Why riot police broke up a street party in West London while another at Borough Market was allowed to continue – MyLondon



With lockdown measures still firmly in place but Londoners having just enjoyed a sweltering week in the sun, police and politicians were united in their plea for people to avoid any street parties.

But both were no doubt well aware that this would fall on deaf ears with some.

Just days earlier Boris Johnson had announced lockdown was being eased, albeit not until July 4, when pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen.

And after months of being cooped up indoors, fatigue was clearly setting in for many.

Gathering outdoors in groups of more than six people is still against social distancing rules. 

But plenty of Londoners did what plenty of Londoners do and met up for a party regardless.

You might expect that all those parties and gatherings would be broken up by police.

Yet that wasn’t the case. And while some were forcefully broken up by riot police others were allowed to continue.

So what was the difference?

We decided to try and find out why one gathering in Borough Market was allowed to continue while another just off the Harrow Road, in Westminster, was broken up by police.

The Borough Market party 

The Borough Market party alongside Southwark Cathedral
(Image: Emma Cowan)

Pictures posted on social media showed Borough Market packed as Londoners blew off another week of lockdown steam.

By 8.30pm on Saturday (June 27), the outdoor areas of the popular market near London Bridge were rammed.

On Green Dragon Court, a small alley running alongside Southwark Cathedral and lined with bars, revellers were packed in, drinking and relaxing.

The party went on into the evening and according to a witness there were “no police to be seen”.

Social distancing – whether one or two metres – was completely impossible in the narrow alley.

After all, London was not a city built for people to spread out.

Police were aware there were large numbers of people in the area, a spokesperson for the Met Police confirmed.

In fact they admitted this wasn’t a one off, explaining: “We are working closely with the market to encourage everyone to observe the social distancing rules, but as you saw [on Saturday] a lot of people are attending both Borough Market during the day and surrounding venues in the evening.

“[We would remind] everyone to observe the social distancing rules.”

Some party goers were seen throwing rubbish into the churchyard of Southwark Cathedral including laughing gas canisters and the takeaway cups bars are currently using to serve booze.

Another witness to Saturday’s revelry said: “Borough Market on Saturday afternoon was packed with youngsters all drinking from a nearby outdoor bar. There were gas canisters everywhere.

“It was a disgrace and there’s no way [anyone was] socially distanced. Clearly many came by train from outside London to meet up and there were no police to be seen. The culprits don’t care.”

But while the partying was allowed to continue at Borough Market, just 24 hours earlier, on Friday, June 26, another party in a different part of London, was forcefully broken up by police.

The Harrow Road party

Revellers at the Parry Road party before it was broken up

The street party had been arranged by residents on Parry Road, not far from the Harrow Road.

It started at around 3pm and footage taken at the scene showed revellers serving food cooked on barbecues dragged onto the street.

Music was being played from sound systems with people dancing and singing along. A good time was had by many.

Then it all turned sour.

After an incident earlier in the week (on Wednesday June 24) when police breaking up a late night party in Brixton were attacked by angry revellers, it seemed police weren’t taking chances with this one.

Pictures taken at the scene show police could be seen gathering in numbers beyond the fringes of the party armed with riot gear after they were called at around 3pm.

A police helicopter from the National Police Air Service was deployed to the sky above the party to help officers.

Police armed with riot gear prepare to break up the Parry Road party

Reports first started coming in of the party being broken up shortly after 8pm with a solid line of police preventing people entering the party.

On the narrow road, party-goers jostled with the police with shouting and screaming heard over the commotion.

By 8.45 a row of riot officers with shields and truncheons drawn had charged to the centre of the party and were under fire from objects such as bottles from the crowd.

In the narrow alley where an hour before people had been enjoying themselves, packed crowds were facing off with the police.

Police truncheons could be seen swinging with one man clutching his leg after being hit.

Riot police were pelted with bottles as they broke up the Parry Road party

The party on Parry Road was finished before 9pm. Revellers moved on to nearby Riverton Close to continue the party and this was broken up by police in riot gear shortly after midnight.

According to the Met Police five people were arrested at the Parry Road and nearby Riverton Close parties.

The arrests were on suspicion of violent disorder, breaches of Covid health regulations, racially aggravated public order offences towards officers, racially abuse of an officer and for throwing a bar stool at an officer, who was uninjured.

The same night a party in Newham was also broken up by police.

Across the city, two officers were hurt while policing events that night and thankfully did not require hospital treatment. It is unclear at which parties the officers were injured.

It should be noted that there was no sign of violence at the Parry Road party ahead of officers moving in and the police made no mention of violence as a reason for the party being dispersed.

So what actually was the difference? Why did police decide to attend the Parry Road party but seemingly not the large gathering at Borough Market?

The scene on Riverton Close after police broke the party up shortly after midnight
(Image: Charlie Jones)
Why attend one party but not the other?

We asked the Met Police that very question but the force declined to give a reason for the different decisions around the two bashes. 

Later in the weekend it was coronavirus regulations that were cited by the police as the reason why parties across London in general were shut down.

Regarding the events across the whole city on the night of June 26, Commander Bas Javid said: “All of the events which took place last night were illegal and in breach of the Covid regulations. We had officers out across the capital working hard to disperse them.”

This echoed a statement from Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick last Friday about preparations that were in place to shut down any illegal parties over the weekend.

She said: “We have seen some large numbers of people completely flouting the health regulations, seeming not to care at all about their own or their families’ health and wanting to have large parties.” 

Of course, this understandable focus on trying to stop the spread of coronavirus doesn’t explain why police appear to have allowed the get together at Borough Market to run its course.

Social distancing rules were being ignored at both gatherings.

Concerns expressed by local residents in Parry Road was cited by police at the time as one of the reasons for their attendance.

Indeed Commander Javid said the following day: “Residents living near where these events took place were understandably scared and concerned.

“We received numerous calls for police to attend and disperse the large, intimidating groups.”

The number of complaints regarding the Parry Road party was not shared with MyLondon by the Met Police.

So was it a case that nobody complained about the Borough Market gathering and therefore police didn’t feel the need to attend?

Or the fact the large group there did not appear “intimidating”? 

A hard police line prevents people getting to the Parry Road party

A senior police source told My London: “[The] main difference between the events is that Borough Market was legally open (albeit there was no social distancing) and Harrow Road was an unlawful/unlicensed music event [and] therefore illegal.”

By the Met Police’s own definition, an unlicensed music event is a gathering of 20 or more persons “at which amplified music is played during the night, which is by reason of its loudness and the duration and time at which it is played, likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality”.

So the locations of the two parties and complaints, or the lack of them, by local residents seem to be the explanations being given by police for the different approaches. 

But for many it will leave unanswered the question of why the decision wasn’t made to proactively break up the gathering at Borough Market when social distancing rules were being so blatantly ignored.

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Were you at any of the recent street parties? Or are you a local resident who has been affected by them? If so we would like to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing charlie.jones@reachplc.com