Large housing estate
which was the scene of a riot
This is an extract from the Metropolitan Police web site which describes their perspective on events:
On 5 October 1985 four police officers went to search the home of Mrs Cynthia Jarrett on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham. Mrs Jarrett's son Flloyd was in custody at Tottenham police station having given a false name when found in a car with an inaccurately made out tax disc. The visit caused panic among some of the occupants, and Mrs Jarrett,who had a weak heart, collapsed and died despite the officers' best efforts to revive her.
The next day a small crowd started a demonstration outside the police station and broke its windows. At 3.15pm two Home Beat officers were attacked and seriously injured by a brick-throwing crowd, one of them having his spleen ruptured by a paving stone thrown onto his back when he had fallen. Following a protest meeting where responsible community leaders proposing a motion of complaint were shouted down, a police inspector driving past the estate was attacked and had his car window smashed. A police van answering a 999 call was surrounded, attacked and severely damaged by a mob with machetes, bars and knives.
By the time the first riot control police arrived the mob had put up barriers and prepared petrol bombs. Cordons of police officers in riot gear with long shields were forced to withstand a prolonged attack from rioters, including gunfire, until the estate was restored to order some hours later.
At 9.30pm a fire was seen in a newsagent's on the first floor 'deck' of Tangmere block and attempts to support the firemen trying to put it out led to the murder of PC Blakelock, who was surrounded by masked and balaclava'd rioters armed with sticks, knives and a machete who proceeded to hack him to death. The news of his death spread through the mob and as rain started to fall the violence slowly died out.
The incident resulted in a review of senior officers' training in public order tactics, the introduction of armoured Land Rovers and the preferred tactic of 'early resolution' by faster moving police units with short as well as long shields.
The reality includes a few more details.
The Broadwater Farm estate had been subjected for some period of time to a sustained and continuous police presence. The stop and search policy that had been underway included just about anyone who happened to be walking the streets but was particularly virulent against minority races, which made up the majority in the estate at the time. The policy included the forced searching of many young people and any grounds for suspicion, such as a lack of reason to be on the streets, failure to produce proper identity (not a crime in England) or even just being insolent could result in detention in police custody whilst under investigation. The search of Flloyd Jarret and the subsequent forced entry into his mothers home were not unusual events at the time on the estate. Everyone was under suspicion and everyone knew someone to whom this type of thing had been done.
It was under these circumstances, heightened by the death of Mrs Jarret that the defense of Broadwater Farm began. The local community groups had been trying up until that point to calm the situation and get the police to subdue their tactics, but to no avail. The residents, tired of the situation and frightened by the recent events decided that they had to take their own action.
When the protests started and barricades went up the police, in the midst of night, went in. Normally police in England have badge numbers that identify them on their riot helmets. This allows identification of officers in case of a need for complaint. On this night these numbers were blacked out with tape. Hundreds of police from the surrounding area entered in full riot gear and began forcibly entering homes and fighting with protestors on the streets. The local people defended themselves as best they could and in the resulting fight one police officer was killed and many police and residents were injured.