At 11.05 pm last night Radio Five featured caller 'Aki' who said that he was on the streets with other Asian youth to protect the area.'We're scared', he said, 'They're attacking our property - they're attacking our shops'.
Back to the studio, where the host, a PC Ulsterman called Steve, didn't like the tone of Aki's call. 'I suppose there's a danger of getting into a blame game here ... different communities fighting each other' said he, and the others, including the area's Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, agreed that 'we can't let people divide us' and that the "communities" should unite against ... ~ I didn't actually hear the phrase 'the real enemy', but it hovered in the studio.
Of course the 'real enemy', except for the poorest (who are usually the oldest and most vulnerable) have long left the area. I can recall when Albion fans would gather outside the Hawthorns at eleven on the day of a match at Villa Park, then walk, thousands strong, down the Soho Road then left through Lozells to the Villa ground. You'd have to really want a rumble to attempt that now - a couple of thousand white youths would look like an invading army. And you could travel on from Villa Park in a great loop through Bordesley Green to Sparkbrook without ever seeing more than a few natives on the streets.
Today's papers seem as confused as the rumours last night. The Observer states baldly that the clashes were "between Asian and black youths", and that the girl was allegedly raped by three men. Nineteen men, says the Sunday Times, which also reports that "it is understood a gang of up to 30 Asian youths began throwing stones at some of the 300 people attending the meeting in a church". Several of the studio guests and callers on Radio Five had attended the meeting, and none spoke of being attacked as they left. The man who was stabbed to death was burned to death in the Independent's account, which also names the Perry Barr store where the alleged attack occurred.
You'll notice the complete absence of the word 'racist' in the reports. Because only one ethnic group can be racist.
The injured were taken to City Road Hospital, lately home to the great Dalrymple.
And the updated BBC report has a small panel describing the "History Of Tension" in the area - a history going all the way back to 1985. It mentions a 2002 machete attack on a female Asian shopkeeper, as cowardly an outrage against a fine class of women as one could imagine, but has this to say about the Handsworth riots.
"The area also saw the September 1985 Handsworth riots, triggered by the arrest of a black man after a police stop and search".
I told you the three members of an Asian family burned to death in their post office had been completely forgotten. I can't even find their names on the Web.
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