Although it seems like a lifetime ago (to me at least), it’s only been one year since the London riots, which subsequently spread across the nation, albeit for very different reasons. In the first of a two-part series, The Riots: In Their Own Words (BBC2) tells the story from the perspective of rioters.
The original spark of the riots which broke out in London was the killing of Mark Duggan, prompting local people to look for answers from the police. But, as the film describes, the police failed to make a statement as they said they would, leading to demonstrators erecting barricades and starting fires, marking the start of the riots.
I can at least understand the feeling of resentment which local people showed towards the police, but the events that followed quickly lost sight of the original ‘cause’.
Young people in cities all around the country began to target shops, stealing whatever they could get their hands on – they had seen the London riots as an opportunity to make some quick money. So what had begun as a demonstration against police quickly escalated into something much more serious.
Many of the people in the film (who were portrayed by actors) seemed to be suggesting that their only option was to get involved; one said “we’re trying to make a life for ourselves, but there are no opportunities.” So perhaps they were trying to hit back at the government?
I believe the actions of those involved were fuelled by mindless greed and rampant materialism. The people had seen the police struggling to cope in London, so took the opportunity to get a new phone or some clothes. But as we saw, that wasn’t enough.
Rioters began to set local stores on fire, effectively attacking their neighbours and their local communities with absolutely no thought for the consequences, almost as though they were worthless. They destroyed people’s livelihoods which had been built over years, such as local family businesses which had served the community for decades.
One person in the film said he’d looted JD Sports because they hadn’t given him a job a few months earlier. His actions only went to prove the store right, that he wasn’t employable. Nobody would give somebody like that a job.
While I was watching the film, I found myself feeling quite angry towards these people who were trying to justify their actions. I can understand their feeling of resentment towards the government, but their actions cannot be condoned. No matter how unfairly they feel they have been treated, such violence and a complete lack of care for their local area and its residents, is no way to get people to listen.