Riots in England 2011/Uprising of the unheard

author: 
Astrid Essed

In contrary with the mainstream media and the British politicians, the 2011 riots in England are no ''mindless violence'', but a clear protest against the years of social injustice and racist police violence

RIOTS IN ENGLAND/UPRISING OF THE UNHEARD

RIOTS ARE THE VOICE OF THE UNHEARD
Martin Luther King

http://quotationsbook.com/quote/34458/

''Whilst many seek to pin the blame on the inevitable result of decades of oppression in under-privileged communities, the causes of the riots are swept under the rugs looted from Carpet Right. Inequality is at the heart of this. As long as the police see themselves as above the law, young people will take it into their own hands.''

JODY MCINTYRE/FROM BRIXTON TO TOTTENHAM

http://jodymcintyre.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/from-brixton-to-tottenham-the-inequality-at-the-heart-of-the-riots/

WE ARE NO LONGER WILLING TO PUT UP WITH POLICE BRUTALITY OR RACISM

ALONDRA NELSON ON TWITTER

Dear Editor and readers,

SUMMARY:

In contrary with the British politicians and mainstream media, the riots in England are no ''mindless violence'' and ''criminal acts'', but the direct consequence of government cuts, which are especially damaging to poor neighbourhoods. decennialong social deprivation and often unpunished police violence.
The methods [burning and looting] are wrong, the deadly victims unacceptable, but the fury about the yearlong police violence and the social injustice is legitimate
This is the resistance of the unheard and humiliated, as Martin Luther King has stated [1]

TIMELINE

The riots were short, but vehement and took place from 6 untill 10th of august 2011 [2]
What started in the multicultural underprivileged neighbourhood Tottenham [London North] as a peaceful protest against the police shooting of Mark Duggan [3], became a real uprising and spread in and outside London, especially in ciies in the Midlands and North West of England [4]

Those riots, which started in Tottenham, are often compared with the Tottenham riots, which took place in 1985
Direct cause was also a death by police violence
Also in this case the viictim was black

Tottenham/October 1985
The Broadwater Farm riots

After the arrest of a young black man, Floyd Jarrett, his house was been searched by the police, which led to a confrontation between the police and Jarrets family members.
In the commotion, his 49-year-old mother, Cynthia Jarrett, fell over and died almost instantly
Later the police was criticized about the way the home searching took place [5]
After the death of Cynthia Jarrett the socalled Broadwater Farm riots spread, which costed the life of a policeman, Keith Blakelock [6]

A week before the death of Cynthia Jarrett another black woman, Dorothy Cherry Groce, was shot in her home by the police and was paralysed below the waist for the rest of her life
The direct cause was the police searching of her son Michael Groce, who was suspected of fitearms offence
Her shooting was followed by the Brixton riots in 1985 [7]

Tottenham 2011

Direct cause was the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a father of four at 4th august in an attempt to arrest him.
The police sho shot him were part of the Specialist Firearms Command [CO19], accompanying officers from ''Operation Trident'', a London Metropolitan police Unit which deals with ''guncrime in the black community''
Immediately after the fatal shooting the police spread the runour [which was promoted by the media], that Duggan had fired at the police.
However, ballistic investigation showed, that Duggan didn't fire at the police at all [8]

What really infuriated the people was the lack of respect the police showed to a peaceful protest of family and friends of Mark Duggan to Tottenham Police Station
No information whatsoever had been given about the cause of his death
The parents of Mark Duggan found out how he died from the press
Two days later [9]

REACTION OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND POLITICIANS ON THE RIOTS
MORAL DECLINE?
WHOSE?

Members of Parliament:

Striking is, that all British political parties, from conservative to ''progressive'' left were unanimous in condemning the riots as ''criminal'' or ''mindless'' [10]
Often without any reference to underlying causes or the fact, that this was no isolated outburst of fury, but based on years of protests from mainly black underprivileged neighbourhoods
Those who did refer to social backgrounds [like financial cuts], nevertheless called for extreme measures to end the riots [11]
A courageous reaction came fron Labour MP John Mc Donnel, who stated:
''“MPs and their expenses, bankers and their bonuses, tax evading corporations” had created a “society of looters”. [12]

State/Government:

It was no suprise, that State reaction was extremely repressive
Prime minister Cameron laid all ugly cards on the table

He called the rioters ''criminals'' and the riots ''moral decline''
He spoke about ''culture of fear in the streets'', neglecting the fact, that the years of violent police action had caused a culture of fear among the inhabitants of underprivileged black neighbourhoods

His measures were tough enough
16000 policemen were sent to London
He threatened to use the watercannon, which was never used in England [although it was a common measure of repression in Northern Ireland]
The use of the rubber bullet also belonged to the possibilities
His most extreme statement was, that the police was free to use ''all means necessary'' [13]

Yet apart from his repressive means he uses the riots as an excuse to promote extreme police measures [14]

REACTION OF THE BRITISH PRESS

The British press followed the politicians like slaves
Agan, from ''progressive'' to conservative press, an unanimous condemnation of the riots, often without any reference to the underlying causes [15]
Besides silly comments from the conservative press [criminality, moral decline], the socalled ''progressive'' paper The Guardian used law and order language in her ''statement'' to the public to back the police [16]

The Independent was less worse, but not good enough
Although they uttered police and society criticism, any relation between police violence/social problems and the riots was denied.
They called the riots ''mindless violence'', a stupid comment, since there was no reference to underlying causes [17]

One could compare the reaction of the press with those media, which commented the 11 september attacks without any reference to the deeper lying causes [18]

True exceptions:
The Socialist Worker, the Morning Star and anarchist comments

Between all those negative press reaction, there were two good exceptions, the Socialist Worker and the Morning Star, which DID comment on the years of social deprivation, government cuts, racism and police violence, which had created the riots
They placed it in historical perspective by pointing out, that the 2011 riots didn't come out of the sky, but had a background, from the eighties of the former century [19]
But those are no mainstream media, but stemmed from the resistance, which is not bound by parliamentary ties
From anarchist view there also was fundamental criticism [20]

CAUSES OF THE RIOTS
''MINDLESS VIOLENCE'' OR LEGITIMATE RESISTANCE?

