Its impunity not protest that is causing the riots to spread in the UK.
While of course the inequalities within the UK economy, the sink estates of parts of urban areas and alienation from society forms some of the underlying cause for the #londonriots, the reason that the riots keep spreading is the impunity felt by the protesters.
Communities up and down the country are terrified of young hooded people destroying everything they hold dear. They don’t care about what community you are part of or how much you earn. Whether your shop is part of a big multinational, or part of the fabric of the local atmosphere. Even if you are part of the network that exists to reach out to disaffected youth you have been caught up in the rampage. Old, young, rich, poor, weak and strong – all have seen their cities closed down and become war zones.
Londoners are not ready to hear the causes underlying the riots until the destruction stops. When high streets across the capital need to close at 3pm in case they are destroyed – people are not looking for explanations but the rule of law. What has shocked London far more then the violence is the impunity of thugs on bikes to burn and rob as they wish. The police have appeared powerless.
The spread of the destruction is not due to common cause in any way shape or form – it is because the rioters feel that nothing will happen to them regardless of where they hit. The fear of the ordinary citizen has created a great community spirit during the day (#riotcleanup) and vigilantism by night.
UK citizens are expressing their support in by the hundreds of thousands for the police and are urging them to do what ever is necessary to restore law and order to the streets. Popular left wing MP’s such as Chuka Umunna (who represents one of London’s poorest districts) has called for a curfew and for Blackberry to ban BBM use between 6pm-6am.
In order to win London and the country over to deal with some of the underlying issues that can answer the question of why gangs of young people think it is ok to burn everything in their path – we first need to recognize that this is not a political protest. This is not an extension of the anti-cuts agenda – nor a spontaneous outpouring of anger due to social circumstance. This is opportunistic looting, copycat protesting spurred on by the imagined impunity that the perpetrators are feeling.
The first step to dealing with this is to take away this imagined impunity and win back the streets. Once done we can speak about the underlying social factors. The voice of London and the UK in general is not one of understanding – until this is realized looking at causes will fall on deaf ears.