The deputy Mayor in charge of Londons police authority and Scotland Yards high command have both repeatedly claimed that nobody could have foreseen that an initial protest over the shooting dead of a black suspect in Tottenham would mushroom into a riot situation. However, Chris Gilson finds that recent history should have provided plenty of pointers to how deaths at police hands or in police custody can often act as triggers for wider outbreaks of lawlessness.
The philosopher George Friedrich Hegel once despairingly remarked: What experience and history teach us is this that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. This quote certainly seems applicable to events in Tottenham on Saturday evening (6 August) when the London police faced an initially small protest over the shooting of a 29 year old man (Mark Duggan) by armed police two days earlier.
Credit: Lenin's Tomb
From the start, doubts were quickly raised over the circumstances in which Duggan was killed. Yet there were no senior officers available at the time of the initial protest to answer the many queries and issues of the crowd of family, friends and supporters, who were unhappy at the lack of communication about how Mr Duggan died. Subsequently confrontations developed between elements of the crowd and local police, which then quickly morphed into rioting. The long delays in Scotland Yard subsequently responding to this situation suggested vulnerabilities in their capacity to act, which then helped ignite copycat rioting in other areas that same night, and in many other areas of London on subsequent nights.
Scotland Yard senior officers defended their response and along with the London deputy-Mayor Kit Malthouse, have repeatedly argued that no one could have foreseen that an initially peaceful protest over a single death at police hands would turn into a riot. Yet there is a long history of the suspicious deaths of ethnic minority people in police custody or at police hands, and sometimes other kinds of heavy-handed policing, functioning as triggers for disturbances that morph into large-scale riots. This history stretches all the way back to the urban riots of the mid 1960s in the USA. My first Table here shows commonalities with two well-known more recent incidents.
Table 1: Major riot waves sparked by triggers
Initial Tottenham riot, followed by copycat looting
London, later spreading to many areas
Fatal shooting of 29-year-old black man Mark Duggan by police
Riot in Tottenham and later looting in other parts of London. Millions of £ worth of damage. 100 arrests, 26 police officers injured in the initial riot.
Paris suburbs and other towns in France
Three young boys escaping police, climbed into an electricity substation and were electrocuted.
Acquittal of police officers of the severe beating of Rodney King
Several days of rioting, 53 deaths, 2,000 injured. $800million $1billion damage
Most of the tactics used by rioters in Tottenham that the London police found so hard to combat were also strongly foreshadowed in the 2005 French disturbances especially the arson of cars and odd buildings, and the rapid movements of feral youths from one area to another.
Credit: Beacon Radio (Creative Commons NC)
Looking further back in British history, the Metropolitan Police should also have been aware of an apparent electoral-riot cycle pattern in the UK that occurred under the last Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Here severe disturbances broke out in stressed urban areas after periods when Tory governments severely squeezed public spending at times of high unemployment, almost invariably during the mid-years between general elections. Again Table 2 shows that the triggers were always incidents that imperil the legitimacy of policing with some sections of local communities.
Table 2: Key events in the electoral/riot cycles during the 1979-97 period
Death of black 26 year old, Wayne Douglas, in police custody
Standoff between 100 demonstrators and police. Police attacked, shops, cars damaged.
Broadwater Farm riot
Brixton riot; Death of Cynthia Jarrett during police search of her home.
Day of rioting, murder of PC Keith Blakelock by rioters. 3 convicted of murder, but later cleared due to lack of evidence.
Shooting of Jamaican Dorothy Groce by police while seeking her son on firearms offences
48 hours of riots, 1 building destroyed. The police officer who shot Groce was acquitted of malicious wounding.
Police thought by crowd to have not been getting medical help for a stabbed black youth.
364 injuries (299 police), 82 arrests, 28 buildings destroyed. The Scarman report later found indiscriminate use of stop and search powers by police.
Heavy handed arrest of young black men under SuS law
9 days of riots, 1 death, 468 police injured, 500 arrests, 70 buildings destroyed
St Pauls riot
St Pauls, Bristol
Tension over stop and search of young black men (SuS law)
90 charged. 19 police injured. All those prosecuted were acquitted.
