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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Summer riots - how can the trouble be stopped?
The city of Bradford in northern England is trying to recover after one of the most serious nights of rioting in the UK for many years.
During the disturbances, which mainly involved Asian youths, 120 police officers were injured and several buildings were firebombed.
The police have described the violence as "senseless criminality". But some are accusing them of being heavy handed in dealing with the trouble.
In recent weeks, racial tensions have erupted into violence in two other northern towns - Oldham and Burnley.
In Bradford, there are reports of far-right National Front members in the area, possibly aiming to stir up trouble.
What is the underlying cause of these disturbances? Are the police responding in the right way? How can the trouble be stopped?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Jayne, France, ex Bradford
I am furious at the blame being placed at the feet of the police. I know that they had no alternative but to take positive action against the thugs last weekend or there would have been fatal results had they not had full riot protection.
I could go on and on rightfully defending the police because I have to comfort the officer, out all night, who comes home exhausted and upset.
If you notice, the vast majority of
'Asian' thugs in Bradford were
Pakistani Moslems, who are by far
the most isolated and unassimilated
group of sub-continent peoples in
Britain. Hindus and Sikhs are much
more integrated into British society
and are much better off economically.
I think what Bradford must do is
terminate Islamic religious training
and integrate the public schools more.
These kids must realise that they
are living in Britain, not Karachi
It is all very sad what is happening in British cities today. I envisioned all this way back in early 1967 when I saw no other alternative except to leave Britain. This has been proved right time and again since. I was lucky. The grandchildren of Asian immigrants of that era are not so fortunate. I feel sorry for them
Ban the BNP, it has been a catalyst for hatred and violence in the north this summer. Those who preach violence forfeit their right to free speech. To believe otherwise is to be an apologist for hatred, violence and racism.
The UK has a long history of rioting and the precedents are almost always the same; poverty, lack of opportunity and a general feeling of being part of an ill-treated underclass. It strikes me that the fact there have been groups of ethnically identifiable youths rioting is incidental to, rather than the cause, of the problem. All that's needed then is for the Government, media and NF types to stir up tension between ethnic groups to make it very difficult to distinguish between race riots and just plain old riots.
BKK, London, Britain
As several contributors have already pointed out, segregating children into schools according to religion or ethnicity is at the heart of the problem, and the Government must reconsider its intention to extend denominational schools. Better still abolish all denominational schools so that no one group can be seen to be either favoured (as in the case of Christians and Jews) or disfavoured (in the case of Hindus and Muslims). And while we're at it, there is no logical sense in segregating children according to social class (perceived or otherwise) or intelligence. So the public schools should be abolished, as should selection everywhere in the system. The ONLY acceptable "segregation" is within schools in the form of setting according to ability for practical teaching reasons.
Many contributors here make reference to the NF and BNP, but no one mentions the part played by the so-called Anti-Nazi League. Hiding behind this benign title is a bunch of Trotskyists and anarchists whose sole aim is to destroy Western, capitalist democracy. They have no interest in Bradford's Asian communities, but they readily use any tenuous excuse to incite violence against the police and property. They were on the streets long after the handful of BNP/NF people had left town and would regard the devastation, violence and injuries a great "success". The sooner these far-Left troublemakers are flushed out and vilified for what they are, the better.
Sadly, we have no control over race riots. There have been and will always be cowards who hide behind religion and race and use it for their own ends. I just feel sorry for the Asian and white community in Bradford - having lived together peacefully for so long, then "outsiders" come in and stir up trouble. These cowards don't deserve to live in the UK of today, they don't belong here.
I am a graduate from Bradford uni and I am disgusted at the recent violence that has erupted in Bradford, though I have to say I am not surprised. Everyday I read up on happenings back home and find another "racially motivated" riot has happened. What is happening to England? Why can't we all accept the people we share our land with? No matter what colour of skin we have, we all belong in England and thugs do not have the right to stand up and say they are speaking on my behalf just because I am white. I may have been spat at in Bradford by Asian youths but that's because they had nowhere to go and nothing to do.
The areas in which the majority of the Asians live are extremely poor, and students and Asian families live side by side in relative harmony. We can live together and we did not ask thugs to presume we are unhappy and cause unrest. The community itself has the responsibility to realise that their children are bored and need stimulation and help in integrating into English life, and the National Front should be dealt with accordingly for their disgusting behaviour.
