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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Officers were shocked by the rage and the ferocity of the fighting"
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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"As the clearing up began so did the soul searching"
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Manawar Jan Khan, Ay-Zan Asian research group
"This is just going to feed into the vicious cycle"
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Sunday, 27 May, 2001, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Police on alert after Oldham riot
A burnt out car in the streets of Oldham
Rioters torched cars and threw petrol bombs at police
Extra police officers have been patrolling the streets of Oldham following a night of violence between hundreds of Asian youths and police.

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said hundreds of officers were in the area, with response units on standby.

She said there had been renewed "sporadic fighting and stone throwing" in various parts of the town.

Fifteen officers and 10 civilians were injured, and 17 people arrested, after running street battles on Saturday night.

Politicians have condemned the violence but the Liberal Democrats claimed Conservative comments on asylum may have stirred up racial tension.

On Sunday, there have been reports of youths gathering at various points in the town and a number of windows had been broken by white and Asian youths.

The police spokeswoman said several white youths had also been seen throwing bricks and there had been sporadic fighting amongst the groups, but no serious disruption.

During Saturday night's violence, up to 500 youths hurled petrol bombs, bricks and firecrackers at the police lines.

Shots were fired from the crowd and at times, the bombardments of missiles forced police to withdraw.

Community leaders believe the violence erupted after a gang of white men attacked a shop and threw a brick through the window of a house where a pregnant Asian woman lived in the Glodwick area of the town.

A police spokeswoman assured residents that officers would be staging "high profile policing" for the remainder of the Bank Holiday weekend.

"Should anything occur we will be able to deal with it as and when it happens," she said.

Community leaders 'on guard'

BBC correspondent Richard Wells said the tension seemed to have eased during the day on Sunday.

"However, community leaders are still on their guard," he said.

"They've asked for urgent meetings with both the police and the local authority and they have appealed to everyone to be calm."

Up to 500 youths fought with police
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the language the Tory party used in discussing issues of race and asylum may have exacerbated divisions in the community.

But Home Secretary Jack Straw defended Conservative party leader William Hague.

"I do think it is impossible to argue that what happened in Oldham yesterday can be laid at the door of William Hague.

'Scrabbling for excuses'

"I have seen time after time situations where people get involved in violence and they scrabble around for any excuse to eschew their own responsibility."

Mr Straw said: "We live in a multicultural and multiracial society. I don't think anybody has ever suggested there are no tensions within that society.

"This is a challenge for all of us to try and ensure that we use the structures we've got, and new legislation we've brought in, better to create happier and more contented communities."

It is the first time I have ever seen anything like this and I have been living in Oldham for more than 30 years.

Khurshid Ahmed
Pakistan Cultural Association
Oldham, where about 12% of the 219,000 population is of Asian origin, has seen several incidents of racial tension over the past few weeks.

Last month national newspapers printed pictures of a 76-year-old war veteran who said he had been attacked by a gang of Asian youths.

A 15-year-old Asian boy was later charged with racially-motivated assault.

In early May Mr Straw banned political marches in the town, in response to fears of growing racial tension.

But Khurshid Ahmed, secretary of the Pakistan Cultural Association, stressed that Saturday's violence had been restricted to a small part of the community.

"It is the first time I have ever seen anything like this and I have been living in Oldham for more than 30 years.

"People have always been living in Oldham in harmony," he said.

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