The Welsh First Minister has accused the UK government of creating the poor social conditions that formed the background of the Cardiff riots by systematically destroying community life, public services and citizens’ incomes.
Mark Drakeford, who represents the Ely area where rioting broke out on Monday night following the deaths of two teenage boys, said public services and people’s living standards had declined during 13 years of Conservative rule.
The first minister was a youth justice activist in Ely when the Bread Riots occurred in 1991, and noted that there were similarities between the two events. “It’s 13 years of erosion, the systematic erosion of the things that sustain community life,” he said. “You break the social fabric at your own risk, and we’ll see what happened on Monday.”
Drakeford, who was meeting community leaders in Ely on Friday, said he accepted that the Labour-led Welsh Government and Cardiff Council have questions to answer on how best to support the area. have been He indicated that he believed the police may have made mistakes in their handling of the riots.
Kyres Sullivan, 16, and Harvey Evans, 15, were killed after the disturbance, when the electric bike they were on was followed by a police van. Vehicles were set on fire and 15 police officers were injured, 12 of whom required hospital treatment.
Around 1,000 people gathered on Friday night to take stock of the site where the teenagers were killed. Mourners bearing blue balloons and white T-shirts gathered around wreaths and messages as dozens of blue and orange flares were lit.
Hundreds of blue balloons filled the sky and some fireworks were set off to pay tribute to the teen. Many had tears in their eyes as the balloons were released and there was a moment’s silence before the crowd erupted in thunderous applause.
Family members in attendance revealed that the electric bike ridden by the two teenagers was the start of the 16th birthday.
Harvey’s aunt, Hayley Murphy, told the BBC he loved e-bikes and scooters, and the gift was bought for his birthday next month.
“Her father used to take her to the mountains every week by bike from the age of three,” she said.
Initially the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael, said Monday’s rioting was triggered by false rumors that a police chase had taken place.
It was only after CCTV footage of the boys being chased was obtained by the Guardian and other media organizations that police admitted it had happened, but they have still refused to apologise. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the actions of South Wales Police.
Wreaths have been laid for Kyris Sullivan and Harvey Evans in the Ely area of Cardiff. Photograph: Rod Minchin / PA
Drakeford told the Guardian that what happened was “deeply, deeply disturbing”. “First, and of course, for the young people who lost their lives and their families and their friends. It is hard to imagine what they must be experiencing.
“But at the same time I feel deeply sad for the wider community of Alley, which is full of perfectly decent hard-working people who ask for nothing more than to go about their lives in peace. The damage done to the reputation of the area by these types of events is a huge burden on their shoulders.
However, he added that the rioters need to be held accountable. “There are people whose own behavior was absolutely erratic,” he said. “They must be held accountable for this and there may have been some service failures in the night – we will know about this when the independent investigation is finished.”
Asked whether his government should have done more for Ellie, he said: “I think all layers of government and all aspects of government have a right to look themselves in the mirror and ask exactly the same question. So we will certainly do this as the Welsh Government.
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Prior to entering politics, Drakeford worked as a probation officer, youth justice worker and project leader for Barnardo’s in the Ely and Kairou areas west of the city centre. He was working in the area when the Alley Bread Riot of 1991 occurred, the unrest said to have started with a dispute between two shopkeepers.
“I know it takes years to recover from incidents like this,” Drakeford said. “Fundamentally, it looks like the difficulties of 1991 were 13 years in a Conservative government and here we are, coincidentally as anything, again 13 years in a Conservative government.
“What they have in common is that this is 13 years of erosion, the systematic erosion of the things that sustain community life.
“Many people in Eli will rely on Social Security benefits for their weekly income. They have been systematically destroyed over the past 13 years. People are having less and less to live on and they see their bills rising every day. The struggle is not theoretical for those people, it is something that matters and cuts into their lives every day of the week.
“And the public services that are trying to help them through all of that have been getting budget cuts every year for 13 years. So I don’t think you can understand what happened in Eli without that kind of basic background.” understand the
In an update on Friday, the IOPC said it was reviewing initial accounts from the police officers who followed the boys and one of the aims was to establish whether they were following the pair.
It said it was investigating:
The nature of police interactions with the two boys prior to the collision and the appropriateness of the officers’ decisions and actions.
Did the decisions and actions of the officers in the police vehicle at any time follow.
Whether the interactions between the officers and the boys before and after the collision were appropriately reported by the officers.
Whether South Wales Police’s actions and decisions on the conversation were in line with the law, local and national policies and procedures.
The IOPC’s director for Wales, David Ford, said: “We would welcome anyone who we haven’t spoken to yet who believes they have footage or anything relevant between 5.35pm and 6.10pm on Monday seen, so that they may appear before us.”