Of course, under the last Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown there were strong efforts to improve policy-community relations and to improve social cohesion. All of the riots listed in Table 2 were triggered by the heavy handed policing of young black men, and strenuous efforts at police-community liaison were subsequently made to stop such problems recurring, which for more than a decade seemed to have succeeded. So perhaps the Metropolitan Police felt that this was an era that lay behind them. Yet different warning signs of deteriorating relations with youths in many communities were also evident. And policies such as the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16 to 18 year olds directly affected the urban youth cohort.
However, Table 3 below shows that there have been some deaths at police hands which did not spark unrest or riots, and for which no policemen have yet been convicted in UK courts.
Table 3: Deaths at police hands
Death of Iain Tomlinson during G20 protests
City of London
Tomlinson struck by police officer and fell. Died of injuries soon after.
Inquest jury found unlawful killing. PC Simon Harwood to stand trial for manslaughter.
Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes
de Menezes shot by plain clothes police who suspected he was a terrorist.
Jury returned an open verdict. Legal settlement with family reached.
St Leonards, East Sussex
Shot dead by police while unarmed
Enquiry found evidence by chief officers to conceal information. Five officers later found not guilty of the killing.
Death of Blair Peach, allegedly by police
Anti Nazi League Demo against National Front
Report concluded he was killed by police, but killer impossible to identify.
However, even in cases where there was apparently there was no little or no damage to police-community relations, the reputational effects may linger for years. An example was the 2005 execution style shooting of the unarmed Jean Charles de Menenzes at close range in Stockwell tube station by Met officers, who mistakenly formed the view that he was a terrorist. A key element in sparking the initial disturbances over Mark Duggans death were completely unfounded viral rumours that he too was the subject of an execution style shooting rumours which the Independent Police Complaints Commission only denied after the first riot had occurred.
Finally, it seems beyond coincidence that the past weekends riots have come at a bad time for the top command of the Metropolitan Police, some of whose officers were heavily implicated in the recent News of the World phone hacking scandal, clearly raising issues for police governance. Last month saw the resignations of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson over an expenses issue, and Assistant Commissioner John Yates because of failure to investigate the News of the World scandal. (In October 2008, less than three years before the loss of Stephenson, London mayor Boris Johnson forced out his predecessor as Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair). The Home Secretary Theresa May also announced a review by Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary into police corruption and the relationship between police and the media, focusing on the Met.
Add in the absence of all the senior ministers in the government on holiday at the same time, and the extraordinarily reluctant stance of London Mayor Boris Johnson, the PM David Cameron and the Home Secretary Theresa May to end their vacations early, and it seems that the police were not the only decision-makers who seem to have learnt little from past history.
Fire rips through a retail store in Manchester, in northwest England, Tuesday, marking a fourth night of violence in Britain. Looters have targeted electronics and clothing stores.
With 16,000 police officers out in full force in London's streets in an effort to put a stop to violent riots that have ravaged the city for three days, the British capital was "relatively calm" Tuesday, says the BBC.
But despite the quieter scene in London, fires, riots, and looting erupted in Manchester and other cities. And on Amazon's British website, sales of baseball bats have apparently risen by 3,263 percent in the past day. Andrew Sullivan's The Dishfirst reported the sales spike.
Many buses and train services between potential trouble spots have been discontinued, an attempt to make it more difficult for rioters to meet in large groups.
The BBC has established a feature page with text messages from its reporters, key developments, and a live video feed of its coverage.
Britain's venerable bookstores have been weathering the riots, often staying open even as gangs gathered nearby. And they've done so with panache.
On Monday the store tweeted, "10 mounted policemen have joined the riot police outside the shop, which we did close in the end, shortly before Harris on the corner looted."
On Tuesday, the store was open for business again and keeping British traditions alive: "We're open, we're ok, morale is low," the store wrote, "but we're drinking a lot of tea."
Large chain stores Waterstone's and WH Smith have been consulting with police and closing shops deemed to be at risk. But most have simply shortened their hours, and booksellers reported little damage Tuesday. Most of the rioters seemed to be targeting electronics and clothing stores, according to reports.
One tweet became particularly popular after last night's looting. Posted by Eleanor Orebi Gann, it read: "Waterstone's staff member to me last night: 'We'll probably stay open. If they steal some books, they might actually learn something."
Writing for Global Post (and published here at NPR), Michael Goldfarb gives a striking first-person account of the riots, and how they've affected daily life for him and his wife.
