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London Riots 2011 #BriFri

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British-themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week’s British Isles Friday posts included a nice mix of places, book reviews, and history. Becca got her link in last, so don’t miss her fun list: Top 10 Facts About the British Isles That You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know.


As you know from the news (and my post on Wednesday) we’re preoccupied here, with developments in Ferguson. Right now, it’s hard to see where the path is to healing or if any of us are brave enough to walk it. There were riots in London a few years ago that were horrific at the time, but ended after several days. I thought I might find some hope in learning a bit about that.

I gathered from the book Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart and other sources that Britain (or, perhaps, just England) likes to think of itself as less racist than it actually is. That’s something that the St. Louis region has in common with London.

Like our current crisis, the London riots began with the shooting of a young black man. Michael Brown, in Ferguson, was unarmed. In London, there remains controversy about whether or not Mark Duggan possessed a firearm at the time of his death, some witnesses at the inquest believed the gun at the scene was planted.

The Mark Duggan article in Wikipedia traces racial tension in the area to at least 1985, the Broadwater Farm and Brixton riots. That’s discouraging. There’s a lot of time for healing between 1985 and 2011. Or, a lot of time for further grievances to develop. One of those grievances, like here, was the Walking While Black phenomenon — black men are many more times likely to be stopped and searched than white men.

Delays in investigations, reports, and trials, contributed to frustration and distrust. The officers involved in the Mark Duggan shooting were never revealed, only referred to by code names, like “V53.”  The inquest didn’t begin until September 2013 and the results didn’t finally get released until January of this year — concluding that the death was a “lawful shooting” and that Duggan possessed a gun but dropped it near the car before he was shot.

Social media, in 2011, aided in organization of the protests, including some messages that were inaccurate and inflammatory. I’ve seen some Twitter messages that could be described that way, this week. (Here’s a librarian tip: know your sources and their motivations. I’m relying this week on the St. Louis American and the Twitter feed about half-way down the right side of their front page.) Social media took on a creative and healing role in the aftermath of the London riots — I remember the #riotcleanup campaign.

The riots in London spread to other cities. A terrible thought. What I’ve seen so far from other locations in the US are peaceful and creative expressions of support.

Suggested causes of the London riots are also likely present in Ferguson: distrust of the police, unemployment, social exclusion, poverty, disaffected youth, and criminal opportunism.

I’d hoped to reach the end of this little investigation with some clear path for recovery, but I’m not seeing one. I suppose that was too much to hope for given such complicated situations. A BBC article, One Year On, profiles several different people and their activities, offering some hope.

I saw some pieces about changes in police procedure since the 2011 incident, including this one just yesterday that cited Mark Duggan’s death in a policy that would require police officers to write their own notes of an incident before conferring with other officers. Anyone who reads mystery novels will recognize the wisdom in that.

Do you remember the London Riots? Are you paying attention to what has happened in Ferguson? Are some of the same elements present in your community?


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