Losing London: Trying to put the riots in perspective

Up until a month ago, someone hearing the word “riot” may generally think of some conflicted Middle Eastern dictatorship or maybe a disappointing loss for the Canucks, but few people would think of London, England.

One of the most economically, socially and technologically advanced countries in the world, England played host to a surprising series of riots over four days in London.

The riots were sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan, who was suspected of planning an attack as revenge for his cousin who was fatally stabbed. In the course of arresting Duggan police fired two shots killing Duggan.

It should be noted that police shootings in England are extremely uncommon and only a few specialised firearms units carry guns. The vast majority of England’s police do not ever carry firearms or even receive training in their use.

A protest over Duggan’s killing staged outside the Tottenham Police station by his relatives and neighbours, who simply wanted answers, shortly degenerated into the beginning of the riots.

A group of people who may or may not have been with Duggan’s relatives set two police cars on fire. These actions quickly spread and the looting, burning and rioting that lasted for four days began. The majority of the destruction took place during the evenings and nights with various neighbourhoods across London and some neighbouring cities seeing rioting.

As a result of the violence five people were killed, 186 police officers were injured and an uncertain number of civilians were injured.

No one has been able to single out a specific cause for the riots but there are some very apparent trends.

Almost all of the rioters were under 20 and the majority were looting in their own neighbourhoods. One of the possible causes for this rioting may be a widespread dissatisfaction and disillusionment. England has an extremely large number of high school dropouts.

Roughly 17% of British youth have not completed their high school education and are not currently employed or in any sort of vocational training. It was these large numbers of uneducated, unemployed and dissatisfied youth who carried out the rioting in London.

Responses to the rioting have been mixed. British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the rioting and told rioters they would feel “the full force of the law.” Support for the police has been fairly unanimous within the government but some people have spoken out otherwise. British broadcaster and activist Darcus Howe said that he was not surprised by the riots, recounting that his grandson has been stopped by police so many times that he lost count.

So while people search for some sort of reasoning behind a series of riots which never proclaimed any social or political cause, or espoused even a single slogan, the discontent youth of England will continue to stew, because without jobs or educations they don’t have anything else to do.

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