Noting the news channels' helicopter coverage of the riots and looting and the announcement of new targets by cellphone Goldfarb says, "It isn't hard to imagine that young people from the same social background around the city watching those pictures and getting texts from people they know in Hackney decided it was worth the risk of arrest to go out to the local shopping area and take what they wanted."
He also gives a glimpse of what he sees as the average British rioter:
The rioters were overwhelmingly teenagers and kids in their 20s. About 20 percent of 16-24 year olds in Britain are unemployed. That figure is much, much higher on council estates the British term for housing projects. (You can leave school at the age of 16 in this country). Unemployment statistics in Britain are sadly vague, but a reasonable estimate of youth unemployment just in Hackney is 33 percent.
Daar komt Baudrillard : England's burning en B-H-V-jeugd brandt shoppingcentrum Anderlecht plat...
we krijgen nog steeds commentaren over de plunderingen van Engelse steden in de stijl van "het zijn een paar jonge criminelen" terwijl al meer dan 500 jongeren werden opgepakt en er, na Londen, steeds meer Engelse steden geplunderd worden. Oproepen om het leger in te zetten en rubberkogels te gebruiken zijn schering en inslag en komen zelfs van labourvertegenwoordigers die waarschijnlijk even vergeten zijn welke klasse zij vandaag zouden moeten vertegenwoordigen. Kunnen deze plunderingen worden goedgekeurd? Natuurlijk niet. Kan er misschien toch eens een les getrokken worden? Hopelijk wel, anders ziet het er heel akelig uit. We weten nu stilaan allemaal dat het gedaan is met de ongebreidelde economische groei en dat de westerse landen zich eindelijk zullen moeten neerleggen bij, in het beste geval, een trage groei en eventueel zelfs een stabilisering. Dat wil dus onvermijdelijk zeggen dat er een herverdeling van de rijkdom zal moeten komen. In een economie die blijft groeien kan er een tijdje geduld worden dat rijken stinkend rijk worden zo lang de armere lagen van de bevolking ook een toename van hun welvaart kennen. Dit is dus definitief ten einde. Bovendien zijn veruit alle morele waarden volledige vervangen door idiote zaken die het systeem zelf heeft uitgevonden om de mensen te laten dromen. Als we even kijken welke rolmodellen de jongeren tegenwoordig voorgeschoteld krijgen, voetballers die miljoenen euro's ontvangen bij hun tranferts en in bed duiken met fotomodellen. In Frankrijk is zelfs hun president bijna zulk rolmodel. Geen enkele jongere is immers vergeten dat hij zichzelf een riante loonsverhoging toekende bij het begin van zijn ambtstermijn, hij heeft een vrij cru taalgebruik, denk maar aan zijn Karcheruitspraak, daagt mensen uit tijdens publieke optredens en trouwt tenslotte met een sexy fotomodel...het cliché van "the king". Maar ook in film, tv-feuilletons, muziekclips worden zulke rolmodellen opgevoerd. Gangsterrap is zowat de meest populaire jongerenmuziek. Veel wriemenlende sexy babes rond een stoere aap, ongeacht zijn huidskleur, die volhangt met gouden kettingen, joekels van blinkende ringen en een compleet debiele outfit. En plots staat iedereen verwonderd te kijken dat een ganse generatie 13-tot en met 30jarigen zonder de minste toekomstperspectieven zich als een bende middeleeuwse plunderaars op kleding- en juwelierswinkels stort. Hoe hypocriet kunnen we zijn? Had iemand misschien verwacht dat die jongeren misschien netjes naar Disneychannel zouden blijven kijken? Naar afgelikte adolescenten in mooie villawijken met puberhartproblemen? Gaat het over criminelen? Het antwoord is niet zo eenvoudig. Hun gedrag kan je crimineel noemen, ongetwijfeld. Maar volgens ons zijn het in de eerste plaats de perfecte producten van een maatschappij die hen totaal genegeerd heeft en volgepropt met lege consumptiebehoeften die ze NOOIT in hun ganse leven hadden kunnen bevredigen. De oorzaken zijn natuurlijk velerlei, kapotte huishoudens, gebrekkig onderwijs, werkloosheid enz. Maar voor dertien-veertienjarige plunderaars moet je niet meteen de oorzaken enkel en alleen bij de maatschappij leggen. Als je als jongere al van bij het openen van je babyogen merkt dat je eigenlijk niet gewenst was, noch door je ouders, noch door je omgeving, noch door de rest van de maatschappij. Voor duizend en één reden. Van de uit