Reactions to Toxteth

Five hours before the fires on Princess Road, BBC1 had broadcast Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s response to the “terrible events” in Liverpool. She began by stating

I’d expected tonight to talk wholly about unemployment but events in Liverpool have changed that. What happened there horrified us all. A thousand policemen embattled in one of our great cities. Two-hundred injured. Riot shields and CS gas needed to defend the very men to whom we all turn for protection. Nothing can justify, nothing can excuse and no-one can condone the appalling violence we’ve all seen on television which some of our people have actually experienced and so many fear.

The Prime Minister then defended the government’s policy in the face of rising unemployment, concluding “we won’t turn back“.

In Liverpool, Chief Constable Kenneth Oxford noted that

The single offensive tactic we possessed, the baton charge proved increasingly ineffective… Our principle strategy of containing the rioters by forming lines of police officers behind riot shields, resulted in increasing numbers of police casualties.

On Sunday 5 July, unable to restore order with over 800 police officers, tear gas was used for the first time in England. Amongst the police arriving in Liverpool were reinforcements from Greater Manchester who despite being one of the first police forces to adopt new riot helmets still suffered over a hundred casualties during the Toxteth riots.

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