Why Britain Burns

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This documentary looks into the killing of civilians by the police force in Tottenham, England, and the public protests to get to justice.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: This is a film about memory. I cannot remember a time when I have not beentravelling. In 1973 this was the image that dominated me. It towered over thecouncil estate that we lived on and it represented the brutality of our lives. Mymother worked as a waitress and my father in the production line at Fords inDagenham. 40 years late people are wondering why Britain burns. Just lookat the working class and you will find your answers.Films make us feel we can travel in time. It’s the 26th of October 2013 inCentral London and the families of those who have died at the hands of thepolice deliver a letter to the prime minister to demand justice for their lovedones. It is the 15th year they have done this. They will not give up. Some ofthese deaths led to uprisings. Others did not. Yet, they are all part of acollective memory. All part of not forgetting.

SOUNDBITE [English], Carole Duggan, Aunt of Mark Duggan: “That was the worst the worst day ever of my life and the most difficult because I got a phone call from Simone and I couldn’t make heads or tails of this phone call, because all I could hear was a screaming. Eventually, I managed to get the words to say Marcus’s dead. And I’m not, I don’t know if still don’t know what I ‘m saying who is saying Mark is dead; who is saying Mark is dead? She said everybody. But, I’m not gonna believe until I see his body. So I am just asking where is Marlon. She said he is with me. So I said put him on the phone. And then all I could here was Marlon screaming, screaming, screaming, so I kind of got it that this is real.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Reporter: “Very latest from the Metropolitan Police says that they have riots trained officers coming under sustained attack from bottles and other objects.”

Narration: One blow too far one slap too many, one trigger pulled, the lid explodes. Running on embers of the night the youth now feel a sense of freedom. They had their say. They took the streets, withdrew consent and beat the officers back. The look of pride is not misplaced what separates a spark from revolution is just the place. When ghettos burn in vain, contained to where poor people live the steams let off until it burns. Again. Short was the feast for a few nights the youth went wild. The reason for this madness no hope, no jobs, the cops or just revolt again the beast. Hold up just now and spare some thought. If it would be the same if the corridors of power next time could feel the flames, pure foolishness to burn our streets. So next time just take pity. It’s not too far down the A10 to march and burn the city.

SOUNDBITE [English], Myrna Simpson, Mother of Joy Gardner: “The people were angry because they had just killed Duggan.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “Local people come to the police station and protest and the police decide you know they didn’t even have the, you know the respect that a young man has died. You know to come out and address and talk to the people. But what was their reaction? The reaction again was to attack a young black woman.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Graeme Burke, Son of Joy Gardner: “It started off as a peaceful protest to obviously get some answers which weren’t being put forward to the people so then, a girl was pushed and obviously that was the night that we were not having it. From there that’s when it sparked and then obviously everything else came as a result like a domino effect in a sense from the death to the protesting peacefully to the girl getting pushed, just out and out, just going all out and rioting.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Colin Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service: “I was hugely taken aback by the speed the escalation and the levels of disordered that we saw, coming from a localized incident in the Tottenha area and then spreading through the Sunday and the Monday night.”

Narration: During the times of the civil unrest the primary role of the police is to maintain the conditions that led to the reasons of the social unrest. Where civil unrest is borne out of the contradiction between workers and the owners of the means of production without exception and with whatever force is deemed necessary the police will defend the interest of the ruling classes. They will never be scenes of riot police charging in to the ranks of the ruling classes.

SOUNDBITE [English], “Big V”, Eyewitness: “Police things that are go on with the police even it might be something small like a little police brutality and them things there. These things happen they do in this day and age they happen. When I am in Wood Green police would drive pass me in a van in a wave of a purple bandana at me, because they know the colour for Wood Green is green. They do these things you know, these things are real. They happen in every single day. Every single day. They all pick on you. And they do it and they push and they push. And then when the numbers were there, that was the opportunity. That ‘s what everybody saw sitting at home, because I was sitting at home and that’s the first thing I see when I turned on the news even though I knew about it through my phone the first thing I see was the numbers.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Colin Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service: “I think it is clear we did not mobilise quickly enough. Our intelligence processes to identify that there was a mobilization of those who wish to engage in disorder by way of networking and other social media we weren’t, we didn’t get that bit right. Without a shadow of a doubt. Well documented. Well published.”

