I predict a riot, I predict a riot” ~ The Kaiser Chiefs
Or, as defined by my dictionary:
Riot (n): a disturbance caused by an unruly mob
“…a hundred well-armed people could wipe out the Watch, if they knew what they were doing. Once some madman finds out that a copper taken unawares dies just like anyone else, the spell is broken.”
That is what I was reading when they were talking on Radio 4 about the Guardian and LSE study ‘Reading The Riots’. It’s a line from Thud by Terry Pratchett and is expressing the views of the Commander of the City Watch, Sam Vimes.
For me, it sums up a lot of policing. It works because the vast majority of us are law-abiding citizens, leaving the Police to deal with the minority that aren’t. In effect, we are a self-policing society. Yes, I know that’s not across the whole of society but think for a minute; how many crimes have you committed today? This week? Ever? Yes, exactly. I haven’t been rocking the crime statistics myself either.
That whole self-policing thing clearly suffered some large cracks in August. People who would have previously thought themselves as law-abiding became opportunistic looters.
So what’s so annoying about the Guardian article is how it cites many factors behind the riots but the story that is being run, including it’s own headline, is that it was the fault of the Police. No, I don’t think so. Yes, the misinformation that came out from the shooting of Mark Duggan from the start was wrong. The fact there have been so many problems within the IPCC regarding its inquiry into the incident is definitely not helping either. But you cannot take that one tragic, fatal incident, look at the sheer hell that ensued, and then make it all about the Police. It is much much bigger than that.
I saw the play The Riots at the Tricycle Theatre. (According to the website it is sold out but here if you are interested.) This has been based on conversation from many different people involved in the riots, in all senses. It was moving, well done, and at times incredibly irritating. However, one part of it that stays with me is a rioter talking about Tottenham and how they were egging the Police on, first by damaging cars, then by pushing them out into the road, then by setting them on fire. That’s not protesting against the Police, that’s deliberate vandalism with a view to trying to get into a fight!
Why did the rioters do it? Because they could. I think that’s the main reason anybody does anything. Then, when the streets were saturated with Police and the weather changed, they saw they couldn’t and went home.
So many lives were changed, damaged, some even lost during the riots. My own life became fucked beyond all recognition but that’s a different blog post for a different time. Let’s not trivialise something so massive and so serious by jumping on the ‘let’s blame the Police’ bandwagon.
I’m sure much greater and more well-informed writers than I will write on this topic. And, let’s face it, with so many inquiries and reports ongoing, this subject is going nowhere fast. However I am very interested to hear your thoughts on this so please drop me a line in a comment box-shaped postcard.
ps.sorry for the predictable song lyric but it was inevitable…