BBC coverage of 1990 tax riots in London

One of the things that led up to Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Britain's prime minister was the imposition of a poll tax on every adult in the U.K.: a crude per-head charge just for existing. Londoners rioted on 31 March 1990, with hundreds hurt and 339 arrests made. Trafalgar Square was wrecked, police charged the crowds on horseback only to be forced back, and shops throughout the west end were looted.

It's a world away from the experience of black people in America and contemporary protests here, but interesting all the same because of what's different and what's the same. The rioters included many people with large family sizes (a head tax!), people with limited incomes but too well-off to escape the tax. It was a hard-to-define segment on the margins of prosperity, working white people rubbing shoulders with immigrant Muslims and well-off Catholics. All sharing the burden of those targeted by the law.

The police lied through their teeth about their incompetent tactics and excessive use of force and, in an age before ubiquitous video recording devices, enjoyed largely servile coverage in the press. But almost all those arrested were ultimately acquitted, suggesting the police had fabricated or inflated charges.

Thatcher was gone within months, the poll tax proved hard to collect, and her replacement won re-election after promising to abolish it entirely, then did so.