A quick thought on the riots gripping London, and now a host of other British cities. As the rioting stretches into a fourth day, some are citing recent austerity measures pushed forward by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as a rationale. To pull Great Britain out of its economic doldrums, the Cameron government pushed forward a package of budget cuts, many complain the budget ax fell the hardest on the nation's poor. The explanation goes that the riots then are a reaction by poor inner city youth to cuts in education and assistance programs, a lack of jobs and to being trapped in a cycle of poverty.
This explanation is crap.
For one, there already were massive street protests against the austerity budget, staged as Parliament was voting on the bill. But unlike the current rioting, these protests, despite being massive in scale, were peaceful. The catalyst for the current protests was the police shooting of an allegedly unarmed man several days ago. Calls went out for a peaceful protest against police tactics, and the public gathering was in fact peaceful at first, though some within the crowd had different ideas sparking off the ongoing riots.
In coverage of the event though, few of the self-styled “protestors” mention the police shooting as the reason they're in the streets now. A few have uttered vague notions about being angry at a lack of jobs, but more telling are Blackberry messages collected by the BBC blasted out by “organizers” of the rioting. Far from calls for social justice, the messages tout what a great opportunity it is to steal stuff. One urged London street gangs to set aside whatever turf battles they may be having and join in on the orgy of theft; another said it was a great time to steal and spread fear – a message which seems to stray into the area of domestic terrorism.
The notion then that this is some sort of social justice action then is ridiculous, more accurately it is a concerted effort by petty criminals and self-styled anarchists to kick a hole in the fabric of society, as well as High Street shop windows, merely to enrich themselves. This isn't to say that there are not some real issues of social justice and social inequity at play in England (it is wise for people in the United States to take note since many of these same conditions are brewing here as well), or that budget cuts haven't hit the poor and vulnerable disproportionately hard. Nor is this to say that people shouldn't take to the streets in protest and to demand that their rights, their views, be taken into account when those in power make decisions that affect their lives. But to try to link the burning of local businesses and homes or the assaulting and robbing of people in a neighborhood by a gang of neighborhood thugs to these larger social justice issues only serves to make a mockery of them. What's happening in London, and other cities across Britain isn't the striking of a blow for the working class, it is thugs running wild, pure and simple.
Update: This afternoon a YouGov Poll showed that not only did a vast majority of Britons think the government should take a harder line with the rioters, one-third thought the police should be using live ammo on them.
3 days ago