Eyewitness report of the Manchester uprising, 9 August 2011

‘They’re making money off us – now we’re takin’ it back!’ – a young man in Manchester

Manchester Riots

My comrades and I arrived in town at half past eight. Confrontation with the police had been going on for quite some time already. We heard that Marks & Spencer on Market Street had been trashed, Miss Selfridge (owned by billionaire tax dodger Philip Green) had been burned, and that there were massive scenes of unrest at Salford Precinct. There was no traffic in or out of Manchester city centre and everything was closed.

In Piccadilly Gardens there were around a thousand, mainly young people, - black, white and Asian - occupying the bus station. There were no police around as they were preoccupied at other flashpoints, apparently Piccadilly Station. I spoke to some of the people present. A young man said: ‘Yeah, course, if the government gave us enough money, we wouldn’t have to do this’. A girl told us that she was there ‘because of all the police violence’. There were a handful of anarchists and people from the left. The crowds targeted Spar, M&S, an arcade and a women’s clothes shop before police arrived with dogs. People started running. Earlier on, dogs had been set on people, with a young man’s leg being savagely bitten.

In King Street, Manchester’s financial district, people smashed designer shops and looted clothes that only a wealthy minority can afford to buy. With the sound of sirens the crowd quickly dispersed, to regroup, still in large numbers, on Oxford Street, smashing up a Tesco and a cash machine. Then on to a Sainsbury’s when police came, chasing people into Oxford Road station. The police had created a really dangerous situation, forcing around 30 people to climb a fence and scale down a 25 foot wall into a pub yard and stay there for around half an hour - many people with cuts and scrapes. Police dogs could be heard behind a wooden gate. There was a great sense of camaraderie, as people who didn’t know each other helped less able climbers to struggle back up the wall.

I asked some more people why they were there. An Irish guy in his late 20s said: ‘It’s obvious init? Have you seen what the cops can do to people?’ This was a recurring theme, with another man shouting later on: ‘You police think you can just come around and bully us, but now we’re fighting back!’ A young man standing next to a burning car told me he was out because of the cuts and police killing innocent people.

The riot vans came and everyone ran to the nearby main road, Princess Street. A cop car came down the road and drove fast towards a lad who was stood in the street. The crowd came to his help and the car drove off. Sky News had been making out all day that the people involved were thugs but I didn’t see any violence towards any member of the public. That’s not what this was about. By the gay village I did see a young lad of around 14 or 15 attempt to grab a bag from a scared looking man who was attempting to get into his flat, but the crowd immediately rounded on the boy and told him to let go, which he did. They reassured the guy ‘We’re only after businesses’.

As the night wore on and crowds started to thin, the police got more confident and hit people. Those who couldn’t get away were arrested regardless of whether they were looting or not. At the time of writing there have been 113 arrests. Local media were keen to claim that the ‘rioters’ were under 10 years of age, but only seven of those arrested were under 18 and the oldest was 58. Chief Constable Peter Fahy, called it ‘organised plunder’, a term which would more aptly describe the council’s £110 million in service cuts. Labour councillor Pat Karney (who voted for the cuts) called them ‘criminal thugs’ and ‘children’. Local politicians are already pushing for prosecution and we can expect a witch-hunt in the coming period.


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