Huge fire in London

The BBC has aerial footage of a huge blaze in the London Borough of Croydon, after violence broke out on the U.K. capital's streets for a third day. Camberwell, where I lived for years, is reportedly in a state of panic, with shops being vandalized in nearby Peckham. Sky News reports that there is now unrest in Birmingham.

The building on fire is the House of Reeves, a 140-year old furniture business.

Residents report widespread looting in Croydon's downtown, with updates appearing regularly on the the local newspaper's liveblog. One odd aspect of all this is that it's unfolding live on TV and twitter in one of the world's wealthiest and most high-tech cities, with politicians on-hand to condemn events occurring in front of their very eyes. But that seems to be all they can do about it.

Labour Party MP Diane Abbott expressed astonishment that the police were unable to prevent the continued looting: "is the Metropolitan Police telling us they can't be in two places at once?" The Guardian speculates that the Police are so accustomed to well-planned "kettling" operations that they are simply unable to cope with roaming groups who aren't filing their protest march routes. [via Mennonot]

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had refused to cut short his vacation, has finally decided to return to the U.K., as has Prime Minister David Cameron.

The unrest was sparked after Metropolitan police shot dead 29-year-old Mark Duggan and did not contact his next of kin. The force has apologized to his relatives. Forensic evidence from the scene of the shooting is still being examined. [BBC]


    1. This is what kettling created, Protesters are taking to the streets armed and ever so disinclined to put up with police. At this rate it can only escalate as the lack of police presence emboldens looters. but the whole premise of the riot seems out of proportion, perhaps (and this is speculation) there is a lot of bad will towards the London police.
      This would have been predictable, but I guess whoever is in charge of the police is willing to let martial law be implemented, even though that is gross failure of the police and any bad feelings from martial law will still be directed at the police ie: figures of authority.

  1. Jebus Spacehopper Christ. I foresee martial law being declared in London if this doesn’t stop soon. If nothing else, this is just feeding the surveillance state that much more ammunition. I sure hope this isn’t London’s attempt at the Arab Spring, because I’m pretty sure they are Doing It Wrong.

    And a lot of innocent victims are getting caught in the metaphorical (and hopefully not literal) crossfire.

    1. > And a lot of innocent victims are getting caught in the metaphorical
      > (and hopefully not literal) crossfire.

      Yeah, this.  What did this shop owner have to do with anything, that his place should be burned?  He must be sick to death from the loss of it.

  2. The Guardian live blog ( has an interesting anecdote from Catford:

    “I just watched an extraordinary scene in Catford, maybe half a mile from the main trouble. With the police occupied a small group of young men decided to kick down the door of a Halfords store, in full view of the busy South Circular road. As they tried and tried – the shutters were tough – a crowd formed, and cars stopped. One young woman leaned out of her car, laughing: “Satnav! I want a satnav!” she yelled at them.”

    In some ways it seems like the logical conclusion to a world saturated with messages of instant gratification. If you’ve spent your whole life with these goodies being dangled in front of you with no hope of getting them, this is your chance to just take them.

  3. Seems as if a lot of the rioter’s anger at the police and the government are directed at Currys & Argos.  Or is that just the cynic in me?

  4. Same thing that happened in Vancouver in June. I’m sure there are some people that have some cause that they’re fighting for, but most people just want a new gadget or designer purse that they can’t afford.

  5. Of course, this should come as no surprise, disillusioned youth who are
    realizing that their futures are bleak, the wages they are expected to earn are the lowest the country has seen in nearly half a century, youth un/underemployment is incredibly high and on top of that, they’re the generation
    expected to pay for the old folks and will receive no benefits of their own later in life. And they’re also being fed “look shiny” and reminded how poor they are every time they turn on the TV. Is anyone surprised? Really?

    If anything, it’s nice to see people realizing that the police aren’t all that powerful on an every day basis – and that their little expensive shows of force for special events are only possible by bussing in cops from the entire country. And it’s nice to see that the police are finally realizing that they’ve been kind of cheeky in the past little bit and oh my dog, might actually need public support in the future.

    1. ‘If anything, it’s nice’.