SOUNDBITE [English], “Big V”, Eyewitness: “16 thousand police officer were out on London the other day. You don’t think there is people that can call 200 thousands man who will come out of their yard in ten minutes”

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “I think there’s nothing wrong with getting to a point, in which that when our community is being targeted and harassed we’re able to develop a system of getting people out to show to the to the police that you know what? We’re not putting up with this kind of harassment, we’re not putting up with this kind of brutality, and just by being there very often is enough to get people to back off, we don’t have to go and necessarily be violent or anything with people, what we’re simply saying is that you know, we are not going to accept this brutality, we’re not going to accept this harassment, and the only way in which that they’re gonna recognize that and respect that, is when you’re there as a force.”

Narration: And so, the foot soldiers exhausted stand down, a wasteland, unclouded by the mist of their emotions, revealed, amongst the burning debris and residues of poverty, they shake their heads, so far removed from the pleasant suburbs where their wives and 2.5 children wait. Average, average, average, they do not have the vision, how can they understand explosions against brutal life, what do they care of daily struggle of day to day existence, how can they know of those who sleep full of despair, how can they know of those who wake in anger. The looting of the toilet rolls is not a sign of madness, the cops tell tales of looting of the trainers, 50 inch TVs, and do not mention the desperate youth with Poundland trophies, stuffed right in their pockets, and yet it is a blow against the wicked system, that makes us all the slaves of money. The officers stare at the burning one pound shops, the plastic cups, the pens that leak, the trinkets and the useless tools, more evidence of poverty. To steal a drink of water, a bite to eat, is proof that we are down, is proof that while the few consume and have their fill, these officers will oversee the many left enslaved to pay the bills.

SOUNDBITE [English], Colin Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service: “30 odd thousand people within a population of - what’s London? 7 and a half million, 8 million, more in a weekday where people come in and work. I would imagine. We need, we, we are never gonna be able to control London, this is not the type of policing you see in so many other cities throughout the world where there is a dominance of the people. We require consent.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “The issue of the police is is such a critical one, because once- it doesn’t take much in our community for people to respond, and if anybody have said to me well you know why, you know, why did they respond to Mark Duggan in this particular way, my answer that, why didn’t they a- why have they responded even more frequently?”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [English], Stafford Scott: “I’d like to welcome those of you attended and thank you for coming. There is no good story here today folks. This is Tottenham, 2000 and 11. That’s not to say that we’re a blighted community, but we are a community that unlike this government hasn’t lost its collective memory. Today is the 26th anniversary of the killing of Cynthia Jarrett. The Jarrett family is here to my left; also beside me is Myrna Simpson, the mother of Joy Gardner, who was also killed in Harringay. To my right, is Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester, the parents of Roger Sylvester, who was also killed in Harringay. Beside them, is Sean Hall, the brother of Mark Duggan, who was also killed in Harringay. When you take these photographs today, I want you to stop and think, where have you ever taken such a similar photograph? Where in England, has the media ever been gathered together and asked to look at 4 families who living within a 3 mile radius of each other. 4 families, who are part of what used to be a strong community here in Tottenham, 4 families who have all lost loved ones in the hands of the metropolitan police service. Joy Gardner, Myrna’s daughter, was accused of being an over stayer, she will now tell you what her punishment for overstaying in this wonderful, democratic country.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Myrna Simpson, Mother of Joy Gardner: “5 police officers and an immigration officer broke in her flat, and killed her. Joy was murdered, in her home by putting 13 feet of tape around her head and putting shackles on her feet and body belts around her stomach, and she couldn’t breathe and she died. and still, there is no justice, there is no justice, but we need justice for our children, for our grandchildren, and for our great grandchildren. Thank you. Yes, I have been going for twenty years fighting for Joy because Joy has got Graeme and Graeme hasn’t got a mother. And I have standing for, for Joy.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Graeme Burke, Son of Joy Gardner: “From the government’s point of view, no one from their side has actually gone out of their way to even find out how well I’m doing and what I’m at might be interested in, and how to make my life better or how to improve my life in any former way. There's been no justice in terms of, uh, the police, uh, being prosecuted, going to jail, or anything, um, along them lines and um there’s just been no moral support period like nothing. So like I said, I’ve had to deal with that so I’ve had to come all the way by myself, and bear this cross and still keep it going so like as far as I’m concerned, like, they done nothing, I don’t see them doing nothing now.”

