Thursday, August 11, 2011

Watch Out Richie, Poor Man’s Gonna Get Your Mama

Burning car, Manchester City, 8/9/11 (Image by NightFall404)
The press has been portraying the riots in Britain as common thuggery, apolitical and criminal. Yet the riots come in the wake of severe austerity measures and the worst economic conditions in a generation. Furthermore, the riots began after the police murder of an unarmed black man, in a poor community that has been racked with police violence and harassment of people of color.

Protest Near Oxford Circus 3/26/11 (Image by mastermaq)
 Britain has also seen numerous organized political protests against university fee hikes and austerity measures over the past year, as have Spain, Germany and other European countries. Similarly, there have been uprisings in many Middle Eastern and North African countries, not only against brutal dictatorships, but also against declining economic conditions. Even Israel is seeing its largest demonstrations in generations, with 300,000 in Tel Aviv protesting dire economic conditions, according to the Washington Blog, and thousands of others in Jerusalem and other cities. Protests over poverty and living conditions have also erupted in China and the Philippines.

As the world’s wealthy continue to exploit an economic crisis caused by their own greed to impose austerity on the rest of us and grab as much as they can as quickly as possible, they are acutely aware that they are making their own safety and security more tenuous. People will only take so much before fighting back. Contrary to the authorities and pundits, it seems like this is what has been happening in Britain.

Worst British Unrest in 30 Years
The protests in England spread out of London yesterday, with mobs firebombing police stations and torching shops in London, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham. Protests also spread to Wales. London deployed 16,000 police, the largest police presence in the city’s history, reports Democracy Now. Scotland Yard said it would use water cannons and plastic bullets, if necessary, weapons routinely used in Northern Ireland, but never before in London.

Police Cover Up
The riots erupted over the police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man. The police claim that Duggan fired at them first. However, according to Democracy Now, the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC) found that the bullet fired was a police-issued bullet and could not have been fired by Duggan. Furthermore, rather than informing Duggan’s family of the mistake and apologizing, the family only found about Duggan’s exoneration through the media.

Provoked by the Government?
The riots began in Britain’s poor communities of color in response to the police murder of a black man. To suggest that people were simply taking advantage of the situation to run amok and loot is not only stupid, but dismissive of legitimate grievances of Britain’s minority communities.

Democracy Now reports that anti-terror legislation has made it much easier for the police to search and interrogate people without just cause. As a consequence, police harassment and violence in black and South Indian communities in England has escalated. At the same time, corporate greed and austerity measures have intensified the gap between the rich and poor. In this context, it should not be surprising that simmering anger and frustration might blow up into rioting.

Random Apolitical Thuggery?
While the media and politicians would like us to believe that recent events in Britain were random, disorganized and criminal, they began with an organized protest led by local community activists seeking answers and dialogue with the police, according to Democracy Now. The protest escalated into a riot after the police not only blew them off, but assaulted a 16-year-old girl who was shouting at them and demanding answers, beating her with batons and riot shields.

Proof of Concept?
British soccer star Wayne Rooney, who is well-known for his own violent rampages on (and off) the soccer pitch, called for calm, perhaps out of fear that he might lose property in the unrest. (Rooney earned $20 million over the past year). “Why would people want to do this to there [sic] own country?” he was quoted in the SF Chronicle, perhaps highlighting exactly why: better quality education, especially for the poor and working class, from where Rooney hails.

According to the New York Times one million British youth from the ages of 16 to 24 are officially unemployed, the most since the deep recession of the mid-1980s. In June and November, there were ongoing youth and student protests against skyrocketing costs for college, which cut off higher education to virtually all but the affluent. Over 750,000 people took part in these demonstrations, including three of the country’s teachers unions.

While it may be the dream of large percentages of Britain’s teenage boys and girls to someday attain the success Wayne Rooney, it is increasingly becoming a dream to achieve something much more humble, like a career that pays the bills.

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