Poll Tax Riot, London (Japanese Tourists)
Gelatin Silver Print
27.5 x 18.2 cms (10.81 x 7.15 ins)
In 1990 the Conservative government, led by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, introduced the Community Charge, commonly known as the Poll Tax, to England and Wales. The year before the introduction of the levy, the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation (The Fed) was founded as a national body to rebut the changes.
The Saturday before the Community Charge was implemented, the committee of The Fed called for a demonstration in London at 11am on the 31st March 1990. During the initially peaceful demonstration, violence erupted in Trafalgar Square after a group of protesters involved in a sit-in at Whitehall, close to the Downing Street entrance, refused to move after requests from police. This led to rioting throughout Trafalgar Square, trouble spreading to Charing Cross Road, Pall Mall, Regent Street and Covent Garden. As the violence escalated, cars and buildings alike were set alight, shop windows were smashed and looted, and scaffolding poles were used as weapons against riot and cavalry police; calm was not restored until 3am the following morning.
This somewhat amusing image shows two unsuspecting Japanese tourists caught in the midst of the rioting. The pair look on, aghast, clutching their HMV carrier bags as the fires rage and smoke billows around them.
From the mid 1980s Melanie Friend worked as a freelance photojournalist, producing photographs for magazines, newspapers, and campaigns such as the anti-nuclear movement among others. Friend captured scenes of political unrest across both the UK and Kosovo throughout the 1990s, often combining her photography with print journalism, writing freelance articles for publications such as The Guardian and The Times.