The riots broke out in Tottenham, north London, on August 6, 2011 following the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man at the hands of the Metropolitan police on August 4. The unrest then spread to other parts of the capital and other English cities. Deep-seated anger and frustration towards the police, poverty, unemployment, greed, inequality, racial tensions and UK foreign policy are among the key driving forces mentioned by the political pundits and activists behind why thousands took to the streets. Today Britain is in the grip of a deep crisis with trust in government and politicians at an all-time low. In such a political atmosphere, failure of the authorities to respond to social and economic grievances could spark a new wave of inner-city riots.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “Whatever resources the police need, they will get, whatever tactics they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so. We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on our streets.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “I was so proud to see young people out there, especially the ones who were chasing the police. I felt that sense of power that they felt. These are young people who have been disempowered since birth. They have never felt, they have never experienced power may be either. Now you might be experiencing power as a young person if you are excited as you appear, it’s not the same thing. You know what I mean. Fighting against each other is not power, say to these people stop fighting each other, you do know who the enemy is, as we have seen in the riots, and use this opportunity or use the riots of 2011 as an opportunity to get together and organise and challenge a system in more constructive ways.”
Still on Screen: Police attack a 16 year old girl outside Tottenham Police Station.
Mark Duggan was killed by police days earlier.
Many believe these two events to have sparked a response from local residents which in turn spread and transformed around the country.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “As the person who led the demonstration to Tottenham police station on 6th of August, I can say what I saw there I can’t talk about what happened there and I certainly would not even try to say why they rioted what I saw there was about the way that the family have been treated, the Duggan family, the appearance of Mark Duggan and that the police showed them no respect what so ever.
After killing their son, slaying their son on the street in Tottenham in broad daylight, After sending some family members who had turned up to the scene after sending them on a wild goose chase, after chasing a helicopter. They said see the helicopter your brother is in there the followed the helicopter to the hospital. It was the police officer who they had shot in his radio who got to the hospital. I mean imagine dealing with such people when their loved one is lying on the ground there dead and they are not going to tell the family what happened. That’s why we went to the police station that day.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “What aggravated everyone is the fact that they covered it up everything, and when the truth got revealed they still tried to cover it up. They thought we were idiots, basically.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “What happened to the taxi driver?!”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Good point, good point!”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “Also the fact that the IPCC had put out this information that there had been a shootout. The community were clear; everyone over here knew Mark and loved him. We knew he wasn’t mad enough or bad enough to come out of a car allegedly with a gun with one bullet in it to shoot thirty armed police officers, so that’s why we went to the police station. The eruption came because even when we went to the police station on a peaceful demonstration with lots of women and children, even when we went there the police disrespected us, didn’t treat us so with dignity that we should have been treated. And certainly did not give us any answers and that’s what lie behind that was economic and social.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “The main cause behind the riots, there are too many, but I would summarise it: general widespread anger towards the police, as we saw that on some of the YouTube videos the pleasure that some of these young people got when the tables were turned, when it was their turn to chase police as it turns the other way. And definitely frustration over what is happening economically and the lack of opportunities for these young people and I think the general disrespect, although It was not only young people who involved in the riot, but there were large numbers of young people. Just the general disrespect that they experience from wider society, from law-makers, politicians, the police and a lot of the time from their parents, their own parents, the older generations.”
