It takes a certain mentality to see footage of a working person’s shop, their entire livelihood, be destroyed in billowing flames and think ‘Good; that’ll teach the Prime Minister/the police/globalized capitalism!’ It is a mindset that I don’t understand and don’t agree with. When I first spotted some of the tweets and facebook statuses about the London riots yesterday, I was at first shocked, then realized I sadly shouldn’t have been. For some young people on the left, rioters equal activists which equals good, no matter the destruction they cause or the fear they instil. (Although, the updates from people actually in London contrasted starkly with those living safely across the Atlantic.)
The by-all-accounts peaceful protest over the killing of Mark Duggan last week have inarguably morphed into something else entirely, something much more sinister. There are a lot of problems within England’s working class and immigrant communities, and I’m not unsympathetic towards young people with little job prospects who often feel victimized by the police. But the smashing of convenience store windows and the looting of designer runner shoes is not something I can support.
The complicated truth is that we can’t attribute universal motivations to such a large, unfocused group of rioters. Some probably have ‘good’ intentions, others want free merchandise, and those who like destruction, lighting cars on fire and smashing things, are the ones who will get on the nightly news. While motivations are a factor, just like with any crime we have to judge by actions. At some point you have to draw a line in the sand.
I drew mine as I watched footage of a Middle eastern woman crying over her destroyed shop.