A 21-year-old DJ on a fixie has emerged as one of the more unlikely heroes of this week’s splurge of looting in cities around the UK, using his bike to cycle round Bristol and using his Twitter feed to provide an accurate, eyewitness account of what was happening in place of internet rumour and hearsay.
Leon Piers, who the website Bristol 24-7 says is working on his debut release for London label Glyph Records, registered the @BristolRiots Twitter account on Tuesday morning after the previous evening had seen looting and other disorder in the city.
Undeterred by Bristol’s hilly topography, Piers, helped by several friends, cycled from hotspot to hotspot including St Pauls, Stokes Croft, Cabot Circus and Broadmead and posted more than 200 tweets on the events unfolding there.
Speaking to Bristol 24-7, Piers, originally from Cardiff but a resident of the city on the other side of the Bristol Channel for the past 14 months explained the inspiration behind the setting up of his Twitter account, which now has more than 3,000 followers.
“I saw a similar page for London that I believe was called @londonriot so then I looked to see if there was a @bristolriots. When I saw there wasn’t I signed it up with the intention of only posting confirmed things, but not actually going to investigate anything.
“I didn’t start the page until Tuesday,” he continued. “I didn’t really see anything until I went out in St Pauls during the evening where I saw a few arrests and people being stopped and searched but no actual violence. I was using a mixture of what rumours seemed to be blowing up the most on Twitter and things such as where helicopters were.
“I felt Bristol Riots was necessary just to let people know exactly what was happening. At first I knew it was a gamble whether people would trust the source or not, but once people realised that everything I was reporting was the truth.
“If there were any rumours I’d try and explain the situation as much as possible. For example, there were a few RTA’s mistaken for ‘Riot Scenes’. I feel I let people know as much as I could, within 140 characters anyway!”
Piers revealed that he had received some criticism from those who believed that he should have used the account to name and shame miscreants involved in the looting.
“The only thing people have picked me up on negatively is that I’m not doing enough to share pictures/videos of the looters/rioters. I have explained that the @BristolRiots Twitter is there not to incriminate, but to dispel rumours and keep people safe should anything erupt,” he explained.
“Positively though, various types of people such councillors, press, media, business owners, even the Bristol City Council twitter itself have been saying that along with Bristol24-7 I’m the strongest source of info.
“I think the only mistake was I said there was no damage to Debenhams, but that was a fault of my own, as I went there and saw it all boarded up, asked a guy from the company what it was for, and he explained it was a precautionary measure.
"Several people picked me up on this, telling me a window had in fact been smashed, and I was quick enough to correct myself and apologise within five minutes,” he added.
Bikebiz, meanwhile reports on how a mechanic at Mosquito Bikes in Islington managed to keep violent looters out of the shop when it was targeted on Monday.
Greg Conti told BikeBiz: "Late in the afternoon groups of yobs had assembled on Islington Green and we had noticed they were scoping us out. Before long, ten or so balaclava-clad youths had emerged from a side alley and tried to enter the shop.”
Greg then held the door shut while the youths attacked the toughened glass.
"They struck the glass which cracked, but didn't give way. Eventually they realised they weren't getting in and they ran off.
“If they had have gained entry they would have made a real mess, causing more damage than theft as our bikes are all locked and relatively secure. Its interesting that no other shops on Essex Road were targeted in the way that Mosquito was. The police arrived on the scene very quickly here."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.