10 Aug 2011

London On Fire – English Riots

This is  a post for when the fires will be watered down and I will need to go back to see these current events with fresh eyes. Being away from the scene might affect my understanding but the issues are similar to every riots.

My heart and prayers go to all the people who have lost their houses or businesses due to the increasing riots around London. I am very sad about these events because I am scared for my friends and families in London. So far the areas affected is not close to where they live.

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Since Saturday 06-08-2011 London and surrounding English cities are going through riots and looting. And as we are aware there is a reason for every unrest.Shooting-in-Tottenham-Hal-007

The mayhem started after a young man, Mark Duggan (29), was shot by a police officer while trying to carry out an arrest. On August 8th it was reported that

… the C019 firearms officer has said that he never claimed Duggan had shot at him.

The firearms officer is understood to have told investigators that he opened fire because he believed he was in danger from a lethal weapon. Two shots were fired, it is understood; one hit Duggan and one missed, lodging in another officer's radio.

That shot was fatal to Duggan who died on the spot. After his death, around 200 protesters gathered together demanding some answers. The demonstration which friends and family member began as a request for further information was peaceful. After four hours of not getting any information the women decided to leave the scene. The youth ceased the opportunity to start the revolt. They have had enough of the police mistreatments. Although there was an issue behind the revolt it was not what the main focus became; thugs hijacked the situation to keep up the disorder.

The unrest was not supported by the family.

Leaders of the community spoke about the frustration of Duggan’s death. They compared the situation to the events of 1985’s riots.  

The media used Duggan’s death as the source of the upheavals because it was easy to blame on something.

Surely there is a long story behind the shooting, but it is obvious that the family is frustrated due to the fact the lack of police regards to their emotions. After the killing no authority had the courage to go to the family personally to announce the death of Duggan. It was through the media that they learnt about the tragedy. The story may vary from reporter to reporter but the community believes it was race discrimination. Also the fact that the firearm officer shot his gun because he was scared for his own life might indicate race discrimination.

One of the community leaders pointed out that the police might be trying to cover up the death of Duggan and although there was a gun at the shooting scene which might have belonged to Mark, it was in a sock. Tottenham has been targeted by police, and the majorities of people who get stopped and searched are young black men or ethnic minorities.

These events are taking people back to memory lane. The social context and the killing of Duggan re-echo the events that sparked the riots in Brixton in 1981. The editorial of guardian.co.uk compared:

…riots taking place against the backdrop of a royal wedding and an economic downturn; riots in some of the same locations, even in some cases the same streets; riots repeating many of the same patterns of events – including the looting of clothes and televisions – and all of it resulting in many of the same public and political responses. Some things, though, are different.

Although socially things might seem better from afar, the issues are still hanging in the air :

[…]Thirty years ago, Lord Scarman's landmark report concluded that the Brixton riots were "essentially an outburst of anger and resentment by young black people against the police". The evidence for that conclusion was overwhelming. Thirty years ago, London's police had provided repeated provocation for concern and anger. Much policing of that era was too aggressive, too high-handed, based on crude and often racist stereotypes, and lacked any convincing accountability, either strategically or for individual abuses.

[…] But it is also clear that there have been major changes, almost all of them for the better, in the policing of London and of black communities, in the years since Scarman. Police training, behaviour, leadership, methods and accountability have all been qualitatively improved. Tottenham is also an improved place in countless ways.

As argued above rough policing has improved, but one can counter argue that it is still tainted with discrimination. The relationship between the police and young black men had been stretched to breaking point since such improvement. Nina Power points out:

One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.

Is easy to use Mark Duggan’s death as the source of the mayhem, however there is more to it. Last November students took over the roads of London centre in protest for the government spending cuts. The students’ frustrations came about when the Tories decided to increase the students tuitions and to cut education funding. This affected those in need, the people from ‘ethnic minority’ and low income households. The living conditions of some people living in deprived boroughs of London tend to be impoverished: intellectually, socially and economically.

Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)

Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.

To fight the riots and looting the British government increased police forces from 6.000 to 16.000 last night. It was later reported that the increased saw results. Cameron, the Prime Minister, reinforced that:

“We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets. Let’s me be clear […], full contingence planning is going ahead. Whatever resources the police need, they will get. Whatever tactics the police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so. […] The police are already authorised to use baton rangs […] we now have in place contingence plans for water canons to be available at 24hours notice.”

This is fear against fear, which in case of social unrest, every government likes to employ to push the real issues at bay – what’s the difference between a developing country and developed country? In all revolts, the police seem to have more power over civilians. But one have to question how does one resolve a big issues as mistrust between those who are supposed to protect your wellbeing becoming your perpetrators?

Government mismanagement of the economical situation, social stratification and increase discrimination against the ‘ethnic minority’ have escalated these rioting. However the thugs have to be stopped so that the real issues can be dealt with. Until then, slowly, everything that happened will be forgotten and blamed on some silly issues. Meanwhile the great issues will be swept under the carpet like a big elephant in a small room.

2 comments:

  1. What a fantastic post! I'be been hearing a lot about the riots so it's helpful having you put it into such eloquent and succinct manner!

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  2. wow, what a moving post. i feel horrible for Duggan's family. i pray that they find peace in this heart breaking time.

    it is sad that in today's age that things like this is still happen. it scares that many, many years down the line these will still be the issue because people refuse to accept that they issues do exist. i hope that one day these issues will no longer be swept under the carpet. until then, we just have to teach our future children well.

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