More than 25 years on from Broadwater Farm, has anything changed?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Analysis

At first glance, the parallels appear to be striking. On 5 October 1985, a young West Indian named Floyd Jarrett was stopped by the police near the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London, on suspicion of driving with a forged tax disc.

Mr Jarrett was arrested and a few hours later officers raided the home nearby of his middle-aged mother, Cynthia.

Her family said she was pushed. The police denied it. But what is indisputable is that she collapsed and died – bringing into the open long-standing racial tensions in the area and triggering some of the worst rioting in Britain's recent history. Poignantly, like the weekend's rioting, it was a protest outside Tottenham Police Station which sparked the conflict. It led, the night after Jarrett's arrest, to the grotesque murder of PC Keith Blakelock, who was surrounded and stabbed to death. When the ashes had been cleared, the events at Broadwater Farm lead to much soul-searching about community relations and the economic viability of one of London's poorest areas.

How much has changed? In the immediate aftermath of the rioting, Bernie Grant, then the leader of Haringey council and later the area's MP, caused outrage when he reacted to the police request for plastic bullets to deal with future potential rioting. "The reason why the police are calling for plastic bullets is because the police got a bloody good hiding," he told a crowd in the days after the riot. Turning to a handful of police officers who were standing nearby he added: "I hope you're listening. There is no way I am going to condemn the actions of the youth on Sunday night." By contrast David Lammy, the area's current MP, said yesterday: "We have officers in hospital, some of whom are seriously injured. It's a disgrace. This must stop."

But, underlining the problems that still remain, the MP's comments were met with cries of "the police want to see the place burn" from the crowd.

Clive Crichlow, president of the National Black Police Association, said this reaction was not atypical. "People feel disenfranchised. The police are a long way off representing the community.

"While we wouldn't want to use that as an excuse to justify that sort of violence, there's no way we can ignore what has happened. There will be lessons to learn but this time we have to learn them. What we are missing is the issue of representation."

Tottenham is in Haringey, where more than 10,000 people claim jobseeker's allowance. In Tottenham itself, recent government figures showed there were 54 people chasing each job.

Brian Haley, who served as a councillor in Tottenham for 16 years until last year, said the area had received a lot of investment after the 1985 riots – but that had not altered the fundamental problems. "Nothing changes," he said. "Politicians are coming out saying it is different to 25 years ago but it is not. They were not there; I was. There have been promises but no delivery. Northumberland Park Ward [near the scene of the rioting] is one of the most deprived areas in Europe, it has been like that for decades," he added. "There is high unemployment, low educational achievement – but none of this is new.

"The media will be gone in a few days and the people of Tottenham will be the ones who have to pick up the pieces," he said.

Additional reporting by Paul Cahalan

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea