Sunday, April 24, 2011


One hundred years ago there were riots in South Wales. They came on the back of dock strikes in London, Liverpool and Manchester which had spread to the carter's unions and the railways. Riots began in the mining town of Tredegar and had a distinctly anti-Semitic quality. Tiny numbers of Jews lived in Tredegar yet (untrue) rumors had spread that the Jews were profiteering and exploiting their position as landlords. The rioters were no deterred that one one Jew in Tredegar was a landlord. Widespread rioting and looting, especially from Jewish shops began in Tredegar and spread throughout the valleys of South Wales. The Riot Act had to be read and troops charged the rioters with fixed bayonets to disperse the crowds.

The Riot Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain that authorized local authorities to declare any group of twelve or more people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. The Act, whose long title was "An act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters", came into force on 1 August 1715, and remained on the statute books until 1973. The act also made it a felony punishable by death without benefit of clergy for "any persons unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled together" to cause (or begin to cause) serious damage to places of religious worship, houses, barns, and stables. The Act was repealed on 18 July 1973 for the United Kingdom by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1973 (by which time riot was no longer punishable by death). The Public Order Act 1986 abolished the common law offences of riot and introduced the statutory offence of riot.

The wording that had to be read out to the assembled gathering was as follows:
"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!"

Riots occurred last week in the center of Bristol, a large city just across the Suspension Bridge from South Wales. They were caused by protests at the opening of a Tesco Supermarket nearby. Police had been informed that inhabitants of a building near to the supermarket had been making Molotov cocktails with which to set the supermarket ablaze. This building was a derelict house that had been occupied by 12 illegal squatters. The arrest of four of them led to a riot and 160 police were drafted in to control it. 8 policemen were injured and had to go to hospital. The rioters were chanting, "The Streets are ours."

The rioters were Green anarchists. They object to supermarkets on the grounds that their very cheapness puts local traders out of business and that they exploit farmers by forcing prices down. On the other hand their customers love them for producing affordable food of good quality and freshness.

If they want to live in a state where anarchy rules, I suggest that they decamp to Libya.

1 comment:

Carter said...

Now I know where "read him the riot act" came from. I've heard it all my life.