Liverpool: 'It was big men in the 1980s riots, but now it's just kids'

Police riot vans streamed past MT Belly's English Café in Toxteth yesterday as officers pressed their faces to the windows to stare at customers. The sight of the yellow-liveried vans drew growls of hostility from the café's clientele. "There'll be murder tonight," one said grimly.

Just around the corner, a heavy police presence was maintained around Admiral Street police station which was targeted in Monday attacks. Shops stayed open but lookouts stood sentry, ready to put up the shutters at the first sign of trouble. From time to time, word filtered down that it was "kicking off again".

Many businesses were taking no chances and planned to close early, including Lymon Vundla, 34, who only took over Booze Bros in Smithdown Road six days ago. He was working in the shop on Monday when the windows shattered under a hail of missiles. "I just heard the windows crack. I didn't even see what they threw. I had to close straightaway," he said.

In MT Belly's, most customers remember the 1980s Toxteth riots. But they ranked the current disorder differently. One said: "It was big men then. Now it's just kids. It's been a long time coming. The police won't leave the kids alone. They pick on everyone."

Opinions of the police are low in this corner of Merseyside where streets of boarded-up houses underline that wherever the 2008 City of Culture money was spent, it was not here. One customer said: "When you hear one policeman say that one of their mates is a 'Taser Virgin', well, you know someone's going to get Tasered."

Lindsey Harding, 35, spoke of the night of terror she had endured with her four-year-old daughter. "There were 60 people outside smashing windows. All the railings were in the road and the bins were on fire. The police said they would be there in five minutes and never came at all."

At MT Belly's the last customer departed with a sigh. "This is worse than 20 years ago. There is nothing for the kids to do any more. They look for work and do not even get a reply."

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