It began with a stop and search. That’s what they tell me. A couple of Asian lads outside the Waterfields Youth Club turned out to be carrying knives. So you’ve got two uniforms trying to disarm a couple of turban-wearing seventeen year-olds. The youths don’t cooperate, of course. And they’re still warm from the evening’s karate class.
It gets ugly after that. Pepper spray. Handcuffs. The shouting draws in every hard case from the terraced streets around. By the time a Support Unit arrives, our boys in blue are separated from their patrol car and all but surrounded. They’re glad when the van comes down the street to rescue them. Doubly glad that it’s got a metal grille to shield the windscreen from the flying bottles.
You know how it is with a crowd like that on an August night. People do stuff they would never try if they were on their own. One person starts rocking the empty patrol car, then there are two, then twenty. Then the car’s on its roof and someone’s messing around with a cigarette lighter. Whoomf! You’ve got yourself a riot.
A car fire gives you two good explosions at least. That’s my experience. One when the petrol in the engine goes up. The next, usually bigger, when the fuel tank blows. That brings in the fire brigade and more people to fill out the crowd.