Riots raged around London the past few days, and while things seem to have calmed for this city, violence and disorder appears to be escalating in other English cities. I hope that today will be the tipping point around the country and that things will begin to return to normal.
No rioting affected my part of the city–there was some vandalism in Oxford Circus, but it wasn’t THAT different from a normal Saturday night. Certainly no fires were set in my part of London, for which I am grateful. My heart goes out to people who have been affected by the damage around the city, to people injured and the families of the few who have died in the violence around the country. Mercifully few, considering how widespread the property damage has been. But still.
It is also heartening to watch the calm, organized cleanup efforts arranged by citizens in places that have been the worst affected. All kinds of people are appearing in the wake of riots around the country, bearing brooms, gloves, rags, garbage bags and all the tools to get everything straightened up as quickly as possible. I heard someone in Brixton was handing out free cupcakes. There are efforts to provide charity to people displaced by fires, people who have lost their homes and livelihoods. A piece of footage ran on the news yesterday over and over and over, showing a young man bleeding on the ground, with people nearby at first appearing to help him to safety, but actually robbing him. After finding out his identity, today there’s an effort to do something nice for him.
There have been understandably mixed comments about the police response, with many criticizing them for being underprepared. But many have also recognized the bravery of the individuals who were there, especially on the first few nights when they were so obviously overstretched. On the whole there is overwhelming support for the efforts of the police to maintain public order, even if people disagree with the methods or strategies being employed. (For once, the police are getting criticized for not employing enough force, which makes a change.)
I saw four young men being interviewed on their efforts to clean up Manchester this morning, some students, some taking the morning off work to do so. They spoke about wanting to make other members of the community–and the rest of the country–realize that the rioting and looting was not representative of Mancunian youth, saying that they are proud of their city and were out there cleaning up to help things get back to normal as quickly as possible. They spoke of the generosity of local businesses, who were grateful for people living nearby coming to pitch in for the cleanup effort. I saw that, and I hope to see much more like it in the next few days.