het zicht verdwenen "vader is een klootzak" en jij gelijkt er op... Tot en met je huidskleur waarmee je nergens echt welkom bent zeker niet als je dan bovendien telkens een woonadres moet opgeven in een totaal "verkeerde" buurt...tja...moeten we dan beginnen roepen om rubberkogels te gebruiken tegen dit soort "gespuis"? We kunnen inderdaad best bang zijn van wat we gedurende jaren hebben gekweekt in de stedelijke verloederde wijken. Ze hebben daar totaal niks te verliezen. Niet eens hun eer. Niks. Ze hadden niks te verwachten. Nada. Hun straffen en opsluiten zal hen hun eerste fierheid geven. Voor de eerste keer zal er rekening met hen gehouden worden ook als dertienjarige. Eindelijk zullen ze een beetje "king" worden. Het huidige systeem heeft geen oplossingen voor deze generatie jongeren uit dit soort buurten. In hun wereldbeeld grijpen ze nu hun enige kans om iets te betekenen, iets te hebben en om de gehate maatschappij schrik aan te jagen...blindelings branden en plunderen. Wie neemt het hen kwalijk? Laten we eens goed in de spiegel kijken want we konden perfect weten dat dit zou gebeuren en zal blijven gebeuren. Zelfs 16.000 tot de tanden gewapende flikken zullen het weinig fraaie wereldbeeld van deze jongeren over een wereld die hen niet lust blijven versterken. In welke wereld leven we trouwens dat 16.000 politieagenten moeten worden ingezet om grote delen van onze jeugd te beletten sport- en telefoonwinkels te plunderen? We zijn veraf van de bekende bankenreklame voor specifieke jeugdrekeningen met vrolijk lachende meisjes en jongens. Europa ontwaakt plots in zijn eigen smerige realiteit! Hoog tijd om na te denken en eindelijk eens andere onderwerpen aan te snijden dan ratings van Standard & Poors, kwakkelende banken, dalende beurskoersen, openbare schuld. Volgens onze cynische mening mogen we deze plunderaars misschien zelfs dankbaar zijn. Ze hebben ons eindelijk duidelijk gemaakt dat het steeds gaat over mensen en keuzes en niet over winsten, bonussen of bbp en ratings. Laat staan in Belgistan over B-H-V! Laat ons eindelijk iets doen aan kansarmoede. Wijken als Kuregem en Molenbeek of Borgerhout enz..., ons eigen Brixton en Enfield zijn grotere tijdbommen dan het arrondissement Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde. We verwachten niet meteen dat de jeugd van B-H-V het shoppingcentrum van Wijnegem of Anderlecht platbrandt...
en we vonden een steengoeie bijdrage nogmaals in The Guardian:
The UK riots: the psychology of looting
The shocking acts of looting may not be political, but they nevertheless say something about the beaten-down lives of the rioters
Looters ransack a corner shop in Hackney, London. Photograph: Olivia Harris/Reuters
The first day after London started burning, I spoke to Claire Fox, radical leftwinger and resident of Wood Green. On Sunday morning, apparently, people had been not just looting H&M, but trying things on first. By Monday night, Debenhams in Clapham Junction was empty, and in a cheeky touch, the streets were thronging with people carrying Debenhams bags. Four hours before, I had still thought this was just a north London thing. Fox said the riots seemed nihilistic, they didn't seem to be politically motivated, nor did they have any sense of community or social solidarity. This was inarguable. As one brave woman in Hackney put it: "We're not all gathering together for a cause, we're running down Foot Locker."
I think it's just about possible that you could see your actions refashioned into a noble cause if you were stealing the staples: bread, milk. But it can't be done while you're nicking trainers, let alone laptops. In Clapham Junction, the only shop left untouched was Waterstone's, and the looters of Boots had, unaccountably, stolen a load of Imodium. So this kept Twitter alive all night with tweets about how uneducated these people must be and the condition of their digestive systems. While that palled after a bit, it remains the case that these are shopping riots, characterised by their consumer choices: that's the bit we've never seen before. A violent act by the authorities, triggering a howl of protest that bit is as old as time. But crowds moving from shopping centre to shopping centre? Actively trying to avoid a confrontation with police, trying to get in and out of JD Sports before the "feds" arrive? That bit is new.
