Let There Be Peace

London Riots Clean Up

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.

http://www.identify-a-rioter.co.uk/

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’m off to Kilburn tonight- there’s a prayer meeting, and I want to stand in solidarity and pray for peace. Let there be Peace! Please, let there be peace. Please, please, let there be peace.

———————————————————

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001232690907 Sally Prittie

    Thank you Caleb – you write in a way that helps us understand from outside the situation. I agree – sadness and weeping are appropriate responses in the face of such careless trashing of other peoples’ lives. The factors may be very complex but stem from a disregard of God, of authority -ultimately rebellion against righteousness, and as Christians we know where that comes from. It is satanic in origin, and we need to plead for God’s mercy upon our nation or I fear we may see much worse yet. We have turned so comprehensively away from righteousness in private and public life – only repentance and humbling can help us now.

    • http://www.calebstorkey.net Caleb Storkey

      Thanks Sally. I think as you say the factors are very complex indeed. On one side there is understandably a group from a marginalised and often forgotten community in Tottenham, angry at the way that one of their own has been treated. I’ve lived in Moss Side for over 10 years now, but I still cannot fully understand the complexities of the pain and historical racism that so many have faced over the years. I feel it, I sense it, but I am white and have grown up with completely different experiences. I hate that my black brothers in inner city communities especially experience the levels of marginalisation and poverty they do. It isn’t fair. But it is not acceptable for a minority to respond following a peaceful march and cause such devastation. Having seen the building that was torched, and heard the locals talk, it’s heartbreaking to be faced with the truth. From within they have damaged their own community. And amongst my experiences in Hackney, I’d say 70% of those causing trouble were from this marginalised community. Deep rooted anger- for many I’m sure. For some, not at all. It’s a game. 
      And this is where this has then gone on to. In my thinking, absolute chancers, who’s framework for what is acceptable is badly off. People who think they can get away with violence and stealing, arson and looting. The appropriate protest has lost it’s focus. I’ve heard so many interesting thoughts on Radio, I now feel frazzled. But you have to look at the roots of where all this came from, and some of the major causes of the protests. It’s not enough to simply alienate the youth, and point fingers. We cannot condone it, but we need to accept our responsibility in it corporately as society, and how we have arrived here. We have all failed. 
      There has been such a lack of appropriate boundaries and healthy role models, corruption from those in the greatest levels of authority, as well as those in positions of bearing truth as the media should be. Financiers who have bankrupted our nation, living a million miles away from the poverty that many of these in poor communities live in. And as you say there’s a lack of righteousness. As we grow older we set the tone for those who follow us. And the tone we have set, is so far from what it should be, we have to accept our own levels of responsibility. I for one need to humbly bow my head and say, may the change be there in me. England I am sorry.

  • http://www.calebstorkey.net Caleb Storkey

    Thanks Sally. I think as you say the factors are very complex indeed. On one side there is understandably a group from a marginalised and often forgotten community in Tottenham, angry at the way that one of their own has been treated. I’ve lived in Moss Side for over 10 years now, but I still cannot fully understand the complexities of the pain and historical racism that so many have faced over the years. I feel it, I sense it, but I am white and have grown up with completely different experiences. I hate that my black brothers in inner city communities especially experience the levels of marginalisation and poverty they do. It isn’t fair. 

    But it is not acceptable for a minority to respond following a peaceful march and cause such devastation. Having seen the building that was torched, and heard the locals talk, it’s heartbreaking to be faced with the truth. From within they have damaged their own community. And amongst my experiences in Hackney, I’d say 70% of those causing trouble were from this marginalised community. Deep rooted anger- for many I’m sure. For some, not at all. It’s a game. And this is where this has then gone on to. In my thinking, absolute chancers, who’s framework for what is acceptable is badly off. People who think they can get away with violence and stealing, arson and looting. The appropriate protest has lost it’s focus. I’ve heard so many interesting thoughts on Radio, I now feel frazzled. But you have to look at the roots of where all this came from, and some of the major causes of the protests. It’s not enough to simply alienate the youth, and point fingers. We cannot condone it, but we need to accept our responsibility in it corporately as society, and how we have arrived here. We have all failed. There has been such a lack of appropriate boundaries and healthy role models, corruption from those in the greatest levels of authority, as well as those in positions of bearing truth as the media should be. Financiers who have bankrupted our nation, living a million miles away from the poverty that many of these in poor communities live in. And as you say there’s a lack of righteousness. As we grow older we set the tone for those who follow us. And the tone we have set, is so far from what it should be, we have to accept our own levels of responsibility. I for one need to humbly bow my head and say, may the change be there in me. England I am sorry.  

  • http://www.calebstorkey.net Caleb Storkey

    Peter. Thanks for taking the time to write. 

