As I stood and watched my local shops being destroyed and looted, my heart dropped. I felt angry and emotional. I know these shopkeepers, I know how hard they have worked to build their businesses — the hours they work to provide for their families. Only for large groups of people, intent on destruction — and with no conscience — crush their hope, and their livelihoods.
The riots in London have come as no surprise to many. They were sparked by the death of Mark Duggan. He was black man shot by police in North London, after armed officers stopped the taxi in which he was travelling last week Thursday (a police was also shot). Although an investigation was launched by the Independent Police Complaint Commission, many felt they weren’t getting answers fast enough. So on Saturday afternoon there was a peaceful march to the local police stations — which then turned into a full blown riot. As the days went on, the riots spread to other parts of London and by Tuesday it had spread to other parts of England.
Subsequently, it’s emerged that although Mr. Duggan was in possession of a replica firearm — it was never fired.
There’s been lots of talk about race with these riots and yes, they were caused by a black man being shot. But the people that took to the streets — emptying sneaker, alcohol, clothes and hair shops etc. had little thought for Mark Duggan. They were intent on enjoying their moment of utter destruction.
It reached my area in South London on Monday evening. I went to the town centre and watched workers barricading themselves in their work and watched kids of all races and sexes goading the riot police. When I arrived the atmosphere was tense, but bearable. I fled in my car just before they started setting fire to the cars and refuse bins that were beside where I was parked.
Once the police had moved them on from the centre, they started travelling in large groups towards my house. On their way they smashed up almost every shop they walked past (but left the chicken and barber shops). They tried to set fire to bins outside my local church. I watched as they smashed up buses and heard the cries of the children who were on the buses — and the shouts of the elderly women and mothers who were scared and confused.
Because of the large numbers, the police could not be in every single place at all times. It was an impossible task. These were local kids and adults who knew the area, knew the shops they wanted to target but were destroying anything else they fancied on their way to their destination.
It wasn’t a surprise to me that it all kicked off, but there are so many reasons why this has happened. I’ve mentioned the class system in my posts before (working class, middle class, upper class), and the way working class are portrayed in the media can sometime be shocking. The government cut funding to youth clubs a while ago, thus giving the kids nothing to do and removing any sense of community. The school system is flawed in so many ways and so is the university system. Some parents seem incapable of parenting. I mean, the list could go on.
I am in no way shape or form giving the culprits an excuse for the looting that’s plagued London because there is no excuse. They were destroying our beautiful city.
But the government seems to not understand that they have a part to play in all of this. The first riots happened on Saturday. It was Tuesday before the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister returned from their holidays to deal with it. What message does that send? When it comes to the working class, they really just don’t care … or simply don’t understand or “get it.” That is a dangerous message.
The good thing to come out of all of this is Londoners have shown our sense of community, that famous English “Blitz” spirit. We will not be defeated. By 3am Tuesday morning, #riotcleanup was trending on Twitter. Those who were off work, took to their streets by 10am armed with brooms and refuse bags. We began repairing our homes, including me, my sister and my cousin.
Things are quieter here now. The riots have moved to the North of England — Manchester, Birmingham, etc. — but now we’re faced with a new evil. The National Front, the English Defence League and the British National Party, the racists. Since the media have tended to portray this as a “black” issue, rather than a “class” issue. The NF, BNP and EDL are using it to their advantage. One of their leaders took to Twitter last night telling his members to defend their streets from ”the blacks,” saying a race war was starting in South London because “the blacks” are turning up. All I can do is shake my head and sigh.
Still, we will still not be defeated. This is our home and I am proud of what we’ve built. We will survive.