Anger against the police burst out in Tottenham, north London, last Saturday after a protest over the police killing of local black man, Mark Duggan.
They waited outside Tottenham police station for answers to their questions—but they waited in vain. The rage erupted. Police cars, several shops and a bus were in flames. By 2am plumes of smoke engulfed north London.
Hundreds took to the streets. They reflected the local population—black, white and Asian, and of all ages and there were many Hasidic Jews.
A friend of Mark told Socialist Worker, “Everyone locally knows Mark. He has four children and was 29-years old—not a young boy. He was shot at the end of my street. He had no chance.
“It’s racism. I have been stopped by the police lots of times just because I wear a hoodie. The police don’t treat us with respect. Now they are seeing the results.
“When I saw Jewish people out tonight I was happy. I thought, ‘It’s not just us’. They gave us bread.”
For hours into the night there was a stand-off with riot police. Police reinforcements were pelted with missiles—thuds and cracks rang through the air.
Jody McIntyre, dragged from his wheelchair by police during a student protest last year, was there.
“I can see why so many people have come out onto the streets,” he told Socialist Worker. “When the police shoot someone people are going to react. We have to police the police. We have to hold them accountable.”
Weyman Bennett, a socialist activist who has lived in the area for over 15 years, told Socialist Worker, “The mood feels like the 1980s.
“There is deep bitterness about police racism. The Tories’ cuts have destroyed youth services and opportunities for young people. Unemployment is rising. People feel they have no future.
“You can tell the poverty people are living in by what they’re looting. I saw people running off with groceries, big packs of toilet roll and nappies.”
Cathy O’Leary works at Somerford Grove adventure playground in Tottenham. She told Socialist Worker that some families cannot afford food at the weekend.
“We work with a charity that makes food parcels,” she said. “It is run by a Nigerian women who said ‘What’s going on when I as an African I am making up free food parcels for people in Britain’s capital city?’”
On Sunday crowds gathered to talk about the night before and survey the damage. Burnt-out vehicles and rubble still littered the streets.
The police cordoned off the high road and spontaneous meetings took place as the media descended on the area.
Diana told Socialist Worker, “Things are getting worse for ethnic minorities. We are seen as troublemakers. Young people feel disenfranchised. No wonder people are angry.
“Why didn’t the police just come out and talk to the family? David Lammy should be going to the police to sort this out. Instead he just makes a speech insulting us and telling us what we have done is wrong.”
Later that night more riots broke out in Enfield. The police set dogs on young people.
Local community activist Hesketh Benoit said, “It made me think of Birmingham, Alabama, in the US when they used water hoses and dogs on people fighting for their civil rights.”
But this is London, in Cameron’s Britain, in 2011.