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24 September 2014

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You are in: Liverpool > Local History > Discover > The Times > Toxteth riots

Toxteth Riots

Police lines in the riots

Toxteth riots

In 1981 riots erupted in Toxteth putting Liverpool on the front page. Despite regeneration projects and massive cash injections in Liverpool has anything changed since 1981. Add your comments.

On Friday July 3rd 1981 the arrest of 20 year old Leroy Cooper on Selbourne Street, watched by an angry crowd, led to a fracas in which three police officers were injured.

Over the weekend that followed full blown riots broke out on the streets of Toxteth with pitched battles between police and youths throwing missiles including petrol bombs.

The riots lasted for nine days. During this period over 450 police officers were injured and 500 people were arrested. At least 70 buildings were demolished or burnt down during the riots, including the Rialto Ballroom which had played host to concerts by The Beatles.

Rialto Ballroom

The Rialto burns

Although the riots were sparked by tensions between police and the local community The Scarman Report into the Toxteth disturbances as well as others in Brixton and Handsworth concluded that "complex political, social and economic factors" created a "disposition towards violent protest".

The findings of the report led to the introduction of measures to improve trust and understanding between the police and ethnic minority communities.

last updated: 26/02/2008 at 12:14
created: 04/07/2006

Have Your Say

What are your memories of the Toxteth riots? Do you think the area has improved in the last twenty five years? Add your comments here.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

I was 11yrs old when the riots started, at the time there was alot of tension between the police and the local black youths. I believe the riots was a wake up call for the police to change their attitudes towards diverse communities and as a result I decided to join the police. The police is targetting all its officers with diversity and equal oppurtunity training.If this training was in place 25 yrs ago I beleive the Toxteth riots would nener have started.

John SOS Hannett
I was 21 at the time of the riots living in toxteth, I remember that it was a case of everyone for themselves in the looting and pillaging department. if you was in the way god help ya, although now i live and work in london on my occassional visits home the city seems that now its buzzing hence becoming the city of culture who would have thought that 25 years ago i feel it now deserves that title as us scousers have been through the mill to put it mildly "COME ON YOU SCOUSERS"

John Mae
From a perspective of a foreigner who has been living in Liverpool for the past six years, I can say that there is rampant colour discrimination in Liverpool. There is no respect for authority and Liverpudians have forgotten about the value of hard work.

I was 19 at the time of the riot and I was right in the middle of it. I suppose I was getting my own back after years of racial abuse from the police. I was on Granby street when Leroy coopers brother got stopped by the police, it all kicked off when Leroy tried to help his brother.

Ruth - West Derby
i was 16 in 1981 and as a direct result of the riots secured a job which involved processing criminal cases brought against people charged during the riots. I was far removed from the reasons behind them but my observation is that desperate people do desperare things. Those of us fortunate never to have had to resort to such measures have little insight into the problems of deprivation etc and for the most part are unable to comprehend what prompted such drastic reaction. I do not think things have improved much for minorities, not as far as I have seen.

Stevie J
What happened then, should never, never be allowed to happen again. There was blame on both side, the state and the rioters. But we as people who care should never surrender our streets to those hell bend on violence and distruction. Love Liverpool, Love life

Gill Kelly
I was only 10 when the riots occurred but I remember fainting in assembly that morning as my mum had to go and help my Grandad check on his electrical shop on Upper Parliament Street and I was scared she would not come back! The shop was later demolished due to fire damage on the adjoining buildings even though a Police Officer said it was safe and told Grandad he didnt need to remove all his tools, stock & equipment. 25 years later I have moved back to Liverpool & live in Grove Park, Toxteth, which is lovely itself but the area around - especially Kingsley Road and the terraced houses off it are a disgrace. The majority are bricked up and falling down. The new houses in the vicinity are just as bad - thrown up quickly to appear as if some regeneration had taken place, now grubby and in tatters.

John, I agree with what you are saying, there aresignificant poverty issues in other parts of the city, and they have all been let down. however there is the economic infrastructure -- just look at all the new build - and look how much of that money is going to sub contractors from outside the city

I was 11 years old when this was happening and it was very scary. I lived on St Saviours Square on the Falkner Housing estate (now the site of the Womens Hospital). The estate was like a rabbit warren and I always remember looking out from the upstairs bedroom window to see the street lights being taken out, leaving the place plunged into darkness. Mon day morning and it was like a war-zone. I had to pick my way through all sorts of debris in order to get to school, although we seemed to have an awful lot of Mcvities Jaffa Cakes in the cupboard at that time too!!! Nice to read those myopic and unhelpful comments from Francis.

paul halpin
no, the black community still does not get fair treatment from police

Dingle resident
There are just too many generalisations about L8. The communities here are diverse. There is still a lot of poverty but there is a sense, too, that things are changing for the better. New communities are moving in, and on the whole we rub along together well enough. Drug abuse is probably the major social problem in the area underpinning crime etc. There is a large non-white community in L8 but you wouldn't know this from walking aroung the city centre!

John H is right when he says that in some ways Toxteth is no different than other areas in terms of decline - especially when you talk about local infrastructure and retail etc etc. However, my loyalties lie with Toxteth and I personally feel like crying when I see the remains of what was a vibrant, self-supporting community to what it is now. By that I mean an area which has been systematically destroyed by poor local government decisions and robbed of a lot of its individual character. I am not out to mythologise the area, it has its fair share of problems, but how come 25 years on when someone asks you where you are from and you say 'Toxteth' people still raise an eyebrow? Could it be racism and fear? I believe so.

