This article explores the social dynamics in the city of Salford at the time of the Pendleton riot, which took place amidst the four days of national rioting that began with the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham by the Metropolitan Police Service. Attempting to counter what we see as a dominant narrative of the riots as 'shopping with violence', this article explores the development of the significant disorder in Salford through a triangulation of accounts, including an extensive review of journalistic accounts, alongside interviews from a dozen people who witnessed the riots as police officers, residents and spectators. Beginning with an overview of the events of August 9th 2011, we argue that the deployment of officers in riots gear in the vicinity of Salford Precinct proved provocative, and created a focal point for the widespread antagonism felt towards the police. Furthermore, we suggest that an understanding of local contextual factors is critical both in terms of answering the question ‘why Salford?’, but also in terms of explaining the ferocity of the violence targeted towards officers of Greater Manchester Police (in contrast to the focus on looting in nearby Manchester city-centre). Interpreting the riots as a response to punitive policing policies that have accompanied state-directed policies of large-scale gentrification, we highlight the degree to which the 'contestations over space' that characterized the riot pointed to an underlying politics of resistance (despite lacking 'formal' political articulation).