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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The incidents were less severe but spread over a wider area of town"
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Pakistani high commissioner AbdulKaderJaffer
"We need to live together in harmony"
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Nick Griffin, British National Party spokesman
"There is blame on both sides"
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Oldham's Deputy Mayor, Riaz Ahmed
"It is a poverty problem"
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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 06:58 GMT 07:58 UK
Sporadic violence in Oldham
Police officers in Oldham
Police adopted a more discreet approach on Monday
Twenty-one youths have been arrested after sporadic violence in Oldham overnight, but a huge police presence prevented a third night of race riots.

Hundreds of police were deployed on the streets of the town in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the weekend's disturbances.

In one incident, officers confronted a gang of 40 white youths chanting racist slogans who were trying to make their way into an Asian area. Bricks and dustbins were thrown at officers.

Rioter throws a petrol bomb
Violence was most severe on Saturday
Two pubs in the town centre were damaged and a number of cars and other property were vandalised, according to a spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police.

A petrol bomb was also thrown through the window of a car showroom and a car was damaged.

Two people staying inside the showroom because of the previous nights' trouble, were not injured.

Eighteen white youths were arrested and held on suspicion of public order offences, affray and possession of an offensive weapon.

Three Asian youths were also arrested.

Police said their response had been "appropriate" and the main problems during the night had been vandalism rather than violence.

No injuries

There were no reports of injuries to members of the public or police officers compared to Saturday night which left 15 officers and 10 civilians injured.

Map showing sites of disturbances
Earlier, police laid much of the blame for the violence on far-right groups, saying they had exploited tensions between the town's whites and Asians.

In an apparent change of police tactics on Monday, officers were stationed in a series of discrete holding areas, responding to isolated flarings of violence.

A number of Asian youths gathered around shops in the Glodwick area but stayed away from troublespots.

Some Asians had criticised an "excessive" police presence on Sunday - which they said had helped provoke further violence.

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Alan Bridge said part of the problem had been "brought about by the intervention of outside elements" operating under the guise of "raising political awareness".

'Sheer carnage'

Sunday night saw several flashpoints across the town, with petrol bombs thrown and buildings attacked.

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.

A group of riot police narrowly escaped injury when a speeding car drove at their lines. The seven officers dived for cover as the car sped off. On Saturday up to 500 Asian youths battled against lines of riot police. Greater Manchester Police called it "sheer carnage".

Mr Bridge denied there had been heavy-handedness or over-reaction on the part of police officers, and appealed for calm and a return to normality after "totally unacceptable disorder".

Prime Minister Tony Blair backed the local police and insisted that the Oldham riots were not typical of the state of British race relations.

He said: "I think the vast majority of people want to live together in peace and harmony with one another."

Newspaper attacked

Chief Superintendent Eric Hewitt said Oldham had a large Asian population but conceded that the town had the worst record for racial incidents in the force area.

He said that over the last year a majority of violent racial incidents had involved white victims.

But he added: "There is no doubt that the presence of the National Front and British National Party in recent weeks would seem to be a deliberate ploy to exploit our racial situation and it has struck a chord of fear among all our communities, not just Asians."

Richard Knowles, Liberal Democrat leader of Oldham Council, criticised the National Front and British National Party, which despite being legal parties were "vile racists".

The offices of the Oldham Evening Chronicle in Union Street were damaged by a firebomb during Sunday's disturbances.

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."

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.

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