      No. If anything, it’s actually pretty scary. Unless the rioting is not just down the street from you, in which case I guess you can pontificate safely.

    1. It’s a time honoured tradition. Most youth have no other effective way of influencing policy.

      1. Not that I’m suggesting that setting random shit on fire is an effective way of doing anything except getting the attention of the country’s leadership.

        But apparently even that has failed as the PM is enjoying his vacation and won’t let this spoil it.

      2. How about non-destructive, non-violent sit-ins around government buildings? Or is this both insufficiently exciting and insufficiently profitable?

        Hell, I’d wager most participants would not even be able to articulate HOW they want policy influenced.

        1. “Hell, I’d wager most participants would not even be able to articulate HOW they want policy influenced.”

          So we should discount the lives of anyone who can’t sufficiently articulate a policy position? That’s the logical culmination of this statement, as far as I can tell. Unless you’re calling for more education? In which case I stand solidly by you, friend.

          1. Definitely the latter. More education and less political disenfranchisement of the poorer and lesser educated among us.

            But, at the same time, low tolerance for violence, destruction, and opportunists who do not give a damn about the politics and just look for any excuse steal, break things, and hurt people. There is a right way and a wrong way for civil disobedience – those organised people like Gandhi and MLK are examples of the right way…

      3. No other effective way of influencing policy?  Bullshit. You’re tossing a lot of anger and “police are getting what they deserve” words out catherinecc – let’s hear you start offering some constructive ideas.

        1. I happen to think police getting what it is they deserve — generally — is a rather constructive idea.

          1. “I happen to think police getting what it is they deserve — generally — is a rather constructive idea.”

            Cry Havoc, and let slip the hipsters of war.

          2. Insults sure are an efficient path to meaningful discussion.

            Why not just call people you disagree with ‘bums’? It was good enough for Nixon!

  6. Just got off Skype with a friend in Pecham. The kids are prowling. Summer holidays and there is nothing to do while all the projects are shut down for cuts. From a distance it looks like a volatile mix of boredom and anger.  Up close they are battening down the hatches!

  7. First thing I thought of was Watts, 1965. Then as now, it’s what happens when disenfranchised people get pushed a little too far once too often.

    My heart goes out to Mr. Reeves for the loss of his historic business.

  8. What were those song lyrics again? ‘Those kids they’ve got nothing to do, Mr. Prime Minister’ ?

    The problem with Democracy is the people who can’t vote and those who don’t have the publicity to influence elections.

    1. Detroit, in the 1960s.  What did it do?  Insured the future would be even worse for those that came after in the city.

      “Oh, crap, what happened to the tax base?”

      But at least houses cost a dollar.

    2. Sooner than you think…eventually so many people will be either wage slaves or out of work that something drastic will need to be done.

    3. Agreed.  Maybe we are just placated/medicated enough to not care until it is to late.  I don’t see it getting better anytime soon either.

  9. The amount of sympathy I am reading here for the rioters is rather disgusting.

    The notion that (we) youth have no alternative to influence policy is laughable, when we don’t even bother to vote in significant numbers.

    The notion that this has any sort of policy objective is equally laughable – grabbing TV’s does absolutely nothing to further their ends.

    I’d say these rioters have no more legitimacy then the flash-mobs that rob convenience stores.

    1. Riots are often (if not usually) a symptom of ongoing social injustice. This does not imply that the rioters themselves are acting out in justifiable ways.

    2. Direct from reddit:

      “…here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?
      “Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

      But yes, it is a massive pack of wankers. Same as Vancouver.

      1. Interesting quote – but a rioter justifying his actions hardly counts as evidence. Particularly when the (peaceful) protests earlier this year had just as much attention paid to them.

  10. You know… if this is supposedly to protest a police shooting, why are the rioters not attacking the POLICE directly? Sounds like there’s enough rioters to do that…

    (Yes, I know, the rioters are actually just using it as an excuse, and hurting plenty of innocents for their own personal gain and the lulz (and not in a good way) instead, but…)

    1. Haha, yeah, attacking the police. That would go over great. Six or seven more civilian deaths that the police don’t have to answer to later…

      The fact that the police are basically doing nothing about this is fairly telling. Actual damage caused to the city: essentially no response by the police.

