120 police hurt, 36 people arrested in night of rioting in tense English city

Sunday, July 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BRADFORD, England (AP) _ Riot police restored order and community leaders called for calm Sunday after an outbreak of racial violence that injured 120 police officers in this troubled city in northern England.

More than 900 officers battled through the night to rein in Asian and white youths who rampaged in the streets armed with firebombs and baseball bats. Police said 36 people were arrested.

Bradford is the fourth northern city to be wracked by violence involving whites and people of South Asian descent in recent weeks. The troubles have been largely blamed on agitation by right-wing groups.

The riots in Bradford erupted Saturday after the Anti-Nazi League staged a demonstration against the far-right anti-immigrant National Front, which planned to parade in the city despite a government ban.

At the height of the violence, a crowd of several hundred youths erected burning barricades, set cars on fire and showered police with bricks, bottles, gasoline bombs and fireworks.

West Yorkshire police said some officers were attacked with bats and hammers; their injuries ranged from sprains to broken bones. Nineteen civilians were treated in hospitals for a range of injuries including stab wounds, head injuries, bruises and cuts.

Police said 13 whites and 23 Asians were arrested. Home Secretary David Blunkett condemned the rioters and said they were damaging their own communities.

``There is no excuse for mindless violence and reckless destruction,'' he said. ``Whatever the provocation from outside the area, it is overwhelmingly local people who have damaged their own community and its future.''

Witnesses said the violence appeared to have started when a group of white men came out of a pub and shouted racist epithets at a crowd of several hundred mostly Asian youths gathered for the rally organized by the Anti-Nazi League.

Fights broke out among white and Asian youths, and shops and pubs in the city center were damaged. The rioting was later concentrated in a largely Asian section of the city, where youths threw firebombs, bricks and bottles at police.

Rioters stole cars from the parking lot of a BMW dealership and set the building on fire. A social club linked to the Labor Party was gutted by a firebomb and one linked to the Conservative party was also set on fire, along with a hotel. No injuries were reported in those incidents.

Almost one in five people in Bradford _ a city of 500,000 _ is from Asia or has roots there, mostly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

In the last six weeks, riots have hit Oldham, Burnley and Leeds, which, like Bradford, are industrial cities with large Asian populations. The four cities are located within 40 miles of each other about 200 miles north of London.

Community leaders condemned the fighting and called for calm.

``The feeling this morning is of sadness that this has happened,'' Mohammed Amran of the Commission for Racial Equality. ``No one expected this sort of trouble on this scale. It has destroyed Bradford. I don't know how we will recover from this.''

The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Rev. David Smith, said the only winners were racists intent on dividing the community.

``We all feared that Bradford would join the list of towns and cities where trouble flared and sadly now it has,'' he said. ``The young people involved in the violence are angry and frustrated and we will need to sit down with them and talk to them and listen to them and hear what they have to say.''

West Yorkshire police vowed to track down those involved in the riots.

``We do have an excellent track record in follow-up arrests and those people involved had better be looking behind them,'' said Assistant Chief Constable Greg Wilkinson.