Tottenham descended into anarchy and havoc last Saturday night, the 6th of August. In Wood Green, only five minutes away from the riots, I heard the ominous and frequent sounds of ambulances, police cars and helicopters. The vicious rampage emerged from a planned peaceful protest, arranged by the Tottenham community in an effort to get answers regarding last week’s death of Mark Duggan. Mark Duggan, 29, died from a fatal shooting on Friday the 5th of August when he attempted to resist police arrest. The protest aiming to find justice for his death escalated into a scene of violence and annihilation. Unfortunately, it seems that those wanting to find justice were outnumbered by those seeking a chance to create chaos and disorder.
Violence overtook the protest, resulting in a full scale riot and the immediate destruction of homes, businesses, public transport, personal vehicles and police cars. Shops were vandalised, looted and wrecked while twenty-six police officers and three locals were hurt in the process. Missiles, petrol bombs and glass bottles were some of the weapons used in the attacks. It is clear through the sheer extent of looting both of shops and local houses as well as ransacked cash machines that the riot was not attempting to help the community, but rather aimed only to pillage it. The government is going to have to pump money into the Tottenham community with revenue we can’t afford to spend, both in order to reconstruct the area and to rebuild people’s confidence in Tottenham.
The streets were a picture of devastation the day after the riots, a harrowing vision of grey smog, burnt out hollow buildings, ashen pavements and largely deserted road. However, it is not the initial destruction that is most feared by Tottenham locals but rather the threat of a resulting increase in insurance premiums, decrease in house prices, decline in jobs and damage to the reputation of the area. The tube lines and bus routes in areas surrounding Tottenham including Wood Green have been given a 6pm curfew in the days following the riot in order to try prevent further rioting. However, the police force have failed to contain the unrest to the area of Tottenham and eruptions of violence continued to appear throughout London on Sunday night and all day Monday.
The riots spread rapidly across London, to areas including Hackney, Oxford Circus in central London, Enfield in North London and Brixton in South London. The riots seem to be all-encompassing and no end appears to be in sight. Locals in Tottenham, Enfield and Brixton seem shocked by the young age of the offenders, many of the criminals being only young teenagers. This is even more emphasised by the fact that the rioters are using Blackberry Messsenger, Twitter and Facebook as a method of co-ordinating their attacks.
The reaction of both the Met and MPs have been rapid and hard-hitting. Adrian Haystock, Met commander stated that “The disorder and violence we saw last night was pure criminality and cannot be justified’’ while David Lammy, Tottenham’s Labour MP described it as an “attack on shopkeepers, women and children”. It is not only the damage caused in the riots themselves but also the loss of confidence and closure of shops and transport that will damage London economically. David Cameron is due to return shortly from his holiday in Italy. It will be interesting to see how he plans to quench the flames of anger that are taking over London.
(Image by Alan Stanton)