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Society newlight on 14 Aug 2011 10:56 pm

Rioting without a cause

Like in many other countries, people in China are fascinated and confused by the sudden riots on the street of London. My comments on the breakout of the violence have been translated into English by Global Voice (although they got my name wrong).

What directly led to these riots was that London police shot and killed the young black man, Mark Duggan. On Saturday, the parents of the deceased held a peaceful protest outside the doors of the Tottenham Hale police station, which by evening turned into incidents of smashing and looting. At the same time, police only formed a human blockade on the street to stop people from getting through, incapable of stopping the criminal activity taking place dozens of meters away. A shot of this played on television the entire night, inevitably encouraging others to join in the following day.
Police were not active in stopping the criminal activity; on one hand, police forces were weak, and on the other, indecisive. London’s police force currently has no-one leading it. Both the chief of police and the deputy chief for anti-terrorism resigned recently in the cellphone voicemail eavesdropping scandal, and the rest of the leadership are on summer vacation. At the same time, London’s mayor, the minister for home affairs, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister himself were also all overseas on summer holiday. There was no preparedness for a sudden incident such as this, and once it did break out, nobody unfortunately moved to deal with it quickly, instead people just hoped that the rioters would disperse by themselves.
The opposite happened, and riots began to spread by the second day. Police were caught off guard and fumbled around, leaving them even more incapable of dealing with the rioters, contributing to even more people taking part in the looting, and then the situation fell apart.
Given the nature of England’s political climate, riots such as this ought to be the strong suit of a conservative government, but the riots instead caught the current coalition government by surprise, and Cameron was a day late in returning to the country, something which has greatly affected his reputation. If he can’t put the riots down and quickly, I’m afraid Cameron won’t remain prime minister for much longer.

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