Narration: At that violent hour, the media did no speak of stopping search of school children forced against the wall, humiliated for doing nothing at all. They do not speak about the crew less blows that fall on people in the dead of night, when officers decide to show their might. At that violent hour, we do not see the pictures of spilt blood or hear the burning rage that generations pass from skin to skin and then from age to age. We know the name of that slain officer who's death has cursed a generation but who can name the sisters and the brothers who died so long before their time but who can name the sisters and the brothers who died as victims of police crime. The media practices amnesia, select the pictures, then concoct the spell. The narratives dictated by the government and it’s a story that the television tells. At this violent hour, they do not speak with words of reason. They fan the flames and play the tune of state. This media would fill our heads with panic. This media would fill our hearts with hate.

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [English], “Big V”, Eyewitness: “Buildings, they're buildings. They’re just for shells. Same as same way everybody is stealing clothes. They’re just shells, yeah? It’s not about how it’s gonna get rebuilt or what it’s gonna look like when it’s rebuilt. It’s about things changing. They have to change first; if they don’t change then there is no rebuild.

SOUNDBITE [English], Colin Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service: “My involvement with the riot with the disorder was clearly with in the Monday night in Hackney. And what I saw on that night was opportunism, criminality, but link with opportunism. I struggled with what I saw, I struggled to link it to any form of rebellion against the police if you like.”

SOUNDBITE [English], “Big V”, Eyewitness: “The same thing that they doing in the news, trying to cover the killing with the looting is the same thing that they do in real life, they cover the backwards ways with, uh, big buildings; this, this, this. They keep covering and you get a stack back what’s happening through the riots is their stack in pulling back. And what they don't realize is if it pulls back to the last extent and everybody can see it for what it really is, which is a backwards world then that’s when it will kick off.”

Narration: The existence of the ghetto is at once the statement of the exposure of the lie of the impartiality of the state as the benign power at the service of society. The ruling classes are concerned only with the comfort of their own lives and if the ghetto burns, then it burns. But won’t be tied a disorder where the hoards of the ghetto try to approach the avenues of the elite.

SOUNDBITE [English], Carole Duggan, Aunt of Mark Duggan: “Just like the 80’s, Cameron’s come to finish off Thatcher’s job. So if you remember Thatcher created the misery in the 80’s by ripping people’s livelihoods away from them; the jobs, the miners, etc. You know, Cameron is no different. He’s come to do the same thing; i.e. cutting benefits, cutting student’s grant. So now you can’t afford to go to college, you cannot afford to go to university. You got a lot of intelligent, articulate youngsters out there. You know that, if you give them the chance they will thrive but they’re not even given a chance. They’re stuck on some council estate that’s like not fit for, for anybody to live in. But they’re expected to live there and that is all that they’ve got.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “This is not just a crisis between the police and the black community. This is a crisis of democracy in terms of how we a society are gonna be govern and we’re gonna be govern by just these elites and these lawless police or is gonna be govern by the people. And I think with that understanding we can build up a base of resistance.”

