"Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) fuck the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O Dead the ends and colour war for now so if you see a brother... SALUT! if you see a fed... SHOOT!"
What began on Saturday in North London area Tottenham as a reactionary vengeance response to the killing of local young man, Mark Duggan, by police, soon snowballed into a domino effect of copycat rioting, looting, and pillaging across the capital. The 'success' of the first proved a catalyst for the disaffected and dysfunctional to wreak havoc on London's streets. Stage-managed via Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger, rioting spread like wildfire to Hackney, Ealing, Clapham and now further across the UK in Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol.
Electrical stores were ram-raided for flatscreen TV's, JD Sports for sneakers, cashpoint dispenser machines pulled mercilessly from the wall, police baited, local corner shops looted for booze and fags whilst premises, residences and vehicles were set alight. For four days our streets have been witness to escalating unrest.
I'm a resident of Stoke Newington (ominously sandwiched right between Tottenham and Hackney) and despite the rioting most likely to break out here being a gang of yummy mummy's ram-raiding Whole Foods with Bugaboo strollers, the anxiety for the last few days has been palpable with shops shut up early and the streets eerily quiet. Hackney last night was a ghost town -- all stores were boarded or shuttered, save for a few fried chicken houses. Fortunately all of London remained relatively riot-free, perhaps deterred by the 16,000 extra police deployed from around the UK. Severe rioting erupted out in Manchester, however -- ironically where many of the extra police had been drafted in from.
The intimidation and damage inflicted upon our city and its inhabitants has been hellish and the subsequent anger provoked understandable. Yet all our mainstream media and Right Wing press has been serving up is manipulated, fear-based propaganda with a continued demonetization of the rioting youths and their method of communique: there were early calls to block BBM and Twitter, forgetting it is the same social media which is now helping communities co-ordinate clear-up jobs. This morning a stern BBC news broadcaster instructed us only to leave our homes if it was necessary, to change commuting journeys and avoid riot areas at all costs. I strolled though Hackney at lunch and it was business as usual.
Yesterday the most repeated clip on BBC news was an enraged lady referring to desperately marginalized youths as 'feral rats'. Earlier our Prime Minister condemned the 'sick' individuals saying he 'despised' them. To perpetuate this derisory rhetoric is dangerously counterproductive to understanding just why our society has bred a generation of conscience-free disaffected criminal kids who feel this terrorizing of their neighbourhoods is acceptable or purposeful.
What I see on our streets is symptomatic of what's happening the world over; an ever-increasing rage towards socio-economic injustices imposed on us. It feels curiously inevitable as this tense, tumultuous collective unease has been percolating for some time. What is lamentable is that this is the only way these kids can articulate themselves. "When you've got bankers taking their bonuses and MP's taking money off people like me for their moats, and their chateaus and their castles, this is the result" an astute Hackney resident told BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday. It's Us v Them. The Haves Vs Have Nots. The Bureaucrats Vs The Marginalized.
The brutal riots may be the antithesis of the stoic, peaceful protesting seen in Egypt and the Middle East (there is no cohesive political message, only wanton lust for destruction and greed) yet it's an expression of extreme discontent the only way they know how. These are a young, underprivileged, under-acknowledged underclass -- destined to remain on benefits or in poverty. Charged with fearless anger, they have nothing to lose and nothing to fear.
Given their poor education and distinct lack of values this is their last resort at being heard. It's not eloquent, it's not even constructive or focused (conversely, it harms their very own communities) but it's desperate, furious and reactionary.
The young rioters see a corrupt government who don't listen, who lie and break promises. One which does not speak for them. A government who denies them of a future, slashing funding and enforcing austerity measures left-right-and-centre in a bid to serve their criminal banking paymasters. A heavy-handed police force imposing searches for no reason. When all you see is futility yet are paradoxically bombarded by consumerism and aspiration (coupled with our have-it-all-now-for-no-effort X Factor culture) all that manifests is a toxic combination of entitlement and frustration.
In other words these belligerent shopping-sprees have been about taking what they believe is owed to them. While the violence is inexcusable and unjustifiable, it's critical we understand why this is happening, yet our leaders are turning a blind-eye.
As they one-by-one reluctantly dragged themselves from their £10k a week villas yesterday to deal with the hellish-aftermath, the mood amongst the crowds was telling of the resounding discord and distrust of politicians; Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was cussed and told to "go home" on a walkabout in Birmingham. Mayor Boris Johnson's encouragement to ignore the socio-political analysis behind the riots and accept them as just "wanton criminality" was met with boos and calls for his resignation. It's utter disconnect like this that makes one see how this unspoken-for underclass see violence as their only mouthpiece. Our politicians' failure to lay blame on current national circumstances serves only to put the very reasoning behind the riots in context: they are either ignorant to society's ills or just don't care.
"I'm not shocked at all by this, I was certain something very, very serious was going to take place in this country," said West Indian writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe to BBC news before his mic was hastily muted. "Our political leaders have NO idea, the police have NO idea, but if you look at young blacks and whites with a discerning eye and careful hearing they have been telling us yet we would not listen about what is happening in this country to them. The police have been stopping and searching young blacks for no reason at all. My grandson has lost count of the amount of times police have searched him. I don't call this rioting; I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It's happening in Syria, it's happening in Clapham, it's happening in Liverpool and it's happening in Trinidad."
Moments later, broadcaster Fiona Armstong attempted to slander him by accusing him of having taken part in rioting in the past. Howe fought back.
While more visibly violent and tangibly fear-inspiring, the acts pockets of London's youths have committed over the last four days is no worse than the insidious raping and plundering of our global economies by the criminal banking elite. In fact, the timing of the rioting drama has oh-so conveniently diverted the world's attention away from the stock market crashes, the Murdoch scandal, the stealth-like way economies are being imploded by design. Interestingly, given that our feckless police service were slow to respond (even watching on impotently allowing rioters to loot private businesses) there is now talk today of rubber bullets, water canons and even -- God forbid -- Martial Law. Let's make one thing clear, our government will not let a good crisis like this go to waste.
Image by william_79, courtesy of Creative Commons license.