Each new riot in Britain, and there have been many over recent decades and in our past history, has taken the nation by surprise. The cries of ‘put them down and punish them’ has been an inevitable outcome. Cracking down on the protestors has seldom done any good. Inevitably in time the causes of an uprising, for that is an accurate description , have to be identified and dealt with.
All these riots need ‘triggers’ and however our recent riots are wrapped up, the most common cause is an economic grievance of some kind. These riots are no exception. In Tottenham, where the recent London riots started, the Metropolitan Police have been bearing down on the drug trade. It has been desperately inconvenient for the drug pushers in Tottenham in its efforts to earn a dishonest penny. It is a trade and a host of young lads have been earning a regular income from it. Add in a few state benefits for not registering their self employment and you have enough to live on. And then a golden opportunity comes along. A man suspected by the police of being a drug dealer was shot. Public indignation and suspicion of the police became the fuel that sparked demonstrations, the opportunists were drawn in and the rest, as they say, is history.
Facing up to the truth is always a difficult proposition. Who is to blame for this? I don’t think you can blame the police for putting the drug pushers and their users under pressure. But how do you explain the actions of thousands of fellow citizens joining in the riots with such enthusiasm for looting and attacks against property and the police? And where do you start? We could start with dishonest politicians fiddling their expenses, corrupt local councillors, High City bonuses down the road, dishonest journalists and policemen on the make. Is there a thought, a general feeling, that if THEY can get away with it, why not us. It’s our turn.
And there is nothing new about any of that. When in 1834 the Houses of Parliament were burning down, London citizens gathered on the opposite bank of the Thames and cheered to cries of good riddance.
15 August 2011