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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 2

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 2

Subject:

Two items on the UK Explosions

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Date:

Tue, 9 Aug 2011 21:58:51 -0400

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Two items on the UK Explosions

1. Rioting For "Justice" in London
2. Tariq Ali: Why Here, Why Now?

1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1

Rioting For 'Justice' in London

By Jesse Strauss
Al Jazeera
August 9, 2011

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/08/2011891555226219.html

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered outside the
Tottenham police station, peacefully calling for "justice"
for Mark Duggan, a man killed by officers three days prior.

Police stood in formation, separating the community members
from the station they were guarding, until a 16-year-old
woman reportedly approached an officer to find out what was
going on.

According to a witness account, some officers pushed the
young woman and drew their batons.

"And that's when the people started to retaliate. Now I think
in all circumstances, having seen that, most people
retaliate," said the witness.

The "retaliation", from peaceful chants of "justice" in front
of the police station, have since turned into massive groups
of Londoners in numerous parts of the city who seem unafraid
of breaking windows, looting stores, and burning buildings,
doubtless causing millions of pounds' worth of damage.

Scores of businesses have been looted and international media
continue to play images of smoldering buildings, in areas
where firefighters were reportedly too afraid to enter - for
their own safety.

According to witnesses and overhead helicopter footage,
police have not been able to control much of the situation,
and have repeatedly been forced into retreat by angry
rioters.

"The kids realise the police can't keep control of it," said
Bristly Pioneer, a Hackney resident and activist with the
Space Hijackers, an anarchist collective focused on
reclaiming public space. "And the kids don't give a f***
because no one gives a f*** about them."

"These kids have basically been abandoned - not even just the
kids, whole communities have been abandoned by the rest of
society," he added. "I can't say I'm surprised this is
happening. It's been building for years."

Klara, an activist with Occupied London, a group focused on
responding to the European austerity crisis, and another
resident of Hackney, asked that her last name not be used.
She told Al Jazeera: "It's a bubble of anger and anxiety and
oppression that has to be burst."

"When you talk to people in the streets, they're extremely
politically articulate. They know the problems in their
community," she said.

In a video posted on The Guardian's website on July 31, [
http://tinyurl.com/3llc3af ] youth in the London borough of
Haringey described the effects of the closure of eight youth
centres, a move they said led to a growth in gang membership
and crime - as they and their peers have nowhere to go after
school.

A week before any window was broken or store looted, one of
the young people in the video said: "The government doesn't
realise what they're doing to us". Another adds, "there's
going to be a riot".

A tipping point

Tottenham, where Duggan was killed, is a Haringey
neighbourhood which has among the highest unemployment rates
in London - and a larger than average youth population.
People of colour here have particularly felt the effects of
deteriorating social services and targeted police harassment
and violence, said author Richard Seymour.

"There's kids here who basically no one cares about, and
nobody does anything for," said Seymour, a PhD candidate at
the London School of Economics. "When the rioters themselves
are asked, they will say that they are abused by police,
harassed by them, and nobody's done a thing about it."

Seymour also explained that after many of the 333 deaths in
police custody between 1998 and 2010 in Britain, "Large,
peaceful protests in response [to the in-custody deaths] were
more or less ignored" and not a single officer has been
prosecuted.

As a result, Duggan's killing crossed a threshold for young
people, angry with the systems that have left them behind,
and tired of non-violent protest that goes without much
response.

"I saw a whole load of kids, ranging from teenagers, and also
grown-ups, in the streets. Most people seemed very happy,
there were a lot of smiles in the streets, and a sense that
people finally had control of something ... And then there
were people who were extremely angry at police," said Klara,
the Occupied London activist. "It's just surprising that
something like this hasn't happened before now."

Meanwhile, a local shop owner told Al Jazeera: "I'm very
shocked ... I'm so devastated. I don't know how to explain
myself."

The chaotic situation has left many Londoners, and people
around the world, wondering when the destruction will stop -
and how the government will respond to the anger born out of
alleged police racism, cuts to social services and
unemployment.

Criminality

Just moments before Britain's prime minister made his first
post-riot statement, Seymour told Al Jazeera: "The dominant
response of the political class is to say it's all
criminality ... that's something that could undermine
anything towards seeking justice."

The alternative, he said, would be "addressing the political
crisis" on a deeper level.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, played the card
Seymour had predicted, saying: "This is criminality pure and
simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated."

London's acting police commissioner, Tim Godwin, agreed,
saying: "This is not a game - this is criminality, burglary
and violence ... There can be no excuses for this behaviour."
Calls to Scotland Yard went unanswered.

"Everyone is anticipating the probability of more violence as
night approaches. Everyone has their theories about this, but
I think one of their [the government's] main challenges will
be to separate genuine grievance from simple copy-cat
criminality," said Al Jazeera's Tim Friend, reporting from
London.

