I’m in tears.
I really feel depressed by what has happened and what the last few days have been like. I’ve been based down in Enfield in North London the last couple of days, and I am so sad by the way people are embracing violence.
Last night I was in Hackney most of the evening, specifically around Clarence Road on the Pembury Estate. I wanted to film and take photographs of those who were looting and being violent, and act in some small ways to help the police. I’m not particularly afraid, have a good awareness of dangerous situations, and know when to back off, and wanted to help those I could. But since, I have felt sick, sad and so upset with what I saw, what I experienced and the attitudes of the people around me.
It takes a lot to get me down, to feel defeated, to be without hope- but after being in the throng of these violent people I am heartbroken. Words fail me.
I’d taken video footage and photos of kids looting JD Sports outside Hackney Central, and I was so pleased to get their faces. As they ran off laughing, I ran after them and followed, making sure I got good evidence. They went up to their car. I got the registration plate, and called the police. It’s small- it’s nothing, but they’ve got the evidence now for when they do go searching for them in the coming months.
7 cars were torched. They smashed into a pawnbrokers. Girls of 14 lobbing bricks against shop windows, to cheers from the crowd.
Look at the girl!
When she couldn’t get the steel shutters up, she shouted to the crowd around her- ‘Come on- this is what you men are good for!’
The police came at the last minute and managed to protect this next shop from being looted.
They were torching a car. Rocking it, tipping it, sitting it alight from inside. They’d already done 4, but that was the next. I’d parked a long long way away. I knew what could happen.
I asked one lad, ‘What are you doing this for? That is someone’s car. What have they done?’
‘Oh- it no matter- they’ll get it back on insurance.’
There’s no acknowledgement of their actions. It’s completely right and justifiable. They’re not angry about the system- at least they’re not talking about it. There’s no chanting about what needs to change. It’s all about simply opportunistic looting, and a chance to go mental and get violent. And they can get away with it. So why not.
Smashing the van up. Setting it alight. Watching it burn. I got some of their faces. Footage is going to the police. Idiots.
I feel sick of the thought of putting it out in the public domain. I was going to upload it to YouTube, but I can’t bring myself to. I don’t even want to watch it back. I want nothing that they feel would endorse their actions, or give any of their mates to show pride. I feel sick.
I felt for this poor row of houses, and those inside. A further van and 2 minis- all trashed and torched. The explosions were large when it hit the fuel tank. People were so frightened in their street, up in their houses as these idiots were throwing bricks at windows of cars. No one targeted any houses. Nor ‘innocent’ individuals. They’re not about hurting people. It’s a weird code that’s out there. Unspoken, but I think it’s notable that with all the violence during the last few days, we haven’t seen more fatalities. More fatalities? What is all that about! This is England. This is London. This was Enfield. I grew up around Enfield.
They did however target some individuals- specifically those who were filming or taking photographs. One guy was ‘almost lynched.’ Kicked to the ground, camera destroyed. But beautifully, a local mother actually stopped the kicks from coming in as he was on the floor, by stepping in. That’s what they always said about Moss Side, they fear their mothers and grandmothers far more. The fathers have been absent. This is the price we pay.
Photographers were there with helmets, behind the line of police. There had been incidents of others being attacked. Needless to say I wasn’t looking to be reckless, or a hero by filming and photographing from within the throng- I filmed as subtly as I could, with an iPhone and a Flip HD. It was dangerous, but I can genuinely say, I was fully away of the levels of danger. And despite a couple of minor confrontations, I think I managed to blend in enough. Though that changed towards the end, when people always saw I never covered my face, and saw me with the camera.
It’s ridiculous though, how people have been saying that this has been orchestrated through Twitter and social media. No one got their phone out, because when they did, others would be screaming at them to put it away. A number of phones or cameras were snatched out of hands and destroyed. I had someone turn on me, but managed to move away and diffuse the situation. The Blackberry is the preferred tool.
The whole of Clarence Road on the Pembury estate was trashed. Most of the shops looted. 4 cars on the street burnt out. Large bins burning. Bricks everywhere. Girls of 14 going inside coming out with bags of stuff. Glass everywhere.
People weren’t out to hurt people- they were out to destroy property. And not all property- in some cases, if you were stood by your shop, as one old man was, he was left alone. Not that people would always be that polite. The empty vacant ones didn’t stand a chance. The police wouldn’t come in to stop it, in specific areas, because it would have incited more violence. People were desperate for more violence.
By this time- around 1am, everyone had been drinking and the place was wired. Tension. There was a level of sustained aggression I have not experienced before, for such a long period of time. It’s like people were wanting more. More violence. More bottles. So obviously the police were the target. And I can genuinely understand how hard it would be for the police. To be that hated for being human. The police aren’t perfect and in previous protest type situations I’ve witnessed individuals get it wrong. But this time, with respect, the police did a great job with the power they had. They diffused when they could and stepped forward. Earlier on, I’d experienced one policeman go down and become encircled. If he hadn’t been dragged out by the other police, I would categorically say and believe he would have died. It kills the soul to witness this aggression.
I was passing on information I could that was helpful to the police, about the next locations I heard they were going to. It was all too much. I left when I’d been targeted, and retreated with a horrible knot in my stomach.
And now I have just heard that Manchester is being targetted. I have been desperately tweeting and emphasising the dangers of rumours, not wanting to believe it, but I’m devastated that it’s going to happen. Not my beloved Manchester. Don’t do it- we’re not as nasty as these idiots. Please don’t do it.
I was pleased to see #prayforlondon trending on Twitter, as well as #riotcleanup. There’s a number of people who have also created a few resources to help shop in others.
But mostly I feel numb.
The mood has definitely turned in London- people are against the rioters and wanting to stand up to them. Although I don’t feel dealing violence with violence, vigilante style helps, as tonight there are rumours of a ‘Peace March’ or a ‘Vigilante Retaliation’ here in Enfield tonight at 9pm. But I do like the fact that so many are sickened by it. I’m still so churned up, and feel so desperately for all those so scared by what’s going on. Elderly folk in doors. Oh my- it’s just so wrong. So sad.
I write this some time later. To be honest, although this was a reaction on the night, I do feel like the way that the government have handled the penalties and convictions to the rioters have been completely extreme and unjust. I fear once again that the underlying reasons for the riots will not be addressed. There’s so much to change.