Yesterday I was sent several emails and links to pages giving advice about personal safety when covering riots and other public order situations. It’s all sensible stuff, and the kind of thing that tends to circulate when there’s been some significant disorder. As a Union rep, I’m probably the first to talk about health and safety when sending reporters anywhere, let alone into a riot.
Yet, no matter how much you read and re-read this stuff, and no matter how much you promise yourself you’ll stay away from trouble, it’s nigh on impossible to ignore a story happening right on your doorstep. Last night was one such occasion.
I’d popped over to Nottingham High School where a group of youths had decided to climb onto the roof. It was a relatively minor bit of bovver for the police, and more like something from the Muppet Show from what I saw. One guy arrested was clearly known to the police officer who shouted his name at him as he was ordered out of his car.
But then, it all cracked off. Right outside my gate. Loud sirens aren’t uncommon in my part of Nottingham – but the sheer numbers alerted me to the gate. There were at least five police vans, then six, then seven. I dared to venture onto the street, to be told in no uncertain terms that I should go home. Something had happened at a local Tesco. It seemed like a disproportionate response.
I later worked out that the police were arresting a load of youths who’d just firebombed my local police station.
Lovely stuff. But what made this different is that this wasn’t a police station on a notorious housing estate. It wasn’t one on a back street. It was on arguably the busiest road junction in Nottingham. And the surrounding area was like a ghost town.