'Copycat' disorders with different causes: As rioters clashed with police on the streets of Burnley, Blackburn and Bristol, 30 years of social breakdown found expression in violence

THE FIRST Burnley 'rioter' arrested last week told magistrates he threw bricks at the police 'because that's what everybody else was doing'.

As inquiries begin into six violent nights in Burnley and Blackburn, which led to nearly 200 arrests, a general version of this 16-year-old's account has become the widely-held, if simplistic, view of the disorders. They were, it is said, 'copycat' disturbances - as if the upheavals in both east Lancashire towns were somehow less serious for being imitative.

Early yesterday, around the perimeter of the Brookhouse district of Blackburn, a newsagent's shop was set on fire and police dispersed small groups of white youths attempting to join a confrontation between the town's ethnic minorities.

A glance at the baseball-cap fashion affected by young men and women involved in the violence confirms the power of imitation. Examine the backgrounds of these young people, hanging around at dusk in loose-limbed ennui, and their lack of education, their latent violence and alienation could also be described as 'copycat'. In most cases, they are following patterns set by parents or older siblings. Money has been invested in housing estates such as The Stoops in Burnley, but a thread of violent insolence runs through the community.

Most residents deplored the events of last week, and the images of their despair were all the starker in the police searchlights on darkened streets: a gentle Indian woman confronted by a cordon of riot police, a mother evacuating her children in their pyjamas, a quiet couple whose house with its collection of toby jugs was invaded by policemen who smashed down the door.

But police forces other than Lancashire's might have made more enemies with more boisterous tactics. 'They did a good job in a very bad situation,' said Rafique Malik, director of Blackburn Racial Equality Council.

The Blackburn disturbances are quite different from those in Burnley. Young Indians burned Khan's Cafe on Wednesday in exasperation at three years of alleged theft, intimidation and corruption organised by Pakistanis who used the cafe as their base.

The Pakistanis fought back. Khan's Cafe gave them a commanding position geographically, if not socially or economically.

The Indian men who poured down the steep terraced streets had little in common with the Burnley petrol-bombers: they were well-educated, ambitious, and in many cases, relatively affluent. They like their neighbourhood; which was why, they said, they decided to take their own measures.

There are deep prejudices between Indian Muslims and Pakistani Muslims in Blackburn. For every immigrant father anxious to play down contempt rooted in the sub-continent, there is a Lancashire-born son rewriting historic enmity in cotton-town idioms. 'They are the scum of the earth,' a young Indian said of Pakistanis. 'They are arrogant and bent,' a Pakistani said.

An older Pakistani man claimed that the trouble would never have happened if police had dealt with burglaries, harassment of women and illegal gambling. Over at The Stoops estate in Burnley, a young woman shrieked at the police: 'Where were you when my car was vandalised?'

At the height of the Burnley disturbances, a pre-arranged meeting of the police and community forum heard familiar complaints - an absentee police force, slow response times, attacks on officers, prisoners in cells, and limited funds.

'A mindless criminal minority,' a chief inspector said later of those who petrol-bombed his officers. But the youths found authority's condemnation hilarious, a virtual vindication of their attempts to be ungovernable.

'If we're so stupid, how come they can't catch us?' one boy asked amid the crackle of glass, fire, and flashing blue light.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam