UK gov’t must be accountable for riots
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011
Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011 16:08
The streets of Tottenham, a borough of London, are now littered with debris. Shop windows are bordered up, and the remains of burned buildings and cars can still be found throughout the neighborhood. However, the citizens of Tottenham and the rest of England keep moving forward with efforts to rebuild their cities after the devastating riots that occurred last week.
The unrest came after the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, by police; protesters gathered outside the police station and called for answers and justice. The protest quickly escalated into a riot that would eventually spread across all of the major cities in England.
The riots began as an attempt to get back at the police, but were quickly turned into an attack on the "rich" as the rioters broke into shops, looting everything in sight, according to the BBC. Everything from cars and buses to businesses and homes was burned and destroyed. The police were stretched to their limits; scores of youth were running around the city and looting any shop in sight.
Many people say that Duggan's death was just the tipping point as tensions in the United Kingdom have been rising over cuts to government programs and high levels of unemployment. According to the UK government, unemployment currently lies at 7.7 percent, and the Guardian claims that youth unemployment rate is as high as 20.3 percent.
The UK government needs to take action and take responsibility for these riots. According to the BBC, more than 2,770 people were arrested during the riots for crimes relating to theft and property damages. The Guardian claims that the Conservative government is considering harsh economic penalties on those involved, including plans to evict the families of rioters from council houses and a consultation on halting benefit payments to offenders.
Making further cuts to government programs and ending subsidized housing for low-income families won't solve the problems that created the riots. People involved were there because they felt like they had nothing to lose; they felt abandoned by their government. Yahoo! News interviewed one of the participants, who said, "Nobody is doing nothing for us — not the politicians, not the cops, no one." The reason these children feel this way is because the government is no longer focusing their energy on solving the problems that everyday people face living in low-income areas.
At the same time, the youth in England have to take responsibility, as well. Many of the people involved in the violence used the chaos as an opportunity to get "free" stuff. My cousin Alex, a resident of Tottenham, witnessed the riots firsthand. She recalled a "group of women running past, shouting, ‘Foot Locker, Foot Locker,' all with matching bags — it looked like a hen party (bachelorette party)." She lived in an apartment above a carpet store, which caught fire after someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the shop, engulfing the entire building in flames.
The residents of Tottenham who were appalled by the riots organized an online campaign on Facebook and Twitter to clean up London, which instructed its 101,572 followers to organize and remove the glass and bricks strewn across the streets of the city. Their efforts are only the start. If we really want to see change, we can't just wait for it to happen; we have to start investing in our own communities. If everyone involved in the riots focused their energy on local service projects and grassroots government campaigning, they could make a real difference in their communities.