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “People are angry with the police because the police are the ones who are harassing them on a daily basis.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “The police, everyone in their cars stare at you like you are some criminal.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “In a day I would be stopped about three times.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Many times I have got involved to say what has happened in an incident, that person wasn’t do anything, the police try and arrest me, put me in handcuffs just because I didn’t want to give my name, the police tried to head butt me saying I am in a gang, But I say to them that I have my college books in a bag! Come on, I’m a student.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Harassment, intimidation, humiliation from when you are a little kid. I have seen it to old men and to little kids. And it’s something that people who are from poor areas, they don’t understand or even believe you that you saw a boy choked up against the wall by the police, being terrorized by the police and being humiliated by the police.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “How do you feel about being searched about knocking on a door?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “I feel like an animal. This is like a legit gang.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “How often do you get stop and searched?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Everyday, everyday!”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Just for the record, it’s been noted that I refused a search, which I didn’t. If I refused the search I was not speaking to you by now.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Have you been searched?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “We are o the way to the job centre, trying to get jobs. And look, we come out of the job centre, and get harassed.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Can I ask you straight up, do you have anything illegal on you?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “No, we have just been searched, and have nothing.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “And how often does that happen?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “All the time! They must feel really silly sometimes and say: sorry for wasting your time.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Can I ask a controversial question? Do you think you get searched more than white people the same age?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Well, yeah.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “It’s not the first time they have stopped us for absolutely nothing.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Failure to differentiate between statute and law is gross negligence.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Policeman: “Go take it up with your MP.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “I don’t need to take it up with my MP.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “They are trying to make a quick exit and refuse to give their numbers. Good luck, you are going to need it, the next week is going to be crazy like V for Vendetta.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young Woman: “Feel like we’re being treated like big time criminals. Every time you get stopped and searched, it imprints in you that even more that that’s what you are supposed to be.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Merlin Emmanuel, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture: “A lot of different dynamics that have gone into the riots, but I do feel it is lack of opportunities of hope and really many youth people not seeing much hope in it. As you know, when we were growing up we had things like playgrounds and all kinds of positive initiatives to keep one busy Now we have done is just left the youth to grow, and given them very little to do and aspire to do. And of course many of the grants that would fund these activities have now been descended.”
Still on Screen: 27% of children in the UK live in poverty. In some parts of London this figure rises to 37%
2/3 of these children are in households where at least 1 member works. Furthermore, 2.6 million people are unemployed.
13 million people were living in poverty in the UK in the year 2000. By 2010 this figure rose to 13.5 million.
In 1981, around 1.5 million households claimed Housing Benefit compared to today’s figure of nearly 5 million.
Homeless amongst non-white households rose by 77% between 1997 and March 2004.
46% of black African and 53% of Bangladeshi households live in overcrowded housing.
UK Police use stop and search powers on black people 28 times more than on white people.
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “Six young black men die in police custody within a year, I think it was seven after a week of the riots without any repercussions. You had cuts in funding of youth provisions, you have a feeling amongst the youth that there is no place in the society anymore, there is no future, there is no housing, and no jobs, there is no education. You have a very combustible demographic within a society that feel they are under attack. The key question I think is not whether why it happened but why it did not happen for so long.”
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “My name is Ken Fero, I am a director, and with Tariq Mehmood and a collective of people we made a film called Injustice which is about the struggles for justice by people loved ones who have been killed, died in police custody we could easily say murdered .”
SOUNDBITE [English] Brenda Weinberg, Sister of Brain Douglas: “We should not have to beg and demand to be heard, we will not be forgotten. They kill our loved ones, it takes us long enough to be able to bury them and they want us to put them to rest and go away. I am here today to tell you that we will never ever go away, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years my brother and others out there are going to be no less dead, and we are the family that survive never ever going to go away.
To date there is no police officer that has been brought to justice for a death in custody. If an incident happens they are safe and secure in knowledge that they are not get suspend, they will not lose any pay there is no disciplinary action and they have a license to kill and walk.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “I think the death of Mark Duggan was a spark, but there have been lots of deaths so there could be lots of sparks. Why it happened at that time we don’t know. It could happen any time there is a constant oppression, there is a constant brutality on people and there is a constant resistance as well and it’s just at times that resistance explodes. No one can put their finger on what caused it, we can look at the primary causes in terms of Mark Duggan and the general situation in the area and in other areas. But I think it could happen again and it will happen again.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Merlin Emmanuel, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture: “Of course the youths do know about these things, they do watch and they do observe. They have also known that Uncle Frank has been marching and so has his Granddad has been for many years and nothing has coming of it. So they don’t see standard protests as their means.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “I think also that another reason why the looting and rioting went so widespread was because the police didn’t actually engage with young people. I don’t know but in top of them I just see police stand back. I saw that police adopt a policy that’s just lead them to it. I have never seen anything like that in my entire life.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “By the time I got there, the car was just starting to burn and it was right in the middle of the high road. I don’t know how it got there and why it had been left there. And as it was burning there was a second car that it’s window smacked people pushed out into the middle of the road and then set fire to it. It took at least fifteen minutes to push it into the road and it finally catching light.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “There were two police cars burning and still the police were doing nothing. I said to my son at the time, why didn’t the police just drive their cars away, why did they just abandon them open I the middle of the road?
