Approximately 120 people marched from the Broadwater Farm area to Tottenham Police Station on Saturday, following the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old father of four. Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police in Tottenham last Thursday and members of the community took to the streets to demand justice. When darkness fell, petrol bombs were thrown at officers and two squad cars parked close to the police station and a bus was set ablaze. Fire penetrated the night sky as a once peaceful protest turned into a hate-fuelled riot. Rioters kicked in windows on High Road and hundreds of people piled into the street as smoke continued to billow. According to a local woman (as reported on TalkTalk): “There’s a theory going on that the man who was shot had dropped his gun, but they still shot him. I’m hearing that most of the shops in the High Road are being burgled and robbed.”
Regardless of the reasoning behind the Tottenham riots, whether it we grievance or pure greed, no one could prepare London, or indeed the UK, for what happened next. On Sunday 7th August, Brixton once again became the focal point of rioting, or more so looting, and swarms of people descended onto Brixton high street, smashing in shop windows and taking all they could carry. Yet again, shops and vehicles were set alight and residents watched in horror as thugs ran in and out of Currys and other such shops, carrying televisions and electrical goods. According to an anonymous local speaking to The Telegraph: “It all happened between 1.30am and 2.30am. The police turned up eventually but they were outnumbered and left.” High street shops such a Footlocker were left bare and burnt beyond recognition.
Sadly, it was not only Brixton that was affected that night – more and more towns were hit as the lure of free stuff became too much for some to resist. The knock-on effect well and truly begun.
Having grown up and recently moved back to Croydon, South London, I have witnessed the type of, pardon me for saying it, ‘trash’ that live here first-hand and I knew it was only a matter of time before the rioting took a hold of my not-so-little hometown. Sure enough, on Monday 8th August, rumour spread fast about Croydon being targeted that evening and a few of my friends even received BBM messages from strangers inviting them to the “free for all.” I met my friend at East Croydon Station after work and we walked down towards Surrey Street Market to his flat, which is by the TK Maxx entrance (or exit, depending on how you look at it) off Church Street. We passed police officers lining the entrances to both ends of the High Street and they told us that they didn’t know if anything was to happen for sure and they were just taking precautions. But an hour later, we heard a rapping at Luke’s bedroom door; it was his housemate beckoning us to her balcony- “it’s begun.”
We ascended onto the balcony and caught sight of around 60 youths with hoods up, carrying empty plastic bags, baseball bats and metal bars. We even saw kids as young as 12 kicking in people’s garden walls so they could take the bricks. The most worrying thing about it was that there was a mother with a toddler trying to battle through the crowd to get home.
An hour or two later, sirens were wailing and, as the sun began to set, smoke filled the air but a couple of hundred metres away from Luke’s house. We watched it for a while and couldn’t quite believe it- this was someone’s house; this was not a shop with a faceless corporate owner. The flames began to lick the twilight sky and we heard a crash- a room in another house close by had turned orange with flames.
Soon both houses were raging red against the black sky. Ash and ember rained down on us and riot police gathered on the road below, braced for further mobs. The woman in the house next to us was rushing around frantically holding her young baby and asking the police is she could leave even though we were told to stay put. It was about two hours until the fireman arrived with water cannons, and in that time Reeves’ Furniture Shop had gone up in smoke.
As you probably all know from the news, the shop has been in Croydon (and in the Reeves’ family) for 150 years and I am sure most people whose families have grown up in Croydon have at least one piece of furniture in their home that was purchased there. My Grandmother’s Mother bought her a coffee table from Reeves’ as a wedding present back in the 1950s. The shop is now burnt down to the ground, along with more shops and houses in the Croydon area, and there is nothing but rubble left- and for what? For what I ask you, because I see no reason for this, apart from pure greed and selfishness. These people clearly do not have any compassion for mankind and yet they try to justify their actions. I was watching the BBC last night and a girl, who I can only presume was part of the looting, said that they were doing this because they were angry. They didn’t feel that the law and that government respected them and so they didn’t respect them and they wouldn’t until they in turn were respected. Well, child, how are they – or anyone else for that matter – going to be respect you when you tear apart communities for no good reason?
Let us not forget that the reason for the Tottenham protest in the first place was for a man called Mark Duggan. Did the people who came in and ransacked the place know who he was? Do the people that decided they could do the same in their hometowns know? No. They simply saw that people could get away with it, so they could too. I fully realise that people are angry about the government cuts and the current economic situation, believe me, I’m not happy about it, but this will only make matters worse, and I really don’t believe that everyone out of the streets looting is doing so because they’re pissed off about the cuts to education and healthcare. It’s greed and to all you people saying, “they never had any opportunities”, they do now and they are seizing every minute of it. They are not aware that the punishment for those caught rioting and looting is 20-odd years imprisonment. They do not care that they are destroying peoples homes, businesses and lives, they do not care about anything apart from themselves and a perhaps a free TV. They are not thinking that for the next one or two years they will not be able to buy food or clothes from their high streets, they do not realise that taxes will sky rocket and that we may double-dip in the recession. A few pairs of trainers, a HD ready TV and a bag of rice is not going to sustain you whilst communities and town centres are rebuilt. I hope they think about all of that when they realise that they have bitten the hand that feeds them. Better yet, I hope it all comes crashing down on them and they spend the next few years in prison.
My thoughts go out to those in Tottenham, Brixton, Dalston, Clapham, Croydon, Birmingham, Liverpool, Enfield and everywhere else that has been affected by this horrific, inhumane behaviour. My respect goes out to that group of young men who chased off all those rioters in Dalston. My condolences go out to the friends and family of the two men and the police officer who were killed trying to protect their community. My thanks go out to all of those who have got involved in the riot clean up. It is sad that it takes something like this to bring out community spirit, but it is also humbling- and I am grateful, as I am sure everyone else affected is also.
If you’re interested in helping out with the clean up then please go to www.riotcleanup.co.uk (Twitter @riotcleanup) to find out how your can get involved. I have put together bags of clothing and small toys that I am donating to the people that lost their homes in the fires. If you have things you would like to donate, then please come down to Christ Church in Croydon, where they will accept your donations.
To everyone not involved in the looting personally, please stay safe and be careful. To those of you who have got involved- you are f*cking morons and you all deserve to be locked up and set on fire. Let’s see how you like it.