By 5pm on Monday, as I was listening to the brave manager of the Lewisham McDonald's describing, incredulously, how he had just seen the windows stoved in, and he didn't think they'd be able to open the next day, I wasn't convinced by nihilism as a reading: how can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear? How can you despise culture but still want the flatscreen TV from the bookies? Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, points out that there is no conflict between anomie and consumption: "If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it's a falsification of social life. Adverts promote a fantasy land. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world."
Leaving Baudrillard aside, just because there is no political agenda on the part of the rioters doesn't mean the answer isn't rooted in politics. Theresa May indeed most politicians, not just Conservatives are keen to stress that this is "pure criminality", untainted by higher purpose; the phrase is a gesture of reassurance rather than information, because we all know it's illegal to smash shop windows and steal things. "We're not going to be diverted by sophistry," is the tacit message. "As soon as things have calmed down, these criminals are going to prison, where criminals belong."
Those of us who don't have responsibility for public order can be more interrogative about what's going on: an authoritarian reading is that this is a generation with a false sense of entitlement, created by the victim culture fostered, and overall leniency displayed, by the criminal justice system. It's just a glorified mugging, in other words, conducted by people who ask not what they can do for themselves, but what other people should have done for them, and who may have mugged before, on a smaller scale, and found it to be without consequence.
At the other end of the authoritarian-liberal spectrum, you have Camila Batmanghelidjh's idea, movingly expressed in the Independent, that this is a natural human response to the brutality of poverty: "Walk on the estate stairwells with your baby in a buggy manoeuvring past the condoms, the needles, into the lift where the best outcome is that you will survive the urine stench and the worst is that you will be raped . . . It's not one occasional attack on dignity, it's a repeated humiliation, being continuously dispossessed in a society rich with possession. Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped."
Between these poles is a more pragmatic reading: this is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it. Hiller takes up this idea: "Consumer society relies on your ability to participate in it. So what we recognise as a consumer now was born out of shorter hours, higher wages and the availability of credit. If you're dealing with a lot of people who don't have the last two, that contract doesn't work. They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they're rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can't afford it."
The type of goods being looted seems peculiarly relevant: if they were going for bare necessities, I think one might incline towards sympathy. I could be wrong, but I don't get the impression that we're looking at people who are hungry. If they were going for more outlandish luxury, hitting Tiffany's and Gucci, they might seem more political, and thereby more respectable. Their achilles heel was in going for things they demonstrably want.
Forensic psychologist Kay Nooney deals impatiently with the idea of cuts, specifically tuition fees, as an engine of lawlessness. "These people aren't interested in tuition fees. In constituency, it's most similar to a prison riot: what will happen is that, usually in the segregation unit, nobody will ever know exactly, but a rumour will emanate that someone has been hurt in some way. There will be some form of moral outrage that takes its expression in self-interested revenge. There is no higher purpose, you just have a high volume of people with a history of impulsive behaviour, having a giant adventure."
Of course, the difference is that, in a prison, liberty has already been lost. So something pretty serious must have happened in order for young people on the streets to be behaving as though they have already been incarcerated. As another criminologist, Professor John Pitts, has said: "Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future. There is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose."
There seems to be another aspect to the impunity that the people rioting aren't taking seriously the idea it could rebound on them. All the most dramatic shots are of young men in balaclavas or with scarves tied round their faces, because it is such a striking, threatening image. But actually, watching snatches of phone footage and even professional news footage, it was much more alarming how many people made no attempt at all to cover their faces. This could go back to the idea that, with the closure of a number of juvenile facilities and the rhetoric about bringing down prison populations, people just don't believe they'll go to prison any more, at least not for something as petty as a pair of trainers. I feel for them; that may be true on a small scale, but when judges feel public confidence seriously to be at issue, they have it in themselves to be very harsh indeed (I'm thinking of Charlie Gilmour). But there is also a tang of surreality around it all, with the rioters calling the police "feds", as though they think they are in The Wire, and sending each other melodramatic texts saying: "So if you see a brother . . . SALUTE! If you see a fed . . . SHOOT!"
