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British Riots

  • August 10th, 2011
  • Posted by 7thmin

london-riot-roarmag1.jpg OPINION: British police turned out in force late on Tuesday intending to smother the outbreak of rioting and arson in many parts of London.

Violent activities did ease off, but flared up in other major cities.


Gangs of mainly young men and boys, sometimes hundreds strong, had been since the weekend, breaking shop windows, looting, smashing buses and setting fire to cars, or buildings.

With police for a time overwhelmed, offenders in several places enjoyed hours of impunity, often using cars, coordinating with one another by mobile telephone, hidden by hoods, masks or balaclavas.

Baseball bats were the prime implement of choice, though a more traditionally-minded Australian expatriate was reported to be guarding his business premises with a cricket bat, autographed by “AB”.

alan-border.jpeg(The England and India cricket teams were put on notice the start of their third test, at Edgbaston, Birmingham, might be affected by the disorder in the streets).

Several injuries were recorded, including 35 police hurt on the first night, being pelted with bottles and bricks; here and there rioters tossed Molotov cocktails at buildings.

One man died after a shooting incident during the time of the mayhem at Croydon.


With hundreds of rioters caught and being held in cells, all available police, about 16000 (six times the normal presence) were deployed late on Tuesday (9.8.11), most other police work temporarily set aside.

Senior officers declared that action would be “robust”; rubber bullets might be issued.

That was being welcomed by frightened and shocked residents, finding themselves in the midst of the new “blitz” on Britain; in many London boroughs, and cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

As night four progressed, trouble that erupted at a housing estate near Manchester spread to a round of smashing and rock-throwing in the city centre of the city; there was renewed rioting in Birmingham, and a fire-bomb attack on a police station in Nottingham.


The government hopped in on Tuesday to marshal public support for a hard line.

Prime Minister David Cameron who’d been caught vacationing while London commenced to burn, as it were; had breezed in from Italy, with at least half a holiday tan, and no doubt with a morale-boosting “buongiorno” for the emergency council of officials who gathered around.

The criminals would be dealt with, with the “full force of the law”, he said, though there was no quick resort to a State of Emergency.

Does the man notwithstanding his attitude, and his short time in office, get some responsibility for what has happened?


Many of those with opinions, by now outnumbering the actual rioters by a large factor, point out a general absence of political declarations or articulated protest from the gangs.

It would look like just bad types, greed, an anarchical disposition, not so much something that would blow up out of life in ethnic ghettoes; those would opine.

Against that thesis is the retort of many a lifelong criminal, the notion expressed at one time by Mr Edward Kelly of Victoria, that “bad treatment can make men mad”.

ned-kelly.jpegAs a point of history, the law did need to intervene to protect the community from that man’s depredations, while it remained to consider the whys and wherefores of his story.

In 2011, long-term joblessness, seeing yourself marginalised, and a build-up of complaints around the neighbourhood about the withdrawal of government services, or living benefits, might well contribute to the bad frame of mind.

Dissent does not have to be put into slogans; the street violence has a wilful and wanton character to it, calculated too; the mood might be seen as actually very explicit.


The 2012 London Olympics have not been left out of this.

The Financial Times noted that Olympics security officials were already “reviewing preparations” for the event, because of the riots.

It quoted Chris Allison, the national Olympic security coordinator, saying that any lessons would be identified, though firstly, “we must fully establish the circumstances of what has happened.”

Britain in any given year being an orderly state, archly critical comments from various more habitual world trouble spots were picked up by the Huffington Post, on a theme of “sneering reactions from around the globe”.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, ever resentful at criticism from the United Kingdom, declared the British should “put out their own fires”; similar remarks emanating from different interests in Egypt, and Iran.


Michael Holden, “UK police vow to get tough as tactics questioned”, Reuters, London, 9.8.11., (10.8.11).

Huffington Post, NY, “London Riots 2011: Sneering Reactions From Around The Globe”, 9.8.11., (10.8.11).

Vanessa Kortekaas, Olympics security in focus after London riots, FT, London, 9.8.11., (10.8.11).