It’s been all over the news. It shocked communities up and down the country and the debate about the riots rumbles on almost a full 2 weeks after they started. To be honest it’s taken me this long to really process and understand what the hell happened, I wouldn’t profess to understand why.
The nations four days, or I should say four nights, of madness began in Tottenham, North London, following a peaceful protest against the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan on the previous Thursday. The public was lead to believe that the police shot Duggan after he fired at officers, this was later proven false. It was Saturday 6th August, and Tottenham was under siege. Rioters threw bricks, petrol bombs and any other kind of debris they could get their hands on. They fought, burned down buildings, looted businesses and terrorised communities. The violence and disorder spread to other areas of the capital including: Enfield, Brixton, Ealing, Hackney, Clapham Junction, Croydon, Camden, Bethnal Green and Lewisham to name a few. The city was reeling but it wasn’t the only one. Rioters jumped on the disorder bandwagon in other cities across the UK such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Reading and Kent.
I watched the news a lot over the week of the riots and this is what I took from it. I’m all for people protesting, as long as it’s peaceful. If you believe in something, if you stand for something, then that’s great. You have a right, protest away. What was glaringly obvious to me was that all of the violence, the looting and the burning had jack all to do with the death of Mark Duggan. These people weren’t protesting in his name, in fact 99.9% of these rioters wouldn’t even know who Mark Duggan was. They saw the chance to cause trouble and took it. They weren’t making a point, they weren’t standing for anything. It was opportunistic thuggery, plain and simple.
While listening to the news I heard one of the rioting youths say, “We want the police to know we can do whatever we like.” This just about sums it up in my opinion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is no deterrent against crime for young people in this country. The think they can do as they please without having to face the consequences.
I had a bit of a difference of opinion with someone on my Facebook page over this issue. It was at the point where the rioting was at it’s peak and the police were discussing the use of plastic bullets. I put a status that said something along the lines of them arguing over plastic ones when they should use the real thing and get the job done. Harsh but true. The other person didn’t believe this was the answer and questioned where society would be if the police took such action. Under normal circumstances my status would sound extreme, I agree, but these were by no means normal circumstances. There was complete anarchy on the streets and a complete loss of order. Innocent people were loosing their lives, their homes, their business and their safety. In my opinion something drastic needed to be done.
With rioters as young as eleven, certain people blame it on bad parenting, a lack of prospects, low aspirations and a failure in the education system. But I would hope that by the age of eleven you know the difference between right and wrong. I don’t hold with the care bears and cuddles approach. You might have a totally different opinion, and that’s your prerogative, but I don’t want to hear about how the youth of today is misunderstood, underrepresented and hard done by. The rioting youths that were interviewed on the news used the excuses of not being able to find work: well welcome aboard the same boat that thousands of other young unemployed people are sailing on. The vast majority of those weren’t burning down buildings and beating up on police officers. The thugs said they were tired of the gap between the rich and the poor. They repeatedly said they were sick of society disrespecting them. I’m just gonna let you sit with that last point for a moment.
Respect? They don’t deserve it. If they thought they were going to gain anything from their behaviour other than a criminal record and the nations shame they were very sadly mistaken. This might be a mind f**king notion but you gain respect by earning it.
So what have they actually achieved from all the trouble they caused? Do they think they’ll get a job now? Do they think they gained societies respect? Sure they got a bit of attention and a new stolen iPad but I doubt this will close the gap between themselves and the rich. Looking back, was it really worth it?
But what next? Where does the country go from here with the knowledge hanging over its head that at the next available opportunity its youth will take pleasure in terrorising their communities? Hundreds and hundreds of arrests were made but in all honesty what difference will this make? What lessons will be learned? Will it stop these kids taking to the streets in their hoods the next time an opportunity presents itself? Personally I doubt it. David Cameron promised that the rioters would feel the ‘full force of the law’ but with a majority of them being underage what exactly does this mean?
I want to see the people who have caused such destruction and fear punished. I want tough sentences to mean tough sentences. I want to see these people cleaning the streets and repairing the damage they caused. In short, being made to pay for the crimes they have committed regardless of their age. These youths were big enough and old enough to commit the crime they should be big enough to take the punishment. That’s how they will learn.
And what of the people who’s lives have been ruined? The victims who have had their homes razzed to the ground, their businesses left devastated by violence and looting? Who is going to replace all their worldly possessions, all their stock? Who is going to pay for the repair of the damage to their homes, their premises? How do these people move on?
The good thing to come out of the riots was our nation was united in our outrage of the attacks and our sympathy for those affected. London and other cities across the UK were given the chance to show how strong and resilient they really are. Good, honest, law abiding people went out on to their streets to protect their communities, their property and each other. Within hours cleaning operations had been arranged and organised with people from near and far joining in. They refused to take it lying down. These cities have been beaten and scarred but hard working, decent people shouldn’t be ashamed of coming from where they come from. Be proud of your cities because I have no doubt that your cities are proud of you.