So weve had riots in London the last few nights, which are now spreading to other cities countrywide. As many people have been saying, Im not the least surprised at this turn of events.
Firstly, the initial trigger for the riot was the shooting dead of a suspected gun armed criminal. However, the usual murkiness that surrounds any shooting of anyone by the Metropolitan police is starting to emerge. Like the controversial shooting dead of Charles de Menezes, Harry Stanley or Anne Sanderson questions are swirling about whether the police went all trigger happy on Mark Duggan (that he fired not shots and indeed may not even have been armed)….again. And as with all these cases, and the killing of Ian Tomlinson by riot police, questions of excessive use of force are being raised and it appears that the police complaints commission is, as always, basically toothless and unlikely to ever prosecute the cops for any crime they commit. It is unsurprising how such constant behaviour of the police, literally getting away with murder, is going to have a backlash.
Another problem has always been this undercurrent of racism within the UK police force. Now Im not saying every officer is racist, I know the odd officer or Gardai back home and they do not fit the sterotype, but quite a few coppers are racists. Ask anyone of an ethnic minority and theyll inevitably have some tale of how they had a run in with the cops where they took things way to far, up to the point where they were inevitably forced to ask the question (in their head or out loud) is this because Im black?.
I had my own little experience of this once a few years ago in Brussels. I was enjoying a late night pint of one of the many local brews when I heard several distinct English voices (easily heard in a French speaking city where speaking English is practically a criminal offence) at another table. They were coppers, senior ones too from the sounds of it, discussing the Steven Lawrence case. A strong racist overtone was clear within these discussions, along the lines of what else would a black kid be doing in a white neighbourhood but causing trouble (out for a walk? visiting friends? waiting to catch a bus home?). Clearly the lessons of the MacPerson report have not been taken on board by certain elements of the force.
And the police have also been accused of being very right wing and favourable towards certain parties, notably the BNP. One guy I know who used to run a left-wing book store was telling me how his store window got smashed in by local BNP thugs. He knew it was them, as theyd been in the shop the day before (apparently they were upset as he was selling a less than flattering book about Enoch Powell or something) and threatened him, and two little old ladies, but being the brave defenders of the white race that they were they went away with they’re tails between their legs when they realised he and the ladies weren’t going to back down and snuck back under cover of darkness. Of course you’re man (shop owner) called the coppers…after they finally showed up (many hours later), did they do anything? Youre joking right! And I mean, one of the skinheads was right across the road keeping watch and youre man pointed to him and told the cops that that was one of the guys in the store the previous day making threats, I mean are cops really that dumb that they cant put two and two together? Did they arrest anybody? Of course not! And as anyone who has ever been to a peaceful direct action protest will know its usually the cops who initiate violence as some seem to delight in the opportunity to beat up a few lefties. And the whole case of Mark Kennedy, which I discussed a few months ago, where the cops were willing to waste a valuable undercover agent for ten years just to try and arrest a load of fluffy hippies (to quote one police source). They could have maybe used the same time and millions of taxpayers money to go after some real criminals like you know, drug dealers or people traffickers.
Indeed this is one of the other criticisms levelled at the police. That certain elements of the force seem to like going for soft targets. Rather than taking on violent criminals, instead they waste their time arresting law abiding citizens for minor offences, like blowing ones nose. And I would note that I know a few coppers and theyll tell you that ya some of their colleagues, especially the traffic cops and some elements of uniform are very prone to this sort of behaviour. He could be sitting on top of a knife wielding drug dealer who hes just collared screaming into his radio for backup, and he wont get any, well not until a suitable period of time has passed that they can be guaranteed that the threat of any serious violence has passed, but still be able to put down that they “helped” to take a violent drug dealer into custody. I mean, those drug dealer types are feckin dangerous blokes, somebody should lock them up…oh! wait thats supposed to be our job! Meanwhile complain about the old lady next door taking your kids football and three squad cars will show up!
There are reports from the recent rioting indeed of the police merely sitting in vans watching it all while filling in Health and Safety forms. Of course, theyve quite a few things on theyre minds, like how will they cope with redundancy and everything! One of the golden rules of government is, dont fuck with the policing budget. Being a cop is a difficult job (my criticism of some elements of the police force aside) and the pay isnt exactly great, but it has one or two perks. All the kinky sex you want (given the ready availability of handcuffs and uniforms ;D), easy to gain membership of certain clubs (Freemasons, for example |-| or anywhere Murdoch’s cronies hang out) and job security (something which is very rare in many other professions these days). Cameron and Osborne broke this golden rule, so its hardly surprising that both now and during the student fees protests, it seems the cops arent theyre usually bash happy selves.
And recent corruption allegations relating to the News International bribery of police hasnt of course helped matters. Indeed the slow pace of said investigations seems to support the notion of one law for the rich and another for everyone else.
And one has to raise various social issues present in many UK inner city suburbs too. As I stated in a past post (regarding Glasgow “ned culture“), many in these communities, which were once thriving and important industrial centres, feel abandoned by society. Some have now seen three generations of the family grow up with little to no serious job prospects. They are caught in a poverty and welfare trap that was created for them by the laize faire policies of past Tory governments. This has led to a vicious cycle developing of alcoholism, drug abuse and the breeding of gang culture, of which it is probable (but still unproven, innocent until proven guilty guys) Mark Duggan was a member of. Also its is clear that the social problems of the inner city suburbs has led to a breakdown of parental controls. Either because some parents dont care about what their kids get up to are they are too busy working ridiculous hours and holding down a job to keep track of the kids.
In short, Im not excusing the rioters in any way for their actions. Im merely highlighting the fact that riots dont just happen. Theres always a reason beyond the mindless thugs tabloid headlines. And in this case the mismanagement of the police force by the present and past governments and an unwillingness to confront certain realities within the social fabric of Britain is most firmly to blame.
So what can be done? Firstly tackling the chronic social problems of these communities head on. That means getting jobs for these people, and I mean real jobs with a decent pay and career prospects, not stacking shelves at Tesco’s. It also means investing in these communities, and I dont just mean money but the time of politicians as well. When was the last time you saw a sitting PM go on walk about in an inner city deprived suburb?
We also need to review the police force. I would advocate the radical step of a complete ban on recruitment of any male WASPS (white anglo-saxon protestants) for say 5-10 years. That would turn off the BNP tap and would quickly redress the racial, gender and political imbalances within the police services. The current ban on BNP membership should be extended to include other organisations, such as the Freemasons, and this should be carried over to other elements of the judiciary (i.e. judges) too. Furthermore a purge of the police and judiciary may now be in order. We have MI5 and MI6 sitting on their asses (not 9 till 5, more like 10:30 to 16:00 ;)) so lets let them loose on the coppers and have them finger the racists and the corrupt cops within the force and get them thrown out. Similarly we need to be carrot and stick here. The many good coppers need to be rewarded for their services to society so I would advocate raising of police pay and rolling back the proposed Tory cuts. This would also serve to encourage recruitment and motivate the police forces.
A more reasoned assessment of the riots than youll find in the tabloids can be found on Al-Jezeera below.