Riots: Stop the looting

Stop the Looting
Plakat, som advarer om faren ved kriminelle elementers udplyndring af lokalområderne.

Den britiske premierminister David Cameron fokuserer meget på den rent politimæssige indsats mod den seneste uges uroligheder i Storbritannien. Det forstår man jo godt, for det passer ikke med hans program at tale om, hvordan folk i de berørte områder er blevet behandlet i de senere år.

Adventures and Japes har en opsummering:

A man is killed and the news story released carefully claims there were two shots fired. One killed the man, one bullet was in a police radio. Two guns at the scene. One for the police. One for the man.
His family hear the news first on tv, not after being contacted which is standard.
They try to get answers. They are ignored for several days. They insist he would never shoot at the police.A group of women go to the police station to protest peacefully. They are ignored, when standard procedure is to bring the leaders in for a chat.

A riot starts when a police officer and a woman have a disagreement. Don’t all riots start this way in the UK? A police officer and a member of the public. Observers get angry and the crowd is out of control.

The next day, a man is stopped and searched and he has nothing on him. A riot starts soon after.

The news later reveals that the second bullet was police issue and had hit the man before they went into the radio. There was no shoot out. He did have a gun but it does not appear to have been fired. It may have been appropriate to shoot him, if he was waving a gun around. That is not the point. The point is that the public were right to be suspicious of the news story because it was a careful arrangement of the truth to look like something else happened. The police did not lie this time but they did not tell the truth either.

All of this will be forgotten. That his family were treated with disrespect. That the police did not tell the truth (and expected to get away with it, because they will). That the peaceful protesters had no voice. That young men in London are sick of being stopped and searched when they have done nothing wrong.

And we will forget it because it is easier to say that there are goodies and baddies.

Selvfølgelig er det også rigtigt, som Amila påpeger, at plyndringer og hærværk i folks egne kvarterer er en meget skadelig form for “oprør”. Et “britisk forår” i stil med opstandene i Tunesien og Egypten ville have været bedre. But it ain’t all that simple, som jeg også indvender i en kommentar ovre hos Amila:

These neighbourhoods in London are really experiments in social engineering. People are crammed together in dire circumstances, in vast estates where everybody’s living in poverty, and where everybody is asked to internalize society’s values that poverty is self-inflicted, that they are really not poor and rejected by society, unable to find jobs, etc., because something is unfair, but because they are failures in life. Basically, these people are put in a box with lots of material deprivation, told that if they can’t get out it’s their fault. At the same time, the *only* way out for many (not all) young people involves crime; but if that fails they’re told they’re evil.So basically, British society has crammed a lot of people into a box with too little food, and when they turn against each other and generally act badly (as was to be expected), they are chided by idiots like Damian Thompson. This is a bit like urinating on them only afterwards to complain that they smell.

This is not to defend looting. Burning down your own neighbourhood is stupid, and a semi-violent political uprising like the one against Mubarak in Egypt would be way better. Alas, I think British society may not be ready for this just yet (Danish society even less, of course). But even so, we should be railing against the power structures that confine people in such structures where violence and rioting becomes the natural response rather than against those who react quite naturally to the situation they’re put in through no fault of their own.

Med andre ord: Hvis vi ønsker at undgå den slags uroligheder i Danmark (og vi har haft dem i mindre målestok, blandt andet i Århus-forstaden Rosenhøj for en del år siden), må vi væk fra hele det borgerlige samfunds tankegang, at de store, trøstesløse estates er fulde af folk, som er fattige, fordi de er dumme og dovne.

Folk må selv tage ansvar for at skaffe sig rigdom og succes, men i et retfærdigt samfund kan det ikke være et individuelt ansvar at sørge for, at ingen lever i fattigdom og nød. Sandheden er altså, at folk i de kvarterer, de aktuelle uroligheder udgik fra, er fattige, fordi samfundet er uretfærdigt, fordi de er blevet udplyndret i årtier – af skiftende regeringer, af et erhvervsliv, der er mest optaget af at berige sig selv, og af rovgriske supermarkedskæder som Tesco, der udsuger lokalområderne ved at udkonkurrere de lokale handlende og bagefter sætte priserne i vejret – og fordi de bliver chikaneret af politi og andre myndigheder.

Man kunne undgå opstande og plyndring ved én gang for alle at anerkende, italesætte og solidarisere sig med den uretfærdighed – og få en reel politisk bevægelse mod uretfærdigheden i stedet. Men ønsker man sig dette? David Cameron vil formentlig meget, meget hellere have de nuværende riots.

British Riots

Bemærk den fuldstændige mangel på respekt, der rammer den ældre herre, så snart han begynder at anfægte den officielle linje om “ballademagere” og antyde, at folk faktisk kunne have noget at være vrede over.

Mere hos Penny Red:

I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder ‘mindless, mindless’. Nick Clegg denounced it as ‘needless, opportunistic theft and violence’. Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge – declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was “utterly unacceptable.” The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality,’ as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism.’ This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’