The fire station again is just under the bridge under there about a hundred yards up the road. They could have almost run a hose from there and put the fire out. I really don’t understand why that didn’t happen.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “When I came out at half past ten. The fires were raging. There was no looters or rioters, only people with cameras taking photographs. There were several fire engines, and so was the fire, but the police did not let them through to put out the fires.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “They could have easily come out. There were a few people who were walking around If the fire engine had come out they would have made way for it.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “For me it was a let it burn policy. Whether to show they needed more police or because it’s Tottenham; But the thing they did not bank on was that the fire to reach out. They didn’t expect them to be all throughout the country.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “I got backed to Tottenham around twelve o’clock. The first thing I saw was that a lot of people out there which you don’t expect see, there were just people in general lots of Turkish boys and there were lots of Somalis, Jamaican, Africans, white guys, Irish guys, polish. It was like the whole of Tottenham was out. I see Grandmas, I see Granddads, little kids, it was like being party like a carnival atmosphere. It was a bit strange.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “Atmosphere was crazy. Like a football match, you know, everyone cheering and chanting, no justice no peace, rest in peace Mark Duggan. The people that were holding off were the people that were there from the start to as if 3 or 4 in the morning. So Tottenham stood up, dropped all their problems with all the people and the neighbours and became as one.”
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “People started to try to break into Williams Hills in the corner, and I think the solicitors next door as well, from what I heard that was the police’s solicitors.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Youth (no name): “From what I saw I couldn’t account for everyone every shop broken into it and the reasons behind it , but definitely I saw a lot of people saying no, don’t smash that shop smash this one. And people actually say no you are going to break into that one. If you want to smash a shop smash that one.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Tottenham resident: “Yeah, Obviously there was looting, but I saw a woman with a big pack of toilet roll, you know, she was really happy she got this toilet roll. You know, this is a poor area. A lot of the smaller shops here weren’t touched.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Robin G Double, Writer: “When the first riots broke out in Tottenham, the media coverage for the first few days were just showing people looting shops and it looked easier it was way too easy people were just walking in and out sport shops carrying loads and loads of bags. Everyone seeing images and to me the media I don’t know why they kept showing it over and over again because it sent out the message that you can do this; the police, they have lost control, they are not going to stop this so
Feel free to smash a window and help yourself with things and that is what really made it worse and media just kept replaying the same images and just made people think well let’s give it a shot so a lot of people who were at the riots did not know why they were here. A lot of people went there to see what would happen. A lot of people, you know, if they see an open shop in front of them, they might be tempted to walk in.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “The police created an environment by the way they dealt with the family and they responded to the protestors, by the way they just left the high road for it to be ransacked the way it was. They are the ones who created the opportunity. So for people to come now and say it was all about materialism is again for people to try and undermine and not accept what we are saying about the economical and social factors that made these young people feel compelled to act the way they did.”
Still on Screen: Mark Duggan’s murder and issues on policing were quickly dismisses in relation to the riots. The term” feral” was frequently used by media outlets reporting on the riots while the British government responded to the unrest with strong condemnation.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “Let me first of all, completely condemn the scenes that we have seen on our TV screens and people have witnessed in their communities. These are sickening scenes of, scenes of people looting, vandalizing, robbing, scenes of people attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they are trying to put out fires. This is criminality pure and simple and it has to be confronted and defeated.”
