England / London / Social Unrest

After the Riots: One Year Later

One year later and we are no closer to zeroing in on ‘the’ reason why London burned last year.  Many studies have been completed, many talks have taken place, and just as many theories on who these rioters were/are and why they took to the streets and destroyed neighbourhoods including their own.

Picture Source

It really doesn’t feel as though a year has passed.  I remember being at work on Friday and hearing on the radio about a man who was shot execution style by the police that week.  Then as I went home there were discussions about a peaceful protest led by the family as they were unhappy with not getting information about what happened.

What happened next was a bit surreal to be honest.  The rioting started and more and more neighbourhoods were being hit.  A few days in I remember hearing that a furniture shop in Croydon was set on fire. It ended up being the same store that I passed everyday going to and from work.  When I finally went into work on Tuesday morning I passed by the store (pictured above) and it was still being hosed down.  I really couldn’t believe my eyes at that moment.  For the duration of the rioting I was home and I was watching it from a distance like everyone else.  At the point that I passed it there were only a few walls still standing.

London wasn’t the only place to experience issues around that time.  Liverpool and Birmingham were some cities that experienced copycat riots.  When D and I went to Liverpool for my birthday at the end of August we saw the damage that was done to the shopping area.

So where are we with what happened, and why?  No one can be entirely sure because as with most things it is layered, but this is my explanation.  First, a man was shot and his family wanted answers from the police.  They didn’t get those answers and so they organised a peaceful protest.  Second, and completely unrelated, were the London riots and subsequent riots in other cities.

Many rioters (as a lot have been interviewed) said that it was a statement against the police.  They stated that they were sick and tired of being treated badly and wanted to push back.  That is complete bullshit.  If that were true they would have peacefully protested in front of the police station that failed to give answers to the family of the man who was shot.  I understand why frustration and anger is being directed at the police, but their behaviour means that no one will take them seriously.

I work with many people who fit the bill of the rioters and heard about some clients who did in fact participate.  For a lot of them it was fun, and an opportunity to get something for free because the police were unorganised (initially) and were not responding appropriately.  For me these people piggy backed on to a ’cause’ and trashed the city because the opportunity presented itself.

Recently I saw a documentary about the riots called Riots: The Aftershock.  Rather than try again to come up with why individuals got involved the documentary followed 3 people who were charged for taking part.  Two received jail time and one was acquitted.  They also spoke to people who lost their livelihood.  One owned a restaurant that was burned down, and the other woman’s flat was set on fire and some of her musical instruments were destroyed.  How someone can justify this because of a statement at the police is lost on me.

After watching I didn’t change my mind on how I view what happened.  I don’t think that was the point.  It didn’t try to explain, just bring some reality to a debate that is relying on a lot of assumptions.  There was a lot of talk last year about what would happen if trouble were to break out this summer with the Olympics.

There are too many police in London at the moment for that to happen.  Also, a lot of the people who participated had committed many crimes prior, so with them being locked up at the moment there has been a drop in crime.  The conclusion?The issues that the riots dug up have still not been dealt with so the city still has a lot of work to do if they don’t want to see a repeat event.

16 thoughts on “After the Riots: One Year Later

  1. Just added your link to my post (publishing within the hour). I planned on re-posting my posts about it anyway, but wasn’t gonna elaborate. So your link is just a bonus.

  2. Pingback: Remember the riots? « Spinster's Compass

  3. Surreal… My first thought was that there was a real reason for everything to be happening. There was not. It was almost embarrassing and many people and businesses were affected. But, there are so many issues that are behind these riots, that I feel it might not be that appropriate to judge after all.

    • Very surreal and yes embarassing. I disagree however that it might not be appropriate to judge. Once you break the law, all bets are off for me. There were many issues that were highlighted in the wake of the riots but I wouldn’t say were necessarily the driving force behind them. I think it was opportunistic crime, peple wanted stuff they couldn’t afford, so if anything it highlighted the kind of society we live in.

      Many rioters themselves could barely justify why they did it. If you can’t even string together a coherent sentence as to why you did something then I have no sympathy for you. I spoke to a resident at my old work a few weeks ago and he knew the guy who set light to the furniture shop. Apparently he didn’t intend to go out and do it, a few boys had smashed in the windows and one yelled out to burn it down. He just ended up being there at the time and he was the one with the lighter. He could have just as easily not given them the lighter and walked away.

      I am making my judgements as informed as possible. I’ve read the many theories, watched the newsnight pieces, read the interviews the rioters have given, as well as spoken to people who took place in the riots to come to this conclusion.

      • That’s true. Those issues were just at the background of it all, but definitely not the driving force. At least, that’s what looks like. Breaking the law should not be allowed. I feel for those who died, were injured or lost their business during the riots.

  4. This is a really interesting, thought-provoking post. I’ve kept really quiet about the riots. Part of me absolutely understands why they happened and the reasons for the mass uprising, but another part of me looks at what I consider to be more valid concerns leading to the Arab Spring, or the poverty stricken parts of the world where riots didn’t occur and I don’t get it at all. I am overcome with ambivalence.

    • When I started working in social work years ago I found myself being very judgemental in some cases. I felt that the youth I was workin with still had it made in the west (as in a social welfare system, access to resources etc) and that they didn’t know what ‘true’ poverty was.

      So I agree with you in that sense that the Arab Spring is something people would look at and right away be in much more support of it and see it as a valid reason to riot/protest etc. While I agree with the frustations behind it, I think we all disagree with the way it was done since there are so many other methods to get their point across besides stealing trainers. Probably the ambivanace is also because there has been no conclusion really. Either from why it happened or what will happen now in response. Now we’re too busy looking at atheletes win metals.

  5. There was a small riot conducted by some drunk college kids on St. Patty’s Day in London, Ontario earlier this year for no reason other than that they were intoxicated and wanted to see things burn. And several of the young 19 – 22 year-old girls I worked with (and these were middle-class to upper-middle-class people) either saw the riot happening or saw videos of it and they all thought it was the “coolest thing EVER!” and celebrated the destruction that was caused. The group started a whole bunch of fires, set fire to random vehicles including a CTV van, and attacked police and firemen anytime they tried to put the fires out or apprehend them.

    I’m in no way trying to compare this small isolated event to what happened in London and the rest of the UK, I was just appalled at the total disregard and insensitivity of their reactions. What I gathered from the response was that sometimes civil disobedience isn’t logical; it’s just another night of fun for inconsiderate youth.

    • Good example and it does draw many comparisons. There were a lot of older people involved in the riots but most were young and they just saw it as a bit of fun. A lot of them said that they got caught up in the madness of it and just decided to see what they could get. So yes, not much logic to it at all. New tvs for free? Sure why not.

    • I remember reading about that and being disgusted (again, as I was with the riots here). Any student who attends Western is not entitled to riot. Period. And Fanshawe students aren’t out of the water either. If you’re in post-secondary training, you’re not oppressed. But then again, these people were just flaming idiots, weren’t they?

    • Before giving notice at the old job we were interviewing a lot of people for the new hostel and we were getting a few come through who had been convicted and served jail time for their part in the riots. I’m sure a lot of them are coming out of prison right about now. Be interesting to see what the next year brings as a lot of the rioters had rather extensive criminal histories.

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