British police, cutbacks, provoke riots

By Julie Hyland in England:

Major police clampdown as riots spread across London and other UK cities

9 August 2011

A massive police presence has been established across parts of the capital in an attempt to crush the eruption of social anger that has affected areas of north and southeast London and is spreading to other UK cities.

Rioting in Tottenham on Saturday evening was triggered by the fatal police shooting early Thursday evening of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four, by Specialist Firearms officers.

On Sunday, disturbances broke out in Brixton, Enfield, Walthamstow, Islington and Oxford Street, central London. By Monday afternoon, riots were also under way in Hackney in east London and Lewisham and Peckham in southeast London. Disturbances also broke out in Birmingham, England’s second city.

Upwards of 220 were arrested in less than 48 hours.

The scale of the police response belies claims that they were “taken by surprise” by events. Not only were the notorious Territorial Support Group (TSG)—the capital’s specialist public order police unit—on standby as “contingency” during peaceful protests against Duggan’s killing immediately prior to Saturday’s riots. By Sunday afternoon, thousands of police reinforcements had been drafted into Tottenham and other parts of north London from Thames Valley, Kent, Surrey, Essex and the City of London.

It is reported, for example, that by 9:30 pm that day the “whole of Enfield”—just a short distance from Tottenham—had been turned into a “sterile area” by the Metropolitan Police and back-up forces from Kent.

“Hundreds of riot police arrived with vans and police dogs, charging at groups of teenagers who disappeared into side streets, smashing cars and shop windows as they ran,” the Guardian reported. Police on horseback charged any groups of youth in the area, while police helicopters were deployed overhead.

Riots in Hackney were reportedly triggered by a police stop and search of a young man sitting outside a MacDonald’s restaurant late Monday afternoon. When he protested that he had done nothing wrong and refused to be searched, a riot van drew up and police attempted to arrest him. A crowd gathered in his defence and the situation quickly escalated into running confrontations between large numbers of riot police and hundreds of young people.

The police clampdown is being put in place even as the official version of events leading up to the rioting in Tottenham is unraveling.

Police had claimed that Duggan, a passenger in a taxi cab, opened fire on officers as they attempted to stop the vehicle as part of a pre-planned arrest operation. One officer only narrowly escaped death, according to police statements, when the bullet fired by Duggan hit his radio. Other officers returned fire in self-defence and Duggan died instantly. A non-police issue firearm was said to have been recovered from the scene.

On Saturday afternoon, upwards of 200 people gathered at Tottenham police station to demand “justice for Mark Duggan.” The protesters, including Duggan’s fiancé Semone Wilson, complained that they had been given no explanation for the shooting. Police say that after several hours, what they acknowledge had been a peaceful protest suddenly turned violent when gangs of youth began attacking police cars.

But according to the Guardian, yet to be released ballistic tests show that it was a police-issued bullet that was found in the police radio. This would indicate that the police did execute Duggan, as many suspected. Eyewitnesses said they saw police shoot Duggan as he lay face down on the floor.

As for police claims about the protest, video footage has now emerged of police brutally beating a young girl, causing outrage from the crowd.

This video is called BBC News: Explosive Eye Witness Account – Tottenham Riots, UK.

The video posted on YouTube confirms eyewitness accounts that the rioting was triggered when police “set upon” the 16-year-old. One local resident, Laurence Bailey, told reporters he saw “15 riot officers pounding her with shields.”

“She went down on the floor, but once she managed to get up she was hit again before being half-dragged away by her friend,” he said.

When the incensed crowd surged forward, police cars were used to block the road. These were the cars that were attacked by youth and set on fire.

As evidence mounts of a police provocation, a concerted campaign is underway by the media and the major political parties to blame the disturbances on “copy-cat criminals” and “looters” with the aim of justifying further state repression.

A spokesman for Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the rioting as “utterly unacceptable,” while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrat Party described it as “opportunist theft.”

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative Party chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “Obviously there are people in this city, sadly, who are intent on violence, who are looking for the opportunity to steal and set fire to buildings and create a sense of mayhem, whether they’re anarchists or part of organised gangs or just feral youth, frankly, who fancy a new pair of trainers.”

The Labour Party’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, demanded “robust leadership and action in London now to prevent this disorder and criminality” from spreading.

“We need to be assured that the police have the resources necessary to maintain public order but also to conduct targeted follow-up operations to bring criminals to justice,” she continued, adding, “We also need a clear strategy from the government and the mayor to prevent this disorder becoming a repeated problem throughout August and September.”

Cooper’s remarks are a veiled reference to the austerity measures that have been implemented by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, involving spending cuts of some £80 billion that will devastate jobs, living standards and social programs. In recent months the government has tripled the cost of university tuition and abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance, paid to some 640,000 16-18 year olds to help them continue in higher education.

