25 years since the St Pauls riots

by Chris Bertram on April 2, 2005

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the St Pauls in Bristol riots that initiated a period of urban unrest in Britain which ultimately led to the “Scarman”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Scarman report. The riots followed a police raid on the Black and White cafe on 2nd April 1980. The Bristol Evening Post has “some”:http://www.thisisbristol.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=144936&command=displayContent&sourceNode=144919&contentPK=12141802&moduleName=InternalSearch&keyword=riots&formname=sidebarsearch “coverage”:http://www.thisisbristol.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=144936&command=displayContent&sourceNode=144919&contentPK=12145074&moduleName=InternalSearch&keyword=riots&formname=sidebarsearch , but I’ve not managed to find much on the web (the BBC’s “On This Day”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/default.stm page ignores the events entirely). The following day’s Daily Telegraph headlined with:

bq. 19 Police Hurt in Black Riot

and editorialized thus:

bq. Lacking parental care many (black youths) ran wild. Incited by race-relations witchfinders and left-wing teachers and social workers to blame British society for their own shortcomings, lacking the work-ethic and perseverance, lost in a society itself demoralized by socialism, they all too easily sink into a criminal sub-culture. (Quotes from “an academic paper”:http://www.psa.ac.uk/cps/1995%5Crowe.pdf .)

I doubt that even the Telegraph would dare to cover such events in these terms today. Contrary to the Telegraph’s fantasy version, neither these riots nor the ones of the following year in Brixton, Handsworth, Toxteth and elsewhere were race riots — black and white youths were involved together, though systematic racial harrassment by the police (throught the “Sus” law) and pervasive racial discrimination undoubtedly underlay the events. This was an important moment in postwar British history, now all but forgotten.

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detrimental postulation » some things never change
04.02.05 at 2:26 pm



des von bladet 04.02.05 at 5:47 am

I doubt that even the Telegraph would dare to cover such events in these terms today.

I doubt the Mail would hesitate for a second. Since I live in St Pauls—I have lived my adult life at the cutting edge of gentrification—maybe I should incite a riot, in the interests of empiricisme…


seth edenbaum 04.02.05 at 9:10 am

My friends and I in NY were almost jealous, not of the riots per se (well maybe a little) but of the racial mix.
But a similar mix was beginning here. The dance floors of the early 80’s were the first examples I remember of a popular voluntary interracial social life.

Thatcherism as bourgeois revolution

“I have lived my adult life at the cutting edge of gentrification”



seth edenbaum 04.02.05 at 1:14 pm

The cover photograph of London Calling was shot on stage at the Palladium in NY on one of a string of nights the band played here. Grandmaster Flash opened for them one night and the booing got so bad Joe Strummer had to come out and gave the audience a lecture. The punk/funk hybrid had been underground until this point. I remember the first time I heard The Gap Band on the p.a. at the Mudd Club.
I’m still tempted to think of the multiracialism of Europe as deeper, more well rooted, than in the US, with some exceptions: I’ve been having the odd thought that Queens, where I live, may be be more like London than Manhattan.


Skippy McGee 04.04.05 at 12:46 am


I can’t wait for WW3 – Britain is finished anyway – it will be nice to make a clean slate of it and see the whole lot of whining enrichers go to heaven and pester the Supreme Being about their handouts and entitlements.

Of course, the Supreme Being will probably dispatch them to warmer realms thereafter.


John Bagham 04.04.05 at 7:39 am

Images from the 1985 Handsworth Riots can be viewed on Digital Handsworth website, local photographer Pogus Caesar was on hand and captured a number images. ” search for Handsworth disturbances”

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