I’m engrossed in my own world sometimes, along with greatly decreasing my consumption of negative news & blog reading. So I didn’t know anything about the Tottenham riots until someone wrote to me asking if I was “alright over there in riot-land?”. I said “Huh? What riots? Did I miss something?” The person mentioned Tottenham, I looked it up, and there it was.
Police shot & killed Mark Duggan on Thursday August 4th during a gun crime operation (Operation Trident). Guns are illegal here and most police don’t carry guns except under special circumstances and only for certain police forces. According to what I’ve read (if I read/understood correctly), police officers believed that Mr. Duggan, aged 29 with 4 children, shot first; a police officer was saved only by his police radio, which sustained damage by blocking the bullet. (An initial inquiry found this to be incorrect: Duggan did not use a gun or shoot anyone.) On Saturday August 6th, Duggan’s family conducted a peaceful march to Tottenham police station and under the circumstances, all was well. Then, a 16-year-old girl allegedly walked to the police station towards the end of the peaceful protest at around 20:30 and demanded answers about the shooting. A witness stated that the 16-year-old threw a leaflet and possibly a stone at police, at which point the police attacked her. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A once peaceful protest became violent – arson, innocent bystanders being beaten by rioters, destruction of homes & businesses. The violence spread through the night into Enfield, where more of the same took place on Sunday August 7th. A smaller riot also broke out in Brixton that evening, which is interesting because Brixton isn’t near either of the affected areas and it has its own riotous history (please see sources at the end of this entry). Much to the chagrin of many people, the riots spread to other parts of London on Monday August 8th – shutting down shopping centers, high streets, & businesses as well as destroying homes, businesses & cars via arson. Some people were hurt, and to date, 5 people have died as a result.
During this time, I watched TV news & read online news. While I wasn’t directly affected (like a fellow expatriate’s friend who lost his flat via arson), it was emotionally & mentally draining for me and many others to watch. Now that things have calmed down, here are my thoughts/opinions about the riots.*
Punish those who participated in the riots/looting. Plain & simple. 5 people died as a result of the madness. People lost homes & businesses & cars, some via arson. Businesses closed for days, with many losing money as a result. Whether it’s community service, being forced to repay the value of what was lost, or doing time, they deserve punishment.
Whether people want to admit it or not, there are a few people in society who form a criminal element. This isn’t relegated to race/ethnicity, like some (racist & other) people insist. (Racists, who are usually idiots, will always think that a collective group are bad, and nothing will change that.) Of the few who form that element, there are a smaller number who will never “get” it, never change, and will be a part of that element for life. (Here’s a perfect example.) That handful definitely participated in the riots/looting & need to be punished harshly. As I wrote in a blog post, the criminal justice system here is too lax for my liking and, therefore, those criminals likely won’t be punished as severely as they deserve.
The United Kingdom has a documented history of police stop & search against people of color. With such unfortunate events as the Amadou Diallo police shooting & police brutality against Abner Louima back at home, as an outsider looking in I understand why some direct their rage against those who should uphold the law & defend the civilian population against crime/criminals. Some police officers use stop-and-search as a racist tool instead of using it for everyone regardless of race/ethnicity & class. (In my view, some police officers were punks as kids and use their new-found powers as police officers to bully others, but I digress.)
However (continuing from above), not every unfortunate police incident happens because of the person’s race/ethnicity. Some unfortunate incidents happen because, wouldn’t you know it, the person involved is a criminal (here’s a youthful example).
Some people are using these riots as an excuse to create a “race war”, whether in their own minds or in real life. In my opinion, this defeats the purpose of the original peaceful march. While an injustice occurred, Duggan’s loved ones didn’t march to start a race war. Just as the family of Ian Thompson fought against the police in courts of law, so Duggan’s loved ones marched in protest of the same entity to seek answers & justice for Duggan’s life. Sadly, I’ve not heard any updates on the Duggan police shooting case because the riots, idiotic rioters & political posturing took precedence over a worthy cause.
I spoke with a colleague and she mentioned something interesting that applies to what I said above regarding “race wars”: some people – including those involved in the riots, those who live here, and those outside of the United Kingdom – are avoiding the real challenges in this country by invoking race as the major (and/or only) issue. Race is just one layer on the onion, and it’s not even the thickest layer in the grander scheme of things.
Lots of people have their own opinions & thoughts & beliefs about the causes of these riots. Lots of those people, unlike me, live outside of the United Kingdom. In my opinion, at least 98% of those people should shut their mouths, put their Ph.D’s in Armchair Philosophy in the nearest shredder, and return to school for a degree in something else.
David Cameron is a simpleton. I say that with the utmost respect because I’d prefer to use a few choice curse words to describe him instead but won’t. He had to be forced to return to the United Kingdom from his holiday in Tuscany, and when he finally returned, it was under the guise of concern for the public. Sir, your fake spine doesn’t fool me. Threatening to cut benefits and lock down social media & cell phones will do absolutely nothing to get to the core challenges that most of the populace faces. While I understand the reasoning behind cutting benefits, these are surface & faux strong-arm solutions to challenges that are as deep as the Mariana Trench.
We live in a microwave society – people want things done in 90 seconds or less. After my lighthearted debate about voting, this is more obvious to me. While I understand the thoughts & feelings behind the riots (and rioters), these are limited thought processes. Major change does not occur without community organization, planned actions, blood, sweat & tears. For the simplest examples, please re-read your history books – Civil Rights Movement, feminist movement, women’s suffrage movement, (legal) slavery abolishing, American independence from Great Britain, Haiti’s independence from France, and the list goes on & on. In the case of civil rights in the United States, there’s still a long way to go because change doesn’t occur as quick as our microwave society wants it to, but my people have come pretty damn far in the meantime.
These are some of my thoughts about the riots. Feel free to add yours to the comments section.
*Please see the blog’s About section for my disclaimer.
Brixton 1981 riot (archive): http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/1981/apr/13/fromthearchive
Wikipedia (needs more citations for verification): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_Brixton_riot
Brixton 1985 riot (part 1): http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/28/newsid_2540000/2540397.stm
Brixton 1985 riot (part 2): http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1985/oct/07/ukcrime.garethparry
Brixton 1995 riot (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brixton_riot_(1995)
Brixton 1995 riot: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/13/newsid_2559000/2559341.stm
David Starkey: the whites have become black http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/aug/15/david-starkey-newsinght-race-remarks