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1980s

Notting Hill Carnival Ends in Riots

Riots erupted at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival after tensions developed between the police and black youths attending the festival. Over 100 police officers and around 60 members of the public were injured in the skirmishes.

Many believed that the troubles began when the police tried to arrest a pick-pocket and black youths sensed the possibility of racially motivated police activity. Stones and debris were aimed at the police, who armed themselves with wire fencing and milk crates. At one stage a group of black youths were reported to have been smashing windows of houses near the carnival route. Underground stations were closed while police tried to contain the crowd.

Notting Hill CarnivalIn anticipation of interference by fascist gangs, the police had increased their presence at the Carnival from previous years to 3,000 officers on site. Relations between the police and the black community had been affected by growing concern over the misuse of the 'sus' law, which permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion of frequenting, or loitering, in public places with criminal intent. The law had been seen by many in the community as disproportionately targeting black youth and the police presence at the Carnival was met with suspicion.

At a subsequent trial, 17 black youths faced 79 charges of criminal violence and damage., Only two were convicted. The incident further strained relations between the black community and the police, and later served to frame the Carnival as a potential for social upheaval rather than a celebration of Caribbean culture. Although this was the first year that the carnival was tarred by violence, the police presence has since been prominent.

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