Bradford Riots (2006)



Director:     Neil Biswas.

Starring:       Sacha Dhawan (Karim), Victor Banerjee (Azad), Ace Bhatti (Faisal), Manjinder Virk (Shazia), Syed Ahmed (Aki).

TV movie about tension between far-right fanatics and Asians in the Manningham area of  Bradford leads to riots



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Friday, July 6, 2001.  At the university Karim, a young Pakistani man, sits with white friends and has a good time joking around and laughing.  He tells everyone that he has to leave.  A young woman walks him out and they kiss.  From college in Manchester, he is coming home to Bradford on a bus.  He gets a haircut in Bradford.  The talk of the shop is of the right-wing National Front coming to Bradford.  His young barber says:  "If they come, they're gonna get blood." 

Outside the barber shop, Karim sees his friend Slavan (? spelling) and they hug each other. 

The police explain to a largely south Asian assembly that they had to cancel the last day of the festival for reasons of public safety.  The police seem to be worried about the coming of National Front fanatics to Bradord.  Karim's older brother Faisal yells at the police spokesman:  "My kid has looked forward to this for months.  I mean, you're all gutless." 

Karim's brother has a textile shop in Bradford.  He gives a young man hanging out near his shop a dirty look, so the fellow gets in his car and drives off.  The entrepreneur goes into his shop.  His wife Shazia complains about their son refusing to take off his butterfly costume for some nine hours now.  The husband says he will talk to their son.  The boy tells his dad that he promised that he could be in the festival on its last day.  Dad explains that things happen sometimes and events get canceled.   He also explains that being angry all day is not good for anyone. 

Karim talks to his father in the family apartment.  He tells father that he is thinking of writing his thesis on the topic of the American Civil Rights Movement.  Faisal comes into the room and speaks to Karim.  Big brother expects Karim to work with him in the shop this summer, but Karim says he has to write his thesis.  Faisal says he really needs Karim this summer, but father backs up Karim. 

After dinner Karim goes out with his friend Slavan.  Faisal's wife tells him that Karim has a degree to finish.  Her husband says:  "The bank refused our loan this morning."  Shazia says Faisal will just have to speak with his father to get a loan from him. 

Karim and his friend head down to the pool hall.  There Karim greets many friends and acquaintances.  One of the fellows he knows is Aki, who Faisal chased away earlier in the day.  Aki is a drug dealer.  The three friends go out for awhile.  A police car pulls up to the guys and the police looks them over. 

At a local eatery, Karim and Aki see their friend Salam working hard.  They speak with him for awhile.  Salam says he's going to get married.  Aki tells Karim: "Let's face it, Karim.  You don't really live here no more."

There is a lot of tension between Karim and his brother.  Faisal says that Karim thinks he's special because of all his education.  He directly tells Karim:  "Just don't expect me to buy the bullshit you feed dad."

Tensions seem to be running high in the south Asian community.  Some shop-owners close their stores early.  A fellow passes by waving a bat out a car window and saying down with the right-wing organization.  Other young men also have bats in their hands.  They believe that the Nazis are here today in Bradford. 

The police are also under tension and the young men soon find the riot police forming a barrier in front of a group of young South Asian men.  Things are heating up and Karim decides to go to Slavan to get something to eat.  When they walk in the street eating their sandwiches, they are taunted by the white right-wingers.  One of them spits on Slavan.  Karim goes up to a policeman and asks him:  "You're just going to let them do that?  They just spat on us . . .  See what they did?"  The policeman just tells Karim to move on. 

The police tell the group of south Asians that the Nazis have left, so the group should disperse and go about their business.  The Asians don't believe the police.  Karim calls over to Aki, in the group of protestors, saying that a white gang is beating up Salalm.  He says this is happening over on Broadway.  Soon a whole bunch of the protestors takes off running for Broadway.  The police are trying to get the gang members off Salam, but they are considerably outnumbered by the number of gangers.  The police spokesman sees everyone running toward Broadway and he gives out a call for the police to stop them from reaching Broadway. 

The police finally rescue the bloodied Salam.  Karim demands that the police arrest key members of the gang, as he points out that one fellow in particular was doing most of the kicking of Salam.  Move on!  Karim does but now he is in a rage.  He marches over to where about 100 youths are opposing the riot police.  Police on horseback disperse the crowd somewhat. 

Faisal gets his answer from his father:  "I've got no money to give you."  All his savings have gone to Karim's education.  Faisal is deeply disappointed and bitter. 