Vijay Kumar, UK
As a Glaswegian, I was brought up in a city whose schools were split between Catholic and Protestant. Children grew up with friends who were one of us and not one of them. Whether it's Glasgow, Leeds or Belfast, a society that divides its children along either sectarian or racial lines creates bigotry, racism and hatred.
I totally agree this was not to do with race at all it was just absolute thuggery. There is no integration in Bradford between whites and Asians, and partly to blame are the Asian people themselves by wanting separate schools etc. They should appreciate that they live in the UK, they have an excellent education system, NHS etc and should learn to adapt and integrate more and not to be fearful. I think religion should be kept personal and at home and not preached in public.
Anon, UK, Bradford
Has anyone not noticed the part played in all the recent race riots in the north of England recently by the Marxist group, the so-called 'Anti-Nazi League'? Last Saturday in Bradford the Home Secretary banned a National Front march, yet strangely allowed these far-left agitators to gather and hold a rally in Centenary Square. With an audience of 500 young Asians, their spokespeople inflamed an already tense situation and wound these youngsters up by rumour mongering. These extremists played a very large part in the disgraceful scenes in Bradford. They deserve close examination from the police for their actions, and possible prosecution. They are the left's Fascists and are the bedfellows of the NF!
I have always been proud of being British and feel a deep sense of loyalty to this country, despite my Pakistani origin. However, while growing up I found it difficult and bewildering to identify solely with one culture. It was only when I went to university (in Yorkshire), away from my massive Asian community, that I experienced the true nature of this country. It was almost as if I had emigrated! I realised that it was OK to be of Pakistani origin and be a proud Briton. Sadly, some people from both sides of this great divide will always have a problem with this.
The fact of the matter is that there many communities in this country where English is spoken as a second language, where the people are unable to identify with the host community and hence misplace their loyalties to their parent's communities (hence the troubles during the cricket this summer between England and Pakistan). This problem is perpetuated by segregation and lax immigration policies, where British Asians - often without free will - are married off to relatives from 'back home' for the sake of a British visa. Race hate groups like the NF take advantage by inciting riots and winning new recruits - a strategy known to have previously worked for Hitler at the peril of the Jews. In my opinion the way ahead is for the government to take heed of the recent troubles as a sign of something bigger brewing and by desegregating and improving their immigration polices.
Paul Cooper, UK
A large part of the blame for the riots must fall on the so-called Asian 'community leaders' in Bradford and the religious clergy. These people do not want the Asians to integrate with the white population, as it would lead to an erosion of their status and authority. They are intent on keeping their people backward and make them live in urban ghettos. Racial integration can begin only by integrating children in schools and doing away with any form of religious education. That can be done at homes. The question must be asked - why have such riots not taken place in cities where there are large numbers of non-Muslim Asians living - like Leicester, Birmingham or Reading? This is not the time for political correctness.
Palmer Clemmons, Jr, USA
Most of the Asian rioters are either
noticing that, in general, not many
Indian youths are
involved in the riots. This exposes
one grim reality of poor economic conditions of Bangladeshi and Pakistani youths, who feel deprived in society compared to Indian Hindus who
do economically well in England.
reveals the fact that unemployment in Britain is the root cause of racial
tension among Pakistanis and
There is no such thing as integration. I went to one of many church schools in my town where the student population was 100% white. Church schools are an excuse for segregation.
There are areas of my home town where you do not go if you are white. Buses driving through the area are stoned, and this has been going on for years. Integration is the key, but where do you start with a community that is segregated at the grass roots level, and you now have two communities that want nothing to do with each other?
I don't have a solution, but these riots certainly prove that Labour cannot keep order.
I'm a Brit from Yorkshire living now in the States. As a student at Leeds and Bradford Universities in the 70'sI would like to say that I agree with the comments made that there is little integration between whites and Asians in the area. As shown by the US experience segregation of races inevitably leads to trouble of the type encountered. The problem can only be solved by each group giving up some of their customs and culture and adopting some of the others.
