On 3 July 1981, Leroy Cooper was arrested on Selbourne Street in Toxteth, Liverpool. The heavy-handed treatment of Mr Cooper led to interventions by watching locals and three police officers were injured.
The following night, Toxteth exploded and for the following nine nights pitched battles were fought on the streets, between police and youth. It was the first time CS gas had been employed on the mainland and contrary to instructions it was fired directly at individuals, resulting in many serious injuries. Police were forced to withdraw from a one-mile stretch of the main road through Toxteth, 150 buildings were set alight and some 480 police officers injured. The Scarman Report into the Toxteth riots concluded that, ‘complex political, social and economic factors’ had created a ‘disposition towards violent protest’.
‘More than anything, the fallout from the riots changed the face of policing forever and focused the attentions of Margaret Thatcher’s government not just on issues of race, but those of poverty and inner-city decay – poor white youths had joined in, too.’ 4 February 2007, The Observer
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