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Liverpool '81

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Table of Contents

List of Figures Acknowledgements Introduction: Remembering the Riots 1. What Happened: Experiences and Memories 2. Police and Community 3. The Inner City 4. Young People and Education 5. Economic Problems and Solutions Conclusion: Looking Back and Moving On Sources and Further Reading Index

About the Author

Diane Frost is Lecturer at the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Liverpool. Richard Phillips is Reader in Geography at the University of Liverpool and author of 'Sex, Politics and Empire: a Postcolonial Geography' (Manchester University Press, 2006) and 'Mapping Men and Empire' (Routledge, 1996).


In July 1981, some of the most violent rioting ever seen in Britain erupted in the Toxteth area of Liverpool. Thirty years on, the local community is still paying the price. After the second night of fire and rage, police burst through the door of the Simon family home in a little terrace along Beaconsfield Street in Liverpool, snatched 13-year-old Michael and flung him on to a pile of other young bodies packed into the back of a van. "I thought I was going to be killed," recalls Michael. "There were 10 in the van and I was on top - only a small, thin lad, taking most of the beatings. They beat me until I could hardly feel it any more and I thought that was it for me." Michael was one of 500 people arrested over nine nights of wrath - three decades ago this weekend - during which 470 police officers were also injured, a disabled man was killed by a police vehicle and 70 buildings incinerated. The so-called "Toxteth riots" of July 1981 were the most virulent single uprising on the British mainland within living memory, and have been considered the most far-reaching. "Back then," says Michael Simon, "you saw it from where you stood: I was 13 years old, and from my point of view, it was about police brutality, which was invariably racist. Only with hindsight did we realise that it was about the machine, the system, the whole thing." Michael was born in Beaconsfield Street, one of six, to a father from Liverpool of west African, Antiguan and Irish descent and a Scouse-Irish mother. His father worked as an electro-plater for Triumph and Ford where the chemicals he handled preparing chrome badly damaged his health. For the boys in the family, says Michael, "harassment by the police was a daily thing, especially for the boys older than me. My older brother, our Brian, was forever being beaten up by the police; not even arrested sometimes - just beaten up. One time he was accused of robbing lead from a roof, and my mum had to go down the street and jump on top of him so he wouldn't get battered, and she got arrested too." Michael Simon's mother, Mary, has been rehoused now to a new home in the heart of Toxteth. The homestead is all coming and going of a morning, Mary's daughter Karen making tea in her hospital staff tunic before Michael and his brother swing round. Although I was younger and had paler skin than Brian," says Michael, "I still got picked on. I remember one time I was getting on the bus at Lodge Lane after school, with my brown leather sports bag. A car had been robbed and the police pulled up in a van and grabbed me off the bus and started going through my bag. And I thought: 'If a car's been robbed, what's that got to do with my bag?'" After the riots, however, "in the immediate aftermath, we'd lifted the fear. We'd established a no-go area. We were too powerful even for the police." The insurgency, he says, had erupted from "a new confidence in our identity; we had nothing to apologise for". Like the anniversary of any tumultuous occasion, that of the Toxteth riots has many, often conflicting, voices and histories, and tomorrow a book is published - Liverpool '81: Remembering the Riots - that seeks, says one of its editors, Richard Phillips, "to hear some of the unheard voices" (of which Michael is one). The book coincides with the opening of an exhibition this weekend at Liverpool's Museum of Slavery, at which a collection of unseen pictures of the riots will be shown, taken by unknown photographers and donated to a law centre that opened in their wake (now closed). It is curated by the Merseyside Black History Initiative and Sonia Bassey Williams, who herself grew up, she says, "in a street where you couldn't stand outside your own home without the police threatening to arrest you for soliciting. I was 15, and had to go and look up what 'soliciting' meant." From the establishment's point of view, the riots were an alarm call said to have changed the face of policing in Britain and led to what national and local authorities have since called the "regeneration" of the inner cities. But as Michael Simon and I walked down Beaconsfield Street last week, we did so through an urban graveyard: the home from which he was wrenched by the police in 1981 boarded up and condemned, like almost all the others, for 18 years. What politicians since the riots have called "regeneration", Michael and his one-time, now scattered, neighbours call "degeneration"; plans with names such as "New Heartlands" are known here locally as "New Heartbreak". Even the riots themselves have two names: as with the names "Londonderry" and "Derry", you declare yourself. "People say 'Toxteth riots' or 'Liverpool 8 uprising' depending on their politics," says Michael. The label locating "Toxteth" rather than "Liverpool 8" was that of the national media at the time, he says, because of a sign on Princes Avenue, opposite a drive-in bank and what was the Rialto furniture store, both famously targeted and gutted by fire in 1981. The summer riots of that year - during which CS gas was used for the first time in the UK outside Northern Ireland - were the latest in a series of insurgencies, beginning in St Pauls, Bristol, during 1980. The following year, between 10 and 12 April in Brixton, south London, black youths fought the police and burned buildings, and in early July there were violent clashes between Asian youths and racist skinheads in Southall, west London. Within days of the uprising in Toxteth, a police station was attacked in Moss Side, Manchester and between 11 and 12 July, disturbances and riots were reported from 20 places, including Leeds, Hull and elsewhere. Underpinning these outbreaks were the themes of discrimination against black people in an increasingly precarious economy, bitter hostility in the inner cities to the government of Margaret Thatcher and several years of assaults on black and Asian communities by the National Front, which had in turn provoked the formation of the Anti-Nazi League, street-fighting by anti-fascists and, in 1977, the "Battle of Lewisham" in London. The 1976 Notting Hill carnival had ended with running battles between the police and black youths chanting: "Soweto, Soweto", after the uprising there and repressions in apartheid South Africa earlier in the year. Strong cultural currents flowed through the period, including the influence of American ghetto soul music, and arrival of songs by Bob Marley. "It's easy to look back through rose-tinted spectacles," says Michael now, "but in the 1970s, there was a real confidence within the culture that something could be done." But the overt reason for the serial disturbances was the ubiquitously appalling treatment of black youths by the police. Harassment, intimidation and wanton arrest were integral to the fabric of young black life, invariably applied by flagrant abuse of the so-called suspected persons, or "sus" law, a section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act that permitted police officers to arrest anyone loitering "with intent to commit an arrestable offence" - which in Britain's ghettoes had come to mean almost anyone between the ages of 13 and 30. "David" - not his real name - is a community activist who was born in