London has felt the full force of what is undeniably outrageous rioting. This article is being written on the second night of there being 16,000 police officers on the streets of our city. The rioting has spread to Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands. It is important to get this next statement out of the way. I (and we as a blog) do not condone the actions of any of the rioters. At all. Not one little bit. There, now that is out of the way, we can properly begin to examine and attempt to EXPLAIN (not EXCUSE) the actions, and the reactions of the wider public as a whole.
The Tottenham riot itself is a completely separate entity in that it was fuelled by the death of Mr. Duggan last Thursday. For this reason, the main focus will be on the “copycat” events that spread throughout the city in the following days.
It is clear to anybody that the geography itself is a huge arrow pointing in the direction of the problem. Hackney, Lewisham, Croydon, Clapham Junction… These are historically and systemically poor areas of London. These riots did not happen in Fulham, or Chelsea, or Kensington. They happened in poor areas, with large unemployment figures. If this is not an obvious warning sign then I really don’t know what is. The young people that took to the streets in these areas are largely deprived of the projected wealth they are subjected to continually, and systematically everyday through social media, 24 hour news, newspapers, TV shows, politicians and celebrities. The anger has been brewing for quite some time now. EMA has been cut, Connexions has been dismantled, job prospects are bleak. There is no chance at a real education because the schools are deprived of the resources and the quality of teaching they so badly need. The family unit is non existent, and its logical solution is not an outpouring of altruistic community support as I have previously suggested, but gangs become the family, the support and friendships that are craved by young people.
It is a desperate state of affairs and a man with nothing to lose is a very dangerous one indeed. To create an even more toxic mix, the relationship between the police and these communities are strained at best. Constant stop and searches, berating and provocation are going to cause a reaction. This was an outpouring of desperation.
Of course, this is not to say that 100% of the youth on the streets over the last few days have been doing so with political intentions. In fact a large proportion, or even the majority, have been taking to the streets in a purely materialistic and apolitical way. In any sense, whether it be political or apolitical, to loot and steal and rob and burgle, to burn down the local businesses and residencies of their own communities is abhorrent behaviour. It can’t be tolerated and there has quite rightly been a fierce public backlash. However, as Albert Einstein once said, insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting to see different results. If we are truly going to rid this country of this sort of behaviour, we must tackle the causes. We must tackle the unemployment, we must provide community support to young people growing in deprived areas, educate them.
Instead, we are met with calls for the Army to get involved, plastic ammunition (which incidentally killed 17 teenagers in Belfast), and shockingly, according to a YouGov poll, 33% of adults would like to see the Police armed with LIVE ammunition in these situations. This is a complete overreaction. The world would take a step back in disgust at images of 14 and 15 year old children face to face with Soldiers and armed police. There needs to be a robust police response, yes. Perhaps even kettling or other non violent means of containment, but the lengths people are calling for the government to go to are over the top and the small group of racist outpourings can only be described as horrific. Many bigoted individuals not even being able to distinguish between religion and race.
The escalating racial tensions must be avoided at all costs because the large majority of people in this country are not racist. The uneducated bigots are as much a blight on this country as the rioters themselves in the way they conduct themselves with such intolerant hatred. It doesn’t take a genius to point out that the current Manchester riots are almost entirely being committed by white people. The racist comments, and any bandwagon that is to follow should be ignored. Enough said on this issue. It isn’t worth my time or yours.
Put quite simply, the summation is easy to comprehend. Nobody with half a brain can justify the actions over the last few days. Nobody can help but feel angry at the devastation and loss to property and business. What we must do is ensure that a generation of people are not instantly converted into reactionary bigots, and more importantly still, examine the real underlying issues at hand. The poverty, the lack of educational facilities, the lack of any community support. Hope and a future need to be promoted to these young people, to prevent this happening again.