LONDON – Reflections on a week of riotin’, tweetin’, lootin’, burnin’, 1500 arrested & countin’ following the police killing of Mark Duggan

by Ciaron O’Reilly

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

—  ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, by Bob Dylan

‘LONDON – Reflections on a week of riotin’, tweetin’, lootin’, burnin’, 1500 arrested & countin’ following the police killing of Mark Duggan’ by Ciaron O’Reilly, Giuseppe Conlon House, Harringey, London.

Over the past week at Giuseppe Conlon CW House in Harringey London, we have received calls of concern, and requests for explanations, following the rioting and looting over the weekend that started in our borough of Harringey and extended across London and then to regional towns in England.

PHOTOS from Tottenham, Haringey…tures
Mounted police patrol the streets as fires burn in Tottenham Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA

I’ve been reluctant to write anything as I have yet to get my head around the phenomenon of what has unfolded or unravelled over the last week.

For the past year I have been based at the Giuseppe Conlon House in HaringAy, a Catholic Worker project offering hospitality to destitute refugees, nonviolent anti-war resistance and solidarity to war resisters before the courts and in chains. HarringAy, like Tottenham where the riots started last Saturday night, is a subset of the borough of HarringEy.

You have many contacts ... To get you facts

‘Ballad of a Thin Man’

Rioting started around 8 pm Sat night at the Tottenham police station opposite the “Tottenham Chances” club where we usually head on a monthly basis for a cabaret night with the Surviviors poetry group MC’d by CW friend Razz.

The rioting on Saturday night was preceded by a disciplined demonstration Saturday afternoon by friends and relatives of Mark Duggan shot dead by armed police in Tottenham on Thursday night. (unlike U.S. and Australia armed police are a specialist group and a rarity in England).

The group (approx 150) had marched from Duggan’s home Broadwater Farm estate , (site of an infamous police killing & killing of a police in the mid-1980’s) arriving at 5pm at Tottenham Police Station to demand an explanation from the police about the inquiry into the death. The police now admit…oting they failed to inform the family of the death and update them on the inquiry into the death.

The march arrived at Tottenham police station at 5pm Sat and demanded a senior policeman come out and answer questions about the inquiry into the killing of Mark Duggan, father of four. It appears the police did not comply with this request and the vigil, initially planned to last for an hour, dragged on to 8pm. Against the wishes of the relatives of the deceased, things kicked off on the Tottenham High Rd. around 8pm with rioting. Two police cars and a bus were torched. Later a building containing a furniture store and some accommodation as also burned to the ground

This is a good Sky TV interview youtube with Broadwater Farm community organiser Stafford Scott on what occured outside Tottenham police station on Saturday

As events on Saturday night developed and police numbers were concentrated on the Tottenham High Rd., what appears to be opportunist looting started in nearby (to us/ CW!) Haringey’s Wood Green shopping area in the early hours of Sunday morning and went on until dawn with no police response. A couple of jewellers shops at the bottom of our street on Green Lanes were ram raided. Jewellers in this area are often robbed by organised gangs, so maybe a pre-planned robbery was fast tracked.

Anyway they already expect you
To just give a cheque
To tax-deductible charity organizations

Ballad of a Thin Man

Insurgent Consumerism
The large Wood Green shopping centre area was cordoned off Sunday and we were turned away from our Sunday evening free doughnut pick up. On Sunday night looting spread to other parts of London. A generation raised on credit, pumped up/ incited to consume by 24/7 advertising corporations, now having those purchasing possibilities limited in the economic collapse did the predictable…..insurgent consumerism!

Activity was facilitated by new technologies of social networking. The police force appeared to be outmaneuvered. This was to spread across London and to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and elsewhere as the police lost control.

The causes for this phenomenon are deeply political whether the activity was political in a self aware sense is hard to say. It is hard to generalise – payback from frustrations with previous ongoing police harassment, opportunist criminals seeing the cops over stretched, and for a lot of folks it seemed like a congenial atmosphere of medieval days of mischief as the paradigm shifted. For the most part, violence against persons was minimal but recklessness led to 3 deaths in Birmingham and one this morning in London. For the most part it was property destruction & opportunist looting of unguarded businesses with little discrimination made between small local businesses and corporates, to a much lesser extent direct/confrontational fighting the police and targeting symbols of power.

