Hallowe’en passed off quietly in Woolwich last night – a year after the worst disorder seen in the town centre since the riots of 2011.
But while all eyes were on the area after the installation of a fence to seal off General Gordon Square last week, trouble broke out three miles away on the Greenwich Peninsula instead with local representatives condemning youths who terrified locals by throwing fireworks at homes.
Local MP Matt Pennycook told social media: “This was deeply distressing for residents and I will be having further discussions with the police, council and others about how we tackle the problem.”
David Gardner, a Greenwich Peninsula councillor, described groups “running round Greenwich Millennium Village throwing fireworks at police and homes”. On Twitter, he posted an invite to a “firework fight” that had been shared on social media.
While Pennycook said he believed that the police “did a good job in difficult circumstances”, questions will be asked about police tactics and intelligence-gathering – as well as whether they have the resources to deal with Hallowe’en-related problems both locally and across the capital. The website MyLondon reports that similar invites on TikTok led to disorder at Stratford bus station, three stops up the Jubilee Line.
Woolwich’s main square has now been fenced off since last Monday, despite the police gaining a 25-strong team to deal with “serious youth violence” earlier this year.
There have been complaints on social media asking why law-abiding residents have been denied access to the square while a petition has been launched calling on Anthony Okereke, the Greenwich Council leader, to take the fence down.
Questions about the fence have been met with a wall of silence. Greenwich Council has said that the fence was erected on police advice. But Scotland Yard has not responded or even acknowledged requests from this website since last Wednesday to explain its rationale for fencing off the square if it now has a team to deal with youth violence.
The issue was not raised by any councillor at last Wednesday’s full council meeting – even though the fenced-off square was just a few hundred metres from the town hall chamber.
Last year, the fencing went up after disorder during the half-term holiday, but the barriers did not stop worse disorder on Hallowe’en itself, when four police officers were injured and 30 arrests were made on the night of Hallowe’en itself.
Large numbers of police gathered in nearby Beresford Square from late afternoon while across the Plumstead Road officers mingled with families out trick-or-treating in the Royal Arsenal. Greenwich Council wardens were also patrolling the area. Officers had largely gone by 9pm, presumably to deal with the disorder on the Peninsula.
The drastic measure of closing the square came eight months after both the Metropolitan Police and Greenwich Council held a photocall to show off their new town centre team, comprising 21 officers, three sergeants and one inspector.
Unveiled just weeks before the council election, the town hall said that the team would prioritise “serious youth violence”.
Asked why a giant fence was needed to seal off part of Woolwich if a team dealing with youth violence was in place, Greenwich Council referred 853 to a statement previously issued to media outlets: “Following a request by the police, fencing has been installed like last year to manage any anti-social behaviour over Halloween and bonfire night.”
The council would not say how long the fence would be up for, and said questions about the police team were for the Met to answer. Scotland Yard has not responded to requests for comment on its decision to advise the council to close off part of Woolwich.
The Woolwich fence petition can be found at change.org.
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