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London burning…

August 9, 2011

It started with the family and friends of a young black man, Mark Duggan, converging on the police station in Tottenham, wanting answers about him being shot and killed by police the previous week. The catalyst it seemed, for the days and nights of violence and mayhem that followed on the streets of London and beyond. The sporadic violence, arson, theft left our police force struggling to regain control of the streets. Commentators observed how young people who have no stake in their community have set about destroying it. There seems to be no complaint other than how they feel (to quote one young thug) “this is social justice”. I fail to see their logic. They are attacking the community which is working so hard to come through a terrible recession, the very vehicle that could help them has been looted, burned and stamped to the ground. Perhaps to them, justice just means they have the right through violence to help themselves to what they cannot afford. Perhaps they see those who ‘have’ and decide they want to have it too. The reasons will probably never be clear, I wonder if the perpetrators will even be able to articulate this. As events are analysed in the days to come, it is becoming clear that the police were overwhelmed, politicians were woefully late on the scene, and any future cuts to public services must now come under serious doubt. I could rant on, but it would become just that, a rant. We need to try to understand the root of the problem, I am sure it’s not just pure thuggery and criminality – the reasons go into much deeper and more complex territory than it is possible to cover right now. I am heartened by the stories of shopkeepers joining together and protecting their property, and by communities coming together to clear up the mess. I just hope that anyone who knows anyone who is involved reports them to the police. They need to know that a civilised society will not accept this. London has lived through the Blitz, terrorism from the IRA and Al Qaeda, and still it soldiers on. Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ has been working behind the scenes long before he came up with his rhetoric, and I am confident that it will win over the thuggish few so intent on trying to destroy it.

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