On the 5th of November, what should have been a celebratory evening of firework displays and bonfires with the local community, turned sinister as violence and mayhem ensued.
Police were called to Harehills Road, around two miles away from the University of Leeds, at 8:20pm- residents had reported a group of youths engaging in anti-social conduct, throwing fireworks and setting bins alight.
The presence of police seemed to escalate the situation as they became the target of an attack. Footage posted to social media shows fireworks hitting a police car, causing it to drive away as youths jeered and whistled. Dozens of Riot police were deployed, and more and more young people joined in, creating a violent scene of opposing sides which one woman’s tweet describes as ‘like a war!’.
Multiple local witnesses report bricks and fireworks being thrown at shop windows, police cars and general traffic. One shocked by passer said “it’s absolute madness” and “literally hundreds of young people, it’s like they are rioting”.
A local man reported :
“They were all coming up the road, they had rockets in their hands and police were backing off,”.
He provided shelter for his neighbours- his door was open and young children “were coming in here to get away from it”.
Video footage shows parked police vans with flashing blue lights, a formation of riot police advancing with shields as fireworks are thrown among them and ricochet off of their shields. Another video shows the police closing off the road, urgently commanding everyone leave. Many surrounding roads had to be closed off and a police helicopter had to assist.
Eventually West Yorkshire Police managed to contain the situation. In a statement they said they used “public order tactics” to disperse the groups and make arrests. The force also announced:
“A number of people have been arrested and investigations are currently ongoing to identify all those involved, with CCTV enquiries being conducted,”. The perpetrators seem to be local males, between the ages of 11 and 23.”
Only two officers were treated for injuries at a hospital and they weren’t seriously hurt, though some had suffered minor injuries. The largest damage seems to have been inflicted on the police cars.
Chief Superintendent Steve Cotter analysed the night, saying that:
“This appears to have been about a hooligan element of local youths seeing an opportunity on Bonfire Night to engage in firework-related disorder on a large scale.”
He doesn’t think it was a result of tension in the community or animosity towards the police.
Featured Image: BBC News