But that would mean the government strongly recognises the
'grievances', which is far, at least, from the initial
response.

In his first statement on the riot on Tuesday morning, the
British PM said at least 450 people had been arrested for
riot-related crimes.

Cameron also announced a massing of police officers, with
numbers to be increased from 6,000 in the first three nights
of rioting to 16,000 on Tuesday night.

"There will be aid from police coming from up and down the
country," he said. "We will see that many more arrests will
be coming in the coming days."

Speaking directly to those breaking the law, Cameron said:
"Justice will be done ... You will feel the full force of the
law, and if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you
are old enough to feel the full consequences."

Klara said that many people support the increase in police
presence and hope that it will force the end of rioting, but
warned that the support of intensive policing measures "could
spark things off even more, because the police are exactly
the problem in these neighbourhoods".

"It's hard to say what type of policing would calm things
down and what type of policing would escalate it ... When
you're being harassed by police on a daily basis, you're no
longer afraid of it."

Finding 'justice' in the rubble

With police absent or unable to control crowds in past days,
reports have spread of communities banding together to defend
their own neighbourhoods.

"There's a Turkish neigbourhood in Hackney that successfully
prevented the rioters from destroying the area," said Klara.

Seymour described similar scenes of people standing outside
their businesses with baseball bats, in a vigilante defence
from lawless London.

"I talked to residents and they told me they will do the same
if they don't feel like their livelihoods are being protected
by the police," said Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela, reporting
from Hackney,

In a different form of community defence, one of the highest
trending hashtags on Twitter early on Tuesday was
#riotcleanup, and many people used it to coordinate cleanup
efforts in riot-hit neighbourhoods around London.

What has emerged due to rioting is a lawless sense that
Londoners need to create response plans for when police are
not able to handle a situation.

Klara said that more than ever, she's seen riotous streets
actually become an avenue of democratic action.

"There is a lot of debate in the streets. Everyone's talking
about police killings, deaths in custody [and other social
woes]."

Meanwhile, no one seems to support the destruction caused by
the riots, but many believe that the situation is an
expression of political anger.

When asked if the riots could lead to any positive outcome,
Seymour said it already had, and described an interview he
saw on television in which a rioter was asked the same
question.

The rioter's answer: "Yes [it has been successful], because
if we hadn't rioted, you wouldn't be talking to us now."

Follow Jesse Strauss on Twitter: @AJEsseStrauss Source: Al
Jazeera

2 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 2

Why here, why now?

By Tariq Ali 

August 9, 2011

http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/08/09/tariq-ali/why-here-why-now/


Why is it that the same areas always erupt first, whatever
the cause? Pure accident? Might it have something to do with
race and class and institutionalised poverty and the sheer
grimness of everyday life? The coalition politicians
(including new New Labour, who might well sign up to a
national government if the recession continues apace) with
their petrified ideologies can’t say that because all three
parties are equally responsible for the crisis. They made the
mess.

They privilege the wealthy. They let it be known that judges
and magistrates should set an example by giving punitive
sentences to protesters found with peashooters. They never
seriously question why no policeman is ever prosecuted for
the 1000-plus deaths in custody since 1990. Whatever the
party, whatever the skin colour of the MP, they spout the
same clichés. Yes, we know violence on the streets in London
is bad. Yes, we know that looting shops is wrong. But why is
it happening now? Why didn’t it happen last year? Because
grievances build up over time, because when the system wills
the death of a young black citizen from a deprived community,
it simultaneously, if subconsciously, wills the response.

And it might get worse if the politicians and the business
elite, with the support of the tame state television and
Murdoch networks, fail to deal with the economy, and punish
the poor and the less well-off for government policies they
have been promoting for more than three decades. Dehumanising
the ‘enemy’, at home or abroad, creating fear and
imprisonment without trial cannot work for ever.

Were there a serious political opposition party in this
country it would be arguing for dismantling the shaky
scaffolding of the neo-liberal system before it crumbles and
hurts even more people. Throughout Europe, the distinguishing
features that once separated centre-left from centre-right,
conservatives from social democrats, have disappeared. The
sameness of official politics dispossesses the less
privileged segments of the electorate, the majority.

The young unemployed or semi-employed blacks in Tottenham and
Hackney, Enfield and Brixton know full well that the system
is stacked against them. The politicians’ braying has no real
impact on most people, let alone those lighting the fires in
the streets. The fires will be put out. There will be some
pathetic inquiry or other to ascertain why Mark Duggan was
shot dead, regrets will be expressed, there will be flowers
from the police at the funeral. The arrested protesters will
be punished and everyone will heave a sigh of relief and move
on till it happens again.

___________________________________________

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