BNP KICKED OFF OLDHAM RIOTS IT'S OFFICIAL
In the evening of 26 May, 2001, the Oldham district of Glodwick erupted into violence. Over 700 petrol bombs were thrown at the police in seven hours of unrest. The riots proved a gift for the British National Party, proof, it said, of growing anti-white violence carried out by young Asian men.
The BNP always denied any involvement in the riots. Local BNP organiser Mick Treacy even challenged his opponents to prove that his party had sparked off the trouble. He was so confident of his case that he publicly boasted he would disband the branch if such evidence was found.
Two years on and Treacy is now being called upon to honour his word. With the imprisonment of 12 white people for what police assert was the trigger for the riots, the BNP link can now be proved. Nick Lowles reports.
The temperature might have been over 30C outside but the mood in the Star pub was relaxed and cheerful. Eighty BNP supporters had packed in to hear Mick Treacy and the party's regional organiser Chris Jackson rile against growing Asian violence. It was less than two months since the worst race riots in Britain for more than 30 years and six weeks since the BNP had achieved its best ever general election results.
The two events were connected. The BNP had won votes on the back of the riots. The party had presented itself as a legitimate form of protest, a channel for the white community's frustration that excluded violence.
But the BNP was playing a clever game. It had done much to whip up the very tensions it now sought to soothe and, just as significantly, its supporters had played a central role in the violence that eventually led to the riots.
Jackson was the first publicly to mention the troubles at the July branch meeting. He asked the assembled audience how many had been arrested during recent events. Four hands went up. His congratulations were met with almost universal applause.
Three of those who raised their hands were David Bourne, Stephen Walsh and Stephen Rhodes. All had been arrested for an incident that directly triggered the Oldham riots.
On the morning of Saturday 26 May 2001, a six-foot-tall, shaven-headed man walked into the Lark public house in Oldham. David Tickle cut a menacing figure. A pub doorman based 20 miles away in Wigan, he was a veteran of dozens of brawls. Accompanying him was Darren Hoy, a local football hooligan and an activist of the nazi terror group Combat 18 (C18).
The Lark had been chosen because of its out-of-the-way location in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny of the police. More importantly, the route into town would take it through Coppice, a largely Asian estate.
Tickle and Hoy were soon joined by several London C18 activists. With them was Martin Fielding, another local C18 supporter and football hooligan. It was not long before several other young white men joined them.
Their hope of evading detection faded as two police vans arrived at the pub. The hooligans decided to split up and regroup later with the aid of mobile phones. By now their numbers had swelled to 60, most attached to the Oldham hooligan mob, the Fine Young Casuals (FYC), but also including small contingents from Shrewsbury and Stockport.
At shortly after 3pm, they were on the move again, this time reconvening at the Junction pub on the edge of the Coppice estate. It was here, they hoped, that their presence would provoke a violent response from local Asians. This was, after all, their purpose that day.
The air was thick with tension as reports came in of Asian mobs gathering on the estate.
Their plans were again interrupted with the arrival of dozens of police officers, many dressed in full riot gear, who formed a human chain across the road that led into the estate, apparently intent on preventing trouble.
After an hour's stand-off, the main faces discussed their options around a table in the heart of the pub. Recognising that nothing could be done in Coppice, they decided to regroup in town and take their chances after dark.
Frustration, drink and racism consumed them all. On the slow walk into town Hoy hurled a road sign at a car carrying four Asian youths.
The FYC group, now numbering 30, continued drinking at the Brewery Tavern. It was a warm summer's evening and most of the group drank outside the front of the pub. Some of them began singing the popular hooligan song, "No Surrender to the IRA".
Finally the singing took on a racist nature. CCTV footage caught the group singing: "If you all hate Pakis clap your hands".
At approximately 7.15 the group left for the Upsteps. Again they drank outside the pub and again there was racist singing. Tommy Kenway, a well known local hooligan and C18 supporter, was arrested for instigating the singing. As he was being handcuffed, he shouted to the arresting officer, "Your life will be hell tonight - there'll be a riot".
The group moved off again, this time to the nearby Hare and Hounds. At 7.45 the landlady of the pub, Susan Lambert, was upstairs when she heard a commotion. "I went downstairs to investigate and saw that the pub was fairly busy. I also noticed a group of 15 FYC lads sat near the bar football. I went outside the pub and saw another group of around 12 FYC lads holding their drinks and causing a nuisance to the Asian taxi drivers who were waiting for fares in the public hire rank immediately outside the pub."
