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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Injury 'mars' Burnley police operation
Burnley's deputy mayor, Rafiq Malik, with his son, Shahid
Rafiq Malik's son, Shahid, suffered cuts from a shield
By BBC News Online special correspondent Mike McKay in Burnley

Councillor Raja Khan stepped inside the shade-cooled entrance of Burnley town hall to find the town's deputy mayor, Rafiq Malik, encircled by newspaper reporters.

He was holding court quietly about events the night before in which his son Shahid had suffered cuts said to be from a police riot shield and been rendered unconscious in the middle of a confrontation between police and young Asians.

Councillor Khan, a near neighbour, had witnessed the incident and had, he said, been brusquely treated himself as he sought to bring order to his neighbourhood.

He was impatient to put on record his sense of outrage at the way responsible leaders had been manhandled while seeking to pour oil on troubled waters.

Deputy chief constable Paul Stephenson
Paul Stephenson: 'End this madness'
"I was abused verbally and I shouted, 'Why are you attacking him - he's innocent, he's trying to help the situation, he's one of ' the good guys'!"

The incident is subject to an internal police inquiry, under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority.

Mr Malik Jr, who was arrested after hospital treatment for his cuts, has also been told to expect a further police interview.

The incident has marred what by common consent was an effective operation by Lancashire police to prevent any further drawn-out rioting on Burnley's streets.

Indeed, the Labour council leader, Stuart Caddy, paid tribute to it success.

For lengthy periods uniformed officers had made their presence felt, conducting stop and search, arresting 22 - including Mr Malik - and recovering an assortment of weapon including knives, clubs and two crates of petrol bombs.

Throwing stones

But in one episode in Abel Street, a small group of young Asians began throwing stones at the police.

They were hastily withdrawn and replaced by officers in riot control overalls and helmets with shields and batons.

Deputy chief constable Paul Stephenson, fronting a news conference, said they had drawn on police from all over the county.

It is virtually certain that these officers, braced for a physical confrontation, would not all recognise Shahid Malik among the Asian crowd trying to restore calm.

That may account for the failure to distinguish him - and Councillor Khan - from potential trouble-makers, though the generation differences might have been conspicuous.

Potential trouble-makers

Whatever the truth, senior Lancashire police officers are frustrated that this one controversy has deflected attention from what they feel was otherwise a successful attempt to rescue their reputation in Burnley.

After complaints that they had failed to respond quickly to the original outbreak of trouble, on Saturday, they were keen to show that they were firmly in control of public order.

The alleged assault upon an Asian taxi-driver, in which a white gang are said to have wielded a hammer, was clearly the flash-point at the weekend.

But most people agree that until now, race relations in Burnley have been largely harmonious.

But a number of elements have entered the newly combustible mix in Burnley.

Run-down housing

Much of the old housing stock in this aged mill town is being renewed.

Thousands of Asian families occupied some of the worst and most run-down housing.

Asian families were therefore often perceived to be enjoying preferential housing treatment.

Add to this the insidious effect of far-right extremists, busy fuelling suspicion and envy - Asians have talked of Nazi salutes and shouts of 'Niggers out' during some skirmishes - and the reverberations of Oldham, half an hour away, and the result is volatile.

Mr Stephenson appealed to "all responsible people to bring this madness to an end".

The atmosphere has eased - but Tuesday night Mr Stephenson was planning to stage another show of police strength just to be sure.

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