Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Riots in England

The riots that began in London and spread to other cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Salford and Wolverhampton have exposed the ugly side of England. There was arson, loot, robbery and vandalism. Masked marauders rampaged. Houses, shops and vehicles were set ablaze. There was looting of shops, not all by criminal gangs. Some parents sat in cars outside the shops and sent their sons to loot. Police were attacked. Firemen who went to douse fires were attacked. In London more than 560 were arrested and there was no place in prisons. England had not seen anything like this for many decades.

Various reasons are given. Some say poverty, unemployment and economic deprivation are reasons for the looting and arson. Some blame cut in welfare measures and closing of youth centres. Unemployment benefit was cut and simmering discontent has come to the surface. Some say reduction in police force left it unprepared to face the rioters.

William Dalrymple said England has a rich tradition of rioting and thuggery. In the 16th century a French ambassador had complained of riots, extortion and robbery. England used to send its criminals to India. Now there is no empire and criminals remain in the country.

I do not know how many criminals England sent to India. England sent most of its criminals to Australia. Before that it sent its criminals to America. The criminals who landed in Australia in 1788 became its founders. In India the British sent long term prisoners to Andaman. England has Pitcairn Islands and it can send its prisoners there.

UK’s PM David Cameron and London’s Mayor Boris Johnson had to cut short their holidays and return to London. Cameron spoke of tough action against rioters. He attributed looting by young boys to lack of proper parenting and proper upbringing. He said those who are old enough to commit crime are old enough to face action. Boris Johnson was heckled. Someone said “You are too late.” Someone asked “Where were you?”

There is criticism of soft policing. There is demand for using water cannons, cage charges, tear gas shells, rubber bullets and tasers. Cameron has allowed use of rubber bullets. Curfew should have been imposed in London during the first night of riots. It is not imposed anywhere and criminals have a free run. Police have released photos of criminals and asked people to identify them.

Someone wanted the government to focus on London instead of bombing Libya. Someone wanted troops in Afghanistan and Libya recalled and blamed spending of money on useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The criminals who looted used social media sites such as Facebook and Blackberry Messenger and there is a demand to ban them. However banning something because criminals used them is unreasonable. Those who used them should be caught and punished. Some used social media sites to gather and clean the city.

London is host to Olympics 2012. There is enough time for London to beef up its security. However the riots have called into question the wisdom of hosting sporting events that cost billions while ignoring a large section of people.

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