When clashes between residents and police erupted onto the streets of Brixton in 1981, in the heart of London’s African-Caribbean community, the British press largely told one side of the story.
The Brixton riots, as they became known, were primarily depicted as a challenge to the rule of law. The press emphasized criminal elements, characterizing young, Black male protesters as “troublemakers” during those disturbances, according to studies cited in a subsequent analysis of how the UK media covered riots in 2011.
News reports at the time failed to account for the issues that were at the heart of the riots in 1981, including unemployment, racism and oppressive policing, in particular the extensive use of stop and search. That media bias