The riots that are continuing in London right now started small. A black man carrying an illegal firearm in his car was shot by police. Cab driver Mark Duggan, was carrying the gun and died as a result of a gunshot fired by a London officer. Citing racism, a fight broke out and has now spread through many parts of the city and other parts of England.
But now, a couple of days later, it seems the riots are continuing for all the wrong reasons (if there are right reasons to riot because they rarely accomplish anything other than destroy the neighborhoods of those rioting). With well over 500 arrests so far (including an 11-year-old), rioters say they are enjoying themselves, and looting stores for all sorts of goodies from expensive electronics to wine. In an interview with BBC America, two teenage girls said they hoped the riots would continue into another night, while drinking stolen wine as they were interviewed.
"This is rich people's fault," one said. "And we want to show police that we can do what we want." "Have you been drinking all night?" the interviewer asked. "Yes," one replied. They plan on drinking their stolen drinks all day. "It's free!" one of them said. They described the situation as "fun" and a payback to society in general. Young rioters have beaten people, burned down shops and buildings and one 26 year old man was found shot to death in his car. Many others are in hospital with serious injuries.
So why are these people rioting? Some interviewed said they didn't even know what was going on or they had heard a black man was shot and consequently joined the fighting. Others admitted they were angry at society in general and wanted to show their anger at the world. Anarchists and anti-establishment movements in London said their time was now. Commentators and bloggers have lashed out at the young rioters, calling them thugs and criminals. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that justice will be served against the rioters.
Others have been more understanding. The rioters, from the age of ten and up, are mainly coming from housing projects and poor neighborhoods in London where the majority of children (about 70 percent, according to a government run childcare center) live without either parent. They are given neither the emotional or physical tools to cope with their environment. Then when given a rather anonymous opportunity (with a chance of never being caught) to vent their frustrations, they get caught up in the gang mentality of rioting. Swept up in the heat of the fight, they don't care what the root cause was. Rather the underlying resentment from years of abuse and neglect is all that matters.
Not all of the rioters feel this way. Many are simply criminals who are opportunists. Stealing for profit, they claim to be there for socio-political reasons, all while destroying or stealing property and beating those they deem more successful or socially acceptable than they.
One of the issues that will face those facing prosecution (and all of them should, despite their circumstances) is what kind of punishment they will receive or whether it will include rehab and educational opportunities. Many will do their time and go back to the same life. But hopefully others - the younger kids and teens with no adult guidance whatsoever - will receive care, education and perhaps a little understanding, something that eluded them before August of this year.
What do you think of the rioters in this situation? Are they murderers and thieves or do you believe the premise that many are victims of a society based on class or privileged birth?
Edited by Jody Smith