It's our city, not the rioters', say Manchester's clean-up brigade

By Jonathan Kalmus, August 11, 2011
The broom brigade: Adrian Cohen and Hannah Salter in Albert Square

The broom brigade: Adrian Cohen and Hannah Salter in Albert Square

Manchester's great clean-up on the day after the riots was masterminded by a 34-year-old resident of Reddish, south-east Manchester, Jeremy Myers. More than 1,000 people, branded the "broom army", gathered in the city centre at 9am after Mr Myers, grandson of the late Sephardi rabbi, Dr Maurice Gaguine, tweeted the idea after being outraged by live television coverage of the riots. Mr Myers, a social housing consultant who works with the homeless, was thanked by Labour leader Ed Miliband amid a press scrum on a brief visit to the city centre.

Mr Myers said: "The response almost literally snowballed over the space of a few hours. It's the most fantastic and overwhelming scene that this many people care about the city to get mobilised and clear it up."

Warning that rioters would be met with a community spirit driven by his Jewish upbringing, he added: "We will be here to clear up again and again and again, because it's our city and our neighbourhood."

Volunteers included 18-year-old Manchester King David High School graduates Adrian Cohen and Hannah Salter, while free kosher sandwiches were given to all by Titanics deli owner Richard Hyman.

"If everyone does a little bit to make things better, you'll be surprised what a lot of little things can do," said Mr Hyman, who ran out of time to prepare chicken soup for volunteers.

Crawfords’ warehouse in Salford

Crawfords’ warehouse in Salford

Elsewhere in the city centre a relieved Avrohom Hershl Davies re-opened his Royal Exchange shop in Cross Street for "business as usual". Mr Davies, whose window sports a picture of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, took precautions by taking everything out of his display and putting items in his safe. But police were present all night just outside his shop.

Less lucky was a Jewish-owned accountancy firm, whose Salford warehouse was badly damaged.

The top floor and roof of a three-storey warehouse owned by Crawfords accountants was completely destroyed. Rioters targeted the building, which lies between the city centre and Salford Precinct, where trouble had flared separately from late afternoon. Fire services confirmed it took three teams of firefighters seven hours to control the blaze and secure the building after being called just before 10pm.

Police are pursuing arsonists, but it is unclear whether something was thrown at the upper floors of the building to start the fire, since the ground floor was untouched by flames. Crawfords partner Tony Wacks branded the riots "a sad state of affairs" and said client files as recent as a year old had been rendered unusable either by fire damage or water.

"It's very disruptive and will cost in money and reorganisation if we need to recover something from our records. Fortunately, everything recent is backed up on computers, and our main business was not touched," he added.

Elsewhere, officers guarded the nearby Manchester Fort shopping complex and said sporadic fires had been started by youths in the area leading to Leicester Road, home to numerous Jewish businesses.

The city centre Manchester Reform Synagogue, which lies yards from where shops were looted near to Manchester Town Hall, remained undamaged. Synagogue president Peter Arkwright said advice from the Community Security Trust meant it was hoped that Friday night and Shabbat morning services would proceed as normal.

On Wednesday there was renewed nervousness as Shomrim warned of possible trouble in Prestwich and 6,000 police entered the city.

Last updated: 4:22pm, August 11 2011