Former British PM Margaret Thatcher divides Britain in death as much as in life; while she was hailed by business leaders and former colleagues, ordinary people who suffered from her brutal policies were celebrating the Iron Lady’s death.
Hundreds took to the streets as macabre “Thatcher death parties” were held late across the country last night, organized by Baroness Thatcher’s critics.
In Bristol, seven police officers were injured – one seriously – as violence erupted at a street party of 200 people and officers were pelted with bottles, cans and rubbish.
Riot police were deployed in Brixton, south London, as the crowds, which had been drinking since 5 p.m., started to become more aggressive, while in Liverpool flares and fireworks were set off outside Lime Street Station.
Messages to organize the parties began flooding the internet minutes after the official announcement.
In Bristol police were called to Chelsea Road in the Easton area of the city during the early hours of today after violence erupted at a street party.
Trouble flared after midnight when a rowdy 200-strong crowd refused police requests to disperse.
Dozens of officers donned riot gear and used shields and batons as they were pelted with bottles, cans and rubbish.
Wheelie bins were set on fire by the mob and a police car was damaged by the flying missiles.
Some of the injured police needed hospital treatment and one male officer was still detained today with a neck injury.
One man was arrested for violent disorder and it took police more than two hours to restore calm.
It was not until 3 a.m. that most of the police units sent to the scene were stood down.
The party had started outside the Chelsea Inn in Easton, which is one of Bristol’s poorest and multi-cultural neighborhoods.
The air was thick with cannabis smoke as revelers toasted the death of Margaret Thatcher, chanting: “Maggie Thatcher, Maggie Thatcher, she’s not living anymore. She’s not living anymore.”
Some people drank champagne while others walked around in Margaret Thatcher masks and one man dressed up as the former PM.
Sound systems were set up in the street to fuel the party atmosphere and the trouble broke out when police tried to stop the music.
Unemployed Julian Styles, 58, who was made redundant from his factory job in 1984, said: “I’ve been waiting for that witch to die for 30 years.
“Tonight is party time. I’m drinking one drink for every year I’ve been out of work.”
Speaking to Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio Ulster, former PM Tony Blair said the celebrations of Margaret Thatcher’s death were in poor taste.
When asked if he worried there would be similar celebrations when he dies, Tony Blair said: “When you decide, you divide. I think she would be pretty philisophical about it and I hope I will be too.”
In Brixton, south London, two women were arrested on suspicion of looting a store and riot police were deployed as the crowds which had been drinking since 5 p.m. started to become more aggressive, refusing to let buses through the streets.
More than 300 people, including the young and old partied until late at night on the streets of London, clutching cans of cider and cartons of milk as they danced along to reggae and 1980s music.
Many children also attended the impromptu event with their parents some wearing fancy dress, fairy wings and clutching balloons.
The carnival-like celebrations also drew crowds who had no knowledge or interest in at Margaret Thatcher, but who wanted to join in with the revelry.
Brixton was the scene of intense rioting during her time as Prime Minster – the unrest was blamed on deep social divisions, racial tensions and unemployment.
At 11 p.m. last night, party-goers climbed the Ritzy Cinema to replace the billboard of films to say “Margaret Thatcher’s dead”.
They received cheers and applause from fellow revelers as they did so.
Later they added the words “LOL” (laugh out loud), followed by “Oh Aye”.
The two hooded men who covered their faces as they replaced the words on the Picture House cinema also attached a sign reading “the bitch is dead”.
The Ritzy Cinema said it had nothing to do with masked people and later tweeted its thanks to those who helped clean up broken letters and damage.
Pictures of anti-Thatcher graffiti scrawled on walls in Brixton also appeared on Twitter, with one reading: “You snatched my milk! & our hope.”
Banners were held stating “Rejoice Thatcher is dead” by drunken crowds, many of whom were too young to remember her as prime minister.
Sickening messages also began flooding the internet minutes after the official announcement.
Revelers danced the conga, drank champagne and chanted: “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – Dead, Dead, Dead.”
Barnados charity shop was a casualty of the celebrations and this morning the store front had been left with a gaping hole in the glass.
Alex Bigham, a councilor in Lambeth representing Stockwell condemned the celebrations and said: “Even if you detested her policies, many of which I did, it is tasteless posturing.”
The Metropolitan Police said: “Police dealt with a group of approximately 100 people in Brixton who caused low level disorder including throwing missiles at officers.”
Police confirmed that two women were arrested on suspicion of burglary after being found inside a shop in Brixton. The shop front had been smashed.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, more than 300 people gathered in the city centre for street party, organized on Twitter.
Members of organizations including the Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, the Communist party, the Socialist party, the Socialist Workers party and the International Socialist Group, were joined by members of the public in the city’s George Square.
A chorus of “so long, the witch is dead”, along with chants of “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead”, could be heard among the popping of champagne bottles.
In Leeds, people cheered and even handed out “Maggie death cake” at another of several street parties across the UK last night.
In west Belfast, a crowd assembled on the streets outside the Sinn Féin office in the Lower Falls road where music was played as people danced and passing motorists sounded their horns.
People were seen huddling in a crowd as they drank and sang to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death.
Petrol bombs were thrown at police near Free Derry corner amid celebrations and missiles were also used against the officers.
Martin McGuinness has called on people not to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister at the Northern Ireland Assembly, tweeted: “Resist celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher. She was not a peacemaker but it is a mistake to allow her death to poison our minds.”
Unionists like DUP First Minister Peter Robinson have praised Margaret Thatcher’s commitment to the Union but Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused her of pursuing “draconian, militaristic” policies which prolonged the conflict.