    I think I’ve been struggling the last couple of days to understand what has gone on from the perspective of those who are the marginalised. Although, I have far less sympathy for those who have gone out ‘for a laugh to steal some stuff’ I have also been struck by how significantly we influence them by the way we respond and react to the situation. And that response is important, if we are to re-establish what it means for us all to live as good citizens.  

    A lot of people I’ve spoken to, chatted with and listened to on the radio would feel strongly and use sentiments in the way you do. As a middle class man myself, (and one who has never experienced prolonged periods of poverty having gym membership through work), I was struck by how quickly and easily people were saying- line them up against a wall and shoot them. Albeit, for some it was in jest, but for others- well put it this way- I think they were serious and I was really hoping it was jest.

    And clearly you feel the same strength of emotion. I can’t. Because of where that emotion takes me, and I fear takes us in society. I will have felt those emotions of anger within me the other night, but I have to love these people too. I could have been there, if I’d grown up in different circumstances. Without getting too idealistic, they are my brothers and my sisters, and I want to be there for them as much as for the shopkeepers and people who have lost everything. The way I am there for them, is different and I am unsure what that looks like, but my heart desire is such.  

    I do agree with you that Governments here, and from what it seemed like in Vancouver have been slow to respond to this violence and they should have moved more quickly and justly, I don’t think we can’t beat the violence ‘long term’ by only being violent in response. Their has to be just punishment and consequences for peoples actions- but fighting violence with violence only continues the cycle. History seems to have always shown us that. 

    And the problem is, it was this ‘heavy handed’ police attitude, with what on the surface seems like the unjust killing of Mark Duggan, that triggered all this reaction in the first case. A lot of Tottenham folk are hurt and angry by his death. Violence and strong defence alone doesn’t work. I don’t expect you to agree Peter, as I feel we’re probably in different political places (In my opinion Thatcher has done such a lot of damage, as has Labour since then, and in many ways we are reaping the consequences of her actions as a result of the vast gulf between the rich and the poor and the under-investment into our inner city communities). Having lived in Moss Side for 10 years, a poor working class environment, you just have to look at the ways the bins are not being collected currently to see the differences being outworked.  

    But I would love to pose a different question, one, where we may find some common ground. 

    However the initial situation is dealt with, where do we go from here when it comes to the decay within our society? How can we integrate our youth back into society? What can you or I do, to help bring about positive change? Would love to know your thoughts Peter…..

  • http://www.peterwrightsblog.com Peter Wright

    Thank you for your thoughtful and obviously concerned reply Caleb. Yes we are probably poles apart across the political spectrum, but my comments were more from a basic what is acceptable behaviour and what is not point, of view than a political one.

    Suffice it to say that having lost my country (Rhodesia), a member of my family, and ultimately all my assets as a consequence of misguided British meddling in what was once a peaceful, prosperous country, and having seen communism and it’s junior sibling, socialism discredited around the world, I am not enamoured with liberal political parties. I accept that you have reservations about some of the Conservative party polices, as do I, but I believe that Britain would be far worse off today, but for Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.

    If we can agree that communism is not the answer, then the best system of government to date is the free enterprise system, warts and all. I agree that there needs to be some controls to prevent unfettered exploitation of people and resources. The problem in the West is not insufficient controls but excessive controls that make it extremely difficult for the average person to start a small business and protect his or her property. The system also rewards those that choose not to make the effort to support themselves, but instead expect the productive sector to support them through welfare.

    Under any capitalist system there will be haves and have-nots, some will apply themselves and succeed, others will hold their hands out for benefits and when they feel aggrieved, start burning cars and looting shops as we saw this week. That is human nature, we cannot change it by legislation or by going easy on crime, that only makes a bad system worse.

    Before you accuse me of speaking from a privileged position of wealth, I have known what it is like to lose everything and start again. Twice in fact. I did not start burning and looting, I chose to work at menial jobs as the first step to recovery.

    You disagree with my point that governments were slow to respond in both Vancouver and London. Sorry, Caleb, we pay taxes for a police force that will protect us and our property. The first brick through a shop window or car set on fire should result in strong enough action to ensure that the riots stop right there. 3 days of anarchy and thousands of innocent people’s lives affected is totally unacceptable, and now I hear 3 young men were run over and killed in Birmingham. The cost and disruption of processing all those arrested is yet a further cost to the taxpayer which would have been reduced by decisive police action.

    Regrettably, tolerating bad behaviour only rewards bad behaviour, whether it is from children, animals or mobs of rioters, and it teaches the perpetrators that there are little or no consequences for their actions.

    Weakness and appeasement has never worked in politics, international conflict, negotiation or trying to stop mob violence. Why does NATO have such a problem in Afghanistan so many of our troops dead or maimed? Because we are not prepared to be as tough or ruthless as the Taliban, I am not saying we should be, personally I would just let them get on with it themselves, but it is yet another example of the lack of  resolve in the West to exercise the necessary force.

