Summary of the 2011 London Riot
On August 2011, one police officer shot and killed a black man in Tottenham suspecting of possessing a gun. However, the underlying circumstances were not precise. The police gave the media information, which was not right and did not contact the family. Rumours were that it was an assassination by the police. The Black Independent Advisory Group, which was formed to challenge police activities, took up the matter. The group and the family later after two days held demonstrations as they visited the police station for more information. More protesters waited outside as the negotiations went on. After some time, the protesters outside the police station set a police car on fire and riots begun. The reason why the protesters did not wait until the negotiations were over was other rumours, which were later confirmed to be false that the police also beat a young black girl on the same scene. The riots spread throughout London and other English cities with the same reason of police harassment. Media interviews with the protesters as the riot went on indicated that most of them expressed anger towards police harassment, economic deprivation and government’s failure to support social programs.
Why the Riot occurred
One reason for the riot, which comes out, clearly is economic deprivation including lack of basic needs. We can collect the evidence from the sentiments echoed by rioters through the media, but there is more open information to prove the reason. In one of the Communist party meeting held about one week after the riots, Ben Stevenson, one of the executive members argued that the country could not associate the protest with criminals without making economic and political considerations. The statement shows that it is right there was a problem with the economy of the country, which led to the riots. However, the sentiment gives an insight into the fact that the poor economic position of the country had some roots on bad politics. Corruption among politicians was very high in the country making wealth to concentrate on some people. According to Stevenson, the wealth was concentrated on 10 percent of the population while the rest 90 percent remained impoverished. The government was not concerned about the challenges which the community faced but only used the chance to enrich its followers.
The government moves to reduce public debt was the cause of economic deprivation. The strategy it employed to cut public spending and increase tax in some areas, which includes a 20 percent in food, energy, armaments, retail as well as pharmaceutical companies, was making people suffer. Increase in the taxes and reduced public spending is what resulted in unemployment, and lack of basic needs due to their high prices. Many youths lost their jobs, and some from the poor regions left school.
Two questions arise from the move to reduce public depth. Was it necessary to do it very quickly other than spreading for five years? Was the debt so high that it required such strict measures? The two questions lead to the political instability of the government and corruption scandals because the debt was not as high as the coalition government argued. The level of the debt at that time was much lower compared to that of Japan and the US. Also, the coalition had five years to reduce public debt slowly. The move is a strategy to root from the public funds. The government wanted to cut spending and increase income so that the members can have enough to pocket without taking debt to a higher level. The corruption in the government was, therefore, the genesis of the riots.
Poverty, lack of education, and unemployment were the results of government actions, which led to the riot. People in such deprived states do not care whether the police will arrest them as long as they will carry out operations, which will benefit them. Most people did not join the protest because of the killing, but they had other motives. News of killing spread by rumours and therefore majority of the protesters did not have a legitimate reason to protest. More protest occurred in business centres. The venue for holding the riots shows that the rioters focused on stealing more than crusading against killing. People were not afraid of the police, and some threw stones to them. The aggression to face the police shows that people did not care much about arrest compared to what they were going through. A chance had come for them to gain from those who have been looting public money, the business elite class with expensive jewellery shops.
A collation government leaves society without any political party to exercise their powers or present their grievances. Also, developments are low because the opposition party which is supposed to look into development and corruption issues is in the government. Forming a coalition government was one of the mistakes, which occurred in UK politics. There was nobody to speak for the poor people who were experiencing hard economic times from the high cost of basic needs and unemployment. Most of the rioters came from areas, which did not have social movements through which they could parade their challenges.
Treatment form the police
During the riot, some of the slogans heard were far from the issue of killing. One would expect that the protesters churn the name of the killed person, but the words, which the media reported includes Prada Gucci and hood, which were brand names of some clothes. The police associated those types of clothes with criminals around the country. Police would harass anybody wearing the clothes with an assumption of being a criminal. However, criminals used some of those clothes like the hood to hide their face from the security cameras as they carry out their criminal activities. The expression of such words, therefore, was representing frustrations, which the people had on the harassment from the police. The disappointments from the cops were, thus, one cause of the riot.
Further support that rioting was as a result of harassment from the police is in the involvement of the Black Independent Advisory Group. The group existed to ensure that police activity do not infringe people’s rights. The protest by the group and the family show that the death was a result of harassment. While other protesters were waiting outside the police station to get feedback from the police, another rumour of a police beating a girl came over. The fact that the news was confirmed to be false shows that the crowd was tired with police harassment and they were waiting for such confirmation to heighten the protest.
There was racial, and class discrimination from the government is spreading to the public. First, the person who was killed was black. Also, the rumours which aggravated the protesters to burn a police car claimed that police had beaten a girl who was from the black race. The two incidences show that there was racial discrimination in the country. Most of the rioters came from more deprived regions, which the black occupies. Also, In those places, Police did not have a good relationship with the public because they were not protecting them. The UK police force had turned to protect the elite members while discriminating against the poor. They were part of the government, which was rooting from the public.
