1989 Dewsbury riot

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The Dewsbury riot of 1989 was a minor clash between activists of the British National Party (BNP) and local South Asian youths. The police used riot gear in controlling the events.


Dewsbury is a mill town in Yorkshire, England. After World War II, it attracted large numbers of immigrants from Pakistan and the Gujarat area of West India. In 1982, the Markazi mosque was built in the Savile Town area to serve the town's Islamic community.[1] This remains the largest mosque in Britain as of March 2008. The number of Muslims in Dewsbury grew steadily as it gained a reputation as an Islam-friendly community in Britain.

Protests had taken place all over England with Muslims objecting to the publication of The Satanic Verses by author Salman Rushdie. In 1989, the BNP held a rally in Dewsbury which was met with derision from the local Muslim community and a counter rally was held by the black workers group which recruited Muslim youths from Dewsbury, Savile Town and neighbouring suburbs, intent on disruption, including disruption of the rally of the BNP. The police managed to contain the rioting Muslims, wanting to avoid confrontations in the town centre of Dewsbury and rounded them up, pushing them over Savile Bridge and up Savile Road towards Savile Town and the Scarborough Hotel. This public house had long been regarded negatively by the local Muslim community as they did not agree with the sale of alcohol in the same area as them. A number of locals were in the public house that day playing their usual game of cards, including two women, when one of them went to leave the premises and noticed that the neighbouring Muslim fruit and vegetable shop had taken all of its produce inside and had pulled down the shutters, as had the two Muslim shops next door. He then looked down Savile Road towards Dewsbury and saw Muslims armed with a variety of weapons descending on the pub. He ran inside to warn the other patrons, all of whom ran upstairs to the landlord's living quarters, just as the first missile came through the window. Wardrobes and furniture were used to barricade the only entrance door to the premises and this served to keep out the blows from whatever it was that was being used to attempt to break down the door. Meanwhile, downstairs, chairs were thrown onto the road outside, and all the windows were smashed as were the bar, fixtures and fittings and bottles. Furniture was set fire to and the cars that were in the car park were smashed and destroyed. Throughout all this the police helicopter monitored the scene from the air. When all had been destroyed the perpetrators were moved along by police on horseback and only then were the publican and his patrons able to safely leave the upstairs room having feared for their lives.

A small number of white parents in the town had withdrawn their children from schools in Savile Town due to opposition to the number of children of Muslim parents in the schools. The BNP, formed seven years earlier as a splinter group from the National Front, organised a "Rights for Whites" demonstration in support of the parents.


Dewsbury is still routinely identified in the media as one of the most racially divided towns in Britain.[2] Its Asian population was estimated at 33% in November 2006.[3] (This may be lower due to immigration of Hungarians and Kurds into the town.)

In March 2007, the local NHS estimated Savile Town at "97-100% Muslim".[4]

There have been two further minor riots in Dewsbury: one between Kurds and Pakistanis in 2007, and one between Hungarians and Pakistanis in February 2008.[5]

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