THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 10th April 1981 – A people’s rebellion was sparked in Brixton, London, the United Kingdom when police stopped a young man who had been severely injured, and failed to get him immediate medical assistance.

The police were already engaged in heavy action in the area. As part of “Operation Swamp 81” large numbers of black youths were being randomly stopped and searched, increasing tensions between the black community and the police.

In the midst of this atmosphere police stopped Michael Bailey, who was bleeding from a stab wound, in the evening of 10th April. Bailey ran away but was caught and stopped again on Railton Road, Brixton, known locally as the “front line.” By this time local people had gathered and, seeing no action by the police to get Bailey to a hospital, eventually arranged to take him to hospital by car. Clashes then ensued between the police and people angry at their failure to seek immediate medical hep for Bailey.

As a response police escalated their Operation Swamp 81 activity, making more arrests the following day on 11th April. Local people, tired of police harassment and brutality once again took to the streets and by 9.30 pm over 1,000 police had been drafted to Brixton.

The British government commissioned an inquiry and a report was published by the head of the inquiry, Lord Scarman, in November 1981. In his report Scarman highlighted “racial disadvantage that is a fact of British life” as being a causal factor behind the April disturbances.

The following video, the first of five, analyses the background to the disturbances:

By: Amma Fosuah

“Always bear in mind that people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.” Amilcar Cabral

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