the predominantly white Park Road area of Toxteth, the second youngest child of a father who had been a sailor from Guyana and retrained as a toolmaker, while his mother was Welsh/Irish, from Liverpool. With such quintessential Scouse lineage, David says: "I'm mixed race but I don't refer to myself that way. I'm comfortable with describing myself as black British." He recalls: "Growing up in the 70s, there were black gangs that used to fight the white gangs, but we lived in a white area. My mum was white and my dad was black so you would be caught in the middle. And I went to a black school, stuck in the middle of it all. So I did not know what this fighting was about, but slowly became aware of what racism was when people from time to time would call me a nigger, coon, wog... the list went on." However, says David: "I'd constantly be stopped because I lived in a white area, generally on the basis of 'What are you doing here?' I remember an incident regarding my brother. It was back in the late 70s, and we were all pigeon mad. It was a craze like the Rubik's Cube, skateboards and BMX bikes: pigeon pens, and pigeons. I remember my brother had gone out one morning with two of his white friends looking for pigeons. When I eventually got to speak to him and asked him what had happened and how he came to be arrested, he told me that when the police first ran after them they were shouting to others that joined the chase to grab 'the black one'. They caught all three of them and then proceeded to let the two white lads go." David recalls: "We soon learned that the only place where there was any visible racial equality in Britain was either in the job centres or in prison, and there were as many whites rioting in 1981 as there were blacks, because having the postcode L8 could stop you getting a job even if you were white. There were white people being subjected to the treatment being dished up to us. When these race wars back in the 70s were over, the community - although fragmented - started to mix, and people would get to know each other." Although the uprising in Liverpool shared many underlying causes with those elsewhere, there were crucial, deep-rooted singularities, to do with the city and its history, and the unique make-up and origins of its black community. Michael Simon says: "There was a kind of hybrid pride in being a Liverpool-born black. The identity was black, but it was 'Liverpool-born black'. I don't remember thinking that we were taking up what was happening in London - in fact, people came up from Brixton, and I remember one man saying it was 'full of red men' up here, meaning mixed-race people, like he didn't think we were proper black people." The conversation shifts, as it invariably does - and importantly - in Liverpool 8, back to the history of the city and its black community, the key to understanding why Toxteth was the most violent of the insurgencies of 1981, and, over the long term of 30 years, the most thoroughly punished. "I mean, it was obvious, even to me at the age of 13," says Michael, "that if it's all about cohesion and integration, then Liverpool 8 should have been a shining example, par excellence. But it wasn't - the discrimination was worse here than Manchester or anywhere else. Why wasn't it the shining example? Well, it's what [sociologist] Paul Gilroy writes, isn't it? That complex: mixed-race kids remind the greater part of a racist society about the union of black and white, and they just can't handle it." All riots and urban insurgencies have far deeper roots than newspaper headlines afford them, and those in Liverpool 8 stretch further into history (and geography) than most. There is first the singular history of Liverpool itself, and what the city's leading historian, John Belchem' pro-vice chancellor of the university, calls the "exceptionalism" that marks Liverpool out from the rest of Britain, stitching its narrative to the Atlantic Ocean more than that of the land on which Liverpool turns its back. This identity is precious to the sage of Liverpool and most immediately recognisable voice of the city's people, Jimmy McGovern, known for his work on Brookside, Cracker, Hillsborough, The Street and the rest. "When you are a port city," says McGovern, "you look out, not back inland over your shoulder. Only when you are at sea are you looking towards the land, as my own family did when they came here from County Fermanagh; probably heading for America but presumably alighting with a certain fecklessness: 'This'll do.' And in Toxteth, you have the Harlem of Europe. When we had the capital of culture here in 2008, the slogan was 'The World In One City', but that was only really true of Liverpool 8: black people called Riley and Williams, Irish women bearing children to West African sailors, and all of them, in some way, children of the sea." Then there are the origins of what are called "Liverpool-born blacks", of which Michael Simon's and David's rich lineage is typical. It is an epic narrative in its own right and one that belongs to - as the title of a famous book by Paul Gilroy calls it - "the Black Atlantic", and all its shores from which slaves, migrants and seamen sailed: African, American, British, Caribbean - and even, in the case of Liverpool, Irish and Welsh. It is a narrative that led American academic Jacqueline Nassy Brown to conclude after an exhaustive survey of so-called "LBBs" that reference to a "black community" in Liverpool does not always mean black people, and it explains why Michael was often called "that blond Afro kid". "If you were black, you went to sea," says part-time university lecturer Mike Boyle, sipping a pint with others who were - like him - laid off at some point from Merseyside's factories and shipyards. Boyle progressed from the streets of Liverpool 8, via work at Plessey, to become a historian of this singular community, and thereby the deep roots of the 1981 riots. He traces his ancestry to west Africa, the slave plantations of Barbados and Ireland, but grew up in Liverpool 8, a truly fine citizen of this black/green/Scouse Atlantic. "My great-grandmother was a Fenian in Dublin," he says, "and Grandfather Boyle moved to 135th Street in Harlem." Back in Liverpool, however: "My great-grandfather on my mother's side was a qualified ship's captain, but was never allowed to sail out of Liverpool as such, because the crews would not take orders from a black captain. My father was an engine-room foreman - a 'donkey-man' - in the merchant marine, but when he applied for a job with Cunard, he was told: 'We have to consider our American passengers', and that was it, no work, even though he pointed out to them that the 'American passengers' would never see him. He had sailed to Brazil and Argentina; he was a man of the world, but his was the last great seafaring generation of the city." Liverpool 8 never has been the poorest part of the city. That would be the north side, and hinterland behind the docks, economically savaged by the gradual closure of Liverpool's mighty port, despite serial resistance by one of the most stalwart movements in British labour history. The dockside was mainly white work, though the crews were black, and both suffered as seafaring ceased to be Liverpool's pride and grind. As work at sea declined, blacks like whites sought other work, Mike Boyle too. Liverpool 8 lives cheek-by-jowl not only with the sea but with the city-centre shops, where young Mike tried to find work as a window-dresser, and was given a job, only to be told when his boss returned from headquarters: "'I'm sorry, but when you are in the window, you represent the company.' I was 17 years old." "Yes," says David, "I was in the riots. I remember thinking at the time that these bizzies or pigs, as we referred to them then, only patrol our community - but we live here. The police had started a war, and we as a community were going to fight that war. There they were, thugs dressed up in riot gear, shields