London’s Burning

“These people have no morality. They and their friends sponge off the taxpayer, they are thieves, have little respect for law, their communities, or society in general. They steal, loot, run riot through the city with impunity… have no concern for people. And now they’re coming home from their luxury holidays to sort the riots out… “

The Friday night just gone, myself, my three flatmates, my flatmate’s fiancé and our friend from University picked ourselves up and tubed it down to Waterloo. The first year out of the education system and the first few months into paid employment don’t afford you many opportunities to go jet-setting in search of summer holiday madness. Instead we were taking advantage of my parents’ empty house and our hungry cat in Dorset. Five days in a beautiful, peaceful part of the country, with very few living costs – a perfect plan.

Disconnected as we allowed ourselves to become from the outside world, and away from the frantic networks of Twitter and Facebook, it came as something of a surprise during the food run one day to find the newsstand in the Co-op decked out with an array of newspapers, all of which bore pretty much the same headline: ‘London’s Burning‘. More disturbing still, as we watched the narrative of the riots unfold on the TV, were images of central Hackney adrift in a sea of flaming cars, and battle lines drawn in a local estate. I declined to tell my Nana quite how close to my Hackney flat it had all kicked off.

We got back on Wednesday evening. After dumping our bags and a microwave we’d carried all the way from Dorchester, (the terrified looks on the suits’ faces as we traversed the Waterloo & City line made it 100% worth the effort) we had a look around town. The shopposite guys (shop-opposite; shopposite) were all ok, told us about the events from the last couple of nights. One of them lives in the Pembury Estate, where riot police faced off against hundreds of young men and women. The other indicated towards the Clarence Road as a site of further looting and mayhem. Generally though the street had the feel of a community preparing for a hurricane -not so much a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Chipboard and MDF covered many shop fronts, but only one or two had visible evidence of smashed glass or other attempts to break and enter. In a mark of poetic justice the JobCentre was one of the few buildings that had got its due. Across the road on Mare Street one dejected looking Domino’s had had pasted up on its MDF veneer a somewhat incongruous painting. Clearly the creation of some local children, the picture had daubed in large letters: ‘Give us our youth clubs back’, and, in the corner: ‘ANGER’.

Now Cameron is calling for plastic bullets and water cannon to be deployed on the streets. This kind of ignorant reaction is troubling if utterly unsurprising. Still, I thought I’d use this post to put together a collection of some of the more prescient analysis I’ve come across. It’s no surprise that the majority of this comes in the form of two- or three-minute video clips from interviews with ordinary people from the neighbourhoods affected.

A nice blog piece exposing the hollow nature of the riot cleanup ‘community’, and the politics of exclusion as the basis for forging this shell of a community. University for Strategic Optimism.




An Open Letter to David Cameron’s Parents

Hackney Rioters Directly Target Police (the video)

Laurie Penny’s two penn’orth

Russell Brand makes a good analysis of it -perhaps surprisingly…

North London Solidarity Federation make some valid points, particularly surrounding the ‘why’ of the destruction of rioters’ own communities.

Awesome Hackney woman

Good analysis from this Hackney man


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