Areas like Tottenham, amongst the most deprived in the country, have been particularly hard hit. Unemployment officially stands at 8.8 percent, but will be much higher amongst young people. Claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance have risen by 10 percent in the last year, while Haringey Council has cut £41 million from its budget, reducing its youth services by 75 percent.

This is the social reality that underlies the London disturbances. It is replicated in working class areas across the country. It is the reason Cooper anticipates “repeated” disorder in the coming months.

Violence spreads to Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool: here.

The London Riots – On Consumerism coming Home to Roost; 09/08/2011 By Zygmunt Bauman: here. Also on Zygmunt Bauman: here.

From last year, from the Conservative Daily Mail, from a high level policeman:

Public sector cutbacks could lead to riots, says police chief

5 thoughts on “British police, cutbacks, provoke riots

  1. The Lambeth branch of the public sector union Unison has released a statement on the recent riots. It is also organising a public meeting:

    Defending Our Communities: The future for Children and Young People in Lambeth
    6pm, Thursday 18 August
    Karibu Centre, 7 Gresham Road, SW9 7PH

    From last weekend there has been rioting and looting spreading across London. People in working class communities have looked on with fear as riots destroyed local shops and left some people homeless. Clearly we don’t support opportunistic looting or for acts of random violence. However, if we are to avoid a return to the social unrest and public disorder seen in the 1980s, this demands a response from our community and its leaders which goes beyond mere condemnation. We must ask why are our young people so angry and how can we unite our community?

    The police

    The police killing Mark Duggan, acted as a spark for the recent riots. This was not an isolated incident

    • Since 1990 320 people have died in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police)

    • Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation, especially of young black men.

    • In the student protests we saw violence used routinely against political protestors, including school students

    Tory cuts destroying our communities

    The deliberately savage reductions in public spending imposed upon our communities by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair.

    In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; Connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

    Lambeth Council have announced their intention to cut £76million from their budget in the next 3 years. This includes reducing adventure playground opening hours to weekends and holidays only; £1.45 million cut from Youth Centres and Holiday activities; Children’s social care cut but by £3.5million, deep cuts in the Connexions service with opening hours halved, and cuts in Buildings Schools for the Future; alternative education provision (Closing OLIVE School and cutting back Park Campus), and cutting the Young & Safe project which aims to reduce youth crime.

    At the same time last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion. The wealthy bankers whose conduct caused the economic crisis continue to be rewarded with multi-million pound bonuses, while the jobs and pensions of public sector workers – the people dealing with the aftermath of the riots today – are under threat.

    What needs to be done?

    In order to avoid further riots two things are necessary. First, our police service must become transparently accountable to the communities it serves. There is legitimate and longstanding community concern about deaths arising from police action, and action to address this concern must not get lost in the cacophony of condemnation following the riots.

    Secondly, the Government must reverse the disproportionate reductions in local government spending imposed upon Inner London so that we can maintain the social infrastructure which gives our young people a stake – and a voice – in our society. If the Government will not do this, then the responsibility falls upon Labour-led local authorities in London to represent the interests of their electors by fighting, with all means at their disposal, for the resources necessary to provide the vital services which sustain the cohesion of our communities.

    The answer does not lie in David Cameron’s “Big Society” or Lambeth’s own “Co-operative Council” but in the defence of public services from a reckless attack by a Government which is indifferent to the social damage being wrought by their economic policies, some of the consequences of which have now been played out on the streets of London.

    Lambeth Council needs urgently to review cuts already agreed and being made in services to young people in particular if we are to avoid further disorder and damage to our diverse, vibrant and tolerant community.

    UNISON calls for an organised defence of public services and our communities, led by trade unions and community organisations and pledges to support a public meeting in Brixton in the next few days to discuss how to build this campaign.

    Defending Our Communities: The future for Children and Young People in Lambeth
    6pm, Thursday 18 August
    Karibu Centre, 7 Gresham Road, SW9 7PH


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  4. This Is Not A Diary by Zygmunt Bauman was jotted down between September 2010 and March 2011 and disgorges a wealth of observation and information about the times in which we live.

    Bauman gives the crisis of social democracy much attention, alluding to the ideas of Vladislav Inoziemtsev and his intriguing analysis of the applicability of Marxism in post-industrial times when the defence not of labour but of the poor seems more urgent.

    In a note of caution, Bauman makes reference to Conrad’s Under Western Eyes with its description of the betrayal of revolutions by the “narrow-minded fanatics and tyrannical hypocrites.”

    Bauman allows himself a conclusion in the last entry which alludes to HG Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come. “Wells,” Bauman writes, “struggled, against all odds, to save our self-confidence. What I was trying to do was to save our self-criticism and against all odds, to sap, or at least to weaken our self-conceit.”

    And succeed he does.


  5. Pingback: George Floyd murdered, US riots, British comment | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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