and truncheons. They did not look like they do now - like Robocop - but they were spoiling for this confrontation and confrontation is what they brought upon themselves. All it would have taken was a simple radio message to control asking for a registration check and a major riot would have been prevented: their suspicion was that a black man they had stopped on a motorbike - his motorbike - was not the owner and instead of performing that simple task, they wanted to take him away. From this failure to make that radio call, a scuffle ensued - a couple of bricks were thrown and it escalated into a full-blown riot. And once we'd decided to fight, we walloped 'em ... They'd been putting us down and oppressing us for a long time and I certainly don't remember the word mercy appearing in the police handbook when dealing with us people in Toxteth. This was payback, this was our turn... "It always amazes me when I look back that more people were not killed on both sides. And look at the one who died, David Moore, disabled and run down - and no justice for that lad." Michael was a witness to that single death: "The police were getting a lot more violent, a lot more equipped. They were calling it dispersal at the time; it was basically ramming people. I always remember this guy running because we are all running and he was hobbling and I thought he'd hurt his leg ... We were running to the fence, thinking they couldn't get past this bollard, and this guy just went that way and, well, the [police vehicle] just flattened him, and went right over him. I think he died there and then, and he was disabled so apparently he couldn't get out of the way." The official aftershock and aftermath of the riots is well recorded. In London, Lord Scarman would conclude - after the Brixton riots - that moves towards positive discrimination favouring black people in society would be a "price worth paying". Lord Gifford, tasked to report on Liverpool, found that racial discrimination had been "uniquely horrific" in the city. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously dispatched Michael Heseltine to be minister for Merseyside and launch a garden festival site, which is now a wasteland. Thirty years on from the riots, one walks up Prince's Avenue, past what was the incinerated Rialto and the sign into Toxteth, and yet another sign promising imminent arrival into the "Regeneration Zone", and showing pictures of a perfect cereal-packet multiracial family, pristine modern houses and beautifully refurbished original stock - beneath which is the inevitable crass slogan that accompanies every corporate or political effort these days, always beginning with a pretentious gerund, in this case: "Creating neighbourhoods for the future". When you turn left into that future, and along Granby Street, once the spinal cord of Toxteth, you walk into what feels like a tomb. The eerie streets are all but deserted, Victorian terraced houses of good solid stock condemned, abandoned and empty for 18 years now, their windows either bricked up or covered in steel sheeting, as though to obliterate any family or human life - any memory of Christmas, love, argument or sex the household may once have held. Each violent metal sheet bears the logo of Liverpool City Council on a sticker, sometimes accompanied by that of a partner such as "IPS security for the community", with all the grotesque irony of that particular slogan. Along other funereal, destitute streets - people's former homes arranged like mausoleums in a cemetery - activists against Liverpool's city-wide demolition psychosis have painted bright curtains on the concrete or steel, and flowers in pots sitting on imaginary window sills, an attempt to simultaneously mock the authorities, and compensate for their vandalism. Doubling back further up Granby Street, one reaches some of the appalling "regenerative" modern housing that has replaced the terraced streets already fallen to Liverpool's random wrecking ball: some of them - ersatz Lego bricks of the cheapest materials - are already dilapidated, while others almost new are managing to last a few years, like Michael Simon's mother's new house on Cawdor Street. Michael explains: "Mum was told to leave Beaconsfield Street while they repaired the house. They put her into temporary accommodation in Kingsley Road and while she was there, they told her that her home was beyond repair, and would have to be demolished. Then, just as she was settling in, they told her that the temporary house was due for demolition too, so she would have to move to a new house." Michael makes instant coffee in the kitchen of the new house, surrounded by wasteland. Of the devastation outside the front door, Mary Simon's daughter Karen says: "At that time, up to 1981, they wanted the black community in the same place, in the ghetto. But after the riots, they needed to disperse the community, to break it up, so it'd never happen again. Only thing is, they broke up the shops, they broke up the identity, they broke up where we grew up." Michael continues: "It's been a long campaign by the council and the housing associations that have carved up Liverpool to get people out of their homes, because someone has worked out that there's no quick profit in refurbishment of the good old, existing stock." We head out for a walk, over the garbage-strewn urban prairie on which terraced houses once stood and the riots once flared, to what is left of the top of Granby Street. "On that block, they started with the grocery," says Michael, pointing at the faded, painted sign, "Granby Green", and the steel shutters that are all that remain of its once-bright facade. "But that was the centre of our lives," Michael adds with more than a little yearning, pointing to the condemned Frontline Video Store on the corner, "the Rasta place where we listened to reggae records. The last to go was Javi, the Pakistani store there; he held out for God knows how long. Once, this place may have been a shit-hole, but it was teeming, hopping, crowded" - and we squelch our way past Desolation Row to a little corner of Cairns Street where the resolute people remain. Local property developers do exist, ready and willing to fight to preserve the existing stock, renovate it and let local people remain, and their number includes none other than the Amoo brothers, Eddy and Chris, of the Real Thing, Liverpool 8's most celebrated band and composers of the hits "You to Me Are Everything", "Can't Get By Without You" and - more importantly - the anthem of, and soundtrack to, the riots, "Children of the Ghetto". The brothers and Eddy's wife Sylvia now run a property company called ECAM (the brothers' initials), which Eddy Amoo calls "my retirement plan" along with proceeds from the myriad silver discs climbing up his sitting room wall. "We like to bring buildings back to what they were," he says. "Obviously, it's got to be done commercially, but we don't want to knock things down. We're against the hidden agenda that will see Granby Street disappear, or that lovely church on Princes Avenue, where someone is just waiting until it is so dilapidated it'll fall down. And we're against ruining landmarks: look at the Rialto, where we learned what we know about music. Have you seen it? They've turned it into offices, a piece of junk." Liverpool's fixation with the wrecking ball is not party-political - it was passed from a Labour council to the Lib Dems and now back to Labour - nor is it unique to Toxteth. Swathes of structurally sound Victorian terraced housing in Anfield around Liverpool FC's ground are feeling the Toxteth bricked-up window "regeneration" effect, as did Smithdown Road and - in a recent controversy - the flattened Edge Lane and Kensington area to which many people from Toxteth were "rehoused", as the polite term has it, after the riots. Once again, Liverpool's sage and jester, Jimmy McGovern, is the voice of the people (for him, the destruction of Edge