Twice in two days now, I’ve seen the words mass brawl appear in news headlines. First there was a story about up to a hundred schoolchildren, many still wearing their school uniforms, being involved in a mass brawl – a big fight in the street – in Erith, a rather grim and depressing suburb on the outskirts of south-east London. Then today came reports of a very similar disturbance in Manchester, where again around a hundred kids from different schools were involved and fighting raged for several minutes before riot police arrived to break up the fight. In both cases, there seems to have been some kind of long-standing problem or bitter rivalry between two schools; both girls and boys were involved in the fighting – and witnesses were shocked by the level of violence. Reports say that many children were armed with baseball bats, table legs and concrete blocks. In both instances, several children required hospital treatment and several others were arrested.
Before mass brawls break out, there’s usually some long-running tensions between two different groups: it could be groups of kids from different schools or supporters of different football clubs or different groups within society; something then happens that sparks the violence – someone insults someone else in public by calling them names or saying bad things about them, or someone is attacked by a group and this then results in friends being intent on revenge. The first punch is thrown and suddenly everything kicks off – everyone starts fighting.
Sooner or later, someone calls the police, who arrive and try to break up the fight. Sometimes, the brawl is so out of control that they have to call for reinforcements – more police officers – to help them regain control of the situation. At other times, those involved in the fighting flee the moment the police arrive. Those injured in the fighting may be taken to hospital suffering from cuts and bruises – and anyone caught by the police will be arrested and charged with assault.
- Have you heard of any mass brawls happening where you live? If yes, what sparked them?
- What do you think the root causes of these kinds of problems are?
- And what should be done to prevent them from happening again in the future?
- Can you think of any other times that riot police might be called in?