‘Rumours after deaths of two teenagers in crash sparked Cardiff riot’
Riots broke out in Cardiff after two teenagers died in a crash – with rumours circulating they were being chased by police, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales has said.
Tensions reached breaking point after officers were called to the collision, in Snowden Road, Ely, at about 6pm on Monday.
Officers faced what they called “large-scale disorder”, with at least two cars torched as trouble involving scores of youths flared for hours.
Alun Michael, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My understanding is that there was a road traffic accident involving two teenagers on an off-road bike or scooter and sadly they died.
“That’s an incident obviously that is being investigated in its own right.
“And that appears to have sparked, for reasons that aren’t clear, the disorder that you’ve referred to in which something like a dozen officers were injured, fortunately none of them life threatening, and the connection between the two is far from clear.
“So obviously there’s going to be investigations going on this morning to try and establish what happened.
“It would appear that there were rumours, and those rumours became rife, of a police chase, which wasn’t the case.
“And I think it illustrates the speed with which rumours can run around with the activity that goes on on social media nowadays, and that events can get out of hand.”
Mr Michael said people will be “brought to account” for the violence.
“Obviously very frightening for local people. And there were a lot of calls to the police expressing concern about what was going on,” he said.
Mr Michael added: “Ely is an area which has a lot of deprivation, but it’s also a very warm community.
“I think what we have is an incident that involved some people and a proper investigation is needed to establish exactly what happened.”
A fire was burning and a helicopter could be heard hovering overhead as rioters threw missiles, including fireworks, at officers.
Police said the crash “had already occurred when officers arrived”.
Scenes being livestreamed on YouTube showed young people throwing fireworks and other missiles at a line of police officers with riot shields who were blocking one end of the street.
Shortly before midnight a car was set on fire and burned fiercely, while a second vehicle was overturned and also torched.
One person was attacked because rioters thought they were an undercover officer, according to a senior officer at the scene.
Police, including mounted officers on horseback, were seen outside Ely police station in the early hours of Tuesday after suggestions it could be targeted.
Shortly before 3am, rioters moved down Highmead Road in Ely, followed by police officers trying to disperse them.
The rioters continued to throw missiles and set cars alight.
John Urquhart, general secretary of the UK Harmony Party, lives in Ely and saw tensions rise.
He told the PA news agency a lack of communication from police to the community may have led to the escalation.
He said: “The key thing right at the start was they did not communicate with the crowd, there was no attempt to communicate with the crowd and they showed nothing but disdain for the community and acted like we didn’t deserve to know what happened on our own doorstep.
“There was nobody going through the crowd. Crucially, I think the police really needed people to be out talking to the community and putting their minds at ease.”
Mr Urquhart, who has lived in the area for the last few years, said the situation began to worsen at about 8pm.
“The vast majority of people who were stood in that street were stood there because they wanted to know what would happen next. There were a very small number of people actually doing any sort of violence,” he said.
He said he is very “counter-violence” and was offering first aid to people throughout the evening.
“There was definitely a small group doing things but the vast majority of other people were just watching and having that normal camaraderie in the street that you have when something is happening in your street and you have no control over it,” he said.
He said the community in Ely is tight-knit.
He added: “When you start to see it in context, it’s emotions that have built up and bottled up and, eventually, I think the police just brought too many people or were too visible.”
At 8.21pm, South Wales Police tweeted: “There is now a large number of officers working to manage the collision, but also to de-escalate ongoing disorder at the scene.
“We urge anyone involved to leave the scene immediately and ask local residents to stay away while the matter is brought to a safe conclusion.”
At 1.10am, police said they were continuing to monitor and respond to “disorder in Ely”, adding: “A number of vehicles have been set alight. Arrests are being made. A large police presence remains in the area.”
Jane Palmer, the owner of a burnt out Ford Focus in Highmead Road, said she and her family watched from their window as rioters set fire to the car.
She said: “I’m disabled so now I’m trapped without my car.
“Why are they doing this? It’s just silly now.”
The family tried to douse the flames using water from their garden hose.
A man called Connor, who also lives in Highmead Road, said: “It’s been a mad night. This is not the norm around here but people are pretty anti-police and that’s reflected on both sides, not that that’s my opinion.
“Although we’ve been afflicted by this riot, I still understand it. When people have enough, this is what happens.”
Rubbish and wheelie bins were also set alight by rioters as they continued to be moved through the streets by armoured police.
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