London & England Riots 2011.

Thursday 4th August 2011, 18:15.
The Metropolitan Police executed a targeted vehicle stop as part of an operation to control gun crime within London’s black community. As Mark Duggan – a 29-year-old resident of Tottenham, London – fled the taxi he was travelling in, two gunshots lacerated his chest and biceps. The events leading up to his death remain a haze, yet in 2014 the Royal Court of Justice decided that Mark Duggan had been lawfully killed, despite it being common knowledge that Duggan did not fire on the police.

Having failed to notify Duggan’s family of his death for one and a half days after the killing, it wasn’t until Saturday 6th August that the incident came to scald the police. Just before the initial riots, the police had held a community meeting in which – almost in the way that Noah was warned of a great flood to destroy mankind – residents foretold of the potential for crippling riots similar in scale to those of 1985. Later on the Saturday, a peaceful protest group – organised by Duggan’s family – marched from Broadwater Farm, the scene of the 1985 riots, to Tottenham Police Station demanding to speak with senior officers about the shooting. Chief Inspector Ade Adelekan was heckled when he confronted the crowd, and then a teenage girl lobbed a champagne bottle at the officers, who responded forcefully…

All hell broke lose.

londonriots

A week-long pandemic of looting, rioting and violence spread across England like the bubonic plague had nearly 700 years before it. But this time, it wasn’t fleas that carried the disease; rather, it was social media that perpetuated the chaos. Networks such as Blackberry Messenger and Twitter were used to spread anti-police messages and hooliganistic propaganda. Whilst some of the looters – particularly the younger ones – simply jumped on the bandwagon and rioted to get a few kicks, most of the violence came about due to an intrinsic distrust of the police, who were seen to be discriminating against the youth, and especially those from ethic minority backgrounds. A recent study concluded that police forces around the country all suffered from a chronic lack of diversity. The Metropolitan Police (London) can claim to draw 12.4% of officers from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, yet they are supposed to protect a population where 40.2% of the population is BME.

The majority of the riots across England took place in the most deprived areas of England (Tottenham has some of the highest unemployment in London) and the riots seemed to expose some of the most fundamental class divides – struggles, even – that exist in modern Britain.

During the riots, five people lost their lives, over 3,000 arrests were made and £200 million worth of property damage was caused.

So although the killing of Mark Duggan served as the trigger for England’s 2011 riots – much in the same way as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand sparked the beginning of World War One – the actual cause of the riots was a deep-rooted suspicion of the police and people’s suppressed feelings of anger and bitterness towards society and the government, which penetrated our communities and eventually boiled over into one calamitous expression of sorrow, discontent and destruction.

What started as a quest for answers from the police remained a quest for answers from the police, and what started in peace ended in blood and tears, much like the Soweto uprising.

The anniversary of the Soweto uprising, also known as ‘Youth Day’, is on Thursday 16th June.