Row over parking fine turns into riot

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The Independent Online
STEVE BOGGAN

A row over a parking ticket turned into a full-scale riot involving 200 stone-throwing youths and 80 police officers near the centre of Birmingham last night.

There were unconfirmed reports of officers in the Alum Rock Road area of the city being pelted with petrol bombs after the predominantly Asian community took to the streets to protest about "heavy handed" traffic police.

During the disturbance, which lasted almost three hours, cars and buses were showered with rocks and shop windows were smashed.

One police officer was slightly injured and one man was arrested in connection with an alleged assault on the officer who issued the disputed ticket earlier in the day.

He was issuing a fixed penalty notice to the driver of a car parked in a restricted zone at about 12.30pm when, according to West Midlands police, three other men intervened and the officer was assaulted. Other officers were called and the three men were taken to Digbeth police station near the city centre.

"Two of the men were cautioned and released but a third was kept in custody on an earlier warrant," a police spokeswoman said.

"Later, about 40 Asian people went to the police station to protest at what they saw as heavy handed policing."

By 5.30pm, police were receiving reports from storekeepers who had been telephoned anonymously warning them to shut up shop because trouble was planned.

At 6.30pm a gang of youths gathered in the Saltley Gate area and began stoning cars and buses, blocking off one end of the road with cars and vans. Extra police in riot gear attended and the trouble began in earnest.

Shortly before 9pm, the police and local community leaders agreed to hold a meeting tonight to discuss parking problems in the area.

Most of the crowd dispersed after details of the meeting were announced, but gangs of youths and police reinforcements remained for several hours.

Ilyas Din, a local community leader, said that the trouble had flared because one of the men who had been arrested was a 70-year-old shopkeeper. "We have muggings and drug deals taking place in the streets and we are told to sort it out ourselves," he said.

"The police do nothing to try and clear up the streets. But then there is a minor incident like this and a respectable 70-year-old man is arrested.

"He is a peaceful man and he had to leave his shop with all the furniture on the pavement with no-one to watch it. I do not know how much was taken."

As darkness fell, there was an uneasy peace in the area. Police described the situation as "tense but under control".

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