A building set alight during the rebellion in England against the capitalist econmic crisis and police brutality. Scores of cities have been struck across the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
UK Riot: History repeating itself
Written by Victory Oyeleke
Sunday, 14 August 2011
THE scenes on major cities and streets across the UK from last weekend till middle of the week could have been mistaken for war torn zones like Iran, Afghanistan or Somalia. Lives were lost, people displaced, people were beaten and mugged, businesses that took years to build were destroyed, and historic buildings were burnt down all in the name of what?
Politicians are calling it greed and they are right because breaking into specific shops and looting them is nothing but stealing as it does not benefit the community. However, underneath the mayhem is anger over the death of Mr Mark Duggan and the shabby way his family was treated by the police.
The riot started out as a peaceful protest, beginning at Broadwater Farm and finishing at Tottenham police station due to the lack of information given to the family of Mr Mark Duggan after he was shot dead by the police. Duggan, a father of six, was shot in Ferry Lane, Tottenham, north London, on Thursday, as specialist firearms officers attempted to make a planned arrest. Initially, it was claimed that Mr. Duggan fired a hand gun at an armed policeman, who survived after the bullet hit his radio. As a result, another officer returned fire with a Heckler and Koch MP5 Submachine gun, hitting Duggan twice which killed him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. However, according to the police watchdog, ballistic tests showed "no evidence that the handgun found at the scene was fired". Firearms officers could have discharged their weapons in the belief there was a threat to human life, in accordance with their guidelines which allows them to open fire in such circumstance.
A key witness, the driver of the minicab in which Duggan was travelling, has yet to give his version of the event. He is understood to be in a severe state of shock. According to Forensic officers, it may not be possible to "say for certain" whether the handgun found near Duggan was fired. Further tests on the weapon, which had been converted from a blank-firing pistol to one that shoots live rounds, are being carried out to establish this.
Moments before he was killed, Duggan had sent a message to friends revealing that he had spotted men from Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the black community, following him in a green unmarked Volkswagen van.
In his last message sent from his BlackBerry, Duggan told close friends: “Watch out 4 a green vw van its trident dey jus jammed me.” He also sent his girlfriend Semone Wilson, 29, a message saying: “The Feds are following me.”
Police sources described Duggan as a “well known gangster” also known as tarrish Mark and was said to have been a member of the North London Gang Tottenham Man Dem, which has been linked to Jamaican “yardie” criminals and is responsible for a series of murders. Duggan was placed under surveillance due to fears he would try to avenge his cousin death, Kevin Easton, a rapper known as Smegz who was stabbed to death outside La Boheme nightclub in Mile End, East London in March 2011.
The official police protocol after someone's death is for the family to be informed with all the circumstances surrounding the death disclosed to the family of the deceased. Where necessary, counseling and help is also provided but in this case none was provided. Receiving no information about why or how Mark Duggan died, the family carried out a peaceful protest demanding information and refuting allegations that Mark Duggan was a gangster. Speaking on behalf of the family, Mr. Hall Duggan's elder brother said ““Nobody has come forward and said, 'This is what has taken place.' Whether we believe what they are saying or whether we don't, there should be someone here putting my parents' minds at rest about what is going on.
“And we don't want Mark being portrayed as some kind of gangster. He is a family man. I think it's rubbish. My brother is not that sort of person. He is not stupid enough to shoot at police. That is ridiculous. Speaking after a peaceful protest turned into a full-scale riot at the weekend, Mr. Hall added: “We are not condoning any kind of action like that at all to be taken in my brother's name. Questions were supposed to have been answered. They weren't.
“Therefore there was a domino effect from that, which we don't condone.
“I know people are frustrated. They are angry at the moment but I would say please try and hold it down.
“What is going on is not a reflection of what happened to my brother. It's not something that should be linked.”
“I would say to people please don't make this about my brother's life. My brother was a good man.”
Whether or not Duggan was a gangster or fired the first shot, is secondary to the unprecedented mayhem that followed since the Brixton riots which just like this one had to do with the relationship between blacks and the police.
If Duggan's family were treated shabbily by the police after his death perhaps the riot would have ensued sometime later in the near future but it would have been inevitable as tension between police and the black community increases daily. In the British society of today, blacks are seven times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched. Due to the 1994 criminal Justice and Public Order Act- which allows police to search anyone in a designated area without specific grounds for suspicion, the racial discrepancy rises to 26 times. Black leaders that should be mentors to black youths have nothing in common with a black youth on the street they don't even what to be associated with blacks. Some of the MPs placed in position of authority to protect and promote the black community have made “I'm not a black MP, just an MP who happens to be black their mantra.
Riots have so far cost British retailers £80million in lost sales, £17.4 million of stock has been stolen and damage costing £43.5 million. About 200 people have been arrested in connection with the riot and a 24 hours court is in session to deal with the rioters. Demands for convicted rioters to be stripped of state benefit is set to be discussed by MPs after an on-line petition secured more than 100,000 signatures making it the first of its kind to be qualified for a commons debate under a new system introduced last week.
Facebook and twitter will be read riot act since they were used to aid the riots.
The looting, killing and destruction of property is definitely bad and perpetrators should be made accountable for their actions but maybe it is time to call a truce and listen to what these youths are trying to say. Institutional racism within the police force is no news and has manifested itself over and over again in the way police handle crimes involving blacks. If the relationship between the police and black communities are not addressed, history will repeat itself and innocent people will be caught in the cross fire again.