Today London, and for the first time ever the suburbs, holds it’s breath.
It is reported that for the first time ever in it’s history the ‘met’ has called in “every able bodied police officer” including the voluntary special force.
While walking through a suburb, the kind of area known for it’s desirability for media types and with it’s fair share of over-subscribed schools, but which is bordered by vast social housing estates, what can only be called a mob of approximately 200 largely black youth — mostly male but with females among them (some were as young as 14,) flooded down the main High Street. The vast majority of them were on cycles, wearing the ubiquitous “hoodie” jackets, and mainly masked; although there was a fair share of them unmasked and on foot.
Without any exception, all seemed to have mobile devices.
Within 10 minutes, they held the High Street and for the next hour looted jewelry shops, phone shops, and large department stores, ripping televisions from the walls of gambling shops. Electronic shops were particularly targeted. This went on for at least an hour, without one police officer in sight. Several of the looters had time to steal, return home and come back for a second bite at the cherry.
WATCH NBC NIGHTLY NEWS COVERAGE OF THE LONDON RIOTS:
While other suburbs were burning and Hackney ran pitch wars on their side roads, the looters of Clapham were confident. No one was coming.
Suddenly the people of London, and hot spots in other cities, are realizing what ‘policing with consent’ really means.
It means that a society trusts in the fact that the majority of it’s citizens are law abiding, and are willing and able to support and assist in maintaining law and order.
It means an unarmed police force. It means strong civil liberties. But we are now faced with the uneasy feeling that this three and counting nights of rioting have let out the well-kept secret: and there’s now a realization that with Blackberry, Facebook and Twitter networking sites, criminals can fairly easily have the police ‘chasing smoke’.
It started as a demonstration in Hackney — an area known historically for it’s racial tensions; though it is at present being carved up, one end polished for the coming Olympics, and the deep economic cuts doing their own form of sculpture at the other. A man known as Mark Duggan was killed in a police car on Thursday and this provided the spark from what started with an orderly protest into three days and nights of looting, arson, burglary and intimidation.
To their credit, the Duggan family have disassociated themselves from what was to follow.
The title “protester” was very obviously being dropped and replaced by “looter” by the news media on night two. The views across the city are indeed shocking: burning buildings, families made homeless and a general feeling of tension in the air cannot be called anything else than “riot,” but the fact that the majority of the perpetrators are young black men is sadly not surprising.
We as a nation have created a generation of poorly educated, badly socialized young people, many coming from dysfunctional families, often with no authority figure nor any real aspirations except to ‘Get Mine’.
The black community seems at a loss with how to engage with this group, and the community leaders of old have been swallowed by the establishment or are silent on this point. On the other side of this unhappy situation we have out of control consumerism; and ever-speedier technical advancements much valued by their target market.
Now, these youth realize that they have the power to have the police chasing them, and the experience of many hours of training on street warfare, thanks to computer games.
The U.K at large and London in particular certainly needs to look long and hard at a finding a new approach, and a means to communicate across the divide between the worried business owner, the law abiding citizen, and these disenfranchised youth, though this will be difficult as this is no clear political unrest and therefore there are no clear areas for discussion.
The targets are not the traditional focal points of government policy, and neither are the “hire a rioter” gang, waving their well worn anarchy flags.
Although there are some apologists among the black communities who cite lack of opportunity as a cause for the riots, in these times of economic instability, most right thinking people find it difficult to champion a group who clearly state they are not interested in paid work or even training.
It is therefore the general consensus that this appears to be looting for entertainment sake.
After all, within hours of the rioting, images were uploaded onto YouTube with accompanying soundtracks, from the looters themselves.
One image stays in mind: a small group armed with myriad boxes, giggling and waving unmasked at the news media. What is the arrogance of the criminal, the bravado of youth or the immaturity of childhood? Probably all three.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the death of Mark Duggan seems to have become a very low priority.