Firework attack on police station

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GUY FAWKES night was exploited by gangs of youths who launched a sustained firework attack on an inner-city police station that has been at the centre of racial tension.

About 80 youths converged on the Toller Lane police station in Bradford and bombarded it with rockets and other fireworks. The youths, some of whom were said to be carrying petrol bombs, set fire to a nearby car sales garage and telephone kiosk.

The police station is in the Manningham district of the city, which was the scene of sustained rioting by Muslim youths in 1995. West Yorkshire Police called in officers from neighbouring districts to tackle the disorder, which broke out around 1am.

A barrage of missiles aimed at officers and the police station continued until police in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowd, although there were no reports of injuries and no arrests.

Fire also broke out at nearby Listers Mill, caused by what police believe was a stray firework. Earlier, there was violence in Halifax, 10 miles away, when police cars came under attack from youths.

A number of vehicles were set alight by rioters and police carrying shields were called in to protect firefighters. Community leaders were called in, with police officers from across West Yorkshire, to help to disperse the crowd.

Police said inquiries were under way into the disturbances. A spokesman for West Yorkshire fire service said crews were unable to get to various fires in the area because of the trouble.

He said: "When there are civil disturbances we have a procedure whereby we don't go anywhere in the area without a police escort. For quite a long period last night we couldn't get into these two areas because of the disturbances. Eventually the police managed to sweep the streets to check they were clear and we were able to go in, but the fires had been started hours before."

Mohammed Ajeeb, who is deputy leader of Bradford Council and a councillor for the Manningham area, said it was vital that the police established a direct line of communication between themselves and the city's young Asian community before trouble flared again.

He said: "After the disturbances of 1995 I thought there would be some kind of direct communication between the police and the youths. That seems to have failed. The police need to re-establish some kind of meaningful communication with the young people of the area.

"The police have got to learn after all this time, that without establishing a dialogue the problems are not going to be solved." Although he described the firework attack as "a very minor disturbance", Mr Ajeeb warned that the youths themselves had to control their behaviour.

"They have got to realise that if any damage is done to property and the area, it will cost the community," he said. "It is their job to protect the community because it's the area they live in."

Only last month in its evidence to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, West Yorkshire Police had said that relations with Muslim youths in the Manningham area had improved considerably.