I’ve felt a lot of emotions over the past few days ranging from joy to grief to anger. It’s been amazing to see people fighting back against the police and it’s been equally horrific to see damage to people’s homes and small shops, let alone the deaths in Birmingham yesterday.
However, today I am just angry. I feel utterly sickened at the attitude of large numbers of people who are suddenly supporting the police, who support the army being brought in, who want to see water canon and plastic bullets used on the streets.
I am livid with rage at people who have never experienced police harassment not even attempting to understand the brutalisation this causes. I know the effect it has had on me, and I’ve only experienced it through the choice of being politically active which is nothing compared to it happening on a daily basis because of your skin colour or where you live.
Not only did the cops kill Mark Duggan, they tried to spin a story about him shooting first, the same way they manufactured lies about Charles de Menzes and Ian Tomlinson amongst others. They showed utter contempt for his family by not communicating with them, and the demands of peaceful protesters to speak to a senior officer were ignored.
This was just one incident in a long line of police killings, brutality, harassment and abuse, but it was one incident too far, the spark was lit and now the flames are a long way from being quelled. In Hackney, it has been well documented that it was a stop and search which led to the conflict which quickly escalated.
For years the carrot of capitalism has been dangled in front of kids with the stick of police brutality and harassment to keep them in place. Now with EMA cut, youth services decimated, university unaffordable and mass unemployment, many don’t see a future and no longer have anything left to lose. This is a generation growing up with capitalism blasted in their faces, living in areas colonised by gentrification. Every day these shiny unattainable products are shoved in our faces through advertising, telling us our lives will be happier if we have the latest product, and then we act surprised when people start looting.
I don’t want to see our streets being controlled and patrolled by gangs, and totally support for example the Kurdish and Turkish communities who have been defending their shops and homes. However, there has been a massive gang on the streets for years – the police, the biggest gang of them all. All the people calling for greater police powers and militarisation could do well with remembering they are a bunch of corrupt murdering liars – something we have seen amply demonstrated on so many occasions.
Meanwhile, the cops and media are calling on people to grass up their friends and family, to shop-a-looter, custody suites are filled to capacity and there are reports of courts having to open through the night. Deterrent sentences will be passed, there will be scapegoats, and the anger will continue. Locking people up in our already over-crowded prisons will not help, and media witch-hunts simply add fuel to the fire.
Civil unrest is a nasty, ugly, messy business, and it is naive to think it is otherwise. There have been some amazing actions and there have been some which have been utterly reprehensible. However, instead of condemning the rioters we need to look at the root causes – violent repressive policing, social deprivation and capitalism as a whole. Otherwise things are only going to get worse.