      Attack the police directly: you can absolutely bet there would be severe beatings for everyone involved plus a slew of civilians for days on end.

      1. Well, if there are enough people, an actual *attack* against the police could actually SUCCEED – the death count for the police being higher than the death count of the civilians, especially if the police are divided and conquered. Alternately, another way to look at it is financial loss, which can easily be far, FAR higher for the police than a bunch of kids with no real life.

        (Not saying that that’s justified, or that the rioters should do that, though. Looking at that from a purely strategic point of view, if they had a legitimate shut-down-the-police level of grievance.)

  11. “Panic on the streets of London
    Panic on the streets of Birmingham
    I wonder to myself
    Could life ever be sane again ?
    On the Leeds side-streets that you slip down
    I wonder to myself
    Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
    But Honey Pie, you’re not safe here
    So you run down
    To the safety of the town
    But there’s Panic on the streets of Carlisle
    Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
    I wonder to myself”

  12. And as we know, furniture factories are the root of all evil…

    I’m not a vindictive man, But if any of the vandals torched themselves in the process, slowly and painfully, I would consider it somewhere between poetic justice and “a good start”.

  13. Didn’t this happen before in the UK? like, wide spread rioting to no avail in the seventies or something like that?
    Unless this snowballs into something much, much more destructive the forest will definitely not burn to make room for new growth…

    Too anarchistic?

  14. No, Vancouver was quite different. It was a sports riot and was over before midnight. The riot ended and people went back to their lives. People were generally very impressed with the VPD.

    This, on the other hand, had a police shooting as proximate cause and it seems to have run out of control. People are not impressed with the Met.

  15. I’m sorry, but this is over hyped and sensationalistic. What I’m hearing from friends and relatives in London is that this is very limited violence, first of all. Second, it is relatively depoliticized looting–let’s get some free stuff–rather than organized political action. Third, the news about it is being deployed as a tool to sell tabloid newspapers and garner news viewers/website hits rather than to explicate the socioeconomic roots of the problem. I’d like to see boingboing take a somewhat more critical view. #disappointed

    1. Unless that picture isn’t really happening, then this is some serious shit.  Fine things get out of hand and a car gets torched…that’s bad, but maybe not the start of something worse.  Torching shops and looting seems like the start and progression of something that is going to take a while to get under any type of control.

  16. Quit making apologies for these scum. Boo hoo, never had nuffink to do so I had to rob a JD Sports… yeah right.

    It’s the government’s fault, of course, not generations of chain-smoking, workshy layabouts (yes, there IS work – funny how the Eastern Europeans find it!). They hate the police, they hate work, they hate the Tories, because their parents hated all these, just as their parents did before them.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and pick up today’s Daily Mail.

    1. hey now. I smoke, hate tories (well, the ‘Harper’ strain), hate dumb police (the ‘dogs’), and work my head, feet and hands off with an Eastern European. Oh wait, I’m not rioting… but I sure do LOVE layin’ about!

  17. You know, when Londoners in the mid-70s felt disenfranchised they didn’t burn stuff, they started a new musical genre.

  18. I know when I want to protest injustice at City Hall, I kick my neighbor in the nuts. ‘Cause that’ll show them high-ups…that their serfs will keep each other down while they stand by and tweet for reelection.

  19. 1985 was the last major london riot, and yeah it did little.  Constructive advice, i’d say protest parliment or downing street, or the PM at a press event, wait no, forgot about the free speech zones. How about peaceful protest, a march, no that leads to kettling, perhaps a sit in in the responsible peoples offices, oh no that led to 200 arrests and the people involved being called arsonists rioter, scum and anarchists last time. Hmm, well hang on if other people are convinced there is a way to make a difference in this country, perhaps instead of condeming the rioters and demanding an alternative, why dont they suggest something?     

    Dont get me wrong, the riot is just a chance to blow off steam and loot some shit, but that doesnt mean shit when there are only two choices, sit and take the governments shit, or be a criminal, we have a saying here in the UK, “in for a penny, in for a pound”.

