provoked a fresh wave of demonisation of so-called "feral" young people in Britain's cities. Carl Lee and Danny Dorling examine the reality of life in a society which surrounds those in poverty with commodities they can never afford to own

On 4 March 1941 the London Times reported on an "epidemic" of looting in the aftermath of bombing raids over the city. In that same year 4,584 looting cases were processed by London courts alone.

Seventy years later, following the riots in England this August, the calls to mend what David Cameron has termed our "broken society" - usually couched in terms of better parenting and more discipline in schools - have a hollow ring when held up against the historical record.

Why not Sheffield?

Crumbling Pillars of the British Establishment

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The phone hacking scandal has rapidly spread to engulf the police, the government and sections of the media. Estelle Cooch looks at the crisis of legitimacy spreading through the British establishment.

A succession of scandals have engulfed British public life over the last three years, each one placing under the spotlight the entrenched corruption of a different institution that governs our lives. First, there was the banking crisis and the huge bailouts that followed, and then came the parliamentary expenses scandal. Now the phone hacking scandal has raised profound disquiet not just about parts of the press but also about the cosy relationship of sections of the media with both politicians and the police.

Voices of the unheard

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Thirty years ago the Brixton riots heralded a wave of unrest in Britain's inner cities that terrified our rulers and helped forge black and white unity

"Molotov cocktails were thrown for the first time on mainland Britain. There had been no such event in England in living memory."

These words come from a police report into the Brixton riots of 1981. On 10-11 April 1981 massive riots exploded in Brixton, south London, and thousands of people fought running battles with police. Some in the popular media described the unrest as race riots. They were not. Black and white joined together to find a voice: they are part of the battles that forged multiracial Britain.

France: One Year After the Riots

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In the autumn of 2005 the suburbs of Paris burned with anger at racism and poverty. Soon that rage spread across France and led to the most prolonged rioting the country had ever seen. Jim Wolfreys returned to Paris to find out if anything has changed.

On Saturday 28 October around 1,000 people gathered in Clichy-sous-Bois, an impoverished north eastern suburb (banlieue) of Paris. They met to remember the two teenagers, Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna, who were electrocuted last year as they hid from police after being chased as they made their way home from playing football. Their deaths, and the police's refusal to apologise, set in motion the most sustained period of rioting ever seen in France.

South Africa: Burning Anger in the Townships

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There has been an explosion of riots and community uprisings across South Africa for more than 18 months.

Townships and squatter camps have been in flames as thousands of poor people burnt down local government buildings and fought against the police. These protests express the growing frustration among black South Africans at the dreadful state of public services, and their bitterness with the government.

France: Roots of a Revolt

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Peter Fysh argues the French riots had both political and economic causes.

The recent urban unrest in France has exposed the way in which social and economic marginalisation is overlaid by both an ethnic and a geopolitical dimension. Unemployed immigrant-origin youths have been engaged in an unwinnable but constantly reigniting war with the police since at least the early 1980s. After 11 September 2001 their situation worsened as the state colluded with employers in flushing Muslim workers out of their jobs at key employment centres like Charles de Gaulle airport in the Paris suburb of Roissy.

Stubborn belief

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