Social media rumours about car crash triggered Cardiff riots, says police chief

False rumours on social media blaming police for the deaths of two teenagers in a crash in Cardiff triggered riots that led to at least 12 police officers being injured, a policing chief has said.

Alun Michael, the South Wales police and crime commissioner (PCC), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was a road traffic collision involving two teenagers on an off-road bike or scooter and that both had died.

Police officers faced hours of “large-scale disorder” at the scene near Snowden Road in Ely on Monday with rioters throwing missiles including fireworks at them. Cars were set on fire as trouble flared through the night, involving scores of masked youths.

Michael, whose role as PCC involves holding the police to account, said it appeared that incorrect rumours on social media that a police pursuit had led to the crash that killed the teenagers were behind the subsequent disorder.

He said: “My understanding is that there was a road traffic accident involving two teenagers on an off-road bike or scooter and sadly they died. That’s an incident that’s being investigated in its own right.

“That appeared to spark for reasons that are not clear the disorder in which something like a dozen officers were injured and the connection between the two is far from clear so obviously there’s going to be an investigation to establish what happened.

“It appears there were rumours – and those rumours became rife – of a police chase which wasn’t the case. I think it illustrates the speed which rumours can go round with the activity that goes on social media these days and how things can get out of hand.”

Michael said that while officers were injured, none of the injuries were life-threatening. He described Ely as an area that has “a lot of deprivation but it’s also a very warm community”.

Shortly before 3am, rioters moved down Highmead Road in Ely, followed by police who were trying to disperse them. Police, including officers on horseback, were seen outside Ely police station in the early hours of Tuesday after suggestions it could be targeted.

Scenes being livestreamed on YouTube showed young people throwing fireworks and other missiles at a line of police officers with riot shields who were blocking one end of the street.

A fire was burning and a helicopter could be heard hovering overhead. Shortly before midnight a car was set on fire, while a second vehicle was overturned and set ablaze.

One person was attacked due to rioters believing they were an undercover officer, according to one of the senior officers at the scene.

The public were warned the road was closed between Wilson Road and Jackson Road and urged to avoid the area.

The Guardian

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