Liverpool photographer Leroy Cooper, whose arrest led to the 1981 Toxteth riots, has died aged 62.
Cooper, who was also a writer and activist, was arrested in front of protesters after coming to the aid of a Liverpool woman in July 1981.
His treatment by Merseyside Police led to violence in which three officers were injured and was the catalyst for nine days of rioting in Toxteth.
After his arrest, Cooper trained as a photographer and took more than 250,000 pictures, many of which helped counter negative images of the area.
The Guardian understands that Cooper was found dead at home on Friday and the cause of death is yet to be determined.
The Museum of Liverpool, where Cooper’s work is on display as part of his ‘Liverpool Through the Lens’ exhibition, paid tribute to the photographer.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Leroy Cooper, a photographer, writer and activist whose love for Liverpool and the L8 community stemmed from his work. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.” the museum tweeted. It says the Cooper exhibition will run “in memory” until March 31, 2024.
Labor MP Kim Johnson, whose Liverpool Riverside constituency includes Toxteth, said Cooper’s “beautiful pictures” showed his love for the area.
He wrote on Twitter“Desperately sad news about Leroy Cooper. the man whose arrest sparked the 1981 Toxteth Rebellion spent the next 40 years painting beautiful paintings that reflected his love for his L8 community.
“Love and thoughts with his family and friends. RIEP Leroy!”
Liverpool artist and social justice activist Sonia Bassey also paid tribute. in a tweet“So sad to hear about Leroy Cooper’s passing. Your legacy lives on Leroy in your exhibition at @NML_Muse. Original fun horror. Flight [sic] high.”
Earlier, Cooper told the BBC’s North West Tonight. “I think that after more than 300 years of Liverpool’s association with black people, it’s a very important moment for the city,” he added. “I genuinely love the people of Liverpool.”
The civil unrest of 1981 was a result of increased tensions in the area due to police stops and searches of black youth. The violence escalated into explosive riots in which police used tear gas for the first time in England.