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1995: Riots break out in Brixton

VIDEO : Police move into Brixton as rioting continues

Hundreds of black and white youths have taken to the streets of Brixton, in south London attacking police, ransacking shops and burning cars after the death of a black man in police custody.

About 50 police officers in riot gear have formed a line across Brixton's main road to stifle pockets of trouble and prevent anyone entering the area - the scene of massive rioting in 1981 caused by racial tensions.

One report said two shots were fired as the centre of the demonstration moved into the area of the Ritzy cinema.

A police motor cyclist is reported to have been pulled from his machine by a crowd of at least 10 rioters.

Officers have sealed off a two-mile area around the centre of Brixton and both Brixton and neighbouring Stockwell tube stations have been closed.

A police helicopter has been despatched over the area.

Casualities

Riots broke out after a peaceful picket of the police station - triggered by the death last week of Wayne Douglas, 26.

Police said Mr Douglas, who was being questioned about a burglary, collapsed at the local police station.

A post-mortem later revealed he had suffered from heart disease.

The protest about his death developed into a march down Brixton's main street.

A standoff ensued between the police and about 100 demonstrators triggering a backlash of violence.

Witnesses have reported hearing groups of black youths shouting "Killers, killers" at the police.

A spokeswoman for the police said seven civilian casualties had been reported so far, and police were also dealing with sporadic pockets of trouble in the area around Brixton town centre.

She said there had been unconfirmed reports of petrol bombs being ignited.

"Officers were wearing protective clothing because we had reports of missiles being thrown," she added.

"We gave them every opportunity to move off peacefully but they hadn't done so."

In Context
The violence continued for five hours and 22 people were arrested and charged with public order offences, theft and criminal damage and three police officers were hurt.

Riots in Brixton hit the headlines again in July 2001 after an estimated 100 youths went on the rampage, looting and breaking shop windows.

It was triggered by the fatal shooting by police of a man they mistakenly believed had been brandishing a gun.

Twenty-seven people were arrested after these riots.

Alex Owolade, chairman of the anti-racist group Movement for Justice, said the violence was a rebellion against years of "racist injustice" by police in an impoverished area plagued by racial tension.


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