      1. “Apples and oranges.  ’nuff said.”

        Indeed. In one case, people standing up for human dignity, and in the other, people standing up for free Burberrys.

        1. Yes, property and bankers are sacred, the citizens not so much.  You made your bed, now lie in it sucker.  

          1. “Yes, property and bankers are sacred, the citizens not so much.”

            To quote the great political philosopher of our day and age: FUCK THE REVOLUTION.

            If you think looting a sportswear store will do anything to address the problems of our age, you’re delusional. And if you think these looters would do anything but curbstomp you if you got in their way, there’s a Darwin Award waiting for you. 

          2. Is this the first time you every read about riots and looting?  People riot and loot because they don’t have anything invested in society.  You keep marginalizing people and they don’t give a shit about robbing your stores.  Meanwhile, comfortable people like yourself are confused.  Like I said, you made the bed.

  20. Heard it’s spread to other towns.

    Best of luck to anyone living there. I ask that you all stay safe and where possible try helping your nieghbors and friends…. but try not to get hurt. Silly to say I know since it’s kindof a no-crap sorta thing but…

    Lots of suck going ’round here.

  21. Funniest ‘official’ comment I heard was yesterday from Boris Johnson, something to the effect that jsutice ‘must be allowed to run it’s course’ and the police must be ‘left to do their jobs.’ Uh, Boris? I’m pretty sure it is failures on both those fronts that triggered the riots.

    In related news; it’s been super to see how well all those surveillance camera’s are(n’t) heloping maintain law and order :D

  22. Remarkable hindsight on the riots that swept Britain thirty years ago this summer. 

    Remarkable, because it was published two weeks ago and concludes with speculation on why there hasn’t been an encore lately.

  23. having been kettled along with 100s of other peaceful protesters by London police I am viewing all this with very mixed emotions. in the end, this can only be bad for socially conscious protesters and activists since 99% of Brits most likely now want to see coppers swinging truncheons nilly willy. as a socialist I hope to see forceful challenges to the system but that does NOT include burning your fucking neighbours house down. 

    1. Bonaparte knew how to deal with this kind of thing.

      You don’t have to state the obvious. We all know that the reasonable way to proceed is for the British police to invade, conquer and subjugate large sections of Europe.

    2. Bonaparte knew how to deal with this kind of thing.

      Bonaparte’s undoing was largely due to the fact that a bunch of outgunned but angry Russians burned down their own city rather than submit to his authority.

    3. Bonaparte had to organize against people stealing useless post-industrial stuff? Dang, that short man was a ‘head’ of his time!

      1. Completely apropos of nothing to do with London, Napoleon wasn’t short; he was around average height for his era. British political cartoons called him short (in much more verbose ways) and started the “Napoleon was a pipsqueak” meme.

  24. “Is this the first time you every read about riots and looting? “”

    Seen it first hand in Boston and Chicago. 

    ” People riot and loot because they don’t have anything invested in society.”

     I’ve met people who don’t have anything invested in our modern society: traditionalist Navajos. If you and I disappeared into a puff of logic, they wouldn’t even notice. Society doesn’t have anything invested in them either, and that’s an injustice, but that’s all besides the point.

    But these looters would not last a day without the complex society build around them. They have their entire existence invested in it. They’re rioting because they know the police are overwhelmed. There is nothing more to it. 

    1. Aren’t they just consumers doing some surprise shopping, rather than rioters? Lots of adidas bags and kicks… I wonder if any big companies have ever thought of sponsoring this type of event. Hmmm yeh that’s a good idea!

  25. That’s one way of looking at it.  Another way of looking at it is that they’re in a society where all this carrots are dangled, but out of reach. There isn’t any real assistance for them to get these things… the austerity measures in Britain have seen to that.  Careers services, summer programs for kids, etc, all wiped out. So they figure the main way to get these things is to go around society. They are invested in society, but they cannot reap the fruits of the investment. A recent history of police brutality doesn’t help.

