Last night I pootered about with some work emails just after finishing time, attempted to find Fulham Pools for a swim, failed at that, travelled back to Hammersmith Station, sweated my way up to Central London on the stuffy tube to meet friends for a quiet drink, had an outdoor swim in Covent Garden, moseyed on homewards, got some dinner, received a text: “are you ok?! Stay safe!”.
Somewhere in the back of head I was vaguely aware this show of niceness had something to do with the Tottenham Riots, and in the front of my mind I scoffed, in ERROR. Looking around West Hampstead high street, and having seen Central London where the only issue was an unrelated powercut on South Oxford street, I was baffled.
Opening the door to my housemates glued to the Ten O’Clock news cleared the fog for me. We could have been watching the miner’s riots from the 80’s, except those were anticipated. The result of weeks, months, of pent up tension and communities being ripped apart, slowly. The London Riots can only be attributed to one event and no one could have predicted the energy that would come from Saturday’s shooting of Mark Duggan. A week after all eyes were on London for being on time with the Olympic project; it’s no longer safe to go to Stratford to enjoy looking at your tax money in building form.
Opinions vary on how the situation has escalated so quickly, from blame being laid at the Tories’ door with claims that this civil unrest has derived from the staggering cuts and overall demoralisation of the country, made manifest. To The MET pointing the finger at gangland ringleaders laying aside their differences and inciting a universal movement against the Police. It’s hard to imagine behavioural experts shrugging their shoulders; it’s a clear case of mob mentality, however it has sprung up. Most of those involved – like children as young as 8 – will have no idea what they are rioting for any more, if they ever did.
In poor taste, (but still slightly funny) I read on Twitter the line ‘Kaiser Chiefs, where were you on this one?’. I’d go so far as to turn the question back on myself. Coming from a City where you know of big events by the excessive traffic that builds up around the main concert venue at 11 pm when a concern finishes, or the heightened Police presence on the Clockwork Orange on Old Firm game days, I’m used to being presented with evidence of something ‘kicking off’. It’s hard to contextualise the events of the last few days when they have had no physical impact on my life, except through the media. A local BBC London reporter told me where else the Riots had spread to in London. Juliet Morris unhappily told me of the broader scale of the riots, wider reaching now into Birmingham and who knows where else today. Friends from hundreds of miles away told me that the high road near my flat had been shut down.
Living vicariously though social media, it would seem to have become us against them. We, the sane rational people of the City and they, the loose cannons (to put it lightly). With the Police and MP’s talking a big game of banging the rioters to rights and 400 people in custody; ruined businesses and homes and local collections already starting for donations to the victims of this weekend; the promise that the Police will reclaim stolen property and to “fear every knock your door, we will find you…we are coming”, I am grateful that this particular cultural event was so far off of my radar, to have barely touched my life, save for the addition of helicopters to the usual symphony of sirens from my local police station.
One catatonic event. A local revolt. An onslaught of violence. A public outcry. Sam Cam and Co’s holiday cut short.
To have had such a vague awareness of a massive cultural event…it can’t just be me, can it?