Prime Minister Cameron calls for special measures to be taken in wake of recent violence
PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: –when these horrific actions will be stuck–will be struck–
DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: British Parliament was recalled from its summer recess to confront escalating unrest in the country, as the conflict entered its fifth day in a growing number of cities across England. Disturbances began in the North London neighborhood of Tottenham in response to the police-shooting death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan. But the scene quickly disintegrated from one of protest to an outpour of unorganized anger. Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from vacation in Tuscany, Italy, to discuss the unrest and proposed strategies for combating it, including a clampdown on social media websites and a deployment of new police munitions to restore order and hold perpetrators of the violence responsible.
CAMERON: It is criminality, pure and simple, and there is absolutely no excuse for it. Mr. Speaker, we will not put up with this in our country. We will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets, and we will do whatever it takes to restore all order and to rebuild our communities. This is not about poverty; it is about culture, a culture that glorifies violence, that shows disrespect to authority, that says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities. And to a lawless minority, the criminals who have taken what they can get, I say this: we will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you; you will pay for what you have done.
DOUGHERTY: There is a growing debate in England over whether the extreme violence represents a question of cultural morals or is the result of a number of mounting social and structural pressures in Great Britain and other parts of Europe. Much of the violence has occurred in impoverished neighborhoods often characterized by a concentration of black and minority citizens, where there exist high levels of youth unemployment. Jerome Roos is the founder of the online ROAR magazine and a PhD researcher of the European debt crisis at the European University Institute.
JEROME ROOS, EUROPEAN DEBT CRISIS RESEARCHER: I think you can’t ignore some of the structural divisions that exist within British society. I mean, British society is actually one of the most unequal, one of the least socially mobile in the Western world. And I don’t think that you can address any issue of mass violence occurring in disadvantaged neighborhoods simply by waving it off as issues of culture, issues of criminality. There’s a very powerful social and socioeconomic component here that we have to look at.
DOUGHERTY: A number of mass protests have recently broken out across Europe, perhaps most visibly in Greece. The violence in London and other British cities seems to have taken a much different course, where there has been no apparent political target as there was in cities like Athens.
ROOS: There have been a lot of comparisons that have been made between the riots–riots, as people like to call them–that occurred in Athens and the riots that are occurring right now in London. There was a very clear political component to the unrest in Athens that is absent or seemingly absent in the situation in London. But that doesn’t mean that this unrest in London is divorced from the wider social context of capitalist collapse as we we’re experiencing right now. One thing needs to be made very clear at this point. This is not a revolution. It’s not a revolt. It’s not a protest. If anything, this is a major regression. I mean, this is a regression into mob rule. It’s a regression into wanton violence and sort of indiscriminate violence against, mostly, innocent people. So this is definitely not a revolution. It’s not in any way linked to any political protest anymore, even though it started out very clearly, it was triggered very clearly by police violence and police brutality and the shooting of a young black man. I think what we have to keep in mind, though, is that despite the fact that many of these–many of what–much of what’s going on is actually apolitical and seems to be very indiscriminate in terms of who it’s directed towards, there’s a very clear political component to it as well. I mean, the cause of it is in fact deeply political, and it contains a very powerful discriminatory component that we have to look at. And this has to do, to a very great extent, with the structural exclusion that a lot of people experience in these neighborhoods. And we simply cannot understand any of this violence if we don’t–if we’re not willing to at least sort of acknowledge this fundamental structural problem.
DOUGHERTY: The public is still awaiting the results of an official investigation into the police-shooting death of Mark Duggan, which became a flashpoint for the unrest that started in London. Police initially held that Duggan fired at officers during an arrest attempt before he was shot and killed. But ballistic tests have indicated that the bullet retrieved from an officer’s radio, where it was lodged, was actually the same type of jacketed police round used by law enforcement on that day, casting serious public doubts over whether Duggan had fired or even possessed a firearm. Police harassment of young black Britons is something that British broadcaster and writer Darcus Howe says has been a growing problem in black communities for decades. During a recent live interview with BBC, a reporter falsely accused Howe of previously having participated in riots and of condoning the recent violence.
DARCUS HOWE, BROADCASTER AND COLUMNIST: –Trinidad. And that is the nature of the hysterical moment.
BBC INTERVIEWER: Mr. Howe, if I–.
HOWE: There is–it takes [incompr.]
BBC INTERVIEWER: Mr. Howe, if I can just ask you, you are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself.
HOWE: I’m not as–I have never taken part in a single riot. I’ve been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict. And have some respect for an old West Indian negro, and stop accusing me of being a rioter.
DOUGHERTY: Howe has been an activist in the black community for over 40 years and says that the frequent illegal searches and violence against innocent black youths at the hands of police contributed to an atmosphere of alienation and exclusion that has been boiling below the surface of many communities for years.
HOWE: There has been, quietly, quietly, I mean, off the press, a lot of stop-and-search going on of young black people. The only reason for stopping and searching is because they’re black. There has been violence between blacks, where they have built up an image of young blacks who deserve to be stopped and searched, kicked around, and abused. That has been going on for about 15 years now–that’s when my grandson was born. It has reached the stage where young blacks thought, I have been stopped and searched, you know, like an initiation from boyhood to manhood. And then it rolled away from that into we’re fed up with this. I asked my grandson, “Have you ever been stopped and searched?” He said, “Yes, Papa.” I said, “How many times?” He said, “I never counted. It’s too much to count.” He’s a fine young man. And it goes on and on. That is what unified young blacks from London to Manchester. They are fed up with the humiliation of stop-and-search.
DOUGHERTY: Police forces have been mobilized in increased numbers and are retaking a number of areas affected by the unrest. The full social and material cost of the conflict remains to be counted, as many residents await a return to calm and begin to clean up some of the destruction left behind the wave of violence. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.