Anarchy In The UK

House of Reeves set ablaze in Croydon

Mark Duggan, a father of four from North London, was shot dead by police on Thursday 4th August. Like every death in police incidents, it immediately became a case that the Independent Police Complaints Commission would investigate. However, whilst the legal procedure was set in motion, social media speculation quickly gathered momentum. Rumours abounded: Duggan was unarmed; he was shot, execution style. In fact, he was actually carrying an illegal firearm and he was shot in a minicab as officers attempted to arrest him. The inquiry continues and, whilst it is clear that Duggan was no angel, it is tragic that four innocent children will have to grow up without their father.

No-one could have predicted what would follow. On the following Saturday, a peaceful protest against the killing swelled in numbers and grew violent, with mobs rioting with police, looting and setting fire to cars and properties in Tottenham. Copycat disturbances London over the next two days quickly spread to other parts of England, as police resources were stretched to breaking point by gangs of rioters as young as 10 years old.

Most heartbreaking to see in the blanket news coverage, were the victims of the robberies, looting and arson. The most iconic image for many was the sight of the House of Reeves family furniture store, set ablaze and burned to the ground, all within 40 minutes. A business with 144 years of history in a historic building was gone. And for what reason?

Some have claimed that the root cause of the riots is poverty and a widening gap between classes. It’s true to assert that there has never been a worse time to be a youth, with a record level of unemployment. But were disaffected youths the main instigators in the mayhem? What about the young children – why did their parents let them out in such times? What about the older people who led the gangs and kept lookout? If poverty was the cause, why were people videoing the riots on their smartphones or brazenly loading up their cars with stolen goods? The debate will undoubtedly rage on for many weeks, but one thing is certain: innocent, hard-working people suffered at the hands of inexcusable mindless thuggery and opportunism.

Worldwide media coverage was extensive, ranging from the continental Europeans nervously looking over their shoulders, to the Chinese claiming that the disorder was a symptom of capitalism, to the outright bizarre press releases of the Iranians; first pleading for British police to show restraint (sure thing… much better to use covert plain-clothes militia, right?), before offering to send a team of human rights ‘examiners’ (well, they don’t examine anything at home I guess) and then threatening to close its British embassy (mind the door on your way out). Nice to see that they are laughing at our expense. Watch out for their tour of comedy clubs near you!

But there were some positives to rise out of the ashes. First was the heartwarming, and very English sight of a lady serving cups of tea to the police, using a riot shield as a tray! Then communities rose up, co-ordinated by the same social media websites and mobile technology implicated in mobilising the rioters. Brooms at the ready, hundreds of volunteers cleaned up their broken communities. And contrary to what many business owners thought, a spokesman for bookstore Waterstones commented: “We’ll stay open. If they steal some books they might learn something”. There’s nothing like some gallows humour!

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised tough action for future troublemakers. He has vowed that the fightback starts now. Could this civil unrest be the wake-up call that spurs politicians into tackling the causes of a broken society? And will genuine solutions be found? For those anti-social deviants who have no respect for anyone and engage in criminal acts, will they feel the full force of the law? Will honest citizens take more interest in their local communities and forge stronger bonds? Only time will tell if lessons have been learned, but we can only hope that the victims of the riots will not have suffered in vain. If the photograph bellow is any indication, we are on the right track.

Messages left on the boarded up front of Poundland in Peckham
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12 thoughts on “Anarchy In The UK

  1. Thanks for this, Stewie. I don’t know which part of London you live in, but I’m an East End Pie and we were fortunate that the shopkeepers of Whitechapel, like the businessmen of Dalston clamped down on that nonsense before it took hold.

    As I’m not working this week and have mostly been at home, My TV has been locked on Sky News and my arse is sore from sitting in front of my ‘puter hitting Facebook hard. I’ve been appalled, shocked, upset and angry that my city where I was born and bred had been trashed by these muppets. But as an antidote to the destruction, examples of positive action sprang up like the anti-riot clean up campaign you mentioned in your post. There is also a Facebook campaign that started up on Tuesday called Anti-riot: Operation Cup of Tea, where you protested against the riot at home by taking a picture of yourself drinking a beverage in a mug at a specific time (8.30pm). You would then post the pic on that page, or on Twitter. I did it of course. I thought it was a great idea. How very British.

  2. Personally; these sorts of actions in my opinion are just…wrong. The mob mentality sinks in and nothing really changes or happens as a result other than very few arrests. We’ve had a couple of riots here in Canada, where the police turn around, create a Facebook page, and just have local citizens submit their photos to the album. They then search out the people that were there and arrest them.

    I beleive we have come further than these neanderthal displays of hostility, being able to channel our anger about a situation better than this.

    Thank-you for sharing this though it was indeed an interesting read.

    • You’re welcome. The police are also publishing photos of culprits here and asking for people to identify them.

  3. It is all very sad, whatever the causes and I am sure there are many. Some of the parents of those children are probably so young they are rioting too. Terrible stuff.

    Here is another blog I found you might be interested in too. It has been published in several papers, I believe, that is how I found it, I think. Can’t remember now, the internet is such a mindboggling source of stuff these days.

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1hXkL0/pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html

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