Escalation: Brixton, 10– 12 April 1981

in Race and riots in Thatcher’s Britain
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Study of recently released records of Lord Scarman’s public inquiry into events and grassroots political organisations allows this chapter to chart Brixton’s history of troubled police/community relations and the impact that perspectives of this poor relationship itself had upon deployed officers in the area, who often depicted local people purely as criminals. Examining attempted formal police/community liaison prior to the disturbances, which broke down due to tensions regarding policing attitudes and tactics, the chapter notes how provocative police actions and the detrimental effect of saturation-policing operations, further to the influence of events elsewhere, led to the most well-known outbreak of disorder in 1980–81. Continuing analysis into the disturbances themselves, the key events are charted, noting the impact of rumours on events in spreading and maintaining anti-police discontent, and the media in spreading news of disorder nationwide.

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