Still on Screen: Newspapers and websites published hundreds of photos to help with the mass arrests that took place. Within 2 weeks, 1,875 people were arrested in London.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “Picture by picture these criminals are being identified and arrested and we will not let any phony concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and the arrest of these individuals. This continued violence is simply not acceptable and will be stopped. We will not put up with this in our country. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets. Because this is Britain, this is a great country of good people, Those thugs we saw last week don’t represent us and they don’t represent the young people in our country either and they will not drag us down.”
Still on Screen: 8 out of the 13 youth centres in the borough where Mark Duggan was killed, closed down in the 8 months leading up to the riots.
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “Let’s be clear, these riots were not about race, the perpetrators and the victims were white, Black and Asian. These riots were not about government cuts, they were directed at high street stores not at Parliament. And these riots were not about poverty, that would insult that millions of people that whatever the hardship would never dream about making others suffer like this. No, this was about behaviour, people showing indifference to right and wrong, people with a twisted moral code, people with a complete absence of self restraint.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “We talk to people because we actually work with young people in this area. We’re sitting in Tottenham now so it’s just down the round where the uprising started and we asked them what this is about. Some of them said well for our whole lives we are shown lots of pictures on TV about phones and shoes, and get this and get this and get this so we took it. That’s why some of them did it because they were told this is your dream, live your dream. They can’t get a job, they can’t get money so they took it in the same way that MPs took televisions on their expenses in the House of Commons.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “People who say the riots were just about materialism as though things are in a vacuum. That’s one aspect of it, but don’t forget about the frustration. And what we also got to remember is that it wasn’t just young people, I think a 71 year old man was arrested for trying to steal a TV or a pair of pants or whatever it was. I think this is where the danger comes in when people try and say it was only about the youth’s being into materialism. Most of us who live in the Western world we embrace some form of materialism; you tell me how do we escape from it. So to act like it’s something that just impacts young people is dangerous and disingenuous, it’s another tactic by the government to deflect, it’s a distraction. Because if we start thinking other youths are materialistic and that’s what our major problem is and we don’t look at the underlying cause, how many redundancies announced today? How many youths are unemployed now, a million they say, therefore it’s probably a million and a half because we know they like to make statistics up. I think when people try to use materialism and that only young people suffer from, that’s a problem.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “Anyone who watches those videos and sees the plasma screens going down the street, there is this, but is it a problem of the youth that has this materialism or is it everyone in society. Key difference between the rest of society and the youth is that the youth cannot afford it, so will take.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Merlin Emmanuel, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture: “We have to rebuke the forces that feed this to our youth, the media and the sustained toxic information and data that we feed our youth day to day which is basically get what you can when you can. Our government and their national policies in the society echo this, corporate companies echo this and the youths are just watching society and doing exactly what we do. They have been taught this. Children were not born with flat screen TVs, bling-bling or Nike trainers. These things are taught to them and such we must take responsibility as a society for the condition of our youth.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “I think it’s very rich to criticize the youth for consumerism when the virtual world of the internet where any search they make for any product they desire will follow them around constantly like an invisible salesman stalking them telling them buy this, you want this, buy this buy this. If you don’t have the means to buy, what are you going to do? You’re constantly followed by your desires without being able to attain your desires you will take them when the moment is offered to you. And that’s not an abstract point that’s an accepted point within the whole system of western thought, rational self-interest. Take it back to Plato who said that you could be invisible you would take anything you can. Young people are not acting on anything different to any other person in this society, they just have no ability to attain what they desire, they are constantly being followed by their desires. In that situation, it’s inevitable.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Merlin Emmanuel, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture: “The similarities I think between the previous riots in Brixton and the recent riots that stem from Tottenham I think was mainly that the people of Brixton people felt very much aggrieved, whereas this was a nation-wide response to quite a few different frustrations. The youth actually spoke out and expressed their frustration, their disillusionment with the system, with the government, with lack of funding opportunity and progress. Whereas, I think, the previous riots in Brixton were slightly more localised to stop and search and race relations, So I just think it was a little more expansive this more recent riot.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “The main difference I would say is the wide range of people that were involved in the riots. I think You had a much wider age range in the riots, not just the riots, the riots and the looting; you have to include them together. And according to the media footage and according to a lot of the reports, a lot more female involvement I think that is one of the differences.”
