I was a 17 year old college student on the weekend of the worst ethnically motivated rioting to take place in Britain since 1985.

I was at home in Glodwick, Oldham on that May weekend in 2001 and remember hearing helicopters and sirens and went out to investigate. I was shocked to find a huge crowd of mainly young Pakistani men who had gathered in the ‘Square’ in the centre of Glodwick to protest.

There had been a rumour that a gang of far-right thugs had assaulted a pregnant Asian woman in a neighbouring area.

The riots made world news, most of my family were in Bangladesh at the time and they saw what was happening on the news. They worriedly phoned my sister to get an update.

Glodwick was and still is a mainly Asian area with a bad reputation even before the riots. I watched as the huge crowd surged as one towards the town centre where the windows of the local newspaper’s office were smashed.

It looked like a game of cat and mouse as the police attempted to control the crowd who blockaded a main road with a burning car and parts of steel fences and burning tyres. The rioters would rush towards the police lines and would retreat as police vans approached.

Most of the rioters did not have criminal records but due to the inflammatory situation, otherwise peaceful people became aggressive due to rumours, long standing grudges and far-right fear-mongering.

I watched as my home area was transformed into a war zone. The rioters threw stones and rocks and even petrol bombs. I went home to give feedback to my sister who stopped me from going back out.

Many police officers were injured and vans were damaged during the riot. There had also been a rumour over the weeks prior to the riots that far-right groups planned a march through Oldham.

It was a tumultuous weekend - cars were burnt and fires were started by the rioters. A local pub was also attacked with bricks and stones.

The mob mentality took over and people copied each other without considering the severity of their actions. There were upto 500 Asian youth, some from other areas of Oldham who fought pitched battles with the police.

After the disturbances, so many young men were convicted for rioting and imprisoned for many years. Their lives and futures spoiled for good. At least 20 people were injured, including 15 police officers and 32 police vehicles were damaged.

Riots also occurred in Bradford, Leeds and Burnley. They also happened in the Bangladeshi dominated Chadderton and Westwood areas of Oldham.

I heard stories about people who ended up being jailed for upto five years for throwing stones. Oldham was the flash point of rioting that resulted in further riots in other towns.

Oldham’s reputation was ruined as a result but much progress has been made ever since including the work of the Inter-Faith Forum and charities such as UKEFF who carry out community cohesion work.

There were voices of reason who attempted to stop the situation from escalating but unfortunately they were unheard or ignored.

After the riots finished the main road through Glodwick was littered with debris, stones, bricks, smashed glass bottles and anything that could be thrown. It looked like the scene of a deadly battle in a war-torn country.

Oldham was and still is one of the most deprived towns in the UK.