Bradford is a city that grew via several waves of immigrants – Irish, Poles and Ukranians, and South Asians - during the 19th and 20th centuries, to the benefit of the cultural and business life of the city. But for whatever reason – white flight, self-segregation, ghettoisation, the actions of far right organisations – at the beginning of the new century racial tension had increased to breaking point.
During May and June race riots had broken out in Oldham and Burnley , and there were fears that extremist groups would provide the spark for similar disturbances in Bradford. The then Home Secretary banned a National Front march in the city, but on July 7 a gathering by those opposed to the National Front degenerated into an attack on a city centre pub during which one of those at the pub was stabbed.
The following day the disturbances went up several notches. White youths attacked police, and broke windows of businesses belonging to Asians. Asian youths and older men retaliated, again attacking police with bricks, paving stones ripped from the ground, and Molotov cocktails. Hammers and baseball bats were used against the police trying to hold the line. Cars were burned at the roadside, and a BMW dealership targeted. The Manningham Labour club was firebombed, for which later a 48-year-old Asian man was given a 12 year prison sentence.
The police, who had 500 men ready at the beginning of the troubles, eventually increased numbers to 1,000. Some 300 officers were hurt in the riots, attempting to keep the peace, often placing themselves between the two opposing factions. As is traditional some politicians found it immediately easiest to hint at police failings as the reason for the escalation of violence, which was at best misinformed, at worst a cynical avoidance of looking at the true and deeper causes.
Eventually 200 offenders were given prison sentences after the disturbances, and an unprecedented 187 people were charged with riot, which caused a stir in some circles, though given the problem had been involvement in rioting such a reaction is hard to understand. Both white and Asian areas were hit, with an estimated £25 million or more of damage done.
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