  26. I understand boingboing is rather US/EU-centric, but would love to –for once– see coverage of the stundent protests and strikes going on here in Chile for months already.
    They are, IMHO, creative and inspiring, but both the protests and the government’s reaction been covered way too little by international news.

    I submitterated a few items of interest to no avail.

    Here is an overview:

    And here one of many examples of the creative ways the youth have found to protest:

    Anyways, godspeed, people of London.

      1. Perhaps you are right, thanks for the comment.

        Wasn’t my intention, of course– and at least its tangentially related.

  27. In the words of ali G:  “except for football, basketball, library’s,
    Cinema, Go Karting, Ice skating, music, Painting, Kite flying, Skate
    boarding, Sports, Swimming, Theme parks, Video, Archery, Bowling, Disco &
    sex….. there ain’t nuttin’ for da youf ta do! 
    Seriously though, contrasted with life until about 40 years ago it’s a little difficult to be sympathetic – particularly if there really isn’t anything more to this (and the greek and french riots) than ‘I want what I can’t afford’.

  28. I honestly don’t know what’s going on, so I’m neither sympathetic nor condemning these rioters… it’s not as cut and dried as Vancouver where it was a bunch of hooligans out for a lark. These riots are fundamentally different from what happened in Vancouver, that much is obvious.

    I don’t think “I want what I can’t afford” is the whole story here, but I think it is part of it along with austerity, neglect and rebellion. But I mentioned that in Vancouver, after the riot, people went back to their lives.  That water polo player, he rioted for a lark and wanted to go back to being a water polo player again.  These people rioting in London, they don’t want to go back to the status quo, they don’t want to go back to their lives, they aren’t happy with their lot, else there wouldn’t have had three days of rioting.

    So, I don’t think you can just say “they’re all hooligans, lock ’em all up”. Something is fundamentally awry that needs addressed, but I’m not holding out hope on that actually happening a while more.

    1. Regardless of their personal backstories, they should be treated just as harshly as any opportunistic rioters. Anything less and you’re inviting more riots.

      I’d wager that the neighborhood(s) are going to go downhill after this. I wouldn’t rebuild that shop if I was Marc Reeves. And if I lived in that area I’d seriously consider moving. Hm… I wonder what class of people suffer when capital flees an area.

      1. There needs to be punishment, but there needs to be dialogue too. You think that simply dismissing three days of rioting that is spreading to engulf multiple cities is just about “opportunists and hooligans” and a bigass crackdown is going to stop the rioting for any decent amount of time? I think the politicians honestly do, or at least they hope that a sincere show of faith in the notion will make these riots go away, but I think they’ve got another think coming.

  29. reading internet commentary about this horrible situation just makes me sad.

    on the one hand you have the people condemning these kids for being assholes, essentially.  Which arguably they are. It takes a certain degree of assholicity to go around setting fires, hurling bricks through shop windows, hurting random strangers.

    on the other hand you have people trying to explain the socioeconomic causes of such discontent.  which just seems to make the ‘these kids are animals and should be killed’ crowd even angrier.

    for those of us who were fortunate to have good homes, a good upbringing, it’s easy to delineate right actions from wrong actions, because we “know better”.  our parents taught us better, or our parents imparted a sense of civic responsibility, or simply put the fear of authority in us.

    the idea that this is a result of a society swallowed whole by consumerism, that these are poor people tired of having wealth flaunted in their faces, runs counter to the idea that many of us are equally unable to obtain some of the nice material things in life and yet, faced with the opportunity to obtain such things for free under the anonymity of violent crowds, we would probably abstain.

    the basic argument then is the usual:  blame the parents.  what are the socioeconomic circumstances that caused these kids to be brought up without regard to the consequences of such heinous acts? 

    there are too many variables being thrown about (immigration, welfare state, education, authoritarian oppression) and it muddies up everything and it’s very late and I have no real reason to be typing this since I think I have lost the plot of whatever argument I was trying to make.

    I think what I was trying to get at is that I think it’s okay to blame the social, economic and political decisions that caused segments of society to feel disenfranchised enough to carry out such atrocities.  And it is also okay, simultaneously, to blame the actors for being violent thuggish assholes. 

    This is probably going to get much worse before it gets better, all over the world, and it saddens me that the 21st century is so far off the mark from what I dreamed it might be when I was little.

    this probably should have gone in a blog somewhere, a little cleaned up and tightened up, but by the time I get around to doing such editing the world will have moved on. 

    1. I think I agree with you, though your meaning kind of got away from you there at the end – just want to expound a bit.

      Youth unemployment (“youth” under my definition is maybe 25 and below) is enormously high both in the UK/EU and the US – at least 20%.

      This whether or not people are highly educated or not. I went to an elite private university where I got a science B.S., then on to a master’s degree. I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half. I don’t even get responses from fast food and retail job applications (a previous commenter noted that immigrants seem to find jobs – in truth, many of those jobs are not realistically available to non-immigrants!)

      Would I destroy things and loot? Certainly not, though I *would* participate in protests and demonstrations. I happen to know that most youths, even those from a similarly privleged background as myself, are not so courteous – but then neither are most adults. So the fact that some assholes are looting is not surprising.

      But the thing is, for many the future seems incredibly bleak. Like, so bleak that there basically is no future. That’s almost how I feel myself, now, and I’m way better off than most. Even if we do find a job, we won’t get decent pay and benefits. We won’t be able to afford to buy a house and have a family, etc. etc.

      I personally do see things getting a lot better, fairly soon. But first, it’s going to get much, much worse and there will be massive social unrest. Should not be long before it spreads to the US.

      Has anyone objectively measured how shitty the state of the world is now, compared to any time in the past century or so?

      1. yeah, it was late and I couldn’t string together a coherent sentence.  (so what’s my excuse when it’s early, lolol)

        you asked:
        “Has anyone objectively measured how shitty the state of the world is now, compared to any time in the past century or so?”

        that’s just it, though –  by almost any metric you measure, the world is *better* than it’s ever been.  overall health, overall food availability, technological availability.  I’d guess the life of a poor person in 2011 is considerably improved compared to the life of a poor person in 1911.

        but a poor person in 1911 viewed the world in a very different way from the way a poor person in 2011 sees it.  I’m pulling things out of thin air here, but back then you just didn’t have the access to information that you do now.  You didn’t get to see all the ways in which your life could be better if only you had money.  I would guess, as well, that people back then might have been used to a more slowly changing world — the imperialistic world was crumbling and the nationalistic world was rising but I doubt that changed the way normal people lived their day-to-day lives that much over the course of their lifetimes.

        I’m guessing there’s also a lot less emphasis on “accepting one’s lot in life”.  I am under the impression that before the 20th century, the idea of owning your own destiny was probably not widespread the way it is now, or rather, the way that idea is sold to us now. 

        but this is all pre-coffee sophomoric amateur historian stuff.  This sort of thing fascinates me but I’m not well read enough on it.  What sparked this whole thing originally was the constant comments I was reading (not necessarily here) about how these are just evil hooligans who should be shot.  I just wish people were open to the idea that these things don’t just happen because people are evil, but that there is a likely chain of events that lead to such dysfunctional malcontent.  Understanding the root causes of something is not the same as excusing it. 

        1. One can analyze the root causes of a particular behavior while still coming to the conclusion that those who partake of that behavior should be shot.  The two are not necessarily exclusive.

  30. Couple of contrasting videos.

    One of a badly injured and confused kid being helped up and then robbed:

    And one of a woman in Hackney standing up to the rioters (has swearing):

    As a bonus, there’s an interesting article here from the Telegraph (the comments are depressing, don’t read them):

    1. Good god, those commenters are awful. I have never wanted to set fire to people more than I did while reading that. (Note to any legal authorities: I am in Canada, I am not an arsonist, I have never set fire to anyone, and I have no intention on doing so.)

      All I saw, every single one, was people blaming the Other (anything but them). Class warfare is back (some would say it never left), and this is the first round of open hostilities after a decade or two of a silent cold war.

  31. With regards to the socioeconomic hand-wringing…

    These are kids destroying their own communities because they’re too young and dumb to see the consequences of their own actions. These communities are weighted down with socioeconomic problems, and the vast majority of the people there aren’t resorting to violence. And what happens? Things go from bad to worse as they now have to worry about their safety, and hope for peaceful protest greatly diminishes.

