Ely clashes with the police on 22 May, photo Facebook
Ely clashes with the police on 22 May, photo Facebook

Joe Fathallah, Cardiff West Socialist Party

Two teenagers, Harvey Evans and Kyrees Sullivan, tragically died in a road accident following a chase with a vehicle belonging to South Wales Police on the Ely estate in western Cardiff on 22 May.

Alun Michael, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, initially attempted to deny the involvement of a police vehicle in the incident. However, CCTV footage proved that this was a lie. Harvey and Kyrees had been pursued by police.

One local resident reported that police officers refused to tell close relatives of the boys if they were alive or dead for two hours after the incident. Police attempted to forcibly disperse the group of young people trying to see what had happened to their friends. This provoked an angry response from some in the crowd, which involved damage to property and the burning of vehicles through the night.

On the evening of 26 May, a vigil for Harvey and Kyrees was held by the community, with around 1,000 people present. There was no violence that night, and South Wales Police kept their distance.

Cuts and austerity

Ely is a working-class community, which has suffered from a high degree of social deprivation, exacerbated by cuts to vital youth services, carried out by Labour-controlled Cardiff council over the last decade.

Dusty Forge youth centre was stripped of council funding in 2015. The facility is now closed weekends and in the evenings. North Ely youth centre is also closed on Sundays and after school hours.

Large-scale rioting previously took place in Ely back in 1991, following years of huge attacks on the livelihoods of working-class communities by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government.

Instead of meekly accepting and passing on Tory funding cuts, we need councillors who are prepared to stand up and fight for the resources we need in our communities. Cardiff Against the Cuts – launched by Cardiff Trades Union Council, and involving Socialist Party members – played an important role in the campaign against the cuts to Dusty Forge.

In 2022, Socialist Party member Ross Saunders stood as a council candidate in Ely, as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), on a programme of organising a mass campaign to restore lost funding for vital facilities and infrastructure.

Members of Cardiff West Socialist Party held a campaign stall on 27 May. We discussed with those living in the area about the tragic events. We put forward the need for a socialist programme to combat social deprivation and police unaccountability – the key factors in stoking the rioting.

We spoke with young people involved in the disturbance, as well as residents who had been caught up in it. We called for the immediate restoration of funding for adequate youth services in the area, and for democratically elected committees to be in charge of policing decisions.

It is clear to residents that South Wales Police are determined to reveal as little as possible about what happened. Community control over policing would ensure that all the necessary footage is made available to Harvey and Kyrees’ families, to understand why their loved ones died.

Rioting is a consequence of the social alienation and hopelessness felt by young people who see no way to fight for a decent future. The capitalist system can provide huge profits for the super-rich, and yet only unemployment, low pay and squalid living conditions for working-class youth.

Anger at the inequality and oppression offered by profit-driven capitalism must be turned into action. To win decent services and a future with jobs, decent pay and housing means young people getting organised, the building of a mass workers’ movement, and a new mass workers’ party that fights for a socialist programme.

The Socialist Party calls for:

  • Restore all youth and community services in Ely, removed by Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru council administrations passing on cuts from Tories in Westminster and the Labour Welsh government
  • The right to a decent job for all
  • Raise the minimum wage to £15 an hour, rising with the cost of living
  • Scrap zero-hour contracts
  • Training on full pay available to all young people, with a guaranteed job at the end of it
  • Democratic working-class community control of the police
  • Council members who actually fight the cuts

Socialist Party campaign in Ely to defend services in 2022

Below: The Socialist Party standing in Ely as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the 2022 council elections. We said at the time: “Posters are going up all over Ely backing TUSC candidate Ross Saunders for the 5 May election, and no wonder. Places like Ely have been stripped of services. Labour councils voted to cut back the youth service, close the play centre, starve the schools of cash, cut bus routes, and more. We need councillors who will fight for the services we need.” photo: Cardiff Socialist Party

Socialist Party campaigning in Ely in Cardiff
Socialist Party campaigning in Ely in Cardiff