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The 1981 Handsworth riots were three days of rioting that took place in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, England in July 1981.[1] The major outbreak of violence took place on the night of Friday 10/11 July, with smaller disturbances on the following two nights.[2]

The riots were characterised by the Scarman report into the 1981 riots in England as "copycat riots" – taking place after the Brixton riots in London, and around the same time as the Toxteth riots in Liverpool and the Moss Side riots in Manchester – though some have argued that this is an oversimplification.[1] The immediate flashpoint was an attack on a locally well-known Police Superintendent who was trying to calm rumours of an impending march by the right-wing National Front.[1] The following disturbances resulted in 121 arrests and 40 injuries to police officers, alongside widespread damage to property.[3]

Before the riots Handsworth had been considered to be a good example of successful community policing, though local Black British youths later disputed the claim that relations between them and the police had been amicable: around 40% of them had been stopped and searched over the previous 12 months.[1] Handsworth had a mixed population of white, black and Asian residents, but surveys after the riots showed little evidence of significant racial tension.[3] A week before the riots, during the weekend that saw CS gas used against rioters for the first time on the British Mainland in Toxteth, Liverpool, a reporter from The Times had visited a festival in Handsworth Park and found "8,000 people, black and white" in "a spirit as amiable and peaceful as a rural village fete".[4] The most common reasons for the riots reported by participants were unemployment, boredom and the imitation of events elsewhere.[3]

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  1. ^ a b c d Waddington, David P. (1992). Contemporary issues in public disorder: a comparative and historical approach. London: Routledge. pp. 90–91. ISBN 0-415-07913-6. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  2. ^ Southgate, Peter (1982). ""Abstract: Disturbances of July 1981 in Handsworth, Birmingham - A Survey of the Views and Experiences of Male Residents". In Field, Simon; Southgate, Peter (eds.). Public disorder: a review of research and a study in one inner city area. Home Office Research Studies. London: H.M.S.O. p. 42. ISBN 0-11-340767-X. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Abstract: Disturbances of July 1981 in Handsworth, Birmingham - A Survey of the Views and Experiences of Male Residents (From Public Disorder, P 41-73, 1982, by Simon Field and Peter Southgate)". National Criminal Justice Reference Service. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  4. ^ Osman, Arthur; Timmins, Nicholas; Tendler, Stewart. (6 July 1981). "3am: Residents begin Toxteth evacuation Police use CS gas after admitting riot is out of control". The Times. Times Newspapers. p. 1.