The riots in London have been shocking. We still don’t really know exactly what happened to turn a peaceful protest about a man’s death into full-scale riot, but the violence, arson and looting that is being upheld by some sympathisers as a “young persons’ protest against the government” is abhorrent. This is no longer a protest about the government: if so, then why would you organise the looting of shops to resell the ill-gotten gains at a profit? Why would you set fire to people’s homes and endanger their lives? I don’t remember the students using either of those means when they protested about the rise in tuition fees. There seems to be no political agenda at all in these riots throughout England, and any genuine grievances which sparked these uprisings have now been completely eclipsed by the actions of gangs. This is just organised crime, looting and theft… with a good dose of violence, fear and fire.
Last night changed things, as the violence erupted in London and sprang up in other big cities. Even Nottingham experienced a high level of civil disorder. Peoples’ shops and houses were set on fire. Cars were vandalised or totalled. A gang attacked the police station in St Annes with petrol bombs. House of Fraser was looted, and thieves rampaged through the Victoria Shopping Centre and were only just stopped by the large metal gates which cut off the rest of the arcade.
I went into the city centre this morning, and the atmosphere was agitated. There were security guards outside chain shops, and local businesses had hired muscle checking out shoppers before letting them in. The banks have been warned to close early because of a tip-off about an organised riot this evening in the main shopping streets. Small business owners were advising us to leave, and they were closing early. Others were increasing the number of guards outside their shops. People were receiving text messages about planned violence tonight and recommending that everyone leave the city centre this afternoon. The atmosphere was incredibly tense and coiled. The mood was angry: anger at the gangs who have hijacked a stand about social grievances to unleash violence and fire on the people, anger at the authorities for not being able to stop it, and angry that the army had not been called in yet. As I left before lunch, the city centre was almost deserted and the bins were on fire.