Brixton Riots 1985
I've just come across a file full of newspaper cuttings about the 1985 Brixton riots (or uprisings?). I moved to Brixton in the early 1990s. I'm ashamed to say I had very little understanding of the recent history of the area when I moved there. The first thing that struck me, when reading these articles, are the similarites and differences to the riots that took place in August last year. The shooting by police of an innocent unarmed black woman, Cherry Groce, during a raid on her home in 1985, and the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Mark Duggan, in 2011; the cuts in public money, housing shortages and high unemployment. The talk in the press of outside troublemakers, agitators and political extremists (one named Liverpool Pat), dressed in black, 'taking advantage of' the riots to stir up unrest and "fanning up feelings against authority, about socio-economic conditions" in 1985 is also reminiscent of the descriptions of 'anarchists' and 'troublemakers' in black hoodies and masks on more recent demonstrations against cuts, although this contingent was noticeably absent from the August riots. I hadn't realised that unemployment back in 1985 was as high as 30% or so in Lambeth. That seems phenomenal now. I think now it is just below 7%.
One article from the Guardian states that unemployment among young black people had risen to nearly 50% and goes on to say "One may police that area by a radically revised book; one may play football and embrace community leaders; but it is so much flimsy bandaging if, beneath the surface, there are groups who belong to no community, who roam only an outcast wasteland", hm, very similar to media analysis of the riots last year. Whereas police in 2011 were accused of being too hands-off during the riots, police sound like they were on the rampage in 1985 - smashing up windows on the Angell Town Estate for no reason other than to intimidate and terrify local residents, especially black people; policemen were also seen looting the off licence on Coldharbour Lane, according to one eyewitness, which is hilarious! I also hadn't realised that the Brixton Recreation Centre - not a building it is easy to love - was built in the aftermath of the 1981 riots in an attempt to improve facilities in the area. Or that Tesco bought the site on Acre Lane the day after the 1985 riots.
Please note that this material is currently being sorted and catalogued as part of the Dream to Change the World project. As such, it is not yet available to the public.