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “In 1985 when we thought at the time was the last of the riots of 80s across mainland Britain. Broadwater Farm where we are today is the locations where those, we didn’t call them riots we called them disturbances, a community self defence actually took place here on this estate. The first time in any of those disturbances rebellions, uprisings or riots a police officer was actually killed. So the disturbances that took place here on October 6th 1985 was as a direct result of the police raid that took place on the home of Cynthia Jarrett. It was a bogus raid where they went to without a warrant, pushed her over, didn’t call for emergency assistance and basically left her there to die. The community was rightfully angry as a result we demonstrated outside the police station. But because of the way the police treated us there, which again had some similarities with what happened in August 2011 we came back here to have a public meeting to decide what to do. And as we were leaving that public meeting the police tried to block us on the estate, didn’t want us to go out and protest. Really they underestimated the anger the community was feeling, and as a result the response was not dissimilar to August 2011, but in some senses it was, on Broadwater Farm there was no looting, on Broadwater Farm there was no random burning of businesses and homes. On Broadwater Farm the anger, the attack was carried out wholly and totally on the police.”
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “For me there was a stark difference and that was during the 1980s the youth were more organized with regards to why they went out on the streets. Yes there were catalysts like Cherry Grove or whatever, but when the youths got out on the streets they were more organized. Now they were many reasons for that, one is that they were already coming together en masse under pressure anyway in youth clubs and youth centres, they kind of knew already what the actual political situation was for them, not just racially and culturally but also politically. There was a lot of mobilization, so when it did kick off they knew what they were doing and were more organized.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “So back in those days we had political leadership, we had a civil rights movement, and we had this notion that Black was beautiful not the negativity that young people grow up with these days which I think is partly the reason to blame for the way they can kill someone who looks like them so easily, and seem to prefer to kill people that look like them. Unlike us in our days we preferred to fight people who didn’t look like us, people who were white but happened to be racist, they were the people that we took the war to. So there’s that real difference. I grew up reading Soul on Ice, I grew up with Eldrige Cleaver, Huey Newton and the Black Panther Movement and learned about those things. When I went out to a dancehall, I didn’t listen to 50 flipping cents talking crap in my head, I listened to Bob Marley and Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs and all the Black youth all over were listening to the same kind of conscious music, people say you are what you eat, so we were taking in conscious things that told us yeah that brother there might be pissing you off but you know what, someone is pissing him off and underneath it all is the system. So we knew even if we didn’t love each other we were brothers. And worse even better, because we had an obvious enemy in the National Front and the BNP so we knew we needed each other so there was no point with us warring with each other and killing each other.”
Still on Screen: With fewer services available, the ones that remain inevitably face increased pressure and limited resources.
SOUNDBITE [English] Davis Williams, Undiluted Expressions: “So today we are about to start Undiluted Expressions which is part of Under construction, it’s a forum and platform for young people to express themselves and to give feedback based on things that they find challenging in the world. Today in particular we will be addressing two key themes. Number one is going to be the riots; we are going to be revisiting that. And also looking at the legal system, the system that young people are embedded in, and empowering them with more understanding so hopefully they can navigate better the environment that they find confusing, contradictory and challenging. As you can see they enjoy it, they are here on their own free will; it’s a cold day they could be at home chilling out. They come on a weekly basis so it’s definitely something that they enjoy and I enjoy as well.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “The main thing is, I don’t know, the government eyes right now they probably see the youth as public enemy number one and don’t understand that we are the future. I am part of an organization called Influencing Positive Movements. All I’m saying Every time I’m going around with this camera I am getting stopped. I am trying to do something good here. I got funding for this camera, people are stopping me saying you probably stole this camera. I have had enough, they are taking the piss out of us, they are not allowing us to express ourselves.”
