POLICE claim success in quieting violence in riot-torn British town

Wednesday, May 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ The riot-torn town of Oldham awoke Wednesday to more broken glass, but police said they were able to prevent the street battles and firebombing that had raged the previous three nights.

Hundreds of extra officers patrolled the fire-scorched northern English town overnight, maintaining a tense peace in a diverse community now split along racial lines.

Anger erupted into violence several times, but it was mild compared to the scene over the weekend.

A group of 10 South Asian youths threw bricks at a van carrying seven white men and a group of whites pelted a car in which a family was riding, Greater Manchester Police said.

A small fire blazed briefly, one man suffered minor injuries in an assault and windows were smashed in several homes and pubs, police said.

``Although these incidents are regrettable, I am encouraged by the continued reduction in the number of incidents my officers had to deal with overnight,'' said Chief Superintendent Eric Hewitt.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested, bringing the total number of riot-related arrests to 50.

Racial tensions had been simmering for weeks in Oldham, a bleak town near Manchester, about 200 miles northwest of London, when violence flared in Sunday's early hours, reportedly sparked by an argument outside a fish-and-chips shop. By daybreak Sunday up to 500 youths were hurling firebombs at startled police and setting cars alight.

Between one-quarter and one-fifth of Oldham's population are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Many arrived in the 1960s or 1970s to work in the textile industry.

South Asian community leaders blame the riots on the activities of the ultra-right-wing National Front, which stepped up its presence in the town after reports of South Asian gang violence and the creation of ``no-go zones'' for whites.

The National Front and the like-minded British National Party say South Asians are behind the disturbances.