Lane, ostensibly for a road-widening of a matter of inches, was the last straw). Five years ago, I walked with McGovern around the "Granby triangle" riot zone, which, he explained, "I wouldn't visit often as a white working-class lad, unless it was to buy all that fantastic fruit, mangoes and stuff, which - if my memory doesn't play tricks - were sold off wooden draymen's carts." McGovern was fuming with rage: "If this is regeneration, what's vandalism?" he spat. "If this is the capital of culture, what's a philistine? These are decent houses, left to rack and ruin. I mean what is their problem? We've been through all this in the 1960s; we know what a disaster it is - don't they learn anything?" Now, we meet in what is quite simply one of the best bars in the world: the Casa on Hope Street at the edge of Liverpool 8, which in my day on Merseyside was an estimably sleazy dive called the Casablanca. The Casablanca has since closed, and McGovern contributed the proceeds of his film Dockers - about the strike from 1995 to 1998 - to retrain laid-off dockers as sparks and carpenters, fit up the Casa and open it as a bar, social club, "initiative factory" and activist advice centre. In practice, it is a hive lined with union plaques for political discourse and football talk, such as Jimmy and I are engaging in of a Wednesday lunchtime. "I'm starting to hope that it is corruption," McGovern says of the demolitions in Toxteth and beyond. "At least that would make sense, it would mean someone is getting something dodgy out of it. Because if it isn't corruption, it's real madness. At least corruption would provide a motive. What would be really scary would be if they really are that crap." But of course there's the possibility, McGovern continues, "that this is managed decline. Any fool can see that in Kensington, the bit they 'regenerated' went to seed, while the bit they left alone just got on with its life. People come in from out of town, have their 'regeneration scheme' and fuck off with the money to spend it somewhere else. The idea is that these areas will only succeed when the people who live here can no longer afford to live here. It all makes sense if you detach the argument from the people - but what about the people? What are you going to do with them? Well, you knock their houses down and ship 'em out." "People from round here are all over the place now," says David, after lentil soup and a discussion of the night in 1981 that he chased the police, when the Victorian terraces still stood - and burned. David says of his own block, on the borderline where the ambitions of two universities to house more students meet the old community that has lived there for at least two generations: "With rents controlled, the housing associations raise the service charges to stupid levels they know we can't afford: up 43% in 2005, and 245% in 2006. And then mess around with parent companies that don't have charitable status buying up subsidiaries that do. They bring money to the city, but who gets that money? People from outside. Even if we do get jobs, they're the lowest-paid work there is. All that crap about getting on your bike - they're not offering local people apprenticeships or opportunities. It is nepotism, jobs for the boys if your face fits - and black ones usually don't. They call it regeneration, but it's a white lie, it's a farce, an even bigger farce if you're black. These people go to Europe demanding money and using our community and the racial diversity that exists within our community to draw down money because this community ticks all the right boxes. And when they get that money, do they create jobs, employ people from that community? Do they fuck!" It's raining hard now, in high June, and David makes his last point through the damp night air: "First, there was deindustrialisation, now there's recession, and you hear people worried about losing their jobs and how they will now in all probability have to work longer for their pensions. It makes some of us quite jealous, because at least you had jobs consistently enough to enable you to build a pension in the first place. I look at these people now and think to myself: 'Welcome to our world. Welcome back to 1981.'" Liverpool '81: Remembering The Riots, edited by Diane Frost and Richard Phillips, is published tomorrow by Liverpool University Press. The exhibition Toxteth '81 opens this weekend at the Museum of Slavery, Liverpool A ROYAL Wedding - and unrest on the streets. Viewed from the vantage point of 2011, there is something uncomfortably familiar about the events of 30 years ago. It was the time when first Brixton, and then Toxteth, Moss Side, Handsworth and many other inner-city areas erupted in orgies of violence. A mixture of racial tensions, poverty, unemployment, hopelessness, powerlessness and insensitive policing all came together with explosive results. In today's catch-phrase, it was a perfect storm. The Toxteth riots were the most destructive. Four nights of rioting saw 150 buildings burned down, 258 police officers treated in hospital and 160 arrests. There were sporadic outbreaks of violence right through into August. The final toll was 781 police injured, 214 vehicles damaged and one man dead - a rioter or an innocent bystander, according to whichever version of events you choose. A badly-hurt policeman also died five years later as a direct consequence of his injuries. To mark the 30th anniversary of the riots, Liverpool University Press has published a new book looking at the riots and their aftermath, and the personal memories of those involved. Liverpool 81: Remembering the Riots was edited by Diane Frost and Richard Phillips, of Liverpool University, with all royalties going towards the Liverpool Black History Project. The Toxteth riots are said to have started on the evening of Friday, July 3, when police intercepted a suspected stolen motorcycle in Selbourne Street. They tried to arrest the rider, a crowd gathered, and in the scuffle that followed a young black man was arrested while the bike rider made his escape. Toxteth Riots 1981 - a Liverpool 8 perspective (watch below) Read More Comments (2)Recommend (1) Toxteth riots In the words of the Merseyside Community Relations Council: "For the next four hours, groups of young people roamed the area and threw stones at any passing police vehicle. "Anger was further accentuated both during the Friday night and during the day on Saturday as word spread of Leroy Cooper's arrest." At the same time, a policeman had been killed trying to stop a suspected stolen car in the city centre. The two men arrested and eventually jailed for manslaughter were not from the Toxteth area - but the incident did nothing to help the police mood over the weekend. Full-scale rioting erupted late on the Saturday night and lasted until 8.30 the following morning - mainly around the top end of Upper Parliament Street. Then all hell broke loose the following night, on the Sunday. That was when the police had to retreat down Upper Parliament Street and the Rialto and the Racquet Club burned down. With no police cover in Lodge Lane, looters and arsonists ran amok. As the first light of dawn broke, the police, by now reinforced with officers across the country, regrouped and fired CS gas shells near the Rialto. It took them an hour to regain Upper Parliament Street after the first, and so far only, time the gas was used in Britain outside Northern Ireland. An uneasy peace of sorts followed. There were isolated outbreaks of rioting throughout the month. Notably on the night of July 28, when David Moore, from Wavertree, died after he was hit by a police van charging a group of rioters. Two policeman faced trial over his death the following year, but they were eventually acquitted on the order of the judge. The repercussions went far and wide. A relatively new Conservative government, with a combative Prime Minister, in Margaret Thatcher, suddenly had to rediscover the