Cash-Strapped Council Rebrands Brixton Riots As an ‘Uprising’ (And Funds the 30th Anniversary ‘Celebrations’)
Ryan Kisiel, Daily Mail (London), April 9, 2011
For those who were caught up in the violence and destruction, the Brixton riots are best forgotten.
Yet Labour councillors are spending thousands of pounds remembering tomorrow’s 30th anniversary of the carnage in South London which put 279 police officers in hospital.
The incident has been renamed the ‘Brixton Uprising’ and will feature ‘first-hand witness accounts’ along with ‘special guests’ to provide the entertainment.
Lambeth Council is staging the celebration in its Windrush Square and Tate Library. It will be recorded for the council’s Black Cultural Archive.
The Jamaican ‘dub poet’ Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose work contains graphic descriptions of alleged police brutality during the 1980s, including one entitled ‘Ingland is a Bich’, is due to perform.
The Labour-run authority is funding the event despite constant complaints by its leader, Steve Reed, that government-imposed cash cuts would lead to a rise in crime and another ‘Baby P tragedy’.
Lambeth has recently declared mass redundancies among street cleaners, park rangers and lollipop ladies, and closed all but one of its public lavatories.
A spokesman said tomorrow’s event was ‘community-led’ and part of its work engaging with the public.
But Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons sub-committee on counter-terrorism, said: ‘I would question the act of celebrating an insurgency.
‘It was difficult and dangerous at the time and I don’t want to remember it.
‘The law is the law and, just because it was chaotic 30 years ago, there is no need for celebrations.’
Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: ‘This is crazy and a complete waste of public money.
‘Calling it an uprising justifies and celebrates that people were injured and property was damaged.
‘Anybody who celebrates violence is despicable. The public purse is being pulled tight and it is not right to celebrate violence, especially in the current climate when there has been a recent return to violent protest.’
More than 5,000 rioters rampaged through Brixton in 1981 after police increased stop-and-searches in the area.
A total of 28 shops were burned, 118 were looted and 120 cars were set on fire as police fought running battles with the rioters in the streets. Socialist and left-wing groups first referred to it as an ‘uprising’ to give it an air of legitimacy, arguing that it was a poor social underclass who revolted against their captalist masters.
But the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said: ‘Nothing, but nothing, justifies what happened.’
[Editor’s Note: An article about other British riots can be read here.]