On Monday evening we attended a multifaith callout for a demonstration of hope back on Tottenham High Rd. where it had begun on Saturday. There was a lot of authentic rank & file concern, but alas also the predictable political positioning by aspiring leadership some claiming to “represent the community”.

I made a speech pointing out that the government now berating the looters had spent the last 10 years looting Iraq, burning Baghdad and torching Afghanistan. If anything, at their worst the looters are mimicking the rich and powerful without the birthright to thieve and loot. The speech was generally well received by the locals gathered.

I had walked up to the demonstration with a local friend Ben Griffin who had served with the British SAS in Iraq. After the local Tottenham MP David Lammy spoke calling for nonviolence, Ben approached him shook his hand and introduced himself as a former soldier. Ben reminded Lammy that he had voted strongly for war and strongly against an inquiry into the war. See here for Ben’s account –…ammy/

The deprivation. despair, chronic youth unemployment, recent cuts to social services, in Harringey, pumped consumer culture, capitalism in rapid decline, a trigger happy C019 armed section of the police force, the elements that provided the human fuel to the events of last weekend remain. More detailed stats on Harringaey/ Tottenham here….…where

There have been 1500 arrests nationally. 75% of those arrested are under 25. In London 50% of them are under 18! 75% of those charged are being denied bail and remanded in jail. The state is in revenge mode promising water canon, plastic bullets and the army on the streets – options traditionally reserved for populace of the north of Ireland – along with more arrests and punishment. Any attempt to discuss the causes of the phenomenon are being dismissed as wishy washy liberal apologetics for thuggery.

I once asked my father how he got his broken nose?
His reply was
“I was talking, when I should have been listening!”

– Ciaron O’Reilly

So it’s time to listen, to understand the phenomenon of the last week. There’s not much listening as the state seeks vengeance and the mainstream media act as the technicians of consent.

When somebody attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect— ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’

This clip is an excellent example of the media doing that job and a wonderful human response to it……. the BBC Vs Darcus Howe (a voice worth listening to, if the BBC talking head would give the guy a chance….)

This (posted above in this article) is a good Sky TV interview YouTube with Broadwater Farm community organiser Stafford Scott on what occurred outside Tottenham police station on Saturday

This “confessional” piece today by Russel Brand is also valuable

“Big Brother isn’t watching you”…-you/

More confessional statements rather than finger pointing might be a way of starting a worthwhile dialogue. Meanwhile………….

“exchange of shots”
This afternoon the police admit misinformation following the shooting of Mark Duggan.

The first trouble began in Tottenham on Saturday evening after a vigil in support of Mark Duggan outside the local police station. One of the Duggan family grievances was poor communication from the authorities in the early stages. They were particulary upset at suggestions in media reports that Duggan had fired first.

This article in the Sun, for example, states explicitly that police were fired on.

A GUNMAN was killed by cops last night in a shoot-out in which an officer survived when a bullet seemingly hit his radio.

He was downed by a marksman after firing first and hitting the officer. Witnesses said police had shouted at the man to stop but he ignored them.

2.52pm: In response to an inquiry by our correspondent Paul Lewis, the IPCC has sent this statement to the Guardian:

Analysis of media coverage and queries raised on Twitter have alerted to us to the possibility that we may have inadvertently given misleading information to journalists when responding to very early media queries following the shooting of Mark Duggan by MPS officers on the evening of 4th August.

The IPCC’s first statement, issued at 22:49 on 4th August, makes no reference to shots fired at police and our subsequent statements have set out the sequence of events based on the emerging evidence. However, having reviewed the information the IPCC received and gave out during the very early hours of the unfolding incident, before any documentation had been received, it seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to believe that shots were exchanged as this was consistent with early information we received that an officer had been shot and taken to hospital.

Any reference to an exchange of shots was not correct and did not feature in any of our formal statements, although an officer was taken to hospital after the incident.

This is significant, as much of the early media coverage referred to an “exchange of shots”, with some media outlets clearly implying that police had been shot at first. This issue is one of the key grievances of the Duggan family.

Ciaron O’Reilly

“The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets.”
Phil Berrigan

One thought on “LONDON – Reflections on a week of riotin’, tweetin’, lootin’, burnin’, 1500 arrested & countin’ following the police killing of Mark Duggan

  1. BBC vs Darcus Howe says:

    Good article Ciaron – one story struck me about a book shop being left untouched while a shoe shop next door was looted.

    Our consumer society values NIKE shoes over books.

    Keep up the analysis…


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