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “On the one hand if you oppress people for long enough they will rebel. Just like young people think that they rebel against their parents when they are told you have to be in at 9 o clock and they want to be home at 11. It’s natural.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “We are not going to take it no more. Because the working class have been demonized the youths have been demonized. I’m an ex youth worker, the funding got taken away. This is when 15yr olds were shot in their bed in Peckham and I’m working with their friends. Something needs to be done and when they raised up and did it if I didn’t have childcare issues I would have been out there with them.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “It’s not up to me to tell them what they should be doing and how they should feel. And for me apart from Mark Duggan and the incident that happened in Birmingham I don’t know anyone that was killed or hurt, it was just about property being damaged and those things can be replaced.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “The frustration, how we feel deep down inside. Some youths don’t know how to articulate themselves; you know what I’m saying. People are scared to speak. To be honest, I’m not very good at speaking myself but I try and get it out, even if I have to swear, I still get it out. Deep down inside I’m pissed off, inn it. I’m actually fully pissed off, because no one knows what we’re going through.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “I don’t think enough of the older generation actually say no, you can’t do that. If I see a 12 year old getting stopped by the police, I probably know his parents I know what block of flats he lives in, I’ll be taking him home. The police hate it when they see me, just… No, I’m not moving on. I want to see how you treat them because an adult has to be present, but yet you’re not willing to tell them that, you’re not telling them their rights, and they need to know their rights. They’re taking funding away from youths when they are 15, they don’t want the youths to basically have a voice. They should have a voice. There’s a lot of pent up aggression that I even feel, so I can totally understand why they basically happened. Because it was about having a voice, it was about going out there and saying look.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Young participant: “There’s a saying that says children should be seen and not heard, so... me trying to get my voice out needs strength in numbers. There’s youths today that are just doing their own thing in what I call is stupid. They see now, they don’t see into the future, and if you don’t see into future then so what kind of future do we have?”
Still on Screen: A substantial section of chavs have become black, the whites have become black, a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together. This language, which is wholly false, which is a Jamaican patois, that has been intruded in England. And this is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.” Davis Starkey, British constitutional historian
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “The whites have turned Black’. It’s interesting David Starkey’s comment. We can see that young people in Britain adopt aspects of; can you call it Black culture? Aspects of certain Black culture because there is no one Black culture. But that’s historic, that’s been going on for a long time, that’s nothing new. So to say that the riots has anything to do with that, I don’t think rioting has ever had anything to do with that but there is some truth in the idea that young white people have adopted aspects of certain Black culture. That’s not an issue and I think that’s a good thing actually.”
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “In his framework of whiteness, this is what it’s about, white supremacist thought and action, in his framework to be white you represent a particular culture, and you speak a particular way. Do the majority of white people in this country speak like him? No they don’t. So we could have taken Black out of it and put Cockney there or working class or people from Newcastle or whatever, we could have put them in that framework. Because what he is talking about is people not measuring up to his idea of what a white standard is, for intelligence, for articulation. So it’s not really about black boys. That’s why when they asked him on that program to name something, he couldn’t, because it’s a convenience. That is not really what the argument is. The argument really is a distraction and may be to sell a few books. So therefore there’s a lot more going on that this Black and white, and Black influencing whites. I tell you what it is for me; it’s simply middle class people are taught everyone should defer to them. Maybe the problem is that white youths speaking Black youths are becoming more rebellious, but I think that’s what underpins that. It’s just ridiculous; it’s about middle class sensibilities. But definitely middle class, not white sensibilities being referenced.”