virtues of old-fashioned one-nation Toryism. It came in the shape of Michael Heseltine, Minister of the Environment and in Conservative terms something of a left-winger. He arrived in the city on July 21 and stayed here for three solid weeks, talking and listening. The following month, his package was ready: a series of economic and environmental incentives, and new bodies to bypass local bureaucracies and politicians - there was a Liberal administration in Liverpool, but the Merseyside County Council was Labour-run. Liverpool Slavery Museum exhibition marks 30 years since 1981 Toxteth riots (watch below) Read More Only weeks before the riots, the Merseyside Development Corporation had been set up to speed through a package of redevelopment initiatives. And the MDC found itself in the right place at the right time to blaze a way forward. Most eye-catching was the International Garden Festival on the former rubbish tip in Dingle - still technically Toxteth, although well away from the riot area. A long debate about the future of the disused Albert Dock suddenly became more urgent. And 1984 saw the culmination of both the Garden Festival and the Tate Gallery, now a jewel in Liverpool's crown. Upper Parliament Street, the scene where police had to beat an ignominious retreat, is now dominated by the new Women's Hospital, opened in 1997, and the main thoroughfares are now spick and span. The first national business to move back was NatWest Bank, which was rebuilt in a matter of months, and a new Rialto has arisen. But, within the so-called Granby Triangle, scene of most of the rioting, there are still patches of waste ground cleared in 1981 and awaiting redevelopment. New communities, especially from Yemen and eastern Europe, have moved into the area. The Georgian Quarter, north of Upper Parliament Street, has become one of the most desirable parts of the city. Police officers still take a robust line at times - but there is little doubt they are far more racially sensitive than they were in 1981. But figures for economic activity remain depressingly poor. Educational achievement is patchy, income per head is low and unemployment is high, especially among the black and minority ethnic community - BME in local government-speak. Toxteth still has a way to go. LIVERPOOL 1981: Remembering the Riots, is published by Liverpool University Press in paperback, GBP14.95 Sonia Bassey-Williams on living in Toxteth during the 1981 riots (watch below) Timeline of the Toxteth riots July 1981 July 4, 1981 MERSEYSIDE police would have been in no mood for messing even before the spark was lit on the Toxteth riots on the evening of Saturday, July 4 1981. Early in the morning of the same day, a policeman had been killed in the city centre as he tried to stop a stolen car. He had been part of the Operational Support Division, the same squad that found itself in the centre of the riots only hours later. Constable Raymond Davenport had flagged down the Ford Escort in Roe Street, near the Royal Court Theatre, at 2am on Saturday, just as the city clubs were emptying on to the streets. As he leaned into the vehicle, it sped away, dragging PC Davenport with it as it crashed into a bus shelter. He was rushed to the Royal Liverpool Hospital, where he died of his injuries two hours later. Two young men from Broadgreen, Jeffrey Jaycock and Anthony Kelly, were eventually convicted of PC Davenport's manslaughter and sentenced to nine years in prison, although Kelly was later released on appeal. PC Davenport was posthumously awarded a Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct in 1983. JULY 5 JUST after midnight, columns of police advance towards 300 youths and are attacked by bricks and petrol bombs. Gangs build a barricade and pelt passing drivers with stones at the Grove Street junction. Police battle through the mayhem behind plastic shields, as rioters loot businesses and set buildings and cars alight. At 8pm, a gang loots Galleon wine lodge and breaks into the Unigate Dairy. The mob aims milk floats at the lines of police. Rioters then hit Kenning Tyre Service,. and within hours most of Upper Parliament Street is ablaze. The 150-year-old hang-out for the wealthy classes - the irreplaceable Racquet Club - and the former Rialto ballroom and cinema are burned out. The NatWest bank, the country's first drive-in branch, is looted. Even though 800 police take part in the operation their equipment proves inadequate against the petrol bombs and blazing vehicles. JULY 6 THE sky glowed red over Toxteth as looters and rioters took to the streets and ripped the heart out of the community. Youngsters, some apparently as young as 10, helped destroy a number of famous landmarks. Outbreaks of trouble flared across the area, stretching to Park Road, in Dingle, where shops were looted. At the height of the violence, one side of Upper Parliament Street appeared to be ablaze from end to end as hundreds of youths pelted police with rocks and petrol bombs. Nearby, almost every shop in Lodge Lane was looted, and whites and blacks staggered under heavy loads as they made off with their ill-gotten pains. At the height of the riots, police used CS gas to quell the gangs of looters. Thousands of pounds were believed to have been stolen from the National Westminster Bank at the corner of Upper Parliament Street and Princes Avenue before young thieves, many wearing face masks, set the building on fire. JULY 7 AFTER a meeting with Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw, Liverpool council leader Sir Trevor Jones talked of what he believed Toxteth needed in the aftermath of the riots. "It needs a rapid return to normality. We must clear the area, restore the services and get the shops re-established in temporary accommodation. "We need tempers to cool, politicians to shut up and the media to go home," he added, hinting that the Government would consider picking up the bill for damage. "It would be rough justice if Merseyside ratepayers had to pick up the bill, and I doubt the Home Secretary would allow it." WAVERTREE Tory MP Anthony Steen called for the Government to send in the Army to keep the peace in Liverpool. Mr Steen suggested the Territorial Army should be given the job. JULY 8 MANCHESTER'S Moss Side was hit by street violence during the night leaving shops gutted and a trail of damage estimated at more than GBP250,000. JULY 9 PRINCE Charles offers to help Toxteth. JULY 10 PRIME Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher called off a planned visit to Toxteth's trouble spots after civic leaders got in touch with Downing Street. She had intended to visit the city on the afternoon of the 10th, touring Upper Parliament Street and Lodge Lane, seeing injured policemen in hospital and making a visit to the Town hall to meet civic heads during there major debate on the Toxteth riots. But after a morning of uncertainty during which the telephone lines between the city and Downing Street were hot the planned visit was called off. A brief official statement from the Chief Executive's office in Liverpool said they had no information about a visit from the Prime Minister. JULY 11 VIOLENCE erupted in Cantril Farm. Police battled with hundreds of teenage rioters after looters brought havoc to the centre of the area. Hours earlier terrified residents fled as the mob of 300 white teenagers rampaged through the middle of the sprawling high-rise council estate - hurling petrol bombs, bricks and other missiles. Thirty years ago the Toxteth riots sparked off a chain reaction that led to disturbances across the country. As Jamie Kenny finds, they also led to social and political changes that resonate today The night of 3 July 1981 started just like any other night in Liverpool 8. That was the problem. Police had stopped and questioned a local youth riding a motorcycle on Shelbourne Road. Liverpool police made frequent use of the stop and search powers granted to them under the "sus laws" operating