Letter: Brixton: the part played by police in a protest-turned- riot
Monday 18 December 1995
Sir: At 10.30pm on Wednesday evening in Brixton, I was coming home from a quiet drink in Coldharbour Lane. A friend and I cut through Rushcroft Road to avoid the brewing trouble. The street was virtually deserted but, as we approach the junction with Effra Road, relative calm was broken by hundreds of riot police surging from Brixton Road towards Brixton Hill. A sizeable section of this force then wheeled in our direction, blocking the exit of Rushcroft Road, charging towards the handful of pedestrians in their path, screaming at us to "move!". We ran, but not fast enough, and I felt a sharp pain in my back as I was struck by a police baton.
Blind panic was soon replaced by outrage and disbelief at what had happened. If the Met's behaviour left a white middle-class adult in a secure job feeling such anger and hatred towards the police, how much worse an impact must it have had on my young black neighbours?
Yes, there were inflammatory speeches at the initial demonstration and, yes, there was a criminal element involved in the looting, but I am convinced the scale and brutality of the police response was in no small part responsible for the escalation in violence.
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