Britain’s 1919 race riot was one of the most violent periods of racial turmoil in the 20th century. The riot which was reported to have taken place in cities across the UK, including Cardiff, Salford, and Liverpool and was in part sparked by political, social anger and economic anger.
It was reportedly started by white union workers and demobilized white servicemen against Arabs, Blacks, Chinese and ethnic minority communities and businesses across black communities.
The population of blacks in Liverpool swelled drastically after World War 1, a time the entire nation was in an economic recession. However, the presence of the blacks in London and Liverpool have always been immense since the 16th century. Really a difficult period it was, as there was a shortage of labor and shrinkage of industries in port cities such as Cardiff and Liverpool.
There were many targets on Blacks and other ethnic groups by White working-class union workers and former servicemen who lacked the resources to challenge shipping magnates. This led to them driving out or targeting Blacks and other ethnic groups who they saw as foreign competitors for jobs and for the attention of white women, thus threatening Britain’s post-war national identity.
From January 23 to 30 in Glasgow, the British Seafarers Union and the National Sailors’ and Fireman’s Union (NSFU) held anti-immigrant labor conferences blaming foreigners for undercutting the white British employment. A fight broke out on January 1919, when black and white seamen waiting to see if they would be hired started jostling each other. Everything spiraled out of control when White bystanders joined in, using knives and makeshift weapons to attack blacks.
As one of the most Black populated city in Britain, Liverpool experienced the most “ferocious and sustained” rioting in June 1919. Liverpool’s rioting crowd extended up to 10,000 with White rioters lynching Charles Wootton, a young Afro-Caribbean, its main frontrunner. 700 ethnic minorities were temporarily removed from their homes and sought police protection out of fear for their safety.
Blacks, Arabs, and Chinese workers were also shot at during the riots, while homes and businesses were damaged and burnt down by angry white rioters. There were several calls for the Government to reimburse victims for damaged properties but it never happened. Rather the police arrested dozens of rioters.
Blacks in Salford faced their own deadly attack in Mid-June as their properties were destroyed. This witnessed a very slow intervention by the Salford Police. But when the blacks started retaliating against the whites, the police intervened immediately and arrested them. The riot had 5 people killed, many injured, while 250 got arrested.
After the June riot, the British Government, which had been watching black communities, intensified its repatriation. It launched a move to repatriate colonial citizens in Britain in February 1919. The Government also began the move of removing colonial citizens from Britain out of fear of another backlash by Blacks. A settlement allowance of £2 to £5, with an additional £5 dis-embankment allowance was offered to the repatriates by the British Government.
Source: Black Past
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