A wave of violence and looting that across London spread to three other major cities of the country on Tuesday, as authorities struggled to contain the country’s worst unrest since racial riots set the capital ablaze in 1980s.
The seemingly impossible began when a police arrest went horribly wrong some five days ago. Although clouded in uncertainty and speculation, the police shot dead a coloured man, Mark Duggan, last Thursday in Tottenham, north London, for reasons that could range from his being a drug dealer to resisting arrest or to firing at the police after which they shot back. In the wake of this one man’s death, it really does seem as though London is burning. What began as a ‘peaceful’ protest by some 300 people at the Tottenham police station has, since then, transformed into an avalanche of rage, looting and violence. The police and government officials are calling these rioters nothing more than “anarchic” or “criminal” elements bent upon taking advantage of a disturbed situation. The government of the Conservatives-Liberal Democrats seems to smugly be dismissing these ‘thugs’ who are storming the streets, calling the protests mere acts of criminality. If this is so, then they are criminals — but against a system that has marginalised them and left them bereft of hope for the future.
Ever since Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition came to power, it has slashed social and welfare funding. In the past couple of years, unemployment has surged, resulting in an unprecedented increase in disenfranchised youngsters without jobs or hopes of getting one. Couple this with the global recession and you have a recipe for disaster — one that seems to have exploded in the faces of the British ruling class. Unemployment in the UK stands at 2.45 million today; this is not ‘criminality’ or madness but a response to the increasingly despondent economic and social situation of so many young people who have no stake in the future opportunities of their country. Protests that started off in Tottenham have spread like wildfire to Croydon, Ealing, central London and now to Birmingham, Liverpool, Ilford and other cities. While it may be easy to dismiss the rioters as nothing more than ‘yobs’ stealing all they can get in this disturbance, there is definitely more at play than meets the eye.
In what can only be termed as Orwellian by its very nature, London boasts one CCTV camera for every 14 people. With precautions and monitoring systems such as these in place, with the police shooting dead a man and then handling the aftermath poorly, and baton-wielding riot police marching out to counter the swelling discontent, does it not seem as though the UK now carries all the markers of a rising police state? It seems to be this rage against the machine that is giving rise to the anarchy we see taking over the streets of London and other British cities. The frustration and anger that is out in full force today has been seething under the surface for a while and has leapt forth now spontaneously and vigorously. Eerily similar to the events in Tahrir Square, these riots have also used online social forums to organise the mass protests in guerrilla fashion.
One cannot help but use this opportunity to remind the complacent ruling elite in Pakistan that if such mass uprisings can occur in a place as well-guarded and safe as the UK, what is to stop them from happening here where despair, anger and misery are at boiling point? The youth in Pakistan are at tipping point and can ignite the flames of discontent at a moment’s notice. If the British ruling class can have its nonchalance punctured in such an emphatic manner, imagine what could happen here where the arrogance and indifference of this corruption-riddled ruling elite knows no bounds. It is time for our rulers to wake up lest the fires of anarchy lick too close for comfort.