Protests in London

Published: August 8, 2011
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Police officers wearing riot gear stand on a road in Enfield, north London August 7, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Police officers wearing riot gear stand on a road in Enfield, north London August 7, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

In London, protesters took to the streets and turned violent after a man was shot dead by the police. Law-enforcement authortities have been able to do little to stop the carnage and London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, is being severely criticised for not being in the city at this time. Violence, vandalism and looting are continuing and the arrests of over 100 people has done little to tame the unrest. Much of the unrest was restricted to the suburb of Tottenham but then spread to other areas. The question that needs to be asked is: why now? Previous incidents of police brutality have led to condemnation but never descended into such an orgy of violence.

The answer may be found in the austerity measures taken by the Cameron government. The brutal spending cuts led to violent protests and there is every indication that alienation has increased thanks to the steep decline in the middle class standard of living. While organised crime may have played a role in worsening the situation, it appears as if residents of Tottenham opportunistically took advantage of the chaos to pillage the area. This is a phenomenen that is ever present in large cities. Think back to the Rodney King verdict in 1992 and how Los Angeles was ablaze for days after that, with the police left to play the role of the disinterested bystander.

The challenge for the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government in Britain is to get the country back on track financially without dismantling the welfare state. That is, of course, easier said than done, and is further compounded by the Tories’ dislike of big government. Unemployment is steadily rising and creating new jobs requires investment by the government, not a cut back in the budget. Further job losses will only lead to further strikes and violence. All it takes is one isolated event to bring all these frustrations to the fore. And soon the government may find that the situation is spiralling out of control and there is nothing it can do to pacify its angry citizens.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • SharifL
    Aug 9, 2011 - 3:56PM

    I think the economic down turn is not the major cause of London riots. Racism is. If you read English newspapers or watch other media, it gives the impression of a very liberal society where all races live happily. Like USA, it has many black and Asian faces on TV (at least BBC World), but look closer. Talk to a white brit in private and this mask of tolerant image melts into soft ice. Non whites get less awarding jobs and opportunities. And the police is very racist, in spite of new recruits from immigrants communities. If you walk thru those areas where immigrants from the sub continent live, you see signs on shops saying: If you can read this, do not touch any article. This is accusing many as illiterate. Although there are some uneducated families, but the way it is pointed out is disgusting. I am not defending the riots or destruction caused by these hooligans, but it is sign of frustration and humiliation which can turn nasty if pushed to limits.
    It reminds me of the poem by Joe Strummer from 1976

    Black people gotta lot a problems
    But they don’t mind throwing a brick
    White people go to school
    Where they teach you how to be thick

    All the power’s in the hands
    Of people rich enough to buy it
    While we walk the street
    Too chicken to even try it

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  • Eddy Jawed
    Aug 9, 2011 - 6:23PM

    I agree with the commenter Sharif above when he talks about racism in the UK, which is at epidemic levels. Although I would like to point out that the Asian minority areas have not been affected by rioting. I think since its the holy month of Ramadan, most of the youths in Asian communities have played a lower role, and the areas affected are in White and Afro-Caribbean majority areas like Liverpool, Tottenham, Bristol.

    In fact I think most of the victims of rioters have been small to medium sized business owners which the Asian community has a huge amount of.

    Since Prime Minister Cameron has taken over the country, people are seeing an ever increasing divide between the rich and poor social classes. This is causing disenfranchised youth to misbehave, who are finding it difficult to get jobs. I think the Con-Dem government needs to get in touch with reality and try to engage with the impoverished majority who have deep issues.

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  • KS
    Aug 9, 2011 - 7:06PM

    @SharifL what you have said is terrible. England is nothing but accommodating to all who come and live there. It depends on where you go and who you speak to as to whether they are racist or not.

    You will notice that England is one of the more tolerant places to live. If you look to stories in Russia where there are Neo-Nazis killing people who aren’t of the “Arian” race.

    The reason most English people are agitated is because there are not enough jobs and people are coming over from other countries and taking what ever jobs are left and they are also coming over to get free healthcare.

    The reason the riot apparently started is because a man called Mark Duggan was shot (he shot a Policeman) as they were going to arrest him. His family then started a peaceful protest, other people joined in and made it violent and started stealing.

    Please do not judge until you know the full story. I should hope that you do not defend what is happening as they are a disgrace to England or any other place. They are burning peoples homes with the owners still in it. Burning cars, lively hoods… Places of business. Beating up passers by and stealing from them. They are even stealing their clothes.

    Also the poem you stated sounds racist to me. “White people” “black people” as far as I am concerned skin colour does not matter – it is just a pigment in your skin. End of. Next time think before you say anything.

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  • Eddy Jawed
    Aug 9, 2011 - 8:14PM

    @KS, yes I agree with you when you say that other European countries are less accommodating. Russia is a prime example. They also ban minarets in Switzerland, and Burkah’s in both France and Belgium. In England minorities especially the S Asian community have a lot to be grateful for.
    But again I would like to stress that the racial demographics of the offending rioters this time round wasn’t focused on the Asian community, who in fact in most cases being shop owners were the victims.

