My first thoughts on the London Riots in August 2011

The riots in London are still going on and I am in the middle of it all in London. There is too much happening in different parts of London and I cannot be everywhere, so I cannot form an elaborate opinion yet. Probably nobody can do this at this moment, because events are still developing.

Therefore just a few of my thoughts, to which I will add as I learn and analyse more:

  1. It started with the shooting of Mark Duggan (29) by police on 7 August 2001. The exact circumstances are still unclear. An investigation has meanwhile shown that Mr Duggan did not fire on police before being shot in the chest.
  2. Based on previous instances of deaths caused by police in London and their attempted cover-ups (e.g. Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson) it is understandable that this causes shock, especially in communities who are stopped or arrested by the police more often than others.
  3. The riots started after a peaceful protest in Tottenham (see my photos of the aftermath of the first night).
  4. The clashes were initially called the Tottenham Riots because I (and others) thought that it would remain local and that it would be over after a day or two. That was wrong.
  5. When I was at Tottenham, I heard several people complain that the police had not protected houses and shops. However, it seems that the police were highly outnumbered. In this scenario, I find it understandable that the police don’t risk more confrontation by trying to protect assets. As bad as it is for the shopkeeper or the resident in question, it might make sense from a policing standpoint to let violent protesters vent some anger instead of trying to seek to arrest everyone who throws a bottle.
  6. I am tired of hearing and reading “it’s like a war zone”. No, it is not! A few houses burnt, a few cars burnt and there was looting. A war is a sustained military operation between two or more armies in which whole cities are destroyed and hundreds or thousands die every day. In Tottenham, there were families looking at the aftermath of the riots with their children in strollers the next day. This is very far from a war.
  7. I was surprised how quickly and broadly the riots spread. By now, almost all parts of London seem to have been affected. This does not seem to be coordinated beyond some coordination at the very local level.
  8. There have been many reports and footage of rioters breaking into shops and looting. They mainly seem to target electronics stores and shops for sporting equipment. This makes me doubt that there is too much of a political background behind most of these riots.
  9. I don’t understand why people burn corner shops when there are plenty of Royal Palaces in London.
  10. I don’t mind if the Mayor or the Prime Minister are in London or not. They deserve a bit of holiday as well and I am sure the fate of a city does not depend on one man. Even Boris Johnson won’t go out personally to arrest looters.
  11. Ken Livingstone is even more annoying than the riots. He still hasn’t gotten over the result of the last election, what a poor old man.
  12. The timing of the riots was quite good because I was just about to begin growing tired of London after having been here for 2 years. Exactly when I started to think about where to move next, this city is becoming interesting again.
  13. The IRA must be jealous about the amount of destruction caused in London.
  14. A city with 8 million people just cannot be policed and protected everywhere at the same time. Some are using these riots to call for more funding for police. How many officers do they want, a million?
  15. These riots show that we are always only one step away from anarchy. Once people think they can steal and loot without a real danger of being caught, enough people will take this opportunity.
  16. On 9 August, most of the shops in the previously affected areas are closed, some are boarded up. There is a very large police presence everywhere, with 3 officers on bikes just outside of my house right now.
  17. As police from the surrounding areas are now flocking to London for support, the rioters just have to go to other parts of Britain. – And this is exactly what seems to have happened in the evening on 9 August.
  18. London was quite calm, many of the shops closed and the streets unusually empty. I went for an evening walk around Peckham (one of the hot spots of the previous days) and almost no one was outside. There were more police than pedestrians.
  19. And after 4 days, it was all over.
  20. As expected, those that want more government spending are calling for more youth workers and those that want harsher sentences are calling for longer prison terms. As if anyone would really know what would work.
  21. I find it ironic that a protest that was initially intended against police violence turned into widespread looting which in turn lead to the police being criticised for failing to respond with a harsh crack-down.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in London, Politics, UK and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to My first thoughts on the London Riots in August 2011

  1. johncerickson says:

    I have heard speculation of “social media co-ordination” to produce large numbers of people in specific places. I suspect, like so much in this story, it will be proved partially true. I have to wonder that, if the protesters can rally numbers via Facebook, couldn’t the police do likewise? (I realise there are far more limited numbers and assets available to the police tahn to the “unwashed masses”.)
    Great work, Andreas. Just be careful, okay? I’ve grown accustomed to your online presence. ;)

  2. Judith says:

    Thanks for such a precise overview. My younger sister lives in Hackney and I have been watching the news and keeping in touch with her over this outrage.

  3. helen says:

    Well said.

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  5. Well-written except for point 12 …
    By the way, which exact areas of London have been affected ? I have heard of Hackney, Brixton and Tottenham …even Oxford Circus I think… I need to read the news properly, while on holiday I’m losing touch with the real world (which is not so bad, actually!).

  6. Martin says:

    Great post, Andreas. Ad point 6) I agree that the language used in the media doesn’t always help – phrases like ‘war zone’ for example only serve to further provoke those that see themselves as big bad wolves in the urban jungle (ie the wannabe toughguys and gals that attacked shops during the last few nights…)

  7. All because of ni**ers

    • I saw the photos in the newspaper today of some of the rioters that had been arrested and tried, and 90 % of them were white.

    • johncerickson says:

      Don’t waste your effort, Andreas, it’s the KKK – click on “Karl”‘s name. Pure BS spam.

    • I didn’t know the KKK was still active. Well, I guess some guys are really stuck in the past.

    • John Erickson says:

      Wow- a blast from the past! Just NOW getting to this? Tsk, tsk. I think you need to hire me to tend your blog, Andreas! ;)

  8. plaintain1 says:

    I’m happy Andreas that you liked Tottenham when you used to live here. It’s a bland place and at times, surprisingly, it can very quiet. Eerie!! I live just a three minute walk from the High road, and the school opposite the police station used to be my old school. As I have said elsewhere on my blog, I’m not ashamed of Tottenham as it has treated me very well and continues to do so. Haringey council tries as much as it can to look after Tottenham, and perhaps one day, it will look like Hornsey or even Muswell Hill. So I hope after all what has happened, we will see something drastic and radical. By the way the photos are great!!

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