Just 2 weeks after London celebrated the launch of the 2012 Olympics, in which Mayor Boris Johnson ironically jokes about ‘Hooded Crusties’, mayhem breaks out across the capital. Painful to watch, the city which offers the world is being destroyed by mindless vandals, for the sake of sportswear, cheap phones and rice! (Tesco Saver’s Basmati at that!!)
Having spent both Saturday and Sunday nights in North London wedged between Tottenham, Enfield and Walthamstow, Monday came as a relief when I returned to work in Oxford Circus and later back to the safety of West London. Yet as Monday progressed, tweets about gangs gathering in various areas promised another night of terror. Last night saw the most sporadic breakouts, leaving London residents residing in all corners terrified as the media reported thugs turning their attention to burglary, muggings and arson of private properties. Cyclists are being knocked off their bikes in London Fields, while shops are being looted. Pekham and Croydon are in real trouble. Clapham is also out of control. Reports come in fast a furious about new incidents in areas thought to have been far from any trouble. Bethnal Green, Catford and Lewisham are dangerous. Suddenly, Ealing, a leafy suburb of West London, is up in flames. Then W11 and NW10 is under attack. Chiswick, Sloane Square, Bayswater, Camden, Newham and Fulham are mentioned. Its all so over whelming and too close for comfort – it’ll be another sleepless night surrounded by siren symphonies. Then flare ups in Birmingham, Liverpool and other cities are reported in unbelievable commentary by a dumbfounded BBC newsreader. I had long since abandoned Twitter for the evening, rumours of London Zoo being looted although quite amusing, were not helping my state of mind.
How are all these gangs communicating?! It must be organised. But then again, with the only apparent purpose to loot, they surely just want trouble. They’re doing it because they think its ‘cool.’ Frozen to the TV my sister and I have a horrible feeling in our guts, this is coming our way and if it does we know how stretched the services already are. ‘We don’t have enough the police’ and ‘London is running out of fire engines’ says one BBC reporter. Plumes of smoke smudge across London’s skyline. Surely we are not at war here? Are we?! Wars only happen in faraway places don’t they? It sure feels like going out would not be an option.
Then, after just a few hours of light sleep in which every tiny noise wakes us, morning comes and life resumes as normal. The communities pull together and organise clean-up operations. Stories of heroism emerge, I hear of a bus driver who picked pedestrians up to offer a safe journey out of troubles way. But then I hear of an elderly shop owner who while preparing for looters, weeps knowing he is perhaps about to lose everything he has ever worked for, and shortly after a video comes to light in which a boy is punched in the nose and robbed by someone who appears as if he is trying to help him. Bastard! And what about all those people who lose everything by the attacks? Or elderly residents left in fear?
One story to emerge from the frontline in Dalston was how Kurdish and Turkish shop owners stood their ground in the face of the thugs, protecting their shops and driving the rioters back as they yield sticks and kebab knives. When raiders tried trashing the Islamic Bank in Whitechapel, worshipers leaving evening prayers from the mosque next door chased them away. A sense of community and pride is felt by minorities here, they won’t let a group of losers ruin their home.
Now I say losers, because these youths obviously have nothing else to live for. Initial rioting may have been triggered by the murder of Mark Duggan when a vigil in Tottenham on Saturday turned violent, but what has stemmed from that is just pure thuggery. Yes society has problems, unemployment is at an all time low and these kids aren’t privileged enough to be sunning themselves in the Med during the summer but what they are doing really shows what kind of mentality we are dealing with here. Pics of looters with their hoard are being posted proudly online having forgotten to hide their identities! We’ve already seen the ‘loot’ (Rice anyone?!) but they are also breaking into KFC and McDonalds to cook food! Two girls have just been broadcasted saying that they want to show the ‘rich people’ and ‘police’ they can do what they want. But, ladies, you’re targeting poor communities with high immigrant populations!! Besides, raiding Poundland, I’d hardly think you’re targeting the rich?! Everyone has issues, why do we have to make excuses about why these idiots are chosing to vandalise (their own!) communities which have only just managed to recover from years of hardship. Why do these youths feel like they are owed so much? Penniless immigrants come here and make a life for themselves, if they can do it what is stopping these thugs?! My father arrived in the UK with just pounds to his name and started from zero, but he didn’t run riot even if he does come from Napoli! We have heard local MPs tell reporters of ‘years of pent-up anger towards the police’ but hang on a minute, what kind of people are they if they don’t give a thought to the residents living above the shops they burn down. And what do we do with them all? Police cells in London are said to be at maximum capacity. What exactly do they want anyway? ‘Stuff’? While youths in the Middle East protest peacefully for basic freedom and rights, youths here are fighting for 42″ Plasma screen TVs.
Aside from all the trouble the press has reported, there have been untold reports from residents about off licences being looted, muggings and other generally offensive behaviour. Why the army weren’t scrambled to deal with this last night, I cannot understand. Water cannons, rubber bullets, taizer guns ANYTHING to disperse the crowds please! I do feel so sorry for the Police / Medics / Firecrew, why should they HAVE to put their lives at risk to deal with such ignorant losers?!
On Monday afternoon in central London we can only just wait to see what this evening will bring. The ‘youths’ are probably sleeping it off and will re-emerge later after signing on for the week. Luckily, there have been no fatalities but it will only be a matter of time should the madness continue. London communities are strong, we have seen this demonstrated by the Turks of Dalston and the massive clean up efforts in affected areas. However, if we begin to take the law into our own hands surely this could escalate out of control? We are dealing with teenagers who have absolutely no fear. How much anarchy does it take for is heavy-handedness to become necessary?! David Cameron’s tick-them-off-and-show-them-love approach is not really helping anything. It is not 14:47 and news of sirens and businesses closing early are starting to circulate. Me and colleagues are receiving messages from eye witnesses and very reliable sources that the looting has already started in pockets of the city. People are scared.
What are your views??