She ordered the group standing outside back into the pub and rang the police. "In the current climate of troubles in Oldham I thought it was best the police knew." She told them the FYC group "appeared hyper and agitated as though they were getting ready for something."
Twenty minutes later, Lambert remembers Hoy receiving a call on his mobile. "After only a few seconds he became very frantic and agitated jumping around shouting 'It's my sister, some Pakis are kicking her door in'."
The group looked towards their leader, Paul Brockway, known among the hooligans as "the General". "After a short time where he appeared to be thinking it over he gave the nod and that was the signal for this group of nine or ten to drink up and start making their way down Yorkshire Street. I was still stood outside watching the group when I saw them get into two or three taxis."
Little more than a mile away, Hoy's 14-year-old nephew and a friend left 16 Salford Street for a chip shop at the junction of Salford Street and Roundthorn Road. On the way down they began shouting at a group of younger Asian boys playing cricket peacefully in the street. At the chip shop, one of the boys threw a brick at another young Asian boy.
Mohammed Sharif, who was working in a shop on Roundthorn Road, saw the argument and attempted to intercede. "I shouted to the Asian male [Rashid] involved to stop fighting which they did. He walked over to me and said that the white man involved had called him a 'Paki bastard' and that's why the argument had started."
The young Asian boy ran home and told his older brother what had happened. Together they went to 16 Salford Street where the two white boys had been seen entering. "The front door was slightly opened," Tanveer Ahmed told police, "so Rashid pushed it further open with his foot so that he could see inside."
Paul Gartside was visiting Hoy's sister, Sharon, at the time. "I heard the front door being kicked in as it burst open. The front door of the house leads straight into the front room."
"I didn't see anyone enter the house but I saw Sharon run straight out onto the street. She didn't even put anything on her feet ... She chased some Asian children down the street, across Roundthorn Road and onto the street opposite the chippy. I tried to pull her back and tried to talk her into going back to the house but she continued shouting at the Asians.
"Sharon was shouting things like 'f***ing black bastards' and 'Pakis'."
Janet Craffey heard the commotion in the street. She heard Sharon scream: "Come on, come you, you black bastards. I could tell that she was trying to pick a fight with the Asians."
James Taylor came out of his house at the commotion. He saw two Asian children being chased by Sharon Hoy. "The Asian children were screaming as they ran," he later told police.
Sharon Hoy returned to her house and phoned her mum to call Darren for help. Then, with her daughter Chantelle and the two boys, she returned to the corner of Roundthorn Road.
At that moment Samalat Ali pulled up in a red Honda outside the chip shop. His friend and passenger, Riasat Ali, got out and went into the shop while Samalat Ali stayed in the car. Meanwhile, the first of the three taxis carrying the FYC-C18 hooligans had just arrived in Salford Street.
The first man out of the taxi was heard to shout "Paki bastards" at Samalat Ali and waved his clenched fist in the air. He shouted "Paki bastards" again and then kicked at the door of the red car.
Taylor also saw this incident and heard the white man shout: "You f***ing Paki bastards". Taylor told police that the man then got hold of the roof of the car and started kicking the passenger door.
As Salamat Ali got out of his car to confront the attacker the other two occupants of the first taxi stepped out into the street to back up their friend. Simultaneously, the two other taxis arrived in Roundthorn Road and their occupants also joined the man who attacked the car. Samalat Ali jumped back into the car and drover off while Raisat Ali ran up the street.
It soon became apparent that enacting revenge for the incident at 16 Salford Street meant more than just finding the culprits. For the politically motivated group who had met up earlier in the day in the hope of a confrontation with local Asians, it was a case of randomly and indiscriminately attacking Asians and their property.
Sharon Hoy was orchestrating proceedings. "Those two houses there, they are Pakis", she shouted while pointing at 150 and 152 Roundthorn Road.
As the group ran up the road, they passed Sajid Munir and his young nephew. On seeing the advancing group, who were shouting racist abuse, Munir grabbed his nephew and forced him into a shop door before turning to face the white mob. He later recalled how one man came straight for him: "I noticed that he was holding a metal bar and was about to bring it down on my head. Instinctively I put my right hand out in front of me to try and defend myself and he hit me on the right thumb with the metal bar." A second white man began hitting at the front of the shop.
The gang continued until they reached 152 Roundthorn Road. Inside were Nazia Azam, her sister Fereeda Azam, who was 34 weeks pregnant, their mother, their mentally handicapped brother and Freeda's two sons, aged 3 and 4. Nazia Azam was alerted to an incident down the road by her sister and as she went to look through the front window she was confronted by a white male. "He came right up to the front window and I could see that he was shouting at me. He then started kicking the window with his right foot. He kept kicking it until the window broke, I though he was trying to break in and attack us."
