In the Media

Nottingham: less looting, but five police stations were attacked

PUBLISHED December 6, 2011

Trouble began to flare just before midnight on Monday 8 August when a group of 30 youths threw missiles at a police car in the deprived inner-city St Ann's estate

The disorder in Nottingham featured less looting than in other cities ? instead, the city's riots were characterised by violence against police and their property, with five police stations attacked or firebombed.

Trouble began to flare just before midnight on Monday 8 August when a group of 30 youths threw missiles at a police car in the deprived inner-city St Ann's estate and vandalised a police station.

At around midnight, one 17-year-old girl in St Ann's suddenly started getting BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) instant messages telling her to riot. "I was getting loads of messages saying 'riots on Chase', [a road and area] which is two minutes away from the police station on [St Ann's] Well Road. Then people put pictures up. And that's how it kind of broadened." Police described the same group travelling to the city's Victoria Centre mall, where they tried to break into JD Sports. During the night, about 40 vehicles were set on fire or damaged throughout St Ann's. But compared with other areas the violence was still low-key.

Then, on the afternoon of Tuesday 9 August about 100 teenagers ? contacting each other through BBM ? started gathering at the city centre Arboretum, Nottingham's oldest public park.

City centre shops near Clinton Street East and Clumber Street started closing at 3.30pm.

"We could see that something was going to happen," said Stephen Roberts Jewellery co-owner Robert Stainsby. "We weren't prepared to take that risk. We put the electric shutters down and went home for the day. That was the lull before the storm."

Riot police arrived on the Arboretum about 7pm and scattered the crowds. A breakaway group occupied the roof of the adjacent private Nottingham high school for girls and threw missiles at police.

A Nottingham University research fellow and St Ann's resident, Lisa McKenzie, said the police handling of the incident provoked Tuesday's violence.

"People all over the community started to get angry about the way the police had started to treat people. They felt they hadn't actually done anything wrong at that point. And that is when the police stations started to get attacked."

Those who were there agreed. "The police chased them for no reason, for what they looked like and the way they was," the 17-year-old girl from St Ann's told the Reading the Riots project. "The police know that they chased them, and if they hadn't chased them, they were not going to loot, and they were not going to climb on a building and shout abuse, or whatever they were suspected of doing."

At 10pm, Canning Circus police station was set alight after fire bombs were thrown at the building by a group of around 40 people. Six officers still inside the building when the attacks began.

An hour later, the Meadows police station was attacked by 20 men and a police car set alight outside. Groups of up to 50 people damaged cars, pubs and shops in areas including Basford, Mapperley and Radford. Bulwell and St Ann's police stations were also attacked.

At midnight, Stainsby got a call from police ? his shop had been looted. He arrived to find jewellery strewn across the street, with police pinning suspects to the door of his premises.

Two hours later, looters again gained entry. They stole ?2,000 worth of stock, and caused ?7,000 worth of damage. Other shops looted included Carphone Warehouse and Sports Direct.

"It was quite intimidating and frightening," Stainsby said. "I have never see anything like that in Nottingham before. We were prepared to stand and fight to save our livelihood."

Disorder continued until around 3.45am on Wednesday 10 August. The riots in Nottingham ended for many different reasons, according to Assistant Chief Constable Paul Broadbent of Nottinghamshire police. "I don't think many people had the heart for it to continue for a long period of time. We responded well and had a lot of officers in the right place at the right time to stop people before they started. And the communities themselves didn't want it to go on. There was a lot of community self-regulation."

The total cost of the Nottingham riots police operation was ?1.2m, with 225 officers deployed during Tuesday night. In total, 131 people have been arrested on riot-related charges in the city; police are still looking to arrest about a dozen more. Almost 40% of those who had appeared before the courts by mid-October were aged 10-17 ? with none over 40.

Stainsby described the riots in his city as "pure opportunism". Since they happened, his shop's takings have been down 40% per week; he described the council's compensation fund as "absolutely abysmal".

McKenzie said the picture on the St Ann's estate is more complicated. "There has been this anger building up for about four to five years. Young people are in despair. I doubt that you could understand just how disaffected and removed some groups are from the rest of society."

For those who instigated the Nottingham riots, the reason was simple. "They were saying how normal people don't have equal rights to the police," said the 17-year-old from St Ann's. "And how we don't get the same amount of justice." © 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