London Riots: Newham policeman who wouldn’t give up
When the London Riots arrived in Newham, the ugly face of mindless criminality reared its head for all the world to see.
But buried underneath the glass and the rubble are the stories of inspirational individuals that portray a more accurate image of the spirit of our community.
As gangs emerged on to High Street North in East Ham, six Newham police officers confronted them and drove them away from the shops and the surrounding area.
Among them was PC Jez Briggs, who was there when thugs broke in to NatWest bank, endangering the residents who lived in flats above and behind the building.
The officers entered the premises to get frightened residents to safety and, in the process, a pane of glass fell on PC Briggs, cutting his head open.
However, he continued to chase the rioters, covered in blood, for a further twenty minutes and it took a superintendent to order him away from the scene before he would go to hospital for medical treatment.
PC Briggs said: “I had to carry on. It looked absolutely terrible. The people of this borough deserve better than this sort of thing happening to them. You kind of keep going.”
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PC Briggs was rushed to Queen’s Hospital in Romford where he heard of further incidents in Havering and Ilford.
After watching the shocking images being broadcast live on TV, Jez decided to get stitched up and back into the thick of things.
PC Briggs recounted his experiences of Monday night, the worst day of public disorder in Newham: “It was absolutely chaotic, there were crowds of people and a lot of stones and bricks being thrown at us. We were just in standard uniform, chasing these guys down the street, sticks out and that takes a lot of doing especially with these people throwing rocks.”
As a result, nearby Caledon Road was smothered in debris and rocks but the makeshift missiles did little to deter Newham residents from fighting back.
PC Briggs recites a particular “big Lithuanian guy who held a rioter until we came along and said, ‘Can you take this one?’” and the heroic stand off in Green Street between rioters and shopkeepers which MP for West Ham Lyn Brown recently called “amazing”.
He said: “We were in Green Street prior to the assistance and there were 500 people in the early afternoon. You could tell the protestors were all masked up and in fairness to the people of Green Street they resorted to their own resilience, they were not going to be turned over easily and they pushed people out.”
Modest PC Briggs emphasised that his story is one of many instances of bravery in the police force and the community which Acting Borough Commander Sean Vickers praised as” unbelievable”.
It is precisely these stories that we must remember in the face of adversity which are such a vivid reminder of the strength of the Newham community.