Sunday, 7 August 2011

London's Burning, London's Burning

I woke up this morning and actually felt quite sick when the images I saw last night rushed back into my mind. The events in Tottenham last night almost seem like some sort of film or bad dream.

Just having enjoyed a lovely relaxing hot bubble bath listening to some chillout music in my little flat, it’s easy to forget that other people today have found themselves homeless and surrounded by utter mayhem. Whilst many of us slept safe and sound at home, the people of Tottenham faced fire, petrol bombs, destroyed shops and homes and people that were quite simply out of control and had no thought for anyone it seems.

The reasoning being given behind the actions yesterday were in protest to a shooting on Thursday whereby a local young man was shot dead by police. Whether this should or shouldn’t have happened is currently under investigation, but before people could wait for an outcome a peaceful protest was planned outside Tottenham police station.

Unfortunately – although reports clash as to why – the protest took a nasty turn and the action in Tottenham switched from a peaceful protest to - as the media reported - a ‘disturbance’, to then a full on ‘riot’. This involved cars being burnt, items being thrown at police, a bus being set on fire, shops being set alight and looted and innocent people’s homes being broken into and damaged.

And how did I first find out about these events? Social media. I happened to check Facebook and noticed somebody’s comments about Tottenham, at which point I then turned on the news channels on TV – BBC News 24 at first. What I saw completely shocked me, I actually couldn’t believe what people had done and were still continuing to do. I also found myself increasingly frustrated by the confrontational and frankly childish behaviour of the young men and women on screen trying to disrupt the news reporting.

It’s on seeing people like this that you realise unfortunately things took a more negative turn possibly due to people going along for a bit of ‘fun’ and using the proceedings as an excuse for violence. People keep arguing how ridiculous it is to damage the area where you live in protest. However, perhaps it got to this level because a strong number of people then involved later on weren’t from Tottenham and on hearing of events had turned up to just cause trouble, with no particular reason in doing so.

It may sound sick, but I found myself hooked on the footage. We’d gone to my parents for the afternoon/evening and didn’t end up leaving until around 130/2am because I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. I just couldn’t seem to understand why this was happening and that people in this day and age would act in such a way.

Now, I can’t comment on the reasoning behind the action and of course I don’t know how it feels for those people who have lost someone, who have had bad experiences with authority or feel targeted against due to their ethnicity. However, no matter how hard I try to identify or understand, I just cannot find a reason for people to cause such havoc and also cause so much hurt for innocent individuals around them. If this guy was shot wrongly, what does burning down a local businessman’s shop achieve? How does that fix things?

On another level I found myself feeling quite emotional at the fact that if my boyfriend was working he may well have been called to the area to be on ‘standby’ in his role as a student paramedic. Although he argued it is part of his job and he probably wouldn’t have actually had much to do and it would be an interesting career experience, I just felt ill at the thought that he would have his life potentially put in danger. If you’d have asked me earlier in the week if I’d be pleased about his current ‘break’ from work (long story) I never would have expected that a few days down the line I’d be pleased he was at home and not out on the road.

Feeling pleased he was safe by my side I ended up staying up until gone 3am in the end watching reports. Although I soon found myself more heavily reliant on social media, namely Twitter, to find out what was happening (often as it happened, in tweets reported by people who were actually there).

I watched live as the poor BBC reporter and camera crew came under attack and later saw images of the satellite van that had been smashed in, as people reportedly felt the media were going to use their footage as evidence for the police and were in fact the enemy too. Both BBC News 24 and Sky News had to withdraw from the area and stop live filming as their lives were being put in danger and I completely agree with them for moving and getting to safety.

However, what I then don’t understand is that BBC News 24 moved to a programme on the Olympics…Sky News went on to show the same loop of footage over and over (which clearly couldn’t be helped), but why weren’t they reporting on people’s comments and anecdotes that were going on live online? Listening to the ‘news’ on TV, compared to what people were saying on social media was laughable, the news was so far behind.

Also you could get a more balanced view on Twitter – those who lived there, people who worked for the media, people who supported the violent actions and so on. The news tended to be quite one-sided and I found Sky News constantly spoke to police and those in authority and didn’t tend to talk to the local people as the BBC had. Proof again what a great tool and how powerful social media is and how it is certainly not showing any signs of stopping any time soon.

There are claims the rioting may well continue again tonight and also spread further afield to more areas. I just hope people see sense and stop. Mark Duggan’s family have been on TV speaking exclusively to Sky this afternoon saying themselves they don’t want to be associated with this violence and that they don’t want their dead relative associated with these sort of actions.

Some residents speaking on TV, involved in the original protests argue the police cars were first attacked as they were like a “red rag to a bull” after over four hours of waiting outside the police station wanting answers. Some say this action reflects action back in 1985 when action started off the back of an alleged ‘murder’ of a black female. People feel the police are to blame by not coming outside and talking to the people and providing answers as requested, but if they aren’t allowed to speak due to the IPCC investigations what are they meant to do?

Whatever happened and whatever the outcome of the investigation, one things for sure, the acts of the violence involved have not achieved any more answers, but led to destroyed lives, lost homes, a torn apart community, regeneration severely damaged and held back and local businesses wrecked. With all that is going wrong in this country - and indeed the world – right now, it’s a sad day when London’s residents feel it’s right to resort to this sort of behaviour and cause more hard and depressing times for our capital.

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