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1985 Handsworth riots

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1985 Handsworth riot
West Midlands Police officers equipped with riot gear in Handsworth during the civil disorder in 1985
Date9-11 September 1985
MethodsRioting, looting, arson
Casualties and losses
2 deaths
2 people unaccounted for
35 injured

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; fewer than 5% of black pupils to have left school in the summer preceding the riot had found employment.

The riots were the subject of John Akomfrah's award-winning documentary film Handsworth Songs. Filmmaker and artist Pogus Caesar extensively documented the riots, his photographs have been exhibited at ICA, London, TATE Britain, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA.[4] They were depicted in reggae artist Pato Banton's song Handsworth Riots.[5] And they were witnessed by Goldie and Bronx graffiti artists Brim, who documented the devastation in the documentary Bombin' (1987).

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).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From the Archives: Police parking ticket sowed seeds for riots", Birmingham Mail, 14 July 2011.
  2. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "The Drum: Events Diary". Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Martin Parr Foundation: Pogus Caesar Handsworth Riots 1985". Archived from the original on 17 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Pato Banton: Handsworth Riots". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2 January 2012.


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