RIOTS by Guest Blogger Michael Ndebumadu

On Saturday the 6th of August a protest outside
of Tottenham Police Station turned into what was one of the worst riots England
has ever seen.

The protest itself started over the shooting of Mark Duggan
by the police.  His friends and family
led a demonstration from the Broadwater Farm Estate to Tottenham High Road,
outside the police station. It was here where things took a turn for the worse.
There are no confirmed sources as to what started the riot; some say that it
started over an incident in which riot-police assaulted a teenage girl; other
unconfirmed sources say that she taunted the police by throwing a bottle at
them. Whatever may have triggered the riot, no one was prepared for the mayhem
that followed after.

From that day and onwards a whirlwind of mayhem swept
through Tottenham and passed through cities across London and other parts of
the country. For 4 days it seemed that the nation was under siege by angrer and
anarchy.

Many people began to wonder, where were the MPs and PM? And
why weren’t they doing anything; they began to question whether the police were
capable or equipped to handle the havoc that was occurring on our streets. It
seemed England was lost in chaotic confusion.

As days passed and the rioting spread across the country, Community
Leaders, youth workers politicians and everyday citizens gave their opinions on
TV debating about what was happening; giving their views on what the causes of
the riots were and what could be done to prevent such terrible-events happening
again.  One thing noticeable was the
sides in which people were taking;

On one side, many people saw the rioters/looters as
opportunistic hooligans seeking to get free merchandise and cause damage.  People spoke of the looters/rioters just
wanting to carry out their own personal agendas and that they were not acting
out in retaliation to the shooting of Mark Duggan.  These statements were understandable and true
in a way. We have to look at the issues regarding the rioters and their actions.
Many of the rioters had organised themselves to take part in the trouble.
Social-media such as Blackberry Messenger, Twitter..etc were used to plan where
and when they should meet up to cause chaos. Due to the wreckless and
thoughtless actions of the rioters many people were left homeless; and one has
to wonder, did any of the rioters feel any ounce of compassion for the homeless
victims?  And finally the obvious fact
that a majority of the shops and businesses looted were places where valuable
goods were sold & displayed.

The general public were understandably scared and infuriated
by the riots. What was confusing about the rioters is the fact that some of
them seemed to have little, or no reason to even think of joining in the
disorder; for example amongst those arrested some had jobs. Teachers,
graduates, a model, a lifeguard and even the daughter of a millionaire were
just a few of thosel arrested for their involvement in the riots. These facts
just support what some people said about the intentions of the rioters. One
final factor is that news from The Metro
and The Guardian newspapers stated
that three-quarters of those arrested had criminal records.  So with all these factors it’s easy to
understand why the rioters were easily condemned and labelled.

One the other side, people said they understood why the
havoc that plagued England’s streets had happened. Community Leaders, Youth
Workers and rioters/looters themselves had spoken of actions of the government
and their actions which had driven them to behave in such a manner.

It’s no secret to anyone that the government have made many
massive cuts; and those most affected are those living in inner-city areas.
These people had been living in areas which have had issues with crime, bad
relationships with police, unemployment, unstable homes, kids being out of
school and deprivation before the cuts were made; but now that the cuts have
happened it seems things have gotten worse.  Cuts to organisations that actually helped
young people, youth-clubs..etc were among the cuts that the government made.  Citizens living day to day life with these
issues were bound to eventually snap at one point and it seemed that the time
to snap had reached. Many people felt that these riots had been a long time
coming. For some time now the people felt they were being marginalised and
ignored by the government. Many young people felt that they weren’t be given
any opportunities which would enable them to build a better life and future for
themselves and so now was the time to let their anger out.

One other issue which people kept addressing was that the
government themselves have looted funds from other countries and from the UK
itself. With many politicians claiming expenses on personal items and the
increase in young people being stopped and searched, people felt that it was
hypocritical for the government to condemn the looting.