Late on Monday night, news went round Twitter that Turkish shopkeepers on Stoke Newington Road in Dalston were fighting off the marauders with baseball bats, and someone tweeted: "Bloody immigrants. Coming over here, defending our boroughs & communities." And it struck me that it hadn't occurred to me to walk on to my high street and see what was going on, let alone defend anything. I was watching events on a live feed, switching between Sky and the BBC, thinking how interesting it was, even though it was audible from my front door and at one point, when I couldn't tell whether the helicopter noise was coming from the telly or from real life, it was because it was both.
The Dalston clashes remind us, also, that it wasn't just JD Sports, even though the reputation of that chain is, for some reason, the most bound up with everything that's happened. Smaller, independent corner shops, the kind without a head office in Welwyn Garden City, that aren't insured up to the teeth, were ransacked as well, for their big-ticket items of booze and fags. When a chain is attacked, the protection of its corporate aspect means that, while we can appreciate the breakdown of law and order, we do not respond emotionally. When a corner shop is destroyed, however, the lawlessness has a victim, and we feel disgusted. That's what drags these events into focus: not the stuff that was stolen, but the people behind the stuff.
Will actions such as this address black deaths in police custody?
On Thursday, 4 August, 29 year-old Mark Duggan was shot dead by police as they attempted to arrest him in Tottenham whilst he was in a minicab. Following a peaceful demonstration by his family and supporters violence erupted as youths torched buildings and looted shops. The key question which must be asked however is will this riot and has this riot addressed black deaths in police custody?
Twenty-nine year old Mark Duggan was killed in Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale by police officers working for Operation Trident which investigates gun crime in the black community. Three shots were fired and one bullet was found lodged in a police radio.
According to a BBC report (Mark Duggan shooting: Bullets results within 24 hours: 8 August 2011) the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) has refused to comment on a Guardian article (Doubts emerge over Duggan shooting as London burns: Sandra Laville, Paul Lewis, Vikram Dodd and Caroline Davies: August 2011) claiming that the bullet found lodged in the police radio was from a police gun, not Duggans.
According to a Guardian report (Mark Duggan handgun tests show conversion into lethal weapon: Sandra Laville: 8 August) Duggan was carrying a handgun, but a C019 firearms officer who was at the secene told Sky News that he never claimed that Duggan had shot at him.
The contradicting evidence and lack of communication from the police to the Duggan family led to the peaceful demonstration for the truth.
Duggans fiancee admitted that he was known to the police but denied that he was ever in prison. She also denied he was a gangster as portrayed in the media but said If he did have a gun which I dont know Mark would run. Mark is a runner. He would run rather than firing and thats coming from the bottom of my heart. This suggests that she was aware of his criminal activities. The Guardian (Mark Duggan: profile of Tottenham police shooting victim: 8 August 2011) says that Duggan wore a t-shirt with the words Star Gang across the front on his face-book page. The Guardian also says that The Voice newspaper linked Duggan to the Star Gang in north London which had been responsible for at least three deaths in the past few years.
The argument here is not whether Duggan was the criminal portrayed by sections of the media, it is his suspicious death at the hands of police which is a common oocurance within the black community. In my article Black deaths in police custody: We should never forget I covered the suspicious deaths of British reggae singer Smiley Culture real name David Emmanuel after a police raid of his home and the death of Kingsley Burrell Brown in police custody.
The statistics from the IPCCs own report titled, Deaths in or following police custody: An examination of the cases 1998/99 2008/09 is disturbing. It was found that 68% of people who died in police custody were arrested for non violent offences. There was a breach of police procedure in 27% of cases and that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be restrained whilst in police custody than whites.
Zephaniah Samuels (IPCC report highlights need for action over deaths in police custody: 3 December 2010: Black Mental Health UK) said, This report shows that over one-third of cases in which a Black detainee died occurred in circumstances in which police actions may have been a factor, this rises to almost one-half if the cases of accidental death where the police were present compared with only 4% of cases where the detainee was White.
Black lives are in danger when it comes to police arrests and this is a series issue which needs to be addressed but was not addressed by the looting youths who went on a rampage for what appears to be their own selfish consumerist needs rather than the subject raised by the Duggan family and other black lives that has been lost in police custody.
Rioting youths in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol looted Debenham stores and other shops on the high street. Tesco was looted in Bethnal Green. In Croydon, south London a big fire consumed Reeves furniture store. A bus was set alight in Peckham. A bakery was also set alight. Children as young as 14 were seen by local people looting local shops.
