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 ‘’’

Til kamp for borgerrettigheder – i Storbritannien

I går blev den store, distribuerede Modern Liberty-konference afholdt i otte byer i Storbritannien. Konferencen havde til formål at appellere til alle briter om at forsvare deres borgerrettigheder i en tid, hvor de er ved at blive undergravet af overvågning, registrering og terrorlove.

The Observer skriver bl.a.:

More than 1,500 people, paying £35 a ticket, attended the Convention on Modern Liberty in Bloomsbury, central London, which was linked by video to parallel events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge. They heard from more than 80 speakers, including author Philip Pullman; musicians Brian Eno and Feargal Sharkey; journalists Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger; politicians Lord Bingham and Dominic Grieve; a former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald; and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.

In her speech Kennedy said she felt that fear was being used as a weapon to break down civil liberties. “There is a general feeling that in creating a climate of fear people have been writing a blank cheque to government. People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights.”

She said that voters were anxious that their communities were ‘being alienated’ by the use of powers designed to protect national security being applied outside their original remit, and that there was now an open window of opportunity for the electorate to make their feelings known to government before the next election: “People are fearful of the general business of collecting too much information about individuals.”

High on the concerns of the convention were the recent allegations against the British security services by Guantanamo Bay torture victim Binyam Mohamed, plans for ID cards, DNA collection databases and controversial surveillance powers being used by civil servants. In addition, concerns were high over Government plans to create a database of all the communciations and movements of ordinary people as well as the profileration of anti-terrorism laws including detention of suspects.

Vi har allerede citeret Philip Pullman,  der holdt oplægget til konferencen i London, for at Storbritannien er inde i en helt forkert retning, hvad borgerrettigheder og overvågning og individets forhold til staten i det hele taget.

The Observers columnist Henry Porter kalder konferencen “the birth of a great moment for liberty” og at det er en “standard raised against Straw and those who would destroy rights and liberties that have taken 800 years to accumulate”. Men der er nu lang vej endnu, før Straw og Brown og New Labour og de konservative og det totalitære regime, de gerne ville forvandle Storbritannien til under påskud af “terrorlove”, er rullet tilbage. Det er godt at se “Modern Liberty” komme, men det er unægtelig også noget sent.

Men det rejser jo unægtelig spørgsmålet: Hvornår får vi sådan en bevægelse i Danmark? IT-Politisk Forening kan ikke gøre det alene.

Læs også:

Liberty Central – The Guardians store debatsektion om Modern Liberty som konference, bevægelse og koncept.

Mere overvågning

Ligesom vi har den danske overvågningslov i form af logningsbekendtgørelsen og svenskerne netop  har vedtaget FRA-loven, der giver efterretningstjenesten ret til at gemme al datatrafik, der potentielt krydser grænsen til Sverige, har englænderne besluttet, at de også vil være med. Den britiske regering planlægger en  national database over alle emails, telefonpringninger og SMS’er, som politiet skal kunne opdatere og bruge i realtid, dvs. løbende:

A Home Office project team is developing the radical plan for a system that would use new techniques to monitor phone lines and the internet to store details on every individual’s browsing and communications traffic – although not its content – enabling the police to build a profile of an individual and their network of contacts.

The proposal is still at a discussion stage between the Home Office and the telecommunications and internet industries, but the government’s draft legislative programme for this autumn does include a data communications bill which the Home Office acknowledges may include the legal power to set up such a central database and a public authority to administer it.

More than 57bn text messages were sent in Britain last year, suggesting that a central database would have to be massive.

Bemærk, at et sådan løbende opdateret monstrum af en national database går langt videre end den danske overvågningslov, som kræver, at landets telefonselskaber og internetudbydere opretholder logs, som politiet kan få udleveret om nødvendigt. I Storbritannien vil man have én database, som politiet simpelt hen altid har adgang til.

Landets “Information commissioner”, vel en pendant til de danske databeskyttelsesmyndigheder, mener en sådan database vil udgøre en trussel mod den britiske livsstil:

Richard Thomas said there needed to be the “fullest public debate” over the justification for – and implications of – a database which held details of everyone’s telephone and internet communications and was potentially accessible by a wide range of law enforcement agencies.

“Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?”

Og for de flestes vedkommende vil svaret nok være “nej”. Det værste og tåbeligste er, at en sådan lov ikke vil komme til at virke efter hensigten. For det første let kan omgås ved hjælp af et system som Polippix, for det andet vil man indsamle en så monumental mængde af data, at de reelt ikke kan bruges til noget som helst: Terrorbekæmpelse eller blot almindeligt politiarbejde handler  om at finde nålen i høstakken, og det bliver faktisk ikke lettere, fordi man bygger en større høstak.

Den foreslåede overvågning er med andre ord tåbelig, kontraproduktiv og ikke at forglemme en krænkelse af briternes privatliv. Velkommen til overvågningssamfundet!

Indsats mod bandekriminalitet forfejlet

Altimens den britiske regering er ved at lancere endnu et drakonisk forslag til at bekæmpe bandekriminalitet ved hjælp af stress-strategi og chikane mod bandemedlemmernes familie og venner, viser en undersøgelse fra University of Manchester, at en sådan strategi ikke kan virke: Politi og politikere forstår ganske enkelt ikke, hvad en “bande” er eller hvad der overhovedet foregår i de områder, der menes at være plaget af bandekriminalitet, fremgår det af undersøgelsen:

Having spoken to and won the trust of more than 100 gang members, associates and informers, they concluded that in general gangs are not tightly organised; they do not specialise in dealing drugs; and their violence is not provoked primarily by turf wars. They also found no basis for the popular belief that most street gangs are black.

Robert Ralphs, the project’s lead fieldworker, said: “Police and other statutory agencies respond to gangs as clearly identifiable groups of criminally-involved young people, where membership is undisputed.

“In reality, gangs are loose, messy, changing friendship networks – less organised and less criminally active than widely believed – with unclear, shifting and unstable leadership.”

By failing to understand this basic structure, the researchers say, police mistakenly target and sometimes harrass individuals who, though gang members, are not breaking any law; the police also repeatedly follow, stop and search the gang members’ family, friends and classmates. This alienated both the gang members and their associates who might otherwise have helped police.

Rapportens forfattere viger ikke tilbage for at konkludere, at regeringens og politiets politik og især den fornyede “stress-strategi” netop vil ende med at styrke bandernes magt, fordi virkningen blandt de unge er, at bandetilhørsforholdet understreges på en måde, der egentlig slet ikke er grundlag for i gadens virkelighed.

Man ser en lignende tendens i Danmark i forbindelse med mediernes håndtering af den imaginære bande Triple-A og med visse politikeres forslag til håndtering af uroligheder som dem, man f.eks. så i Rosenhøj for et par år siden.

Den britiske rapport viser tydeligt, hvordan denne type problemer kun kan afhjælpes med udgangspunkt i en solid empirisk indsigt i, hvad der rent faktisk foregår på gaden – og ikke ved hovsa-løsninger gennemført af tåbelige politikere med et solidt blik på meningsmålingerne. Og selvom denne kommentar egentlig mest retter sig mod Gordon Brown og hans populistiske indenrigsminister Jacqui Smith, er der nok af danske politikere der kunne trænge til at lære også dén lektie.

Link til historien i The Guardian.