at the time to a point that local residents, especially among the black community, insisted amounted to systematic harassment. There had been signs for a number of weeks that people were finally reaching their limit. "It was kind of like a build-up - you had so many incidents of people just about having enough so rather than standing passively and shouting names at the police when they were arresting someone, there were a few incidents," said local resident Michael Simon, who was 13 at the time. On the night of 3 July, some friends of the motorbike rider came over to remonstrate with the police. One of them, Leroy Cooper, was put under arrest and driven away in a police van under a hail of stones from an increasingly large and angry crowd. Three police were injured in running fights with crowds of local youth that night. Three days and nights of pitched battles followed. Police reinforcements were called in from all over the UK. A stream of reinforcements also joined the rioters from elsewhere in Merseyside and beyond, each with their own grievances against the police. A selfreinforcing dynamic of violence took over. According to "Nick", then a local 18 year old: "What was scary about it was the police standing there with these batons, and then banging the batons on these shields, as if it was a war. I suppose that's the way they had to try and intimidate people to get them off the streets. But I think it did the opposite. I think people started saying: 'Look, that's a gang, and we're a gang.'" By the time disturbances finally guttered out some six weeks later, one man was dead, almost 800 policemen were injured, 542 people had been arrested and 70 buildings destroyed. The Toxteth riots, as they became known, were not the first that year. Brixton had erupted in April, with the sus laws again providing the proximate cause. But Toxteth set off a chain reaction. Two weeks later, rioting erupted in Manchester's Moss Side, where the police station was besieged by angry crowds for three days. More major riots followed in Birmingham and Leeds. By 10 July that year, disturbances had been reported in Leicester, Preston, Blackburn, Sheffield, Newcastle, Luton, Wolverhampton, Stockport and - believe it or not - Ellesmere Port and Chester. The consequences are still felt today. In their new book Liverpool '81- Remembering the Riots, Diane Frost and Richard Phillips of Liverpool University write that the events were "called a 'turning point in British politics' because they 'destroyed at a stroke the myth of police invincibility', and because they drew attention to wider social and economic tensions that could no longer be ignored". The rioting in Liverpool, Manchester and elsewhere has helped shape the economic, social and law enforcement environment in which we all live today. The people who actually rioted on those July nights had no knowledge of all that. Nor do they have any regrets. "I wouldn't say the people we spoke to were proud of being rioters as such," says Frost. "But they were very clear on the fact that they weren't starting a fight: they were fighting back." Co-author Phillips adds: "There was a real distinction as well between the first night and subsequent nights, when people came in from other parts of Liverpool. For the people who were there on the first night, it's very much a case of: that was the night we made a stand." That view is reflected in the experience of a man the authors call David, who was a 16-year-old youth at the time of the riots. "The only thing I can make the analogy with is like in a war situation, where you see people doing things which you're just thinking 'fantastic'... you're actually inspired by these things, by what some people are doing and the solidarity - there was none of this leaving people alone. There were incidents where people were getting arrested and we'd surround the police van and pull them out." Policing in Liverpool was certainly informed by dubious attitudes at the top. According to then Chief Constable Kenneth Oxford, Liverpool had a problem with "half castes" who lived "well outside recognised society". In testimony to Lord Scarman's inquiry into the riots, Oxford spoke of the "natural criminal proclivities" of people in Liverpool 8. Current police chief Jon Murphy, then a policeman on the beat in Toxteth, told the authors of Liverpool '81 that the police "weren't sensitive to racial issues in the way they are today. Inclusivity, diversity were not words in the police lexicon". That began to change after the riots. The Scarman Report, which was mainly concerned with the Brixton riots but also examined the situation in Liverpool, called for greater emphasis on community policing. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 also set out legally enforceable codes of practice for police behaviour and codified suspects' rights. Local police opened a station on Granby Street in the heart of Liverpool 8 five years after the riots. Toxteth, says Chief Constable Murphy, now serves as a model for the rest of Merseyside Police to engage with local communities. It's also a model that has extended beyond Merseyside. "In the wider policing world the 1980s saw a big 'Anderton versus Alderson' debate," says Phil Edwards, lecturer in criminology at Manchester University, in reference to Chief Constable Geoffrey Alderson from Devon, the champion of community outreach, and James Anderton, Manchester's famously hardline police chief. In the end, he says, policing adopted elements of both techniques. "The police have the tactics and equipment to go in very, very hard if they feel the need," he says. "But at the same time you don't get the situation where communities regard the police as the enemy. If people see police stopping someone these days, they won't intervene. That's partly because levels of trust are higher, but also partly because the police don't look like commissionaires anymore. They look as though they mean business." Shortly after the Toxteth riots, then environment secretary Michael Heseltine commented that a Conservative government could do nothing other than support the forces of law and order. But, as this implies, it could do other things as well. "Heseltine already had a plan involving private sector-led redevelopment of inner cities and urban areas," says Phillips. "What happened in 1981 gave him the opportunity to push these plans into a higher gear." Soon the self-appointed minister for Merseyside was making weekly visits to Liverpool, pushing ahead with plans to renovate the environment, rebuild the city's crumbling infrastructure and attract attention-grabbing events, leading with the International Garden Festival of 1984. Residents of Liverpool 8 were baffled as to why "a five month pageant of horticultural excellence" should be thought of as the answer to their problems. "As people said, it was a project which had nothing to do with them, which they couldn't get jobs on, which charged too much for them to get in, and which they didn't want to see anyway," says Frost. But Heseltine was after something much bigger: a template for urban development as a whole that was rapidly adopted outside Liverpool, a kind of stir-fry of high profile events, environmental beautification, extensive urban redevelopment and relentless public relations, often on the theme of "world classness". Elected local authorities would be high profile advocates for their cities. But much of the work would be in the hands of development quangos with extensive private sector involvement under central government oversight. Liverpool 8 saw some changes. The area's worst social housing was demolished, policing improved and local public bodies opened up their recruitment processes. But, for the most part, the main regeneration caravan passed the area by. Now it seems to have halted altogether. Thirty years on from the long, hot summer of 1981, there's a Conservative-led government in power with austerity very much on its