I got a message from a friend who went on holiday to the US this morning saying: ‘What the fuck? I go away and the financial markets collapse and there’s rioting on the streets of London?’. What the fuck indeed.
It all started after Mark Duggan was shot by police last Thursday in Tottenham. He was allegedly part of a crack dealing gang and had allegedly fired a gun at police as they tried to arrest him. Doubt has now been cast on that chain of events by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), but it’s pretty much incidental to subsequent events.
On Saturday a group of people held a peaceful vigil/protest march in memory of Mark Duggan but later that evening, two petrol cans were set alight. What followed was way beyond what anyone might have expected. Riots took place in Tottenham that night with cars set alight, shops looted and burned and police attacked by rioters. Another night of violence followed on Sunday night, with the rioting spreading to Enfield, Hackney, Peckham, Lewisham, Bromley, Bethnal Green, Stratford, Ealing, Camden, Clapham, Woolwich and Croydon where a man was shot dead. It’s also now spread to other areas in the UK: Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol have all suffered riots, supposedly as a result of the Mark Duggan shooting.
But it’s not. The people participating in these riots are not protesters. Their sole purpose is vandalism and theft. They’ve grabbed an opportunity for some civil disorder and want a convenient peg to hang their criminality on. They think they’re just setting fire to a shop (assuming they think at all) but they forget that people live in flats above the shops. If they care. Reports have come in of parents looting shops with their children in tow. Shopkeepers have lost their livelihoods, people have lost their homes, communities have lost their trust in each other. Even England’s friendly football with Holland gets called off.
Thousands of extra police have been deployed in London to try and prevent a fourth night of riots. Boris Johnson and David Cameron have come back from holiday, sleeves rolled up and promising rubber bullets and batons for rioters. Boris Johnson faced heckling when he visited Clapham from residents who demanded to know where the police were while their shops and homes were being looted and burned. Looks like those cuts in policing are coming back to bite the mayor in the arse.
Thankfully, there are still some decent people out there – residents are clearing up the streets, business owners are offering help with shutters and even Spurs are putting on their aprons. Don’t let the thieves, gangs of marauding idiots and people who think that community starts and ends with getting your neighbour to keep watch as you steal that TV you’re too lazy to work for ruin your London. Help rebuild.