Hundreds took to the streets as macabre ‘Thatcher death parties’ were held late across the country last night, organised by critics of the ‘Iron Lady.’ In Bristol, seven police officers were injured – one seriously – as violence erupted at a street party of 200 people and officers were pelted with bottles, cans and rubbish. Riot police were deployed in Brixton, south London, as the crowds, which had been drinking since 5pm, started to become more aggressive, while in Liverpool flares and fireworks were set off outside Lime Street Station. Messages to organise the parties began flooding the internet minutes after the official announcement.
In Bristol police were called to Chelsea Road in the Easton area of the city during the early hours of today after violence erupted at a street party to ‘celebrate’ the death of Baroness Thatcher. Trouble flared after midnight when a rowdy 200-strong crowd refused police requests to disperse. Dozens of officers donned riot gear and used shields and batons as they were pelted with bottles, cans and rubbish. Wheelie bins were set on fire by the mob and a police car was damaged by the flying missiles. Some of the injured police needed hospital treatment and one male officer was still detained today with a neck injury. One man was arrested for violent disorder and it took police more than two hours to restore calm. It was not until 3am that most of the police units sent to the scene were stood down. The party had started outside the Chelsea Inn in Easton, which is one of Bristol’s poorest and multi-cultural neighbourhoods.
The air was thick with cannabis smoke as revellers toasted the death of the Iron Lady, chanting; ‘Maggie Thatcher, Maggie Thatcher, she’s not living anymore. She’s not living anymore.’ Some people drank champagne while others walked around in Thatcher masks and one man dressed up as the former PM. Sound systems were set up in the street to fuel the party atmosphere and the trouble broke out when police tried to stop the music. Unemployed Julian Styles, 58, who was made redundant from his factory job in 1984, said: ‘I’ve been waiting for that witch to die for 30 years. ‘Tonight is party time. I’m drinking one drink for every year I’ve been out of work.’ In Brixton, south London, two women were arrested on suspicion of looting a store and riot police were deployed as the crowds which had been drinking since 5pm started to become more aggressive, refusing to let buses through the streets.
More than 300 people, including the young and old partied until late at night on the streets of London, clutching cans of cider and cartons of milk as they danced along to reggae and 1980s music. Many children also attended the impromptu event with their parents some wearing fancy dress, fairy wings and clutching balloons. The carnival-like celebrations also drew crowds who had no knowledge or interest in at Thatcher, but who wanted to join in with the revelry. Brixton was the scene of intense rioting during her time as Prime Minster – the unrest was blamed on deep social divisions, racial tensions and unemployment. At 11pm last night, party-goers climbed the Ritzy Cinema to replace the billboard of films to say ‘Margaret Thatchers dead’ . They received cheers and applause from fellow revellers as they did so. Later they added the words ‘LOL’, meaning ‘laugh out loud’, followed by ‘Oh Aye’.
The two hooded men who covered their faces as they replaced the words on the Picture House cinema also attached a sign reading ‘the bitch is dead’. The Ritzy Cinema said it had nothing to do with masked people and later tweeted its thanks to those who helped clean up broken letters and damage. Pictures of anti-Thatcher graffiti scrawled on walls in Brixton also appeared on Twitter, with one reading: ‘You snatched my milk! & our hope.’ Banners were held stating ‘Rejoice Thatcher is dead’ by drunken crowds, many of whom were too young to remember her as prime minister.
Sickening messages also began flooding the internet minutes after the official announcement. Revellers danced the conga, drank champagne and chanted: ‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – Dead, Dead, Dead. Barnados charity shop was a casualty of the celebrations and this morning the store front had been left with a gaping hole in the glass. Alex Bigham, a councillor in Lambeth representing Stockwell condemned the celebrations and said ‘Even if you detested her policies, many of which I did, it is tasteless posturing.’ The Metropolitan Police said: ‘Police dealt with a group of approximately 100 people in Brixton who caused low level disorder including throwing missiles at officers.’ They confirmed that two women were arrested on suspicion of burglary after being found inside a shop in Brixton. The shop front had been smashed.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, more than 300 people gathered in the city centre for street party, organised on Twitter. Members of organisations including the Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, the Communist party, the Socialist party, the Socialist Workers party and the International Socialist Group, were joined by members of the public in the city’s George Square. A chorus of ‘so long, the witch is dead’, along with chants of ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead,’ could be heard among the popping of champagne bottles. In Leeds, people cheered and even handed out ‘Maggie death cake’ at another of several street parties across the UK last night.
In west Belfast, a crowd assembled on the streets outside the Sinn Féin office in the Lower Falls road where music was played as people danced and passing motorists sounded their horns. People were seen huddling in a crowd as they drank and sang to celebrate the 86-year-old’s death. Petrol bombs were thrown at police near Free Derry corner amid celebrations and missiles were also used against the officers. Baroness Thatcher’s death could propel The Wizard Of Oz track Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the top 40 of the singles chart. The late former Prime Minister divided opinion and while many have mourned, some have seen her death as a cause for celebration prompting a download surge for the track. In the space of less than 12 hours Judy Garland’s version had made it to number 54 according to the latest sales figures collated for the Official Charts Company. It is expected to climb higher as a result of a Facebook campaign being set up to encourage sales.
There has been some speculation that it may be too short to qualify at just 51 seconds, but chart bosses say it is eligible. In 2007 the track The Ladies Bras by Wisbey made the chart despite lasting just 36 seconds. The death has also led to a burst of sales for Elvis Costello’s track about Baroness Thatcher – Tramp The Dirt Down – although to a more modest degree. The song, from his 1989 album Spike, was at number 79 in the iTunes chart this afternoon. George Galloway has said he will not be taking part in Parliamentary tributes to Baroness Thatcher tomorrow, claiming debate is ‘not allowed’. The Respect MP, said he would be ‘first in the queue’ if debate was allowed. But ‘the House of Commons authorities’ would not allow debate in tomorrow’s session, which has been called during Easter recess, Mr Galloway claimed. (DM)