London Riots Blamed on Economic Malaise

By
Photo: Getty Images/ Matthew Lloyd

Those looking to explain the unexpected riots that broke out in the northern London neighborhood of Tottenham on Saturday over the shooting death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan have zeroed in on an all-too-familiar culprit: the global economic downturn. Like other working-class neighborhoods in England, Tottenham has been hit hard by cuts in social services, which were implemented as part of the British government’s austerity plan, and the unemployment rate among local youth is high. Said one resident: “This will happen again. These kids don’t care. They don’t have to pay for this damage, we do. Working people do. What do they have to lose?” The storm has been brewing for a while:


Late last year, students demonstrating against a rise in tuition fees occupied a building near Parliament and clashed repeatedly with the police. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were attacked in their Rolls-Royce as protesters — some of whom were subsequently jailed — shouted “Tory scum,” a reference to the Conservative Party’s traditional links with the aristocracy, and “off with their heads!” In March, a reported 500,000 people marched against the cuts, with some protesters occupying the exclusive food store Fortnum & Mason — Prince Charles’s grocer."

It’s also been pointed out that the relationship between the area’s Afro-Caribbean population and the police has long been less than friendly, with clashes between locals and law enforcement dating back to the mid-eighties. Said one youth worker: "In Tottenham so much has happened with the young people and the police there’s a lot of animosity. The police harass young people. The way they speak to them it’s sometimes a bit disgraceful. You have these kind of situations, sometimes you get racial slurs from police officers."

The trouble spread on Sunday evening, with violence breaking out in the suburbs of Brixton, Enfield, Dalston, and Walthamstow. In what seem to be organized reactions to Saturday’s clashes (Facebook seems to have played a part), teenagers gathered to hurl bricks at the police and loot local businesses, and fires were also reported. Officers reacted with batons and attack dogs. So far, reports say that 26 police officers have been injured and 55 arrests have been made, but those numbers are obviously likely to rise.

Tottenham Riot: The Police Seemed Helpless, Witnesses Say [Huffington Post UK]
Second night of violence in London - and this time it was organised [Guardian UK]
Disturbances Spread to East and South London [Sky News]
London Sees Twin Perils Converging to Fuel Riot [NYT]
Previously: London Hit by Riots