1985 Handsworth riots

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West Midlands Police officers equipped with riot gear at Handsworth during the civil disorder in 1985.

The second Handsworth riots took place in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, West Midlands, from 9 to 11 September 1985. The riots were reportedly sparked by the arrest of a man near the Acapulco Cafe, Lozells and a police raid on the Villa Cross public house in the same area. Hundreds of people attacked police and property, looting and smashing, even setting off fire bombs.

Handsworth had been the scene of a less serious riot four years earlier, when a wave of rioting hit over 30 other British towns and cities during the spring and summer of 1981.

Racial tension and friction between the police and the local ethnic minority communities was seen as a major factor in the riots. Handsworth had been predominantly populated by the black and Asian communities for around 30 years by 1985. Handsworth also had one of the highest unemployment rates in Birmingham.

Two brothers (Kassamali Moledina, 38, and his 44-year-old brother Amirali)[1] were burnt to death in the post office that they ran.[2] Two other people were unaccounted for, 35 others injured, more than 1500 police officers drafted into the area, about 45 shops looted and burnt, and a trail of damage running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.[3] As well as racial tension, unemployment was seen as a major factor in the riots; by the time of the riots, fewer than 5% of the black population to have left school that summer had found employment.

The riots were the first of a series of similar riots across the country during the autumn of 1985, notably the Broadwater Farm riot in London which also resulted in a fatality (the murder of policeman Keith Blakelock). Filmmaker and artist Pogus Caesar extensively photographed the second Handsworth riot; it was also witnessed by Bronx graffiti artists Brim and Goldie, who documented the devastation in the Channel 4 documentary Bombing.

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