One may wonder how political withdrawal may have been among the causes of the riot when people expect the police to contain such events. It is easy to assume that the police were the cause of the disturbance but looking at how the event was, another though of political disengagement comes into play. News from the media and narrations from the rioters and the police themselves describes a puzzling strategy used to calm the riot. Reports from the media indicate that the police were armed with protective gears, but they did not use their weapons. They stood by side as they watched the rioters steal from the shops and put buildings and cars on fire. The youth were going deeper into the activity to through stones to the police. The strategy used was a total fail, which means that police were part of the factors that led to a prolonged riot. However, the question arising is how a heavily armed police force well skilled to deal with terrorist could watch as simple youths go on with riots.
Police did not fail in their mission to prevent or stop the riot, but the political class made them fail. Armed forces receive orders to use force from other senior officials, and in the 2011 riots, there were no such orders. The police in the UK is no longer aggressive as they used to be traditionally. Most of those in the force are still the same, and their firearms are intact which means that the problem is centralised somewhere. Some of the words echoed by the looters during the riot reveal the weakness of the London police force. In one case, looters said that the police vehicle takes a minimum of 15 minutes to get to the place of incidence and therefore it will be hard to arrest them. The public is aware that the police force is no longer vigour to contain such riots from the 1990s. Before then, the police force had very tough ex-servicemen who could not watch teenagers carry out crimes because they have knives or other minor weapons.
The time of Tony Blair and the New Labor Party had powerful British police forces which the political correctness led by the elite has consumed. David Cameron’s Tory Administration was very soft on crimes as well as the criminals. One reason why the administration was soft at that time is the coalition in the government thereby becoming hard to set strict policies. However, the elites in the Tory administration were also lenient to apply police force so that they can clean their name before the public. Most of those who were involved in the riot at that time, before and after were youths who had created obsession in the minds of the political class. They were worried about the antisocial culture which they had a stake in its development. One of the strategies they could have used to cool the youth from unemployment and poverty oppression was to avoid interfering with their activities including crime. That reason made the political elite lower the force of police form 1990s.
The argument of leniency in the police force brought about by Cameron’s leadership in 2011 is evident in the Theresa May’s Utterances. According to May, police in Britain were past those days of using force like water cannons to consenting with the community. May was the home secretary at that time and therefore, influential in police decisions. The strategy for solving poor leadership was wrong leading to social instability. Even in those communities like Holland, which are very good at consent, uses force when dealing with crimes. Making the police force weak cannot make the public miss the point of a selfish, authoritarian government of the elite class. May used the word ‘We’ while claiming that they do not use force to refer to the elite class and not the general Britain public. The political class was free from crimes and therefore forgone public protection from having a clean name before the suffering youth. The Cameron administration missed the mark because exposing the public to looting and other social injustices were making the youth’s anger to increase other that forget that they are unemployed.
Cameron administration had disengaged from public affairs to concentrate on enrichment a few people. They intoxicated the police leaders thereby weakening the force. The police did not see any need to fight a losing battle, which their leaders were not concerned. One of the youth recalls the riot and explains that the police were out of control and everyone had strength and power to do any crime without stress (BBC 2012). The Sentiments further shows how anarchy in Uk had taken root and even today leading to social freedom of doing anything harmful to the public.
The significance of the Riot
The riot helped the government to realise the results of its corruption and mismanagement of the country accounts. One reason why the country’s economy was getting worse is the move to reduce public debt. The strategies employed were bringing more harm than good to the people. From the riot, the government could realise the department in charge of strategising such financial matters gave the wrong advice. One of the manifestos of the government, when it was seeking votes, was to reduce public debt within the first two years. However, through the riot, it learned that its political agenda could not work. There was no urgency in reducing public debt only to leave people suffering from poverty.
The government realised that it was losing control of the people it is supposed to lead. Through the puzzling strategy of the police to calm the rioters, it was clear that the government policies were ruining it. The plan to avoid using force when dealing with criminals and rioters as argued by May was harming the government other than helping. The policy aimed to block the public from seeing the authoritarian leadership exercised by the government. The police could have contained the riot before it spread to other cities and days if they were empowered.
One of the political consequences of the riot to the government was lost confidence. The public both the engaged and disengaged in the uproar did not realise that the government was weak in dealing with such riot issues. Those who have businesses, on the other hand, concluded that the government could not protect them from their investments. The government could therefore not get more support from the public. Also, the police could not support the government since they experienced frustrations due to limited powers to exercise their roles. They saw that the government was using them to advance their missions.
Although the riots started as a defence towards police killing, the expansion of the protest revealed more than the incidence itself. The rate at which people joined the demonstration shows that they were waiting for such avenues to express their grievances. From the slogans they were reciting to the activity of rooting, it is evident that the UK economy was no longer stable. Protests do not occur because of one incidence but a series of such cases, which repeats themselves or other worse conditions. The policies to reduce government spending and increase tax were the cause of unemployment, poverty, and lack of basic needs, which resulted in the riot. The riot revealed the inability of the government to protect its people and their business and therefore, lost confidence from the public. However, the uproar was essential in helping the government realise that their policies and strategies to rule were misinformed.
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