London’s Burning

I’m awaiting the outpourings of the apologists over the riots engulfing London at the moment. The original chain of events started with the shooting by police of a local man, Mark Duggan. Whatever the outcome of the investigations into the circumstances of Duggan’s death, as far as I’m concerned, if someone uses a confronts the police with a firearm, they should expect no less than for the police to respond with deadly force.

The ongoing disturbances, according to a number of commentators, including community leaders and youth workers (normally at pains to justify any misconduct by members of the community) are nothing more than a bunch of predominantly youths (including kids on holiday from school) taking the opportunity to go on the rampage in an orgy of destruction.

Once again, there will be those who go out of their way to excuse the actions of the mob. They will claim that the mob is acting out of desperation and out of perceived social grievances. The supposed ‘have-nots’ apparently have licence to run riot to vent their frustration in the face of police behaving perfectly within their rights.

I’ve had enough of all this bollocks.

Firstly, there is not always a reason behind violence and vandalism. How do I know that? Because I was young myself once.

As a youngster, smashing things seemed like fun. Scrap that – it was fun. I happen to have been raised in a middle-class family, but I went to a bog-standard comprehensive and had a circle of friends and acquaintances from a range of social backgrounds. There were kids from all backgrounds I knew personally who liked vandalising things. Ask them why they did it, and you’d get the answer ‘because it’s a laugh’ – not because they felt that they had social and socio-economic grievances and the only way that they could fight these grievances was by making a political statement by putting a brick through a phone box. The only reasons I didn’t join in the wanton vandalism were because I’d been raised to understand that such acts were wrong, achieved nothing, and destroyed my own local environment. There were kids from wealthier and poorer families than mine who were not instilled with the same values. Such kids enjoyed smashing things and had no conscience about doing so.

The more certain commentators act as apologists for rioting, the more ammunition they give to criminals. Every time something like this happens, many scratch their heads and seek rational explanations and reasons for the rioting. They look for deep-seated social issues, or start talking about police persecution of minorities. Nice one! Next time the riots kick off, the perpetrators have a ready-made excuse for the behaviour and the myth is perpetuated.

For those of us who grew up in normal society and experienced ordinary school life, mixing with people of different backgrounds and races, we can see through this smokescreen, and we see the rioters and vandals laughing at ordinary decent people and saying, “yeah, we riot because of what that intellectual said”. You know what? It pisses me off.

There’s a simple line in the sand. Regardless of anyone’s grievances, there is no excuse for rioting, looting, and wanton vandalism. As soon as anyone engages in such acts, they should expect to feel the full and brutal hand of the law coming down on them. Watching the footage of these riots, all I see is persistent attempts by police to merely contain the violence. In doing so, they are tying up resources (people and equipment), while groups of rioters gather elsewhere and more resources are tied up in policing (or rather trying to contain) them.

The police are keen to play the softly-softly approach, so as not to be accused of police brutality. If the police appear to act to forcefully, they are condemned.

You know what I’d like to see? As soon as anyone or any group oversteps the mark (again, to clarify, I mean when they riot, start to destroy property or attack people), I’d like the police to go in on the offensive, with all manner of weapons at their disposal and quickly round up the culprits. If necessary, and the situation escalates, bring in the military.

Peaceful demonstrations are one thing, and must exist in a free society. Riots are never justified. If you justify violence from the mob, you have to accept violence from the state to contain the mob. Either that, or prepare to embrace anarchy if you believe that the State doesn’t have the right to defend ordinary people, public and private property with force.

I invite anyone who believes that police should confront tooled-up rioters with nothing more than ‘twigs’ to stand alongside them the next time things kick off.

When it comes to peoples’ rights, ordinary citizens’ rights to a peaceful existence, to be able to live in a safe environment, and to own possessions or businesses and know that these are safe from the mob come before those of any law-breakers.

The time for the rights for a violent few to have authorities bend over backwards to accommodate them has to come to an end. We have certain expectations of people in society in terms of how they contribute and conform to behavioural norms.

We need a renewed solid dose of common sense. This isn’t about harking back to the ‘good old days’, because I don’t believe they ever existed. What I do believe however, is that transgressors should now feel the full force (physical if necessary) of the law when they cross the line in the sand.