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.
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.