Socialist Worker

Alex Wheatle: ‘The anger that caused the riots has never gone away’

Award winning novelist Alex Wheatle, who was imprisoned after the 1981 Brixton riot, spoke to Socialist Worker

Issue No. 2264

“This timebomb has been ticking for a long time.

The riots are shocking—but are fed by exactly the same anger that led to the Brixton riot of 1981. It’s an anger that has never gone away.

Once again we face a huge economic crisis, public spending cuts, mass youth unemployment—and racist policing that seems to be out of control.

And once again, we have a whole generation of young people, particularly young black people, in despair.

Everything the Tories have done has made the situation worse.

Inner-city youth are every day targeted by adverts for a lifestyle they can never attain.

They know that all the things that the middle classes take for granted—a nice home, a secure job, a pension—are things they will never have.

Nick Clegg, and the other politicians who had a free education, don’t have to worry about their children’s futures. Meanwhile, our young people are told how little they are valued by the cutting of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Is it any wonder that so many feel they have nothing to lose? Are we surprised some of them are not even concerned enough to cover their faces as they loot?

The behaviour of the police today is shockingly reminiscent of the 1980s.

Just like in our day, the kids know the police are never held to account for their crimes. None of the “independent” IPCC investigations into deaths in custody have ever resulted in an officer going to prison.

What we are seeing on the streets today is an outpouring of rage, and occasionally violence, that has built up over years. It’s not something I condone.

Wanton violence has nothing to do with what happened in Tottenham. There is a real grievance at the police killing of Mark Duggan but most of the violence we are seeing now is not part of that protest.

But it’s a shame that there are so few black community leaders that are prepared to speak up for the youth who are suffering.

Where is the outrage at deaths in police custody? Who is speaking up for them and their families?

Like many who lived through the riots of 1981, I hoped that I would not see another generation go through what we went through. It is painful to see that they are.”


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.