1981 Race Riots Uk

1447 Words6 Pages
Why did the riots of 1981 happen and to what extent did the reaction to the riots reflect institutionalised racism? The race riots that erupted throughout England during 1981 were the result of a growing tensions between the black community and the local police forces. Indeed, 1981 has been described as “an annus mirabilis of UK race relations” (Cashmore & Troyna, 1990). But why was there such tension between the local communities within the affected areas and their local police force? Could steps have been taken to avoid the civil disturbances, the largest seen in the 20th century in Great Britain, that followed? Did the Scarman Report go far enough in highlighting the issues of the black community and address the perception of a racist police force? The riots that occurred in Brixton in 1981 can trace a link back to the riots that had erupted in Bristol in 1980 when the local police entered the Black and White café to apprehend a known criminal. This led to one hundred and thirty people being arrested and twenty-five people hospitalised after a night of violence not seen on the streets of Great Britain since the race riots in the 1950’s. Bristol was experiencing the same issues highlighted by the local populace of Brixton – heavy handed policing using sus law, a lack of adequate housing and job opportunities. Benyon and Solomos (1987) described the Bristol riot as a “turning point” due to the relative lack of riots seen in Great Britain in the post war period and how many followed. On the following day of the disturbances in Bristol, the Daily Telegraph carried the headline “19 Police hurt in black riot” (3rd April, 1980), showing the perception and lack of empathy from the predominately white, middle to upper class establishment. The Financial Times took a pragmatic view of the violence, commenting that the violence represented the “worst communal violence
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