Monday, 15 August 2011

Solutions after the riots – what now ?

The aftermath of the riots has seen Cameron authorise use of water cannon and plastic bullets, and an alarming public endorsement of these measures notably by 90% of the sample in one opinion poll.

Most people probably think water cannon just make a crowd unpleasantly wet. Actually, the water comes at a force which can knock you over – or even blind you, if a jet hits you in the eye. If you can bear it, see a photo here of someone blinded in Germany when struck by a water cannon in the face. This weapon is indiscriminate, potentially hitting bystanders and people trying to escape from the scene as well as rioters. Early in this debate, the Green Party called for rejection of water cannon and Jenny Jones’ statement on the web site can be found here.

Rubber and plastic bullets or ‘baton rounds’ have caused around 17 deaths, and some blindings, in Northern Ireland. Children are particularly vulnerable to both, and again, innocent bystanders have been amongst the victims, for example a middle aged woman looking out of a window.

There are calls not just for lethal weaponry against teenagers, but for collective punishment of their families. Wandsworth Council already began eviction proceedings against the mother of a ‘rioter’ – but he had not even been convicted, merely charged! Homelessness is likely to drive people further into crime and joblessness.

No-one doubts that theft and arson deserve to be punished. But in courts sitting through the night, with both magistrates and lawyers reported last week to be falling asleep ? What kind of ‘fair trial’ is that ?

There are calls from Duncan Smith and his ilk for daily persecution of ‘gang members’ by tax authorities, job centre, DVLA, etc. No doubt this would exacerbate the situation and punish the innocent along with the guilty, just like the excessive use of stop and search powers which are one of the main grievances which youth, especially black and Asian youth, have against the police. Indeed the riots in Mare Street and in the Kingsland Road are said to have been provoked at least partly by street searches last weekend.

The Network for Police Monitoring has spoken out against authoritarian policing, saying

‘Tensions created by incessant stop and search operations and aggressive policing have undeniably contributed to the conditions which have led to widespread rioting. Young men from working class communities, especially black communities, have consistently taken the brunt of the ‘harassment style policing’ implemented by the Labour party and continued under the present government.

They have also taken the brunt of police violence. The experience of a police monitor from the Network, who was repeatedly punched to the face and head in the back of a Metropolitan police van after a stop and search, is sadly not an isolated one. What would help is not more ‘robust’ policing, but a police force that does not act in a disproportionate, vindictive or discriminatory way.’

How could that happen if police numbers are cut ? Police have already been working up to 20 hours and more without sleep in the last week. That’s hardly conducive to good decision-making or good tempers, let alone fair working conditions. Cuts in police numbers will also make ‘capital intensive’ solutions like more weaponry seem inevitable. Against the gross injustice of firing first against Mark Duggan and the attack on a 16 year old woman outside Tottenham Police Station, must be set the police mindfulness of Ian Tomlinson’s death and that fact that so far, neither riot control weapons nor horse charges were used. Cameron seems intent on reversing the better parts of recent police tactics.

The University and College Union, with Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, have called for reinstatement of youth services and the Educational Maintenance Allowance, a large increase in JSA, and repeal of the ‘stop and search’ laws, as measures to tackle some of the root causes of the riots. Their petition to the government can be signed here.

In a resolution rejecting both police violence and the ‘cuts’ affecting youth, the Stratford (E.London) branch of the RMT says:-

‘The police killing of Mark Duggan…is not an isolated incident. Violence in custody, predominantly against black people, is routine….Stop and search is used as a daily form of humiliation. Police brutality against demonstrations and any form of political dissidence has increased.

The savage spending cuts imposed upon us by the Coalition Government weaken our communities and create anger and despair, and have fallen disproportionately on the young, the vulnerable and the unemployed. Meanwhile, in the last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30% to £333.5 billion.’

So these people’s pay rise alone would halve the public sector deficit and allow most of the ‘cuts’ to be reversed. Why is nobody but the Green Party and the far left calling for a serious tax hike on the super-rich ?

We all want justice – against obscene inequality, against thieves and arsonists, for proper compensation of residents and businesses, especially small ones, who suffered in the riots. Long prison sentences for rioters will benefit mainly the private prisons industry – they will introduce those convicted to the university of crime, but not rebuild homes or shops or give people their property back. Long community service orders could be used to help rebuild and clean up. And if the police can offer an amnesty for knives as they did in 2006, which resulted in 100,000 being handed in over five weeks, why not an amnesty for goods stolen in the riots ? Or for guns ? Last but not least, sale of guns, including air pistols and replicas (like the one Mark Duggan converted) should be absolutely banned.

Written By Anne Gray
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Tottenham 2010

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Riots, Recession and Resistance

This is a video of a speech by Merlin Emmanuel, nephew of the late singer/rapper Smiley Culture. People should watch this video and listen to the speech, because he says some very uncomfortable things about the society we live in, and how this contributes to the explanation of why riots broke out across England last week. The meeting was organised by the Coalition of Restance in London.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Reflections on Recent Social Unrest

Much ink has recently been spilt over the London riots originating in Tottenham.

The usual arguments have been trotted out about 'feral' youths, engaged in 'mindless' 'yobbery'; the usual harsh prescriptions have been advocated from water cannon, to punitive public disorder sentences, to, incredibly in one tabloid newspaper, apparently 33% of people in a survey saying they wanted the police to be issued with, and to use, live ammunition.

Let us be crystal clear: the Green Party condemns violence, condemns the looting and condemns the destruction of property we have seen.

However, we depart from other political parties in seeking to be completely serious, rather than just posturing, on the underlying causes of these outbreaks; for it seems to us that these events did not simply come out of nowhere. It seems likely that the tragic death of Mark Duggan lit the blue touch paper for the explosion we have seen; if it wasn't Mr. Duggan, it would have been somebody else, somewhere else, triggering similar events.

But don't just take our word for it. Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of the children's charity Kids Company, and who has spent years working with young people in deprived communities, wrote in the Independent on Tuesday that these young rioters are not just thoughtlessly burning down their communities, as Tottenham and Hackney MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbot would have it, they have withdrawn almost totally from the communities most of us would recognise. Worse, they have created parallel communities, outside of mainstream society, where gangland values, crass consumerism and hatred of authority are rife. How do we tackle such deep-seated problems?

Certainly not, as most of London seems to have done, by clamouring for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson to come back from their summer holidays to 'do something'. What, in all likelihood, can these posturing, vain, and ideologically blinkered individuals do by yanking on ineffective levers at the top tiers of government? The UK is now so centralised, with such an empty wasteland where local democracy should be, that all these politicians can do is frown, furrow their brows and make sonorous, but platitudinous, speeches before the TV cameras. Not a whit changes on the ground as a result.

Only the Green Party truly believes in resurrecting Local Democracy. And only vibrant, empowered, local democratic bodies have a hope in hell of knitting together the various services - community youth workers, police, healthcare, educational workers - with local civil society and business to try and weave together a future of hope for these raging, self-destructive, nihilistic young people marooned in an amoral universe of their, and our, making.

Yes, the causes of, and issues at play in, the recent riots are much more complex and multi-faceted than I’ve allowed for above, but surely two of the biggest solutions are those referred to: the need to properly tackle the parallel communities and the absolute necessity for true local democracy to be restored.

Our young people, and we their family members, friends and fellow citizens deserve nothing less. No more platitudes and posturing; we need real, integrated, solutions – and we need them now.

Photo from The Guardian

Written by Andreas Andreou
Haringey Green Party

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots Spread Across London and Other English Cities

The shooting by armed police of local man Mark Duggan in Tottenham last week, which sparked violent scenes and widespread looting of shops in north London, has now spread to several areas of the capital, and to Birmingham, Liverpool, Croydon, Nottingham, Bristol and Leeds. Police have arrested hundreds of people on Monday night, the third consecutive night of unrest.

The situation has got so bad that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Home Secretary, Theresa May and London Mayor, Boris Johnson, have cut short their summer holidays and returned to the UK. Parliament has been recalled for one day on Thursday so that MP’s can debate the situation and 16,000 police officers are on standby for deployment in London tonight (Tuesday). The England versus the Netherlands football match due to be played on Wednesday at Wembley, has been cancelled.

In the part of London where I live, you can sense that people are scared, they have seen that the police cannot cope with the sheer numbers and the mobility of the young people involved in these disturbances. The corner shop in my area was robbed by five men at around 1am on Sunday morning, injuring two of the shop workers. This attack was obviously perpetrated in the knowledge that the police had their hands full in Tottenham at the time, and they were right.

Whether it is worthwhile the politicians cutting short their holidays is open to debate. Of course, they need to be seen to be concerned about events for public relations reasons, but if all they do is to make speeches full of platitudes, criminality, thugs, law and order, blah, blah, blah, then they may as well have stayed on the sun lounger.

It is important that we try to understand what is going on here, and I think we have a combination of complex reasons behind what is happening.

Firstly, in Tottenham where this unrest started, there was a spark, a catalyst, in the killing of Mark Duggan at the hands of an already distrusted Metropolitan police force. As far as I can tell, the people in the original demonstration where not involved in the subsequent riot, but the anger generated by the killing itself, and the police’s apparent disregard of the family’s request for true information about the incident, spread like wildfire through the young people of the community.

Reports from other parts of London and parts of the rest of the country appear to show no direct link to the Tottenham shooting, but in many of these communities they have a similar opinion of the police, and these areas have common problems of deprivation and unemployment (particularly youth unemployment). Put all of this together with the greedy consumerist society that has been rammed down our throats since the 1980’s and a feeling of general alienation felt by many young people, and you have fertile ground for the type of disorder that we have seen over recent days.

The BBC reports an interview with two young women from Croydon, who took part in the rioting there last night. They boasted that they were showing the police and "the rich" that "we can do what we want". I heard a young man from Hackney being interviewed on the radio where he complained of bankers bonuses and the MP’s expenses scandal, as a justification for the riotous behaviour in that area yesterday. Shocking though it is, these interviews give an insight into the mind-set of the people involved in the disturbances.

I’m not trying to make excuses for what has gone on in the past few days, but to brand it as merely criminal behaviour shows just how out of touch our politicians have become. We need a period of calm, so everyone can simmer down, so I hope that this disorder will fizzle out, but then we need to analyse what has led us to this sorry state of affairs, and act on this analysis. Don’t hold your breath though, the politicians don’t see anything wrong with the way we live these days and it is reminiscent of the denial displayed by the same people when trying to formulate economic policy at the moment.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Tottenham Riots – Part 2

The plot thickens. According to Sky News (12:22pm UK, Monday August 08, 2011):-
‘Fresh questions have been raised over the shooting of Mark Duggan amid speculation a bullet found in a police radio could have come from an officer's gun. However, The Guardian newspaper has quoted a source saying initial tests suggest the bullet was police issue.’ (see and Guardian report adds that although a non-police gun was found at the scene, ‘one community organiser suggested the handgun recovered was found in a sock and therefore not ready for use.’ Perhaps these facts explain the very guarded and uninformative explanations of the incident so far given by the IPCC, in the face of a desperate need for some justification of another sudden death at the hands of the Met Police. Colin Roach, Cynthia Jarrett, Roger Sylvester, Jean-Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson and more besides – the list is of innocent victims is long and unsurprisingly arouses the kind of anger that led to Saturday’s protest at Tottenham Police Station. Whatever the Daily Mail may have found out about the dead man’s alleged involvement in drug dealing and gang violence ( the police would need to show that he did fire first to have any excuse for shooting at him.

