Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pop History Moment: Rock Song Proves Prophetic

London's Brixton neighbourhood erupted in violence on this day in 1981, in an eerie echo of the song The Guns of Brixton, by The Clash. Although the song was written and released in December 1979 for their third album, London Calling, it spoke of discontent then brewing between Metropolitan Police and the largely black population there.

The 1981 riot began when police arrested a black youth on Railton Road under the aegis of Operation Swamp 81, which was aimed at reducing street crime in the area; needless to say, given the outcome, it failed miserably. More than 300 police and 65 civilian injuries were reported following the fracas, while 100 vehicles - including 56 belonging to police - were burned, along with 30 buildings. Another 150 buildings were damaged, mainly by looters. Of the 5,000 people involved, the 1,000 police present made just 82 arrests.

A public inquiry into the riot was made by Lord Scarman; his findings were published in November 1981.
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