|source: Two Thumbs Fresh on Flickr|
Live coverage of the London (and Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol Liverpool, and Leeds) riots on Al Jazeera last night had anchors, reporters, and eyewitnesses alike stunned and insisting that the riots were senseless. Last fall British officials pooh-poohed the idea that cutting police might leave London vulnerable in the face of the risks of riots by disaffected, unemployed youth. "They just want to get as much as they can for free," I heard from several commentators. "There is absolutely no justification for this level of violence and this level of theft. They aren't particularly interested in justice for one man," a reference to the shooting death of 29 year old Mark Duggan as the spark that ignited the flames.
Much was made of the fact that riots were happening in "very nice" areas where you wouldn't "expect" such things to happen. Anchor Felicity Barr said again and again that the neighbors must be furious that the police are absent while youth gangs destroy things without interference. The head of Scotland Yard calmly told parents to call their children's cell phones, find out where they were, and tell them to come home. Barr noted it was young women looting as well, and several observers commented on how young the crowds appeared to be. Security expert: "Crime is all about greed -- it's not about need whatsoever."
London is a riotous old town. Remember back in December when Prince Charles and Camilla had a run in with a youthful mob during a serendipitous enounter on the way to the theater? They do, I'll wager.
|The heir to the throne and his consort, the Duchess of Cornwall, react as their car is attacked by student tuition hike protesters in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP|
It left me wondering if a mob is just a mob unless they are carrying signs and shouting slogans. In other words, do rampaging teens need to know their own politics in order to be politically motivated?
With the Olympics scheduled to come to town, commenters bemoaned "the PR cost to London." Like race rioters in US cities' riots in the 1960's, mobs were even attacking fire fighters when they try to put out buildings that went ablaze.
Other views worth noting. From Twitter: grgrsmth Gregor Smith RT @broganhume: So basically the #londonriots can be boiled down to this: when you destroy peoples lives and then cut the police bad stuff happens.