Croydon riots - John C. Kirk
Aug. 8th, 2011
11:33 pm - Croydon riots
Tonight there have been riots across London, including Croydon (where I live). I cycled home at 20:00; that was before it all kicked off, but the police had put up some barricades and lots of shops had closed early. I saw one looter, with a police car parked nearby, and I've seen lots of other people walking past quite brazenly carrying TV boxes. I'm now indoors, and I'm away from the fires etc., but I'm keeping up with the news.
Here's an excerpt of my journey, recorded on my helmet cam:
Here are some key timings, along with still photos:
00:02: Police barricade across George Street:
00:06: Sainsbury's closed.
00:40: Car blocking road, several young men getting out and standing nearby.
01:17: Police barricade across High Street.
02:38: Tesco closed.
03:35: Guy in hoodie riding one bike and wheeling another, which still has price tag attached.
03:52: Door smashed in bike shop (GB Cycles).
04:00: Police car parked nearby, with burglar alarm ringing in background.
05:07: Another supermarket putting down shutters.
I was at school in 1991, and I remember watching news reports of the riots in Los Angeles after some policemen were filmed beating Rodney King. One of the other boys had an interesting reaction when we saw looters: "Hey, some of them are white!" I don't think it's as simple as saying that only black people care about racism; some of my white friends are very concerned about "white privilege" etc. However, I think that a lot of people (black and white) were simply using the riot as an excuse to steal whatever they could get.
There's a similar issue here, since the riots were sparked off by the police shooting a black man. However, I'm not quite clear on how the local bike shop is to blame for that. Obviously I can't be certain about people's motivations, but I see how brazen the looters are and I think that they're simply doing it because they can get away with it. I've seen some of them drop their boxes and run when challenged, presumably on the basis of "easy come, easy go".
Back in January, I wrote about contingency planning, and this type of situation demonstrates why it's important. On the "bugging in" side, I can't get to the shops, so I need to have a supply of food here, even if only for a couple of days. In other words, it's a good idea to avoid emptying your cupboards completely. On the "bugging out" side, some people have been evacuated from their homes, e.g. because rioters have set fire to their building. If that happens, it's useful to have a bag packed and ready to go.
The last time I saw these kind of problems with infrastructure was during the big snowfall. However, the main difference there was that people cooperated with each other. In this situation, I'm suspicious of anyone I don't know. I don't blame the police for ignoring the looter I saw: I think that they're simply overwhelmed. If they arrested him, they'd probably be out of action for an hour, due to the whole booking in process at the police station, so it's probably better for them to stay put in case there are more serious problems.
Some people are saying that we should call in the army. However, that makes me think of Adama's quote in Battlestar Galactica: "There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people." So, I think it's best to avoid that for as long as possible.
Hopefully things will calm down soon and get back to normal.