    The city of New York reduced the highest murder rate in the USA and cleaned up the city, not by going soft on crime, but by a zero tolerance policy on all crime, starting with graffiti and littering, when people knew the consequences of illegal action, they started obeying the law and taking pride in their city.

    Perhaps the police were heavy handed in the shooting of Mark Duggan, perhaps they were justified, I do not know. But to blame the police for the subsequent mob violence is ridiculous. Why do many otherwise rational and sensible (essentially liberal) people condemn all forms of violence and criminal activity except when the cause can be conveniently blamed on the police or the establishment, thereby justifying the criminals actions.It does not happen the other way round, very rarely does any one try to excuse a right wing criminal’s activity on the grounds that he was “disadvantaged” or his “rights” denied. And quite rightly so.

    You ask what can be done to bring about positive change, I think it has to be a combination of zero tolerance for any forms of lawlessness, law-abiding citizens demanding that the police do protect their property and yes programs to get some of the so-called disadvantaged working. 

    There has to be an understanding that any one who breaks the law will pay the consequences, whether that person is a wannabe looter from a poor neighborhood, or a cabinet minister fiddling his expenses.

    The ridiculous thing is that a fraction of the cost of the riots could finance many weeks wages on some civil projects. What projects? I have no idea, I am too far away, but with the Olympics a year away, I imagine there must be plenty of work that could be incorporated into projects like this.

    But as a final point I have to add that those doing the rioting, did not appear too malnourished, if you want to see really disadvantaged people, go to Somalia or Ethiopia, thousands of those dying children would willingly swop places with the “disadvantaged” rioters in London. 

    Like you, I sincerely hope that your cities remain peaceful and that solutions will be found.

     

    • http://www.calebstorkey.net Caleb Storkey

      Thank you Peter- Lots of interesting thoughts there. 

      I agree that communism is not the answer, but I also see so many weaknesses in capatalism. Although I agree with you that there are excessive controls to make it difficult for an average person to start in business, I also believe that the checks and balances that we have in place do not do enough to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. And although it’s often been cited that many of those involved in the riots can’t have been that poor as they had smart phones, in truth, the communities to which they live are poor and full of barriers and access to support. 

      There’s a lot of liberal politics that I greatly struggle with too. I’m not in favour of huge taxes, as I don’t like where the Govt spends the taxes, and those who are tremendously rich are able to find loopholes to avoid the paying of tax anyway. Specifically, I struggle with the money spent on arms. But equally, I would desire, entrepreneurs and those who are successfully to be strongly motivated to give and serve those who do not have so much. How this would be implemented en masse I am unsure. I simply love John Lewis’s quote- ‘There is not room for millionaires when you still have people living in slums.’ Shortly afterwards he gave his company back to the people. I actually agree with you that the Govt were slow to respond to these riots. I wish they had moved faster. The strong possibility is that precious lives could have been saved.Being there on Monday night in Hackney, I felt so angry and sad for those who’s properties and shops were being destroyed. Every single shop, except one on the street was completely looted. And to see the cars torched and people in fear looking out from behind the curtains, was so sad. I felt the police did not read the manner to which this was escalating. But we can all be forgiven for not seeing what is to come, and hindsight is an incredibly luxurious and easy position to hold. I equally agree that there needs to be strong action in response to the behaviour. But, strong actions alone wont solve the problems. There needs to be a greater sense of listening and understanding those who are marginalised and living in poverty as well as taking the appropriate action to hold them to account for what they have done. I strongly disagree with the action of evicting the siblings and parents of those whose children were looting. That doesn’t solve the problem. The youth will be out of prison in a few months- and then what. What are we going to do to change things then? ’You ask what can be done to bring about positive change, I think it has to be a combination of zero tolerance for any forms of lawlessness, law-abiding citizens demanding that the police do protect their property and yes programs to get some of the so-called disadvantaged working. 
      There has to be an understanding that any one who breaks the law will pay the consequences, whether that person is a wannabe looter from a poor neighborhood, or a cabinet minister fiddling his expenses.’- I agree wholeheartedly. However, sometimes it is easier for the rich to be able to get away with some of their crimes due to the access they have to support or privilege that can protect them. A lot of young people here in the UK feel so angry that they feel the privileged are not properly held to account. One final thing I’d add- is we lack good role models. Both fathers, and also leaders in our society. We follow celebrities who are famous for being on reality TV shows and who’s lives are often outworked in the public eye, that it’s a warped view of reality. Our politically leaders have failed us the last few years. Certainly in Tottenham, there has been a lack of good father role models, and the ability for young lads to transition from boys to men. I would love to see more fathers take on the responsibility of training up their sons to help them be all they’ve been created to be. Thanks Peter- you raise some very interesting and strong opinions. I never quite know where to position myself politically. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with liberal politics, and I certainly don’t feel comfortable with conservative. Thank you for the prod- it pushes me to dig deeper. Caleb :)

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