A Class Divided: How Disenfranchised Youth in London are Losing Allies, Quickly.
Monday morning- upon coming to work with my mind still stuck on the unbelievable monotony that came to represent the debt ceiling crisis in the Washington DC, it took me by surprise to discover what was happening (and still is) on the streets of London. Yes, I knew that unemployment rates for youth in London were high, and that many felt as if they had no one to turn to or no opportunities for them to grow from, but I had forgotten that something like this was even possible in such a developed part of the world like London. I forgot that sometimes, when people feel helpless and lost, this sense of confusion and anger could manifest itself in sinister ways. Immediately I decided to turn to the individuals whom I thought could share the most valuable information with me- my friends living in and around London. And how better to reach all of them at once then to send out a mass message through Facebook asking them for their reflections and insights into what was happening directly in the communities where they lived out their everyday lives.
How were these riots affecting them, personally? What were their own conversations focused on? How did these actions by troubled young people make them feel? Determined to understand the riots through their own lens, I decided to try and capture their own sentiment in a paragraph or two.
Honestly I'm at a loss. For the past 3 hours I've been up watching BBC and waiting. I live in West London and about 3 hours ago the school I go to in Ealing was attacked and lit on fire. There is also a shop that went up in flames across the road from the school and one of my best friends lives 8 houses down from it. These disgusting kids have no sense of right and wrong. They don't care what they destroy, who gets hurt, or if their actions end up killing. They are instigating fear throughout communities, throughout their own neighbors and straight out laughing at it. What is truly despicable though is that there is no real 'protest', they don't stand for a damn thing and are trying to hide behind Duggan. We all know the truth, this isn't about protest, this isn't about any sense of justice - this is simply a load of bored, thuggish, and thieving kids with no idea of morality and who obviously value crap objects like jeans or mobile phones over basic human decency.
I'm sorry, I don't know if my opinions could have helped you in any way.. it's all just so upsetting, the images and my friend's phone calls/facebook reporting are so upsetting.. I'm even having trouble putting it into words.
Jillian (22): I've literally just been watching bbc live and hadn't heard about it until i saw the paper this morning.
I'm still trying to understand what is going on, but although i don't have all of the information, the rioting is completely motive-less and disrespectful. There is so much property damage and people being injured. Reporters are being attacked shops are being pillaged and buildings are on fire. it is complete chaos. Obviously it is terrible that Duggan was killed and even if we all occasionally have some resentment towards the police, they are just trying to keep things in line and I am sure that whoever shot Duggan was doing their job. There is so much pressure on the police to remain peaceful and not be violent, but under special circumstances they may believe firing a gun is the right thing to do. hey, we're all human.
Getting closer to home for me as well and many of my friends live in hackney and croydon. hope theyre safe.
Ross (26): This is all going off only a few miles from me. It nearly reached (and may do so tonight) walthamstow which is right on my door step. Its becoming increasingly clear that the riots have absolutely nothing to do with the shooting (whether justified or not remains to be made clear after investigations) of the young drug dealer Mr. Duggan. Its just a chance for many mindless idiots to create carnage and keep one step ahead of an unprepared police force thru using social media such as twitter etc.
From the news reports it seems the majority are 18-24 yr olds who obviously aren't at work on a monday, just out to smash, destroy and steal whatever comes their way. Saw a horrible interview earlier with a woman who had her apartments burnt to the ground last night and all she has now is the clothes she's wearing. Other's may disagree with me here but I think the sooner they bring in the water cannons and tear gas the better because too many innocent people are having property destroyed and living in fear unable to leave their homes etc. at the moment police aren't even challenging these idiots.
Most important over riding note though is that this has nothing to do with the peaceful protests of Mr. Duggan's family on saturday and purely just the youth wanting to use it as an excuse for their criminality. A few of my friends are in the Metropolitan police force and they have friends who have been seriously hurt through projectiles. Many local shops are being ransacked by youth's WITH KNIVES, showing its clearly about the looting and mayhem rather than anything else.
This might sound more of a rant than useful info but I'm saying it as i see it.
Melissa (25): I think the main issue is the issue of disenfranchisement. The worst thing I saw someone write on facebook was about how we support them and look how they are treating London. Yes, what they are doing is mindless and violent and should be stopped. But why is it happening in the first place? Everyone knows it’s got nothing to do with protest it is just havoc. Not even a riot, just anarchy. The devil has left Moscow and come to London it seems. There is no support system for these guys nor any concept of value. Other than, ‘I can get money for that’. It was so easy for them to steal. The police just stood around and let it happen. That’s why it spread like wild fire because someone said, no one is actually stopping us, why have we not done this before? The education system lets them down, the age old idea of ‘parenting’ lets them down. Police want to beat them up and government officials just want them to go away. The idea of respect and aspiration that middle class (I don’t think race is that relevant any more) people hold is not applicable to someone who leads a transient life, and one that is not valued or held as a good model by those that lead society.
These kids/thugs whatever, have created an impact the only way they know how and the only way they think is commendable and something should have been done to allow for these people to participate, and be held accountable by society in a way other than just as criminals. I was in Camden when it happened mildly and it was horrible, but that's my thoughts.
It’s incredibly interesting to understand how young people (like my friends above) understand the situation and to hear their perspectives and reflections on what’s happening and what should be done. However, this is only side of the issue. There is no doubt a sense of frustration has been occurring within the young rioters and sadly, the cultural constructs of their own communities may have shifted this precipitous rise in violence and mayhem. My bigger question is how will the government respond when the riots are quelled (and whose responsibility was it to see this coming)? Will they choose to fuel the growing fire of sentiment against these youth, which the public deservedly feel against the culprits? Or will they take a more understanding approach and help spotlight this tragic event to help ensure something similar cannot and will not happen again? It obviously won’t be an easy decision to make, but definitely a decision that needs to involve not only the government officials by themselves, but the entire city of London as a whole. Can a catastrophe like the one aforementioned be enough for the average Londoner to lose all sense of compassion towards the guilty party (and there-by dividing an entire class of people even further)? I sure hope not…
Photo taken from Global Post