Research has shown that children get to know each other best through personal contact. Only by making friends and mixing on a regular basis will young people come to understand and accept each other's culture. If they are kept apart - as they are in religious schools - then the future for community relations looks very poor. The Government is planning to extend the number of denominational schools - it does so at the risk of laying the foundations of more racial conflict in the future.
Let's face it - this has nothing at all to do with racism - this is a group of mentally deficient thugs with nothing better to do than destroy their own town. It's no good trying to talk to community leaders and their ilk simply because there is literally no cause for all this other than testosterone and rebellious behaviour and therefore nothing to talk about. We all know how to deal with idiots like these - rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas - but the police dare not because of the ridiculous, dangerous, politically correct nightmare that Britain has become over the last 10 years. What an embarrassing shambles Britain has become.
The poverty line is a red herring. The town where I went to university had large African and Chinese populations yet racist attacks were rare. My hall of residence had over 40% of its students from overseas yet racism did not appear to be a problem. Where I live now has a large Oriental population, yet race attacks are almost unheard of despite some people being very wealthy and others living far more modest lives. There will always be a "hard core" of people (of all races) who are unable to see past the colour of someone's skin, but from my perspective it certainly seems that these people are a small minority. I am sure the law-abiding majority in Bradford would support treating the thugs as the common criminals they are - it would make a lot of sense for the police to use water cannon to keep the riots under control.
Race is not the issue - at the heart of all this is the deterioration of respect and compassion in today's society. People with anger and hatred in their hearts will always be able to find some way of channelling their negativity.
Malik, London, UK
I totally agree with the comments of Stuart MacKenzie Harrison sent earlier. The blame is on tiny human minds that are unable to observe and accept/ respect differences between people. Groups such as the National Front create fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to learn, which creates jealousy and uncertainty and drives people to violence. We all need to live abroad for at least a year and be the foreigner/ outsider. Surely we could all learn from an experience like this. In the meantime, all you people out there, don't you agree that we should live and let live? Make something of your lives and stop trying to destroy other people's, whatever colour you or they may be.
Whilst not supporting the BNP, I must say that the calls to ban them as a political party smacks of dictatorship in the worst possible way. Will the government have us burning books next? The British people are entitled to hold whatever political views they like.
Martin Brandon, England
Since the news of the NF coming to Bradford to do a "peaceful" march, the city has been like a volcano just waiting to erupt. The NF knew this was going to happen. They came into Bradford, provoked the community and left when things got too hot. The Asian community fell into the NF trap - this is just what they wanted to happen.
The problem we have at the moment, in all these towns is the National Front, these idiots claim to be standing up for the whites but I for one, and I know all my friends agree with me, want to disassociate myself from them and anything to do with any party that promotes racism. If we all started talking to one another instead of abusing each other, then maybe we might learn to co-exist.
If people were treated as individuals in their own right and on their own merit, this would help. Also, governments spend too much time talking about rights for the ethnic minority - this is wrong! I've spoken to people in that group, and they would prefer it if they were simply left alone and given no special status. Just treat everyone the same!
It is surely a sign of complete integration into British society that "Asian" youth is now willing to imitate their "white" neighbours and pick up stones, sticks and knives and resort to street violence.
Their immigrant forbears would never have done this. There cannot really be any talk of racial difference any more. These kids react to poverty and the income differential in exactly the same way. It is only that each group assigns blame for their dilemma to wrong places.
Bob, Bradford, UK
Despite over 40 years of large-scale immigration, Britain still does not embrace multi-culturalism. Celebrate diversity, educate people regarding the benefits of a multi-cultural society. Stigmatise people who adhere to British jingoism, enforce racial vilification laws.
Until society has reached complete harmony, ethnic minorities should be treated softly, softly. I don't know what Britain is doing wrong, I'm just glad I live in a successful multi-cultural society.
This weekend's violence seems to have been caused by huge numbers of youths using any excuse to cause mischief - the same ones who speed around the streets on any Saturday night causing minor disorder. The difference was the authorities had given them a focus by forecasting problems and filling the city with police. Had the BNP been ignored then few of these problems would have materialised. This was just bored lads having a "laff" and using perceived racism as an excuse.
The same gang mentality has been the cause of problems going back to the Mods and Rockers in the 60's. There is no solution really.