5:05 p.m.  The riot police with their clear shields get ready to push the rioters off the block.  Aki and Karim are there.  Aki throws a rock at the policemen.  The police now are using helicopters.  The wife and child of Faisal watch from their yard as the young rioters run past their house.  Aki throws more rocks, as do others.  Karim picks up a rock to toss at the police.  Slavan tells him that this whole thing is getting out of hand.  Karim says:  "This is our street.  They've come to us."  He throws his rock. 

Dad and Shazia tell Faisal to go out there and bring Kamir back home.  Faisal says he's not going out into that chaos.  So dad says he will go.  His daughter-in-law grabs him and tells him that Faisal will go.  She then takes dad upstairs. 

Faisal goes to find Karim.  Now Molotov cocktails are being thrown at the police and, of course, this makes them back up.  Faisal grabs Karim and pushes up against a closed shop front.  They argue about Karim coming home.  Finally, Karim tells his brother that isn't it time for him to make his own decisions instead of being send out by dad and wife?   Faisal becomes very angry and says:  "Okay.  Go fuck yourself then!"  Big brother now leaves.  Policemen come charging at the crowd.  Faisal is smashed on the head and goes down. 

Aki comes over to Karim and asks him to throw a Molotov cocktail at the police.  Karim refuses to do it and Aki tells him that he just doesn't understand what's going on.  Karim walks away.  On his way out the back, he stops to throw up. 

Faisal is back home.  His head is bloodied and he is trying to clean his wound with water and wash cloth.  He tells his wife that he was hit by a rock.  Karim comes home and says he heard that Faisal fell down when the horse police charged the crowd.  Faisal tells Karim that he makes him sick. 

On the TV the police chief says that the rioters better look over their shoulders because the police will be checking their photos to find the lead rioters.  Dad goes to find Karim and asks him if he was there in the riots last night?  Karim says no. 

Faisal goes to temple.  He talks to the religious leader about losing his temper last night.

At the dinner table, Faisal's son turns the TV on and what's on is the coverage of the riot.  His mother is alarmed at this and turns the TV off.  She takes the boy to his room.  At bedtime Faisal has a flashback to the riot.  He takes a stick and uses it to smash a policeman to the ground after being called a "fucking bastard".

Karim starts working for Faisal again.  His father gives Karim a small book on civil rights activist Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama. 

Faisal's wife is now shunned by the white women friends she had.  It hurts her feelings and makes her mad.  When she returns to the shop, she tells Karim:  "Everybody hates us now."  She puts a newspaper in front of him showing him the article with the photos of 20 rioters.  She tells Karim that he is not one of the faces.  Karim and Faisal look over the photos.   A police car pulls up in front of the store and Faisal is worried.  But the police are not coming to Faisal's place.   

A new wanted poster of 20 more rioters is published.  Karim is number S36.  Dad tells him:  "No more lies."  Karim says he only threw rocks at the police and that was it.  Dad is very angry at his son.  He tells Karim to go down to the police and turn himself in.  The three males of the family go to the police station.  He is interrogated by a soft-spoken policeman.  The police have photos of Karim among the rioters.  He is LQ186.  They also have photos of Karim throwing rocks and bricks.

And then comes a video of LQ186.  They have absolute proof of Karim's involvement in the riot.  He is screwed now. 

Karim's lawyer tells Dad that the courts are taking this matter very seriously.  Karim says they are going to fight this.  He says he and all the others were provoked.  He gets disgusted and leaves the police station.  He talks with his friend Slavan. 

Faisal picks up Karim in his car.  The three family men speak with the lawyer, who says that Karim should plead guilty.  Dad asks if Karim can go back to the university?  The lawyer replies:  "Almost certainly."

Two planes fly into the Twin Towers on Manhattan Island, New York City.  The Muslims in Britain see the videos of the explosions and fear now ethnic tensions will rise even higher in the country. 

Shazia asks her husband about his fear.  She wonders why he has been so afraid recently (especially considering that he didn't do anything in the riots).  Faisal asks her to go to bed. 

One morning the police raid Aki's place.  He escapes by going out a back window.  Aki shows up at Karim's place asking for help.  Karim asks Faisal to lend them his car.  Faisal says absolutely not.  He asks if this Aki hasn't screwed up Karim's life enough already?  Aki listens to this and comes into the room to tell the brothers that he will go it alone. 

Karim takes the car anyways.  He drives Aki out into the countryside.  Aki tells Karim that they are out to get him.  Aki tells him:  "Brother, listen.  You're just another Muslim thug out there to fuck up their white world. . . .  They are going to nail every single one of us and throw away the key.  Even your brother."  This last statement shocks Karim and he wants to know what his brother is guilty of?  Aki tells him to ask Faisal. 