None of this has anything to do with black deaths in police custody, nor will these actions address black deaths in police custody. The mainstream media will focus on the violence and looting and by the time all this dies down the message will have been lost to the public.
All those involved in the looting arson has let down the Duggan family and the countless number of black people who have died in police custody.
Police in riot gear in Enfield, north London, on Sunday night. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven't seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police's treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear. (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough.)
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
Images of burning buildings, cars aflame and stripped-out shops may provide spectacular fodder for a restless media, ever hungry for new stories and fresh groups to demonise, but we will understand nothing of these events if we ignore the history and the context in which they occur
uit Wiki: het valt op dat de politie nogal selectief te werk gaat en in armere wijken weinig weerstand biedt. Ze stelt soms zelfs voor aan "allochtone" winkeliers om zelfverdedigingsgroepen te vormen...we gaan er dus weer een stuk op achteruit en het principe van het monopolie van het geweld in staatshanden wankelt. Daar zijn zeker de minstbedeelden niet mee gebaat. Het volstaat niet om charges uit te vieren om Louis Vuitonwinkels te beschermen of een discussie in gang te trekken over het al dan niet aankopen van waterkannonnen. Het gaat hier om sociale onrust van de ergste soort. En de lijst wordt stilaan erg lang zoals jullie onderaan zullen kunnen lezen...
A march by some 200 people in Tottenham became violent and descended into rioting. Disturbances continued into the following days and spread to other areas of the city, including Wood Green, Enfield Town, Ponders End and Brixton. Vandalism, arson, looting and violent disorder were also reported in several boroughs of London, extending as far south as Croydon. At least 35 police officers have been injured. On 8 August 2011, the widespread rioting and looting spread to parts of Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol, Kent and Leeds. Over 525 people have been arrested since the start of the disruption, and the Metropolitan Police have announced their willingness to use baton rounds against rioters should there be another night of violence on 9 August 2011.
In response to the incidents, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and London Mayor Boris Johnson cut short their holidays to return to Britain. It was announced that Parliament will be recalled on 11 August to debate the situation.
Widely viewed as "the worst disturbances of their kind since the 1995 Brixton riots," the unrest occurred in the context of tense relations between the police and the black community in London, as well as other cities with significant black populations, such as Birmingham, which has been the setting of protests regarding the death of Kingsley Burrell.[who?] Commentators have drawn parallels to the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985, during which one police officer, Keith Blakelock, was murdered.  The disturbances were preceded by escalating calls for better oversight of the Metropolitan Police, extending calls which go back to the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the New Cross Fire, in relation to the deaths of black people. For instance, during the summer of 2011 there was a large nonviolent march to Scotland Yard over the summer spurred by the death of Smiley Culture, but this march was largely overlooked by the press.
Placing the riots in a broader context, suspicion and resentment towards the police was attributed by one commentator to the 333 people who have died in police custody in England and Wales since 1998 without a single officer having been convicted of a crime. Other exacerbating factors include high poverty and unemployment, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the lowest social mobility in the developed world.
Shooting of Mark Duggan
More immediately, the riots in Tottenham were spurred by the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by police on 4 August 2011 during a planned arrest, in which one officer was injured. The incident took place on the Ferry Lane bridge, next to Tottenham Hale station.
The incident was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). This is standard practice whenever a member of the public dies as a result of police action. It is not yet known why police were attempting to arrest Duggan, but the IPCC said that the planned arrest was part of Operation Trident, a unit which investigates gun crime in London's black community to which Duggan belonged. Operation Trident specialises in combating gun crime relating to the illegal drug trade.
Friends and relatives of Duggan, an alleged cocaine dealer and member of the 'Star Gang', claimed that he was unarmed. The IPCC stated that a non-police-issue handgun was later recovered at the scene. Duggan's girlfriend told the Evening Standard that she was shocked to learn her boyfriend of 13 years was carrying a gun.
After the shooting, the media widely reported that a bullet was found embedded in a police radio, implying Duggan fired on the police.The Guardian reported that initial ballistics tests on the bullet recovered from the police radio indicate it is a hollow-point bullet which matches those issued to police.
On 6 August, a peaceful protest was held, beginning at Broadwater Farm and finishing at Tottenham police station. The protest was organised by friends and relatives of Duggan to demand justice for the family. Around 200 people participated in this protest.