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “They’ve lost these young people. They are no longer assimilating to any of the models set up for them. They are a growing underclass and their cultural heroes are definitely not white British middle class, they are not going to be doing elocution lessons anytime soon. They are not aspiring to join the high ranks of society, and if they do want wealth they want to get it through other means, and that’s been fed in many ways by popular culture. I think it’s no surprise to the elite, I think that’s what happening there’s an intentionality to create this underclass within society.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “I think I agree with David Starkey in a sense that there’s a much more shared common sense of resistance against oppression because that’s who I see Black, it’s about state of mind, an attitude and a history. So he’s right in that sense. It’s not how he meant it as I think we can dismiss it as fascism actually. I think the fact that there’s a lot more connection between young people who are Black, Asian, white then there was before in terms of how they live their lives that was reflected as to what we saw on the streets.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “I lived in the north for three years; I studied in York and lived in York. There was a report that during the riots there was a firebomb thrown at the police station in York. I can tell you now that York is not a multicultural area, it is a white area. When the riots left London, throughout the country it was conducted by white youth, even within London there was a plurality of youth you couldn’t say it was a Black thing or any particular colour but when it became national it became predominantly white. In what way can we racially identify this, I don’t think you can. It’s those who have been excluded or those who have been oppressed within this society; those who have been dehumanized by the society.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “Yes there will be further riots until the status quo changes It is not going to change any time soon. We had riots in the 70s we had riots in the 80s we had riots in the UK before Black people came here in sizeable numbers, it’s not a Black issue, it’s a justice issue, it is about injustice about unfairness about inequalities. There will be more riots.”
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “There is a connection between Britain and America; it is not British it is European aggression. doesn’t matter if there is a Black man in charge, who cares. Its Euro aggression, and there is absolutely a link because I have done sessions with young people before the stuff kicked off in the street and they were saying people the same age as me, so we are talking about 17 and 18 year olds, are out there killing people who they don’t even know. There is something in the air something about the culture that we’re involved in that, that makes it right over there but not over here. And now you start interrogating that because they’re saying you know what on the one hand you’re telling us we can’t do this but we can blatantly see what you are doing to people. When do you see what is happening to people from Africa. Remember we have a high concentration of people from various parts of the continent now. Whereas in my generation they were kind of interspersed, in parts of London now they are dominant. Boys from the Congo, from Somalia, those people from war torn areas they are the ones who are telling the young people here the absolute links between what is happening over there and their condition here. Anyone who fobs that off or tries to reduce that is walking a very dangerous road.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “Violence is part of our lives. Not just the brutality that we see in our own communities but we see pictures of British planes troops bombing Iraq bombing Libya and threatening to bomb other countries so we are just carrying on that history and legacy of violence. If there is no way for them to act we should show to them.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “So young people are very aware of what’s going on in the world, they see the hypocrisy and the double standards and what they understand from what they see is that actually we live in a doggy dog world. And it’s almost played out in their own lives. So When you look at what’s happening to them in the streets when you look at what is happening to every day on a day to day basis for young people it’s doggy dog, that’s because that’s what we’ve taught them.”
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “Myself and this brother called Brother Hakeem have done a lot of work with young people, and earlier this year we did a session within a school Canning Town and half way through the session a young man came in about the same height as me, built as me, 15yrs old, when he came in there was this level of respect. All the youths who were there acting like they were bad as soon as he came in they all went quiet. He was a boy soldier I believe from the Congo, nothing can frighten him, people like him we need to get on our side because if they go to the other side what are you going to threaten them with? They have fully grown in that. He’s been warring with people since he was 8 or 9, so the most we can do is try to reason them and say to them there’s another way for you to use your leadership skills or energies. But to try and threaten him with the kind of things they are talking about, that’s not going to work they come from a different world. A lot of those boys are being revered by the ones who are being born here, and I can tell you that straight.”
Still on Screen: Learning from the past and looking ahead...
