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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Community with history of tension
Riot police in Lozells, Birmingham
Police are appealing for calm after Saturday's clashes
Saturday night's clashes in the Lozells area of Birmingham, in which one man was stabbed to death, are the latest in a history of tension to blight the area.

While police and community leaders appealed for calm on Sunday morning, there were echoes of the Handsworth Riots that rocked the city 20 years ago.

Back then, two days of trouble in Lozells and Handsworth left two people dead, 35 needing hospital treatment and up to 50 buildings damaged.

The area was devastated by the violent rioting, mainly along the Lozells Road, following the arrest of a black man after a police stop and search.

Religious and community leaders have been working hard in the intervening years to transform the area into a multi-cultural centre.

But tension still remains.

Address problems

About 82% of the population in the Lozells and East Handsworth areas come from minority groups. There is a strong Afro-Carribbean presence but Asians make up the biggest proportion.

Asian and black gangs have grown up in the area and trouble has often been linked to drugs and gun crime.

The black gangs are divided among themselves and violent towards each other.

Picture taken by Pogus Caesar
Two days of violence in Handsworth in the 1980s made front page news

In the early hours of 2 January 2003, Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17, were shot dead outside a hairdresser's in nearby Aston.

Four men, all reported to be members of the Burger Bar Boys gang, were convicted of their murders. During their trial, it was revealed they were seeking revenge on the rival Johnson Crew and the girls had been innocent victims.

Community leaders have tried to address the problems in the area since then and say relations have improved, but tension flared again this week over allegations that a 14-year-old illegal immigrant was sexually assaulted by a gang of Asian men.

Around 500 people attended the meeting last night (Saturday) and the trouble was caused by a very small minority outside, many of them were predominantly from outside
MP Khalid Mahmood

No offence has been reported to the police.

Almost 1,000 people in the local area have signed a petition calling for "justice" for the girl and protests, sometimes involving more than 100 people, have been held in the past week.

During Saturday night's clashes, a man in his 20s was killed, three other people were stabbed and a police officer was hit in the leg with a ball bearing fired from a gun.

The disturbances broke out after a public meeting at the New Testament Church of God.

Two senior police officers, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, and church leaders had addressed the meeting.

Despite the violence, Mr Mahmood said the trouble was caused by a small minority of people, who were not at the meeting.

He told BBC News: "Around 500 people attended the meeting last night (Saturday) and the trouble was caused by a very small minority outside, many of them were predominantly from outside."

He added that the majority of the community was close and religious leaders were working together to keep that unity.




SEE ALSO
Plea for calm after city clashes
23 Oct 05 |  West Midlands
Residents' fear during violence
23 Oct 05 |  West Midlands
Man killed in Birmingham clashes
23 Oct 05 |  West Midlands
'Assault' protest stops traffic
18 Oct 05 |  West Midlands

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