From Josephine Avenue the first sign that something was up was the sound of a helicopter overhead just after midnight. A Telegraph journalist tweeted that ‘youths’ were throwing bricks and bottles at police. I walked up to Brixton High Street to have a look. Shops near the station like H&M and Vodafone had already been looted and the JD Sports was on fire, with flames spreading to the Foot Locker nextdoor.
At about 1 a.m. a group of teenagers managed to lift up the metal shutter of the Gamesmaster on the corner of Ferndale Road and the high street, attacking the window just off the high street out of sight of the police. There were shouts of ‘quick, quick’, but the police didn’t move and possibly didn’t realise immediately what was happening. One boy of about 14 stood at the corner with his thumb up to signal it was OK to carry on. The smoke from the burning shops was getting thicker and blowing towards us, and the rain was getting heavier.
A group across the road got under the shutters of a pawn and jewellery shop and one of them ran over to our side encouraging others to join him. Two boys with bandanas on their faces heading south bumped into some others coming up from the police cordon. ‘What’s going on down there bruv?’ – ‘Nothing.’ – ‘This is bare jokes!’
The glass of the jewellery shop, just a little shop front, was smashed and about 20 people ducked under the remains of the shutter and ran in.
Outside Gamesmaster a group of girls was egging the boys on. ‘Look at him, what’s he trying to get through the glass with his foot man, is he a dickhead?’ Moments later though the window was smashed and the crowd jumped in. The police started to move up the high street and the looters ran off towards Brixton Cycles and Stockwell Road.
Along with a group of other onlookers I made my way to Acre Lane through the side streets. Passing a lock-up garage in a railway arch on Ferndale Road I saw a group of men looking through a large bag. I think I heard one of them say: ‘Where’s the dough?’ The high street was open again by the time we reached the McDonald’s on the corner.
Dozens of police were blocking off the road and guarding the smashed doors of the Curry’s on Effra Road. People were running through the estate opposite; it felt as if the police might charge at any moment. It seemed prudent to get away; for the first time we broke into a run.
Going back a little while later I saw a lot of empty cardboard boxes and packing foam, and a guy walking across the road with a flatscreen TV under his arm. A group of girls, phones out, were discussing what was going to happen next. Croydon? Streatham? ‘No one’s going Streatham,’ one of them said.