    I find it difficult to justify socio-economic background as extenuating circumstances if the vast majority of the people from the same background aren’t doing the crime.

    As for any actual protest element, rather than just looting and anti-social behaviour, there have been plenty of peaceful protests recently, by various sections of society. I see no reason why that protest should be any more valid if it’s carried out by violent thugs.

    On the other hand, I think it would be rather more useful if the system responded more effectively to non-violent protest.

  32. If only they’d had a few Korean shopkeepers with AR-15s like L.A. had…whole neighborhoods remained mysteriously untouched. Thieving scum like this will decide the new satnav isn’t worth the chance they aren’t bluffing. And I’m not kidding. Drop a couple of these punks and the rest will go home. They aren’t “fighting the system”, they’re just destroying their neighbors’ stuff.

    But never fear, the police will eventually get around to some action…most prosecutions will be for:

    -using unapproved garden hoses to fight fires in blatant violation of the safety rules
    -not removing the burned remnants of their stores from the sidewalks quickly enough
    -leaving their burned-out cars illegally parked in the streets
    -locking their shops, forcing rioters to break the windows, risking injury

  33. This is a real toxic mix of disaffected youth who think actions have no consequences and police who are being told they are worthless.  From a recent policing story “Bonuses of up to £5,000 a year paid to police officers simply for doing their job are to be axed.”  Those would be bonuses paid for such things as have riot training and being prepared to be called out like last night to face bricks being thrown at you, personally I would want an extra 50K for doing that.
    The only quick fix now is to scrap all changes to police bonuses and pensions, and scrap the touchy feely school of law enforcement, that could be done today.  The only other option is to call the PSNI and ask to borrow 10000 rubber bullets and a few water cannons.

    1. On the contrary, I think the youths are aware that their actions will have consequences, but the potential upside compared to them doing nothing outweighs these consequences.  They seem to believe (with just cause) that the status quo isn’t doing them any favors so they need to shake things up.

      As for the effect of austerity on police morale, well, the effect of austerity on these “disaffected youth” is notable indeed.

  34. The PM, the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London are all on vacation. And multiple witnesses report that there are very few police officers in the affected areas. Is the government expecting the Queen to head out with a shotgun and restore order?

  35. This was sadly predictable, the only questions were how long until it happened, and what would provide the spark.

    Voting makes little difference when all the major political parties offer the same choice – we have Tory Light (Labour), Tory, or the Lib Dems who have demonstrated no conviction the their party philosophy.

    We have serious corruption in the police force (e.g. google Ian Tomlinson, or the recent phone hacking affair). Traditional organised protest has been completely ignored, and the policing of such events is attempting to turned peaceful protest into a criminal act. We now have protests calling on the government to stop tax evasion – and the protesters are being arrested, while the tax evasion is ignored. How does that make any sense?

    The current government are cutting every kind of service, from libraries to the NHS to homeless shelters, while bankrolling big business and trying to reduce tax for the rich. At the same time, unemployment is rising and support is reducing.

    Now people are rioting, looting. They have no deep political philosophy, no motive for social change. They’re just angry. When the rich, the government, the police are all looking out for themselves, ignoring the law, why shouldn’t everyone else? Sadly the result is a bunch of idiots stealing trainers and setting fire to local businesses. Until the authorities change the way they act, we can only expect to see more of this. Very sad, for all affected.

  36. Wow, odd to see commenters at the NYT generally more understanding about the rioters than the ones here. Since when did class rage and despair need to come from a “deep political philosophy,” lol? And few props for their creative use of Blackberrys and bicycles to outwit the police?!?

    Anyhoo, obligatory nihilistic song lyrics are obligatory:

    Hey! said my name is called disturbance
    I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants
    Well, what can a poor boy do
    Except to sing for a rock n roll band
    Cause in sleepy london town
    There’s no place for a street fighting man

    1. It’s all good fun to outwit the police while setting fire to stuff. But then someone’s apartment or business gets burned down. The wrong people seem to be receiving the message here.

