Rioting, Legislation and Estate Demolition: A Chronology of Social Cleansing in London, 1999-2019

Architects for Social Housing

Mounted police charge Poll Tax demonstrators in Trafalgar Square, London, 1991

‘We show respect to everyone — to each other, the general public and to the government and police. We engage in no violence, physical or verbal.’

— Extinction Rebellion

1990  Did the UK Poll Tax demonstrations in 1990 mark a watershed in the relations between governments and crowds? Certainly not in the violence used by the former. The troops of baton-wielding police who rode their horses into the packed crowds on Trafalgar Square were the same who charged the picket lines of striking miners at the Orgreave coke plant in 1984. And certainly not in the lies the government used afterwards to justify that violence. What Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced as ‘Marxist agitators and militants’ using the Poll Tax demonstrations for their own political ends echoed her description of the 1981 uprising in Brixton against unemployment, cuts to public spending and police racism as a ‘fiesta of crime, looting and rioting in the guise of social protest’ — with both demonstrations subsequently imprinted on public perception as ‘riots’. Perhaps the difference, then, was that, where the violent suppression of the miners’ strike and the Brixton protests that spread across the UK had little impact on Thatcher’s reign, the Poll Tax demonstrations are credited with bringing down a Prime Minister who had ruled over Britain for 13 years.

What it didn’t end, however, was

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