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights & The Monitoring Group: “It’s simple, if riots happen because it gives a voice to the voiceless as Martin Luther King said, so give young people a voice. Let’s give people in places like this a voice. The local authority in Haringey think that if they turn their back on the community, if they ignore the community that somehow they are going to shrivel up and die. That’s not the case, in places like this they are going to have children and they are going to become more and more. We need to understand how and where we fail them and need to work out what we need to do to inspire them, to be able to raise them and reach their full potential, if we don’t do that the potential is always going be there. These places, these states! I have worked on these estates all over the country, they are not fit for human beings to live in, we’re piling people in this high density and then we are doing nothing to support them. We’re on an estate with over a thousand one hundred dwellings and there’s not even a youth club. How can this be? The schools in the area are also failing young people.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Ken Fero, Director: “Well, I can give you a shopping list. Police stop harassing people, police stop killing people, give young people jobs, rich people pay more taxes, poor people pay less taxes. The list goes on. But in reality, it’s going to happen again. What needs to happen for the riots not to happen again is for people to organise in a much stronger way to make demands on a constant basis and to get what they want, and to get it by any means necessary. Well I think for the people in power to actually admit what is wrong is wrong, that’s the first thing that needs to happen. And for people in power to admit there needs to be more resources would mean they would admit there is oppression and repression at the moment, but they won’t. They want to say what everything is out there take what you want to get, it is up to you we are living in a society where basically you can get what you want to get and you can achieve what you want to. It is ridiculous. It simply can’t happen, it’s a delusion of imperialism it’s a delusion of capitalism and young people aren’t accepting it, and they’re expressing themselves and I hope they continue to express themselves.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Dan Renwick, Youth Worker & Writer: “My message to young people who rioted is basically I know why you did it, we know why you did it and we will champion your cause, my position and the position of my colleagues and friends is to support you in your advocacy of a better future and in the fight against the state for a future for homes for education and a better standard of living. They are ways and means about going about that, not the democratic process, like you I don’t believe that will get us anywhere but going out in the streets in the way we did in August 2011 is not going to change society and it is going to arm the state against you. That conflict in many ways is inevitable but that’s doesn’t have to mean persecution and criminalization, it can mean liberation but that can only come with organization.”
TIME CODE: 45:00_49:02
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Suzella Palmer, Lecturer at Bedfordshire University: “In the bigger picture if you look at the bigger picture confessing that we don’t own up to racism and rooting it out and actually doing something to deal with it would mean doing this on not just a UK basis but on a global basis if we are talking about what is going on in terms of foreign policy and things like that its impact on young people and their involvement in the riots. We are talking about dealing with issues around racism and capitalism as well you know it’s about racism and capitalism on a global level not just the UK level. White society generally isn’t going do that anytime soon, you know, they are not going to just give up. It means giving up power, power has to be taken. The only way that is going to happen is some kind of revolution, some kind of movement from the ground up. People need to wake up and rise up and take matters in hand and deal with it. Not to give governments a little leeway here, let’s putting this anti-racist policy here this legislation here.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Merlin Emmanuel, Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture: “My message to young people is have hope, that there is more to you than the government might show you and your parents might show you, you are special and if you believe in yourself and there is nothing that you can’t be. There is frustration as your circumstances may appear. Where there is life there is hope.”
SOUNDBITE [English] William Lez Henry, Youth Coordinator: “The young people who riot my message to them is: go on and do your thing!
My message to those young people who rioted or supported the riots, I would say to them you really need to take a step back and look at what you’re involved in. What are you engaging in? We’re in the most surveilled society in the world; do you really want to be on the front pages for that? And if you really want to make a critical change, find a way, and I’m not even using ‘education’ as in going to schools that is not what I’m talking about. I am talking about find some community activists who can educate you about the system you are dealing with and how you can circumvent that system. I have been around for long enough to over stand how certain games are played. That’s what young people need to know. Because if they understand why that game is being played, they will understand I don’t really need to be a part of that, being so visible, there are other ways you can do whatever it is you need to do to survive, resist and transcend in this society; this society is anti-human, that’s what it is.”
SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “For too long there has been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these groups of thugs. I am clear that they are in no way representative of the young people in our country who despite them frankly as much as the rest of us do. But there are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick. When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society. For me the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing I have spoken about for years, it is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and their actions do not have consequences, well they do have consequences.”