In the Media

Liverpool: rioting in small area focused on police

PUBLISHED December 6, 2011

For two consecutive nights crowds came out onto the streets, with outbreaks of disorder on the fringes of the city centre, as well as parts of Toxteth and Wavertree in the south of the city

Rioters in Liverpool seemed less inclined to loot than those in some other English cities ? but more determined to battle the police.

For two consecutive nights crowds came out onto the streets, with outbreaks of disorder on the fringes of the city centre, as well as parts of Toxteth and Wavertree in the south of the city. The riots in Liverpool covered a relatively small area, although there were also clashes across the Mersey in Birkenhead.

Disorder began around 10pm on Monday 8 August, when windows were smashed, cars burned and a Tesco Express store in Myrtle Street on the edge of the city centre looted of alcohol and tobacco. Windows were broken at the Admiral Street police station in Toxteth, a police van was torched and bus shelters damaged.

Several rioters describe the crowd moving as one chanting "March into town" as the police tried to contain them. Cars along Princes Road in Toxteth were set on fire and bin barricades scattered along the tree-lined street.

That night disturbances were limited to a few miles around Smithdown Road, Lodge Lane and Upper Parliament Street, in Toxteth and towards Wavertree.

The disorder ? which many said was a response to distrust of Merseyside's notorious Matrix squad, which conducts stops and searches in the area ? continued the next night, ending at about 5am on Wednesday 10 August.

"Obviously I've been stopped a lot of times," said an unemployed 22-year-old. "As soon as I heard there was some sort of battle against them [the police] and they were representing the London police force that had killed somebody, like I was there. I saw youths and my peers stamping on cars, setting cars alight and, I'm not necessarily proud of it, but I wanted to be part of it. There was an injustice in terms of custody."

He described London as a catalyst, but felt the disorder was a chance for Liverpudlians to vent their anger. He recalled smashing a police station on Park Road, Toxteth ? a place where he had previously been detained. "And when everyone was putting their windows in, I didn't feel any inclination to stop them." The crowd, he said, ran down the road as one. "And we were angry," he said.

An unemployed man who lives in Toxteth and declined to reveal his age said he was out during the evening of the first night until 4am but did not stay out as late the second night, when rioting moved to Lodge Lane.

"I hate the police," he said. "I hate the fact that one time I've been stopped [and] searched on the street and this man's thought I had a weapon just because the way I had a certain scarf ? I hate the police. I hate the fact that ... they talk as if they are above you. Their job is to serve the people not to oppress the people. Do you know what I mean? And they've got that twisted."

He was involved in the riots on the first night and saw cars get destroyed. "Boss cars. Like Beemers [BMWs], Mercedes, I'm sitting there watching kids just rain stones on them ? then just watching as the crowd's still moving and the mirrors getting booted off cars as people still moving forward," he said. "They [the police] weren't bothered as long as we were smashing our own area, if you know what I mean."

He went on: "There's four or five Matrix vans riding towards where like a line of riot police, and people are trying to break the line of riot police by ramming wheelie bins into them. As well as that, stones are getting launched. There's this one kid with a golf club running up to the Matrix vans itself and repeatedly going bam, bam, bam, bam ? and I swear to God these two kids managed to get one of the doors open as they were driving back and forward."

One 24-year-old unemployed man from Wavertree said: "The zero tolerance people [the Matrix team] ... they seem to have zero respect for you." He recalls heading to Smithdown Road between 11.30pm and midnight and seeing a few officers on foot with riot shields "forming a human barricade".

By about 3am he was in Toxteth, where "at that time it was really kicking off, everything was major". People began filtering away when it started raining soon after. He said he wanted to do what he could to let "a corrupt government and a corrupt police force" know that he didn't agree with their methods. He was stopped and searched and arrested on his way out the second night and when police found a pair of gloves on him.

A young man who observed the riots over both nights said he saw a big fire on Smithdown Road late on the first night between 9pm and 10pm. "People had set bins on fire. And you could hear fireworks. I knew something was starting up; I just had a feeling about it." He described how he was shocked and excited and communicated with his friends via Facebook while getting more information on the riots from the news. "It was like a chance to break down society. These people, they live in more poor areas; it was a chance for them to go out looting [to] make money for themselves."

He said at the time he was thinking: "What are the police doing? Why aren't they doing anything? Where are all the forces? I just thought it was mad, to be honest."

On Upper Parliament Street, a bunch of people picked up rocks and stones "throwing them at bus stops, smashing them all". At the Powerhouse housing association flats, they started throwing stones and telling people to get out. A police car drove up "and put two fingers up and told us to fuck off and drove away". He says there was not much CCTV. A car was set on fire and rocked by the rioters.

He was home by 11.30pm on the first night, and went out on Smithdown Road at 8pm the following evening, staying out for only an hour because of the presence of the police helicopter. "There was just a few burning cars, burning bins everywhere, but the police were just all over the place. You couldn't do anything, you know, or else you'd get arrested for it."

A 16-year-old sixth former whose picture appeared in the media during the riots said he had heard about it via a status update on BBM, the BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging service, although he said: "Even if the likes of Twitter and Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger weren't there, they would still have got in touch with their mates and it still would have happened."

An 18-year-old woman who went out on Smithdown and Lodge Lane on both nights until three in the morning said she saw a girl break into a shop that was on fire and steal cigarettes, which she distributed to everyone: "They were setting cars on fire, pushing them in the street, blocking the roads off with bins. There was another girl, she went right up to the police car and smashed his face with a brick. At the end of the day, obviously the police they're not very nice, are they? They don't treat people right."

A 19-year-old college student had been out at mosque and went to Lodge Lane at about 8pm or 9pm on the first night to see what was happening. "Every time a police van would go past they were just throwing bricks at it. I went and they smashed up Tesco. They went in and they robbed a few drinks and that, ale. Then, after, just firing stones at the police, just burning up cars." © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds