Riots or protests?

So the rioters have been going through the courts at a breakneck pace, and they’re being threatened with having their benefits taken away. I’m sure that will really worry the millionaire’s daughter, the primary school worker and the budding musician. Well, maybe the musician… It seems that the riots were truly classless, with many tearing up the town regardless of social background. Apparently these people were ‘protesting’ against the government and all its various stupid ideas since the coalition took power, and some people are arguing online that these protesters should be treated as wannabe freedom fighters rather than criminal idiots.

Here’s my view:

If they were protesting against government reforms and all the misery that the government has caused the little people since it took over, if they were protesting the rich tax-dodgers, the bank bonuses, the benefit reforms that have led to untold stress, the fact that it now appears that the police really did shoot an innocent man dead – again! – and the insane cuts to various vital services etc etc etc then…

Why didn’t we see ATOS centres and JobCentres in flames? Why weren’t the crowds marching on parliament demanding equality for all? Why didn’t we see people trying to do to Canary Wharf what the Daleks couldn’t? Why wasn’t every single RBS branch looted and decorated with symbolic effigies of Fred Goodwin? Why wasn’t the House of Commons pelted with paint and stones? Believe me, if the ATOS centres or JobCentres had gone up in smoke, some people would have happily toasted marshmallows in the ashes. (For the record, these are rhetorical questions not suggestions, so if the local ATOS centre gets torched, I had nothing to do with it. Honest.)

Instead, what did these protesters do? Indiscriminately attacked buses, police cars and firefighters. Burned shops and homes to the ground. Whatever didn’t burn, got looted. Homes burgled, passersby beaten up and mugged. Three men mown down. Petrol bombs hurled at police. Reporters hospitalised. In general, forgive me if I’m wrong, but they seemed to be picking the easy targets and hitting them up, much like this government has been doing.

Take for example that they have just admitted that their disability benefit reforms have been based on iffy figures, figures that have been clearly been, at best, not looked at properly, giving an unfair impression of the ‘rise’ in DLA caseloads: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/08/dwp-admits-disability-reform-based-on-dodgy-figures-as-reported-by-left-foot-forward/

Or the smearing of disability benefit claimants as ‘scroungers’: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/charities-angry-over-ministers-crackdown-on-disability-benefits-2326481.html

Or letting huge corporations avoid amazing amounts of tax while reducing the police, the fire service and the army.

And now, what have the protesters / rioters really achieved? A hell of a lot of mess, nervous tension, and ‘Call me Dave’ has given the police powers to disrupt social networks. Hoodies probably banned (I like hoodies, dammit), increased legal powers to deal with those who upset the state – for whatever reason. I bet ID cards are back on the agenda within a few months. The Daily Mail must be loving this. Now they’ve got an excuse to curtail more freedoms and for what? A free TV and some Basmati rice? I hope it was worth it.

On the upside though, it has been heartening to see communities pulling together, helping each other out and uniting in the face of the worst riots we’ve had since, well, the last Tory government. Community clean-ups, wombles, facebook support groups for the police / emergency services and fundraising for those who lost their homes in the riots make me feel like there’s some hope for us yet.

If only we could all get along like this without having to have a riot first.

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