''''WE ARE NO LONGER WILLING TO PUT UP WITH POLICE BRUTALITY OR RACISM''
Alondra Nelson [Twitter]

Politicians and press were in a competition to scream about the ''criminal character'' of the riots, ''mobs out of control'', ''gangsters'', mindless violence, etc, etc
Causes didn't play any part, the death of Mark Duggan had nothing to do with it
And more of that nonsense

But reality shows another cup of soup:

Of course it is not by chance, that riots have their origin in poor, underprivileged areas as Tottenham, which are plagued by great poverty, unemployment and lack of perspective, especially for young people.
Recently in Tottenham eight of the twelve youth facilities were closed.

Add to that racism and systematic police violence with often a racist nature and you have your ingredients for riots [21]

RIOTS/HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Since the early eigthies [of the former century] anti racist and socio economical riots took place, often clashes between black youth and the police, but also white youth take part, since they are victims of the same social deprivation
In most cases, direct cause is police violence or an inedequate police investigation after racist violence against black people
Underlying causes are the socio economical problems.
It is not by chance, that looting is directed against the big stores like Sony and banks [22]

FRENCH RIOTS/LOS ANGELES RIOTS
SAME CAUSE, SAME STRUGGLE

A tight comparision is made with the French riots in 2005 and 2007 and even the Los Angeles riots in 1992
As well the French as LA riots stemmed from the same origin
Poverty, a lack of perspective, high youth unemployment
Direct causes were also police violence
In the french case, Amnesty International sharply criticized police violence and impunity [23]

CULTURE OF FEAR IN THE STREETS
POLICE VIOLENCE

Police violence is one of the greatest sources for riots and is often directed against blacks, although not only
Causes lie often in racism AND in the fact, that most ''coloured'' people live in underprevileged neigbourhoods, where tensions and frustrations are bog because of structural poverty
Investigation shows, that black people have 25 times the chance to be controlled by the police
The cases of violent police confrontation are alarming
Mark Duggan, Cynthia Jarrett, Cynthia Jarrett and Dorothy Groce are the top of the iceberg [24]
The last ten years, at least 650 people died in police custody [25]

NOT RIOTS, BUT THIS POLICE VIOLENCE CREATE A ''CULTURE OF FEAR''

DEVASTATING FOR THE POLICE
UNMASKING POLICE VIOLENCE
REPORTS SCARMAN/GIFFORD/MACPHERSON

Two reports about police violence were revealing, the Scarman report [1981] following the Brixton riots in 1981 and the Gifford report [1986] following Broadwater Farm riots in 1985
Although the riots were condemned, both reports revealed serious police racism and prejudice
The Gifford report even did a proposal for reforms of the police
So did the MacPherson report [1999], which was created following the death of Stephen Lawrence [26]

IMPUNITY OF POLICE VIOLENCE

What makes people furious is the impunity of the police violence
Investigations take place and reports are written.

HOWEVER, THE LAST 40 YEARS NO POLICE OFFICER HAS FOUND GUILTY OF ANY DEATH IN CUSTODY, DESPITE THE GREAT NUMBER
THE SAME IS THE CASE REGARDING POLICE SHOOTING INCIDENTS
In case of the death of Cyntrhia Jarrett, no police officer has been charged, in the Cherry Groce case the police officer involved has been acquitted.
The same old story with regard to other shooting incidents [27]

DEATH OF A POLICEMAN/NO MOUNTAIN TO HIGH......

However, when a police officer is killed, all hell breaks loose.
During the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985, police officer Blakelock had been killed [28]
Police maintained a substantial presence on the estate for several months, arresting and interrogating 400 people.
Eventually 6 men were charged, three minors and three adults.
The juveniles all had their cases dismissed after the judge ruled the conditions in which they had been held were so inappropriate that their interrogation was inadmissible - conditions included being questioned naked except for a blanket, which was cruel and inhumane, and being questioned without a guardian [29]
Eventually three adults [Winston Silcott, Engin Raghip en Mark Braithwaite ] were convicted to lifelong imprisonment despite no witnesses and limited forensic evidence.
The Tottenham Three are Innocent Campaign and the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign pressed for a retrial. On 25 November 1991, all three defendants were cleared by the Court of Appeal when an ESDA test [30] demonstrated police notes of interrogations (the only evidence) had been tampered with. [31]

DOUBLE STANDARDS

Double standards, regarding human lives
For any loss of human life deserves the same justice, regardless the victim
Any human being has the right to life and dignity

EPILOGUE:

The riots are over after State hugh repression
16000 policemen were sent to London, the use of the watercannon and baton rounds has been considered, there were mass arrests of 1500 people, mass home searches and harsh sentences by the Courts [32]

However, nothing has been solved, when the State only reacts with repression and lack of respect for the fundamental rights of any human being, regardless descent

The right to life
The right to be free from poverty
The right to live in dignity

When the State doesn't respect those rights and only reacts with repression, when the police is not reformed, the next riots are on their way, when time is ripe

Moral decline there is for sure
But then from the side of the State and police

Kind greetings

Astrid Essed
Amsterdam
The Netherlands