Going back to the shooting of Mark Duggan; people were angry
that he had been killed by the police and wanted answers as to why he was
killed. In Tottenham a few days after the riots had stopped, a demonstration
had taken place at Tottenham High road. It was a peaceful event, but there was
anger still searing in some people’s hearts. People were angry at the fact that
many other young black men had been killed at the hands of police and this was
one reason which contributed to the riots.

The whole topic of the riots is a deep and long issue. To understand
the riots in its entirety we would have to dig up years of past disputes and
issues which may have been addressed but not yet solved.  The situation of the riots was described by
Ola Gbaja-Biamila, the comedian as “a room filling with gas and all that was
needed was a spark”. And in no way was he joking.

Now that the riots are over, England’s affected areas are rebuilding
and going through a healing process.

A bridge between communities and government needs to be
built so that both parties can delegate and together solve the problems
addressed.  Let us hope that both
government and communities learn from this and let us hope that it makes us
wiser and lead us to build a better future for the people in this nation.

 

Michael Ndebumadu

UK Riots, Making an impact.

For the past week there has been widespread chaos across
the country, with this comes a lot of media attention which is expected.  The world is watching, even more closely because
London will host the Olympics in less than a year.  People around the world want to know how the
politicians and the police will deal with the disturbances.  Earlier this week David Cameron has already
been called a hypocrite by Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations. He said “To
hear the Prime Minister of England describing the riots and the rioters in
England by using the term ‘gangs’, while they don’t allow us to use the same
term for the armed groups and the terrorist groups in my country – this is
hypocrisy. This is arrogance.” As the world continues to pay close attention
on the situation the authority are working hard to put an end to the chaos.
With so many people now being arrested and charged, police work tirelessly, the
courts now have so much to deal with, working overnight to put those who are guilty
away.

Since the riots there have been many questions with
not enough answers, from the initial incident with the fatal shooting of Mark
Duggan, to what was the cause of the violence from a peaceful protest, and to
what was the cause for the widespread looting and carnage.

As soon as my friend told me that someone had been
killed by the police I told him all hell will eventually break loose.  As I watched the events unfold in Tottenham all
I was thinking about was the people who had lost their homes, businesses and
about the family of Mark Duggan who are still awaiting answers.  From the start there were too many speculations
and not facts in the media, people started making assumption on what they
thought had happened, others judged Mark based on what picture the media
decided to use and people started sending the wrong message by destroying their
own communities.  When the riots started
spreading I was the least bit surprised, because of the speed information is
reached these days.

The day when the riots hit Hackney, I was supposed
to be doing a workshop with some young people.
Just before I left my house, I was watching the events unfold in Mare Street.
My reaction to the situation was to make sure the young people I work with at
the Crib youth project do not par take in the violence and looting.  It was important because we discuss
consequences of actions on a regular basis and I wanted to make sure that they
do not make any decisions that they may later on regret. I called Michael, a young
man I work with on a regular basis to make sure he was not there, his reply was
“I have worked too hard to get to where I am now, finally working and I am not
about to throw all that away just for a few things am sure if I work hard I
will eventually get what I cannot afford”.
It was good to get that reaction from him, I could not account for all, and
because there are vast amount of young people I work with.  Sadly today, I found out 1 has been arrested
for getting involved.

Seems like young people are the scapegoats to what happened,
as we all now know, there were varies types of people involved. Regardless of
the negative images of the young people who have been involved in the mayhem,
there are more young people who are keen to putting positives images to your
screens and your newspapers by achieving great things each and everyday.

While the questions continue, we here at the Crib
youth project will continue to do what we do every day which is to provide provisions
and support to young people, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to
be successful and hoping when situations arise they will use that knowledge to
make the right decisions, because only they can make it for themselves.

Am sure during the enquires about young people, promises
will be made, but we will see if all the promises are kept when the dust
settles.

For me it is simple, like my great grandma told me
in our native language Igbo, “no one person can do everything BUT everyone can
do something” which is also the same motto I use for my forthcoming book.

by Emeka