Here’s what we know so far:
* A London father named Mark Duggan was allegedly shot and killed by police last Thursday in the north London neighborhood of Tottenham.
* Rioting in working-class neighborhoods in London began on August 6, two days after Duggan’s death. Demonstrations, and then vandalism, violence, and looting, followed in Tottenham, Croydon, Wood Green, Enfield Town, Ponders End and Brixton.
* Violence spread to other cities in England, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol, Kent, and Leeds.
* More than 500 Britons have been arrested, and more than 111 police officers have been hurt.
* Rioters are communicating partly by way of a BlackBerry service called BlackBerry Messenger, which allows for simultaneous communication similar to an online chat.
* Because the uprising is taking place predominantly in working-class communities, some say the violence has been percolating for years, just waiting for a spark:
It is demonstrative of how far Labour has sunk that it is barely considered a voice for those people on the streets, and it is of the utmost importance — if Labour is to against be simultaneously left-wing and electorally successful — that it once again gets in touch with those it has unfortunately abandoned.
Because, to be honest, that is what causes riots — disenfranchisement … Many of the rioters will have been unable to vote in the last election, and are now being hit hardest by the Coalition’s cuts. Cuts to EMA and youth services seem to be designed to specifically target the young and disadvantaged.
That only adds to a general environment which has been growing over the last decade (and perhaps longer) of anti-youth hysteria. In Maidstone and in towns and cities across the country, young people are treated like vermin to be kept away from shops and fast food outlets with a ‘mosquito’ device.
In the above video, journalist and political leader Darcus Howe says his own kids have lost count of the number of times his son has been searched by police. He also makes the case that it’s wrong to classify these actions as “riots”:
“I don’t call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it’s happening in Liverpool, it’s happening in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment.”
Meanwhile, the police — the very police whose actions against Duggan (justified or not) and whose actions against the young people of these poor communities may have sparked their anger — are blaming something else entirely.
Are you ready for it?
Grand Theft Auto.
In Tottenham, the scene of the first riots on Saturday night, a police officer said: ‘These are bad people who did this. Kids are out of control.
‘When I was young it was all Pacman and board games. Now they’re playing Grand Theft Auto and want to live it for themselves.’
When youth grow up facing attitudes like that, it’s no wonder they’re angry, bashing cars and torching shops.
It’s beyond insulting to the people of these communities to write off such deeply held rage as the product of playing a video game. Such statements lay bare the gulf of misunderstanding that lies between those in power and the powerless. The story of this violence is, in some ways, the story of every act of youth violence: in the effort to raise their voices, to be heard, to claim a moment of power, however senseless or misguided, their acts are once again misnamed, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and dismissed.
As long as this ignorance continues, so will the violence.