This Riot Is The Language Of The Un-learned

This is a picture of what a real riot looks like. Notice the lack of people stealing from Footlocker? The absence of a Carpet Right in flames? Nobody stealing ipads and phones? Right. The above picture was taken during the riots in Brixton in 1981, sparked by what is generally believed to have been a misunderstanding, when people thought police had murdered a young black man. However at the same time, police were implementing the bright idea of Operation Swamp 81 which was meant to tackle the increase in street robberies in Lambeth, but was really an excuse for policemen to unfairly stop and search the youth.

At the time, it was basically a crime to be young and black in Britain. People used to get picked up by the bully van , beat up by the feds and kicked out far from home. If you don’t believe me ask your dads and uncles and anybody else that was a young, black man in the early 80’s. The police were aggressive, they were brutal, they were openly racist and so many messed up things happened, that the community rioted. A couple of years later, Cherry Groce was shot and left paralysed by Police who raided her home in Brixton, and in Tottenham two weeks later, Cynthia Jarrett died of a stroke during a police raid of her home. Both events sparked riots and eventually the Scarman Report was published, which stated what we already knew – the police were treating people differently according to race.

My point here is this; there were reasons behind the rioting in the 80’s, not just in London but in Toxteth, Handsworth, Moss Side and other areas. Even though the riots may have ended, in looting, violence and criminal damage, the people were saying ‘we have had enough, we need to make them take notice’. This past weekend, the youths of London have been saying, ‘we want free trainers’ and ‘man really needs a new laptop’. How many of the ‘rioters’ in Tottenham even cared about wether or not Mark Duggan was murdered by the police? How many of them saw that a teenage girl was set upon by the police? I’m betting not too many. Their actions undermined any statement that was trying to be made, however crudely, and not one person looting the shops in Brixton on Sunday night can even attempt to put one iota of reasoning behind it.

The would-be rioters, who actually just used it as an excuse to steal this weekend, did so out of boredom and greed, causing carnage all over the streets of London for no good reason. It is a disgrace, what had started out as a vigil for a dead man who left behind four young children has turned into youths terrorising their own communities, areas where there are still not enough resources or plans for improvement. Innocent people have lost their homes, their businesses and are too scared to sleep for fear of what will happen. I hope these criminals are all proud of themselves, they have shamed their families, their communtites but most of all themselves – this weekends events has provided ample fuel for the negative stereotypes of young black men that people have been working nearly 3o years to try and erase. Good job everyone.


Monica Rahman