mind. Development quangos were among the first to feel the coalition axe. Cuts to police funds may make it more difficult to conduct the kind of end-to-end policing that evolved as a more sophisticated answer to the problems of public disorder. But that doesn't mean that we're going to see the people take to the streets again. "It's always tempting to see the riots as a kind of easily repeated response to general economic circumstances," says Phillips. "But we need to remember that these weren't identikit rioters but individuals who felt pushed to act through a highly specific set of circumstances." Frost adds: "The community's changed a lot since 1981. I'm not sure there's the same sort of pressure or the same willingness to act. But what the riots did show is that when you push people to the wall they will fight back. That's true then and it's true now." Liverpool '81 - Remembering the Riots, edited by Diane Frost and Richard Phillips, is published by Liverpool University Press Our family were police targets. Back when I was ten years old, I'd have police coming up to me and saying: "We know your family and we're just waiting for you. Your time will come." That kind of thing happened all over Liverpool 8. Families would be targeted, extended families. It wasn't policing - it was an occupation. There was a growing feeling in the weeks before everything started that we weren't going to tolerate it. There was some politics behind it. Liverpool faces the Atlantic and there were influences coming over from America, the Black Panthers, that kind of thing. But it was just a sense that we'd had enough. So when Leroy Cooper was arrested there were people trying to pull him out of the van. More police came and they got him away eventually, and the van got bricked. Then the panda cars came. Normally everyone would just run away at this point but they got attacked. Then the first Black Maria came, and that got attacked as well. By now we really thought that if we stopped then that the police would track us down and just kill us. There were about 50 people that night, but the next day nearly every male I knew in Liverpool 8 was there, a huge crowd of people outside the pub where the women's hospital was built later. There were people making plans, breaking up bricks to be used later. And then a police van turned up, there was some provocation - by them or us I don't know - and it all started again. It was incredible. You had the police and all their riot gear, all the tear gas, but we just pushed them back and back. That was 2,000 yards, maybe, but eventually on the Sunday night we just pushed them out of the area. That's when the crowd broke up and I went home. And then the police started sending snatch squads round. They'd pick you up and decide what they could charge you with. I was charged with looting a burnt-out shop, but that was dropped a year or so later. Really the idea was to come up with something so they could keep you on remand. What we achieved over those days was to get people to start looking at British institutions differently. You had the Macpherson Report in the nineties which found institutional racism in the police. I think the process that led to that started in Liverpool 8 in 1981 and in all the other cities where uprisings took place. Michael Simon, who witnessed the L8 riots as a teenager Cars had their accelerator pedals tied down, the cars [were] being set on fire, and driven straight at the police lines. I remember javelins being thrown. I remember a school being broken into, and javelins being taken out of the school sports cupboard and being thrown at the police cars. I remember one went straight through the hood of a personnel carrier and hit the engine block. I remember axes being used and going through the sides of [vehicles]. We were in the back of the Land Rover and there was no light, and we would drive from behind the police line to try and relieve the pressure and then we could see nothing, we could just hear things hitting the side of the Land Rover and people trying to open the [vehicle]. It was pretty frightening stuff. On one night there was something like 15 or 16 gas grenades thrown and probably 40 or 50 CS gas rounds. The clear view of the Chief Constable at the time was, if I don't do this, some of my officers will die ... and there's no doubt about it, he genuinely believed that, and having been there on the ground, I thought that was gonna happen anyway. I thought it's a miracle, frankly, that a police officer didn't die. Jon Murphy, then a constable, now Merseyside Police chief news, then the riots in Toxteth, and then Moss Side. We were 17, 18, really into the vibe down there - the music, the clubs, the whole atmosphere - so this Friday night we thought we'd go down there to see what was happening and stand with the people. It was incredible. There were hundreds of people besieging the police station, shops burning, cars burning. There were people from everywhere. We met guys from Liverpool and Birmingham. We were all faced off against the police, us on one side of the road and the police on the other in their riot gear. Groups would take off from the crowd and run at the police, then the police would charge at us. It was organised as well. There were people who were obviously respected in the community saying you guys go over there, you guys do that. Everybody knew that the whole thing was being broadcast and they wanted to send a message. It was scary - you really didn't want to get caught by the police - but it wasn't a threatening atmosphere because everyone was together, everyone was on the same page no matter where they came from or their race or the colour of their skin. There was a real sense of unity, of people all together making a stand. And, yeah, if you were a late teenager like I was it was a great craic as well. No denying it. But I was from Salford where in the late seventies there was a racist thing going on. We disagreed with that. We didn't think people should be split up into black versus white but should overcome all that, and that was what happened in Moss Side that night. Whatever your culture, whatever the colour of your skin, you were all part of the community. People still think of it as a race riot but it wasn't like that at all. Barry Woodward remembers the Moss Side riots %20 You need to go forward to 1.13.22. %20 Richard talks about 150 buildings burning down, 781 police injured. Then we switch to Diane in the Manchester studio who talks about research in the Liverpool 8%20community Includes some facebook comments from listeners and also brings in two Liverpool teenagers to discuss the book. Riots and attempts to contain them have lengthy and complicated histories in modern Britain. They frequently signify moments of change in broader narratives of class and politics, yet they rarely receive much commemoration. The only monumental remembrance of the Peterloo Massacre, for instance, is a small plaque in Manchester near the spot where in 1819 the local yeomanry attacked a crowd of 60,000, demanding political rights. Approaching the event's two hundredth anniversary, there is increasing public pressure for "a bigger and more significant memorial to an event which changed the course of British democracy."[1] More recently, even less has been done to memorialize the unrest of the twentieth century, such as the series of street disturbances during the summer of 1981 that made tensions of race, class, and policing visible within British society. Diane Frost and Richard Phillips's edited volume, Liverpool '81: Remembering the Riots, presents numerous individual perspectives on the proximate events of that summer in Liverpool, as well as the various responses to the unrest.