Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Panic on the streets

Panic on the streets of London

Panic on the streets of Birmingham

I wonder to myself

Could life ever be sane again?

Those lyrics by The Smiths are worryingly apt at the moment. Trouble has been brewing for a few days now. It started on Saturday evening as a candle-lit vigil to honour 29 year old Mark Duggan, shot dead by police during an attempted arrest last Thursday. It stayed as a peaceful protest for two hours whilst 120 of Duggan’s friends and family congregated outside Tottenham Police Station asking for answers. But as rumours spread and darkness fell, there was a change in the atmosphere and hooded youths and gang members started to turn up. By 8pm the violence had begun, Twitter and Facebook were being used to encourage people to join the disturbance and Tottenham soon became engulfed with rioters. As the night wore on, the violence simply escalated further and further. Hordes of people were looting shops and businesses and other buildings were being set alight.

The next morning we were left with some appalling images and a sense of shock. Perhaps what is most shocking however is that Saturday was just the start. The violence and unrest has now spread across the country. It is so far ranging that The Telegraph even has an interactive map on its website. Last night panic and rumour were abound on Twitter – London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton; the place names were flying about in terror. Some were true, confirmed by BBC news, others only gossip. The feeling of alarm was almost palpable; it was like a horrible game of Chinese Whispers and did nothing to allay the commotion.

By now it has become sadly apparent that far from being any sort of political or civil protest, the riots are just an excuse for criminal behaviour: Arson, looting and violence towards police. Stories of mobile phone shops having every handset taken, jewellery stores being raided, HD TVs, alcohol and clothing being taken, have become commonplace. There were calls for the army to be called in, water cannons to be used. People are starting to ask why the police allowed things to go so far. Why were stronger measures not taken? Why did it take David Cameron so long to return from Italy? And most concerning; will there be another night of unrest tonight? Views are torn with Theresa May, Home Secretary saying “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities.” but Conservative MP Patrick Mercer declares “I find it strange that we are willing to use these sort of measures against the Irish yet when Englishmen step out of line and behave in this atrocious and appalling way, we are happy to mollycoddle them. If the police want cannon then they should be allowed to use them. I have used water cannon myself and I found them extremely effective”.

David Cameron has now returned to the UK and is due to give a statement this morning. As for further conflict, we can only hope that sense prevails and no more clashes occur – not least because of the damage it is doing to the lives of individuals and to the recovering economy of the country as a whole. To end on a note of hope that society is in fact not crumbling, we can see people banding together this morning for the riot clean up. If you want to join in or support those who are, you can find more information here.

What are your thoughts? Have you or anyone you know been affected? Please let us know.

Our thoughts are with you all.

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