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1981: Police attacked in Liverpool riots

VIDEO : More than 100 Toxteth youths fight police in pitched battle

Up to 30 police officers have been injured by flying missiles as rioters took to the streets of Toxteth, Liverpool.

Latest reports suggest that nearly 200 white and black youths have been attacking police, cars and shops with petrol bombs and bricks.

They have staged pitched battles with officers on Upper Parliament Street and Lodge Lane, charging at them with milk floats.

At one stage police in riot gear were forced to retreat as angry mobs hurled bits of scaffolding, bricks and petrol bombs.

At least four buildings were set alight, one collapsed and there was a pall of smoke hanging over Upper Parliament St.

Looting is widespread and there are reports of children as young as four running up and down Lodge Lane with shopping trolleys.

One witness, Christopher Davies said the trouble was well organised. "I've seen them wearing balaclava helmets, just like Belfast, handing out pertol bombs and telling people where to go," he told The Times newspaper.

"There are people standing on street corners with pick-axe handles looking like hell's preachers to make sure no one interferes with what's going on."

'Bloodbath' tip-off

Community leaders are keen to point out that the incident is not racially motivated, although there are reports that it was triggered by the arrest of a black motorcyclist two days ago.

He escaped into a crowd of about 40 black youths. Over the next two hours there was sporadic fighting in which five police officers were injured.

Police then received an anonymous tip-off that there would a "bloodbath" in Toxteth.

Then last night police officers investigating reports of a stolen car were attacked with bottles and stones. A crowd of 150 black and white men took control of Upper Parliament St, set up barricades using overturned parked cars.

Police took cover behind riot shields but were overwhelmed by the bombardment of missiles.

A BBC camera crew were chased by a masked gang brandishing pick-axe handles who took a 12,000 camera and destroyed it.

The Chief Constable of Merseyside, Kenneth Oxford, said the riots were not racial but a vicious attack on the police.

"I blame a small group of criminal hooligans who were hell-bent to provoke the police into a situation that would give them an opportunity to attack what is visibly a symbol of authority," he said.

The Liberal MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, David Alton, has said he is appalled by the scenes that he has witnessed so far.

The disturbances in Liverpool follow race riots in Brixton, south London in April and two days ago in Southall, west London.

In Context
The rioting lasted until 0700 BST (0600 GMT) on 6 July and left a total of about 80 officers injured.

Police reinforcements from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire were called as the Merseyside force was repeatedly overwhelmed.

This was the first time that British police used CS gas to control civil unrest in mainland Britain.

Compensation claims for the damage caused in Toxteth amounted to 10m out of a national total of 17m in a summer of rioting across the UK.

There were further disturbances later in July.

A public inquiry was held into the riots in April 1981 in Brixton, headed by Lord Scarman.

His report, published in November 1981, raised concerns about the ghetto situation in Toxteth and proposed many measures for improving trust and understanding between police and ethnic communities.


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