Stafford Scott, veteran of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign of the 80s, explained to Sky TV the reasons why anger mounted on Saturday as the police apparently stonewalled Mark Duggan’s family and friends (see http://youtube/8a3F3aG9RGw). They then cruelly attacked a 16 year old girl with riot shields, pushing her to the ground, because she shouted that the protestors wanted answers. (see

A horrible history is repeating itself. We have been here before – in 1981, 1982, 1985 (the Broadwater Farm incidents). And even though fortunately no officer has been killed – so far at least – the consequences of the Tottenham riot 2011 are going to be far worse, in several ways, than those of the riot in 1985. Now, almost 25 years on, the police have not learnt their lesson. They and the IPCC need to come clean – and quickly – before the anger worsens. ‘Fuck the police’ was painted on the tarmac of Tottenham High Road on Saturday night.

Having moved to Tottenham in 1983, and lived ever since in a flat not half a mile from Broadwater Farm, I followed the events of 1985 at close quarters. Who can forget the hundreds of arrests over several months as the police sought PC Blakelock’s killer. The rough handling and alleged beatings in the cells. The traumatizing search of a middle-aged mother’s bedroom at dawn as the police combed her home for evidence of what her son might (or might not) have done. The young people on benefits deprived of their winter clothing for several weeks as the police trawled through mass forensic searches for traces of blood or petrol bombs. The continued insults and stigmatization of a whole community, amounting to a form of collective punishment. Weeks of being kept awake by helicopters and screeching sirens. The negative ‘labelling’ of Tottenham as the home of crime and disorder, the sharp fall in house prices and in owner-occupation, the arrival of an ever-changing population of short-term tenants who can’t stay long enough to join in local organizations or participate in local politics. The loss of businesses and jobs.

All this we will face again. But this time, worse. Worse firstly because whereas the main target of the riot in 1985 was the police themselves, August 2011 has started a wave of looting and destruction of shops and offices. So insurance premiums, particularly on business premises, will rise and small shops will suffer. The percentage of Tottenham’s population on the dole in June was 8.3%, less than half what it was in 1985. But whereas the unemployed of the 80s could try for the Community Programme, a job creation scheme that provided a three day week, albeit for a rock-bottom wage, for around 3000 people in Haringey in 1987, the present government has axed the Future Jobs Programme. Today’s claimants are forced by job centre rules to compete ever more frantically for a dwindling number of vacancies – currently about one job per 54 jobseekers, and hardly any are offered real skills training, whereas in 1985 they could have done a year’s course in construction trades, computing, or motor repair. Today’s Tottenham youth face a grim future – with cuts in the Education Maintenance Allowance, in further education courses, and the poorest prospect for decades of an affordable university education. When Haringey Council made cuts in youth club services some months ago, many predicted a rise in crime would result.

During the 1981 Toxteth riots, which saw 70 buildings burned, 470 police injured and 500 arrests, the chair of the Liverpool police authority made a connection between unrest and ‘cuts’ which was echoed by Ken Livingstone’s and Jenny Jones’ comments yesterday. Lady Margaret Simey remarked in 1981 that local people would have been 'apathetic fools' if they had not rioted in response to the conditions they then faced - chronic unemployment, racism, bad housing and poor education - all aggravated by police harassment. The current generation of youth faces all these things and worse – a drastic collapse in public services and in funding for the voluntary sector, greater inequality and greater insecurity in the few jobs they can look for at the bottom of the ladder.