Why are we so reluctant to use non-lethal methods of crowd control such as tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to prevent a situation escalating to the levels seen on Saturday night? Nowhere in Europe or the US do the authorities exhibit any qualms about using these methods to protect the law-abiding majority of their citizens, and to prevent injuries to their police forces.
Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime? Fine-sounding words, but they seem not to be applied when the crime involves inter-racial clashes.
I see the current spate of rioting in Bradford as an absolute disgrace and almost shatters what Asians in this country have fought years to achieve. Who's winning this war? The BNP continues to gain more support from ordinary people. The Far Right groups have been around for years and will continue to do so, rioting, blaming the police is not the solution. We live in a democracy, where ideas can be challenged and aired through appropriate means. What if the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Biko et al took to the torch every time there was a feeling hatred? Their legacies live on, unlike, one fears for those mindless fools who took to the streets of Bradford this weekend.
I agree with Pete. Humans from all races are clannish and tribal in behaviour. History has shown that where any society is divided by race or religion it takes very little for those divisions to explode into resentment, hatred and violence. Catalysts for this tend to be poverty, outside interference and the irresponsible use of intemperate language on the part of politicians. It appears to me that all of these are or have been present in ample quantities to ignite this particular powder keg.
We should stop giving specialised education in this country. All education should be multi-cultural with no exceptions. Educational establishments should not be religion based, thus avoiding becoming exclusive to certain sections of the community. This education should be targeted towards giving children the tools to progress within a British community. If people want their children to receive a religious grounding this should be done out of school by specialised bodies. This may assist in breaking down prejudices by giving the youth of tomorrow an insight into other people's cultures and increasing their cultural tolerance of other communities.
Pray for rain. As an old Irish friend of mine said that riots only took place on fine evenings in the summer. For a lot of the youths involved this is almost a form of entertainment. Soak them with water cannon filled with skin dye and they'll soon find something else to do.
It seems obvious that there is a group of individuals going round all the northern cities and towns stirring up trouble. We need to identify those individuals and expose what they are doing.
I agree with Pete (below), in the main: the problem lies in the fact that Bradford is strictly bi-cultural, not multi-cultural. I expect that the Asian community feels disenfranchised by a council whose attempts at multiculturalism stop short at the provision of 'bars for whites, community centres for Asians', which is hardly the most enlightened policy of integration. White estates hate Asians; Asian communities hate whites, and although there are notable exceptions -those who work hard to bridge gaps - they are isolated and I fear that Bradford will become increasingly ghettoised.
The recent violence is saddest in that the point of the demonstrations is lost in the violence, and the real people who will suffer are the very communities whose self-made militants (who I'm sure DON'T represent them) voiced their opinion on Saturday. Fire-bombing a Labour club is hardly a political statement: it is utterly meaningless and dangerously close to the kind of apathetic, amoral, reactionary behaviour which is exactly what far-right groups like the National Front want. Worst of all, perhaps, is the fact that the counter-demonstration seems to have provoked all the violence in the first place.
As a frequent demonstrator back in the 60s about the Vietnam war, I can say that - although I truly believed in my cause - when you get shoved by the police, some sort of male ego gets going and you lose sight of what you were protesting about, and try to out-manoeuvre or out-push the police. Then you go back home and see yourself on TV as the main news item, and you get the feeling that you are 'important'. The "oxygen of publicity" Maggie Thatcher rightly called it. So basically it's exactly the same as then, or what happens in football crowds - mindless male hooligans.
It seems that the only way to avoid this situation is by ensuring that the social divisions do not occur in the first place. This translates to widespread social engineering, economic re-distribution and governmental intervention, as seen in Sweden, Canada and Australia - all examples of very large and relatively successful immigration programmes.
120 injured police officers, 3 stabbings, one of which was to a police horse by arrogant, mob minded thugs who have nothing better to do with their miserable lives. I'm a Yorkshire man I am utterly ashamed of what has happened in Bradford this weekend. Next time we have a bad day at work we should remember that in comparison, many of us earn a living in paradise. At least we are not the focus of such unjust hate and violence. The individual police officers had no option other than to be there and uphold the law. No insistence on taking a lunch break for them! We should be very, very grateful.
Asians are a peaceful people. I think that even the calmest people can snap under persistent intimidation, and that is what has happened.
