It erupted two days after the police shot dead 29-year-old father-of-two, Mark Duggan. On Saturday August 6th, Tottenham went wild. What began as a demand for justice from a small group of locals, spiralled into a citywide rampage of the streets of London. No community was left untouched; no Londoner was ignorant of its happening. Truth be told, a large portion of the western world tuned in to view this ‘progressive’ nation take a hold of its uncontrolled citizens, who weren’t behaving at all like a ‘respectable civilisation’. What’s more, the Iranian president wagered in to make his recommendations to the UN that they should investigate the ‘peaceful’ protests. Fair enough, westerners have been imposing their own standards on nations across the divide for centuries. Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his point.
But for those on the outside looking in, it was simple to pass judgement, as it always is. To make excuses. ‘These rioters are underprivileged’, ‘the government isn’t listening to the young people’ or, ‘it’s the result of public sector cuts’. That just wasn’t so, not for a majority. First of all, while many rioters were from poor socio-economic backgrounds, they were not exclusively so. Many of the first few people charged were proven to defy the stereotype; they were white, they were in ‘good’ jobs and they were not all under-18. The age range varied from single digit figures to those who could be called grandparents. Which brings this to the second point – the government does not listen to young people, because let’s face it, they rarely respond to any group, with the exception of the wealthy classes. All local, national and international goings-on are a campaign opportunity. The chance to further an agenda. Again, however, there are exceptions. And as for public sector cuts – most people in the public sector would be damn sure stealing a batch of DVDs from HMV was not going to save their salaries.
Of course there was an array of other excuses being battered about including race and consumerism. Commendation was handed to Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon Jahan, killed by a hit and run driver in the Birmingham events. He called for this not to become an issue of ethnicity and rightly so. That is an excuse which makes it simple for politicians and academics to simply sweep all that has happened under the rug and blame a minority for what went on. Every group played a part in the riots and perhaps, that was what made them so scary. There was no pattern – no rhyme or reason. It was simply the chance to grab a few freebies, be it a HD TV, some trainers or the latest shoot-‘em-up for the X-Box.
You see, for Londoners, or those affected in other cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, the sight of violence on both sides of a town did not look like justified anger. Not like the past uprisings in Greece. The fear of someone jumping a fence into a simple garden and scuttling away, seconds before the police nabbed them, looked nothing like something warranting sympathy. Sleepless nights of sirens sounding from left and right was not a welcome lullaby. And mostly, for people whose homes were burnt to a char, this was not a cry for help. It has left a handful of people dead, more injured and many homeless. It was nonsensical. It was, as has been so widely said, opportunism. Plenty of partakers have already admitted to being ‘caught up in the moment’. There were no excuses and we can only be glad the better half of the community banded together to say ‘no more’. That too, had nothing to do with colour, privilege or religion. It was common decency. A reminder that when the good speak out, the bad withers, crawling back into its JD Sports bag for another day. Waiting for another excuse.