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  • SharifL
    Aug 9, 2011 - 8:44PM

    KS, you are comparing two different things. Immigration policies are made by the government and tolerance is what you face with people directly. GB has been an open society and most of the people living there come from its former colonies. Russia is, and has always been a close society for a long time. Brits are also more ‘diplomatic’ on your face, but show their real feelings when it comes to job opportunities and housing. If a pakistani buys a house in a street, many whites start moving away from the vicinity. As we know many areas are now predominantly either Asian, black or white. Why has that happened? It is racism. I do not live there anymore. I have pleasant memories also. When Pakistanis visit UK, their relatives give a very rosy picture of UK. It has something to do with showing off. ‘We are enjoying here’
    Truth hurts but I know I still prefer to live there than back home. But that is not the subject on hand.

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  • KS
    Aug 9, 2011 - 10:18PM

    @SharifL they are not completely different.. without the government policies there wouldnt be an option for anyone outside of the UK to live here.

    Yes but you are generalising – I am white, I live in england (I was born here) and I have indian and “black” friends. I have a mixed variety of neighbours of both decents.

    Just because you may have had bad experiences – it doesnt mean that all people are like that.

    Anyway.. this conversation is off point. My first comment was due to the fact that you are miss informed as to why people are looting in the london riots.

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  • Cynical
    Aug 10, 2011 - 2:38AM

    I beg you, all of you, who migrated to the west.
    Please go back where you come from.
    If they coudn’t appreciate your going there, they will surely appreciate your leaving them.

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  • Aug 10, 2011 - 2:41AM

    @KS
    you must be a woman.
    way too nice and understandinh

    race is more them skin color- its is intellegence problwm solving etc.
    one group is better my group, one group consistently is a ptoblem negro.
    i live in chicago, get real about reality, your a stoogeRecommend

  • RG
    Aug 10, 2011 - 3:26AM

    I am a white British citizen, born and bred in a multicultural society where we are taught even in our Primary schools about acceptance, prejudice and racism. I am frankly sadden that this whole discussion has been brought back to race. No one cares about skin colour these days, and I find it insulting that anyone should have such a small-minded opinion about the UK. To myself and my friends, ethnicity, religion, culture and dialect are not even given a second thought. I go to university in Manchester where we are proud to have such a diverse range of nationality studying in our country.

    As for “non whites get less awarding jobs” this is utter slander. Anybody that has the right to work in the UK and has the correct qualifications &/ skills required for the job may be employed. I study engineering and as a white female I am considered the minority on my course, but this will have absolutely no affect on my future career prospects in the UK. I will not automatically have a better chance of employment because I am British, just as I will not be subject to unequal treatment because I am a woman. There is such a thing as the “Equality Act”. Look it up.

    These riots are not due to racism or the economic downturn. They are due to opportunistic vile beings and the rising popularity of gang culture that is being inflicted onto our society. Violence and terror is their aim, stealing is their objective. They are the disassociated youth of today that, having been brought up on the welfare state, believe they are in poverty but have no real sense of what having nothing truly means. Bangladeshi flood victims have nothing, the children of Zambia that have lost their parents to AIDs and HIV have nothing, 16 year olds living in Hackney DO NOT have nothing. These people involved in the riots have lost all sense of morality and common decency and put a black spot on what I believe is one of the fairest and most tolerant societies in the Western world.

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  • Aug 10, 2011 - 10:25AM

    It might not be fair to compare the enfranchised youth of the UK with those in third world countries who actually have nothing – often enough, they don’t know that they can be demanding more. The recession and does provide a backdrop to the chaos, as does economic disparity.

    Racism, on the other hand, does NOT.

    There is opportunity in the UK for those who seek it and work towards it. If there are issues regarding the integration of specific communities, it is also because of the defensive barriers put up by the communities themselves.

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  • SharifL
    Aug 10, 2011 - 10:34AM

    RJ and KS: I do not support these SOBs who loot and destroy property. That is what i said in the first place. My point was there is more to it than just economic down turn, as Tribune pointed out. There are good souls in UK and they are not insignificant, but many think of non white as a liability. Listen to cynical above. If you do not like it then leave our country. I wish there were not so many of such types in UK.

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  • Aug 10, 2011 - 1:02PM

    As the English ((regime)) Asked the Syrian regime not to deal harshly with the protesters
    I want to tell England Prime Minister: «Enjoy the Arab spring in your country»Recommend

  • siddiqui
    Aug 10, 2011 - 6:09PM

    If the rioters have no smart Phones, why don’t they just get iPads?…

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  • SharifL
    Aug 10, 2011 - 6:30PM

    I read this article by C. Patterson in Independent today, which justifies, at least partly to my views that racism has something to do with riots. She is white british and a journalist in London:
    “Too many black men have been killed by the police. Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they’re not. This is not the cause of these riots, but it’s there in the mix, a mix where the key ingredient is feeling powerless.”

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  • aj
    Aug 12, 2011 - 6:32AM

    Dear all
    As we all understand that there are crimnal elements involved in the issue,
    Let’s think/talk about the soloution,Recommend

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