[2]Through an intermingling of contemporaneous accounts and reflections from the present, the authors identify some of the social problems at the core of the riots and evaluate the efficacy of the various solutions that followed. Frost, a sociologist, and Phillips, a geographer, produce an engaging synthesis of oral histories, published memoirs, and official reports. Their substantive aims are "to ask how [the riots] have been remembered and why, and to trace their impacts: what has become of the people and places most directly affected by the riots? And what of their wider implications?" They answer these questions through presenting "stories and memories ... from the perspective of those who were most directly affected" as well as by examining "the impacts of these events, both locally and nationally" (p. 2). The authors approach the riots and present the memories of them from a variety of primary sources. "At the heart of this book," they explain, "are the voices of people who experienced the riots and their aftermath" (p. 7). Consequently, several quotations from Facebook and Web sites introduce memories of 1981. In their attempt to delve into the "Experiences and Memories" (p. 10) and lay out what happened, they rely upon informal accounts, published memoirs, more formal surveys, and reports, as well as photographs. Although this emphasis on individuals manifests an implied political commitment to narrate from below, the authors maintain their analytical neutrality by including a range of voices. They incorporate memories from "residents of [the district of] Liverpool 8 where the rioting took place; community workers and leaders; photographers and writers; those who took to the streets; and others whom they confronted in the police lines" (p. 2). In addition, they excerpt "a range of previously published but sometimes hard-to-access secondary material including reports by government bodies and community groups" (p. 3). The book presents numerous viewpoints yet remains eminently accessible, even to those without background knowledge of postwar British history. It will be extremely useful for teaching about late twentieth-century Britain as well as for courses across disciplines on urban issues, social policy, class, and race relations. The central chapters are organized around the substantive issues that Frost and Philips identify as characteristics of the riots and their legacy. They arrange the source material into four categories: "Police and the Community," "The Inner City," "Young People and Education," and "Economic Problems and Solutions." The first of these very noticeably includes accounts from those who decried the police, those who served in uniform, and some who attempted to mediate between them. Many rioters, for instance, "remember intensely negative feelings towards the police" (p. 34), and Frost and Philips present their lengthy narratives. Community leaders provided reminiscences as well as contemporaneous perspectives that validate many of the criticisms of the police. Yet, the authors explain, it is "also important to acknowledge that generalisations ... were qualified by [those], who felt ... some police officers [sought] better relationships with members of Liverpool's black and minority ethnic communities, and [reflected] critically on their own police work" (p. 36). Frost and Philips avoid accepting either the criticisms of the police or the apologetics for their practices. Some of the book's strengths also constitute its weaknesses. Its readability and its accessibility mean it does not delve into much depth on the events of 1981 or their broader implications for understanding Britain in the age of Margaret Thatcher. Frost and Philips deliberately eschew aligning their account with political narratives or established historiographies. Thatcher's name appears only once, even though she and her government's policies were closely linked to the riots and their aftermath. Her initial reaction to images of unrest, the remark of "Oh those poor shopkeepers!" encapsulated the conservative government's championing of free enterprise and the affinities of a grocer's daughter. It simultaneously demonstrated her obliviousness to the struggles of the underclass and minorities and could be interpreted as aloofness at the deeper causes of the riots. She expressed incredulity at claims of racism and police brutality when she visited Liverpool several weeks later. Government documents released at the end of 2011 (another form of remembrance produced in consequence of thirty years passing) demonstrate how some of Thatcher's advisers considered government social and economic intervention in Liverpool "to be a 'doomed mission.'"[3] Furthermore, ministers privately expressed doubts about attempting to alleviate economic despair, warning the prime minister against "'massive injection of additional public spending' to stabilise the inner cities" and claiming that it would be "'pumping water uphill.'"[4] Instead, they urged a policy that "'managed decline'" in Liverpool.[5] The perspectives of a newly elected Conservative government are notably absent from Liverpool '81. It is unfair to criticize a readable book that provides so many fascinating personal accounts for failing to accomplish more. However, at only 150 pages, it could have easily been expanded to address the ways in which the Liverpool riots intersected with national politics. As it is, these larger contexts only arise through discussions of the media and of the ways in which the government officially and publicly responded to the riots. Frost and Philips explain that "media attention to ... economic problems ... resonated with the Conservative government's response to the crisis, which was essentially to look for market solutions to social problems" (p. 108). This undoubtedly accurate assessment demands closer analysis and scrutiny than what is provided here. Perhaps the type of remembrance that would come from a comprehensive account of the riots, encompassing the local and the national, will only be possible in the next thirty years. It seems likely that more analyses of the riots will be forthcoming, since the personal perspectives provided in Liverpool '81 and elsewhere can now be combined with the political and public policy accounts from newly opened government files. Of course, with the riots in Britain during the summer of 2011, the resonances of these issues are contemporary as much as historical. Indeed, the Guardian asserted, "[t]he historical parallels [with 1981] seem easy to draw."[6] Both cases resulted in a "quick and inconclusive debate about the social roots of the unrest. A new government initiative to tackle gang culture and troubled families is launched, as was Heseltine's inner-city drive, as a singular crusade without any significant new Whitehall funds to back it up. The rioters are dismissed as an 'unruly mob' who were 'thieving pure and simple.'"[7] With such commonalities, Frost and Phillips's work gains new exigency not only as an attempt to engage historical memory but also as a way to provide meaningful insights into public policy, society, and politics in the present. For those scholars engaged in memory studies, Liverpool '81 will not provide any new theoretical insights, but it instead offers its own case study of one way to remember from below a politically contentious event of the recent past. Notes [1]. Judy Hobson, "Remember the Peterloo Massacre?" BBC News Online, August 17, 2007, (accessed February 27, 2012). See also Martin Wainwright, "Battle for the Memory of Peterloo," The Guardian, August 12, 2007. [2]. Frost and Phillips present themselves as editors, with their two names appearing on the book's cover. The additional names credited with the book contributed source material. [3].Alan Travis, "National Archives Reveals Historic Parallels Between 2011 and 1981 Riots," The Guardian, December 29, 2011. [4]. Alan Travis, "Thatcher Government Toyed with Evacuating Liverpool after 1981 Riots," The Guardian, December 29, 2011. [5].Travis, "Thatcher Government." [6]. Travis, "National Archives." [7]. Travis, "National Archives."

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