The Brixton riots, 1985 started on 28 September in Lambeth in South London. It was the second major riot that the area had witnessed in the space of four years, the last in 1981.
It was sparked by the shooting of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce by police, while they sought her son Michael Groce in relation to a suspected firearms offence; they believed Michael Groce was hiding in his mother’s home.
It is reported that the police did not give the required warning (which alerts residents to the fact that a raid is about to proceed), and Mrs Groce was in bed when the police began their search. Michael Groce was not there at the time of the shooting, and Mrs Groce was paralysed below the waist by the police bullet. Mrs Groce had migrated to Britain from Jamaica in her youth, and the incident was immediately perceived by many local residents as further evidence of what was widely regarded as institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police.
As word of the shooting spread through the community, rumours persisted that Mrs Groce had in fact been killed in the shooting, and a large group of protesters gathered at the local police station chanting anti-police slogans and demanding disciplinary action against the officers involved. However, hostility between the largely black crowd and the largely white police force quickly escalated into a series of street battles.
The police lost control of the area for approximately 48 hours during which several shops were looted and fires started, leaving at least one building and dozens of cars destroyed. One photo-journalist, David Hodge, died a few days later as a result of head injuries he received from a gang of looters whom he was trying to photograph and dozens of arrests were made.