I live near Bradford and I was horrified by the riots. My biggest fear is that if this happens again, the rioters will believe they can get the better of the police. We must equip the police with water cannons and tear gas now.
Asians are actually emotional by nature and I have noticed that most of the Asians in these incidents were from age 10 to 22 with average of 15-16 yr old boys. I am afraid to say that these problems are going to grow a lot when the next Asian generation will be in action. To understand what is causing all this needs research and deep study of Asian living which will help analyse the roots of problem. This will include getting youngsters in employment, keeping everyone busy, enforcing more strict laws and Home Office rules. Thousands of Asians get married in the East, think if Home Office stops allowing anyone to come here on marriage basis what will happen? It might be very good because then the Asian community will get more mixed in multi-races in UK, or go to live with partners in other countries. If analysed there may be many ideas to change circumstances.
Elyas Kola, England
Isn't it uncanny that "race riots" have exploded just after an election in which our two main political parties, and large sections of our media, have used such a hysterical tone when talking about the issue of asylum?
Damian Gavaghan, USA
I am an undergraduate student at Bradford University and have lived in the city for three years. I really believe that the racism and violence we have seen this weekend stems from the fact that there is absolutely no integration between whites and Asians in the city. Bradford City Council has always maintained that Asians and whites have harmoniously co-existed but I can tell you from first hand experience that this is not the case. In order to resolve the problems being faced in Bradford there should be properly supervised integration of white and Asians youths whilst they are in education - something that is obviously failing all around the UK.
When the Puerto Ricans had a demonstration in New York City, blocking traffic, the police let them have their say. They were allowed to demonstrate their protest for just over an hour and then they moved on their way. There was no violence and it was a peaceful demonstration. I feel two things would help in Bradford. Better communication between the police and the public. I also feel a curfew is in order. People under the age of 25 should not be on the streets after 10 at night. A curfew was imposed in Cincinnati when there were riots. Things soon calmed down.
Satinder, Canada, Ex-UK
I don't really care what colour the rioters are but I do think the police should be given rubber bullets to use, pepper spray and more use of CS gas to deter the mobs. If people want to cause trouble like this then the police should have the equipment to give a good robust response to them.
This is outrageous that hard working police officers with families trying to uphold law and order should have their lives put at risk by scum who seem to think they can go on the rampage and seem to get away with it. Perhaps they could use the Army to bolster the police in these situations as we see in Northern Ireland. The actions of these scum is inexcusable, they want to blame everyone else for the problems except themselves.
I would have thought that the answer to this question was blatantly obvious.
Open our eyes and appreciate what we observe. Unfortunately the human animal will never learn that we have as much to fear and appreciate in ourselves as we have in those who appear to look different. Maybe on a more naive level everyone should be encouraged to live abroad for a year and experience being an "outsider" whereby i suspect most thoughts of hatred towards others for racially motivated reasons may simply stop.
Stephen B, USA
The police are perceived as heavy-handed and slow in response to attacks on Asians. If the police do not change their approach and attitudes, they will continue to be perceived by the Asian community as allied in spirit with the National Front and British National Party. Such perceptions by the Asian community are possibly misguided but, in such a heated environment, perceptions are everything. When the approaches and attitudes of the police are perceived by the Asian community to be anti-National Front, only then will the police and the Asian community be in a position to work together as partners against the far right wing extremeists. Until that day arrives, the police should expect a justifiably negative response from the Asian community.
In the past few years the police have "bent over backwards" to try to accomodate ethnic groups, yet riots occur because the Asian youths say the police are not protecting them.... Do they not realise that after Saturday's riot there are now 120 injured officers fewer to protect them?
Why blame the police? They merely do their best to maintain order in our society. They can't be expected to be social workers, youth leaders and cleaners up of everyone else's mess. Society has to change; the usual deflection of all blame onto the police for being "heavy-handed" is an easy way to avoid looking at the real issues.
The police will always be the focus to which grievances are focused. In Northern Ireland the hope to create a representative police force from both sides of the community was seen as one way of appeasing Catholic fears. Perhaps the same strategy in mainland Britain could pose a response. Certainly when neo-Nazi groups are allowed to incite hatred and largely left alone by the police a predominantly white force then sent to tackle resulting riot simply fuels the anger already felt.
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