Addendum, More Classist Patronising Bollocks

Many kind and well-informed people have sent various articles either questioning, or downright contradicting what I argued. So I’d better change my tune, a bit.

London Burns – An Irish Anarchist Perspective

Don’t be put off by the title – this is an excellently-researched, balanced article which uses its somewhat-removed perspective to great effect. The main points it raises is:

Racism, poverty and the police force

Due to horrific levels of unemployment and aid-cutting, areas of inner cities are deprived and live below the poverty line. Some occupants do perpetrate petty crimes, meaning that the police harass the occupants and over-target those of non-WASP origin in ‘random searches’. This Darcus Howe interview illustrates both the frequency of such  searches, and the resentment such insensitive treatments cause. The article shows a huge number of recent police killings, and a 0% conviction rate attached. According to an interview in this piece such minorities experienced exacerbated frustration and disenfranchisement, since their peaceful protests to policing methods (in this case a 2,000 strong march on Scotland Yard) achieved neither media coverage nor police response. This chimes with the events on the night of Mark Duggans’ death, during which Tottenham community leaders led a protest outside the police station, demanding answers as to his (very questionable) death, and receiving no dialogue or respect from the police service. No officers addressed their concerns, a cordon was established, and in this video the police then violently attacked/restrained a teenage girl who had demanded answers. Arguably it was this event which sparked the localised violence.

Again, none of this is an excuse to riot, and the London Burns article clearly establishes that the riots were multi-ethnic, although demonstrates that non-whites were over-represented. When a victimised, impoverished area is subjected to such an exclusion from the processes of government, rioting is understandable. Indeed, London Burns shows that even Martin Luther King Jr. conceded that in certain situations, rioting can be warranted.

I don’t believe any of the above detracts from my main thesis – the long term benefits of a comprehensive Early Intervention policy should alleviate many of the symptoms such desperate communities currently bear.

However, various issues can be ameliorated in the short term. Greater emphasis on police integration and racial-sensitivity training is warranted, as are legal changes. An argument for the legalisation of marijuana probably deserves its own post, so I’ll limit myself to suggesting that police harassment on the basis of suspicion of low-level dealing or possession (shown here, by Canadians!) both aggravates local tensions, and makes ‘honest’ employment more difficult for those given criminal records.

Age
Most of my original article chatted about ‘youths’ or ‘young people’, whereas London Burns demonstrates that many parents and other adults took part in the rioting (and subsequent imprisonments.) Again, I feel this actually reinforces my/Graham Allen’s points regarding a cycle of ‘dysfunction’ and the importance of help at all stages. The fact that many of the adults arrested for rioting had prior convictions also underlines my criticism of the punitive nature o the prison system, and the ethos behind the punitive prosecutions.

Overall London Burns is an excellent article, very informative and well researched, and astonishingly non-partisan from an Irish Anarchist webpage. Their wider argument about the racial/class situation requiring a dramatic economic restructuring (again, restrained to a more socialist and democratic system, not ‘anarchy’) is intriguing, but one that I’m not qualified to comment on.

Point of interest – Police are preparing their report on Duggan’s death; they should probably ensure that emergency riot-countering measures, and a sensitive community-communications infrastructure, are prepared in advance of publication in case of public outcry.

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2 thoughts on “Addendum, More Classist Patronising Bollocks

  1. Well it took me well over two hours in total to read London Burns, watch all the videos they had at the bottom, and then read your rather more succinct article, but I’ve got to say it was worth it. Last year I was probably a bit quick to jump on the media bandwagon and condemn those involved, but I must say, my eyes have been opened. Thanks for leading me to the London Burns article, and making me feel guilty as hell!

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