Riotgate: Dispatch from East London

August 27th, 2011

Published on Dissident Voice, by Felicity Arbuthnot, August 25, 2011.

From afar we have heard the politicians, the social scientists, the psychologists. It is “feral youth”, “black youth”, “low  life scum living off the State” (say the millionaire politicians in charge of the State, living off it courtesy of the tax payer.) The “lazy”, the “feckless”, “people from sink estates”, are responsible – and so it goes on. 

The neighbourhoods from which trouble has erupted are “poor”, “deprived”; those living there are  “unemployed”, “barely-literate” and from “urban wastelands.”

Here in East London, terrible things did happen. Franchises, small businesses, and aspirations went up in flames, or were comprehensively looted then trashed. As across the country, it was first the designer clothes, sports trainers shops, designer spectacle frames, betting and pawn shops raided for the cash, the mobile phone outlets, sports bicycle shops, jewelers, electrical goods outlets, stripped then destroyed. Cars were, largely, not even stolen. They were torched.

Inexplicably, health food outlet Holland and Barret had a tell-tale boarded up window. “What did they take from here?” I asked. “Two large jars of protein tablets and a lot of packets of dried apricots”, said the assistant with a grin.  “Perhaps their energy was flagging.”

Two minutes up the road was an encapsulation of tragedies repeated throughout the country. Shiva Kandiah is the embodiment of what makes this part of London special. He gradually built up his aptly named Convenience Store over eleven years. Open from early till late, locals could pay bills, top up mobiles, send and receive money via Western Union, and buy anything from coffee to London travel tickets, tacos or tequila, newspapers to nut crunch.

His lovingly nurtured little business was a stripped, burned hulk. The varying payment machines lay – melted – in a pile inside the door. He walked towards me, this upright, gracious man, with the same courtesy, standing in the blackened debris, as he would extend  to any customer. The look in his eyes should have been seen by those who did this. The questions vanished. I could only put my hands on his shoulders and gulp: “I am so sorry, so, so sorry.” There was just one thought: “But you must have known some of those who did this?”

“Yes, yes, yes.” The pain, incomprehension, broken trust, was palpable.

In the short time I had been in the shop, a beautifully written letter had been stuck to the outside of the door. One line read:

“You, your shop and the people who hung out there, were the closest thing to a community we had.”

And the same mix of people – all colours and walks of life, were cleaning up the bewildering debris  across  here and across England as were creating it, bringing brooms and brushes from home. Many spontaneously painted boards nailed over broken windows in bright colours, cheerily camouflaging destruction.

The official street cleaners and dumpster drivers also worked overtime, into the nights, returning at dawn.They too, were  of all colour, creed – or none. The police facing the rioters  were of the same mix … //

… On 22 August, Moussa Ibrahim, Libya’s government spokesman, spoke passionately of NATO-backed “liberators burning houses, burning cars, looting shops, stealing their money.”

In England, criminal behaviour is a national tragedy. In Libya and other invaded, ancient lands “stuff”  not only does not matter, it is “good practice”, whether little loved businesses, or national heritage — with Britain’s finest seemingly assisting in enabling it. Again.

And what are they teaching our children? (full long text).

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