Tottenham in flames, but who has the bellows?

We’re starting to get a bit closer to the real story of the Duggan arrest now, aren’t we? I don’t know about anyone else, but since the de Menezes case my initial reaction to any story of a member of the public* killed by police is that the initial version will be complete obfuscatory rubbish, and so it has proved. Regardless of Duggan’s background there is no excuse for extra-judicial killing (no, not even for Osama bin Laden in my opinion). If it turns out that is what happened then there are yet another series of awkward questions for CO19 to answer. And presumably another convoluted and ham-fisted whitewash to prepare.

I imagine that most of the people protesting outside the police station had similar qualms about the spin-and-BS Met party line and that’s what underpinned the resentment specifically towards the police. Most of the news coverage has attempted to give a single narrative which goes killing -> legitimate protest -> violent looting by outsiders. Actually there is a missing step, which is that the local protest turned violent when the police got too heavy-handed. This is being left out of most mainstream media accounts but has at least made it into a few places (Guardian live blog for example).

As others have pointed out though, there is clearly a hell of a lot of resentment towards government/authority/wealth more generally in our area and that is what allows incidents like looting and vandalism to spread so far and so fast. Remember the mini-riot when that nightclub in Wood Green was shut down not that long ago? All the warnings about youth service cuts? It is patently untrue that young people in Tottenham, Edmonton, big parts of Enfield, Wood Green etc. have equal life/happiness opportunities to those in other parts of the borough, let alone other parts of the country. Until there are things done about that (and on a big scale) the area will always be a tinderbox.

I feel really sad for the local businesses and residents affected (and restitution/community service should focus on these), but I’m not going to shed a tear over a few (totally insured, I suspect) clothes or shoes or TVs when there are still plenty of questions to be asked about a) the killing that led to all of this and b) the structural reasons why there are hundreds (thousands?) of young people with nothing better to do than destroy their “own” area of a weekend. I think maybe a clue is in the fact that they don’t feel any connection or loyalty to (for example) Tottenham Hale retail park, or Allied Carpets, which doesn’t surprise me a great deal. ‘Community spirit’ is something of a scarce resource in big chunks of the borough. It can’t just come from within and without stimulus.

This is not simply a case of ‘bad people doing a bad thing’, and it’s dangerously lazy to think so. There’s lots going on here, and broad brush condemnation won’t help us either move beyond these upsetting events or, more importantly, prevent them happening again in the future.

A somewhat separate issue is the policing which I have a number of huge problems with. The whole thing (especially Act II in Enfield last night) seems stage-managed to a deeply cynical extent. At a time when (finally) the police are threatened with cuts, it is certainly in their interests to have trouble kick off in poor parts of London in order to prove their worth. ‘Honeytrap’ might be going a bit far, but it’s the right line of thought I reckon.

*And yes, “gangsters” are members of the public too. If this man even was one, whatever one actually is.

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 8:48 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Also look out for local developers giving money to kids to target certain buildings for arson. Wards Corner, got your buckets/hose ready?

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