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The Battle for Brixton

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The Battle for Brixton captures the terror, the trauma, the courage, and the exhilaration of a full blown riot.

This film tells the dramatic story of the weekend in April 1981 when London erupted in unprecedented violence, as more than a thousand locals fought a pitched battle with the capital’s police. Hundreds of officers were injured as fighting, looting and burning filled Brixton’s streets.

It was an event that shocked the nation, changing policing and race relations in Britain forever.

These extraordinary 48 hours are relived moment by moment through compelling first-hand accounts from rioters, looters, police officers, firemen and eye witnesses caught up in the mayhem after a police crackdown on street crime pushed racial tension in Brixton to the brink.

From the rookie police constable who inadvertently sparked the crisis, to the young black man who threw one of the first petrol bombs ever used on British streets; from Brixton’s police commander still dumbfounded at the extreme reaction to his stop-and-search tactics, to the schoolgirl looter stunned at her readiness to join in the anarchy: we hear from the key players at the heart of the action as anger and violence escalated on both sides of the barricades.

This fast-moving film reveals the full emotional and political impact of a milestone in recent British history. It provides a warning for the future about what can happen when a section of the community feels unjustly targeted by police because of its culture or the colour of its skin.