      I can understand why the riots are happening and I can blame politicians for causing them – but I’m really struggling to support kids breaking in to Curries to steal a plasma TV. Class rage? Despair? Extreme consumerism?

      1. I missed where marveling at the rioters’ tenacity and resourcefulness was necessarily condoning their looting and burning and shit. I think that the streets have their own uses for things, a la de Certeau and Gibson, and I think it’s a bit prudish and hand-wringy to opine on what the bad bad politicians have done while excoriating the worse worse rioters, as if both weren’t connected by the most intricate of thermodynamic-political-social-technological chains of causation and consequence.

        This is something that is happening, in all its repellent multifarious mundane lovely extraordinary glory.

  37. “. Traditional organised protest has been completely ignored, and the policing of such events is attempting to turned peaceful protest into a criminal act.”

    Bullshit. Look at Cairo. Look at Tel Aviv. The way to get heard is to take over a public square and just stay there. No violence. No looting. It toppled a dictator and it’s looking to force an early election in Israel. If you burn down people’s stores (this is London: people live above those stores in case you didn’t notice), you don’t deserve to be heard, you deserve to be locked up. 

  38. When riots happen in a far away, brown people countrys, commenters praise their heroic resistence

    When riots happen a bit closer to home, commenters throw reason out the door and react like the worst of the superstitious~

  39. “…I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?
    In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder ‘mindless, mindless’. Nick Clegg denounced it as ‘needless, opportunistic theft and violence’. Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge – declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was “utterly unacceptable.” The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality,’ as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism.’ This is madly
    insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.
    Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a
    five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.
    Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The
    people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:
    “Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”
    “Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all
    blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in
    the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”
    Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and
    newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’
    There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.
    Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer.
    As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.
    Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.
    Noone expected this. The so-called leaders who have taken three solid days to return from their foreign holidays to a country in flames did not anticipate this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong. And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain.
    Let me give you a hint: it ain’t Twitter.”


  40. My friend (and social anthropologist), Matt Kelland, posted this in a FB comment and has given permission for it to be reposted:

    What we’re seeing is anger leavened with a large dollop of dontgiveafuck.

    If you have a kid, and spend their entire life telling them that they’re worthless and lazy, telling them to shut up, not giving them pocket money but expecting them to help out around the house, promising them stuff but not delivering it, dangling your shiny toys in front of them, and meanwhile constantly ramming down their throat that the only measure of success is wealth, expect them to be resentful and surly instead of grateful and happy. 

    One day, if they don’t top themselves in a fit of depression, they will snap. They’ll lose their heads and go crazy. It will be over some trivial, pointless thing, like the colour of your tie. If you try to figure out what was wrong with your tie, you’re totally missing the point. It ain’t about the fucking tie. It’s not even a protest. It’s not rational. It’s just an explosion of pent-up emotion and aggression. 

    So what do you do? Yell at them? Lock them in their room while you carry on partying? Take away the little they do have in order to pay for your smashed porcelain that’s worth more than they can ever hope to repay? Beat them for being uppity?

    Or maybe you should try talking to them and figure out what’s actually wrong. In fact, if you go to a neutral person, they’ll probably tell you to start treating the kid differently. The kid doesn’t have control over his circumstances. You do. So it’s up to you to make the changes. 

    I’m not in any way condoning the riots. But if we want to stop them happening again and again, we need to understand why they’re happening, and address the circumstances that lead to people feeling this way. Yes, some of them, maybe most, are idiots along for the ride, but the mood in the country is so discontented that it’s not surprising that they’ve turned to looting shops en masse instead of scratching cars in parking lots and spraying graffiti on the walls. 

    Give people decent jobs with a living wage. Give them hope for a better life. Help them get out of debt instead of bailing out the bankers. Reduce the gap between rich and poor. Lock up corrupt politicians and businessmen instead of people who just want to smoke a bit of weed. Educate people instead of closing schools. 

    Then the idiots will revert to being the few crazy outcasts of society once again, not role models for thousands of pissed off people who’ve had enough of feeling that they might as well kick the shit out of something.

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