Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London Burns for Third Straight Day

Building burns in Tottenham, August 7, 2011
Curious and catastrophic riots continue for the third straight day in London, but no one yet has determined the centralized reason, though a handful of plausible speculations abound. In London's biggest and most violent riot since the race riots of the 1980s, stores have closed shop, citizens have fled, and the rioters have embarked on a defiant course of action. Begun in north London's Tottenham district on Saturday, August 6, the rioting has since spread to London's south end, the Hackney area of east London, and out London to Bristol, Birmingham, and Liverpool.

Police detain man in Enfield
In London, police identified the rioters predominantly as "young lads," though some teenage girls have joined as well, though most identities remain anonymous due to their preferred outfits of black clothing and face masks. They have set shops, cars, and homes alight and are freely taking merchandise from stores and looting from people's homes. One reporter saw a girl, he guessed at age 14, walking carelessly past police with her arms full of clothes she had looted. the Clash c. 1979, "London calling to the underworld, come out of the cupboards all you boys and girls." The scene all over London is similar: Despite a massive swell in police protection, the rioters are still running the city and the police force is seemingly sitting back and watching.

Man hurls rock at police in Tottenham
One speculation for the violence and kleptomania is Britain's enormous slash in public spending (80 billion pounds or $130 billion by 2015), the most severe cuts since immediately following World War II's end, while simultaneously steadily increasing higher education costs. This is leaving countless university graduates jobless and unable to begin providing for themselves in a country that penalizes young individuals who are able to work but, for whatever reasons, are not in a job. Another speculation is Thursday's police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, a notoriously poor and predominantly black community. Police gunned down Duggan, a 29-year old father of four and alleged gang member and drug dealer, for disputed reasons on Thursday, August 4, sparking a swing of anti-police racism protests, at first peaceful, which quickly surged to unmanageable violence.

Double decker bus burns in Tottenham
But many are dubious that London's rioting youth have an political or social justice motives at all. 37-year old north London resident Monica Simmons alleges that these riots have more to do with opportunistic greed. "A lot of youths [...] heard there was a protest and joined in. Others used it as an opportunity to kit themselves out, didn't they, with shoes and T-shirts and everything," she told reporters. Police, too, are doubtful that there are righteous intentions behind the violence. Police commander Christine Jones calls the dissenters' actions "mindless thuggery" and "inexcusable." Although 239 rioters have been arrested thus far, their seems to be no sign of the movement - whatever movement it is - growing.

Prime Minister David Cameron cut his vacation to Italy short to return to London Tuesday morning for a national crisis meeting. Aiming to toughen police stance and fearful for the effect this would have on London's 2012 Olympics, the already stretched police force has yet to even slightly control the riots, and it remains unclear whether an end is in sight.

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