The Socialist Party published a statement about the rioting on Monday morning (see Tottenham riots: fatal police shooting sparks eruption of protest and anger). Since then the riots have spread across London and to several cities around the country. There have been persistent rumours since then of rioting spreading to Leeds, with some incidents last night (see eyewitness comments below)
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
It has come to no suprise to Socialist Party members that riots have broken out. As we have pointed out over past few months, in a situation where youth services and education is being slashed, where youth unemployment is running at 20% and higher in some places many young people feel they have no future. Where there is no mass voice to articulate opposition to these attacks and help organise this, then explosions like these are likely. Young people in Leeds suffer the similar problems to those in London, as do youth in other cities.
Add to this the harassment that many young people feel from the police, especially of students who were kettled on demonstrations in London, Leeds and elsewhere nationally and then harassed when they attempted to demonstrate against EMA cuts in the New Year. Socialist Party member, Ian Pattison, was accused of organising illegal demonstrations last year – yet he was the Press spokesperson of the Leeds University occupation spending almost all his time writing press releases and relating the latest news from the occupation through interviews to the outside media. He received phone calls for over a week and a was served an injunction holding him responsible for any disorder on a then upcoming student protest.
These riots will not solve the issues or the frustrations of the young people involeved in them. The Socialist Party wants to give a positive voice to this anger, building mass movement through local anti-cuts campaigns, the trade unions and campaign groups like Youth Fight for Jobs. But despite the large numbers of people beginning to look towards socialist ideas, we are still an organisation with small forces at the present time.
The impression most young people will have got through the student movement, which reached right down to college and school students, is that they face a wall of opposition from all layers of official society, the major political parties, the MPs, councillors, media, police and the judiciary. The same authorities who cry crocodiel tears about the lack of jobs and opportunities for young people, but then pass cuts at council and governmental level to jobs and youth services.
Faced with the lack of what society tells them are ‘must-haves’, looting of luxuries like mobile phones, sports gear and TV’s has taken place, alongside the looting of more basic survival items, but this will not solve the issues of deprivation many young people face on a long term basis, but its not massively suprising when they see the elite within society doing the same with bonuses for bankers and exorbitant MP’s expenses over the past few years. Some will unfortunately have drawn the conclusion from the movements of the last year that peaceful protest is ineffectual, and that they have nothing to lose by rioting and burning down working class homes and services, which are likely to worsen the problems facing these communities.
Sending in the armed forces, as some on the right have advocated (such as UKIP’s Nigel Farrage), or ramping up the police response, could possibly further escalate the situation. This was the case yesterday in Hackney when the police issued a section 60 order to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion which provoke further events in that area. Even if the riots subside for the time being, without dealing with the issues at the root of this which we outlined above, then the tinderbox of young people will remain and will erupt once more in the future.
As a Socialist Party member who visited Chapeltown in the early hours of the morning comments…
“A man was shot in the face on the afternoon of Monday the 8th of August 2011 in Chapeltown; BBC reports allege it was related to an incident a few days previously. The truth surrounding the police conduct, the availability of an ambulance and the circumstances of the shooting remain unclear for the time being. However, a young teenage boy suffered a bite from a police dog and reports suggested a stand off between 100 people and police.”
“The impression I got from people indicated that this standoff initially calmed, however hours later, the sign of a police helicopter in the sky over Chapeltown raised my suspicions that something had occurred. I walked down to Chapeltown Road, on which I saw a burnt out car in the middle of the street, surrounded by many fist sized bricks/rocks and glass that were strewn across the street. From what I could determine about three other streets had small fires burning across them. From what I saw, no local shops or houses were attacked.”
“The police had already six full riot vans and cover from a few land rovers. The riot vans drove round in a circuit near and through the affected areas, however at several times; civilian cars full of people were tailing the police convoy. Much of the streets were populated by spectators or groups of people roaming back and forth down streets and in and out of darkness. I assumed the police, with cover from the helicopter, were engaging in preventative tactics as groups emerged and retreated when the police convoy passed. I left Chapeltown about 1:40am in the morning, the police, the helicopter and groups of people remained. After this point, I was only aware of the helicopter still being in use in the early hours of the morning.”