Karim drops Aki off at a train station.  His plan is to make it back to Pakistan where he will lay low.  The two fellows hug each other. 

In the shop Faisal taunts Karim, calls him a "fucking idiot" and slaps him on the head.  He keeps on with his taunts until Karim asks him suddenly what did brother do at the riots?  "Aki said the police would come after you too."  Faisal says he did nothing at the riots.  He then adds:  "Leave me alone!" 

Later in the day, Faisal tells Karim what happened on the night of the riots.  Karim says this was all his fault.  Faisal doesn't seem to hold it against him as he hip bumps his brother. 

It's court day for Karim.  He tells his brother that he's really scared.  Faisal hugs Karim and tells him to be brave.  In court the video is shown of Karim throwing bricks at the police.   

The judge treats Karim harshly.  He gets a sentence of five years in prison.  The court audience is shocked by the many years of imprisonment.  Karim is also very shocked. 

When Karim sees his lawyer, he says they were supposed to reduce his sentence. The lawyer says:  "I'm sorry, Karim.  It's a shock to us."  Karim screams at the guards, saying "they fixed me up". 

At home Faisal tells his wife that they should go live in Pakistan.  Shazia is absolutely opposed to the idea.  She says this is her home now. 

Karim is put in prison in Moorland. His cell is pretty large compared to an American prison cell.

The police come for Faisal.  At the police station, Faisal is shown the video about what happened.

Karim gets a call from his father.  He says the police have taken Faisal.  Back in his cell Karim goes crazy destroying things in his cell.  He collapses on the floor and screams and screams. 

"In the wake of the Bradford riots, 191 people were given custodial sentences totaling more than 510 years.  These were the harshest and most widespread sentences for public disorder since the Second World War."


Good film.  It was rather short, but it kept my wife and my attentions throughout.  A lot of the film deals with the punishment of the rioters.  We watch as the brothers Karim and Faisal get into serious trouble for being in the riots.  I think they could have made the film a bit longer in order to present some of the grievances the Pakistani community had against the larger British society.  It's as if the riot occurred more or less spontaneously within a vacuum.  According to the film, the Pakistanis were enraged about right-wing extremists and Nazis coming to their community to cause problems.   That certainly would be infuriating, buy most of the rage was directed right at the police, not the racist haters.   We see almost no effort on the part of the larger society or on the part of the local community leaders to defuse the situation before it could get started. 

You couldn't' help feel sad about Karim more or less throwing his future success away by joining in on the rock throwing.  Karim also did not personally take any responsibility for his own actions.  No one force him to throw bricks at the police.  It was his own decision.   Even in prison he was constantly shouting that the police were provoking the rioters.  This makes it harder for Karim to accept his sentence and feel more resigned to it as being mostly his own mistake.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

Bradford Riots in Bradford, West Yorkshire, northern England. 

19th century  --  Bradford is historically a working class city.

19th century  --  a wave of Irish immigrants came to Bradford.

1940s-1950s  --  a wave of Poles came to Bradford.

2001  --  Bradford had the second largest population of Asians of any UK city, with approximately 68,000 Pakistanis, 12,500 Indians, 5,000 Bangladeshis and 3,000 other Asians.  The electoral ward of Bradford Moor was 67% South Asian.

2001 (April)   -- riots in Oldham

2001 (June 2224 June)  --  riots in Burnley.

2001 (July 7)  --  the Anti Nazi League organizes a rally in Centenary Square in the center of the city of Branford, which was allowed to proceed. During the course of the rally, a rumor was spread by some of the marchers that National Front sympathizers were gathering at a pub in the center of Bradford. A confrontation then occurred outside the pub in the city center during which a man was stabbed.  Eye-witnesses claimed that there was no single event identifiable as a flashpoint.  It is estimated that 1,000 youths were involved in the riots.

2001 (nights of July 8 and 9)  --  groups of between thirty and a hundred white youths attacked police and Asian-owned businesses in the Ravenscliffe and Holmewood areas.  1,000 police became involved in the riots. 

A 48-year old Asian businessman is arrested for the firebombing of the recreational center, Manningham Labour Club.  (He receive twelve years for the arson attack.)  There was also an arson attack of a BMW dealership.

Several riots followed a few days later.

Results of the riots:  more than 300 police officers were hurt; 297 arrests in total; 187 charged with rioting; 45 charged with violent disorder; and 200 jail sentences totaling 604 years.  The number of convictions for riot was unprecedented in English legal history the next highest amount was five for an investigation in London. The estimated damage was put at 7 million.

2005 (March 27)  --  the Ouseley Report recommends a "people's programme" to bring harmony to Bradford.


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