Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Silence In the Morning

I think it's a good sign if the police are back giving directions to tourists!
We all woke up this morning, took our showers and life goes on. Rumour has it that five pubs were under attack with both the tills and the patrons robbed and that a Tesco's was also hit. The neighbour who told me this didn't know which pubs had the trouble and I had a cycle by the Tesco's  today, which was open for business and didn't look any worse the wear. Another rumour states that there was rioting at Victoria Shopping Centre and the sirens were going constantly for most of the night, but it seems like the police had a pretty good handle on it all. Who really knows, it all seems like mash of rumors and guess work. There's still a heavier than normal police presence, but it's nothing like last night. Fewer than a dozen officers in Victoria Station at lunch time , but still out and about. Hopefully, they got a bit of a rest during the day, today, before getting called back in for the night shift.

Police van in central London
Meanwhile, thugs reigned in Manchester. The rumours are that professional criminals were organizing the kids who were looting and generally leading police on what looked like a wild goose chase. There have been claims that the rioters had scouts on BMX bikes riding around to find locations without police to which to lead the rioters who were on foot. They would allegedly start looting one shot, then move on when the police showed up, only to circle back through side streets.

Sadly, three men died this morning in Birmingham when they were run over by a car. They died on the street in full view of neighbors and rioters. They were three young men in their early twenties who were, according to their families, trying to protect their property from looters.

The news today is picking up on the "real message" behind the riots. Now, while I think it's probably premature to make sweeping generalizations about the cause of this behaviour, it's certainly something that needs to be addressed. This blog entry worries me, though. To validate what has been happening here as genuine political protest is dangerous and counter productive. While it is, of course, regrettable that their 2,000 person march to Scotland Yard didn't garner the media attention they wanted and may well have deserved, the next step is not stealing televisions and setting buildings on fire.

I'm a supporter of demonstrations and even of civil disobedience, but I am not a supporter of burning down people's homes and stealing people's livelihoods. This isn't even on the level of the ANC in South Africa who attacked government installations to protest apartheid. They made efforts not to do violence. I just can't see that stealing high priced goods and burning buildings that contain both shops and flats is effective, appropriate and/or genuine political protest.

None of this is to say that there shouldn't be more opportunities, support and services for youths of all economic backgrounds. Of course we need to not only have these discussions but also improve our investments in all parts of our society, however, this is not the way to achieve those goals. They are giving a bad name to the youth of the UK and perpetuating what seems to be a terrible class war that is being waged.

There will be a lot more on all of this from all sorts of people over the coming days, weeks and, if we are lucky, months and years. So, I shall leave it at that for now and wait for more information before making any further judgements.

The 5pm update: Most shops and restaurants were still open, but there were markedly more people actually in the restaurants. Pubs, seemed as popular as ever. Sainsbury's manager told me that they would be "playing it by ear" tonight, but that they would definitely be closed by 10pm, instead of their usual 11pm closing time. People still seem cautious, but in much better form tonight. I think we're all hoping that last night's crackdown will have taken the wind out of the trouble makers' sails.

The police force, however, had been beefed up again as the evening rush hour set in. There were vans of police everywhere and at least a dozen officers just in the main area of Victoria Station.

Here's to another night on the edge.

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