UK Riots and Looting… An outcry from the marginalized or just menacing violence?

15 Aug

Britain is popularly known for its exciting premier league and their famous Royal Family. However, the last two weeks we have seen news surrounding the unexpected (or not so unexpected) riots and looting in this 1st world country.

Most of us are familiar with the reason behind these riots; the killing of a gangster by a policeman. We have seen this result in cities like: London, Manchester, Liverpool, Wolverhampton and Birmingham to name but a few, to be bombarded by rioting youth.

There has been a huge outcry by local communities and the UK government alike. British commoners, aristocrats and others have condemned the actions of the rioting youth. These individuals in their thousands signed an e-petition on a government website calling for the perpetrators of the riots and looting to have their benefits cut (TNT magazine). According to BBC NEWS UK Politics, the e-petition received 100,000 signatures and subsequently has become the first petition to be considered for pontificating by the House of Commons. British citizens have also been using social media sites such as FACEBOOK to show their support for the police, 1million supporters, (BBC News). They have also engaged in clean-up operations in affected cities. BBC News quotes David Cameron as saying that he is leader for a new moral army while also promising a tougher police response. By this he means robust policing using water cannons and rubber bullets if necessary, (BBC News).

It seems that the UK government have started considering crowd control tactics practised by South African Law Enforcement for decades. This year has highlighted that peaceful protests are a thing of the past or a notion forgotten. People with serious grievances are rioting, looting and currently in South Africa throwing dirt on the streets (Municipal workers wage strikes). We, South Africans, are accustomed to witnessing crazy and robust mass action. Annually our streets are filled with striking workers for improved remuneration and the most noted the historical Anti-Apartheid mass action. For example the aforementioned municipal workers current wage strike, wage strikes by teachers and medical workers (doctors and nurses). These have resulted in a political regime change in our country but also our streets looted with dirt, students being left without education for weeks and medical patients not being treated. But the mass action in the past few months has been the cause of political revolutions in African Countries like Egypt. But is this robust and menacing mass action seen in the UK an outcry for a social revolution?

Symeon Brown, a youth leader from Tottenham, believes that the riots and looting stems from a more complex issue. He argues that the riots stems from the removal of democratic consent… Meaning the youth feel the British government does not act in their interest (CBC News). Symeon Brown vehemently believes “the riots have come as a result of very much being on the margins of society – on the periphery of our civic sphere and I think that what we are seeing now is the result of the socially excluded being kept in a specific location suddenly exploding rather than imploding” (Frontline Partners with Youth Networks).

The Riots and Looting are more complex than meets the eye and to what main stream media have suggested. I have just read and heard reports condemning the riots and looting but I have not heard many reports on the other side of the crooked coin. Not that I agree with the outraged mass action but I do sympathise with the individuals living on the periphery or margins of the British society. They live in a society with a visible hierarchical social system, where like in many countries the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of these riots and looting will be. Will the marginalized people of England be heard or will the robust policing prevail?

Pictures from:

CBC News:


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