Friday, August 26, 2011

Recreational rioting

I have not addressed the dreadful rioting that took place in Britain earlier this month. To those of you living in the US and Israel what happened in Britain is hardly recognized as British behavior, but in Britain there is a streak of violence that almost defies belief.

What triggered the riots was the shooting death of a young black thug, Mark Duggan, was shot by police in a taxi on August 4 while supposedly resisting arrest. Generally the police do not carry firearms in Britain, but this was a special armed unit of the Metropolitan police. Although the police claimed that he fired at them, subsequently it was found that although he had a gun, it had not been fired. He was shot 5 times. It is quite possible that he was "going" for his gun, or that the police thought he was, but a verdict has not been finally given in that case. The day after the shooting the parents of the young man went to the Police Station in Tottenham in north east London and asked to see the Police Chief. But, they were kept waiting outside for 5 hours without any response.

A large crowd of mostly Blacks gathered, and after that period of time, when it was getting dark, they started to riot. The riots got out of hand and they started to ravage, loot and burn stores and houses. The police response was pathetic, in effect they left them to do whatever damage they wanted to. Word got around and all the nasty boys came out of their holes and started rioting in other parts of London, with no relationship to the first event. Apparently they discovered that the police were not responding effectively and they started burning and attacking and looting with extreme violence.

To say the police were caught napping is an understatement. Police lines were formed, but they essentially stood around while the looting and burning went on and on. In Cambden Town the main street was totally trashed and burnt, including a 150 year old furniture firm. Also Croyden was trashed. Many ordinary people lost their houses and barely escaped with their lives from the flames. Hundreds of buildings were burnt down and passersby were beaten up for no reason. The nearest equivalent I can think of was the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, but in that case the LAPD responded with appropriate force and the riots were quelled. In the case of these British riots there was no such reaction. Gangs of up to 50 hooded youths, mostly white, roamed parts of London committing mayhem, what has been called "recreational rioting." Then the next day it spread to other cities, Bristol and the Midlands, the center of Birmingham was trashed and burnt. Hundreds of stores were destroyed, including the jobs and livelihoods of ordinary storekeepers. Five people were killed and dozens injured. In one case a man drove his car into a crowd of Pakistanis defending their property and killed three young men. It was a national disaster and disgrace.

The main response of the police was to charge the rioters on horseback, that looked incredibly antiquated and reminded me of pictures of the Russian revolution of 1917. They increased the police numbers from ca. 6,000 to 16,000 on the second night and the riots in London gradually subsided. They used no water cannons and fired tear gas and some stun grenades. The major weapon used by the police was CCTV cameras that are all over London, and they then went out and arrested hundreds of people, in all some 3,000 people were arrested and about 1,000 have been charged to date. Some of the sentences have been harsh, but the courts and prisons are now filled to overflowing and the British judicial system cannot cope.

To those of you Anglophiles who are surprised by this incredible outbreak of violence I emphasise that there is a strong streak of "bloodymindedness" among the lower classes in Britain. They regularly form violent groups, there were the "Teddy boys" in the 1950s, the skinheads in the 1980s and the football riots that took place in the 1990s. If anyone wants to read about this phenomenon I suggest "Among the Thugs" by the American author Bill Buford in 1993, who for a time ran with the Manchester United fan clubs, that were among the most violent.

Fortunately, the thugs this time did not attack Jewish institutions or individuals, partly because all Jewish organizations in Britain have permanent security, and the British Government provides funding and special policing for them. But, if the riots had continued no doubt there would have been Jewish targets, since these rioters are notoriously anti-Semitic. It is one reason why I left Britain. So for those of you contemplating a visit to England, check first that there isn't rioting on the streets, you may be safer visiting Israel.


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