July was the month of riots in 1981 and they came thick and fast from Toxteth, a re-ignited Brixton (which had already rioted in April), Southall and mini-riots from Coventry to Leicester and some very unlikely places like Chigwell in Essex!
The Manchester riot was particularly vicious. I remember driving through Moss Side – having been on a canal trip! It was just after the violence had died down and there was evidence of the destruction everywhere. And a very eerie atmosphere.
Read the Wikipedia entry on the 1981 Moss Side Riot and it could easily be an article in a police magazine. The community leaders failed to stop the youth taking to the streets (as if they had any real power to stop them) and Chief Constable James Anderton was lauded by one and all for his tough measures including driving police vans directly at the rioters (similar tactic resulted in one death in Toxteth) and snatch squads then pouncing on rioters.
In truth, Anderton – who famously brought his religious views very publicly into his work – came under a hail of criticism from both the left and even other police chiefs. His approach was seen as abrasive and antagonistic. Undoubtedly he thought that was just what the situation needed.
The most memorable and chilling moment of the riot was when a police station was surrounded and among the weapons used were garden tools and a crossbow!
Private Eye tried to see the funny side of the 1981 riots that shook England from April through to August. Brixton, Toxteth, Moss Side, Southall…and the list went on of inner city areas that were engulfed in violence. This was definitely gallows humour.
It was a month to remember…
John McEnroe lost the plot at Wimbledon……cricket fans threw cushions at the pitch because play was stopped early….Reverend Paisley shot at in Belfast…..inner city riots in Toxteth, Moss Side and Brixton…..Home Secretary authorises use of plastic bullets against rioters…..Basement 5 split….a teenager gets in to the House of Commons with a very big knife screaming that he wants to murder Thatcher….fighting breaks out between SAS operatives and mourners at an IRA funeral…Ghost Town goes to number one in the charts…..fatal stabbing at Black Uhuru gig….South African mixed race couple ask permission to leave Britain due to ‘racial hatred’…..Sounds magazine sues NME magazine….a thousand Mods do battle with the police in the Lake District…..Lady Di has one of her first on camera tearful tantrums at a polo match….a twelve year old girl is on trial at the Old Bailey for stealing a donut…Michael Heseltine suggests a big garden festival will help Liverpool forget recent riots….builder David Young was fined £50 for shouting abuse at the king of Saudi Arabia during a state visit…..’Britain in Turmoil’ thunders the Daily Express on its front page….