Race riots in the U.K have occurred for some time in Britain. Some of the first recorded “Race Riots” involving black people took place in Liverpool. Liverpool has a long established black community left over from its former status as a Slave Port. Furthermore, Black Merchant Seamen and demobilised soldiers had settled in Liverpool during and after the War. Now tensions between White demobilised soldiers and sailors and black settlers were starting to come to a head due to their being a surplus in the labour force.
John Johnson a West Indian was stabbed in the face by 2 Scandinavians in a pub because he refused to give them a cigarette. The news spread quickly and the next evening eight of his friends went to the pub that the Scandinavians used. They threw beer over them and then attacked them with sticks, knives,razors and Iron bars. in the process they knocked a policeman, who had tried to stop them unconscious.
Five Scandinavians were taken to the hospital but only one was seriously hurt. In an effort to find the perpetrators of the attack the police raided boarding houses used by the black seamen. The black seamen dug in and defended themselves with weapons even a revolver. One policeman was shot in the mouth and another in the neck, a third was slashed in the face and a fourth had his wrist broken.
A Lynch Mob had now formed and Charles Wooten a 24 year old ships fireman ran from one of the raided houses, he was chased by 2 policemen and an angry crowd of between 200 and 300 people who were hurling missiles. The policemen caught him at the edge of the dock and then the lynch mob was upon them they tore Wootton from the police and hurled him into the dock where he was pelted with rocks as he swam… he died in the water and then they dragged the corpse out of the water. No arrests were made.
During the next three days there was mob rule on the streets of Liverpool On the eighth of June 3 west Africans were stabbed in the street. On the 9th and 10th mobs of well organised young men roamed the streets their numbers were estimated at between 2000 and 10000 savagely attacking and beating any negroe they could find.(Burgess).
A black man who held a good position on one of Liverpool’s liners was dragged from a car robbed of 175 and beaten, as was a black ex serviceman who held three medals for War Service.
On the evening of June 10th in Toxteth Park thousands of people were filling the thoroughfares in a wild state of excitement. Houses that were occupied by black people were being looted one after another, then being set on fire.
There is a feeling of Terror amongst the coloured people of the city, all night long until sunrise, it added ‘black men could be seen in companies hastening along unfrequented thoroughfares to the nearest police station or Ethiopian Associations.
Despite some local newspapers fanning the flames of the troubles it was left to a local magistrate to say that it was these mobs which were making the name of Liverpool an abomination and disgrace to the rest of the country.
(Liverpool Post and Mercury, (7th,11th,19th June 1919) ,
Manchester Guardian (7th, June .)
(Liverpool Echo 10th June)
(11th june Liverpool Courier)
(14th,21st June,Liverpool weekly post )
Racial Riots – Inspector Hugh Burgess