John Hennigan
I think Toxteth has not seen any real improvement since '81- but as a former Scottie Roader I would say the same of inner city areas like Scotland Road/Everton and so called "white parts" of Toxteth and Dingle( Park Road etc.)The main problem is people just do not want to live in inner city Liverpool - it has always had a poor reputation and since the docks decline very high unemployment. This affects areas both in the South End and North End, and has led to the shocking depopulation of Lodge Lane, Granby, Scotland Road etc. There is no longer the economic infrastructure to support regenration in these areas.

Francis said: " Regardless of the causes, there is no reason for violence, terrorism and looting" I disagree. Exclude people from their rights, discriminate against them politically, democratically, economically, culturallyt socially, in housing and health issues etc and eventually they will have had enough. Their is a rich tradition of the oppressed kicking back at their oppressors. Francis said: " Many people, both Police and innocent members of the public where injured, many seriously." Many people, innocent members of the public were subjected to violence, harrassment, intimidation and indifference by the police force simply because they were black. Francis said "The actions of the fools in that area did Liverpool no favours, they ruined the good name of the city after what had been many a good decade previous" Good name of the City? This city got rich on the back of the exploitation of Black people through the slave trade. This city owed its prestige, grandour and wealth to those who were shackled and bought and sold as objects with no consideration for their humanity. Good name of the city? The riots were a response to a city whose police were guilty of endemic racism in their day to day operations. A response to the grinding poverty and mass unemployment brought about by government and big business. francis said: " despite the efforts to be noticed by rioting, nothing has changed in that area. There is still huge povety and poor homes" Well more shame on us that things have not changed - the platitudes, photo opportunities and broken political promises continue to address poverty issues whilst they turn the city centre into a yuppie luxery apartment ridden lifestyle playground.

I lived in Wavertree at the time of the riots and remember them well. They followed years of abuse of sus laws by the police particularly against black youths but the riots saw both blacks and whites alienated by the police join together. I went down Granby street the other week and I can see no improvement from 25 years ago. It is as if the area has been abandoned by the council. Of course in a sense it has been like all the other areas outside of the City Centre robbed of funding to pay for capital of culture in the City centre.

Denys Owen
The landlord of a pub in Windsor st told me years ago that the riots had nothing to do, with racial tension. In his view those who started it were, in his words "simply bent on causing chaos and enjoying violence "

Regardless of the causes, there is no reason for violence, terrorism and looting. Many people, both Police and innocent members of the public where injured, many seriously. The actions of the fools in that area did Liverpool no favours, they ruined the good name of the city after what had been many a good decade previous. Go anywhere in Europe, and the city which was once the capital of music creation, has now become the down trodden, unworld of riots, muggery and theft. Well done to all you rioters. The part of it all which really disappoints me, is that despite the efforts to be noticed by rioting, nothing has changed in that area. There is still huge povety and poor homes. Granted, billions of £ has been spent in the subsequent 25 years, however many of the new builds have been destroyed or ruined by inconsiderate people, some may call low-life. All of this went on as seperately a Police officer was killed by a stolen car in Liverpool city centre, and many fail to recognise or appreciate this man was going about his job, serving the public...and for what? while his colleagues are under missile, abuse and the rain of firebombs. The media coverage also paid its part in the events, aiding to fuel anger and discontent. Rumours circulated of people travelling over 40-50 miles, to partake in the nightly vioence and looting amazed me at the time - a possible fact that the riot's where not as a direct result of a young black male's arrest by Police, but rather more a tear in society by those who just want to rebell and cause distruption. I am now concerned that as nothing seems to have moved on or been improved, that similar riots may start once more. Statistics and figures show that riot's tend to erupt every 4-6 years in a country, which is right now following Oldham and Burnley in 2001. I hope that the statisticians are wrong, because our beautiful city does not need a replay of this awful, disgraceful and pathetic event again. Francis, Lawrence Road, Wavertree/Toxteth.

L8 resident
I went to school in L8 during the riots and have lived in Falkner Square, Toxteth - L8 for the past 5 years. It's a beautiful cosmopolitain area where the houses are selling like hot cakes as the area is restored back to its original grandeur. Okay there's the the odd scally around causing mischief but on the whole this area of toxteth is on the up.

chris marsden
I was 11 when the Toxteth Riots took place, for me it was an exciting time. At that time I was unaware of the reasons for the riot but realised that there seemed to be a lot of baiting going on from both sides.

Gary - Vancouver
I happened to move to Canada on July 4th, 1981 and read about the riots the following morning. I grew up in Walton (County Road - one of the places that rioted). I was 16 and had just finished at Alsop Comp. I felt a combination of shock that it had actually happened in Liverpool and relief that I had got out in time. During those early rough years of setting up life in a new country the riots always reminded me of why I was putting myself through it. In hindsight something had to blow in Liverpool and those riots were inevitable. Thatcher's government turned its back on the North resulting in poverty, rage and eventually smack. If the riots had not occurred then I suspect it would have taken more years of suffering for the central government to react and try to help. Thus, from my comfy and detached spot on the other side of the Atlantic I think the riots helped Liverpool by grabbing the attention of politicians and illustrating the extreme problems being faced by everyone in similar post-industrial cities. By the way, no one ever mentions the Liverpool riots over here. The Beatles remain the only legacy item people associate with our fair city (except for the odd soccer fan).

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