Midlands police attacked in outbreaks of violence: Three usually sedate areas hit by weekend flare-ups

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The Independent Online
THREE areas in the Midlands were hit by violence at the weekend and police and emergency services were attacked as they tried to arrest youths for violence or joyriding.

On Saturday night in the market town of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, police were abused by a small group of youths as they spoke to a man bleeding from the head. They arrested one man, and the violence escalated as customers from nearby pubs and clubs joined in, until more than 200 were involved.

One female special constable was punched unconscious and seven officers injured. Eventually police managed to quell the disturbance and arrest 11 youths in what was described as the worst incident of public disorder to hit the town in more than a decade.

In another incident, in the Stechford suburb of Birmingham, a mob of 100 youths, some as young as 14, pelted police and fire crews with stones and bricks after a high speed chase.

A crowd had gathered to watch the 60mph chase through the streets then, as the the stolen car's engine blew up, police moved in to arrest the driver. Three officers were hit by stones thrown by the taunting mob. The youths set fire to the abandoned car, then attacked firefighters who arrived to tackle the blaze.

One firefighter, station officer Keith Jones, said: 'We were attacked because our uniforms identify us as part of the establishment. And these days it seems that the establishment is fair game to have bricks and stones thrown at it.'

Three police officers were injured in Rugby, Warwickshire, when a brawl outside a nightclub escalated in the early hours as it was closing. Police from other parts of the county were called in and three men were arrested.

The flare-ups recalled a similar outbreak of violence in the country in 1992 which, instead of afflicting the inner cities, occurred in usually sedate places. Last year's problems began in Coventry in May, after police moved into the Wood End housing estate to stop youths riding stolen motorbikes on pavements. A school was firebombed in two days of rioting.

In June the police were petrol- bombed in Stockton-on-Tees in Cleveland when they arrested youths after reports of gunshots. In early July, police were petrol-bombed and stoned after a clampdown on ramraiders in Salford, Greater Manchester. Then in Luton, Bedfordshire, cars were set alight, and 20 people arrested after police tried to stop youths racing on stolen motorcycles.

In Bristol in the middle of July, the death of two joyriders sparked rioting causing pounds 1m of damage, 80 arrests and injuries to 15 police officers. In Burnley, Lancashire, there were 140 arrests, and police were petrol-bombed as fighting broke out.