SOUNDBITE [English], “Big V”, Eyewitness: “Right now what’s going on, the movement that’s going on. It’s we’re trying- When it stops, it will stop only because the majority think the views got across. Then the politics will get into – politics will not stop this.”

Narration: These failing politicians have now lost the plot. They wallow in their dirty lakes of secret deals. Corruption stains the walls that seep with blood. Each sneer confirms their hatred of the working class. Whilst fires burn they’re quick to jump on TV to blame the youth. They give a hand to judges who send down men for years for stealing bread, destroying families in their wake. They want to crush the feral scum and throw away the key. These politicians won’t curse the multi-million corporations who rob us blind. They act as whores to capital and mock the victims of their greed. The pensioners who freeze to death, that can’t afford the fuel. The suicides, killed by their bills when profit is the rule. Instead, they take us all to war despite our protest, despite our pleas to not drop bombs on children and their mothers. They claim their brutal interventions are for the good of man, upholding human rights with phosphorous as only white men can. How strange that when the fires burn so close to home, they’re quick to scream contempt at what’s unleashed. To those the politicians did betray, it’s time for us to move and seize the day.

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “How, this government can come up with this hypocrisy, to talk about Syria, to talk about all of these so-called oppressive regimes around the world. Well we’ve got to get to a point in which that our international brothers and sisters and comrades are able to rise up and show and demonstrate that this government here has got no right to lecture the world about human rights when you see how its treating its own citizens here.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

Narration: A riot by its very definition is not an individual act but a public one – a violent act of social disorder. The fact that the riot is a collective statement does not mean that it’s the harbinger of social justice. Quite often the exact opposite as the state uses these moments to institutionalize cohesion even more.

SOUNDBITE [English], Colin Morgan, Metropolitan Police Service: “I think looking at learning the lessons from 2011 going forward, um, one thing that we really must do is-is-eh-is monitor the sentiment and the intelligence coming out of social networking. Social networking wasn’t here in 1985, 1981. There was no such thing; I don’t think there was even 24-hour news channels up on those particular occasions. So, in this digital age, the message communicates quickly, um, and as a result of that, the police must stay ahead of that. So if there is a, um, significant critical incident in London where people are concerned, where people are aggrieved, possibly with the police, with the government, with the community, whatever it happens to be, we must stay ahead of that, use our intelligence and be prepared to mobilize sufficient resources so that we do and are able to nip situations in the bud if they arise.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Carole Duggan, Aunt of Mark Duggan: “Mark’s brother’s sister’s are all grieving. So much so, that they still can’t come to terms with it. I found a strength from somewhere and I don’t know where. This is where Mark’s life ended, and he must’ve been in fear, in fear those last few minutes of his life. The only consolation we have is that he most probably died within 4 seconds of being stopped. And we just hope and pray that he didn’t realize what was happening to him at that time. I feel I have got to do this, because if I didn’t, Mark would just be forgotten; swept under the carpet, his death, like so many hundreds of others. In a sense we’re lucky that we got legal aid, we’re lucky that we got the recognition that we did, we’re lucky to keep Mark’s name alive. Hundreds of people haven’t had that. They’ve had to carry on their lives with the deaths of their loved ones just swept under the carpet and forgotten. I don’t want Mark to ever be forgotten.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Minkah Adofo, United Familes & Friends Campaign: “Britain burn as a result of injustice. Injustice caused the fires, and it’s only justice which is going to quell it. So even though we may have a temporary respite, as long as the issue of justice is not being addressed, then you can expect to see more fires.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Myrna Simpson, Mother of Joy Gardner: “Well I think it’s one law for the police, and another law for ordinary people. With Joy, it would’ve rioted if I didn’t ask them not to riot. Because I wanted everything to be peaceful, and I thought that I would have gotten justice for Joy, but it wasn’t to be. That’s why I’m still fighting.”


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