News / Europe

Experts Cite Underlying Causes for UK Riots

Police officers from Wales patrol outside a boarded up shop in Streatham, south London, August 10, 2011
Police officers from Wales patrol outside a boarded up shop in Streatham, south London, August 10, 2011

Multimedia

Al Pessin

London was largely calm Wednesday, but the rioting that engulfed the British capital for the past four nights has spread to other cities, including Manchester and Birmingham. British Prime Minister David Cameron authorized police to use water cannons, which is a first for the British mainland, saying a "fightback" is under way to restore law and order to Britain's streets.

Observers say the rioting was not based on specific political or economic demands, but they acknowledge there are underlying reasons that so many young people are willing to take part in looting, arson and vandalism - on a scale the country has not seen in many years.

In London and other British cities, young people burned cars and buildings, looted stores and fought with police.

The riots broke out after a still-unresolved shooting by police in a poor North London neighborhood. However, that was just the spark. Many Londoners initially assumed the violence was a backlash from chronic unemployment, slow economic recovery and cuts to public service spending by the country’s new government.

But there were no slogans, no chanting, no demands. And it soon became clear to many that this was something different.

Geography Professor Chris Hamnett, of King’s College, lives in North London, not far from some of the worst rioting.  

"Essentially, what we've seen is rioting for fun and profit. This is not people expressing their anger against an oppressive state," said Hamnett. This is people thinking it would be nice to get a slice of the action.”

The riots were concentrated in neighborhoods with large African and Caribbean populations, which have a history of tension with the police.  Hamnett said those Londoners generally have less education, more unemployment and higher crime rates than other Britons.

“There’s a racial dimension to the rioting and the looting, but it’s not one of racial oppression. But there is undoubtedly a quite strong class and economic element,” said Hamnett.

Not far from the professor’s house, police stood guard as crews worked to clean up the damage from the previous night’s rioting. Basani Mabyalane lives in the neighborhood.

“I feel there is maybe more that could be done to empower the young people because, from what I saw yesterday, to me it looked like they don’t have much to do," said Mabyalane. "They have got the time. They have got the energy. But they are using that energy on negative things.”

In the North London neighborhood of Haringey, some young people are trying to do something positive, through a group called HYPE - "Haringey’s Young People Empowered." One of them is Erica Lopez.

"To be honest, I think at the moment it’s mainly to do with looting. A majority of people are just looting to loot, with no reason, just because they want to do it. Simple as that,” said Lopez.

Lopez said she does not condone the violence, but understands and shares the pent up anger many of her young neighbors feel about a lack of job opportunities and cuts in government funding to youth services.

“The government really needs to actually take time and listen to these young people because for a long time they have been crying in silence saying, ‘This is what matters to me.’ They have really been crying for a long time," she said.

But on Wednesday, after cutting short his vacation, meeting with police officers and chairing two emergency government meetings to deal with the unrest, the British prime minister was not showing any sympathy toward those who engaged in violence and looting. Cameron attributed the unrest to selfishness, lack of responsibility, poor discipline in schools and bad parenting.

“It is all too clear that we have a big problem with gangs in our country. For too long there's been a lack of focus and a complete lack of respect shown by these groups of thugs. I'm clear that they are in no way representative of the vast majority of young people in our country, who despise them, frankly, as much as the rest of us do. But there are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick.”

Cameron promised tougher police tactics, harsh punishment for those convicted of crimes during the riots, and that looters caught on film, whose pictures have been published online and in British newspapers, would be arrested and prosecuted.

Officials are determined to regain control, regardless of the reasons for the violence.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid