The riots have lifted the lid on the routine police harassment, racism and deprivation that is the daily life of thousands of young people in Britain.
Politicians and the press have done their best to paint rioters as “criminals”. In reality they are ordinary people fed up of a world that gives them nothing.
Ben, a young black man from Dalston in east London, told Socialist Worker, “I’m sick of being told I’m the problem. It’s black youth this and black youth that.
“I cheered the riots because I thought finally people are saying they’ve had enough.”
Natasha, also from Dalston, added, “We feel like we’re always guilty of something. Breaking people’s shops isn’t good. But our young have nothing—and no way of saying it any other way.”
The feeling that the government ignores young people, and that peaceful protest gets nowhere, is widespread.
“Rioting is the only voice we have that people will listen to,” said Nick, a student from Bristol. He pointed out that the riots in the Stokes Croft area of the city on Monday of last week pulled in many different people.
“There were people of all colours and backgrounds there,” he told Socialist Worker. “It wasn’t about race, it was about an attack on youth culture.”
David Cameron paints rioters as “mindless”. This disgustingly plays down the event that sparked the riots—the police killing of a black man in Tottenham, north London.
“This is about Mark Duggan being shot down in daylight under very suspicious circumstances,” Geraldine, an artist living in Tottenham, told Socialist Worker. “It was an execution.”
The Tories want to blame poor people for expressing their fury at the police and the government.
It reflects their fear that widespread, popular anger is coming their way—because they are the ones making life worse for ordinary people.
Labour MP John McDonnell addressed a meeting organised by the Coalition of Resistance and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac) last week.
He pointed to MPs’ hypocrisy over the riots. “We’re in a society of looters,” he told the meeting, referring to MPs who had fiddled their expenses.
Campaigner Lee Jasper put the blame for the riots on the Tories. He said, “If people want to know why children are like this, don’t look at their parents, look at Margaret Thatcher’s society.”
He added that governments had “put black youth in the spot of public enemy number one”—and declared that, “the solution is to bring this government down, now”.
The riots were sparked by police racism and violence.
But the fact that they spread so easily shows the deep discontent that people feel over a myriad of issues.
Donatella, a health worker from Haringey, described rioters as “a generation in a state of shock, in a world that offers nothing to them.”
Ahmet, from Stoke Newington, told Socialist Worker, “People did this because they are angry. Some days you feel like nothing. We all deserve better.”
Rioter: ‘People have had enough of the police’
A 17-year old man from west London spoke to Socialist Worker about why the riots happened
“People had had enough of the classic ways to protest. When they ‘play by the rules’ they get nothing. We wanted to confront the police.
Frustrations have built up for a number of years—we don’t feel like we have a voice.
But during the riots it felt like all the people who had said ‘nothing will ever change’ came out. There was collectivity and cooperation.
People worked together to pull bins into the road to burn and stop police horses.
When people realised they could loot the shops it was basic commodities that went first. People came out of shops with nappies and rice.
The shooting of Mark Duggan by police was a trigger for the anger, but it’s about more than that. People have had enough of the police.”
‘Gangs show lack of options’
Delroy Brown, a youth worker in north London, spoke to Socialist Worker about the Tories’ “gang” rhetoric.
“David Cameron blames gangs on black fathers not sticking around. This is nonsense.
Gangs exist and members can seem intimidating. But if you talk to them you realise that they are normal people.
Most aspire to jobs such as becoming plumbers or work in construction—but there are no jobs.
Gangs are proliferating because things are getting worse for young people. The massive rate of exclusion from school leaves few with any options. And the cuts are adding to this.”
Some names have been changed
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