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EDITIONS
Monday, 28 May, 2001, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Oldham hit by fresh violence
Police van drives through fire
Police faced burning barricades and petrol bombs
Oldham is clearing up after a second night of street violence in which gangs of youths clashed with police.

Violence erupted in flashpoints across the town, petrol bombs were thrown and buildings attacked.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher, MP at the last parliament for Oldham West and Royton, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the violence had been sparked by racist incidents last week.

A dozen more youths were arrested on Sunday night
A dozen more youths were arrested on Sunday night
Sunday's rioting came after more serious violence on Saturday, in which up to 500 Asian youths battled against lines of riot police.

On Sunday night an Asian supermarket was set on fire, the offices of a local newspaper were firebombed, and barricades of furniture and tyres were set alight.

There were no reports of injuries but seven white youths and five Asian youths were arrested during the night.

Mr Meacher said verbal abuse and a brawl at a school last week had left parts of the Asian community feeling that Asian pupils had not been adequately protected by police.

He also referred to an alleged attack on a shop and a Pakistani woman on Saturday that came after the arrest of a white youth, allegedly known for racist views.

Atmosphere aggravated

"These two episodes were seen as very provocative. Indeed I have to say I think the second may have been deliberately engineered to spark a violent response from the Asian community."

He also said the atmosphere in the town had been aggravated by National Front incursions and the mugging of a 76-year-old white pensioner.

Greater Manchester Police had promised zero tolerance on any trouble after what was described as the "sheer carnage" of Saturday's running street battles, which left 15 officers and 10 civilians injured.

But BBC reporter Asad Ahmad said many Asian youths on the streets had considered the huge numbers of riot police, vans and dogs out in force in their community was provocation enough for more disturbances.

At some stages during the night officers faced stand-offs with both white and Asian youths, gathering in groups of up to 200.

Pub attacked

A group of riot police narrowly escaped injury when a speeding car drove at their lines. The seven officers were forced to dive for cover as the car sped off.

The offices of the Oldham Evening Chronicle were damaged by a firebomb.

The attack followed earlier accusations that the paper did not give fair coverage to Asian victims of racial abuse.


It's a hell of a way to make a complaint, chucking a firebomb through a window

Philip Hirst
Oldham Evening Chronicle
Philip Hirst, the paper's managing director, told BBC Radio 5Live that allegations of bias were "complete rubbish".

Mr Hirst said: "Anybody who started life working on a local paper knows we get attacked on all sides, but it's a hell of a way to make a complaint, chucking a firebomb through a window."

By 0400BST on Monday the situation appeared to have calmed and the crowds were reported to have dispersed.

Earlier on Sunday night trouble flared when a pub, the Jolly Carter, was reportedly bombarded with bricks by up to 40 people.

Violence condemned

Elsewhere in the town about 30 white people chanted racist songs as they walked from pub to pub before being dispersed by police.

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

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

Meanwhile, Oldham council is proceeding with the second day of a street performance festival called Mayhem.

Defending the choice of name, art development officer John Clifford said: "We had the name months ago - the festival began on Sunday and there was not even a hint of trouble."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"Community leaders are agreed that the situation can't continue as it is"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"I don't think it is typical of the state of race relations in Britain today"
Nick Griffen, British National Party spokesman
"There is blame on both sides"
Khurshid Ahmed, Pakistani Cultural Association
"We have to carry on with integration programmes"
Find out more about the violence in northern England during the summer of 2001


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28 May 01 | Vote2001
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