Fereeda Azam heard the white group shout "Pakis". "I was terrified, I could see he was about to kick at the window. As I looked away and got hold of my sons, I immediately heard the thud on the window and then the glass in the window smashing."
This attack was witnessed by Martin Lane. He saw the group stop outside the two houses and one man approach the house. "That male was shouting. He started to kick the front door at number 152. At the same time he was punching the door with his fists. I then saw him turn his back to the front window and back kick the window on the side nearest to the front door."
As the FYC-C18 group made their way back to where Sharon Hoy was standing, a green BMW turned into Roundthorn Road from Brewerton Road. The driver, who was white, stopped the car and shouted at the group. Then his car was attacked.
Sharon Hoy noticed Sharif watching from his shop. "That's the Paki from the shop," she shouted, as she advanced towards him. Sharif quickly pulled down the shutters over the main window blocking her entrance into the shop. She changed direction and walked up the side alley that led to the upstairs flat.
"Paki bastard, come on Paki bastard," she shouted. She turned to open the side door but Sharif was gripping it tight from the inside. She continued to shout racist abuse before returning to the front of the shop. Sharif then heard the shop shutters being kicked. Such was the force that the shop window behind the shutters smashed.
Meanwhile, Farida Khanum Shan was returning home from the mosque with her three young children when she came across the white gang. To her horror they began to run in her direction. "I could see that they were carrying objects in their hands. I heard the group also shout towards us, 'Paki, come on Paki bastards'."
Frightened, she ran towards her house and rang the police. From her upstairs window she could see the white group stop in front of number 12 Elgin Road. "I then saw the female begin to kick at the front door of the house. I also saw that she had a brick in her hand or something similar. I saw her throw the brick towards the front window."
By now a small group of Asian males had come onto Roundthorn Road. George Nuttal, who witnessed the attack on numbers 150 and 152, saw the two groups square up to one another. "The white males were continually shouting and throwing objects at cars and houses. Some of the white males even had sticks and were hitting Asian males who were just stood about."
At 8.45 the police arrived. Two of the white men were arrested almost immediately. One was Stephen Rhodes, who was caught shouting: "All f***ing Pakis out!" On being arrested he said: "I'm not f***ing arsed. I hate all Paki bastards."
After the initial shock some members of the local Asian community reacted to the events with intense anger. Word spread quickly that their homes, businesses and cars were under attack from a white racist gang. It was not long before small groups of Asians began coming out onto the streets. Several weeks of pressure and attempted racist incursions into Asian areas were beginning to boil over.
Much of their anger was being directed at the police for their apparent indifference to the white attackers. "They've broken f***ing windows and you're doing nothing. It's them you should be getting," one man shouted at PC Faye Rawlins. The anger of the Asian males on Roundthorn Road grew more intense after police arrested a number of them.
Over the next few hours Oldham witnessed the worst race riots this country has seen for 30 years. Over 700 petrol bombs were thrown at police and dozens of young Asians have since been sent to prison. It has left a scar on the town that will take years to heal.
The BNP link
The BNP has always vehemently denied any involvement in the Oldham riots and has even questioned the existence of the existence of this "alleged white gang". It has pinned the blame solely on the town's Asian community and has even called for a boycott of Asian businesses.
Searchlight can now reveal that BNP activists were behind the Oldham riots. Several of those sent to prison last month for the Roundthorn Road incident were active BNP supporters.
Darren and Sharon Hoy are both regulars at BNP meetings, as are Bourne, Rhodes and Walsh.
Brockway, "the General", heads the FYC and has attended BNP and C18 events in the town.
Matthew Berry, Hoy's cousin, was photographed with Darren Hoy giving a nazi salute at a C18 gig in Wigan.
James Clift was arrested only three weeks before the riots during an earlier attempted racist incursion into an Asian area.
Mark Priestley was sent to prison in 1995 for his part in a C18 attack on a Chinese takeaway in Derbyshire. More recently, in 2000, he was convicted for using racially abusive language and threatening behaviour. He too has beem involved in the BNP.
Treacy knows these people well. Many of them continued to attend BNP events right up until the judge sent them to prison for nine months each. Worse still, as was clearly evident during the BNP meeting at the Star Inn, most people in the BNP see them as heroes.
Oldham BNP supporters triggered the Oldham riots. However, it remains to be seen whether Treacy will prove to be a man of honour or simply another BNP liar.
This article appeared in Searchlight Magazine July 2003.