22nd March 2002
Alderney arrest sparks a “riot”
An arrest on Alderney sparked the first riot anyone could remember.
Reporting the disturbance a couple of days later, The Times said the arrest was merely the spark that ignited something far bigger. To understand the real reasons you’d need to look back to the Second World War. Alderney had been evacuated, and when the residents returned to find many homes almost derelict, many blamed Guernsey residents for looting them.
Guernsey was put in charge of policing Alderney and, says the Times, “lingering animosity and the fact that Alderney people have no right of residence in Guernsey have deterred them from joining the police ever since”.
So, when an Alderney man suspected of drink-driving was arrested by two Guernsey policemen, up to 30 people tried to free him. Some described their support as a riot.
The Scotsman reported that “He tried to run away, urged on by his friends, but the officers held him and in the tussle that followed, one allegedly hit him with a baton. They then followed the officers to the nearby police station, 200 yards away.”
The police called in reinforcements, both from Guernsey (which didn’t arrive until the morning), the resident local police and the fire brigade. A fight broke out and several people were injured.
The Telegraph wrote that in the hour-long fight, which began at 1am, “the mob pelted the police station with stones and other missiles and one of the island’s four policemen used CS spray”
Six more locals were arrested, and the Alderney States warned that if convicted they could expect a custodial sentence.
A riot, or just a disturbance?
A reporter from The Guardian visited Alderney to report on the aftermath and found that, on the whole, the locals believed it had been blown up to more than it actually was. Some described it as a “melee”, and some said the police were “heavy-handed” and “over-reacted”.