In the west of Haringey it is hard for people to grasp the depth of social malaise which grips Tottenham’s council estates. Postcode turf wars between gangs made it dangerous for the youth campaigning against youth club cuts to join protest marches against the cuts last autumn. A project to give free recycled bikes to teenagers found parents saying ‘don’t give one to my kid – the drug dealers look for kids with bikes to run errands for them’. The drug and gang culture which according to some media reports appears to have given rise to coordinated, planned looting here and in other districts has its roots partly in the bad jobs, bad education cycle. But it also may be a response to the fact that white collar criminals generally get away with it. As bonus-seeking bankers and city traders remain unpunished for economic sabotage, as MPs get away with expenses fiddling, as inequality has soared to Victorian proportions in the last 25 years, role models for honesty and hard work are increasingly hard to find.

What is clear is that no solution can wait till the next elections, local or national. The local community needs to be working together on solutions now. Investment in better housing and ‘green’ sector jobs are part of that solution. The campaign against Britain’s ‘feral elite’ launched by Compass and supported by Caroline Lucas, is also a part (see But Greens and other left forces in Haringey need to come together to develop a local strategy to salvage Tottenham’s economy and community.

Tonight (8th August) a group of Christian ministers called a ‘Vigil of Hope’ at High Cross, attended by about 200 people including their congregations, some supporters of local groups like the Ward’s Corner Coalition and HAPS, and at least one councilor. It was a good start, and an impressive call for unity across faith, ethnic and political boundaries. But we will need more than hopes and prayers, we need concerted action over a long period. Dave Morris of the Haringey Federation of Residents’ Associations distributed a leaflet with a list of suggested actions and demands, which you can see on here. It’s time to mobilize.

Written by Anne Gray
Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Tottenham 2010

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Police Shooting Sparks Tottenham Riot

A peaceful demonstration against the shooting to death on Thursday of a twenty nine year old local man, Mark Duggan, turned into a full scale riot on Saturday night in Tottenham. Two police cars, a bus and several shops and residential buildings were set on fire on Tottenham High Road. Shops were also looted on the High Road as well in Wood Green and at Tottenham Hale retail-park. The area of Tottenham High Road where the worst rioting took place was still cordoned off on Sunday evening. Police said that forty eight people had been arrested.

Initial reports of casualties have been confined to the number (26) of police officers injured, but it is almost certain that the number of civilians injured will exceed this figure, as tends to happen in disturbances of this nature.

The police have said that a pre-planned attempt to arrest Mark Duggan on Thursday night, when he was traveling as a passenger in a mini cab, resulted in a shot being discharged from inside the mini cab, and armed police responded with two shots, killing Mr Duggan at the scene. But this version of events has been questioned by members of the dead man’s family and friends, which has led many people in the local community to be sceptical about the police’s version of events.

Tottenham, of course, has a history of community/policing problems, with the Broadwater Farm estate riot in the 1980’s the most dramatic example. Feelings of harassment and mistreatment by police have simmered for years amongst the mainly Afro-Caribbean community. At the 2005 General Election, the RESPECT party stood a candidate, Janet Alder from Birmingham, whose brother had died in police custody, and she got almost 8% of the vote.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission will investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Duggan’s death, so hopefully we will get the true story eventually. Metropolitan police press releases in the immediate aftermath of deaths at the hands of its officers are to be treated with some caution. When Ian Tomlinson was killed at the G20 protest in the City of London in 2009, much misinformation was put out to the media, and we probably would never have known the truth if the incident hadn’t been captured on a mobile phone. Similarly, when Jean Charles De Mendes was shot to death in the wake of the London tube bombings, the Met’s media team set about sullying his name and spreading false reports of his behaviour on the day he was killed.

Why on earth do the Metropolitan police need around fifty press officers, as was revealed by inquiries into the News of the World phone hacking scandal? The police now seem to spend much time and money on media operations and playing politics, when they should be concentrating on policing and building links to communities.

Condemnation of the rioters has come from all of the establishment politicians and of course riots generally are not a good idea, for communities as much as anyone else, but let’s just get the facts about what happened first, before we jump to the conclusion that the police are in the right. We’ve seen so many times before that the Met don’t tell the truth about these type of incidents.